The World-Tree, Uncovered
“Is he still lurking down there?” I scoop another spoonfull of pineapple ice-cream and savor it. /I think I prefer the liquorice-one./ That’s because you’re a heathen. Verde chuckles mentally and I crane my head over the balcony of my apartment.
A scruffy-looking vagabond is standing down on the street, idling. “Yeah, he is still here”, I call back. Elena and Sara returns from the kitchen; Sara with cake, Elena with something that I think is supposed to resemble smoothies. It’s pink.
“I wonder why he is doing it?” Sara questions. I shrug. Two days ago, hundreds of Tam Linn’s split-images showed up all over Fallowfell. At first we thought it was the preliminary stage in some attack. But he hasn’t done anything, except to watch.
Really, it’s quite unnerving. If he were to do something, haul someone in for interrogation or summarily execute someone, that’d be an action you could interprete. / And maybe that is exactly the point of it?/ You mean to make someone nervous? /Indeed./
I tell the girls Verde’s reasoning. “That makes sense”, Elena says,” in a very paranoid way. The question though is; who is he trying to scare?”
Greyscale puts one finger between the curtains. Part them. And he is still there. One split-image to guard the street where he and Hermann lives. He worries, not for himself, but for the World-Tree.
He glances down at the letter, the source of his worries.
Nidar Greyscale, you do not know me. But I know you. I know the secret that you have kept, that which made you come to Fallowfell. And I tell you, Greycale, that he is onto you. You know who I mean. But there is time still. He watches you like a hawk, but there are ways to hide it.
The phrasing of it bothers him. No concrete points, no details given, yet he cannot ignore it if it’s true. He has considered calling Gomagog, but Tam Linn tracked Fenrir from a phone-booth, and who is to say that he cannot do the same to Greyscale?
He fights with the indecision of it all. Go and destroy the World-Tree, and all that he has worked for over long millenias. Go and protect the World-Tree, drawing Tam Linn’s attention and attempt to fight him off. Go and check the World-Tree, and perhaps Tam Lin won’t find it. Pack his bags and flee?
No, he says to himself. The Seed has been planted. He has given Rune a part of his soul. This is his home now and he will not give it up, not lightly.
He takes up his cell-phone and makes a call.
“Yes? What is it, Greyscale, are you alright? You sound strange?”
“I gave Rune a part of my soul and in doing so I saved him from a fate worse than death. Now, I love the boy like a son, and I’d do it again, no questions asked”, Greyscale retorts.
There is silence from Hermann’s end. “Yes”, he asks, somewhat wary.
“I need you to do a favor for me, no questions asked. It won’t entail doing anything overly sordid, and while it might cause you some trouble later on, the greater share of the blame will fall on me”, Greysale says, quite truthfully. Should Tam Linn become aware of the World-Tree then all other infractions or crimes will pale.
“I… I agree to do whatever it is that you want.”
Greyscale tells Hermann what he would like to be done. Hermann chuckles.
There is one flaw in Greyscale’s reasoning, a crack in the mosaic of his thoughts that will prove his undoing in the future. There is not one, but two Tam Linns watching him. One is a split-image, the other the originator, the original.
So when Hermann kills the split-image, and Greyscale takes his lurching truck out, he is followed.
Greyscale switches the ignition, shuts the truck off, and gets out. He looks left, he looks right. He sniffs the air, but the death of the split-image hasn’t alerted Tam Linn. Yet.
He rolls his massive shoulders, stretches his legs, and starts to run at a slow pace, listening, watching for anything out of the ordinary. Normally it would take something close to twenty-thirty minutes to make the run, but with the much slower pace he ends up running for an hour and half. That’s a long time to be running. A long time for the shadows to assume the forms of nightmares, for doubts to set in.
But then he reaches the thicket. The World-Tree, an ash, stands guarded by vigilant oaks. The ground of the thicket is covered in a light carpet of snow, halfway melted by the March-sun.
Not entirely satisfied with that he sees, he walks a perimeter around it. No scents out of the ordinary, no footprints of animals and no Tam Linn. Greyscale makes a large sigh of relief. He walks up to the World-Tree and pats its bark, just to reassure himself. Yes. Real and here it is.
Tam Linn taps a foot against the ground, waiting impatently for Greyscale to leave the thicket. He dares not use magic to see through the stands of oak that surrounds the place of power, in case the use of magic alerts Greyscale to his presence.
In the time that passes before Greyscale leaves the place of power, Tam Linn entertains one possibility after the other. Maybe there is a ghost of the past here, one that has anchored itself to the place of power, and who Greyscale is talking for advice? Maybe he is growing some kind of magical drug, one that needs great amounts of magic? Or maybe he just wants a quiet place where he can think, far away from humans?
Eventually Greyscale leaves. Linn counts, and on reaching a hundred he enters the thicket, eyes wide open. And he blinks. Closes his eyes. And just stares at the ash which radiates a very specific type of magic before his eyes, one that you never forget.
A World-Tree stands before him. A gateway to the Forgotten Realms, where gods, and fey and a dozen other races live. And those are just the sentient creatures, not counting the creatures that are dog-clever, and who feeds on human flesh.
The enormity of the tree’s existence hits him, and he sits down on the snow, unable to think a coherent thought.