Autumn comes early to Michigan. I yearn for Vinternoll. I hear drumbeats distantly in my mind, slow and drugging and rhythmic.
So I play the songs for him. Within "Rotlaust tre fell" I wreathe myself in fur and frosty mist and brambles, and Can Calah smiles, and I laugh, and the gate opens.
I climb Igdrasiil. I see the Hanged Man. I keep climbing. The bark is rough under my hands, but thrums like veins. I look deep into Igdrasiil. It looks back. Within its trunk is the stream, the fount, the Wellspring. I lose my grip. I fall in.
I am borne upward. I am borne forward. I am thrust into the intensity of a storm. Lightning freezes solid under my hands and I climb, I climb the lightning until I break through the storm clouds, thick as wool. I stand upon the surface of the clouds, and I look around me. I am lost. Forests rush past and through me; things stampede through it, flowing around me in packs. Or am I hurtling through the forest? Both, maybe.
I am thrown down a ravine. I land and the forest is gone -- or it was here, in this hollow far below, but it is now scorched earth. A lonely and dead expanse.
I am lost again. I was always lost. It was a Fool's errand. I don't know where Vinternoll is. I never did.
I lie upon the earth. All is still. The song changes-- "Helvegen", and snow begins to fall upon me. I am frozen, still and silent. All is still and silent in the halls of the dead.
I think I see him coming. I don't believe it. All is still and silent in the halls of the dead.
Fenrir races ahead of him, large and keen and shaggy. He sniffs at me. Snow blooms ahead of Vinternoll, covering the stark and dry land. Snow covers me too, but it doesn't feel like freezing. It is cold and warm. It is icy and soft. I blink my eyes open. Fenrir sniffs at me. Vinternoll approaches, curious, and crouches, supported by his walking staff, and passes his hand over my face, and the ice dissipates.
Did you come looking for me? he asks, amused.
He picks me up in his free arm. He is large, much larger than me. I curl into his body, and it is warm where his heart is. His heart is exposed, the cage of his ribs insubstantial, and his heart glows red and fiery. It is fiery. It is fire. I curl into it. I reach up to his face, which is cold. "Bjornsi," I whisper affectionately but unthinkingly.
He is amused. My name is not Bjorn.
"I know," I falter, confused. "I keep calling you that. I don't know why."
It is fine. I will be Bjornsi for you.
He walks, carrying me. Igdrasiil blooms like a lighthouse in the distance. I see Can Calah framed in its light, like a person framed in the doorway of a home, waiting for their loved one to come in out of the cold.
"He waits for me," I say, smiling.
The song is ending. Vinternoll relinquishes me unto Can Calah. He reaches up to Igdrasiil, embracing it, bonding with it.
The song ends. I open my eyes, I look to Can Calah. "Did I find him?"
Can Calah laughs. Was there any doubt?