The Tree at World's End

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Thirty Seven

The people parted to let them through.

Fjiorn had no idea where he was headed, but was unconcerned. He remembered one of the teachings of the Yggdrasil, whose seeds were surrendered to the guidance of wind and who trusted in the unseen purpose that moved all things.

He could do no more, and no less.

They had not gone far when several of the large wailing objects came to a screeching halt nearby, their powerful eyes flashing with intense light. Sections of their sides swung outward and the pair were shocked to see a number of people emerge. Fjiorn noticed that they all wore the exact same apparel.

A moment later a very loud voice spoke in a commanding tone.

Fjiorn knew that the voice was addressing them. He came to a stop even as the people around them scrambled to get out of the way.

Fjiorn thought they must be terrified of the newcomers, to behave in such a way, but he did not budge.

The incomprehensive voice continued to berate them.

“We don’t understand anything you are saying,” he yelled back, attempting to match the tone and volume of the voice.

The immediate reaction was silence, but then a number of the new arrivals gathered quickly around them.

From their stance Fjiorn believed these were warriors. But what kind of warriors carried no axes or swords, but instead wielded shields of glass? Several held small black objects in their hands, which Fjiorn surmised to be some sort of weapon.

The loud voice had started speaking again, but the tone had changed and was now less commanding and more enquiring.

He shook his head and held out his hands.

“We still can’t understand you.”

The strange warriors closed rank and Fjiorn put one arm around Åsa’s shoulder.

“They do not know what to make of us,” he said to Åsa. “They must think that we are their enemies.”

“But we have no weapons, and there are only two of us,” she replied.

“Why would they fear us when there are so many of them?”

Fjiorn had no answer.

The circle around them was gradually tightening.

One, who looked to be the leader, stepped closer, continuing to speak. “I really cannot understand you,” Fjiorn said for the third time.

The man looked down and with the sweep of one hand indicated himself, and then he pointed at Fjiorn and repeated the gesture, before speaking more incomprehensible words.

“What is he trying to say?” Åsa whispered.

Fjiorn shook his head.

“I don’t know,” he confessed. “But if we can’t understand them, and they can’t understand us, how will we ever communicate?”

“Even if we could, what would we say?” Åsa asked.

“We would tell them about our journey here, about Loki and the Yggdrasil and Ragnarøkkr, and ask for their assistance. This must be why we’ve been led here.”

Another man appeared behind the first.

The new arrival was agitated and, Fjiorn noticed, also fearful.

The two began to argue, when the newcomer suddenly turned towards Fjiorn, threatening him with one of the black objects.

“Åsa, stay behind me,” Fjiorn warned, but he did not break eye contact with the other.

The man shouted something at Fjiorn, pointing to the ground. Not knowing what to say or do, Fjiorn did nothing.

Suddenly the object in the man’s hands made a loud sound, like the crack of a whip, and there was a flash of lightning.

There were screams all around.

The crowd that had reformed behind the warriors now dispersed like a flock of sheep. The two men, who moments earlier had argued, stared at Fjiorn. One in dismay, the other in horror.

Fjiorn soon realised that they were not looking at him after all, but at something behind him.

He turned.

Behind Åsa he saw a warrior lying in the dazzling snow, bright blood tainting the pure white ground beneath her.

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