🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #50
Chapter 9 – The Payment
“Do you know how this works?” Trabernikus said, looking up at Henrik. Henrik had thanked the Arganbird for guiding them, and said it was free to return to the castle. Still, the bird was watching them from the branches.
“Yes, I’ve done it once before,” Henrik said.
“What about the hound?” Trabernikus said. “Do you think he has anything to give?”
“Perhaps,” Henrik said. “But I have something powerful enough for the both of us.”
“Very good,” Trabernikus said. “Touch the hair then.”
Henrik placed his big hand over Trabernikus’s head, and it was so big it almost covered Trabernikus’s eyes.
Henrik called Boevill over. Henrik knelt down and wrapped his other arm around Boevill’s body.
“Now, focus on that memory,” Trabernikus said. “The memory you want to hand over.”
It was common knowledge that Navigation Trolls only accepted one form of payment for their services: painful memories from people’s past. The memories that people would keep inside their minds, locked away, revisiting them again and again and using them as excuses to keep their freedom and joy and happiness at bay. There was such an incredible amount of energy stored within these memories, that the Navigation Trolls could use them to take people long distances, in only a matter of moments.
Henrik had a memory from his childhood. One of his worst. It was of his father passing away. He didn’t really want to let go of it. As he focused on it, Trabernikus started to raise his voice.
“You have to hand it over. Hand it over or I can’t take you both!” he yelled.
Henrik focused on his father, his sick father who had been lying in bed beside his mother and sister who were standing by his side, in tears.
“I don’t want to forget my father,” Henrik said. “I don’t.”
“You won’t!” Trabernikus said, impatiently. “You will just remember all the good times, all the memories that gave you joy.”
And with those final words from the troll, Henrik surrendered to the process. He gave the pain of his father’s passing to Trabernikus, and immediately all three of them were sucked down into the ground and shot through a tunnel that only the Navigation Troll had access to.
Henrik could see silver light shooting past his face. He was gripping to Boevill tightly, and his other hand was still clamped around Trabernikus’s head.
“I made this tunnel myself!” Trabernikus said. “Took me years.” Trabernikus looked as if he was running, and yet to Henrik, it felt as if they were floating.
There was a flash of white light, and slowly and gently, all three began to emerge up and out of the ground, covered in dirt, and they were hidden behind a large tree in the forest, but in sight of a tall dark mountain ahead, with hundreds of Marauders of Derdark walking around outside of it.
The Marauders were dark grey creatures that looked like goblins, but they always wore clothes, old clothes made from anything they could find, or stolen from villages or cities that they had invaded and moved on from. They were known for treating their surroundings so badly, with such disrespect, that they were forever moving from place to place, always having to invade another city or village or mountain, because they were unable to maintain a home of their own for very long.
“There they are,” Trabernikus whispered. “Vermin. Absolute vermin. No sign of that hooded thing, Henrik. Now what’s the plan?”
“I need to get inside the mountain,” Henrik said, kneeling down. “I need to plant the bomb, and I need to call on the Witches of Algairtha to detonate it for me.”
“What?” the troll said, kneeling down as well. “You can’t detonate it yourself? How do you know those old witches will come to help? They live miles away!”
“They will help. They don’t need to travel here to detonate it. They only need my request. Once I show them what is going on, they will definitely help. They trust me, and they hate to see Marauders doing what Marauders do best. This is a threat to all of the land, and all of the surrounding ones. The witches will help.”
Trabernikus stopped staring at the dark mountain through the trees, and he turned to face Henrik. Suddenly Boevill licked the side of Trabernikus’s face. He did it with such force that Trabernikus rolled to the ground.
“What are you doing!” Trabernikus hissed. “Bad dog! No licking.”
Trabernikus’s hair was matted down from the lick.
“Disgusting!” Trabernikus said. “Horrible!”
Henrik looked very closely, and he was sure that where Boevill had licked, the hair was becoming thicker.
“It’s thickening your hair,” Henrik said. “Don’t wipe anything off.”
“What?” Trabernikus said, pushing himself up to sit. “Are you joking? Do you just like seeing me suffer?”
“Stay still,” Henrik said. “I’m going to pluck two hairs now.”
“Just two! No more!” Trabernikus hissed. His leathery face was all screwed up from the sheer discomfort of hound saliva on his skin and hair. He wanted to scream.
“This is going to hurt,” Trabernikus said. “Pulling a troll’s hair feels like setting him on fire!”
Henrik carefully and delicately managed to rub Trabernikus’s hairs between two of his huge fingers, so that eventually, only two strands remained.
“Ready?” Henrik said.
Trabernikus nodded quickly. “Just do it,” Trabernikus said, wincing.
“One, two, three!”
Henrik pulled the two hairs sharply, knowing they would not come out of the troll’s head very easily. To everyone’s surprise, apart from Boevill’s, the troll did not make a sound.
“Do it! Just do it!” Trabernikus said with his eyes still closed. “Pluck them!”
“I have done it,” Henrik said. “Look.”
Trabernikus opened his eyes and looked at the two shining silver hairs in Henrik’s hand.
“Impossible,” Trabernikus said. “It can’t possibly be…”
Boevill lunged at Trabernikus and licked the side of his head once again. This time Trabernikus braced himself against the ground with his arms, and he quickly stood up.
“I told you, hound, leave my face alone!”
As Trabernikus desperately tried to wipe the saliva off his head with his arm, Henrik saw a very faint movement of light in Trabernikus’s mass of damp and matted hair.
“Your hair is growing back,” Henrik said.
“Just stop moving. Can you feel it?”
Trabernikus stopped moving. His arms were still in the air from wiping his head and face, but he became very still.
Henrik had such keen eyes, he could see the light of two new strands of hair extending from Trabernikus’s head.
“I can feel it,” Trabernikus said. “This hound is a magical one!”
“Plus he ate all of those Elgarberries you brought to us,” Henrik said. “That probably helped too.”
“Oh, thank you, dear sweet hound,” Trabernikus said, walking up to Boevill and embracing him. Boevill opened his mouth into a wide smile as he panted. “To think I was such a fool!” Trabernikus said. “If ever you want to lick my face again, make sure that you do!”
Boevill did not lick Trabernikus’s face after that, and he never did again.
Story written and read by Adam Oakley, Copyright © Adam Oakley