Breathe in and out… the pattern is established. Let the memories of the day emerge and fade away. I see in memory the pale orange of the sunset between the dark silhouette of the mountain and the bar of grey cloud. Then that fades, darkness falls, and I am on the mountain once more. Again I have a lantern, and use it to make my way downward and inward until I come to the great plain of Midgard that lies within. I call to Raven. We make the now-familiar journey up to the Gate that Heimdall guards.

He is wrapped in a white cloak, for the weather there, as here, seems to be cold and damp. “Be welcome. Tonight your way lies to Noatun.”

I thank him and fare through Asgard and out the western gate where a path leads downward to a sandy shore. In the summer time, this place is busy, nets drying on the shore and people everywhere as ships come and go. But at this season the harbor is frozen and the boats immobilized until spring. But the life of the place goes on, and its center is the great hall of Njordh.

It has been many years since I came this way, but I follow the road through the town and find the great doors open. The hall is a large one. The aisles along the sides are divided into separate chambers. While most of the guests are eating and drinking in the main hall, some are doing their own business in the alcoves. As I make my way the length of the hall, I see in some of them the dark skins of people from the south, or the silk garments of beings from Eastern lands. Why should I be surprised that the gods have world trade as well?

At the high table, Njordh is sitting with Freyr and Freyja and the principal goddesses and gods. He is a stoutly built older man, but still hale, with silver in his brown hair and flowing beard. His seagreen robe is edged with fur. He has gold rings in his ears, and a collar of gold. Everything in his dress and the polish of his home speak of prosperity. Next to him sits Skadhi, herself richly dressed. Clearly they are still friends, but the assembled guests are making enough noise to scare off the seagulls, and I can’t hear anything they say.

Njordh catches my eye and beckons me forward. “Come, come! There is room here for you.”

I come around the back and find they have drawn up a bench behind the high table. As soon as I sit down, a maiden with slightly webbed fingers brings me a plate heaped with smoked salmon and pickled herring and roasted octopus tentacle as well.

“I know that you like this,” he booms. “I try to always give my guests what they desire.”

I thank him, and set to eating as the conversations swirl around me. The food is perfectly cooked, rich with its own fat and herbs and spices. It is an affirmation of plenty to eat it. Njordh turns to me once more.

“Since you have made your way here, you may ask me for a gift—“

What do I want? What did I want for Christmas? If it were summer, I would ask for a ride in a boat, but for some things, clearly promises are the only coin. What I want is prospeirity for my family and community, food and health care and all the other basic needs.

“You make a start on this already—“ he replies. “Your people talk on the net. It is not like the old days when news flew only so fast as the vessels that carried it. Continue to use that to help each other. But what do you want for yourself?” he asks.

I search my heart for something appropriate to ask for. “Something connected to the sea, since it is you. I would like to do something on a boat, since you ask.”

“And what will you give me in exchange—“ His gifts are all exchanges, the rune Gebo is his, too. “What comes in and what goes out must be kept in balance,” he goes on. “Remember that with regard to other things. You must keep it all in balance, and take care of your local community. Posting information on employment is a good first step. Speak also of other things. Recycle and exchange. Be patient and keep your temper. Respect your trading partners ( or appear to).

“Your offering to me is to encourage your folk to make these bonds with each other. That will strengthen your community. Some cities have some programs, but all of you who share belief also have your networks. At this season, those who have enough should tally up the needs of their community. There are many things that need more than money. Is that enough to remember for now? Then eat and drink. Let the ale froth and flow like the waves that lap the shore.”

I finish my fish, and make my farewells, taking a last look around the hall before I go. I notice that the arching of the beams that hold up the ceiling has the same elegant economy as a ship’s hull. No doubt it was ship builders who also built the hall. From the walls hang fishing nets, and in them many a strange treasure is displayed—items of use or beauty, baskets and blades, ceramics, and even the collection of fish inspired eating ware.

I retrace my steps, say farewell to Heimdall and Raven joins me (still smelling of fish, though she had to fight the gulls for them—they have apparently not heard Njordh’s words on generosity and sharing). We fly back to the base of the Tree. And now it is time to say farewell to her and make my way back up the mountain and thence from the world within to the one without and my own room.