The Fosse Grim and the Ice Circles
A long time ago, there was a large island, covered in rivers and streams. The island was inhabited by the most fearsome creatures to ever roam the planet. The small village of humans that lived on the island constantly had to move to avoid these terrible creatures. All of the villagers learned how to swim across the slow swirling streams and rivers so they could swim from one place to another.
One day, the time came to move again and this one little girl, Mairi, helped her mom carry a few of the needed supplies. She learned how to swim two moons ago, the day after she turned seven. Her father had taken her to one of the small still bodies of water nearby. This would be her first time crossing one of the moving rivers herself. Winter was here, so most of the rivers were thinly frozen. The men would have to break in as they swam so everyone else could cross.
She was excited, skipping along the village, helping anyone she could. They were almost ready to go, only a few things left. Elders and children had to be grouped with some of the stronger swimmers for help crossing the water. Mairi grabbed her small bag of toys and blankets and headed to the river they had to cross. Her mother and father walked a little ways behind her, not able to keep up with the excited child of theirs.
Mairi made it to the river first with two other children. They peered into the river, watching it swirl around lazily. While the other two children dipped their toes into the water excitedly, Mairi looked at the water with a bit of fear. The swirling water seemed like a giant tornado, luring in the swimmers to drown them.
The girl stared at the water so long that almost everyone else had crossed before she snapped out of it. Mairi reared back from the flowing water with fear, shaking. The other villagers tried to convince her to swim, but she refused, still shaking.
“Mairi, my dear,” her mother called, “we must continue, before the monsters find us. You have to swim across.”
“I can’t the water will drown me? Can’t you hear it, chanting and sinking?” The villagers tried to carry her, but she refused to go anywhere near the water. Her mother sat on the opposite side of the wide river, crying to herself. They had to move soon, if Mairi would not swim, they would have to leave her. The other villagers were already coming across, she was the only one left on that side.
Mairi stood at the bank of the river, looking down into the deep river. Cries of terror from across the river called her attention. She looked up, only to see a small boy sitting in the middle of the river, playing a harp. He had a thin cloth wrapped around his hips. He sat on top of the water, barely touching it. Even the cloth was water free.
“It’s a Fosse Grim,” Mairi breathed out in shock. There were many horrible rumors about the creature. They would drown young children and woman who went into the water. They usually looked like boys or men, and always played a harp. The thing that helped many people recognize them was the water. They hardly ever touched it, seeming to float above.
The Fosse Grim looked up at the small child. With a wide grin on his face, he slipped into the river, swimming gracefully towards the child. The worried cries of her mother carried over the river, but Mairi was too focused on the boy.
“Hello,” he said, still smiling, “do you need help crossing the river? You seem scared.” Mairi blinked at the boy for a moment.
“You want to help me? Why?” The boy laughed. Instead of replying, he touched the swirling water. Ice formed where his hand touched. It spread out, following the swirls of the water. A large round circle of ice formed at the bank, thick enough to hold the small girl. The boy swam backwards to the edge of the ice circle. He started to create another one, pushing it to touch his first. He looked at Mairi, waving his arms to grab her attention. He pointed towards the ice circle and smiled.
Mairi looked at the ice ring. The Fosse Grim were deadly monsters that could easily drown a child like her. She should never, ever trust one or cross a river while they were there. The ice could easily break under her feet, or tip and send her into the freezing water. She should just stay and wait, or find a different way to cross the water.
Instead, she took the chance, stepping lightly on the circle of ice. She could feel the cold through her fur boots. The ice did not tip, or break under her feet. It barely moved as she crossed to the next ice circle. The Grim had created a sort of path from one side of the river to the other, making sure the ice patches were easily reachable from one another. He again sat in the middle of the river as she crossed the path slowly.
She made it to the bank, only to be grabbed by her mother and father. They checked to make sure she was alright and had not been harmed. Mairi turned around to thank the Fosse Grim, but he was gone, the only sign that he had ever been there was the pathway of icy circles.
Mairi’s fear of the swirling rivers never went away. She became used to the Fosse Grim coming and creating ice paths for her. No matter how long it had been, or what river they went to, he was waiting for her, creating the paths. The only person he ever allowed onto the bridges was her, and later, her children.
Many, many years later, a sickness was going through the village, the old Mairi did not look like her usual self. All of her hair had fallen out, and she was very pale as the sickness took over. It was time for them to cross one of the rivers. Mairi watched as the Fosse Grim created the ice paths.
Her husband and children had already been taken by the sickness. She felt alone and scared. The sight of her Fosse Grim creating the icy paths warmed her heart; she knew someone was still there for her.
She started to cross the path that the Fosse Grim had created. Halfway along, the Fosse Grim looked at the strange woman crossing on Mairi’s bridge. He frowned, it was only for her, no one else was allowed to cross. He made the ice crumble beneath her feet, angry that someone else was using her bridge before Mairi herself crossed.
Only once he was close enough to see the woman did he realize that it was indeed Mairi. With the sickness, he did not recognize the woman he befriended. Distraught over what he had done, the Fosse Grim carried her over to the other bank and gave her back to the village.
From then on, he was never waiting at the rivers, never there to create a path of ice circles. Some thought the creature had died of sadness. Then, rumors started to fly around, icy paths appearing all over the world. Whenever a child or woman needed help crossing a river, they would appear. No one ever noticed a creature in the water, but Mairi’s village knew. It was the Fosse Grim, helping whoever he could, silently apologizing for his selfish mistake.