🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #34
Chapter 6 – The Young Prince
That night, the Queen was lying in bed beside the King. Both were wide awake, despite it being late.
“I had a terrible feeling come over me, even before that hound started barking,” the Queen said to her King. They were almost shoulder to shoulder, staring up at the ceiling of their bedroom.
“What do you mean?” the King asked.
“I could see Henrik killing our son,” the Queen replied.
“Oh, don’t be so absurd!” the King said. There was a tinge of anger in his voice. “If he wanted to kill the boy, he would have done it there and then, with ease.”
“Unless he hesitated,” the Queen said. “The dog certainly looked like it wanted to kill him. Perhaps the dog simply doesn’t feel guilty about it.”
“That dog saved us all from an attack! That dog is a hero. Probably just traumatised as a pup, that’s what I said to Henrik…”
“We can’t allow Henrik or that hound near our son,” the Queen said. “It simply mustn’t be permitted.”
“But Tarik has wanted to meet Henrik for over a year. He hasn’t shut up about him! The only single positive thing I can see in all of this terror is that at least my boy gets to meet his hero. And did you see the look on his face when the dog started going berserk? Poor boy looked crushed.”
“Yes,” the Queen said. “But at least he remains alive.”
The King huffed. “If you recall, Henrik stopped the dog from lunging at our son. Henrik could have done nothing, and our son would be in pieces by now. Henrik saved the boy, and you didn’t even thank him.”
The Queen started to become enraged.
“I know what I felt, Arkus,” she said. “Henrik is hesitant. He is in two minds about it.”
“But why on earth would he want our son dead?!” the King erupted. “All Henrik has ever done is protect us, true to his name and reputation.”
“I know it doesn’t make sense,” the Queen said. “But you have to trust me. This isn’t a debate, Arkus. I don’t want my boy anywhere near those two. You know that we were warned about something coming for our son when he was young. This could be it. Remember that hooded figure who came to us. It warned us…”
“It warned us of a dark force that would destroy the boy!” the King spluttered. “Not Henrik The Defender! Of all people, Henrik The Defender? Really?”
“I am afraid, Arkus,” the Queen said.
The King sighed a final time. He was tired of arguing. “Very well, my dear,” he said. “I cannot argue with you any longer. But you understand we need him here. We absolutely need Henrik and his hound here if we have any chance of protecting our city and our people. If they aren’t with us, our son is as good as dead anyway, along with all the rest of us. We have already started discussing battle plans. Henrik wants to ambush the Marauders outside of the city.”
“If he leaves the city, with his dog, then I will be very happy,” the Queen said. She kissed her husband on the cheek as he reassured her of how many armed guards were now standing outside her son’s bedroom door, and the Queen began to think about Henrik, and what he was doing right now.
As Henrik sat awake, the Queen popped into his mind, as if she was watching him, trying to sense what he was thinking. Henrik couldn’t tell at first if she was actually watching him, or if it was just his imagination. He hoped it was his own imagination, but he knew that she could see him somehow.
Henrik was sitting at the foot of his bed in the room provided to him by the King. He was not used to beds. They would usually be provided wherever he would go to work, and after sitting on them for a while, leaving a dent in the mattress that lasted a few days, Henrik would lie on his back, on the floor, and drift off into sleep.
But tonight he could not sleep.
Boevill was resting on the floor beside him, and Henrik wondered what he was to do about the young prince. The thought of what he had been tasked with made his insides feel sick. Harming an innocent child was the kind of thing he punished other creatures for.
“Kill him,” he heard Gallaisha say in the air around him. He closed his eyes and saw the Dermon Dragons in his mind. He thanked them again for all of their help that day, and he asked them what to do about the boy. The three main dragons were there again, including Bergolin. They discussed things with each other, and Bergolin spoke out these words:
“If you do not kill the boy, you will regret it in years to come.”
Henrik sighed. He consulted with many of the creatures he had spent time with over the years. Many people would have believed he was lost in his own imagination, daydreaming, but Henrik was sure he was able to access the intelligence of his friends and teachers and loved ones, just by drifting off and speaking to them in his own mind.
The Wargorn Bears were adamant that the child should be destroyed. The Tigers of Belran Wood said that they would do it themselves if they were not separated by such a vast amount of water. Henrik consulted with ancient warriors known as the Bluddengores who he had spent a year with. They showed him a rather terrible image of themselves cutting off the young boy’s head and holding it above them as if it was a prize. Henrik did not want them coming near the city. They had no problem with killing anything.
Henrik was there a while longer, consulting with creatures and people from his past. All of them supported the fact that he should kill this child, apart from a very young girl who had popped into his mind, who was the daughter of another king in a faraway land known as Erkawn.
“Don’t,” the little girl said. Henrik had not thought of her since he met her a year ago. She was eleven years of age, blonde and sweet and innocent, wearing a shining blue dress. Henrik had not wanted to consult with her. She had just entered his mind, without invitation.
“Don’t kill the boy. Don’t,” she said. “Please don’t.”
“Why not?” Henrik said. “It seems I must, no matter how detestable I find it.”
“Because I want to marry him. When I’m older,” the girl said. Her name was Deardraith. Henrik could remember her quite clearly. Her father was a stern king, but a king that kept his business to himself and treated his own people fairly. Her mother was kind, but often oblivious to any misbehaviour of her own children.
“Don’t kill my husband,” the young girl said. “Please.”
Just as Deardraith left Henrik’s mind, before he could ask her anything else, he was sure that her innocent face flashed a dark smile, a darkness that reminded Henrik of the curse that had nearly taken over Gallaisha in the cave in the mountainside, the same curse that Gallaisha said had been placed over the young prince, Tarik.
Henrik opened his eyes, and so did Boevill.
“Boevill,” Henrik said. “I think you were right. Something has to be done about the child.”
Story written and read by Adam Oakley, Copyright © Adam Oakley