Chapter 16 – What Went Wrong?
Frijjo was not looking good at all. Hermione had a little of the potion left. Working together, she and I, with an assist from Yggdrasil, visualised the location of her stomach and sort of 'Apparated' the potion there. Of course, it wasn't a normal Apparate. It called upon lore deep in Yggdrasil's memory. We had no idea if this approach would work. We couldn't really tell if a liquid versus Frijjo splinch of sorts had taken place. It was encouraging that she wasn't throwing up blood in the hour after we did what we did. Odin had thought this approach safer than pouring it down her throat while she was unconscious. It was Yggdrasil who first suggested this approach. As I read back over these last sentences, I seem to be frantically shifting blame for what happens next. I fear that what happens next is that Frijjo dies.
Odin placed Hermione in charge of Frijjo and Cissy in charge of Boldgog. He declared that we must figure out how we managed to march from his property in our time to his property perhaps ten-thousand years earlier. He and Baalak must see everything in order to understand how the events of the past not-much-more-than-twenty-four hours could possibly have unfolded. Barb and I would lead the way back to seid-space. Blacky and Aagog, plus one of Odin's ravens, would lead us back to our time, examining key turnings along the way. Yes, if Britain must be represented, Colonel Cholmondeley could certainly come with us. I led Odin from Yggdrasil to the lake shore and along the shore to the waterfall. We were on the narrow shore. I mentioned that the shore was less deep and the cavern less everything, than what I knew from our time.
"Yes, yes we are standing in a very long time ago. This was just the second time in my life that I stood in the presence of an Yggdrasil who did not know me. I've had known Yggdrasil a very long time. But we must keep moving. I'll Apparate us to the other shore."
We arrived very smoothly, and I immediately led Odin to what was left of the phoney wall we had partially erased to gain entry to the Yggdrasil cavern. We had to erase the remainder of the barrier for Baalak to fit through the entrance. I experimented scratching away at the barrier with the Vanir pendant. It worked. I next scratched at the barrier with my knife. This did not work.
Having observed the barrier from both sides, Odin concluded "This barrier is very old. It could well have been created by the Aesir Gods who formed the Light Guardian. It is clear to me that Frijjo never entered the cavern by this route."
Aagog sniffed at what was left of the false barrier and confirmed that Odin was correct. That made little sense. Why would Frijjo and possibly Gna find this side path, follow it to an unlikely nowhere, and then take the effort to block the entrance from the travel ribbon, even disquising that woven barrier as ancient? They would only go to that effort if they thought this side ribbon to be important.
We walked to the end of the narrow tunnel and turned left. We stopped at the loose-woven barrier so that Odin and Baalak could examine the knots and Odin could try to make sense of the metal sign. Rather than chat with them as they conducted their investigation, I chose to sit and consume the remainder of my water and food. I still had one of Frijjo's thick sandwiches, stuffed with the meat from some strange fowl, possibly a fowl from Vanaheimr. Thinking Baalak needed refueling more than I did, I passed her the sandwich. I felt a wordless thank you and the sandwich was consumed - poof!
"The writing is before my time - very, very old." Odin assured me, declaring my translation to be as correct as was feasible. He wanted to examine the metals back at his lab and popped the sign into his backpack. We continued to walk along this side-branch of ribbon, when Odin called a halt and examined the weaving of the tube through which we walked. He pointed at several individual knots, thinking to Baalak "I've never seen a technique quite like this. It seems very old. I wished I had a more subtle light to get a better read on the exact shade of beige."
I passed a slime lamp to Odin. He extracted a knife from his pocket, severing the weave within one very tight knot. He examined the weave, thread-by-thread, inside to out. He thought something to Baalak, which I failed to catch. I know that Baalak agreed. Baalak repaired the cut in the weave. It took a tight surrounding weave of spider silk to envelop the knot, which had been cut.
"These knots were woven by we Acromantula," Baalak told me. "An adult could not create such a fine weave. Even your Aagog is almost too big."
Aagog left my shoulders to climb the tube. She asked me to cut a second knot. Odin nodded approval, so I did as requested. As I was starting to cut, I received a further instruction from Aagog to only cut halfway through the knot. I hastily stayed my hand. I held the slime lamp as Aagog examined strand-by-strand, including the uncut strands. She took a lot longer than Baalak had and Odin looked impatient.
"Definitely my people. Three work together. One smaller than me, two larger. I can see how they do this. It is old. No smell even inside knot."
Baalak agreed. With such tightly woven knots crammed together, she should be able to get a whiff of her kind hundreds of years after the knot was woven. Within two hundred years she could identify the weaver. Interesting to know, but not a help with our problem. We pressed onward, walking without a break back to the main travel ribbon.
Odin took one close look at the weaving which closed off this side ribbon and cursed. "This is the combined work of Frijjo and Gna. Neither was a good enough mimic of the other's style to obscure that conclusion. That is just an obvious big lie Frijjo tells to blame all on the dead. Ginny is correct, this weaving is very new. I put it at one to ten of Ginny's years."
Both Baalak and Aagog demanded that I cut two more of the tighter, more closely packed knots. They were so excited that, despite Odin's clear impatience, I did as they wished. The spiders climbed atop their knots. I saw Aagog examining thread-by-thread. Baalak was too big for me to even guess what was happening beneath her huge belly. Baalak declared "Frijjo, the murderer." Aagog agreed on both counts.
We turned onto the main ribbon and hiked back toward our time. After perhaps half an hour of walking, it was I who called a halt. I noticed moving pictures and wanted to get a closer look to try and place where we were in time. I saw people and fields and forest, but no buildings. I requested help from Odin.
"Sorry, I recognize none of those people. They dress like ancient Aesir are said to have dressed. That's all I can tell you. Well, the landscape could well be Aesir. Since that's where we expect to be, that isn't surprising."
I delayed the group by scanning quite a few more pictures. Success! I spotted the familiar well. Odin agreed it looked like his well. He told me he didn't believe I could learn anything of value here, so could we please just move on. We might find something that required urgent action. At the least, he needed to better understand how and why Frijjo had done what she had done.
We marched onward. I repeated my old trick of dashing ahead to give myself time to scan a series of pictures, then sprinting ahead again to scan another set. I was on my sixth grouping of pictures and feeling quite winded, when the others again drew level with me. "Please," I begged. "This is tiring. Could you look at these and see if you recognise anybody? Here are two men and a woman and the well. Surely, we have passed by a lot of years, since you last studied the faces in the photos.
Odin took pity on my condition. He shared his water with me as he looked at the picture I had pointed at. "Yes, of course I know them. They're younger than when I knew them, but the one in the center is old Mimir. He was Yggdrasil's favorite, until I came along, although he never Quested for Yggdrasil as I did. Frijjo's actual older brother Freyr led an army to Asgard. Mimir died in that fight. That's the reason I invaded Vanaheimer. Their aggression was not to be tolerated. The woman is my mother. I don't recognise the other man."
"How long ago was this?"
"I don't know. At least hundreds of your years older than I am. Perhaps a thousand. My mother lived a long time. Mim looked after her. Now, are you able to continue our march?"
Of course, I was! What was so awful about learning what I could along the way. I continued to sprint ahead and study the photos. On my next sprint ahead, I saw that we'd come to the pointy end of a V branching - two possible paths onto the ribbon we had just travelled. The point of the V was laden with pictures. I saw Odin, and Vili, and Frijjo, and I assumed the fourth person must be Ve. I recognised the setting as the bridge by which I had entered Valaskjalf after dumping what I thought was Odin's comatose body at the entrance to a nearly airless world. This was earlier; Ve was long gone when I first met Frijjo and Vili. As Odin and the others stopped before the two possible paths, I called out to him "I've finally found you, and Frijjo, and both of your brothers."
"Yes, I recognize us, but I sense that we must move very quickly. We must explore both paths."
"But we must start by the path Frijjo used. Which way Aagog?"
Aagog scurried off along the left fork. It was a strange path. It started as a normal, level ribbon, but after about a hundred feet it started a slow drop. That isn't unusual by itself, but the declination continued as far as I could see, even after we had walked several hundred feet. Odin also must have sensed a strangeness, because he stopped us and joined Baalak in examining the loose framework of webbing which rose around the ribbon. They examined the ribbon, itself. While they continued their examination, Aagog climbed me and requested that I cut the knot immediately next to my left shoulder. I did as she asked.
"Gna!" Aagog told me.
I announced this conclusion to Odin and Baalak. They seemed unsurprised. "It's Vanir-style weaving," Odin explained.
We continued along the ribbon for many thousands of feet. We had gone as far as the distance up or down which I associated with moving between worlds. I realised the other part of what seemed odd. We had gone from a region modern enough that the pictures remained alive. Here there were no pictures. This ribbon had witnessed no history. After walking another thousand feet, I saw that we were approaching the end of our ribbon. There wasn't a wall or a barrier. I saw just empty space ahead of us. As I approached the empty space, I saw that we were coming to a tee. Our ribbon ended in the widest ribbon I had ever seen. It was also a very bright purple. This was a new ribbon color for me. Apparently also for Odin.
"Yggdrasil told me of this, but my eyes have never seen it. Yggdrasil called it God-ribbon. They are very rare, and they are said to link the worlds. Gna must have found one. We must be extremely careful. These ribbons are said to move one very far, very fast, in either time or space. We must follow Aagog and go no farther than she tells us that you traveled with Frijjo. This ribbon must be explored thoroughly, but it will take many precautions and ravens to do so safely."
"Which God made or owned this ribbon."
"I don't know. Maybe no God and that's just the name given this sort of ribbon in myth, because it is so rare and extraordinary. My people do tend to regard anyone or anything that could make such a thing as a God or Goddess. The proof of Godliness lies in what one can accomplish."
Aagog took the right turning. She walked not much short of a thousand feet and stopped. Her excited message echoed in my head: "We stop here! Our trail end!".
Frijjo had Apparated us to the ribbon, when we began our training exercise. Night served her purpose well. I saw Odin turn away and walk back to the tee, where Baalak was carefully examining the end of the branch by which we had arrived. This piqued my curiosity and I examined the opposite wall of the branch by which we had arrived at this spot. Our branch had once been tightly woven shut. That was obvious from the collar of frayed remnants of sliced-through knots. Aagog sniffed at the threads of one frayed knot. she grasped two adjacent fibers with two legs each and pulled. She sniffed again. "Frijjo and Gna."
"Frijjo plays at very deadly games," Odin spat after he said this. He seemed to gather himself and a renewed mental strength as he made a hand motion suggesting an impatience to just get on with our return home.
We returned to the spot where Aagog indicated Frijjo had apparated to the God-ribbon. Odin felt confident that he could Apparate back to his lands or at least to Yggdrasil in our time. He had Apparated to this spot, with help from Aagog and Blacky, when he led the rescue party.
"Wait. If this spot is in our time, wouldn't it be safer to try to contact Yggdrasil from here and ask it to suck us all into its library?" Odin wore a wounded look as if I had challenged his ability. I thought it likely that he could do as he claimed, but still believed my way to be safer.
Odin ordered me to fix my exact spot in my mind and to be most careful and exact about creating that mental marker. I did so, then I reached for Yggdrasil. It took three tries. I asked it when it was. It was the first day I had met it, before I had hung. Odin and I both explained our unusual circumstances. Yggrasil directed us to pack together as closely as we possibly could. We held hands and were in the library. It was a most odd Yggdrasil-Apparate. We arrived as a very askew oval, with some of us just missing a floor-splinch, while Odin barely avoided a ceiling splinch. I felt more of a strange tingle progressing through my body than I had ever felt when Apparating.
Sorry. You were expanded and a bit dispersed in time. I did the best I could.
"We have to get the others out of that place quickly, but first I need to contact Harry," I begged Odin's permission.
"Talk to your Harry. You have time. We must plan and decide what supplies to bring with us. We cannot rescue the others now. The wounded would never survive the Apparate we just made. You talk to Harry, then we eat, then we plan. In a week we rescue our friends."
I reached for Yggdrasil to contact Harry. Yggdrasil forbade it. We were months prior to the time I returned to Asgard and Frijjo whisked us off to the distant past. Our party must be isolated, lest a time breach occur. Yes, many, including some of us, had shared time with our former selves, but it was a risky thing to do and for an extended time was extremely dangerous. To leave a marker-out-of-time, such as an update call to Harry describing events which happened after I returned to Asgard, and which Harry would receive before I returned to Asgard was stupid. Would Harry change history by forbidding me to return to new dangers.