the Heart of the Freljord
Applies a stack of Concussive Blows.
Stand Behind Me
''Would you like a bedtime story?''
''Grandma, I'm too old for that.''
''You're never too old to be told a story.''
The girl reluctantly crawls into bed and waits, knowing she won't win this battle. A bitter wind howls outside, whipping falling snow into devil whirls.
''What kind? A tale of the Ice Witch, perhaps?'' her grandmother asks.
''No, not her.''
''What about a story of Braum?'' She was met with silence. The old woman smiles. ''Oh, there are so many. My grandmother used to tell me of the time Braum protected our village from the great dragon! Or once - this was long ago - he raced down a river of lava! Or -'' She pauses; puts a finger to her lips. ''Have I told you how Braum got his shield?''
The girl shakes her head. The hearth fire snaps, holding off the wind.
''Well. In the mountains above our village lived a man named Braum -''
''I know that!''
''He mostly kept to his farm, tending his sheep and goats, but he was the kindest man anyone had ever met, and he always had a smile on his face and a laugh on his lips.
''Now, one day something terrible happened: a young troll boy around your age - was climbing the mountain and happened on a vault, set into the mountainside, the entrance guarded by a huge stone door with a shard of True Ice at its center. When he opened the door, he couldn't believe his eyes: the vault was filled with gold, jewels - every kind of treasure you could imagine!
''What he didn't know was that the vault was a trap. The Ice Witch had cursed it - and as the troll boy entered, the magical door CLANGED shut behind him and locked him inside! Try as he might, he couldn't get out.
''A passing shepherd heard his cries. Everyone rushed to help, but even the strongest warriors couldn't open the door. The boy's parents were beside themselves; his mother's wails of grief echoed around the mountain. It seemed hopeless.
''And then, to everyone's surprise, they heard a distant laugh.''
''It was Braum, wasn't it?''
''Aren't you clever! Braum had heard their cries and came striding down the mountainside. The villagers told him of the troll boy and the curse. Braum smiled, nodded, turned to the vault, and faced the door. He pushed it. Pulled it. Punched it; kicked it; tried to rip it from its hinges. But the door wouldn't budge.''
''But he's the strongest man ever!''
''It was perplexing,'' her grandmother agrees. ''For four days and nights, Braum sat on a boulder, trying to think of a solution. After all, a child's life was at stake.
''Then, as the sun rose on the fifth day, his eyes widened and a broad grin lit up his face. If I can't go through the door,' he said, then I'll just have to go through -''
The girl thinks; her own eyes widen. ''- the mountain!''
''The mountain. Braum headed to the summit and began punching his way straight down, pummeling into the stone, fist after fist, rocks flying in his wake, until he had vanished deep into the mountain.
''As the villagers held their breath, the rock around the door crumbled - and when the dust cleared, they saw Braum standing amidst the treasure, the weak but happy troll boy in his arms.''
''I knew he could do it!''
''But before they could celebrate, everything began to rumble and shake: Braum's tunnel had weakened the mountaintop, and now it was caving in! Thinking quickly, Braum grabbed the enchanted door and held it above him like a shield, protecting them as the mountaintop collapsed all around them. When it was over, Braum was amazed: there wasn't a single scratch on the door! Braum knew it was something very special.
''And from that moment on, that magical shield never left Braum's side.''
The girl is sitting upright, struggling to conceal her excitement. Her grandmother waits. She shrugs and gets up to leave.
''Grandma,'' the girl stops her, ''can you tell me another?''
''Tomorrow.'' Her grandmother smiles; kisses her forehead; blows out the candle. ''For you need to sleep, and there are many more stories to tell.''