Author Topic: PC293: The High King Dreaming  (Read 4765 times)


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on: January 03, 2014, 04:38:32 PM
PodCastle 293: The High King Dreaming

by Daniel Abraham

Read by Cat Rambo

Originally published in Fearsome Journeys.

The High King is not dead but dreaming, and his dreams are of his death.

The sun is bright in the blue expanse of sky, the meadow more beautiful than it had ever been in life because he sees it from above.  The banners of the kingdoms he unified shift in the gentle breeze: Stonewell, Harnell, Redwater, Leftbridge, Holt. The kings who bent their knees before him do so again, and again with tears in their eyes.  The Silver Throne is there, but empty. The scepter and whip lay crossed on its seat.  His daughter, once the princess and now the queen, sits at its foot, her body wrapped in mourning grey.  The pyre on which his body rests has no fuel beneath it. No acrid stench of pitch competes with the wildflower’s perfume. His beard is white, bright in the sun, and as full as frost. His shoulders are thick, as are his arms and his thighs.  His eyes are closed, but his lips hold the memory of a smile.  The blade Justice rests on his chest, weighing him down in death as it had in life.  His cold fingers hold it easily. He is like a statue of himself, and the legend still unwritten below him should be Grace and Power.

He does not recall what brought him low, nor does it matter.  He rose in an age of war when all nations stood against each other, and he forged peace.  The Eighteen Peaks, snowcapped and bright in the spring sun, have not looked down on bloodshed in a decade.  The keeps at Narrowford and Cassin store grain now.  Any child may walk the Bloody Bridge at Hawthor and return across it at nightfall.  Some lands he took at the point of a sword, some with a wise word, some by sharing grief with enemies who had expected their pain to draw forth only laughter, but with Justice in his hand and God in his heart, he remade the world into a better place than he had found it.

Rated PG.

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« Last Edit: January 31, 2014, 03:02:13 AM by Talia »


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Reply #1 on: January 03, 2014, 09:53:54 PM
Damn it! Why is it lately that listening to this stories is making me ball my eyes out? One of us is obviously going through a sentimental streak here, and personally I'm scared to figure out which.

This story reminded me a lot of some of the aspects of King Arthur and the stories of Camelot, but I like the way that the legend was interpreted. Unlike the Authurian legend where Camelot falls apart without its noble warrior king to hold her together the kingdom depicted here only seems to grow and mature under the leadership of the its new ruler.

What I really liked about the story was the idea that the once great king was no longer really needed. He had left behind a daughter that was as great if not a better ruler than himself. I would guess that is how parents feel as there child grows, that sadness and happiness that comes with knowing that you've taught your children well. ((Please forgive me if I'm jumping to conclusions on that last point, not being a parent myself.))

The narration was beautifully done, and I would love to hear Cat read more stories in the future. I would have liked to have seen more into the future of the kingdom, perhaps several generation beyond the daughter of the king, but then king might have lost all emotional connection to the people he saw and not bothered to rise again.

It's not that I can't see the line, it's merely that I burned it away when I was 5...


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Reply #2 on: January 06, 2014, 03:30:00 PM
I don't think I'm the audience for this story.  I just found it dull from start to finish.  I never felt invested in any of the characters and was not enthused at the high king just continuing to sleep.  How enthralling?

I've been interested in Arthurian legend spinoffs before, certainly, but I'm not enthusiastic enough to just like anything that comes near the legend.  (This brought Artur Hawkwing to mind foremost, but I realize he himself is inspired by King Arthur).  Why am I supposed to care?  I dunno.  I even listened to the whole thing to see if it was building to something awesome, but it was all just more of the same.

Obviously it worked for some people, so that's good.  Maybe I was just jealous that he got all the sleep he needed (baby's teething right now at home, not sleeping through the night very well).

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Reply #3 on: January 10, 2014, 10:02:39 AM
I can see how this story would invoke powerful emotions and all, but it just didn't click for me.
I do like the idea of a king who is not dead and will rise when the time is needed. Only he won't ever because never is the time he is needed. Why not? Because if her were needed in this crisis he would have risen. So clearly we can handle this on our own.
Sort of a self-denying prophecy. Also reminiscent of the conflict that the people of the New Foundation go through in the later stories.

« Last Edit: January 10, 2014, 10:09:04 AM by Max e^{i pi} »

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Reply #4 on: January 16, 2014, 02:54:20 AM
I liked this story, actually. I thought the device was rather interesting, with the king popping in and out, trying to decide if he should or should not arise. The major thing that really caught my attention were the details of his deeds being expanded to these ridiculous lengths, making him less of a noble man and more of a legendary hero-god. It something that I find interesting about history in general, and it was neat to hear it in a more fantastical setting.

I actually thought the fact that he stayed sleeping through the entire story was oddly satisfying. I kept waiting for that great need to come, but everyone handled themselves well, and through a medium that he himself would not think to use. Diplomacy and compromise were where his daughter shined, and though that would've been wrong in his time, in the world that he built, that he occasionally sees, his sword is rather useless when words could work better.


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Reply #5 on: January 16, 2014, 05:19:37 AM
I liked the story, too. It felt like a myth in the telling, which was appropriate for a tale about one who is inflated to mythic proportions. If the High King had been awakened, had come down from the tomb to impart sage wisdom or smite the foes of the kingdom in battle, I think it would have been somehow unsatisfying and would've undermined the message that each generation has to solve its own problems in its own ways. 


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Reply #6 on: January 20, 2014, 04:31:53 AM
I like the message that Procyon referred to, that each generation must solve it's own problems. I also like that the legend of the king rising when most needed gave his heirs confidence that they must be able to handle this one if they just buckle down a bit. In that way it was rather empowering. However, as a narrative it did feel pretty anti-climactic that in the end he... continues to sleep. So that was sort of a tension for me, I suppose.


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Reply #7 on: January 28, 2014, 07:19:58 PM
I liked this Aurthurian variant. It had a great feel located somewhere between Arthur and the barrow mounds of Rohan and Game of Thrones.

It's also an interesting take on faith and theodicy. It's effectively the discussion on the balance between free will and suffering. All sorts of great religious analogies could be pulled from this, so maybe we should add Narnia as a fourth axis of location.

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Reply #8 on: February 21, 2014, 02:23:28 AM
I really like this story.  The glimpses into the history of this world left me wanting more.  I'd love to see more stories set here - either during the High King's unification of the kingdoms or during his daughter's reign.


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Reply #9 on: April 01, 2014, 04:34:22 PM
Oh, lovely! I've been on a huge myth kick as of late, and this truly was a feast.
I did find myself wondering though...if the High King's body didn't succumb to rot, well then, just how long would he be dreaming? How long is forever? Or is that also myth? What would happen in ten thousand years, when he would be forgotten and suddenly he is needed? What then?

I also liked the times when he almost...alllllllmost...wakes up, but doesn't. Works well with the uncertainty of the times.

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Reply #10 on: September 14, 2014, 11:36:55 PM
I live again, waking up as if from a long slumber, how curious indeed!

I started off the story with the expectation that the king would rise again, but then as he viewed the increasing success and change of his daughter and then her sun, I began to wonder if the True King was supposed to really wake up. This matches up with our current reality, where for the most part there are people who believe they will meet up with their passed loved ones, but only once they to have died. So platitudes of unknown veracity are spoken but we still must move forward in our current reality no matter what that truth is. So I see the kings dreaming as observation, it is the reality, and he is seeing it, but his awakening once again is never going to be, the dream lasts forever, we never decay because we are just a memory observing the future, but that;s okay to, because there is a future.