The Tree at World's End

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Four

The light was already failing when she banged on Stigr’s lintel with a stick and called the healer out by name.

He came to the door with a taper in one hand and an annoyed scowl on his face.

Stigr was old, boasting to be over fifty winters old. He was blind in one eye and walked with a limp. His voice was pitched high, a fact that attracted suspicion and scorn from most other men, though Åsa had good reason to trust the seiðmenn powers. It was he who had brought her into the world and had saved her life, though he had been unable to save her mother’s.

“The hour is late, Åsa, what do you want? If it had been anyone else, you know full well where I’d be sending them…”

“It is Fjiorn,” she interrupted, and proceeded to explain how he had come back a full day late, and described as best she could the condition that he was in.

“Lost his left ear, you say? Burned off?”

“Yes, and one of his feet is also burnt…”

The old healer nodded.

“Which one, left or right?”

Åsa clenched her jaw in frustration.

“It matters, Åsa. I would not ask you if it did not. Now tell me, which one?”

She told him it was the right.

He turned and went back into the hut.

“Come inside. It is late so I will not come over now, but I will give you something for his burns. I will come by tomorrow because I think he will be needing more than just ointments. The main thing is that he is alive, and we will make sure that he remains so, understood?”

He proceeded to scrape together a poultice from the contents of several urns. When he was done, he put the resulting concoction into a little clay container, covered the opening with a layer of leaves, and finished by tying the whole thing down securely with reeds.

By the time Åsa returned to their home the moon was just cresting in the east.

Fjiorn was still fast asleep, his fever had not broken and his clothes were drenched in sweat.

Åsa applied the healer’s poultice, dressed his burns as best she could, then undressed and lay herself down beside her husband and prayed to goddess Frey for her aid.

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