Kristoff’s “family” makes an appearance :-)
Prelude | Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7
Word count: 1201
Fire and Ice - Chapter 8
The dilapidated cabin stands amidst the trees, hidden from view by the tall pines and overgrown brush. The structure is so small and old, the wood so worn and discoloured that to the untrained eye it might seem abandoned. Slats are missing on the floor of the tiny porch, the wood on the steps below splintered and cracked. The path leading from it is not so much a path as a stretch of stamped down vegetation. Along this path, a path he’s tread so many times before, comes Kristoff, cradling Anna in his arms. His extensive training has well prepared him for such an ordeal; carrying such a weight over a great distance on inhospitable terrain, injured as he is himself.
He’s a few feet from the front door when he starts yelling. He can’t afford to waste more time.
“Grand Pabbie! Bulda!”
The door swings open on creaky hinges and a portly, middle-aged woman comes running out, wiping her hands on her apron.
“Kristoff! What’s happened?” She scans the scene in front of her, Kristoff covered in ash, sweating from exertion, a woman unconscious in his arms.
“We were caught in a flash fire, a tree fell, I- I think she’s injured.” He’s running past Bulda through the door of the cabin, his eyes adjusting to the dim light, as he sets Anna gingerly down on the ratty couch in the small living room. Besides the couch, there is a small table with two mismatched chairs - otherwise the room is sparsely furnished. A fire is burning in the small fireplace, and that, along with the small, dusty window above the couch, give the room its only light.
“What do you mean, you ‘think’? Is she injured or not?” Bulda brushes past him to examine Anna for herself. Kristoff steps back a little, allowing Bulda to see with her own eyes.
“Well I’ll be damned.” She clucks, as she continues to poke and prod Anna gently. “Not a burn or even a scratch on her.”
Kristoff remains quiet, knowing what the next question will be.
“But Kristoff… she’s so cold.” Bulda is shaking her head, not even believing the words as they’re coming out of her mouth.
At that moment, a wizened old man, just as portly as Bulda, comes shuffling out of the other room, leaning heavily on his cane. His clothes are old and threadbare, but clean. He looks up at Kristoff, eyes sharp despite the years etched on his countenance.
“There is some strange magic at work here.” He’s nodding his head, his wrinkled face grave.
“Grand Pabbie, can you help her?” Kristoff turns to the old man, pleading. He’s exhausted, bewildered, his hands are numb, but the only thing he’s sure of is that he wants Anna to be alright. His thoughts are of nothing else.
Grand Pabbie shuffles over to the couch, Kristoff bringing over a chair for him. Bulda helps him to sit so he can examine Anna, his eyes narrowing as he brings his face closer. He reaches out a tentative hand, crooked and wrinkled with age, to touch Anna’s cheek. At contact, he recoils, hissing with pain. Bulda starts, and Kristoff runs over to Anna’s side.
“It’s alright, Kristoff, I’m okay.” Grand Pabbie shakes his head, then bows it for a moment before meeting Kristoff’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, Kristoff. There is nothing I can do for her. I can make her comfortable, give you some boiled herbs that will help to keep her a little warmer, but the ability to heal her is beyond my power.” Grand Pabbie’s voice is soft, but sure. He’s looking into Kristoff’s eyes with great compassion, seeing the little boy he had watched grow up, his heart breaking at the thought of being powerless to help him.
Kristoff blinks, regarding Grand Pabbie blankly for a moment. His training has prepared him for every situation he’s faced, every single one - except for this. Emotion finally washes over him, as helplessness and fear start to invade his mind.
“Grand Pabbie, what do I do? I can’t let her die.” He chokes on his words, and Bulda puts a comforting arm around him.
Grand Pabbie thinks for a moment, shaking his head grimly.
“She needs care, Kristoff, a loving hand. I feel this is something even beyond what conventional medicine can do. Even if you bring her to a hospital, how do you explain what happened to her?”
Kristoff nods his head numbly, knowing Grand Pabbie is right. He drops his head into his hands, willing himself to think.
She needs a loving hand.
She needs love.
She mentioned it was true love with Hans.
She needs Hans.
The answer clicks into place, and instantly Kristoff knows what he must do. Wordlessly, he gathers Anna up, wrapping her in a blanket Bulda has brought out. He carries her out of the cabin, where Grand Pabbie is already leading out a horse. He mounts the horse, cradling Anna in his arms. Bulda comes rushing out of the cabin.
“Kristoff! Take the herbs for her, they might help.” She presses the small package into his hand and he winces. “Kristoff? What is it?”
“It’s nothing.” He tries to hide his hands but Bulda pulls them out forcefully. She gasps as she sees the puckered skin.
“Kristoff Bjorgman! How dare you try to leave here without telling me you were injured!” Bulda is seething, her eyes dark pools boring into his face.
He’s about to protest, to say he needs to leave, that Anna doesn’t have much time, but he knows it’s pointless with her. This woman is like a surrogate mother to him, having found him wandering in the woods as a young child. She couldn’t care for him on her own, with Grand Pabbie to look after already, so he had grown up in the foster system. However, he had spent as much time as he could with them in the mountain cabin. They had taught him how to hunt and fish, how to live in the mountains. Grand Pabbie had been known as a mountain healer in those parts, people coming to him from afar for his special herbs and poultices. And living so high up in the mountains, they had also served as an early warning system for the fire crews.
Kristoff feels he owes so much to these two gentle people, and indeed when Bulda returns with the poultice for his hands his heart leaps with gratitude. She applies the paste to his hands, working quickly but still with a light touch, wrapping cloth expertly over everything.
“Not my best work, I’m afraid, but it’ll have to do in a pinch. At least until you get proper medical attention.” She clucks, shaking her head as she wraps the last of the bandage. Once she’s done, she looks up into Kristoff’s face, eyes serious, face grave. “Now get her some help, and when she’s all better make sure to bring her back so we can meet her properly.” She grins mischievously, and before Kristoff can protest, she slaps the horse’s haunch and it takes off at a gallop.