The Tree at World's End

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Eighteen

“Time,” the goat-god mused, “is a magnificent artifice. It makes men whimper with fear at the loss of their strength, and women weep at the erosion of their beauty. Better to have never had either strength or beauty, if that is what one is reduced to in the end.”

Fjiorn didn’t look at him.

The goat-god had been talking in circles for a small eternity. The only thing that made this tolerable was that he didn’t seem to expect any kind of response. It appeared to be fine with him that Fjiorn did not speak.

It was raining. Heavily. But Fjiorn was not cold. He was wet, to be sure, but not in the least annoyed by the rain.

He watched it drench the trees and drip steadily from the glistening leaves. He watched as it formed small rivulets that flowed out from the dense wood, lustily following the slope into the open ground.

“So, the end of time should not upset anyone with half a brain,” the goat-god continued. “In fact, most will hardly notice until someone points it out to them…”

Fjiorn slowly rose to his feet and ambled away.

Behind him, the god’s rant came to an abrupt end.

“Uh? Has he uncovered a secret? Or has an insight seized him by the ears and is now dragging him towards some realisation, I wonder…”
Fjiorn continued walking away from the voice, circling the wood yet again.

“Why don’t you wait here?” he suggested to the goat-god without turning. “I’m sure to find you again when I pass this way next.”

The suggestion must have had some merit, for the goat-god fell momentarily silent.

It did not last.

“But what if the man discovers something new and does not come this way again. Will I wait in vain for time to stop, deprived of the one thing that marks its passing? Nay, I shall not risk it. I cannot risk the treachery of the human who does not believe in me, in us. I cannot abide being distracted by the antics of an unfettered one; but neither can I afford to lose sight of him, for he may inadvertently show me something that I do not know. Hmph!”
His ramblings fell on deaf ears, for the goat-god had become quite easy to ignore. given that he was making increasingly less sense.

Fjiorn’s focus was entirely on his current task. As he walked, he studied the ground, until he came across the first stream.

True, it was small, but he had not noticed its imprint on the ground in previous circuits.

The second stream warranted closer inspection for, fed by the steady downpour, it gushed out of the wood with abandon and gurgled down its previously dry pathway with determined alacrity.

Fjiorn reached the place where it escaped the trees, but his ability to see into the wood was hindered by a screen of foliage. He stepped into the stream and knelt in the water and there he was at last able to enter the forest.

He heard the goat-god muttering and exclaiming behind him, but he paid him no heed.

Fjiorn pushed deeper into the green world.

Where the water travelled, it carved a path; not one that a standing man could follow, but certainly one that did not hinder smaller animals or even a human prepared to crawl.

The sounds of the god had grown faint.

Encouraged, Fjiorn pressed on into the gloom.

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