Do you feel stuck in your language learning? You keep trying different things, but nothing seems to work. You just need some expert advice on how best to study.
Well, I have the perfect thing for you! My email newsletter. Every other week on Friday, I send out a FREE email with advice on how to study any language, based on my own experience and scientific evidence. If you’re losing motivation or want to know how I study languages, and after all I do speak seven, then don’t wait—go and sign up today.
You can sign up for my free fortnightly (that means every two weeks) email newsletter at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Email.
OK, let’s start the episode.
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for advanced learners. The name of the story is To Be a Hero. This is chapter two. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Hero2. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Hero2. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So in last week’s episode, the first chapter of the story, I said there would be two chapters. Mmm, I lied! Actually, this is not the last chapter. There is probably going to be three chapters? I don’t know, we’ll see. Maybe even four.
I made a plan for the story and I thought it would be two chapters long, but as I was writing this it got a bit longer and so I decided to stop at a certain point and do another chapter next week. So, because I’m still writing this story as I publish it, that’s why it’s a bit all over the place. It was kinda hard to cut it into chapters as well, I had to do it in slightly weird places, but you know what? It’s all an experiment. I’m trying to write more of my own stuff. These things happen.
Hopefully, you’ll still enjoy it. But if you haven’t listened to the first chapter yet, then I really recommend doing that first! So go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Hero to hear chapter one of today’s story.
And do leave your comments and let me know what you think of this story and of this chapter because I love reading your comments, and it really helps me to get an idea of which stories you like, and which you don’t like so much. So you can go and leave a comment at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Hero2.
Speaking of getting back to writing original work again, I’ve been back working on my novel because I’ve decided, you know what, I’m on draft four of this novel, I’ve done so much work on it, I’ve made up a whole plan for how I’m gonna rewrite the story. I’m really proud of what I rewrote so far. I just need to get over this kind of like perfectionism I have about it being the most amazing perfect story ever. It’s not going to be. Also, I was kind of unsure, I thought maybe it would be the second book in a trilogy, and then I’ll have to write the prequel, and that was confusing me, and I’ve decided, “Don’t think about that now. Just finish the story and then you can decide what to do.”
So if you’re interested, it is a, um, a fantasy novel about a reclusive lesbian vampire who has been exiled from a vampire clan and has to get back in touch with it in order to defeat an evil vampire who’s going around and murdering vampires and drinking their blood. So it’s all very mysterious. It’s like a murder mystery adventure kind of thing.
I mainly really want to work on original novels because, you know, I really love doing the stories and the podcast, but sometimes I want to express myself using the full range of language that I have as a native speaker and as a writer, but also I really want to publish these novels and then do editions for learners, so with more simplified language like on the podcast.
The reason being is, you know, I provide all of these short stories that I think are a really great resource, but also I think it’s great to have full-length novels that are good for learners, so you have something a bit, um, deeper, a bit more detailed to “sink your teeth into”, we say. A very fitting metaphor given we’re talking about a vampire story!
What’s actually really been helping me to focus on my novel and work more determinedly—is that a word? Hmm, I dunno—work more determinedly on it has been meditating. So I’ve been getting back into meditation. I talk about this a lot on my other podcast, Elevenses with Ariel, which is a short conversational podcast for intermediate and advanced learners. So if you want to hear all about my meditation, as well as, you know, what’s going on in my life, TV shows and books that I like, and the novel I’m working on, then you can go to Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish and for just $5 a month you can get access to the, I think it’s like, 50 episodes at this point? Of Elevenses with Ariel. So there’s lots to listen to!
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
A foal is a baby horse.
Instincts are those feelings that help you make decisions or figure out a situation. For example, when I’m teaching, I sometimes feel that students don’t understand me. I know this just through instinct. It’s hard to explain how I know, but I just do. Athletes and musicians often rely on instinct for their performances. They don’t think about what they’re doing. They just do it.
“Bob’s your uncle” is a very funny and very British expression that means, “and there you have it” or “and there it is”. For example, you go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com, you click on a story, you read it and Bob’s your uncle! Now you’re fluent in English. Not really. I wish!
A hoof, and the plural is hooves, is the foot of a cow, a pig, a goat, and so on. Basically, these animals don’t have feet like us. Their feet are very hard, and when they walk it sounds like clop clop. To protect horse’s hooves, people put horseshoes on them.
Armour is a set of hard clothes, made of iron, steel or leather. Armour is there to protect you in battle. In the Middle Ages, knights and warriors wore very complicated metal armour and it took a long time to put it on and take it off. Nowadays, usually only the police and soldiers wear armour, and the armour is much lighter.
When you crush something, you squash it, make it completely flat. You usually crush things with your hand or your foot. For example, after you finish drinking a can of Coke, you might crush it for fun. Or if you are very cruel, you might enjoy crushing insects. When cooking, you often need to crush garlic with a knife.
A cliché is a phrase or an idea that is overused, that is used so much that it stops meaning very much. For example, in the UK many football commentators, people who comment professionally on football matches, say things like, ‘At the end of the day, it’s a game of two sides.’ Which is a cliché because, well, of course it’s a game of two sides! It’s football! An example of a cliché in film is when there’s a clock ticking down to an explosion or something dramatic, and the hero always manages to stop the clock with one second left.
“Speak of the devil, and he shall appear”, often just shortened to “Speak of the devil”, is a phrase that you use when you are talking about someone and then they appear. Basically, in the Middle Ages they believed that it was bad to say the name of the Devil, Satan, because it would make him appear. So now, if you are talking about your friend Maria, and then suddenly Maria arrives, it is like magic, and you can say, ‘Speak of the devil!’
A lair is the home of a monster. Lairs are usually caves, and they are usually very dark and full of treasure. If you want to go and slay a terrifying monster, you will have to go to their lair to do it.
Awe is a feeling that is a mix of fear and wonder at something. For example, you might feel a sense of awe when you see something beautiful in nature, like a huge mountain or a waterfall, or a dangerous animal.
Guts are your insides, the organs around your stomach. So your stomach, your intestines, your liver and so on are all your guts. Hopefully, you’ll never get to see your guts, because if you can see your guts then something horrible has happened!
If you enjoy the podcast and want more, you can support us on Patreon. For just $2 a month you can get exercises with each episode, and for $5, you get Elevenses with Ariel, a daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners, as well as an extra story every month. You can support us at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
A big thank-you to our new patrons: Chris and Sima. Thank you so much. Your support really means a lot to us.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
To Be a Hero Chapter 2
When we last saw our hero-in-training, Norm, and his ghostly teacher, Elric, they were walking at a sensible pace through the forest to recover the King’s lost pegasus. After several hours of walking, filled with Elric insisting they (quietly) play a variety of childish word games, they arrived at the cave where the creature was hiding.
Norm gasped when he saw the magnificent animal. Its wings were long and elegant, as if taken from an angel, and it had skin as pure and white as snow.
But far from wandering elegantly through the trees, the creature was sitting on the floor of the cave reading a book.
‘I didn’t know horses could read,’ muttered Elric.
‘He’s not a horse!’ said Norm. ‘Now, wait here while I go and talk to him. I don’t want you to scare him off.’
‘No!’ hissed the ghost. ‘You’re no good at this, even if you can talk to animals. Let’s do it my way. We’ll capture a foal and trap it. The pegasus will see it and its animal instincts will kick in. And then you’ll throw a net over it, and Bob’s your uncle. We’ll be back at the castle in no time with the pegasus.’
‘Bob’s not my uncle. I don’t have an uncle. Bob was the name of that bird.’
Norm paused and thought over Elric’s plan. He didn’t like it for several reasons. For one, how were they going to get hold of a foal and a net? But more importantly, it didn’t seem like the heroic thing to do. And yet, what did Norm know of heroism? All his attempts at it so far had failed.
But he couldn’t deny his heart. No creature that magnificent deserved to be caught in a net and dragged to its master.
So Norm stood up and said, ‘Hello there.’
The pegasus jumped, ripping a page out of the book with his hoof.
‘Don’t be scared! I’m not going to hurt you. What book are you reading?’
For a long moment, the pegasus didn’t move a muscle, and just stared at him in silence. Then he said, ‘How can you talk to me?’
‘I ate a magic pear.’
‘Hmm, I thought they stopped growing those years ago. Well, if you must know, I’m reading The Almanac of Dragons.’
‘Fancy!’ said Norm. ‘What’s it about?’
‘Oh, I probably could’ve guessed that from the title.’
‘What do you want?’ said the pegasus. Despite his overwhelming beauty, he spoke in a cold, practical manner.
‘I, uh…’ He couldn’t just say he wanted to take him to the King, could he? ‘I heard you ran away from the King. Why is that?’
‘And why would I tell you? You’re just looking for a reward. Is he offering “endless riches” this time, or did he say he would be “forever thankful”?’
‘The first one! But no, I’m not here to help the King.’
‘True. You don’t look like one of those mercenaries the King hires. You’re not even wearing armour. I could crush you with one hoof.’
Norm gulped. ‘Yeah, you could.’
The pegasus sighed. ‘I suppose there’s no harm in telling you why I ran away. Perhaps you can pass the message on to the King for me, and he can leave me alone.’
The pegasus stepped out of the cave and walked around, never taking his eye off Norm.
‘I never liked that fighting business. I’m a scholar, really. I’ve fought in many battles—’ here he moved his neck to point at his scar-covered back, ‘—and I’ve killed many men, but for what? So that a drunk man can fill his pockets and continue to crush the people under his boot?’
‘Did the King… hurt you?’
The pegasus turned round and stared at Norm. ‘Yes, he did.’
‘I’m sorry. I know what that’s like. I’m not a warrior, at least, not yet. I want to be a hero. But my stepmother…’
‘…is wicked and beats you every day?’
‘Almost! She never hit me. Just said mean words.’
‘We’ve got almost all the clichés in the book between us. A drunken king and a wicked stepmother. Next you’ll tell me you’re being accompanied by the ghost of a great hero who’s teaching you how to become one yourself.’
‘I’m no cliché!’ bellowed Elric, floating out of the bushes.
‘Speak of the devil,’ said the pegasus.
‘This is Elric. It’s kind of a long story…’
‘I have a vivid imagination. I can figure it out. But really, what are you looking for, boy? Most people wouldn’t track down a killer pegasus without a good reason to do so.’
‘I admit… I was looking to get the King’s reward. That is, until I saw you. You’re beautiful,’ he whispered.
‘Oh, so if I was ugly you would’ve sent me back to the King? I can tell you don’t read books. You’re just full of incorrect assumptions.’
‘Hey, leave the boy alone!’ cried Elric. ‘He’s just a kid doing his best to become a hero! He may be stupid, but he’s, uh… very brave?’ He said this last part in a very doubtful tone.
‘Thank you, Elric.’
The pegasus smiled. ‘My apologies. I haven’t been able to talk to anyone apart from old war horses for many years now. My manners have deteriorated. And now I must ask you a favour: will you go back to the King and tell him that I died? Spare no details, tell him that I was cut apart and that my body parts are being eaten by birds.’
‘Eugh!’ said Norm. ‘I mean… I can.’
‘I think that’s the only way he’ll leave me alone. All I want is to read my books in peace.’ But there was a hint of loneliness in the beautiful creature’s voice.
‘Alright,’ said Norm. ‘I’ll tell him.’
‘Thank you. I am aware that the temptation of gold can conquer even the strongest men, so if you do this for me, I will give you a reward myself. Meet me on that hill at sunset.’ He gestured into the distance, where a low hill rose up out of the forest.
‘Why, is it a magical hill?’
‘No, it just means I’ll be able to see if you’re coming with the King’s men to betray me. And believe me, you don’t want to betray me.’
So Norm went to deliver the message to the King, which was considerably difficult on his part, as acting was not one of his strongest skills. But with Elric’s coaching—the ex-hero seemed to be exceptionally skilled at lying—they made it out of the castle and headed for the hill, where the pegasus was waiting for them.
‘I realised I didn’t tell you my name,’ said the creature. ‘I’m trying to become more polite, but it’s a difficult process. I am Kvok.’
‘Uh, that’s a beautiful name,’ said Norm.
‘Don’t lie to me. It’s ugly. Anyway, here is your reward.’
Norm blinked and looked around. ‘Uh, is it an… invisible sword?’
Kvok snorted. ‘You need to get over your obsession with magical objects. No, it is me.’
‘I know I said before that I just wanted a quiet life of reading, but a pegasus does get lonely… As foolish as it seems, I’d like to accompany you on your journey.’
‘Fantastic!’ said Norm, his mind filling with romantic images of him riding Kvok dressed in a shining suit of armour.
‘Don’t get any ideas, though,’ said Kvok. ‘I won’t let you ride me unless it’s strictly necessary.’
‘Oh,’ said Norm, trying, and failing, to hide his disappointment.
‘Now, I had a fly around and collected information,’ said Kvok, ‘and I heard about a dragon who’s been attacking the city of Orfever to the east, stealing jewels and gold from the people. I couldn’t believe that sort of thing still happens, but it makes a perfect task for a young hero-in-training, don’t you think?’
‘Yes!’ cried Norm, jumping into the air and punching it.
‘Just one problem, my boy,’ said Elric. ‘You don’t have a sword, a shield, or even a piece of armour. Besides, you’re completely untrained!’
Kvok smiled devilishly. ‘Don’t worry. I have a plan.’
So as they travelled to the city on foot, the pegasus explained his plan to them. Clearly, those books he had been reading—Norm was forced to drag the heavy chest full of them—contained some awful stuff, as the plan was the work of someone with a truly sick mind.
‘I thought you didn’t like violence?’ said Norm.
‘I never said that! I just like applying it strategically.’
When they arrived at the city of Orfever, it was clear to see why the dragon had chosen it. It was covered in wealth, the streets made of elegant stones with romantic lamps and imposing statues on either side, down which paraded finely-dressed citizens with noses almost as high as their expensive hats. The mayor even lived in a tower of gold.
‘Ah, you have come to deal with our dragon problem, yes?’ he said, eyeing their odd appearance with a frown. ‘Fantastic. You’ll find its lair an hour north of here, in the caves.’
‘Aren’t you going to help us, perhaps with some legendary armour or magical objects?’ said Norm hopefully. If he couldn’t live out his dream of fighting a dragon, he could at least get some free equipment.
The mayor scoffed. ‘Do heroes not equip themselves these days? You should consider yourself lucky I even allowed you into my home with such dirty clothes. Now go and do your job, boy.’
So the three adventurers carried out their plan. First, they had to acquire a sword. Kvok told Elric and Norm to go relax at a pub, giving them some coin to buy drinks with, while the pegasus went off to ‘find’ a sword. Norm was sure that he was in fact stealing it, but he didn’t dare challenge the creature. He was still in awe of him, and the more he talked to Kvok, the more that awe turned to fear. He did not want to get on his wrong side.
Once they had the sword, they went into the grasslands surrounding the city and found every snake they could, breaking their necks and collecting them in a bag. It made Norm feel a bit sick, but Kvok insisted that they follow his plan, so he kept quiet. Elric flew around, finding the animals, but it was Norm who actually had to kill them, and he got more than one bite on his arm. Thankfully, they weren’t the poisonous kind.
Once they had collected a heavy bag of snakes, they went to the dragon’s lair, poured the dead creatures onto the ground, and got to work. Each one they sliced open, spilling its guts out onto the earth.
‘Dragons, although they view themselves as far superior, feel a great connection to snakes, because they believe that is their biological origin,’ Kvok had said on their way to Orfever. ‘If we launch a psychological attack, we can make it angry, and when dragons are angry, they’re stupid. They have very strong biological instincts, you see. During my information-gathering I discovered this one has a weak spot on its stomach. So we’ll get it angry and then you’ll fly in, Norm—yes, I’ll let you ride me just this once—and cut it open with the sword.’
Norm was frightened but terribly excited at the same time. Elric, too, became enthusiastic, coaching Norm on sword techniques during every spare moment.
Once they had finished their reptilian murder session, they ran into the bushes nearby and hid, waiting for the dragon to come out.
And you too must wait, dear reader, because this story has yet another chapter to go. But do not worry, friends, soon you will find out the thrilling tale of the battle with the dragon! You simply must be patient like a snake in the long grass… Although hopefully your guts will remain in place!
END OF CHAPTER 2
If you enjoyed the story, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Go to Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. For just a few dollars a month you can get extra episodes, conversational podcasts, exercises, and much more. Thank you for listening, and until next week.