The Tree at World's End

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2.5

Åsa believed she understood what the man was trying to say, and could see that Fjiorn wasn’t getting it.

“He wants you to speak slowly.”

She wanted to ask him if he still believed them to be Vanir, but decided not to. He had enough on his plate and didn’t need her teasing.

Fjiorn turned to face the man again.

“We have come to prevent Ragnarøkkr,” he said, stretching each word until it merged with the next and meaning became completely lost.

It took Åsa quite an effort to swallow her laughter.

“We have come to prevent Ragnarøkkr,” she said, separating each word with a short pause.

“That’s exactly what I said!” Fjiorn protested.

The man looked between them, frowning with concentration. He was old and balding, and wore two rings of glass in front of his squinting eyes.

“To stop twilight, you come?”

It was Åsa’s turn to frown. What the man was saying was one way of interpreting what she had just said. She shook her head and tried a different approach.

“No. We have come to stop the ending of all things.”

The old man puzzled over her words for a few moments before his eyes lit up.

“End of world? Not twilight stop. Stop Ragnarøkkr!”

She smiled and nodded encouragingly.

The man laughed, but his levity did not last; his expression soon became serious once more.

“When Ragnarøkkr is? How stop?”

Fjiorn and Åsa exchanged a glance.

“We don’t know,” Åsa replied with a disarming shrug. “Has it already begun?”

But once again the man didn’t understand what she was asking and he hissed in obvious frustration.

“What land from?” he asked suddenly, pointing towards them.

Fjiorn raised his chin.

“Norðvegr,” he declared.

The man’s grin broadened.

“I also,” he replied, and extended a hand in spontaneous greeting.

Fjiorn looked at the proffered hand and a moment later made to grip the other’s forearm, momentarily forgetting that they could not touch.

But when the anticipated contact did not occur, the man looked down, and all the blood drained from his face.

Åsa thought he might pass out, but to the stranger’s credit he remained conscious. He simply dropped where he stood, sat on the ground, and waited for the world to stop spinning.

Åsa could not let the opportunity pass. Tilting her head to one side, she regarded her husband and innocently asked, “Do you still think they’re Vanir?”

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