The Tree at World's End

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Ten

Just as Åsa rushed towards Fyrka, Gunnel sped towards her brother-in-law’s home.

Her stride was driven by a ravenous hunger.

Hunger for justice and retribution.

Hunger for Fjiorn.

She could hardly believe her good fortune at this turn of events - it was the chance she had longed for - nay, prayed for - a chance to turn Fjiorn’s heart towards her and forsake that miserable wretch of a sister. Let that fool husband of hers bed Åsa, if he could manage it, just as he had long desired. Knut was never one to hide his cravings, and the way he looked and talked to Åsa would have betrayed his lust for her even if she were blind. He had even dared to speak to her of this, often insinuating that she, Gunnel, was the least comely of her father’s daughters - if only she had been more like Åsa.

And this in the face of the fact that she had borne him a son and a daughter, while Åsa was still barren, unable to bring children into the world.

Now she would show them all.

As she hastened forward, she fancied herself already by his side, ministering to his wounds, cooking for him and feeding him. She saw herself sliding into his bed at night to keep him warm. Flesh against flesh, she would kindle his fire until it roared like Yuletide, until his attachment to Åsa withered to nothing.

This she mused as she devoured the miles that separated her from her dream of revenge and consummation.

It was not long before she walked the path to Fjiorn’s house.

The sun was still high in the west and - she was certain - her sister was not as yet anywhere near Fyrka.

She removed the stones that secured the door and stepped inside.

“Fjiorn?”

It was dark so she removed the pelt that covered the window and turned to face Fjiorn. He was lying in the bed facing away from her, so she accosted him, cooing softly and speaking seductive words. She rested one hand against his strong back and slid the other around his torso and down towards his firm stomach.

She eased him around gently so that he faced her, and recoiled with a horrified scream.

The eyes that looked back at her were not Fjiorn’s, but those of a goat.

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