“Mighty yet humble Aelle, we are each of us no more than a drop of the ocean that made us—yet in each drop turn vast oceans. Question your worthiness no more.” Cissa points across the field to where thunder moves like a ghost through the big woods and the clan sits hunched under barberry canopies waiting for the rain. “The Thunderers do not know why I asked to walk with you through this field. Let us return among them and say we came to taste the lightning and found it good.”
Aelle gently shakes his head. “No. The strength in your words has already opened the way for me. We have walked the paths of Middle Earth fearlessly though many have set their swords against us. Always, we prevailed. So, if the gods summon, why should we not walk the paths of the Storm Tree as well?”
Cissa smiles proudly and places his large, tattooed hands on his father’s scarred shoulders. “Sit, strong Aelle, and we will rise together into the World Tree. The gods await us.”
Their knees bend, the tall grass rises above their heads, and a bolt of lightning explodes atop them in a glare of white fire. The blast shivers the marrows in their bones and blinds them.
When they can see again, they blink at a rainbow land of which the summer of their earthly memory is but a dim echo. Zany green meadows tilt in all directions, crested with prismatic groves of immense trees above onyx boulders that spill tassels of waterfalls into iridescent pools. Breezes full of ripe apricot waft dragonflies and emerald birds through a sky-ocean of indolent clouds.
Startled, breaths quickening, they stand, the light between them velvet with soft energies. Before they can speak, they see him striding toward them across the fiery green meadow. An opalescent wind in his stormy beard, his one eye fierce as a diamond, he stares at them from under a falcon’s hat cocked over his empty socket.
“All-Father!” Aelle cries, and he and his son throw themselves to the ground.
“Stand, children.” His vibrant voice shivers the small bones in their ears. “I have called you to me to give you honor. And there is no honor with your faces in the dirt.”
Yet, what dirt! The land of the Storm Tree smells like the bosom of a young woman. Lifted by the good-hearted laughter of the All-Father, they rise. He stands before them, no larger than a very large man but with unknowable wisdom pleating the air around him.
“Come, walk with me, my children.” He embraces them in his cavernous voice. “Let me show you this lovely branch of the World Tree.” He motions toward a horizon slippery as gold, and they are pacing with the towering god above the sunset curtains of the earth.
From The Eagle and the Sword
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