I wake up suddenly, like a story that starts in the middle of the action.
The song. I heard it!
“!” I shout. “I heard the song again! Wake up!”
I shove aside the snow that serves as our blanket and look my flufferific friend in the face. His whiskers are twitching like they can feel my dream slowly fading. He growls, and his breath swirls into all kindsa shapes. But even though he’s old and has hair in his earholes, still, he’s my best friend! I laugh as his beard tickles my nose.
Nothing like a magical yeti to bring me back to reality!
Willump rolls over and starts scratching his grumbling belly. “You’re always thinking about food,” I laugh again. Laughing feels good, it helps me remember.
We’ve been following her song across the Freljord—my mom’s heart-song. Everywhere we’ve ever been, she made a verse, and if I could only remember what each place was, I could find my way back to her. I could save her, like a hero in her stories!
But I can only remember parts of the song when I’m not trying, and sometimes… it’s like my mom is out there, singing.
Like that! Did you hear that?!
“It’s coming from that village,” I bellow, pointing towards a patch of darkness beneath a frozen waterfall. Something inside me knows that’s where the song came from. “Sword first, Willump, I’ll cut through the wind!”
I shiver as we enter the clearing a few moments later, though I’m surrounded by scrazzly fur. Even this close, the village is mostly shadows. There are no people—if there were, I’d know, ‘cause it’s so cold I’d see their breath. “What is this place?” I ask.
Willump growls wisely.
“‘Naljaäg’? That can’t be its name. How would anyone know how to spell that?” Then Willump grumbles that it’s the yeti word for “stone.”
The buildings are stones heaped really high, the pathways are stones, too. Stones. Got it. So… it’s not weird that the flowers are carved out of stone, right? And those furs, hanging over a door. And that old rope! At least, it would be rope if it wasn’t hard and gray.
“Is everything around here stones?” I ask. It’s not fair—in the stories, stones at least have runes carved into them or something.
I’m starting to wonder why the song led me here, when finally I see a person, their back turned beneath an archway!
“My name is, and I’m here to help!” I yell, and I pull at the person’s shoulder—but when they topple into the light with a dull thwunk, I immediately realize… they’re stone, too!
Beyond the archway are all the missing people from the village, huddled together like statues. There’s one who looks like a warrior, now dull and gray. There’s a farmer and his wife, holding each other tightly, like they were carved from one slab. A little girl, a pebble beside them.
It’s a curse. A real one.
“Willump,” I say. “We gotta do something!”
That’s the thing about mom’s songs. My favorites were always tales of heroes, more than a match for any curse. With the lessons I learned, we can save these people, right? I have to believe, otherwise… how am I gonna save her?
I remember one song, a myth about how Avarosa healed the turtle that carries the sea, by giving it a big kiss! But I don’t want my first kiss to be a statue. I make Willump kiss ’em just in case, and watch as the stone gets stuck to his fur.
I try saying the prayerstaught me, just in case. I make a dragon out of snow to scare the curse away, like did to fight the southern army! I even try pulling the sun closer, like how thawed his village in the song my mom sang. But the sun’s too far.
Braum must have really long arms.
Willump tries to comfort me. He says some curses can’t be fought. Sometimes, heroes don’t win. But I remember what matters. I can feel it, even though my mom is missing, our caravan buried in snow. The feeling of being loved.
That’s what this village deserves!
“If we can’t help these people,” I tell Willump, “then we’re gonna help these statues!”
I smile and reach for my flute. I mean, my sword!!
Hero time, hah!
I can smell the curse. A hateful stench, like. It has the weight of centuries; weight that could grind the years this child has left down to mere days. Here is where even heroes of song would question how they could fight, blades powerless against ancient magic.
But Nunu is no mere hero. He is something better.
He is a boy!
He whoops, and calls my attention to the frozen waterfall above us. We are close enough now that we can see them, nestled atop stillness.. Stone creatures animated by magic, more than at home living above a village such as this one.
Their nest has dammed the waters’ flow, holding back the Freljord’s lifeblood. I taste a hint of Nunu’s intentions.
It tastes like krugs. Delicious.
“Hey, stoney crabs! You took something from those statues!” Nunu yells, and hops onto my back without losing a beat, for the music is in his heart.
The magic is his now. Swept up in his imagination, snow forms before us, gradually taking shape into a mighty snowball! I laugh as we ramble wildly, our merry burden growing so large that beneath us the village trembles, buildings stretching themselves awake. And still the snowball grows larger. The krugs make only a tiny chitter as we leap into the air to the top of the waterfall, blotting out the sun.
The Freljord goes white, the dam embraced by snow even as it’s torn apart.
And then, the earth roars.
Icicles crack like bones made brittle by winter. The roar grows louder as the river coughs and clears dust from its throat, water tumbling into the village below.
“Did you see that, Willump?!” Nunu asks. But my eyes are already closed.
I can feel a magic more powerful than the curse welling up to fill the village, casting shivers through my fur and bringing warmth to a world that is cold. It is the only magic that can save the Freljord. Even the frozen dreams of my people, coveted by the Frostguard, pale in comparison to this magic, held in abundance by a child.
His arms are around me now, and I hug him back with all four limbs, looking away so he does not see the snowflakes falling from my eyes.
The curse has not lifted. But still, life has returned. And as it spreads, stone flowers washing away to make room for living ones, what curse could stand in its way? No evil can last, if life embraces joy, and refuses to hide…
I reach onto the ground and pick up a chunk of ice, crushing it to snow between my paws.
“Hey!” Nunu yells as I hit him in the face with a snowball, trailing the magic that swirls in his heart.
As we play, the wind whips through the flute on Nunu’s back, casting up stray notes. Then I finally hear it, too.