Chapter 14 – Are We Trapped In Time?
I knew where, if not exactly when, I was, and I knew exactly where Yggdrasil was. I had stood on the narrow side of the lake, at Yggdrasil's base, many times. I should be able to apparate to Yggdrasil. Except, I couldn't. I had tried multiple times and felt a level of resistance far stronger than I had ever felt, even in those instances when I had been completing a field assignment to sense what it felt like to Apparate into the centre of a stone wall. The difference was scary. Exactly what lay between me and Yggdrasil. I had tried to Apparate back to our camp, to Valhalla, to the White Columns in Valaskjalf. I was completely blocked.
Barb and I each grabbed a slime lamp and led the search for the pathway to Yggdrasil. We were looking for either a side path or a large amount of weaving, which might block the side path. I thought the weaving was likely to be extremely old, so I was looking for very faded knots. I didn't mention this to my team, because I didn't want to discourage them from following their own hunches.
Before we began the search, I had tried, yet again, to communicate with any of the Black Stones, particularly Yggdrasil. We were right next to Yggdrasil, why couldn't I speak to it? I knew that we were very far from our own time. The Yggdrasil of this era didn't know me at all. It probably didn't even know that Terra, our Earth, was inhabited by thinking beings. It certainly didn't expect that some of those beings were magical.
I knew how to speak to a Stone. I thought that, even as a total stranger to it, that Yggdrasil ought to be able to hear my call. I wore my Keeper ring. I carried three wands with small purple diamonds. I adjusted my call precisely to the pitch, which Odin taught me to use in addressing Yggdrasil. I could not get a response. Perhaps Yggdrasil slept. Perhaps one could only attract its attention by standing beside the lake, beneath the well. I was trying to find a branching path from the ribbon, which would allow me to do exactly that.
As I thought, I continued to examine the knots along the travel ribbon. How could I possibly be so far back in time? I had walked the ribbon with both Odin and Frijjo. Never had I travelled anything close to even a thousand years back in time. I had covered barely a hundred years on much longer walks than we had taken today. It was clear that Frijjo had chosen a very special piece of ribbon to march us along. It had been too dark to truly get a sense of where we were or where we had walked, but I couldn't help thinking we must have travelled on a blocked section of ribbon, which she had opened especially for this trip. That certainly hinted of treachery. I again rued that I couldn't read when Frijjo lied. That left me so helpless and subject to manipulation.
I heard an excited shout from Barb. "I think this is it!" Colonel Cholmondeley and I rushed forward as quickly as we could. We had to drag or levitate Frijjo wherever we went. Barb was about thirty feet behind us. As we approached, she pointed with her wand at a large oval of pale knots, as she held the lamp up against the weave with her other arm. It was certainly very old weaving, if it was not a part of the original path of history. I stared at the wall of knots all around us. I could not find any moving pictures to show what history was locked in the knots. Apparently, the pictures could die as they aged.
"I didn't want to just go ahead and start hacking away at this big section of weaving, but I thought it must block a wide section of ribbon. It seemed dangerous to explore on my own."
"You were wise to pause," I assured Barb. Perhaps if you and the Colonel just cut a little circle in the center, we will be able to see what, if anything, lies beyond. These knots look ancient and Odin warned us that a pathway, which has been blocked for a long time, can wither and die. It could vanish at any instance, obliterating anything or anyone on that section of ribbon."
Barb and Colonel Cholmondeley seemed to enjoy hacking away at the knots. I guess it was an acceptable way for members of a warrior society to work off the stress born of severe anxiety, when showing fear would be unacceptable. I couldn't deny that I was frightened. Barb and I lobbed balls of light as far beyond the hole as we could. There definitely was ribbon and a path as far as we could see. I'm sure we were able to see at least twenty feet, probably closer to thirty, beyond the barrier.
"That's very strange," I told my team. "Everything which Odin taught me says this path should have totally collapsed well over a thousand years ago. It didn't. It looks as wide and as unobstructed as the ribbon we're standing on. That can't be right. Wait... I need the the other bright light Frijjo was carrying, the one that shows colors more accurately. The slime lamp is a little too dim."
"I'll get it," Barb volunteered.
I led us all in completely emptying Frijjo's pockets and rucksack. She carried a lot more food and water than the rest of us did. She also carried Odin's anti-Apparation device. I turned it off. We split up all her possessions. I took the pendant and necklace in the hope that I could use it to turn on the magical circle, which I imagined lying at the end of this section of ribbon.
"I'm hoping that this is the only reason that I've been unable to Apparate." I pointed at Odin's device.
Nope. I couldn't reach Yggdrasil in this time and I couldn't reach Odin's property in our own time. I didn't want to reach Odin's property in this time and find myself even deeper into the forest and without even the protection which Aagog might provide. We truly seemed to be trapped in time.
I grabbed the light and walked back to the cut section of the knotted weave. "It's pink!" I shouted. "It's been dyed, or painted, or something to make it look much older than it really is. This barrier likely is quite new."
The other's gathered around me for a close look. "Yes, tear it down!" Barb shouted as a battle cry.
We hacked away at the knots with so much abandon, that I felt a need to warn: "please be careful near the edges of the barrier. We don't want to harm the original weave."
Even taking proper precautions, the barrier was quickly eliminated. I shone the bright light ahead of us. There wasn't even an appreciable layer of dust upon the ribbon.
I felt only mild trepidation as we walked into this newly revealed side branch. We had to stop every fifteen feet to go back and drag Frijjo forward. We had traveled about a hundred feed and not encountered either obstacle or threat. Barb decided we would make better speed if she simply levitated Frijjo along beside her. We travelled another fifty or so feet like this, seeing no edits in the weave and no narrowing of the path. We were encased in weave, extending all the way around and beneath the ribbon in a circle. The weave looked truly ancient. I loosened a knot on the side wall and shone the light upon it. There was no change in color inside the knot. The paleness wasn't trickery, this weave was ancient.
I shone the light ahead. There seemed to be a partial barrier about 40 feet ahead. I thought I could see something beyond the barrier. As we neared the barrier, I was certain that the ribbon path continued beyond it. It was an incredibly loose weave, with two-inch gaps within the weave. The light shone through the coarse weave and revealed a more substantial barrier about thirty feet ahead of us. As Barb drew even with me, she dropped Frijjo. There was a soft thud as she hit the ribbon.
"Another problem," Barb reported. "My wand is growing weak very fast. I couldn't have moved her even five more feet."
"Of course! I've been stupid. Frijjo has taken us to a place where there is no magical force for us to draw upon. The magic we stored is all we've got. We must be very careful not to waste any more of it. And then there is this." I pointed to a foot high by two feet wide sign of thin silver with gold writing on it. The language was not quite Aesir. I could pick out almost unchanged words for 'God' and 'Danger'. The sign must be truly ancient. Perhaps it had even been written by the Light Guardian.
"Let's take a rest for some food and water, while I try to search my mind for saved memories of this language. I know I could interpret it, if I could tie into Yggdrasil or our Black Stone, but I can't do that. I have only what Hermione taught me and some ancient priestess knowledge. I think perhaps if I try to think between the ancient language of the Vanir royals and Aesir, I might be able to come close to interpreting this. I have two rolls and these two pieces of fruit and I certainly am sharing."
The others said they had followed my lead at the breakfast table and carried about the same amount of provisions, so sharing wasn't required. We each drank and ate. I limited myself to one roll and one piece of strange fruit. The fruit was good, if a little bruised from riding in my pocket. Thinking of royal Vanir helped me a little with the sign.
"I think the sign says something like 'Danger! A great God sleeps beyond. There is a price for the magic you seek.' That's more than a little scary, knowing that Odin sacrificed an eye and that little on these worlds can match the power of Yggdrasil. I'm sure he is the God who sleeps beyond this point. I think it is even chancier to risk the forest and the well likely just leads to the same lake and Yggdrasil as the ribbon does. We could go back and either await rescue or chance the forest. Does anybody else see another option, because I'm not wild about any of those three? If Frijjo sought to lure us into a trap, I fear that we are well and truly trapped. I guess the other option is to wake and question Frijjo."
"No, I'm convinced it is best to force her to remain asleep. She caused this danger. She'll only make it worse, if she has any ability to act."
That was Barb, by the way. Colonel Cholmondeley was determined to press forward. I could tell that she didn't believe in Gods. She hadn't seen the Light Guardian, or the dark Gods we had fought, or even an enraged Frijjo. Still, I had to agree with her. I'd sooner face an Yggdrasil unhappy at being prematurely awakened than face hundreds of enraged Acromantula. I suggested that we carefully cut the weave at one edge of the ribbon and do so very carefully, so that we could re-tie it later and so that we didn't damage the weave encircling the path. We'd cut just enough knots to squeeze past this porous barrier. The cautious approach meant it took us an hour to do the work, including loosely knotting the loose threads near the sidewall, to avoid any chance of unravelling. This stretch of ribbon was basically a tunnel for its entire length. I felt that must be protection against an unknown, but very dangerous, something. We squeezed through the crack we had created, then it took all three of us straining our backs to drag Frijjo through and pull her loose from the tangles.
The solid barrier I had spotted from beyond the warning barrier was a stone wall at the point where the ribbon path took a hard right. We followed a narrower path for twenty yards but bumped up against another rock wall. This made no sense. The path had to lead somewhere, and we had to be very close to the Yggdrasil cavern. I was convinced that, like the entry hall to the Goblin cavern beneath London, the Yggdrasil cavern was protected by a magicked phoney wall. I didn't know which of the two choices was the phoney one. I thought the original path, before the turn, was oriented toward where Yggdrasil must be. It also made a better ruse, since the natural reaction was to follow the right turn and assume that its end was blocked by a phony wall. I positioned myself right in front of the point at the end of the original path, which would have been dead center, had the turn not existed. I took my Mother ring to rub away that barrier, giving my Keeper ring to Barb. She would test the wall at the end of the narrow tunnel off the turning.
It didn't take long to determine that I was working on the phoney wall. I broke through in a small area. I summoned Barb to help me. Between us, we scraped a big enough gap for our party to walk through. It was easy. There wasn't enough magic here to sustain the phoney wall and it had already lost strength. We walked through the opening into what was obviously the cavern and lake of Yggdrasil, although the cavern was a little narrower and less high than in our day. I knew that streams cut caverns and chasms, but didn't that take many thousands of years to produce noticeable change? How far in the past were we? Even before we stepped into the cavern, I heard the waterfall, where the small stream flowing out of the lake dove into a chasm. Before I had stood on the narrow edge of the lake. Now we were on the wide edge, although less wide than in our time.
"Watch for spiders," I warned. I dearly wished I still had Aagog and Blacky with me. They could smell spiders. They could also smell a hanging Aesir. I held one of the bright lights and Colonel Cholmondeley the other as we slowly walked along the lake shore. Barb tried to drag Frijjo behind us.
"Just leave her up against the cavern wall, as far from the water as possible. Everyone be alert! In our time, there were some truly nasty fish in this lake. One almost took Frijjo's arm off in less than half a minute. I'm going to assume they're still present in the lake."
That posed a problem. Yggdrasil was on the other side of the lake and I wasn't sure I had enough magic to Apparate there and back, or even just there. Also, that opposite shoreline was even narrower than it is in our time.
I sat down on the lake shore directly opposite Yggdrasil. I concentrated very hard and tried multiple ways to establish communication. There was no response. I was carrying one of Hermione's full-size purple diamonds and I had Frijjo's pendant, which could turn on a purple-diamond circle, but I had no crystals or silver wire with which to build such a circle. Unless the rock I was sitting on was lodestone, I was also lacking that. I realised that I had hoped that the ancients had left a de-energised circle for a relatively advanced people to find and turn on. We hadn't found one. I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was. There was no circle or obvious remains of a circle in this cavern in our time.
"That was most unsatisfactory. Let's at least walk to the end of the lake."
We walked. The lake shore narrowed to nothing. We couldn't quite approach the narrowest part. I knew that the carnivorous fish were accomplished leapers. As in our time, there was no way to safely walk along this edge to the other side of the lake. We returned to the point directly opposite Yggdrasil. Should I Apparate to that narrow opposite shore and try to use the pendant to re-start Yggdrasil. Was it worth the risk knowing that the pendant was almost certainly younger than the time in which Yggdrasil slept? I didn't want to just turn around and go back. I feared that we had followed a path from our time which only Frijjo knew about and that it was a difficult path. Could Blacky and Aagog find their way back to our time and then lead rescuers to us? I lacked confidence that this was the case. We might very well be on our own. I was tempted to try Frijjo's pendant from this distance but didn't want to waste magical energy on a too distant attempt that might become my only chance. The pendant was supposed to be able to operate a circle from twenty to thirty feet away. Was I that close now? I couldn't convince myself that I was.
"I know, it's a tough decision," Colonel Cholmondeley interrupted my thoughts. "I think you need to Apparate across the lake."
"Way too dangerous," Barb spoke instantly. "Ginny is important. We can't lose her."
"She is our leader. Sometimes the purpose of a leader is to take risks, when only they have a chance at success. Ginny has a better chance of successfully Apparating than you do. Once she Apparates, she has a far, far better chance of re-starting Yggdrasil and being accepted by it. Likely her mind bears more of the imprint of the Light Guardian than yours does."
"Okay," Barb relented. "I will be prepared to rescue Ginny, if need be."
I focused upon a spot almost flush against the stone wall on the other side of the lake. There was too little space between Yggdrasil and the lake to chance that. My landing spot was about ten feet to the left of Yggdrasil. The shore seemed widest at that point. Other than that, I couldn't tell you why I chose to land so far from Yggdrasil. Perhaps I feared I would somehow startle it into lashing out, if I suddenly appeared almost up against it.
I had one of the bright lights turned on and hung from my waist. I focused upon my landing spot and about four inches above the lake shore. I couldn't risk coming in too high and somehow rolling or sliding into that lake. I put my Keeper and Mother rings onto my two unused wands, concentrated as hard as I could. I didn't even feel a churn as I appeared just two inches above the far shore of the lake. I steadied myself, grabbed the light, lofting it above my head as I started to walk toward Yggdrasil. I saw Yggdrasil's mirror blackness, and... the biggest Acromantula I had ever seen, hanging inertly by four of its legs, at the same spot from which I had hung. The spider didn't stir. I edged as close to the lake as I safely could and moved to within four feet of Yggdrasil, which was as close to the spider as I was willing to go. I held my breath and kept a wand in my left hand, as I touched the central purple diamond of the pendant.