A cold wind caressed his cheek and Fjiorn opened his eyes.
For a while, all he could do was stare uncomprehendingly at what rose before him.
Feeling a little crazed, he turned to look at Åsa and saw her confusion as clearly as he felt his own.
Fjiorn’s gaze returned to the tree.
For it was definitely that, but what tree is as high, and as imposing, as a mountain?
Its size defied understanding.
He had to look away to steady himself. He turned to look behind but saw no sign of the wall that they had just travelled through. This deepened his confusion because, as wide as the pillar was, it could never contain a world such as this.
The land behind them sloped down towards the deep blue waters of an open sea.
Overhead, the indigo sky was streaked with azure and pink.
Even from this distance he could hear the sound of breakers smashing against the rocks.
In his nostrils the tang of salt and brine wrestled with the scent of green life.
Fjiorn turned back towards the tree.
They stood a respectful distance away from the reach of the tree’s generous canopy. There the world was shadowed beneath the weaving of branches and the dense foliage that they sustained.
Fjiorn peered into those shadows and believed he could just make out the deeper darkness of a massive trunk from which a tangle of gigantic roots spread out like tentacles or serpents to anchor the mountain-tree to the earth.
Åsa made a small sound.
Fjiorn saw tears flowing down her cheeks, mirroring those that ran down his own face.
He wiped at them with the back of his hand.
“Yggdrasil,” she whispered.
It was not a question.
She knew what this was, and she was correct.
This could be nothing else.
Fjiorn could not speak, for words did not belong here.
They gazed up, stunned by the tree’s overwhelming presence.
Eventually they stirred and made for the trunk.
When they stepped into the aegis of the tree, their steps were cushioned by a carpet of orange-yellow leaves. Soon the tree’s living scents smothered those of the sea, until each breath became a soothing balm of healing and nourishment.
Fjiorn and Åsa soon sank ankle-deep into the rich loam until, as soon as they were able to, they climbed onto one of the trees great roots and used it as a path.
They walked in a viridian dream and could not have said how long they travelled, but eventually they reached it. The mountain-tree’s trunk loomed over them as though it bore all the dreams of humans and gods and giants and elves. The Yggdrasil’s weight held within it all the potential of life, and the two humans who had reached its centre could no longer stand. They half-collapsed, half-sat, with backs pressed against the giant wood, until it caused their eyelids to close and words to flee from their minds.
For Fjiorn the world simply ceased.
All of the events since the lightning strike were released from his mind. Tanngrisnir, Loki, the Hall of Dreams and Nightmares, Ragnarøkkr, these all faded from his awareness.
He allowed himself to become cocooned and protected in the great tree’s majestic beauty, touched by a power that surpassed anything he had ever experienced.
He floated in a domain that was at once whole, safe, timeless and filled with acceptance. So Fjiorn rested, serenely lulled by the tree’s endless generosity.
For Åsa too, the world ceased to exist.
All of her concerns for Fjiorn, for what Loki had done to him, done to them, faded in a presence that was more tangible, more nourishing, more sustaining than any food or water or even air. She felt herself enveloped by the tree’s timeless calm, by its unrivalled patience, by the deep pulsing of the wood’s heart.
Åsa bathed in the balm of a love that transcended all sentiment and emotion, but was steeped in the source of life itself, in the quickening of a connection that eluded description. She rested here, in its embrace, needing nothing else.