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.
- Surtr: Norse god of fire.
- Muspellheim: elemental realm of fire.
- Steinvegg: a stonewall.
- Holde seg: a command to hold, stay, or remain still.
Part 7 “Winter Thaws”
Kalda’s suggestion flummoxed Gobban. The smith stared uncomprehendingly at the ice sprite.
“Isaz?” he asked incredulously.
An involuntary titter escaped Gobban’s pursed lips, replaced by silence as he observed Kalda’s sincerity. Forcing a cough, he cleared his throat to compose himself.
“I typically shy away from Isaz. The cruel cold tends to induce brittle weakness in steel.”
A fiery, azure light flared in Kalda’s eyes as she scowled fiercely. Gobban stepped back, head titled, eyes wide, and hands in the air. He simpered, attempting to mollify Kalda’s rising ire.
“Now, of course, Isaz can represent such things, but I have you, Kalda, to thank for showing me a different side to winter’s power.”
The ice sprite raised an eyebrow inquiringly, emboldening the smith to continue talking.
“With your guidance, my eyes have been opened to intriguing possibilities. Tonight, I have witnessed impossible feats wrought with the help of your wintry magic.”
“You understand then how the ice rune is crucial to achieving your goal?” Kalda asked.
“Isaz’s chill bite may diminish the beast’s inferno, making its fires unequal to those we used in forging this sword.”
“I believe victory will be won by the sword’s ability to endure,” Kalda said.
“Good. How do you affix the sigils to your work?”
Gobban led Kalda to a workbench. He laid the blade before them and fetched a small clay pot from a shelf.
“My family has perfected the recipe for an acid capable of eating into the steel.”
“How can this clay jar contain such a liquid without failing?”
“Simple. Nothing magical is involved. Manure from a cow solely fed spinach and kale greens is liberally mixed into the mud.”
Smirking, the smith removed the jar’s lid and dipped a fine brush into the etching fluid.
“I suppose your brush is made from spinach leaves?” Kalda quipped.
“Nope, just a regular brush. I trim the burnt end off after each use. One will last quite a while.”
The ice sprite rolled her eyes.
“I was hoping for something a little more exciting, master smith.”
“Sorry to disappoint.”
Gobban and Kalda giggled, forgetting momentarily the monstrous evil threatening the kingdom. As their laughter subsided, the smith regarded the ice sprite solemnly.
“Thank you for coming to our aide. I admit I was anxious, not knowing what to expect. But, ironically, your laugh, your presence warms my heart.”
Kalda nodded, reflecting.
“It surprises me, but I am pleased to be in your company. My kind and yours so rarely have such close dealings. Many questions arise in my mind. Being here awakes memories I had long forgotten.”
Curiosity gripped Gobban, but he held his tongue. Sensing Kalda would say no more, he clapped his hands, rubbing them together.
“Let me demonstrate the technique I employ,” he said.
Melting a lump of wax, the smith fashioned a mold outlining first one rune and then another until six letters ran down the length of the blade. The ice sprite watched intently as Gobban carefully applied the acid to the spaces surrounded by wax. The liquid fizzed and bubbled, wisps of vapor wafting towards the ceiling.
“It doesn’t take long.” Gobban offered.
Kalda remained quiet, seemingly deep in thought.
“That ought to do it. Here’s where I usually make a mess.”
Juggling the sword and clay pot, Gobban tilted the blade, causing the acid to run down its narrow length haphazardly. Most of the liquid successfully streamed back into the jar. After mopping up the small spill, he gently removed the wax, buffing the steel clean.
“One last thing to do. Then our work is done!”
Gobban attached a bronze guard and sturdy wooden handle to the tang. Fine wire and two strong bolts held everything together tightly. The smith sighed with pride as he presented the finished sword to Kalda.
“It is a beautiful sword.” Gobban beamed.
“Yes, it is. But do you believe it will be sufficient? Will it slay the beast?”
Gobban sighed grimly.
“If our sword fails the prince, my kingdom is doomed. There be nothing left to do but flee. And yet, I dare to hope this weapon will be exactly what his Highness requires.”
The smith smiled wanly, attempting to convey confidence. The ice sprite seemed not to notice. Absorbed in thought, she stared intently at the runes on the sword. Silence stretched as her eyes burned and her face hardened. Gobban struggled to read Kalda.
“What? You wrestle with something. Tell me.”
The ice sprite’s eyes bathed Gobban in a tangible radiance of sapphire light. The set of her chin was tense, her smile ferocious as she stood tall and proud.
“Gobban, there is yet one thing more I can offer to help you and your people.”
Something in the tone of her voice brought a lump to his throat as his heart quickened.
“You have done more than you know already, Kalda. What further aid could you render?”
“A foresight is upon me. Smoke and flame fill my mind. I fear the sword as-is will not be enough.”
Gobban shook his head.
“The beast’s fires will melt this weapon like all the others.”
“Why this sudden doubt?”
The smith squinted, raising a hand against the increasing glare from the aura of blue light surging out to surround Kalda.
“I see clearly now the wisdom in my mistress’ choice to send me to answer your king’s call for aid.”
“What are you doing?” Gobban shouted as her rotating screen of snow whipped faster.
“I will imbue this blade with my essence.”
Horrified, Gobban gasped.
“You can willingly part with an aspect of your life force?”
“I am prepared to hand over the entirety of my power if need be.
“Everything? Can you survive such a sacrifice?”
“My mistress, Skadi, has bestowed a great gift upon me; a means to redemption.”
“I do not understand.”
“The sword must be magically warded against the beast’s infernal fire.”
“The runes will….”
“My wintry spirit will amplify Isaz’s potency, protecting the sword. Its power will overwhelm and subdue the beast, allowing the steel to pierce and freeze its fiery heart.”
“Kalda, no! You are not one of the völvur. Pay no heed to this false vision. I have clouded your judgment, foolishly giving voice to my fears and uncertainty!”
The growing maelstrom of ice and snow writhed around the sprite filling the air with an ethereal sound as if a thousand tiny bells were simultaneously ringing.
“Gobban, for years beyond count I have existed, created when the world slept beneath majestic glaciers blanketing this realm in an endless winter. I am not afraid.”
“Kalda, please no!”
“Gobban, I welcome this. Being here has reminded me of my desire to right past wrongs.”
“Stop! I forbid this!”
Gobban held the sword behind him.
“I have made my choice, human. There is nothing you can do.”
“But, why? The beast will be defeated! The völvur seers foresee it. Think of the weapons, the tools, the art we could create together!”
Kalda’s magical presence expanded, filling the room.
“Please, Kalda. Stop. I know it sounds ludicrous, but I love you.”
“Master smith, you have thawed my icy heart, producing the closest thing to love a winter fairy may feel. Thank you. Goodbye, Gobban.”
A blizzard of energies engulfed the smith. Gobban flung his arms up to shield himself from the icy tempest, the sword clattered to the floor.
“No! Please gods, no!”
Kalda’s voice sung reassuringly above the din.
“I will live on in the winter and within the blade itself. Grieve not, Gobban.”
The smith fell to his knees, numbly watching the vortex of magic quicken. It hovered above the sword, channeling the frigid forces toward the blade. A brilliant orb of sapphire light crackled with energy at the point of contact as Kalda’s power surged into the weapon. Gobban could no longer see Kalda. A blinding radiance obscured everything from view until flashing and disappearing with a loud clap of thunder. The magic exploded, throwing the smith to the ground. The concussion extinguished the forge fire throwing the room into darkness as a wild wind ripped its way outside.
Silence dominated. The smith took a moment to collect himself. He lay on the floor and shivered under a new coating of snow and ice. Ghostly afterimages from the dazzling light danced across Gobban’s vision in the darkness. As his eyes recovered, he became aware of lighter areas of blackness outlining the windows and from somewhere inside a faint blue glimmer.
Sitting up, he beheld the sword gleaming with a radiance absent before. There was no sign of the ice sprite. Gently picking the blade up, Gobban studied it. The runes etched into the steel shimmered with an otherworldly blue light. One rune sparkled more intensely than the others.
“Isaz,” he whispered.
Responding to his voice, the sword crackled with light extending from the runes to illuminate the entire blade. A chill seeped down into the handle nipping his hand. Ignoring the frigid pain caused by touching the sword, Gobban cradled the weapon and wept.
“Kalda, your sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
Gobban’s heart ached to recognize the runes burned with Kalda’s familiar sapphire blue light. Loath to move, to disturb the solemnity of this grievous moment, he knelt quietly. The smith grappled with warring emotions. He knew he should be grateful, consumed with joyous relief. They had succeeded in creating a weapon to defend the kingdom. But sorrow and guilt welled up, threatening to drown him.
Listening to the shutters banging in the breeze, Gobban chided himself. He acknowledged the tragedy of Kalda’s death, but his emotions dumbfounded him. Humans and fey folk rarely interacted. The smith had spent one night with the ice sprite. He did not understand why he felt this way.
A faint, unfamiliar noise pulled Gobban out of his reveries. With dawn beginning to break, he wondered if the sound had come from outside. The smith refused to face the world just yet. He stood, walked to each window, and closed the shutters. He stumbled forward in the gloom using the sword’s light to see. After some effort, Gobban managed to rekindle a frost-covered torch. He grimaced in dismay surveying the sodden remains of the forge fire in the smoky, guttering torchlight.
Again, a muted sound caught his attention. He raised the flickering light to illuminate more of the smithy. A whispering murmur percolated from somewhere inside. Cautiously stepping forward, he searched the room. On the far side of the forge, a figure lay huddled on the floor.
Shocked, Gobban’s heart skipped a beat. His mind raced; he wondered if this was Kalda’s body. He hadn’t anticipated anything corporal remaining behind after the ice sprite had selflessly poured out her spirit. Gobban realized he was shaking, racked with indecision. He dreaded having to gaze upon her lifeless form.
The smith stood rooted in pace, hesitating until he perceived a quiet groan coming from the prone form. With a disbelieving, desperate hope, Gobban catapulted forward. Collapsing next to the body, he gawked. Coarse fabric and the filthy pelt of an unknown animal covered the figure. Long hair hid the person’s face.
Hand trembling, he reached out to turn the body over. Through the grime and dirt, Gobban could see it was a woman. He nearly leaped out of his skin when she coughed. He leaned closer, scrutinizing the stranger. Wild, dark, unkempt hair framed a beautiful face. Tentatively, he leaned forward to listen to her breathe. Instantly, he could feel her warmth and vitality. The woman stirred, eyes fluttering open with a look of surprise.
Gobban studied the woman’s face. He recognized her features, but instead of pale, unnaturally white features, Kalda had a tanned, ruddy complexion. Deep, dark brown eyes gazed back at the smith. Astonished, Kalda studied her hands and felt her face. She smiled, crying. Gobban assumed she shed tears of joy.
“But, how? I don’t understand,” he asked.
“The gods have restored me to what I was eons ago before the völvur’s magic made me into something different.”
“You, you were human? I mean, you’re human?” Gobban whispered.
“Yes, human.” she laughed.
Gobban clasped Kalda tightly in an embrace. Showering her face with kisses.
“I don’t understand. But, it doesn’t matter. You’re alive!” the smith said.
“The gods have forgiven me, Gobban. I have a second chance.”
“But, why? What did you…?”
Kalda touched a finger to Gobban’s lips, silencing him.
“Not yet. Please. I promise I will explain soon,”
Sensing Gobban desperately yearned for some explanation, Kalda sighed, shaking her head.
“I was foolish and vain. Lust for power consumed me, stealing my humanity.”
“But, you’re not… I mean, you’ve… changed?”
“I believe I have. Yes. Yes, I have. After all these years, meeting you has changed everything.”
Kalda smiled broadly and giggled. Gobban smirked, blushing. He shook his head, struggling to reconcile the youthful image before him with her claim to ancientness.
“Older than you can count, master smith. And yet, I am beginning to feel young again.”