The light inside the globe began to take the shape of a mighty ash tree that suddenly loomed brilliantly in a scene that wound together images of witchery and sunlight. The tree became bigger than the world around it, yet Rowan noticed that while they could see the intricate details of the scene as it occasionally zoomed in, they also caught glimpses of a gigantic system as the world grew smaller. One could see a butterfly hop along a leaf with the sun shining brightly in the yonder, but in the next moment be able to view the tree’s long limbs spreading into eternity, to the heavens, where vast light flooded to middle Earth below. Rowan could make out the green lands of Alfheimr, where she had landed, and Halfdan pointed out icy peaks of his “home,” Jötunheimr to the east. Their gaming friends Ork, Sheba, and Wizzlesticks had come from distant lands. Thunderkeg, however, pointed out Svartálfaheimr, home to his race, the dwarves, who had constructed a giant forge city beneath the Earth.
“And they had some might good ale there,” he said, his English accent fitting the red-headed, rosaceous face.
As King Olafr rubbed his hands around the globe, warming it, the view shifted again. As it zoned back in, Rowan saw an eagle above the world tree. Its wings were wildly beating, which blew the other trees nearby, breathing wind to infinity. From the tree’s roots gushed the purest and coldest looking water, which formed a wellspring, feeding rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans.
“It is Midgard we see on land, the dwarven underground, and Niflhel below that. But today we are going to Halfdan’s land of the ice and snow. The edges of which Rowan has seen when she retrieved a bellows.”
Everyone’s expression showed that they had no clue what the hell the king was on about, so he told the story, and in the end most were too tired to care.
“You all better find some energy,” the king warned. “Today is a big day.”
[Later in the story…]
Ork didn’t seem satisfied by the vague answer, but he set back on his haunches and let it go.
King Olafr continued. By now he had stopped playing with the globe and all its images of the beautiful ash tree had vanished. The globe was as cold and stark as the wind outside the wagon. “In these days, nature and giants and gods and humans and other races are inextricably interwoven. Giants may come from the elements, some say. Rivers divide not only geographic areas but create gaps between the peoples of the heavens and earth. Trees are revered. It is not like in your day when humankind thinks it needs to continually take from nature to prove itself. Or to become bigger and better. No, these old days are preservative. You see that mountain over there.” King Olafr pointed out the wagon toward the south from which they had come. “That is an example of why nature is sacrosanct.”
By now the morning appeared like a layer cake swirled with blue and white frosting, and the mountain that Olafr pointed to was a spiky candle protruding from that cake, with a tiny hint of sunshine acting as a flame as it peeked through the narrowest of cloud cover. The white mountain, with its blue breadth and vast snow fields below, stretched and awed and stood still and momentous at the same time. Rowan could not stop staring, noticing her breath stream in cold vapor in front of her. Halfdan had not let go of her either. She hoped they could have some alone time soon, but now, like last night, they were surrounded by others. Still, she had never seen such a brilliant l vista, and if there were one good thing to come from this unfortunate fall from reality, it was that she was near her lover and sharing the most otherworldly experience with him, one which would have no equal in beauty of their other life. Not even Mt. Everest, she imagined, with all its oxygen tanks strewn around.