🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #39
Chapter 7 – The Navigation Troll
The next morning, when Henrik woke up, he was clear about what he had to do. He was going to do what the King was paying him for – he would do all he could to drive away the Marauders of Derdark from the kingdom, hopefully to stay away forever; and then, in secret, he was going to have to kill the child. Either that, or Boevill would do it if Henrik couldn’t bring himself to. Henrik stared for a while at the floor of his room as he sat up from a lying position. Ahead of him, on the floor, were six fat bags of gold, and all of them were for Henrik, for what he was going to help the King to achieve. Henrik wasn’t sure if he would take the money, with the plans that he had for the King’s son.
There was a knock at his door.
“Yes?” Henrik said. The door swung open and the King stood there, smiling.
“Ready for breakfast?” the King said.
“No, thank you,” Henrik said. “I am going out early, by myself. Along with Boevill, of course. I want to inspect what the Marauders are doing. Would it be possible for an Arganbird to guide me, exactly to where they are hiding?”
The King looked very serious all of a sudden.
“Henrik, the Marauder’s Mountain is at least thirty miles away. Surely that’s too far, especially on an empty stomach.”
Henrik stood to his feet. “I have ways of getting myself there. I just need some guidance, since the Marauders change their dwelling every few years.”
The King wondered if he should be paying Henrik more gold for being so proactive.
“Very well, Henrik,” the King said. “I will arrange one of our best Arganbirds to guide you on your way. It will lead you through the Argad Forest. When shall we expect you back?”
“By nightfall,” Henrik said.
Within thirty minutes, Henrik was running alongside Boevill, leaving the gates of the kingdom and following the gliding flight of an Arganbird up overhead. The Arganbirds were dark, long-feathered creatures with a thin red line running down their backs and into their tailfeathers. Their beaks were black, and at night-time, you would not be able to tell if they were hovering right in front of your face.
Henrik had a long history of communicating with birds. He experienced their messages to him as deep impulses, deep feelings that were impossible to ignore.
As Henrik and Boevill ran across the land surrounding the Kingdom of Argad and entered the forest, the bird flew low enough to stay within sight, flying through the trees, but not so low that it could be snatched by any predators on the ground.
Boevill made a constant, chugging, panting sound as he ran, and although Henrik had not eaten before they left, Boevill had consumed all he wanted.
After running for a few miles, an idea appeared in Henrik’s mind. He was sure that in these woods, there lived a Navigation Troll. This Navigation Troll was said to be quite an aggressive one, quite an impatient one, and Henrik had never asked for the troll’s services before. He had used a Navigation Troll in another forest once, and it had been a very pleasant experience. They could turn a journey of a few hours into just a few seconds.
Henrik stopped, and he asked the Arganbird to stop as well. The Arganbird perched on top of a branch, and Henrik looked around. He walked up to the nearest tree, put both hands on the trunk and said, “I wish to see the Navigation Troll”.
Henrik chased after the troll but the troll was surprisingly fast and nimble. It kept jumping, leaping, rolling and darting in so many different directions that Henrik almost began to feel dizzy.
“Why won’t you help me? I have requested your services!”
The troll called back as he ran. “I have been told not to serve you! I am not allowed to serve Henrik The Defender!”
The troll was also making itself dizzy as it began to run around in a relatively small circle. Boevill had been chasing too, and eventually the troll tripped over Boevill’s body, and Boevill pinned the troll down and started licking its face.
“Ah! No! Not the breath of a hound! That is most distasteful to a troll of any kind!”
Boevill licked the troll’s face once more, backed off, and the troll stood to its feet, exhausted and panting and with a moist face that it was trying to wipe dry with its hair.
“Horrible,” the troll said to itself. “Horrible!”
The troll was too tired to keep running. It was used to travelling through underground portals, not having to use its feet above ground. It sat down in a slump and tried to regain its breath.
Henrik took a step closer, but not too close.
“Get the hound away from me!” the troll barked. Without Henrik having to ask, Boevill started backing away further.
“Why won’t you help me?” Henrik said. “I thought Navigation Trolls helped anyone they were called upon.”
“Well I’m not any normal Navigation Troll!” the troll snapped. It was still trying to get all of Boevill’s saliva off its face with its hair. “I don’t follow the rules like those other goody-two-shoe trolls. Not me. I have a name of my own! It is Trabernikus!”
Henrik was silent as he watched the troll struggling with its own fitness and now damp, matted hair.
The troll stood up.
“Don’t you run off again,” Henrik said, “or Boevill will catch you and lick your face. Who told you not to help me?”
The troll started to look at the ground.
“They tried to put me under a spell, but we trolls can’t be cursed!” the troll said triumphantly. He desperately wanted to run away, but no longer trusted his stamina. If he tried to disappear back into the ground, it would take him a few seconds, and Boevill would have grabbed him by then.
“No more licking the face,” the troll said to Boevill, with a pointed finger. Trabernikus turned back to look at Henrik. “They ended up threatening me since they couldn’t curse me. They have monsters that can travel underground. If the monster ever found me, I don’t think I could stop it. They said they would send one after me if I helped Henrik The Defender.”
“Who did?” Henrik said, more loudly.
“The Marauders! The Marauders of Derdark!” the troll said back, even louder. “They came to me, with a tall dark hooded man. I think it was a man. Then again I couldn’t see the face. Skinny, he was, covered in a cloak. All I could see were his hands, but they were gloved. Marauders can’t cast spells, of course, so they needed him. He never said a word, but even him standing in front of me made my bones start to shake. I’m not one for feeling fear, Henrik, but when I was above ground, foraging for Aikelberries, they found me, and they threatened me.”
Boevill was looking between Henrik and the troll, panting very slightly.
“At first I told ‘em to back off!” the troll said, aggressively, remembering the time from a few months ago. “But then I saw one of their monsters. In a big giant cage, it was, right near where the Marauders are hiding at the moment. Once I saw that creature, I didn’t want to risk it coming after me. I promised I wouldn’t serve you. And they believed me.”
Henrik looked up at the Arganbird who was resting in the branches of a tree.
“I can stop them,” Henrik said. “I can bring them all down.”
“How?!” the troll said, stamping its foot on the ground. “There are hundreds of thousands of Marauders hiding in that mountain, and only the forest knows how many of those monsters they have in there too. Teeth like ice, they had, Henrik, terrible teeth and terrible eyes…”
“I know,” Henrik said. “Boevill here killed one of them.”
The troll snapped its gaze to the hound on its left.
“Really?” the troll said. “All by himself?”
Suddenly the troll became very warm towards the hound. “Oh, good boy, what a good boy!” the troll said. He waddled over and began to pat Boevill on the back. Boevill was very pleased with this.
“No licking!” the troll said again. “This doesn’t change the rules!”
Boevill resisted the urge to lick the troll’s face, and after the troll had stroked Boevill’s back a few more times, he walked up to Henrik.
“You’ve got the bird,” the troll said. “You’ve got the trees. There are stories that say that you can travel through the roots of the trees, just like those Marauders’ Monsters can, Henrik. You have other friends in the forest, people say. Why have you called on me?”
“The idea just appeared in me,” said Henrik. “I cannot explain why. But if you want to help put a stop to those Marauders, to stop yourself from living in fear, and to stop them from taking over the Kingdom of Argad, along with this forest, then we might need your help.”
“The Kingdom of Argad?” the troll said, glaring at Henrik. “This forest? They told me they would leave my forest alone if I cooperated!”
“They are liars, though, aren’t they?” Henrik said. “They plan to take over the Kingdom of Argad, and I’m sure, with no other kingdom overlooking this forest, they will make it their own.”
The troll’s thick fists began to clench. He looked up at the Arganbird and the Arganbird quickly twittered and sang to confirm it to the troll.
“Not…my…forest!” the troll said with a quiet fury, and with a face that now looked determined to do anything to take the Marauders down, he looked up at Henrik.
“If you want help, I’m your troll,” Trabernikus said. “Tell me what you want me to do.”
Henrik spent a few minutes explaining what he planned to do. It was a plan that began to form in his mind back at the castle, and now that he was face to face with a Navigation Troll, more ideas were beginning to flood his mind.
“A bomb?” Trabernikus said. “You want to make a bomb?”
“How? How on earth could you make a bomb big enough to blow up the entire lair of the Marauders, along with those vicious monsters, who you just told me couldn’t even be brought down with arrows to the neck. And look!” the troll pointed to the arrows he could see pointing out from Henrik’s back. “Those are not even ordinary arrows! Those are Tarrenshield arrows, aren’t they? Where did you get those?”
“They were a gift,” Henrik said. “The Archers of Elmsberry gave them to me.”
The troll started to inspect Henrik and his weapons more closely – his large bow, his machete, his staff that could also be seen sticking out above his back.
“How on earth could you make a bomb big enough?” the troll said again. “The mountain they are in is huge. There’s far too many of them. The mountain’s structure will be too complex with the tunnels they would have built, plus there’s probably some dark magic over the place, what with that hooded figure who tried to curse me…”
Trabernikus began to say a few more words about this dark figure, and it reminded Henrik very strongly of the darkness he had encountered with Gallaisha, and the darkness he had seen in the final smile of that little girl, Deardraith, in his mind at the castle.
“What could that hooded figure possibly be?” Henrik said. “It seems to be using the Marauders, doesn’t it? It is influencing them, or helping them, but it is trying to get something out of all this.”
“Don’t know,” Trabernikus said, shaking his body as if he was trying to get rid of some old chills. “I’ve never seen or heard of or felt anything like that. The presence of it…errgh!”
Trabernikus started shaking his body even more at the thought of it. Henrik shared his thoughts.
“I believe that creature, whatever it is, and perhaps there are more of them…I believe they have cursed the young prince of Argad. They are looking to work through him if they aren’t able to take the Kingdom of Argad for themselves.”
The troll looked confused. “What? The young prince? But he’s only a boy. Sweet little thing, so I’m told.”
Boevill was glaring at Henrik, and he started to growl slightly.
“Anyway,” Trabernikus said. “Let’s get these Marauders and send ‘em into the depths of the afterlife and everything will be fixed. Now, please tell me, for the third and final time, Henrik. How will you make a bomb to destroy such a large lair of creatures?”
“For one thing,” Henrik said. “I will need two of your hairs.”
Story written and read by Adam Oakley, Copyright © Adam Oakley