The Tree at World's End

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Thirty One

Fjiorn turned away with a groan. To be chosen by a god was one thing, but to be chosen by a goat? And one under Loki’s control?

Eyes flashing, Åsa took a step towards Tanngrisnir, who stepped back in alarm.

“Do you have any idea what Thor is going to do to you when he finds out that you used his hammer?”

The goat-man’s expression became uncertain, but then he shrugged.

“I cannot imagine that he’d do anything worse than he already does to us every night … but it will never come to that. The hammer has been stolen once before, by the giant Thrym…”

“Oh!” Åsa exclaimed. “I think I know that name. Is he not the one who is now very dead? On account of having stolen Mjölnir from Thor?!”

A frown creased the goat-man’s brow.

“Ah, yes ... but that is quite beside the point, given that Thor is sure to blame one of the other frost giants.” He nodded firmly. “After all, that is the only precedent.”

“Is that what Loki told you would happen?” Åsa asked.

Tanngrisnir looked at her with a somewhat pained expression, but made no reply.

“Never mind all that,” she continued. “What I’d really like to know is what possessed you to do Loki’s bidding in the first place? You are a goat! What do you care about Ragnarøkkr? I would have thought that the idea of staying dead would be a welcome change from being killed over and over again, every, single, night.”

Tanngrisnir seemed on the verge of tears.

“Tell me what Loki did to you,” she commanded.

The goat-man pulled on his goatee.

“It all happened when Loki came to the hall while Thor was out,” he explained. “Thor had left on foot because Tanngnióstr had recently, and through a set of unfortunate circumstances, become lame. In any case, Thor fully intended to return before dark, so Loki decided to wait for him. But Loki becomes easily bored, and given any measure of idle time, will soon turn his mind to mischief. He began to talk with me and feed me morsels of something delectable that he carried in his bag. I could not understand him, of course, but after a little while I began to make sense of his words. ‘Would you like to be human?’ he asked me, and before I knew it, I found myself answering.”

“Go on,” Åsa prompted.

“ ‘I would like it very much,’ I said. Then, before it actually sunk in that I had just spoken, I looked down at myself and saw that I had indeed become a man…”

“He did a good job, except for the eyes,” Fjiorn remarked. “Which, by the way, appear to be changing. Anyway, how did he do it?”

“It must have been something in the food that he gave me, maybe a special plant or a spell - I really do not know.”

“Continue,” Åsa said, an impatient note creeping into her voice.

The goat-man cleared his throat.

“Loki asked me if I liked being a man. I answered that I didn’t know for I had only been one for a few seconds. So, Loki told me that if I decided I wanted to become a man for good, that he could do that for me; all I had to do was call him when Thor was asleep, and he would come, and then - in exchange for just one tiny favour - he would make me permanently human.”

“Do you know how to be succinct?” Åsa asked. “Get to the point of this story! What does Loki want?”

“Ah, well, that’s the problem, he never actually told me…”
“What was the favour?” Fjiorn asked.

“Well, when Thor was asleep a few nights later, I decided…”

“What favour?” Åsa shouted.

Tanngrisnir jumped.

“He wanted me to strike Mjölnir.”

“Why?”

“He said that the lightning would find a man, and that I was to go to that man and help him to stop Ragnarøkkr…”

“A small favour indeed,” Åsa remarked in an incredulous tone.

“Wait, wait, wait!” Fjiorn said, before she could continue. “When you spoke to me you seemed to know exactly what you were saying! I think you know a lot more than you’re letting on.”

Tanngrisnir looked at the floor and shuffled his feet.

“I was enjoying talking, but it was he, Loki, who was whispering in my ear what to say. I was just repeating what he was saying…”
Åsa glared at Fjiorn.

“And you thought he was a god?”

Fjiorn puffed out his cheeks and blew the air out slowly.

“Well, I was not thinking very clearly … and being struck by lightning didn’t help...”

Åsa sighed, walked a little distance away from the two and stared blankly at the dancers swirling around them.

When she turned back, her exasperation had gone and she levelled a concerned gaze at her husband.

“All right, what’s done is done, but now what do we do?”

Fjiorn had no answer. Admitting that he didn’t know did not seem particularly helpful, even if it was the truth. He looked at the dancing wraiths, as if they somehow held the answer to what he needed.

Tanngrisnir cleared his throat.

“I, ah … have to go,” Thor’s goat said softly.

The pair turned to stare at him. He held up his palms.

“Just wait here, I should be back shortly,” he said, and vanished.

Fjiorn and Åsa stared at the empty space left in his wake.

“Really?” Åsa remarked. “Wait here?”

“See what I mean,” Fjiorn muttered. “That’s not the kind of behaviour you expect from a goat, is it?”

Åsa brooded.

“We must do something to free you from this situation, Fjiorn,” she said after a time. “You know the stories about Loki, he can’t be trusted. And what of Thor, certainly he is a just god, but he is not known for his even temper. If he gets wind of this, he will not spend a lot of time asking questions. He will strike Mjölnir, and this time the lightning will not spare you, because it won’t have come from one of his stupid goats…”

“You are right,” Fjiorn nodded. “But what can we do?”

He pointed to the ghosts dancing around them.

“Tanngrisnir told me that I had to come into this building, if I was to be of any use to him. But if this was all instigated by Loki, our presence here must be the god’s will, not the goat’s. Why does Loki want us here?”

“Want you here, you mean,” Åsa corrected. “I don’t think my presence here was part of anyone’s plan.”

Fjiorn extended a hand, but a dancing ghost glided effortlessly away from him.

“What is it about this hall that can affect Ragnarøkkr?” he asked, as he half-heartedly attempted to touch another dancer.

Åsa watched him try and fail repeatedly.

“If they don’t know that you’re here, how is it that they are able to avoid your touch?” she asked.

Fjiorn shrugged.

“Maybe they’re not the ones trying to avoid me, maybe someone or something is controlling their movements.”

Maybe it’s the dance itself, Fjiorn thought. What if they are not dancing, but are being danced?

“If Loki is behind all this then we would be wise to question everything we know,” Åsa stated. “We must not assume anything; in fact, we should turn every assumption around…”

Fjiorn nodded.

“And upside down as well.”

“So, what if Loki is not actually trying to stop Ragnarøkkr?” his wife continued. “What if what he really wants is to bring it on and bring about the end of the worlds?”

Fjiorn felt a chill travel down his spine.

This was the opposite of what Tanngrisnir – and therefore Loki - had told him to do, he felt that Åsa’s words held some seeds of truth.

“But I still don’t understand why,” Fjiorn said. “What does Loki gain from that? The prophecies say that he and Heimdallr will wound each other mortally during that final battle. What does he gain from that? If he dies along with the rest of the gods and everything else is destroyed…”

“He must have found a way of avoiding death,” Åsa suggested. “That’s the only thing that makes any sense. What if he becomes the only god to survive Ragnarøkkr? That would place him in an incredibly powerful position. No more competition. No Odin, no Thor, no ice giants. He would be the supreme ruler of the world that follows.”

Fjiorn frowned.

“But there is nothing after Ragnarøkkr. No world, and nothing to rule over.”

“So they say,” Åsa muttered. “So they say…”

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