Andrew's Mission - A Portallas short storyby Christopher D. Morgan / Fantasy
For Sandy. May we both survive the teenage years that are about to hit us.
Copyright © 2017 Christopher D. Morgan
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. No actual person or event is depicted.
No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter invented, without the express permission of the author except for use of brief quotations in book reviews.
This short story has been written using British English spelling and conventions.
A Portallas short story
Christopher D. Morgan
Andrew’s Mission is a Portallas short story that tells some of the backstory about one of the main characters from the Portallas series of books. Andrew is a young Woodsman in training now living in the village of Morelle, which resides in the western part of Forestium. We first meet Andrew in Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies, which is book one in the Portallas series.
In Forestium, Andrew joins his best friend, Joshua, who decides to go on an epic journey to help find the truth about his long-lost father. In Andrew’s Mission, we discover how close the relationship is between Andrew and Joshua, as Andrew attempts to help save his best friend’s life by going in search of something that could very well kill him.
Close to Death
Joshua shook his head rapidly from side-to-side, sweat dripping from his face. His eyes were still shut and his breathing laboured. The fever that gripped him came on faster than anyone expected and he was now fighting for his very life.
Delirious from the illness, he muttered incoherently as he writhed in his bed. His mother sat beside him. Helpless to do anything, she wiped his brow with a cloth from a bowl of water.
Unaware of his surroundings, Joshua pushed his mother’s helping hand to one side with his flailing arm. His uncontrollable hands sent the bowl flying across the room. The two other Tenders in the room took a quick step backwards but it was too late. They were both soaked.
“Hang in there, Joshua. Help is on the way.”
Joshua’s Mother stood up and peered helplessly into the eyes of the other two women standing close by. Nothing was said in that moment, but they all knew. They, like her, were both powerless to do anything.
She broke down into tears as they tried their best to comfort her. The two Tenders patted her on the back and did what they could to calm her. It was all they had to offer to help ease the anguish she was feeling.
“Don’t worry, Merinder,” one of the Tenders said to Joshua’s distraught mother. “The Healer will be here soon. She’ll…she’ll know what to do.”
Joshua’s mother turned to her son again. Tears streamed down her eyes as he lay there, the life slowly ebbing away from him.
Andrew opened his eyes and stretched with a long and satisfying yawn. Dawn light had already broken and the soothing nighttime hum of Dengle bugs was subsiding. Leaping into action, he collected his quiver and a few arrows for today’s practice session and made his usual exit out through the window.
Andrew felt invigorated. The ritual trials were just a few months away and he was keen to get in some more practice. As with every other morning for the past few months, he made his way across the village to collect his best friend. They had been practicing for the trials for some time now. Both were making good progress in honing their hunting and shooting skills. If all went well, they would complete the trials this year and take their rightful place as village Woodsmen together.
Andrew traversed his familiar route onto the lower section of Joshua’s roof to get close to the window. With his usual deftness, he swung through the opening and landed right into the lap of one of the Tenders sitting on Joshua’s bed.
“Oh! Um…hello. I wasn’t expecting…” Andrew fumbled his words as he scrambled off the bed and to his feet.
Joshua’s mother and several others were stood around the bed. Andrew looked down to see his best friend writhing in agony.
“W…what’s going on? Joshua?”
“Come with me, Andrew.”
The village Healer spoke in a calm and sombre tone. She led Andrew out into the kitchen and sat him down on a stool at the table. She was a gentle woman. Warm, kind, always with a friendly touch and a pleasing smile. She wore a distinctive white apron around her waist. It was decorated with various herbs and colourful plants. Her hair was always worn in a tight bun on the top of her head and decorated with yellow flowers.
“Andrew I need to ask you some questions. It’s very imp…”
“What’s going on?” Andrew asked, cutting the Healer off mid-sentence. He shook his head slightly and lowered his brow.
“Have you been experiencing any headaches?”
“Headaches? No, why?”
“Any rash or pain in your joints?”
“No, nothing like that. Why? What’s wrong with Joshua? Is he…”
“Listen to me, Andrew. This is very important. What was the last thing you ate? Were you with Joshua last night?”
“Um, well, I had a couple of Shrooms for breakfast…”
“Last night, Andrew! Did you eat what Joshua ate last night?”
“Um…” Andrew turned his head slightly to the side and pondered for a moment.
“Think, Andrew! It’s important that I know. You could be in grave danger.”
Andrew scratched his head and narrowed his eyes. He stared into nothingness and thought hard.
“Actually, now you mention it,” he said slowly remembering, “we did pick some Shrooms together yesterday afternoon on the outskirts. I’d completely forgotten about that.”
“Did they look like these?”
The Healer held out her hand. In her palm were a couple of small Shrooms. Each of them had red stalks and a pale blue cap.
“That’s them!” he exclaimed with wide eyes, pointing his finger at them. “We found them not far from Lake Morelle. We were going to bring them back to show them to you as a matter of fact. What are they? I’ve never seen them before.”
The Healer sat back on her stool and sighed. She then leaned forward and took Andrew’s hand.
“Listen to me very carefully, Andrew. Did you eat any of these Shrooms?”
Andrew looked the Healer in the eye and shook his head.
“No. Joshua kept them in his keeper bag. Why? Are they poisonous or something? He’ll be OK, won’t he? I mean, you can heal him…right? You can make some medicine for him, can’t you?”
The Healer looked down at the Shrooms still in her hand.
“These are Anamita Shrooms. They are very rare and very deadly. There is one thing that could help but I cannot make it.”
“What do you mean? Why not?” Andrew snapped. He stood up, nearly knocking the stool over as he pushed it behind him. He started pacing back and forth.
The Healer didn’t move. She followed him with her stare. “It’s a very exacting potion that I need to make, Andrew, and it won’t work unless I have all the correct ingredients. It has to be made fresh so I don’t have any in my stores.”
“Well, can’t you…just make it then?” He fixed his gaze on the Healer as he continued to move back and forth.
“There’s one thing that I need to complete the mixture for it to work. I have already sent some Tradesmen off to find some in Temerelle but that is more than two days from here.”
Andrew stopped pacing. “Well, what do you need? Maybe I can find it myself.”
Joshua’s Mother came into the kitchen. She was clutching her hands to her chest. Her eyes were puffy and tears were still rolling down her face. Andrew turned to her and then back to the Healer.
“Just…tell me what you need. I’ll leave right now and find it for you.”
The Healer put the poisonous Shrooms onto the table and turned to Andrew.
“There is a spider. It’s called a Wood-widow. Its venom is very potent, so you must be careful. But if its venom is mixed with the ingredients I already have, it may work as an antidote and,” she said, as Joshua’s mother held her hands to her mouth. “I may be able to save Joshua. You must bring me the spider alive.”
“What does it look like?”
“It is bright red with black, hairy legs. About the size of your palm. It is a very illusive spider that lives high up on the branches of a Bangle tree.”
Andrew thought for a moment. Then, his eyes widened.
“There’s a Bangle tree at Lake Morelle. Maybe I can find this Wood-widow spider there?”
“Go. And hurry! Joshua is already very weak and I don’t know how much time he has left.”
Andrew turned to look at Joshua’s Mother. She was staring at him with beseeching eyes.
“Don’t worry. I’ll find one and bring it back. Joshua will be as good as new in no time. Don’t you worry.”
With that, Andrew turned and ran out the front door.