Fjiorn and Åsa were headed towards a crowd of people in the distance, marvelling at their strange surroundings.
They were vaguely aware of a ruckus behind them, but gave it no heed.
When a form materialised in the air directly in front of them, Fjiorn was unsurprised.
“Loki,” he said. “Good of you to join us. Have you come to give us some guidance? We haven’t the slightest inkling why we are here, nor what we are meant…”
“I am not Loki,” countered the Loki look-alike in a voice that Fjiorn recognised instantly.
“Tanngrisnir? What are you doing here? And what happened to your face?”
For his goat’s eyes were no longer goat-eyes at all, and his face was now completely indistinguishable from the god’s.
“My face looks like this because Loki has completed my transformation, like he said he would.”
“But why did he give you his own face? Couldn’t he have given you something less … something different?”
“He said it was the quickest and easiest form that he could manage on short notice. Anything else would have been too time consuming … at least that’s what he told me.”
“You don’t trust him either, do you?” Åsa asked.
“Loki? Of course not. But I must admit that his promises are quite compelling.”
“I can imagine,” Åsa agreed, nodding. “Compelling and most likely completely imaginary.”
Another shrug from the former goat.
“Tell me something Tann, why do you keep appearing and disappearing all the time? What’s going on?”
Tanngrisnir’s appearance was so like the trickster god’s that Fjiorn shivered when their eyes met.
“Nothing is going on. I have to go back whenever Loki summons me, that’s all. He’s got a lot on his plate, keeping an eye out for my brother, and also for Thor’s comings and goings. He gave me some instructions to pass on to you…”
He was interrupted by a puffing and wheezing Einar, as the man caught up with them.
“Who is this?” Tanngrisnir asked.
“He seems to be the only one in this world who speaks a little of our language,” Fjiorn replied.
“In this world? What do you mean?” Tanngrisnir prodded, with a puzzled look. “Where do you think you are?”
“We don’t really know, Tann,” Åsa answered. “Fjiorn keeps insisting that we’re in Vanaheim…”
“No. What I said was that we couldn’t be anywhere else…” Fjiorn began to protest, but Tanngrisnir cut him off.
“This isn’t Vanaheim,” he said firmly. “Nor any of the other seven worlds. This is still Midgard, this is still your own world; it looks so different because it is not in your time. This is how Midgard looks in the time to come. Clearly the Yggdrasil has brought you here.”
Fjiorn looked perplexed.
Tanngrisnir pointed upwards.
Fjiorn, Åsa, and even Einar, looked up at the sky.
It had stopped snowing and the cloud cover was thin enough for the sun to be seen. Only most of the solar disc was dark, her halo the only light that illumined a world now shrouded in semi-twilight.
They stared up in silence for a while.
Fjiorn was the first to speak.
“What does this mean?”
“It has begun,” Tanngrisnir replied. “Ragnarøkkr is near.”
Horrified, Åsa stared at him for a few long moments.
“So, this is it?”
Tanngrisnir shook his head.
“No, no! The sun turning black is only one of several omens. When they all come to pass, that’s when Fjiorn will need to find a way stop it.”
“What is saying you?” Einar asked in a small voice.
All three ignored him.
“But he does not know how!” Åsa snapped, her eyes afire.
Fjiorn held up a placating hand.
“Tann, what are the other portents?”
“Well, Garmr has already broken loose from its chains in Hel and…”
Åsa groaned in exasperation.
“Spare us the omens that have already happened! Stick to the ones that are yet to come.”
“Very well. There will be an earthquake, there will be the Fimbulvetr, and then there will be a terrible war.”
“Is that all?” asked Fjiorn dejectedly.
“No, but these are the main signs that Loki has told me about, the ones that you should look out for. Anything you don’t already know, you most likely won’t need to know.”
Fjiorn stopped and turned to face Einar.
“Has Fimbulvetr happened yet?”
“Ah … what?” Einar answered.
“Fimbulvetr. A long winter, one that freezes the world for three consecutive years, without break, without any other season.”
But it was clear that Einar did not understand.
“Don’t waste your breath,” Tanngrisnir said. “It is obvious that he knows nothing.”
Fjiorn ignored him, and though it took quite some time for the academic to understand, his eventual reply was insightful.
“No, no three-year for winter lasting,” he fumbled with the unfamiliar words once he understood what was being asked. “But this one winter, last long. Too long! Winter last all spring.”
Tanngrisnir shook his head.
“Well, at least it looks like you have some time on your side. If you’ve arrived at the onset of Fimbulvetr, that gives you plenty of time to prepare…”
“Time to prepare?” Fjiorn demanded. “And prepare for what? And how?”
“We still don’t even know why we are here,” Åsa added. “Never mind what we are meant to do.”
Fjiorn studied the goat-in-the-god’s-guise.
“You said that the Yggdrasil brought us here. What made you say that?”
Tanngrisnir’s brow furrowed.
“It was something Loki said. There is great wisdom in the roots of the World Tree. After all that is where Mímir found his wisdom…”
“Mímir? Who’s Mímir?” Åsa cut in.
“That’s exactly what I said! Mímir the Wise, Mímir the Rememberer, the wisest of all the Aesir gods. He used to guard the Well of Knowledge, located somewhere amongst the roots of Yggdrasil, the very well from which he drank and thereby gained all his wisdom. Loki lamented how he could have used Mímir’s counsel in this whole end-of-the-world business. Sadly, the sage is long gone - beheaded apparently - and Odin has the head, so he’s the only one who has access to the wisdom…”
“Well and good, but what does this have to do with the Yggdrasil bringing us here?”
Tanngrisnir’s eyes widened.
“Let me finish and you might understand!” he spat.
It was the first outburst Fjiorn had experienced from him and its vehemence left him speechless.
“Obviously the wisdom does not come from Mímir, the Aesir merely drank from a well that one of the Yggdrasil’s roots dips into. It is not the gods, but the One Tree who is the source of wisdom! Who cares about the vessel when one has access to the source?”
“I still don’t…”
“Do I have to spell it out for you? The Yggdrasil is the wisdom! If it brought you here, there is a reason. You may not understand it, but you do have to trust it!”
With this outburst Tanngrisnir turned and stumbled away.