Einar was the first to stir.
He opened his eyes and marvelled anew at the sight of the lake. For now he could see the giant tree’s finest roots rising upwards from the lake’s floor to drink deeply of its life-giving vitality. They glowed emerald green and left him wondering how he had not seen them earlier.
He gazed at his companions and his heart melted at the sight of them. Tears welled in his eyes; he was overwhelmed with gratitude for this experience. He knew he had to go back for his Eirdis.
He could not bear to leave her where she was, stuck in a reality that was so dreary. Not when she could be experiencing this.
For Einar felt as though his senses had been rewired and his perception heightened.
Åsa stirred next, but her response to the waters of the well was quite different to Einar’s. The Yggdrasil had communed with her on a deeper level, and although her first connection with the tree had been exquisitely transformative, it could not compare with what she had just experienced.
The waters of Mímir’s Well, permeated as they were with the tree’s essence, had instilled that essence into her core and its wisdom had flowered exquisitely within her.
Åsa knew what it meant to be connected with the great all, for the entire world was now known to her, not as a thought or an idea, but as an experience of truth.
Without looking, she saw. Without thinking, she knew. Without effort, the tree had become her, and she the Yggdrasil.
The dream had awoken, and the dreamer was no more.
Fjiorn stirred last and blinked.
If a blink could last an eternity, this one did. A single blink that marked the passage of a human into a god.
In that tiny eternity Fjiorn understood the game that had led Tanngrisnir to strike Thor’s hammer. He knew why the lightning from Mjölnir had chosen him, and understood the true scope of Loki’s deception. And beyond that, Fjiorn gained insight into powers that made playthings of all, even the gods.
The Yggdrasil had revealed it all to him.
Fjiorn had instinctively rebelled at Loki’s manipulations, but now he saw that Loki himself had been manipulated, that he was an involuntary puppet in the hands of a much greater power.
The spirit of the great Yggdrasil that wove into and through all of the world’s beings was the only real power, for it permeated all of existence. All else responded to its call, whether knowing or unknowing, willing or otherwise.
Both Åsa and Einar turned to him and smiled, for they recognised the source of his laughter.
He laughed at the folly of men and gods both, for ranking themselves so highly, whilst a single tree knew more than they could ever hope to encompass without the tree’s boon.
Fjiorn took a deep breath.
“What did you see?” he asked Åsa.
She reached out and he took hold of her hand.
“I saw that in a dance, only the dancing matters. That in a game, only the playing matters. Just as in life, only the living of it really matters.”
He nodded and his eyes shone.
“Nothing matters beyond this,” he whispered. “Not the past, nor the future; not the why, nor the wherefore. Everything we do is mere distraction, missing the greatest gift of all.”
Einar’s laughter reminded them of his presence.
“Aye,” the scholar said. “It is all beyond winning or losing, beyond right or wrong, and beyond the wise man or the fool. To merely be is to be free.”
Fjiorn and Åsa exchanged a glance at the man’s new-found eloquence.
“It seems the tree has taught you how to speak at last, old man,” Fjiorn remarked.
Einar nodded and smiled.
For mastery, too, was no farther than a simple shift in perception.