The Tree at World's End

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Eleven

Fjiorn walked through the mist.

To regain his freedom, he had to follow the goat-god’s wishes and forward was the only path available to him.

He moved through the mist even though he could scarcely see where he placed his feet.

Did one have any choice but to trust in the gods? And if one did not trust in them, what could be trusted?

Other humans?

The only human he really trusted was Åsa.

He conjured up her dear face as he walked, and whispered a silent promise to her.

The mist finally grew thin and then dispersed altogether, just as he approached a path descending into a densely wooded valley. Far off, perched atop a green hill, a gigantic, white stone building rose, his apparent destination.

But as Fjiorn descended and the great structure vanished behind dense foliage, the path that he followed grew narrow and uneven. Trees crowded in as though intent on barring his way. Branches snagged at his clothing and tore at his skin, and the limbs that reached out to hinder him were like gnarled fingers, with wicked thorns as sharp as claws.

The path was so overrun that Fjiorn, scratched and bleeding, was eventually forced to stop.

He knew the destination was somewhere directly ahead, but he would never reach it this way. So, he backtracked and tried to find another way around.

At one point he felt an odd sensation, like a warm hand pressing against his back and then another hand descending towards his abdomen, but then both were snatched away so suddenly that he wondered whether he had imagined it.

Fjiorn ended up spending a small eternity circumnavigating the wood before he was forced to surrender to the fact that no path led to the centre. And if that was the case, how was he ever to reach his destination?

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