The Tree at World's End

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Twenty One

Åsa saw, but paid no attention to the crumpled body - her crumpled body - lying at her feet, for she was entirely entranced by what was unfolding right before her. Colourful and intricate geometric shapes appeared and then vanished rapidly, only to be replaced by new, continuously changing forms. She had no doubt that she was witnessing something sacred. She stood mesmerised by the ever-evolving complex patterns until the changes suddenly ceased.

A black square pulsed directly in front of her. It was not merely black either, it was absolute blackness, the likes of which she had never beheld. Darker than any moonless night. Darker than the squid’s ink. Darker than the deepest well. And with each pulse its darkness deepened.

The door to the path of shadows.

Was something required of her? Should she approach it?

She decided to do nothing.

Stigr had not given her any more instructions and she had followed all that he had told her to do to the letter.

Even as she stood unmoving, the darkness began to swell.

Nay, it was moving.

Towards her.

Her eyes found nothing to focus on, the black held nothing and gave nothing back. Maybe it was about to devour her as well.

Then it was upon her.

She felt a resistance, as if the blackness was a veil that stretched as it pressed against her … essence.

As it expanded it grew taut and thin and soon the darkness became translucent and receded and she was able to distinguish shapes on the other side, areas of light and dark that with shocking suddenness became visible as the veil tore and she was pushed by an invisible force fully into the other side.

The other side.

Anyone else might have been frozen with terror, but Åsa had already known that she was not likely to survive whatever was about to happen.

She was standing in shallow liquid - she could not have said if it was water or something else. The brackish ooze was a murky green. The sky, overwhelmed by at least a dozen suns of different sizes and hues, was like dull pewter. A myriad of stones, ranging from pebbles to boulders, hung suspended in the air all around her.

She reached out to touch a small stone floating directly in front of her and slightly to her right.

She noticed that her hand appeared as no more than a shimmer of insubstantial energy. Through it she could see the sky, the suns and all the stones that hovered about her.

She tried to pluck the small pebble out of the air and was surprised when her fingers made contact with it and didn’t just move right through the stone. When she released it, the stone remained exactly where she placed it.

Then she remembered another life.

Fjiorn.

“Fjiorn?” she called, but her voice was as faint as her essence. So, she put more volition behind the name.

“Fjiorn!”

And was satisfied to see a ripple of energy emanate from her being and expand outwards.

The power she released hit the stones so hard that it caused them to explode. The boulders were even more spectacular. She could feel the earthshaking vibrations of their violent detonations through her feet.

The feeling that ensued, she once would have described as dismay, but now she had no meaning to ascribe to it. It erupted into this world like an energetic tidal wave.

Even the suns winked out when Åsa’s dismay reached them.

And then she was back into the geometry that she now associated with the space between the worlds.

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