🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #14
Chapter 2 – The Call
Henrik was sitting in his cave, with his eyes closed. His cave was empty apart from bags of gold coins at the back, three large weapons that surrounded them, and the hulking figure of Boevill, who was definitely asleep, to the side of Henrik.
But Henrik was not asleep. He would find that whenever he was alone, he would often slip into a trance-like state that he believed to have been caused by his time with the Dermon Dragons. As well as the breathing techniques they showed him, they taught him ways to meditate that made his mind feel as if it was completely at one with the entire universe. He felt as if he was not only in his body, but everywhere. He could feel himself in every atom and particle of the entire land, and for hours he would sit, oblivious to the fact that he had a body.
But then something interrupted him. It was a call. A loud, harsh call that Henrik was not used to. It was the Ancient Mystic, Gallaisha, and an image arose in Henrik’s mind of her in her usual position, sitting in her cave, covered in dark purple robes, with a very slight white light shining out of her forehead. She had long brown hair that fell down to touch the floor of the cave beneath her, and on top of her head was always wrapped a purple cloth that seemed to stop her from being permanently ejected out of her body.
Usually the call of Gallaisha was calm. But this time it was panicked.
“Henrik!” she said. Her eyelids popped open in Henrik’s vision, and she was glaring at him with red eyes. “Come, Henrik, come to me! You must come quickly!”
Henrik felt all of his energy plough into his body, and he quickly stood up to his feet.
Boevill jolted awake at the slightest sign of movement, and he was up, ready to defend Henrik from whatever might be nearby.
“You cannot climb the mountain as swiftly as me,” Henrik said to Boevill. “You stay here and guard my gold, as Farmer Bernsen wanted you to. I will be back soon.”
Henrik ran to the back of the cave and picked up one weapon. It was a long metal staff that he would often use to help himself climb the mountain, and as he ran past Boevill, who was standing, almost with a hope that someone would try to steal Henrik’s gold, Henrik left the cave, and began to climb the mountain.
Henrik climbed and traversed and began to move to the other side of Mount Bergon where Gallaisha always stayed. She never left her cave, as far as Henrik could tell. She had no need for food or drink. She said she was sustained by the forces that dwelt deep within that sacred mountain.
It was dark, but Henrik could see clearly. He felt as if the stars were guiding each step, as he jumped and hopped and ran and glided as if he was one of the Yannoway Mountain Goats that he had briefly spent some time with as a teenager. He was so fluid, it was as if his entire journey to Gallaisha was done in one smooth movement.
He approached the cave from the side, jumped down into the entrance, and was met by an impenetrable stone wall.
“Gallaisha, I am here,” Henrik said.
Slowly the stone in front of him began to crumble and part ways for him, as if it was alive, and Henrik walked through to see the familiar sight of Gallaisha, sitting on the floor of the cave, with a very faint purple orb of light surrounding her entire body. As he walked closer, her face did not look as calm as normal.
“Thank you for coming,” she said. “You seem to move faster every time.”
“Good,” Henrik said. “What is wrong? You seemed troubled when you called me.”
“I saw something bad. Something terrible,” Gallaisha said. “The King of Argad has requested your services. Once again their city is soon to be under attack. His spies have told him that in one week’s time, they will be invaded by the Marauders of Derdark.”
“The Marauders?” Henrik said. “They have not been active for years.”
“The King believes they have been replenishing their strength since they faced you years ago. He believes they have not learnt; he believes the Marauders are determined to take the Kingdom of Argad as their own.”
“Then I will go,” Henrik said. “I will gather my weapons, and I doubt I will be able to stop my Fighting Hound from accompanying me. Thank you, Gallaisha.”
Henrik bowed, turned, and began to walk back towards the open entrance.
“Wait!” Gallaisha said, “Henrik! That is not all! That is not what I have seen that is so terrible!”
Henrik stopped, turned, and walked towards Gallaisha again.
“What do you mean?” Henrik said.
Gallaisha’s bottom lip began to tremble. Her skin was pale beneath the purple orb of light, and her eyes were closed, with darkness around them.
“The King. He has a son.”
“Yes,” Henrik said. “I heard. Tarik, I believe his name is.”
“Yes!” Gallaisha said. “Have you met him?”
“No. I have not seen the King since the Queen was pregnant with the child. I heard the news from the village.”
Gallaisha was silent, and she began to shiver.
“What is it?” Henrik said. “Say it, Gallaisha!”
“I can’t bear to, but I’m sure it is true. I’m sure what I am seeing is real.”
“What?!” Henrik said. He took a step towards Gallaisha. He could feel his blood start to turn warm, and then hot. He always felt like that when he became afraid.
“He…the child…the child must be killed!” Gallaisha said.
Henrik took a step back.
“You must kill him. You must!” Gallaisha said. “He is not like his father, he has a terrible curse placed on him, there is something evil inside him, and once he becomes king…”
“Can’t you lift the curse? Can’t anyone lift the curse?”
“It is far too powerful,” Gallaisha said. “It feels like iron bars and padlocks and knives and endless riddles are surrounding it. I don’t know how I, or anyone, could break it.”
Henrik took a deep breath in and tried to calm his blood. He exhaled.
“It isn’t the child’s fault if he is cursed. There must be another way,” he said.
“There is no other way. That is the whole point of the curse. The only way to lift the curse is for the child to be destroyed. I sense such dark, secretive magic around this boy that I can’t possibly attempt to…”
Suddenly Gallaisha began to gasp.
“Gallaisha…” Henrik said. “Gallaisha! What’s wrong?”
“It’s taking me…” Gallaisha said, “the curse…it’s…”
“No!” Henrik said. Henrik marched forward and placed his thumbs between Gallaisha’s eyes.
“You are safe! You are safe, Gallaisha!” Henrik yelled. His voice boomed so loudly that Boevill felt the ground shake on the other side of the mountain and he began to bark, and as Henrik focused all of his love and all of his power and all of his strength on the mind of Gallaisha, and brought in every last ounce of universal force that he could open himself up to, suddenly a dark flash seemed to rise up out of Gallaisha’s head, and Henrik was thrown backwards, stumbling and falling over onto his back. He stood up, and Gallaisha was still sitting there, with her eyes very slightly open, breathing heavily.
“Thank you, Henrik,” she said. “I went too close. I wanted to break the curse, I was trying as much as I could. It grabbed me.”
“I know,” Henrik said. “That is not a curse to be toyed with. I have never felt something like that. You have never been so close to being taken over by anything…”
The two friends were quiet for a moment.
“The child must be destroyed,” Gallaisha said. “I’m so sorry, Henrik. Did you see what would happen if the boy was to live?”
“No,” Henrik said.
“If you had seen it, you would feel the same way I do,” Gallaisha said.
That night Henrik sat beside Boevill in his cave, and Boevill could not be still.
“Be calm, Boevill,” Henrik said, “be calm.” Farmer Bernsen’s voice rang in Henrik’s mind.
“These dogs, they know things…”
Henrik looked at Boevill, and Boevill kept grunting and panting.
“I am leaving tomorrow, as soon as the sun rises,” Henrik said.
Boevill would not settle.
“Do you know what is going on? Do you know what Gallaisha has asked me to do?”
Suddenly Boevill sat on his hind quarters and stared at Henrik.
“You think I should kill the child?”
Boevill barked once, and Henrik remembered more of what Gallaisha had said to him that night. She said that in her vision, the young prince Tarik would grow to outlive his father, he would become king, and as soon as he was granted power over the entire kingdom, he would be possessed by an insatiable desire to take over more kingdoms, to rule more lands and expand his powers beyond the city of Argad. Argad was currently a peaceful city, with a benevolent king, but if Tarik was to take power, everything would change. He would enslave his own people, and cause death and suffering as he invaded more kingdoms throughout the land.
“I suppose you want to accompany me?” Henrik said to Boevill. Boevill barked again, just once.
“Then get some sleep,” Henrik said. “We leave tomorrow.”