A Short Story Set in a Mythical Nordic Medieval World.
Glossary of Terms and Characters
- Völvur: a shamanic order of women capable of foresight and communing with the otherworld.
- Jötunn: god-like elemental forces of nature from the mountains, forests and wilds of the tundra. (Giants.)
- Gobban: a Norseman, a smith and master craftsman of weapons.
- Kalda: servant of Skadi, an ice sprite.
- Skadi: winter goddess of jötunnic origins.
- Seiomenn: men who practice conjuring magics.
- Greta: the queen’s seeress.
- Alfar: fairies, elves.
Part 3 “Fire Draws Breath“
Gobban panicked, seeing the pain in Kalda’s face. He suddenly had an intense desire to comfort and reassure her.
“Our people only use the weapons I make to protect the outlying villages from raids. We prefer peace with the mountain folk. If ever it comes, I long for the day when I may use my skills to craft fair and beautiful things to enjoy.”
Kalda’s cool blue eyes shifted. Her far-off gaze hinted she was carefully weighing Gobban’s words.
“The jötunn can be cruel and harsh. Most are jealous of the love the gods show for humans.”
“I know one or two jötunn who have aided men lost and near death in the wilderness.”
“You have journeyed through the forests into the mountain realm?”
“I was born and raised in a small, northern village. My home is in the foothills of the mountains.”
“You intrigue me, Gobban. You are a human, and yet, your aura is rather otherworldly. Perhaps your ancestors had propitious dealings with the fey folk. I have heard of humans rewarded for performing an act of service for the dwarves or the alfar.”
“I know not my lady, but my mother was the völvur for our village. We practiced the old ways. My father and grandfather were smiths before me. From them, I have learned the little I know of the magic runes I use to enhance my craft.”
Kalda nodded, looking past Gobban to the forge. Her curiosity was evident.
“Shall we begin?” he asked.
Returning to his furnace, Gobban placed the steel bar into the fire. He sang softly with a rich baritone the secret rhymes his forebears used to intensify their fires. Working the bellows, he coaxed more heat from the brightly blazing coals. Abruptly, he stopped to inspect the steel. Faint blue flames licked along the edges of the metal.
“How will you know when the metal is ready?” Kalda called out.
“A natural fire requires longer to soften the metal. Our time being short, I have sung an incantation to quicken the process. I can tell when the steel is ready to work by the color.”
Gobban’s tongs lifted the bar of metal up for Kalda to see.
“Observe how the steel gives off a dim orange glow? When it dazzles like the noon-day sun, it will be ready.”
Gobban placed the metal back into the flame. He sang again, louder and bolder. After a few minutes, he withdrew the steel from the fire again. The metal gleamed yellow-white. Kalda could see the air surrounding it waver in the intense heat. She pulled her swirling cold tighter about her, warding herself from the heat.
“I will now begin by shaping the tang,” Gobban said.
The smith lay the steel strip atop the anvil and edge hammered one end of the metal. With every hammer blow, sparks exploded out like miniature shooting stars. Watching with fascination, Kalda hadn’t expected the process to be so loud. Gobban stopped periodically to inspect his progress. The ice sprite observed how rapidly the steel’s light faded, returning to its former orange-red glow.
“It cools fast.”
“Yes. I must return it to the fire.”
Gobban replaced the blade into the furnace and resumed singing and pumping the bellows. With the brilliance reinvigorated, he started hammering again.
“Why do you not sing the heating chant while hammering to keep the blade soft longer?”
“I would if I could sustain such effort, my lady. But, the strength needed to shape the metal demands too much of me.”
Kalda found herself impatient with the need to continually reheat the metal.
“With your leave, master smith, I think I know now how to help you.”
Gobban stopped. Sweating and breathing heavily, he studied the ice sprite.
“I welcome any assistance, but how my lady?”
“I can keep the metal hot and soft.”
“That would allow me to work at longer intervals. But, how?”
“I perceive the coldness in the air is actively interfering with your task. It resents the intense heat and tries to dampen it. I will summon the chill air to me, comfort it and ease its distress.”
Gobban was startled to hear Kalda speak about the air in such a fashion. The smith intimately knew fire. It was lively, temperamental. But, he gave little regard to the other elements. He merely understood them as inanimate materials to be used.
“You speak of strange things. You widen my perspective,” Gobban said.
“Perhaps, that is how my mistress feels I will aid you. Humans don’t fully appreciate the elemental forces in this world.”
Gobban snorted and nodded.
“So, you can call to the air, pacify it, and you believe this will cause the steel to remain hot longer?”
“Yes. It will stop trying to moderate the extreme temperatures from the forge.”
Gobban grimaced, wiping the sweat from his brow.
“It will also block the cold outside air from entering. Everything in your smithy should become quite hot.” Kalda said.
“No harm in that! I am well warded. I do not fear the extra heat,” Gobban said, gesturing to tattooed runes on his forearms. “But, what of you? Surely, the increased heat will bother you.”
“I, too, am well defended,” Kalda said, waving her hand to intensify the spin of her protective snows.
“Then let us try!”
Kalda began speaking in a language Gobban did not know. The ice sprite had turned to face outdoors. She moved her arms back and forth as if reaching out and pulling something to her. The smith felt the air about him begin to stir.
Leaving Kalda to her task, Gobban focused on what he needed to do. He reheated the steel until it radiated bright yellow-white light. Continuing to shape where the handle would sit, he listened to the ice sprite’s enchanting words.
His ears crackled painfully as the increased airflow altered the pressure in the smithy. There was now a noticeable increase in temperature about him. He redoubled his efforts to finish shaping the tang. Gobban was pleased. The steel cooled slower, allowing him more time to work.
“It’s working, my lady!”
Kalda did not reply, remaining focused on her spell of urging. Gobban was in high spirits. The rapid progress he made was remarkable. He wondered how long he could work before the metal would need to be returned to the fire. Astounded, the smith admired the finished tang.
“The first part of the sword is complete. The tang where the handle attaches is shaped.” Gobban said breathlessly.
He was feeling giddy with excitement. He paused to catch his breath, not realizing how much effort he had exerted.
“I am winded from my furious labors!” he laughed.
Suddenly, he noticed the heat from the forge felt less intense. Glancing at the furnace, he saw the firelight growing dim. Something was wrong. Gobban rushed to the fire forgetting the metal on the anvil. He worked the bellows vigorously to revive the fire’s intensity, but the coals did not respond. Incredibly the fire continued to die. Gobban realized he was gasping for air.
“I can’t breathe! Why?”
He stumbled back from the forge, wondering what had happened. He could see Kalda moving in the moonlight streaming in through the window. Her singing sounded like a lullaby. Her arms undulated back and forth, dancing. The protecting snows about her were stretched thin by the currents of air rushing out. Gobban realized it wasn’t simply the coldness Kalda was removing from his smithy. She was taking all of the air out too! He was suffocating. Straining to be heard, Gobban shouted.
“My lady! Cease! I beg you! Your magic is smothering the fires and me!”
Coming Next: (Part 4 of 7)“Songs of the Winter Forge”
Word Count: 1288
Written in response to the prompt: Cool Blue.
Check out all of the other great writing prompts at The Twiglets.
Thank you for inspiring me!