The Story of Hedginald Q. Phitch and the Yellow Stone
“Well, hello there Mezzo!” said Hedgie. “What a pleasant surprise! Please come in and join us for breakfast.” “Thank you,” said Mezzo. “But I can only stay briefly. I have some urgent news.”
“Abernasty was discovered in the forest severely injured and near death,” Mezzo continued. “Chester reminded us about how good you are with the healing methods, so I came to get you.”
Suddenly, Mezzo’s report was interrupted when the staff that Hedgie had brought out that morning began to rattle and glow slightly. “Well, that’s a pretty sure sign that something is going on here,” said Hedgie. “We’d better go check it out.”
So, Hedgie packed up some things that he thought he might need, and the two friends started off for the other side of the forest. “I’m in the mood for a good adventure,” said Hedgie. “We’ll see,” said Mezzo.
“Tell me how you found Abernasty while we travel, Mezzo,” said Hedgie. “Well, amazingly, we discovered him in just about the same spot where we last saw him by the river where he buried Soot. He was badly beaten and … well … his right paw is cut off.”
“Oh, my!” said Hedgie. “That’s just awful!” “Yes, and the real concern back in the forest is about who would do such a horrible thing,” said Mezzo. “Yes, I agree. We are going to have to be on the alert,” said Hedgie. Suddenly, the staff began to quiver slightly in Hedgie’s paw.
When Hedgie and Mezzo arrived at the other side of the forest, someone was there who was very eager to greet his dear friend. “Oh, Hedgie, it is so very great to see you again. Yes,” said Chester.
“It is good to see you again, Hedgie,” said Bandy. “Welcome back to this side of the forest. Unfortunately, we have quite a dilemma on our paws.”
“I need to get to work right away! I am afraid it might be too late!” said Hedgie. So Hedgie began to give everyone a task. They gathered supplies, re-bandaged wounds, and helped Hedgie take care of the difficult task of trying to repair Abernasty’s forearm.
Hedgie labored tirelessly making ointments for the wound and sealing up the end of Abernasty’s arm. All the while, he kept wondering who would have done such a horrible thing because it was so obviously a sword wound and not an accidental severing.
Finally, after many days of gentle care and Hedgie’s natural healing methods, Abernasty began to show signs of life again. One morning, Hedgie was sleeping at his bedside and was awakened when he started to speak. “Eh … eh … ebony …” said Abernasty.
“Ebony … no … Ebonius, my son … no …” Abernasty continued. Hedgie noticed that the staff began to quiver and then it fell over on the ground. “What was that all about, Hedgie?” asked Chester. “Well, I think we’re going to find out that Soot had a brother,” said Hedgie.
Over the next few days, as Abernasty was recovering, he told his new friends what happened to him after Soot died, “I wandered and wandered in utter despair, thinking about my horrible, cruel life and the pain and misery that I had brought into the world. I was crushed and hopeless … and then, … I heard his voice.”
“He told me he was the Changemaster and that some things can’t change and others can. He said I could not change my cruel past, but that now I could be a Changeling for good,” Abernasty continued. “He gave me a new name, Abercrombee, and then I felt like I had a second chance. So then I went in search for the person whom I felt I had most wronged …” “And that would be me,” said a voice from behind.
Everyone suddenly turned around and saw a large black jacket rat with a few others standing around him. “Ebonius, please, don’t hurt my friends …” pleaded Abercrombee. “Friends?! Friends?! You never had a friend in your life, you mean old sewer rat!” sneered the large rat.
“Please Ebonius, this is between you and me …” pleaded Abercrombee. “Not anymore old rat. You brought them into this and now they are going to suffer like me!” said the rat. “Your sentinels have already felt my sting.” “No! You didn’t!” exclaimed Hedgie. “Yes, I did,” said the rat. “And you must be the impertinent pincushion who pilfered my staff.”
Suddenly, the staff magically leapt up off the floor into Hedgie’s right paw. “Well, this looks all too familiar, wouldn’t you say, father?” said the rat. “Ebonius, please!” cried Abercrombee. “I don’t know what is happening here!” cried Hedgie. “Well I do!” shouted Ebonius.
“This is exactly what happened to me many years ago, isn’t it, father,” said Ebonius. “Ebonius, please …I am so very sorry …please don’t do this,” pleaded Abercrombee. “It was my magic scepter and you and that vile brother of mine stole it from me! And I have to live with the mark that proves it!”
“If this belongs to you, Ebonius, here, take it. I thought it belonged to Abernas …I mean, Abercrombee,” said Hedgie. As Hedgie walked toward Ebonius and handed the staff to him, it began to quiver rapidly and it tingled in his paw. “Give it to me, you impudent possum!” ordered Ebonius. Then Ebonius snatched the staff, but to his surprise, Hedgie came with it.
“Ebonius, please, I’m begging you, don’t do this! I am so so sorry for what I’ve done to you,” cried Abercrombee. “Well, I suppose that you will also be sorry for what is about to happen to your prickly friend. You are responsible for what happens today because of your decision many years ago,” said Ebonius. Then Ebonius raised his sword and sliced off Hedgie’s right paw to get the staff away from him. “No!” cried Abercrombee.
“Well, I got what I came for, so I must now bid you all the fondest of farewells,” said Ebonius. And with that, Ebonius and the black jacket rats vanished into the forest. “Quickly, everyone! We must stop that bleeding!” cried Bandy. “Chipper, get your scouts and go check on the sentinels.”
The clearing was buzzing with activity as the scouts returned with the wounded squirrels and began to work on them and finish getting Hedgie bandaged up. Mezzo was furious and it was all Bandy could do to prevent her from chasing out after Ebonius.
Chipper helped to calm Mezzo down. And for the next few days, much healing occurred and things started to get back to normal in the clearing. Abercrombee explained that Ebonius was correct. He and Soot cut off his paw to steal the scepter away from him many years ago.
The next day, the animals were shocked to find Abercrombee missing. “That’s odd. How could he have slipped out past our guard,” said Bandy. “And there are no tracks or any trace at all of how he left, or what direction he went,” said Chipper. “I think I know,” said Hedgie.
Hedgie was not exactly sure what direction Abercrombee headed, but he knew he was going after Ebonius. “I can tell that you are getting ready to go on an adventure. Yes,” said Chester. “So, I am coming with you.” “Me too,” said Mezzo. “I wouldn’t have it any other way, my friends. Let’s get ready and go,” said Hedgie.
As the three friends made their way out of the forest, Chester said, “Hedgie, should I be looking for clues?” “You should always be on the lookout for clues when you are on an adventure, Chester, but I already know where we are going because the staff is calling me,” said Hedgie.
Meanwhile, back in Ebonius’ lair …“What is wrong with this stupid stick!?!” shouted Ebonius furiously. “Why won’t it take to the stone? I need my scepter! I finally have all the pieces, now why is this not working!?” Then, in his fury and frustration, he stormed out of the lair.
Ebonius rushed furiously out to the canyon’s edge and let out a few gut-wrenching screams of frustration. After the deafening echoes stopped coming back to him, it became eerily silent. Slowly and gradually, the silence was interrupted by a soft whimpering below him.
Ebonius looked down and saw a bloodied and wounded small cat lying on the rocks below him all tangled up in a sage bush. In his anger he grunted and shouted, “Why don’t you just get it over with!? You’re half dead anyway!” Then he turned quickly away and stormed back toward his lair. As he walked, a long-forgotten feeling began to well up inside his heart.
Ebonius stopped and turned around. Some of his old forgotten self began to revive in a hidden corner of his heart. He walked back to the edge of the canyon and looked down at the injured cat. The little cat whimpered and stopped breathing. Ebonius looked up into the sky and began to cry. “Why …why?” he sobbed.
Ebonius carefully climbed down to the ledge where the little cat lie all tangled up in sage bushes. He gently released her from the tangled mess, cradled her in his arms, and made his way back up to the top of the cliff. As he sat there crying with the small cat nestled in his lap, more and more long-forgotten feelings from his past flooded his heart.
Ebonius gently caressed the cat’s tiny head as his tears wet her fur. Then he began to feel a warming sensation in his shoulders. It was not alarming, but rather comforting, as it radiated throughout his entire being. “Ebonius, oh Ebonius, my son,” came a voice from behind him.
Ebonius turned around and saw Abercrombee standing there behind him. “Oh father. I am such a fool!” he wept. “I know, my son. Believe me, I know,” said Abercrombee as he helped Ebonius stand up. As they hugged, Ebonius said, “Can we do anything for this wee friend?”
Yes, I think we can help this little friend out, but it will involve returning the yellow stone back to whom you stole it from. Can you do that?” asked Abercrombee. “Well, I’m very ashamed of how I treated them, but I also need to ask for their forgiveness, so …” Ebonius paused and looked down at the little cat cradled in his arms. “Will you help me, father?”
So, Abercrombee and Ebonius went back to the lair to retrieve the yellow stone. “I wonder where all of the rats went,” said Ebonius. Abercrombee simply said, “I dismissed them,” and winked. With the yellow stone in hand, they made their way back toward the Yellow Fairies, from whom Ebonius had stolen both yellow scepter stones.
Meanwhile, as Hedgie, Chester and Mezzo were on their way to find Abercrombee, Hedgie suddenly stopped and said, “That’s odd. The staff just changed directions. We have to head over this way now.” “Is that another clue?” asked Chester. “Yes, Chester, I think it is” answered Hedgie.
“We’re getting close,” said Ebonius. “I know,” said Abercrombee. Suddenly, they were stopped in their tracks by several bright yellow lights. A stern looking older yellow fairy hovered up right in front of them and said, gruffly, “How dare you set foot back in our neck of the woods!”
Suddenly, Abercrombee and Ebonius were forced down on their faces to the ground. They felt pressure as though they were being pressed flat into the earth. They couldn’t breathe. “Yeldrick, please! We are not rats. We are fairies,” said a calm insistent voice. Slowly, the pressure let up and Abercrombee and Ebonius could breathe again, but they were very weak and faint.
After Ebonius could catch his breath again, he coughed and gasped, “I…I’m sorry…I have (gasp)…come to ask for your forgiveness…(gasp)…and to return your Yellow Stone.” “Don’t listen to him, Yelonda! These rats are up to something. I just know it’s a trick,” barked Yeldrick. Then, to the fairies’ surprise, Abercrombee defied their powers, rose to his feet, and said calmly, “As you can see, I am no longer a rat.”
Yeldrick was shocked that the fairy pressure treatment was having no affect on Abercrombee, so he ordered higher pressure. But there was still no affect on him. “I told you. I am not a rat,” said Abercrombee calmly. “Yeldrick, please, enough of this,” said Yelonda. “My son was telling the truth. He is here seeking your forgiveness and to return the Yellow Stone,” said Abercrombee. “And…(wheeze)… to see if you can…(gasp)…help this wee cat,” added Ebonius.
Then Yelonda said something quietly to Yeldrick that made him grunt in disgust and fly away. The pressure then stopped and Ebonius was able to breathe and stand to his feet again. Then Ebonius got on his knee and bowed his head saying, “I have stolen from you and hurt you, and I vow to never do it again. I hope to make amends and have your forgiveness.”
Yelonda motioned to the other fairies and they quickly took the small cat from Ebonius and carried her away. “We don’t have any time to lose. She is fortunate that you came to her aid,” said Yelonda. Then she led Abercrombee and Ebonius back to the yellow fairy village. “Thank you for helping her,” said Ebonius as he handed the Yellow Stone to Yelonda. But Yelonda refused it and said, “You must replace the Stone yourself.”
“While our wee friend is recovering, we have some business to attend to,” said Yelonda. “Come with me and bring the Yellow Stone.” On the way to the clearing, she looked at Abercrombee and said, “May I assume that we are in the presence of a Changeling?”
Abercrombee nodded and said, “The Changemaster visited me and changed me into a Changeling for good. My new name is Abercrombee.” Ebonius was in awe and quite taken with this new information about his father. As they entered, Ebonius recognized the clearing and the special setting for the Yellow Stone.
After Ebonius replaced the Yellow Stone in its proper resting place, the entire clearing filled with blazing and flashing yellow light, and Ebonius fell to his face on the ground. After the light diminished, Yelonda said, “Now that was a lovely sight! And it appears that a few others enjoyed it as well.”
Yelonda flitted over to Hedgie, Chester and Mezzo and invited them into the clearing. Abercrombee felt the staff tremble as Hedgie walked up to him. “Well, my my, little Hedginald. I have not seen you since you were just a wee pup,” said Yelonda. “Your mother and I are long-time friends.”
“Your mother was raised here by the yellow fairies, and I am like a big sister to her. We found her as an orphan lost in the woods,” said Yelonda. Then Yelonda noticed the three cut-off right paws and instructed Abercrombee, Ebonius and Hedgie to place their right arms on the glowing Yellow Stone. “Everyone else stand back,” said Yelonda.
Then an amazing thing began to happen and Hedgie felt a strange warm tingling shooting from his right shoulder down through the arm below. He winced as a new paw began to form there at the end of his arm. “This is amazing!” he cried. “I can’t believe what is happening to us!” cried Ebonius.
“Chester! Mezzo! Did you see that!?” exclaimed Hedgie. “Look…look at my paw!” Then he turned to Abercrombee and said, “Oh, Abercrombee! Look! It’s a miracle!” “Yes, my dear friend. It really is,” said Abercrombee. “Hey, where is Ebonius,” said Hedgie.
As they all made their way back to the yellow fairy village, Hedgie said to Abercrombee, “That was an amazing feeling in your paw, wasn’t it?” Abercrombee looked at him, stretched forth his right arm and said, “The power of the Changeling cannot be used on one’s self, Hedgie. It can only be used to serve others.”
When they returned to the village, they discovered that Ebonius had rushed back to check on the wee cat. They found him sitting there with the cat on his lap and a small young yellow fairy flitting around him and making him laugh.
Hedgie, Chester and Mezzo could not believe how Ebonius had changed. The last time they saw him he had cut off Hedgie’s paw and taken the staff. “That is what I meant when I agreed with you that it is a miracle,” Abercrombee said to Hedgie. “I have not seen him like this since he was young.” “We sure have benefited from the powers of the Changeling,” said Hedgie.
Chester and Mezzo also became quite enamored with the little young fairy who was flitting around joyfully. “That is my lovely little granddaughter, Splendid,” said Yelonda to Hedgie. “She is surprisingly filled with joy in spite of her tragic circumstances.”
“What happened to her?” asked Hedgie. “It is interesting that you should ask, Hedgie, because your mother is an important part of the story,” answered Yelonda. “My daughter, Yelia, and her mate, Splendor, were very brave one day and saved the entire yellow fairy village from a deadly rat poison.”
“Yelia and Splendor were very popular and well-loved and respected here in the village. They made a beautiful young couple,” Yelonda continued, with a tear in her eye. “Splendor was part of the Protection Duty in the village. He was very strong and courageous. On one of his relaxation days, he took Yelia to their favorite spot in the forest. Unfortunately…”
“On the way to their favorite waterfall, they discovered a band of black jacket rats preparing to poison the river. This would have destroyed our village and many others in the forest,” continued Yelonda. Hedgie glanced over at Splendid still joyfully entertaining Chester and Mezzo.
“Splendor sent a secret signal to call for reinforcements, but did not have time to wait for them to arrive because the rats started to pour their poison into the river. Yelia was terrified and rushed out to stop them before Splendor could stop her. The two of them startled the rats and they all ran wildly about. Unfortunately, in the midst of the commotion, all of the poison spilled into the river.”
“The rats began to jump around and cheer wildly as the river turned a brackish blood red. Yelia and Splendor were devastated,” said Yelonda. “Oh no!” exclaimed Hedgie. By now, Chester and Mezzo and Splendid were also listening to the story. “This is my favorite part,” said Splendid.
“Well, suddenly and surprisingly, the river began to bubble and boil furiously. It stopped flowing and rose up like a wall. Then the wall, which contained all of the poison, began to move toward the rats. Their victory dance suddenly switched to sheer terror as the poison started to form into pointy darts headed right at them.”
“I know who they are,” said Chester, “Water fairies.” “Yes,” said Yelonda. “Just as the reinforcements arrived, they saw the rats screaming and running away as poison darts were being thrown at them. Unfortunately, they also saw Splendor and Yelia lying on the bank of the river. It took many months to help them recover from the harmful affects of being exposed to the rat poison.”
“Splendor and Yelia were alive, but the affects of the rat poison took a toll on them by disfiguring them quite seriously. And, worst of all, they lost their wings. After several months of torturous healing… and a lot of help from your mother, Hedgie…we discovered something else…Yelia was with child.” “Me!” said Splendid.
“Sadly, when Splendid was born, we all thought she did not survive the delivery. The next day, Splendor and Yelia were gone, presumably overwhelmed by their own conditions and the loss of their child. That is when your mother was most helpful, Hedgie dear. She knew just what was needed to revive Splendid.”
Chester quietly interrupted and said, “We have to go get them.” “We did send out a search party led by Yeldrick, but we think Splendor worked hard to make sure no one could find them. They did not see a single clue that they could follow,” said Yelonda. “I’m good at finding clues,” said Chester.
“I think Chester is right,” said Hedgie. “They need to know that Splendid is alive!” “Let’s go!” said Mezzo. Then a gruff voice came from the other side of the clearing, “What makes you think you can find them!? I’ve been searching for years,” said Yeldrick. After a short silence, Chester said, “I am good at finding clues.”
“Yeldrick, please dear, they are our guests,” said Yelonda. “Well, I just don’t trust any rats! Not after what they did to us!” barked Yeldrick. “We don’t blame you for feeling the way you do, Mr. Yeldrick, but I, for one, want to do everything in my power to help you,” said Abercrombee. “And I will also help. I am most appreciative of your kindness toward me and my little cat friend, Sage,” said Ebonius.
Yeldrick was not convinced by their words and flew off in a huff. “We need to get going!” said Mezzo. “She’s right,” said Hedgie. “Yes,” said Chester. “She is.” So the group gathered themselves together and started on their journey to find Splendor and Yelia. “Maybe we should try looking at the river first,” said Hedgie. Abercrombee felt the staff quiver in his paw.
When they arrived at the river, Chester noticed something shiny at the bottom, so he dove in to check it out. When he climbed up on the bank, he was holding a gold ring. “Squalor,” said Abercrombee quietly. “This is a clue,” said Chester. At that moment, Hedgie noticed that the staff began to quiver again, so he put his paw on it. “We need to go up that ridge,” he said.
As the friends were making their way to the top of the ridge, Ebonius walked up beside Abercrombee and said, “I heard what you said down there by the river, so I know what we may be getting ourselves into. And I want you to know that I am ready for it.” “You always were very perceptive, my son,” said Abercrombee. “I love you very much and I am very thankful that we both have finally discovered who we really are.”
Over the next few days, the friends traveled through many parts of the forest, and, as they walked, they talked and shared their life experiences with each other and developed an even stronger bond of friendship. Hedgie explained that the staff was leading them, so no one questioned their path. Finally, they came to an open valley with an ominous looking mountain on the other side.
“That is not a good village. No,” said Chester. “Why should yellow fairies be up there?” “That is what I would like to know,” said Abercrombee. “Let me examine that gold ring that you found in the river.” Abercrombee turned it over a few times and the staff began to tremble under his arm. “It’s late,” he said. “We will explore the mountain tomorrow. Let us camp here tonight.”
That night, after all the friends were asleep, Abercrombee woke up Ebonius and said, “Come with me.” Sage sleepily curled up next to Chester as the two left. “Like I said, I’m ready,” said Ebonius as they walked across the valley. As they walked into the entrance of the dark cave in the side of the mountain, they were immediately confronted and grabbed by several black jacket rat guards. “If you know what is good for you, you will release us now,” said Abercrombee sternly.
“Well well, that sounds like a voice that I recognize,” came a voice from further back into the cave. “Bring them to me.” Abercrombee and Ebonius were guided further into the cave where a fire was blazing and a large black jacket rat was sitting on a throne. “The voice is the same, but the body is not, so I must conclude that the rumors are true. We must indeed have a Changeling in our midst. Tell me, how does it fare with you, my dear brother? …if I may still refer to you as my brother.”
“We are here to take the two yellow fairies back to their village,” demanded Abercrombee firmly. Squalor stood up quickly and said, “Don’t you take that tone of voice with me, little brother! As you very well know, I am not known for my patience!” “Patience is not exactly something I have had a lot of time to develop either …” Then Ebonius stepped forward and interrupted, “When will you two ever stop your positioning!? Enough is enough!” Then he said to Squalor, “Look Uncle, here’s the deal – we have something of value to you and you have something of value to us. We’re here to make a simple trade. ‘Exultate in summa rati.’”
At that, Squalor said, somewhat surprised, “You have my ring!” Then he put out his paw and demanded, “Give it to me, NOW!” “Yes, yes, your precious ring,” said Abercrombee coolly. “To think that after all of this time that I have wanted it so strongly …then, when I finally held it in my hand …it meant absolutely nothing to me.” Squalor clenched his paw and put it in Abercrombee’s face and said, sarcastically, “Well …isn’t that poetic …now, like I said, give it to me, NOW!” Then Ebonius stepped in between them and looked sharply into Squalor’s face and said, “And like I said, you have something we want, so give them to us, NOW!”
Then Squalor lifted his arm in the air and shouted, “Grab them boys! And get me my ring!” All of the black jacket rats shrieked and rushed toward Abercrombee and Ebonius. Then Abercrombee raised the staff and there was a flash of light and a thunderclap. The rats immediately backed off. “I may look different, but I have not lost my senses, Squalor,” said Abercrombee. “Of course we do not have your precious trinket with us. We will take you to it and make the exchange there. You, and you alone.”
The sun was just starting to rise when Abercrombee, Ebonius and Squalor, with Splendor and Yelia in a cage, arrived in the middle of the valley. “These blasted bumblebees were of no use to me anyway. Good riddance to them! Now, where is my ring?” demanded Squalor.
When they were nearly back to the edge of the forest, Abercrombee stopped and knelt down by a pile of rocks. Before he rose, there was a rustling in the forest, and out came Hedgie, Chester and Mezzo. “Well, what have we here? A mighty force of bodyguards? Ha, ha, ha, ha!” scoffed Squalor. Then Mezzo darted straight at him and stopped threateningly right in front of his face. “These are my friends, Squalor, which, sadly, is something you may never have,” said Abercrombee.
Then Abercrombee stood up and handed the ring to Squalor, who immediately dropped the cage and shoved the ring onto his paw. With his arms in the air, he shouted, “Exultate in summa rati!” Then, suddenly, many black jacket rats popped up out of the grass behind him. “Get them boys!” shouted Squalor. But, before they could move an inch, there was a loud rustling in the forest and many many woodland creatures marched out toward them.
Then a large group of the yellow fairy Protection Duty, led by Yeldrick, rushed out of the forest and released Splendor and Yelia out of the cage. Yeldrick went right up to Squalor’s face and said, “If you ever touch our family again, you’ll be the lowest of worms when I’m finished with you! Yes, you are now the highest of rats, but that is all you’ll ever be – the highest and the loneliest.”
“Well, isn’t that sweet,” said Squalor sarcastically. “But I already know what family is all about, don’t I, my dear brother. And I live with the mark to prove it,” he said reaching up to his left ear. “This would have been my neck if my brother had his way.” Then Abercrombee lowered his head and walked slowly to the forest. Ebonius followed him and put his arm around his shoulders. Then Mezzo darted up into the air, signaled, and a large band of hummingbirds flew out and confronted the rats. “Bring it,” she said firmly to the rats.
“Oh, don’t worry, my little mosquito, I certainly will bring it …but it will be in an hour when you least expect it, I assure you of that,” snarled Squalor. Then he turned and headed back to the black mountains with the black jacket rats in tow. It was all Mezzo could do to restrain herself from chasing after them, but then she heard Chester calling her back to join the reunion of friends.
“Don’t worry about them. They will always be bothering us somehow,” he told her. “Look! It’s Bandy and Bandit and all of our forest friends!” So the friends enjoyed a brief reunion and then headed back to the yellow fairy village. Splendor and Yelia were very weak, but they were still overjoyed at the sight of their lovely baby girl, whom they thought had perished. After several days of recovery, things were starting to get back to normal around the village. “Hedgie?” said Chester. “Yes,” said Hedgie. “I wonder where Abercrombee is,” he continued. “I do to,” said Hedgie. “But, I am certain we will meet again.”