He wasn’t there.
Anna was quite sure they were on the right path. It was dark, but Sven had also known the way, and was now nosing around in the grass while Anna looked up and down the road, perplexed and, suddenly, afraid.
“Sven,” she said. “What do we do? Where do we go now?”
Sven snorted, looked at her, and walked off the road and into a bush.
She followed him into the pitch-dark undergrowth, then walked straight into something large and solid. “Ow!”
Sven snorted at her again and she managed to get over to him. The branches that she had thought were bushes were loose, and some fell down around them.
The sled and the wagon had been pushed off the road and covered up. Now she knew what she was looking at, Anna could see how neatly it had been done, as only Kristoff would do it. He realised we weren’t coming back, she thought, her heart sinking. Oh, she hoped he hadn’t been too upset, or too worried about her when she didn’t return .
Or was he just...gone?
Anna backed up out of the bushes and onto the road. In the moonlight she rummaged in her satchel and found her knife, ran her thumb over her name carved into the handle; first in blocky capitals, then in runes. Kristoff had done that. Kristoff, who loved her, had given her this knife (mainly in exasperation because she kept borrowing his, but still) and marked it with her name. The knife was solid and it was real.
She thought about the runes and she thought about magic. She knew where she needed to go. “Come on, Sven.”
Anna had been taken to visit the trolls many times by now, and Sven of course was very familiar with the route and needed no guidance. Within another hour they were there. She’d half-expected to find Kristoff there waiting for them, but he wasn’t, and no one had seen him all day.
Her presence, alone in the middle of the night, of course required explanation and Anna was more than happy to give it. As she talked, more and more of the trolls rolled over, until there were several rows watching her intently. “And he left the sled by the side of the road,” she finished. “Well, he covered it up and left it and now I don’t know where he is or what’s going on. Do you know where he is?” The trolls shook their heads.
“We can find out,” a voice said behind Anna, and when she turned she found Grand Pabbie watching her. He hadn’t been there a few moments ago, she was sure, but she was also sure that he had heard every word.
He held out a hand. Another troll rolled up and handed him a crystal, glowing faintly in the moonlight.
“What’s that?” Anna said, gathering her skirts and kneeling in front of him.
Pabbie held the crystal carefully across both hands. “Kristoff’s heart crystal. Well, half of it. He keeps the other half, and his family keep this.”
“The one he wears around his neck?”
“Yes.” Pabbie touched the central crystal on his own string. “It is the first crystal any young troll must earn. In time he will have more, but this is the most important.”
“Each crystal takes many years to earn. He has only yet lived long enough for the first.”
Pabbie closed his eyes and Anna shut her mouth over the rest of her questions. She waited, watching, managing to hold herself as quiet and still as every troll in the clearing.
The crystal in Pabbie’s hands started to glow more brightly, then flickered for a few seconds. He opened his eyes and looked at it curiously. “Peculiar,” he said, and held it up. It flickered again. He peered at it, then turned to Anna. “Hold out your hands,” he said, and when she did he placed the crystal gently across them.
Now it glowed more evenly, and he smiled. “Something is wrong. But we can mend it.”
“What can I do?”
“You? It’s not something you can do. It is not safe. Leave it to us.”
“Please! I’ll do anything.”
“He is under a powerful enchantment.”
“But it didn’t affect me. Or you.”
“We are not human.”
Pabbie glanced at the crystal that Anna still held in her hands. “Your connection with him is very strong. That is why you do not forget, or not yet.”
“Not yet?” She clutched the crystal and it gave out a burst of light. Pabbie looked at her clasped hands.
“Perhaps,” he said, “If you took the heart crystal it would be enough...no, you would need something more. Wait here.”
He rolled away. Anna waited, kneeling, her hands in her lap. The trolls were whispering amongst themselves. They didn’t seem concerned, more - excited.
When Grand Pabbie returned a few minutes later, he was holding something that looked like a ball of moss. He took Anna’s hands and gently opened them to show the crystal. It glowed gently.
“This belongs to you now,” he said, holding her gaze. “Will you protect it as if it were your own?”
“Yes, of course.”
“It will always lead you back to him. You have no crystal to give him, but it is the intention that matters. The crystal is the focus for the intention.”
He looked at Anna as if expecting a response, so she nodded.
“Take this also,” he said, and handed her the moss.
“What is it?”
“You will know when you need it. Keep it safe.”
He stepped back. The other trolls had been watching, but now seemed to relax, to talk amongst themselves, to wander around.
“Now go and find him, and bring him home,” he said.
Anna stood. Sven nudged her arm. “I will,” she said. “Thank you.”