🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #24
Chapter 4 – The Maramonster
Henrik saw it first. Out of the tall, spindly trees that were packed in tightly next to each other, something broke through. It was hairy and large and fast, and it was running straight towards Boevill.
It looked like a werewolf at first, but it was much bigger, wider and faster, and as it moved, Henrik had thoughts of this creature being engineered rather than born. It did not seem natural. It was too rapid, it was too powerful, ferocious and without any sense of fear. The teeth were like shards of glass, and every time the creature landed on the ground as it ran, Henrik felt the earth beneath him shake. His blood began to warm.
Boevill heard the creature scream and begin running towards him. Some ordinary dogs, perhaps, would have continued to run at the sight of such a terrifying creature, but Boevill dug his huge paws and claws into the ground, skidded to a temporary halt, turned, and suddenly began charging at the monster.
The monster screamed again. The sound alerted the city, and the noise pierced through Henrik’s ears. Henrik raised his bow, drew out an arrow and fired it directly into the monster’s neck. It went in, but it did nothing. The monster kept running towards Boevill.
“Boevill! Wait!” Henrik said. Henrik kept pulling arrows from his back and firing them directly into the head, chest and neck of this creature, but nothing was working. Henrik drew his machete and started to sprint towards the monster, and he watched as Boevill ran closer and closer.
“Wait, Boevill!” Henrik yelled. This creature was at least twice the size of Boevill, and Henrik had terrible thoughts of his dear friend being ripped apart and tossed aside in the grass. But then, Henrik remembered that he had never actually seen a Fighting Hound in battle before.
As Boevill ran close to the creature, the creature opened its mouth and was ready to snap its jagged teeth right around Boevill’s face, but Boevill leapt up, drew claws out from his paws that looked like knives, and he leapt so quickly that he was clamped on to the monster’s neck before the monster could do anything to stop it.
The monster tumbled and started scraping at Boevill’s body to try to prise him off, but Boevill kept thrashing, tearing off huge chunks of meat and then readjusting his bite and digging his claws in so that soon the monster had dropped to its knees.
The scream from the monster was different now. There was pain, but no aggression. It sounded like it was being tortured. Henrik ran up to them and saw Boevill on top of the creature, continuously ripping and tearing and spitting away chunks of flesh until he was deep inside the monster’s throat, and the monster suddenly gave up. Boevill had won, with deep long scratches across his back, and as the monster let out a final breath, Boevill collapsed onto the ground.
“Boevill!” Henrik said. As Boevill hit the ground, Henrik picked him up. Henrik was said to have powers that were often spoken about in tales and stories that were told to young children all over the land, but no one knew if they were true. People were told that he could actually fly if he wanted to, that he could disappear and reappear in other locations, or that he had special healing powers that could repair anything that was still alive.
As Henrik kneeled down and lay Boevill on his side, Henrik realised that nothing else needed to be done. As Boevill panted and breathed heavier and heavier, Henrik saw the wounds and deep scratches in Boevill’s body begin to heal and seal. Farmer Bernsen had told Henrik his hounds had a secret, a secret that he refused to speak about because he didn’t want any other powers in the land trying to seek out or steal his precious animals, and as Henrik watched Boevill heal himself and begin to stand to his feet, Henrik said a little prayer inside his heart, thanking Farmer Bernsen for the powers of this dog.
Night was beginning to fall. Boevill stood to his feet and approached the fallen monster again, beginning to sniff around its body. As Henrik approached the monster, he heard the gates of the city begin to open behind him.
It was a dark, crunching, grinding sound as men manually turned giant wheels and cogs to open the gates, and in the distance, with his keen eyesight, as Henrik turned his head, he could see a group of armoured soldiers marching towards him, and they were surrounding someone who stood in the middle.
As Henrik watched Boevill continue to sniff around the body of the monster, he noticed that Boevill was not interested in eating any of the meat. Boevill still had blood around his mouth and nose from the fight, and he was trying to wipe it off on the monster’s fur.
“Do not move!” Henrik heard a voice shouting. It was one of the soldiers.
“Stay still, Boevill. Please stay still this time.”
Boevill snorted and sat where he was, and then he sneezed, as if he had inhaled one of the monster’s hairs.
Henrik stayed crouched down, and he did not even turn around. He knew everything would be alright if the King was with the soldiers. If not, Henrik would have to wait before he was trusted. He had saved the city of Argad before, but there were stories of Shapeshifters in the woods who often sought to deceive and steal from whoever they could.
Henrik heard the footsteps drawing closer, the clanging of the metal covering the bodies of the soldiers as they took each step, and eventually, the marching stopped.
“Turn around,” it was a familiar voice to Henrik. It was steady and proud. It was the King.
Henrik slowly turned around, but stayed crouched down low.
“Is that really you?” the King said.
“Yes, King Arkus,” Henrik said. “It is me.”
“With a hound?”
“Yes. He saved us all from an attack, from whatever this monster is.”
“Prove that it is you.”
Henrik looked up, and then stood.
“Gallaisha told me you needed my help. I assume you called to her. There is word that the Marauders of Derdark are coming to try to invade your city once again. You have spies that have been informing you. What form your spies take, I am not sure. I can only assume they are your Arganbirds.”
The King stepped forwards and out of the protection of the soldiers. He wore a long and beautiful blue robe.
The King raised his hand to indicate silence. He certainly looked like a king. He was past middle-aged, but handsome, with a strong beard and strong hair and a kindness in his eyes that shone through his strength of character and fairness of heart. Henrik could see that beneath his long blue robe there was a metal plate of armour that protected the King’s body.
“It is unlikely a Shapeshifter would know that, unless they have found a way to access minds,” the King said. “Are you willing to be tested?”
One of the soldiers, holding a bow and arrow, drew his arrow back and pointed it at Henrik’s shoulder.
Boevill stood up and almost broke into a charge.
“Wait, Boevill,” Henrik said, raising both his hands towards the dog and pleading with him not to attack. “It’s necessary. Shapeshifters return to their original form if injured.”
Boevill remained standing, and did not move.
“The leg, please,” Henrik said, reaching down and unstrapping a portion of his bearskin armour on his leg. Once his leg was unprotected, and only a fine cloth covered it, the soldier fired the arrow directly into Henrik’s huge thigh.
It went in deep, and Henrik just gritted his teeth.
“Henrik, I’m so sorry,” the King said. “We have to be sure now that…”
“I know,” Henrik said. “I know.” Henrik ripped the arrow out of his thigh, exhaled sharply through his nostrils, and pressed down on the wound with both his hands. After a few moments the bleeding had stopped, and the cut had sealed.
“Amazing,” the King said, chuckling slightly. “Truly amazing. I never cease to be fascinated by your many talents, Henrik.” He looked behind Henrik, at the fallen hairy monster with only half a neck remaining. “Do you know what this horrid creature is?”
“No,” Henrik said. “It doesn’t feel natural to me.”
“It isn’t,” the King said. “We suspected the Marauders would send one at some point, to test it out. We didn’t think it would be so soon, and so stealthy in its approach. How it got past our lookout points within and beyond the forest, I do not know.”
Boevill coughed slightly.
“Come, please, we are grateful for you coming to our aid. I believe this hound of yours deserves a good meal. I will order this strange monster to be brought into the kingdom and inspected so that we can understand our enemy more fully. I will explain everything inside.”
Boevill coughed again.
As Henrik began to follow after the King and his soldiers, who were leading the way back into the Kingdom of Argad, Henrik beckoned Boevill towards him, and as Boevill trotted up, Henrik rubbed him on the back. For a moment, Henrik was sure that Boevill’s back hair felt thicker. There was something heavier about his stride. Boevill coughed again and shook his head.
“Boevill?” Henrik said. “Are you alright?”
Boevill coughed again and spluttered.
“Something is wrong, isn’t it?” Henrik said. “The blood, was it the blood of that thing?”
Boevill coughed and coughed and coughed again, and he spat out a big tuft of hair that had definitely come from the fallen monster.
Henrik looked at it in the very dim light that was shining out from the torches that were now alight on the walls of the kingdom. He was sure the hair was moving on the ground. Boevill began to sway slightly, as if he didn’t know where he was.
“King Arkus!” Henrik said. “This monster should not be brought into your kingdom!”
The King stopped and turned around.
“Do you have any Bingleweed?” Henrik asked as he picked up Boevill, who was starting to go limp.
“Hurry, quick, my dog needs help,” Henrik said, and he started sprinting towards the castle ahead of him, with Boevill’s heart beginning to slow down as he lay in his arms.
Henrik knew the Kingdom of Argad very well. He sprinted in towards the castle, and three large armoured guards standing outside the entrance to the community kitchen at the base of the castle were raising their swords on Henrik’s arrival.
“Out the way! Out the way!” Henrik said.
The soldiers weren’t sure what to do. This man looked like Henrik The Defender, but their orders were to always guard the entrance to the kitchen. Behind Henrik, all they could see was the King running towards them, still outside the city gates, waving and shouting something they could not hear.
In their moment of hesitation, Henrik kicked the one in the middle directly backwards through the door, ducked under a swing of a sword and made his way into the kitchen.
The guard had been knocked to the ground after flying through the door, and as he stood, the other two came in to confront Henrik.
“Leave me alone, my dog needs help!” Henrik said. “Is that you, Boris?”
One of the guards took off his helmet. He had a thick, dull face, blonde hair, but innocent eyes.
“Sorry, Henrik, we didn’t know for sure if it was you. Nice dog, he…”
“He’s dying,” Henrik said, searching the heavily-stocked walls for a container full of Bingleweed. “He can heal himself from injuries normally, but there’s something in him, the blood from that thing out there…or the hair, I don’t know. It’s unusually strong.”
Amongst the vast walls with shelves of glass jars containing weeds and potions and remedies, Henrik finally found the Bingleweed. He took the glass jar from the wall, opened the lid and kneeled down to Boevill on the floor. He opened Boevill’s mouth and poured in the green, sticky Bingleweed.
“Water, get me some water!” Henrik shouted. Boris grabbed a glass from under the wooden counter and filled it from a pump by the door.
“Here you go,” Boris said.
Henrik took the water and poured it into Boevill’s mouth. Henrik sealed Boevill’s mouth with his hand so that the Bingleweed and the water could do its work.
“Normally this wouldn’t help,” Henrik said. “If this was a man or a normal hound, he would probably be dead by now.”
Boevill’s body started to convulse.
“But he has inner strength, don’t you, Boevill?” Henrik said. “You can heal yourself, can’t you?”
Boevill’s hairs began to turn darker.
“I don’t think he’s dying,” Boris said. “I think he’s turning. He’s turning into that thing out there.”
Boevill started to snarl. The guards all raised their swords again.
“Wait,” Henrik said. “Just wait. If you swing those swords I will take all of your heads. Just wait.”
Henrik closed his eyes. Suddenly his fear was gone, his guilt over what was happening to Boevill disappeared, and he was back with the Dermon Dragons, in their fiery lairs, sitting on the warm stony floors that they used to gather on to teach him their ways.
“Use the Dermonbreath,” he heard one of the dragons say. There were three in front of him in his mind. The Dermon Dragons were dark red, and they had wide smiles that appeared slightly evil. But they were not evil dragons. They were wise ones.
“The Dermonbreath will burn him,” Henrik said to the dragons.
“It will burn the infection,” the first dragon said, whose name was Bergolin. “Use it. Use it now.”
Henrik took a deep breath in, and he could feel Gallaisha in the air somewhere, nodding in agreement. As Henrik mustered his strength and gathered his energy, he opened Boevill’s mouth slightly and breathed into Boevill a breath that was so hot and fiery, that Boevill began to whimper and squirm.
“That is it. His burns will heal quickly, and the monster inside will not bear the heat,” Bergolin said.
As Henrik closed and sealed Boevill’s mouth again, Boevill’s whole body began to convulse even quicker. The hair that was turning darker began to sizzle and smoke, and as Boevill started to growl and bark with his mouth closed, he started to struggle to his feet.
“Let him go,” Henrik heard Bergolin say in his ear. “He must purge the monster.” Henrik could barely contain Boevill, and as he released him, Boevill ran out of the kitchen, bursting past Boris and sprinting through the doorway. He headed straight out of the kingdom, crashing through a group of the King’s soldiers inside the gates, and when he reached the borders of the city, he coughed out something black, that disappeared into the sky.
Story written and read by Adam Oakley, Copyright © Adam Oakley