To save his true love, a teenage boy teams up with a group of mythical creatures to stop an evil goddess bent on destroying the world in this adventure-filled fantasy novel.
Concluding the tale of teen adventurer Kyle Dunlop as chronicled in Draupner's Curse and Giants of Anglesey, Yggdrasil: The World Tree pits Kyle against a wicked goddess and her quest to destroy the World Tree.
In a subterranean world beneath our own, the serpent Nidhogg is accidentally set free and begins to gnaw at the roots of the World Tree. Soon the damage it inflicts becomes apparent, and it is only a matter of time before the tree-which sustains all manner of life-is totally destroyed.
Helreginn, the goddess of the dead, sees this as an opportunity to expand her kingdom. To ensure the serpent doesn't slip away before the tree's destruction is complete, she orders her evil minions to kidnap several fairy maidens to use as sacrifices to appease the ravenous beast.
Kyle Dunlop, along with a group of warrior elves and goblins, a dwarf, and a dragon, sets out for distant Eljudnir to rescue the helpless fairies. But as the rescue party faces one life-threatening challenge after another, Kyle wonders whether he'll ever again see his true love, a captured fairy named Idunn-and whether this world he's come to love will be thrown into evil darkness forever.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.36(d)|
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YggdrasilThe World Tree
By C. E. Smith
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 C.E. Smith
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe World Tree
It was a beautiful evening. But then it always was in a place that never saw the light of day, a place deep in the bowels of the earth that was home to goblins and elves, fairies and dwarves, giants and trolls, and a host of other mythical creatures. Until recently, no one on the surface of the planet knew it existed. But all that changed a couple of summers ago when three teenagers and a ten-year-old girl stumbled upon a well-established, highly diverse subterranean world. As Idunn, a beautiful fairy maiden with creamy skin, sparkling blue eyes and hair as lustrous and golden as the sun, added an armful of broken branches to a pile almost as high as herself, she began to think about one of those teens. His name was Kyle, and to Idunn he was the most wonderful person in the world – not that she would ever tell him that, of course. She was so busy daydreaming about him that she failed to watch where she was going and, as she turned to collect more branches, she nearly bumped into her younger sister, Fridr.
If not for the beauty mark on Fridr's left cheek it would have been impossible to tell the sisters apart; they were alike in every way.
"Watch where you're going," cautioned Fridr as she adroitly stepped around Idunn and tossed her own load of twigs on the pile.
"I'm sorry, Fridr," replied a contrite Idunn. "I guess I wasn't thinking."
"Oh, you were thinking," Fridr said with certainty. "It's what ... or should I say ... who you were thinking about that's the problem." She brushed some dirt and pieces of dried-up bark off her cornflower blue satin gown.
The velvety wings on Idunn's exposed back gave a nervous twitch.
"I can't help it," said Idunn. "I try not to think about him, but it's hopeless. You understand, don't you?"
Fridr gazed at Idunn's lovesick face and said, "Sure I do. It's just that ... well ... we have more important things to think about now."
"Yeah, like removing the rest of those branches before it gets too dark to see what we're doing," said a third fairy maiden as she turned sideways and stepped between the two sisters, careful not to catch their clothes on one of the many jagged branches she was carrying.
Idunn and Fridr waited for the third fairy maiden to dump her load. Then the three of them went and joined a dozen others near the base of an immense green ash tree. As they all worked together to remove a mass of dead and diseased branches that had been clipped from the ash tree earlier in the day, two pairs of older, watchful eyes looked on.
"I'm worried, Eir," said Isahool, the younger of the two. "The tree isn't as healthy as it should be."
She was tall and elegant, beautiful in an abundant way, with only a trace of silver in her flaxen blond hair and some barely visible crow's feet that radiated outwards from the corners of her clear blue eyes. On the other hand, Eir was shorter and slightly stooped with age, with a pale face, deeply lined and framed by shoulder-length hair as white as freshly fallen snow.
"It always seems that way at this time of the year," Eir said in response. "That's why we go through this ritual, spending the time to remove any dead or diseased growth. Before you know it, fresh buds will begin to break out everywhere and the tree will look as vibrant and healthy as ever." The old fairy cackled. "Too bad someone can't do the same thing to my old decrepit body."
"I'm not so sure," said Isahool gloomily. "There's something wrong." To Eir's questioning look she added, "I don't know what it is, but there's definitely something wrong."
"Have it your way, dear," Eir said tiredly. "But don't let your dour mood spoil everyone else's fun."
Isahool smiled. "You're right, Eir. I should be more cheerful; if not for my sake, then at least for the girls. It's their special moment and they deserve to enjoy every minute of it."
Having made her point, Eir left Isahool alone and joined the maidens who had just finished collecting and adding the last of the branches to the pile. As the old one spoke in a hushed voice and the maidens cheered enthusiastically, Isahool turned her attention to the ash tree once again.
It was no ordinary ash tree she regarded. In fact, it is so special it even has a name and, at one time, there wasn't a person alive who didn't know it, who didn't utter it regularly. Yggdrasil – for that was the name given to it so very long ago – is the World Tree; an eternal green ash whose branches stretch out over the entire world, sustaining all manner of life. Once the gods held court under the tree, while a giant eagle perched on the topmost bough and the serpent Nidhogg gnawed on its roots. And each day the three Norns – the demi-goddesses of destiny – poured water from the Well of Fate over its branches to keep it green and healthy.
But the gods are gone now and so are the Norns, so it is up to the fairies to take care of the World Tree; to nourish it and, once a year, remove any signs of decay. Isahool actively participated in the ritual when she was younger, and still has fond memories of fumbling about amongst its limbs, going higher and higher until it seemed she was on top of the world. There were hardly any dead or diseased branches then, and the leaves were a vibrant green; but not anymore. As she looked closer at the towering tree she noticed that many of the leaves were brown at the edges or faded and curled up. Some had even turned brown altogether and fallen to the ground. It was almost as if something was sucking the life out of them. But what it was she couldn't say. And that's what troubled the fairy queen the most.
Before Isahool could give the tree another thought she was distracted by a high-pitched scream. However, there was really nothing to worry about. It was just some of the maidens having a bit of fun splashing each other with water. The sight of them running around, chasing each other with buckets full of water taken from the very same well the Norns had fetched water from brought back more fond memories for Isahool. She smiled as she recalled doing the same thing, and remembered how disappointed she had been when she finally got to the ash tree – soaking wet, of course – and suddenly realized that her bucket was empty and that she would have to go back to the well and wait in line to refill it. It was always a special moment for her and the others; especially after all the hard work they had done stripping the massive tree of dead limbs. And after the tree had been nourished from the well, someone would put a torch to the scrap heap and, while it burned, everyone would gather around the inferno and listen to the elders tell stories about a time when Odin sat upon his throne in Asgard. Her favourite tale was the one in which Odin sacrificed an eye for the rare privilege of drinking from the Well of Wisdom, thus gaining its knowledge. Soon, she thought, I will be the one telling the stories, and when that moment comes, I'll look forward to passing on that tale.
Once again Isahool's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the maidens screaming. Only this time their voices struck a different chord. It wasn't the same playful shrieking that she had grown accustomed to hearing and had managed to filter out. It was more genuine now, as if there was something more serious happening to cause them to make such a racket. Then she saw the terror on their faces and she knew their screams were real.
Isahool was about to call out to Eir when she saw something that took her breath away. With her mouth open wide, she uttered a strangled gasp of horror.
Everywhere she looked she could see the maidens dashing about in confusion, but instead of chasing each other with buckets of well water, they were fleeing from bare-chested fiends, stooped and sinister creatures of the night that kept rising from a hole in the ground like a colony of ants. Why Isahool hadn't noticed the hole before was a mystery. Nevertheless, it was there now and, unless she found a way to cap it, the fiends would continue to pour out. The thought of the fiends capturing the maidens and carrying them off, down that dark pit, filled Isahool with dread. Determined not to let that happen, she flew to the scrap heap and began to tug on an extremely large limb wedged between some much smaller branches.
"Help me, Eir!" Isahool shouted over her shoulder.
The old fairy must have heard her name because she turned towards Isahool. However, she didn't make a move until the fairy queen told her to hurry up. When she finally reached Isahool she seemed extremely confused. She kept muttering, "Why don't they fly? Why don't they fly?"
"They can't," Isahool said through gritted teeth as she continued to yank on the branch. "They're soaking wet, so their wings are totally useless. Now pull yourself together and help me with this branch!"
The old fairy's tired eyes flicked open. "Of course," she said. "Why didn't I think of that?" She positioned herself behind Isahool and, gripping the branch loosely, began to pull.
"Harder," Isahool implored her.
Sensing the desperation in Isahool's voice, Eir clutched the limb firmer and, putting all her weight behind it, tugged much harder.
It took some time, but somehow they managed to extract the limb from the clutches of the much smaller branches that seemed unwilling to let it go. And between the two of them they raised the heavy, unwieldy limb off the ground and, struggling to remain airborne, directed it towards the hole.
As they approached the hole, Isahool noticed that the fiends were still gushing out of it at the same alarming rate. And while a few of them glanced up and snarled at her and Eir, the others only had eyes for the maidens. They probably wanted to get their hands on the maidens before the lava pits, which burned fiercely throughout the subterranean world and illuminated the sky, giving it a characteristic orange glow, had receded for the day.
Eager to stop the flow of fiends, Isahool waited until the hole was directly below them before telling Eir to let go of her end. As the old fairy willingly obliged, the limb swung downward suddenly and the momentum alone nearly brought Isahool crashing to the ground.
Isahool flapped her powerful wings and held on desperately despite the pain in her arms and shoulders, until she was certain of the branch's trajectory. Only then did she let out a cry of pain and release the limb.
Some of the fiends around the hole looked up when Isahool cried out and swiftly dove out of the way. One that didn't was killed instantly when the limb struck him with a sickening crunch. His skull cracked like an egg shell and brain tissue splattered every which way as the limb drove him back down into the hole, blocking the entrance completely.
It was a small victory and Isahool had very little time to enjoy it. The next instant she found herself darting across the darkening sky to come to the aid of a maiden who was surrounded by a swarm of the stunted, misshapen fiends.
The fiends, who barely came to the tall fairy maiden's shoulders, were trying to place a tattered burlap sack over her head. But the girl resisted fiercely. After repeated attempts, they finally managed to pinion her hands behind her back and immobilize her legs. But as soon as one of them raised the sack, Isahool arrived with a sturdy, yet much smaller branch that she had picked up along the way. As the fiend prepared to slip the sack over the maiden's head, Isahool brained him with the limb. The fiend dropped like a rock.
Driven by anger and fear, Isahool wielded the branch like a club, posing enough of a threat that the fiends had no choice but to release the maiden. And as the girl fled, Isahool stayed put and continued to wallop anything that moved. She managed to drop two more of the fiends before they finally got wise and dispersed.
Isahool wasn't going to let the fiends off that easily, especially when she clearly had the advantage. And so did Eir for that matter. She quickly glanced around to see where Eir had gotten to; but the old fairy was nowhere to be seen. Afraid that something might have happened to her friend, she was about to look for Eir when she noticed that another maiden was in need of her assistance.
The fiends had already put a sack over the poor girl's head and were in the process of stuffing her entire body in the bag. They had her down on the ground and were about to force her legs inside when Isahool knocked the one holding her legs senseless with a vicious blow to the back of the head. The others promptly let go of the maiden and moved back a few steps, out of the range of the mad fairy's club. As the maiden extricated herself from the bag, Isahool looked around to see if anyone else needed help.
Her heart gave a lurch. The fiends had already bagged four of the maidens and another four were only moments away from sharing the same fate. Isahool was beside herself with worry. What am I going to do now, she thought to herself? She couldn't possibly rescue them all. Then she heard a familiar scream and, turning her head, she saw Idunn twisting in the arms of one of the fiends. The fiend, a short wiry creep with tattoos all over his sweaty body, had his sinewy arms wrapped around Idunn. Idunn was putting up a good fight but the fiend, despite being several inches shorter than her, was obviously the stronger of the two. Some of the fiend's cronies stood by cheering him on or throwing jibes at him.
Blinded by love, Isahool tucked the branch under her armpit and, clutching it like a lance, sped towards Idunn and the fiend.
"Take your filthy hands off her!" Isahool hollered as she approached the pair with lightning speed.
Idunn saw her mother coming and leaned forward at just the right moment. The tip of the branch brushed the hair over her left ear and took the fiend square in the chops, breaking every tooth in his mouth before ripping through the flesh at the back and snapping his spinal cord in two. His head flopped forward limply, his pointy nose bouncing off the limb which had got wedged in the back of his throat. A moment later his twitching arms came loose and his lifeless legs fell out from under him.
Isahool had to let go of the branch when the fiend collapsed or else she would have been yanked down with him. For a moment she thought about retrieving it, but then she realized that she was only a few feet off the ground, well within range of the mob. Recognizing the danger she was in she attempted to pull up suddenly, but it was too late.
One of the fiends grasped her right foot and, despite being lifted off the ground, he managed to act as an anchor and keep her from getting too far. Even when she kicked at him he continued to hang on. Before long, a second pair of cold clammy paws locked onto her ankle and, within moments, she was surrounded by fiends, some of them clambering over each other for a chance to get their hands on her.
Isahool could hear Idunn screaming in the background so she glanced over her shoulder to take a quick peek. That's when the rock hit her in the temple. It was only about the size of a robin's egg, but it struck with such force that it felt as if someone had just detonated a bomb inside her head. She sensed herself falling through the air and hitting the ground hard, a blur of arms and legs all around her, excited voices that became more and more garbled until it sounded like she was surrounded by a swarm of bees.
She tried to move but her arms and legs wouldn't cooperate. She tried to speak, but the only thing that came out of her mouth was drool. And when she opened her eyes wider to see through the haze, the pain in her head was so intense she had to close them again. The last thing she observed before everything went black and she finally lost consciousness was Idunn reaching out to her, tears running down her cheeks.
The air off the ocean was fresh and crisp, with enough of a bite to it to suggest that, although the calendar said it was May, winter may not be over with yet. But tell that to the two sweaty, bare-chested teens battling it out on a sandy, kelp-strewn stretch of beach with seven foot shafts of metal-shod tipped hardwood.
Excerpted from Yggdrasil by C. E. Smith Copyright © 2012 by C.E. Smith. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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