Fjiorn felt a degree of amusement when the man trying to manacle him discovered that he couldn’t. But the expressions on the strangers’ faces revealed bafflement, fear, and anger.
Fjiorn experienced a flood of relief and a growing sense of control over their current situation. He no longer needed to be concerned, for if they couldn’t touch Åsa, they couldn’t harm her, either.
“We are not really here, are we?” Åsa mused, looking at the man who had tried to seize her. Impulsively she reached towards him to confirm what she thought, but the man recoiled in a panic.
Åsa smiled at him.
“I think we are still at home, Fjiorn, in bed together, and your friend, Osku, is looking after us.”
“I hope you are right,” Fjiorn replied.
The crowd had been forced well back, by then. Fjiorn could see them in the distance, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the two strangers. Even the things that moved fast – some sort of carts, he had decided – were gone.
“Where do you think we are?” Åsa asked at last.
“Vanaheim,” Fjiorn answered with a certainty that surprised even him.
“What makes you so sure?”
“Because it can’t be any other world. No one knows what Vanaheim is really like, and there are no stories about it. I really don’t think this can be anywhere else.”
But Åsa looked unconvinced.
“But if these are the Vanir, then why can’t we touch them?”
She had a point, but after a moment’s thought he shrugged dismissively.
“The Vanir are master sorcerers. If they do not want us to touch them, they certainly have the power to stop us.”
Åsa looked thoughtfully at the men who stood at a cautious distance.
“Do you think so? It seemed to me like they really wanted to touch us and were even more surprised than we when their hands went right through us…”
“That’s true,” he admitted. “But look around you, have you ever seen a place with more magic than this?”
Åsa shook her head.
“But everything I’ve seen since drinking Stigr’s potion has been full of magic, including the fact that I am now here, with you.”
Fjiorn bit down on his lip, then tried to reason.
“Listen, this can’t be Niflheim, there is no mist or fog. There’s no fire, so it can’t be Muspelheim. Surely you don’t believe even for a moment that this might be Asgard. If this were Jotunheim, we’d be surrounded by giants. If it was Alfheim, these would be elves. It’s also not Svatalfheim, on account that there are no dwarves. Finally, it’s not Helheim, or we’d be amongst the dead. So, this has to be Vanaheim! It can’t be anywhere else.”
But Åsa’s expression showed that he had failed to convince her.
Truth was, even Fjiorn had some doubts.
He looked around at the strange warriors and the people gathered beyond them. No, they looked nothing like the Vanir.
They were very busy spreading and erecting white sheets of a strange shiny fabric. He shook his head. No, there was nothing godly about them.
But if this was not Vanaheim, then where in Hel were they?
And more importantly, why had they been led here?
He could still feel the Yggdrasil around him, so he listened to the tree’s rhythm.
Wait, it said.
So, Fjiorn waited.