The Tree at World's End

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Seventeen

Early the next day, Åsa headed towards the sorcerer’s hut.

It had not been very difficult to talk Osku into watching Fjiorn for a while; in fact, the man was most amenable, even lending her the use of his horse.

Riding made the journey swift, and in no time she reached the part of the forest where the dream had shown to her the growing henbane.

She found the stream, dismounted, and had not quite covered a hundred spans when she spotted the first plant.

Using a forked stick, she dug it up, mindful not to damage the roots, and placed it in a bag. One after another she gathered what she could find; there were thirteen plants in all.

She resumed her journey and was soon reining in before Stigr’s hut.

The seiðmenn opened the door before she could dismount.

He spoke neither greeting nor enquiry, but waited by his door as though he had been expecting her.

Åsa, mindful of the dream’s instructions, wasted no time on words. She walked up to the sorcerer and handed him the bag.

“If you want these, they can be yours,” she said. “Just open the door to the shadowed path for me.”

He looked at her sharply, but then turned and was swallowed by the gloom of his abode.

Åsa followed him inside.

Stigr drew the plants out of the bag, one by one, and carefully laid them out on a darkly stained worktable. He tersely instructed Åsa to stoke the fire in the hearth, and while she complied, he dissected one of the thirteen plants, adding selected parts to a kettle of water. The entire process took a few hours, but eventually he stoppered a small earthen bottle and handed it to her.

“There is enough here for three journeys. When the moon rises at night, take a mouthful of this, wait for seventeen heartbeats and then take a second mouthful, quickly followed by a full pitcher of water. If you do anything wrong and nothing happens, I will not make another potion for you. Now be gone.”

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