The tale of Ásfastr and Áine
Ásfastr and Áine were walking through the forest. The path in the forest was nice and wide. Ásfastr hailed from north, he had jet-black hair and dark eyes. Áine came from the west, with hair as white as snow. Her eyes reminded of a sky in a cloudless day. Dodging the stones, they wandered through the woods, surrounded by birches and warmth of the spring sun.
Where are we going?, Ásfastr asked.
To the Mountain, replied Áine with a gentle smile.
And where is the Mountain? How can we get there?, Ásfastr was worried, as he saw only the path and birches singing the spring song along with the wind.
We must carry onward. The path will lead us.
He was silent since then, only listening to joyful songs sang by the birches' leaves. And the birches whispered to go forth, because there, at the end, our heroes will find the Mountain. And as they carried on, the forest has changed. Strong, sky-scraping pines were now in charge. The Sun was also somewhat higher, shining so bright. Ásfastr looked up to the sky, and then walked to one of the pines, touching her bark.
T'is summer, he said with a joyful smile.
They moved on, talking about some small things, as the pines hummed summer song, full of warmth and strength. They sang about the Mountain, that awaits at the end of the path. After some time, just like the birches, also pines with their cinnamon bark stepped down and mighty oaks filled the forest. The path was now covered with colorful leaves. Áine stood beside one of the great, old trees and touched its bark. The oak was drifting away to sleep, as he hummed an oakish lullaby.
Autumn, she said.
And they moved on, as the oaks murmured autumnal ballad, as they were put to sleep by fading sun. They sang about the Mountain that awaits at the end of the road. Eventually Ásfastr and Áine came out of the forest and onto a large plain. There only a few trees remained, naked and frail. Ásfastr and Áine didn't stop, as they saw the Mountain on the horizon. After a while though, sun disappeared as heavy clouds covered the sky. And then, it snowed.
Already the winter, said Áine.
Ásfastr nodded and they moved on. Snow became so dense, so thick that they barely saw the goal of their journey. They started to feel the cold, because they wore only light, spring clothes. They carried on, although slower. Ásfastr's eyes narrowed as he asked:
Why the Mountain isn't closer? Our journey is so long…
It's a mirage, sometimes the Mountain does that, replied Áine, It's close now, we only think that the Mountain is far away.
Ásfastr rejoyced and they jauntily moved on. Alas, strong wind blew, dashing snow and ice into their faces. They did not surrender, even when they were almost grated with icy needles and their faces became livid. Great blizzard came, and dissapeared the Mountain, and the plain, and they saw only themselves. Ásfastr holded Áine's hand, dragging her along they way, for he felt and knew where to go. They waded through the snow. At first, it was only as high as their ankles. Then the knees, and finally Ásfastr holded Áine with one hand, and mowed the snow with the other, almost like it was grass. He looked ahead and in the end, despite the blizzard, he saw the Mountain's silhouette in front of them. And on Its peak there was a shining dot. He turned to Áine and pointed to the misty peak. She lifted her head and said:
T'is the tree.
Ásfastr was silent, but a thought sparked through his mind – an ash. And though he did not know what is the dot on the Mountain's peak, he believed Áine. And they went onward, seeing almost nothing, until they realized that it is the Mountain's bottom that lies before them. Far far away, on the peak, a tree shined on. The mountainside was filled with thorn-like rocks.
I feel so cold…, Ásfastr said to Áine.
Let's rest a while, she replied with a faint voice.
They dug a hole in the snow and lied down, and they embraced in despair, to get at least a little warmer. Áine smiled sadly, kissed Ásfastr and rested her head on his chest. Ásfastr stood awake for a while, but he was very tired and soon he fell asleep as well.
When he woke up, he wanted to tell Áine that it is time to move on, to the peak. Alas, he saw her open eyes. Blue sky covered by the rime. No warm breath coming out through her lips. And when he tried to free himself, he realized that Áine holds him so firmly that she will never let him go. He stroked her hair gently and looked up. And he saw the peak and a shining dot – the tree they never reached. And as his vision blurred and faded along the Mountainside, he realized that what he took for thorny rock, was in fact dozens of people intertwined in their last embrace, on their way to the top.
The blizzard came again, whispering the last word.