The Lone Hero

„They said, ‚The hero’s just across that mountain ridge.‘ Now I’m here, and no one in sight,” Poppy muttered under her breath. White fog formed in front of her face every time she exhaled, and she rubbed her hands together to keep them from freezing. Her hammer lay in the snow to her feet.

In the west, the sun was slowly setting over the mountains, sending an orange hue across the scenery. When Poppy looked around, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of serenity wash over her. I may not have found the hero here, but this certainly is beautiful. She took a deep breath of fresh, crisp air, and then picked up her hammer again. “Time to get moving if I don’t want to be caught up here all night.”

As she plunged her way through hip-deep snow, she kept her eyes open for a cave or any sign of a home of sorts. The moon rose and illuminated the snow-covered peaks just enough to keep going, but still there was no place to rest in sight. Her legs started to hurt from the cold, and still she moved on, eyes fixed on the ground to prevent slipping.

###

Braum was feeling restless that night. His poro lay by the fire, contently snoring, but he somehow couldn’t sleep. Something was in the air, and he couldn’t figure out what it was. At last, he pushed himself up and left the house. The snow was crunchy under his shoes and the full moon cast an eerie light over the mountains. He scanned the area. There! Was that a wolf he was seeing? He rubbed his eyes. No, it was too tall for a wolf. Slowly, he approached the figure. When he had almost reached it, the silhouette suddenly slumped down and disappeared in the snow. Braum ran towards the spot and knelt down, his hands carefully lifting up—a yordle? And a huge hammer?

###

Poppy woke up to the sounds of a crackling fire. She felt warm, too warm, and her head was throbbing.

“Ugh…where am I?”

She slowly opened her eyes and cast a look around. It looked like a simple log cabin with a jolly fire burning in the hearth. Then she turned her head, and jumped.

“What–!”

Steps came closer, and a booming voice said, “Oh good, you’re awake! Good morning, young yordle. How are you?”

Poppy blinked a few times and then just stared, mouth agape, at the huge man in front of her. He wore a big smile on his face, half covered by a huge moustache. The creature that had scared her that much jumped towards him and rubbed its head against his leg.

“I…my head hurts. Where am I? Who are you?”

“I am Braum, and you are on my farm in the mountains. I found you outside in the snow last night. Oh, and this is my poro. Don’t worry, it’s not dangerous, but it loves to cuddle.”

“I…saw light, and tried to get there, but it was so cold…and my legs hurt. Thanks for saving me, Braum. I’m Poppy.” She looked around and frowned. “Um…where’s my hammer?”

“That huge thing? Oh, don’t worry, it’s over there at the wall.” He watched her with a curious look in his eyes. “Say, Poppy, can you really wield that hammer? Isn’t it a bit…big for you?”

She laughed. “Oh, I’m just the Keeper of the Hammer. I only keep it until I find the true hero it belongs to. You don’t know of a hero around here somewhere, do you?”

###

Braum’s heart leapt at the sound of her laugh. This young yordle was delightful.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t know of any hero around here. It’s just me and my poro, and the villagers down below. Simple mountain folks, so to speak. But you must be starving. Let me cook you breakfast and tea while you just lay back down and rest.”

He turned to the fire and started tea water, then turned to the stove to fry some eggs. For some reason, this morning, he felt like whistling while cooking, and the sun seemed just a tad warmer and brighter than usual.

###

Poppy laid back and watched Braum while he prepared breakfast for her. Even though he was a giant of a man, he possessed some gentle, caring quality that appealed to her, probably more than she cared to admit. When was the last time someone cooked me breakfast? She felt her heart ache with longing. Longing of a home, of somewhere to belong, of someone to be with. I can’t…I have to find the hero first. It’s my duty. With a sigh, she closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep.

###

When breakfast was ready, he brought it up to her makeshift bed. The sight of her peaceful face, and of his poro cuddled up in the crook of her arm, made him smile. He put the plate and mug down and gently shook her awake.

“Poppy? Breakfast is ready.”

She yawned and stretched, and when she sat up and saw the plate, she gave him a wide smile that made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The poro stayed on her lap while she ate, and afterwards they sat together and talked for hours. The more he learnt about her, the more he dreaded the moment she would leave, and the more he hoped that she would just stay for a while longer.

###

When the sun set that afternoon, Poppy grew sad. She knew she should be on her way to find the hero instead of sitting here talking to Braum, but part of her didn’t want to leave. Not yet. Not before she had the chance to get to know Braum better. Finally, when the sun was gone, she gathered all her courage and began, “Maybe I could…”, just as Braum started, “Maybe you could…”

They stared at each other for a moment and then burst out laughing.

“You first,” Braum eventually said.

###

“Maybe I could…I mean, I have been thinking…with all the snow, and me being so small…maybe I could stay here till spring?”

Braum’s heart leapt with joy at that question, and he responded, “Well, of course, that’s a great idea! Poro and I have plenty of room for you, and we would enjoy the company.”

While he sat there with a big smile plastered on his face, watching her eyes light up, he secretly wondered when he should tell her that the snow never melted this high up in the Freljord Mountains…

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