The Tree at World's End

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Nine

Åsa arrived in Fyrka midmorning of the next day. A swollen moon had allowed her to continue walking through half the night, but now she was beyond exhausted and staggered down the incline that led to the fishing town.

She had only been here twice before with Fjiorn so she was not sure on how to go about things, but he had frequently spoken of a man by the name of Osku, with whom he had bartered on a number of occasions, so she thought it wisest to seek him out.

It turned out to be easier than she imagined, managing to find him after asking just once.

Osku was a giant with a thick red mane and beard and unsettling eyes, one blue and the other green. He studied Åsa almost suspiciously until she explained who she was, then he threw back his head and guffawed like a madman.

“So, you’re his Åsa,” he said, eyeing her brazenly.

“You’ll want to know that I asked him to come whoring with me once, and his answer was, ‘why taint my mouth with flat ale when the sweetest mead awaits me at home?’ His answer will stay with me for the rest of my days. And I see that he spoke truly and wasn’t merely bragging. Anyway, where is he? Bartering with the competition?”

Osku craned his neck to look behind her.

“I am alone, he did not come this time,” she answered, and was surprised by the disappointment she saw in his eyes. Then she found herself telling him all that had happened.

She liked Osku, for it was obvious that he considered Fjiorn a true friend and held him in high regard. She needed someone like that right now.

“Struck by Thor? Mother of the waters, that is dire news! And what are you doing in Fyrka, then? Doesn’t he need you by his side?”
She raised her chin at the challenge in his voice.

“Of course, he does! But he also needs to eat. We needed supplies so I had to come in his stead…”
“Is someone with him?

“My sister, Gunnel. I went to fetch her on my way here, but…”

Osku tilted his head.

“But, what? Something is troubling you, I can see it in your eyes!”
“Aye, something is!” she snapped right back, fear and anger fighting for control of her voice. “I don’t trust her, but there was no one else I could ask!”

Osku was silent, considering.

She did not interrupt his thoughts.

She saw when he came to a decision because his jaw firmed and his hands clenched into fists.

“Then we must go to him, now, and with speed.”

“I have to…”

Osku didn’t let her finish.

“We’ll get your supplies and then go. I have a horse.”

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