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.
- Skadi: winter goddess of jötunnic origins.
- Seiomenn: men who practice conjuring magics.
- Greta: the queen’s seeress.
- Alfar: fairies, elves.
Part 2 “The Arrival“
A master smith, Gobban was often completely confident his skills were sufficient for any task. He began his training when he was a young boy. He had learned from the best. Tonight though, the only thing he felt secure in was his understanding of the predicament facing the kingdom. Gobban knew his limitations. His extraordinary skill and the modest magic he wielded would still not be enough. The king demanded a miracle. Skadi could undoubtedly use her wintery magic to forever keep the flame demon at bay. Yet, the cost would be to forever go without warmer weather.
Never summer, ever winter would destroy the kingdom just the same. Let’s hope Greta and the other völvur are correct! I am not a man above learning something new.
Waiting for his guest, the smith chose his steel carefully. He was sure of his process and technique. The weapons he constructed were well-made. Gobban prepared as he would typically to forge a sword. He added more coal to the furnace and quietly chanted his spells. Soon the smithy was ablaze in heat. Accustomed to the workshop’s hellish conditions, Gobban was in his element. He continued to sing to his forge, stoking, cajoling ever more heat from the coals.
The smithy was otherwise deserted. In fact, this entire section of the citadel had been cleared. Skadi had requested only the smith be present. The king agreed readily, himself concerned for the well-being of his people. Supernatural intervention, whether divine or jötunnic, was a rare occurrence. No one knew exactly what to expect. Greta advised Gobban how to act and speak. The captain of the guard explained how to signal if there was danger. The king thanked Gobban for his bravery and willingness to put the kingdom first. Lastly, the smith had been instructed to leave the eastern window open. His ally would enter from there.
While his back was turned to shovel more fuel onto the fire, Gobban heard a rush of wind and felt a drop in temperature. Turning, he beheld a figure standing outside the window. After allowing his eyes to adjust from the bright light of the fire, he could discern it was a woman. His first thought was she was too small to be a giant. Gobban tried to recall if he had heard tales of giants having the power to magically alter their size. He supposed Skadi could have acquired such ability from the gods.
“I’m surprised you came.” Gobban managed to say.
Stepping closer to the window, the smith sought to better see his visitor.
“A promise was given.” a cold voice replied.
The woman’s skin was pale as freshly fallen snow, and what appeared as her raiment shimmered like a glacier hanging at a fjord’s edge. Her silver hair, severely cropped short, resembled a jumble of jagged shards of ice. Yet, her face appeared delicate with a radiant aura like a brilliant boreal night sky. Her eyes were of the brightest blue. Gobban was reminded of sapphires reflecting the noonday’s sun.
Gobban, in contrast, stood like a dark, gritty lump of coal silhouetted against the orange-red glow of the fire. His dark hair was tied back with a strap of leather worn and stained with sweat and grime. His rugged build was the very essence of a resilient, earthen ore, hardened and tempered by intense heat.
“Even so, I am still surprised,” he said.
“You think the gods are above the oaths they make?”
“I do not presume to know what it is gods do or don’t.”
“Ah, Master Smith, I have been told much about you. You presume to know all about the forging of mighty weapons.”
“There is nothing I do not know of smithing and forging metals. I am proud of my work. But, I do not claim to know all regarding talismans and weapons of power.”
“And now, flame and heat, elements essential to your success, have emerged from the wilds in strange, treacherous form. Your crafting is undone by the same forces from which it is constructed.”
“The hell beast will not be turned. I have tried all I know. But, no blade will hold its shape ere it pierces the beast’s heart. This is true. Certain doom is upon us all unless another way to defend ourselves is found.”
“And that’s what you expect me to provide?”
“That’s what the völvur hope.”
“Do you believe I can help?”
Gobban’s bowels squirmed. He suspected there was little she did not know about him.
“I honestly confess I am unsure. Steel is remarkable, but it is the fire that strengthens it. Quenching it properly is essential. Extreme cold makes such a metal brittle and prone to shatter. I have spent my life imbuing weapons with fiery magic to withstand the frigid cold, and its minions come down from the mountains.”
The smith was surprised how easily he gave vent to his anger and frustration. This outburst was precisely what he had been counseled to avoid. The stranger stood unmoving, her icy presence filling the length and breadth of the window. Her silence was unsettling. Gobban’s breathing and heartbeat boomed in his head.
“You speak of the jötunn,” she stated.
Gobban bowed before the woman.
“Forgive my manners, my lady. I am not accustomed to the company of gods. Welcome. Please enter. May we forge a weapon together to save the kingdom.”
“I am no god, master smith.”
“But, the queen’s seer indicated Skadi, queen of the snows and ice, was offering assistance.”
“I am ice sprite. Your people call me an ice maiden. My mistress has sent me. She said I would be able to aide you.”
“Forgive me again. My welcome still stands.”
Gobban gestured with his hands to enter. But, the woman did not move to join him.
“I am ill-suited for your fires. I will remain here until the time comes for me to assist.”
Gobban was surprised to realize he was disappointed. He wondered if the winter sprite was attempting to charm him with faerie magic. It was common for woodland spirits to play such tricks. Yet, he didn’t feel as though he was under any spell.
“My name is Gobban.”
As if seeing him for the first time, the woman gazed intently at the smith. He felt a chill air cascade down about him.
“My name is Kalda.”
Gobban shivered upon hearing her name. He realized he was utterly taken with the supernatural beauty of the ice maid.
With a cough and a stamp of his boots, he vigorously rubbed his hands together to rid himself of the chill and embarrassment he felt.
“How should we begin? What changes with the forging do I need to make to facilitate your assistance?”
“Alter nothing, master smith. I will partake in your ritual work when I see an opportunity.”
Gobban smiled warmly.
“Then I hope to provide you a worthy display of smithery. I shall begin.”
Turning back to his furnace, he fancied he saw an amused look pass briefly over the ice sprite’s face.
“I confess I watch with great interest, as I know little of the crafting of swords,” Kalda said.
“Fear not, I do.”
“Yes, I sense the fierce magic of fire rules your heart. Your skill is evident.”
Gobban realized the ice sprite had come inside. She stood against the window wreathed in a swirl of snows that clung to her body. He, himself, had never before seen a display of this type of magical power. He began to suspect his earlier suspicions and doubts were wrong.
“Your arrival and words have wrought a change upon me I did not expect. Hope glimmers again in my heart.” Gobban said.
“Why is this?” Kalda asked.
“I fathom not how your icy elemental magic works. But, I am now more inclined to accept the völvur’s omens as true.”
“The völvur walk between this realm and others. Their insight is keen. Only a stubborn fool ignores their counsel.”
Gobban stifled an urge to laugh. Obstinate, inflexible, headstrong, and bull-headed were just some of the words used more often to describe him. He was eager to lay aside talk and get to work.
“Would you care to see the steel before it enters the fire?” Gobban impulsively asked.
Kalda tilted her head, considering.
The smith retrieved the bar of steel and walked over. He remarked the rapid fall in temperature as he drew near the ice sprite. His sweat crackled as it froze in his hair and on his bare skin. His breath billowed forth in a frozen mist of air.
“Look adamantium! The king has provided the resources for the strongest steel. There is no higher quality metal for a sword.” Gobban crooned.
The ice sprite hesitated with her hand poised, almost touching it.
“I assure you it is cool.”
Her touch produced a sound, not unlike the chinking of metal on metal. The bar of steel was instantly covered in frost. Both the sprite and the smith startled.
“My lady, you have chilled the steel straight through! I feel as if I am suddenly grasping a length of solid ice.”
Kalda regarded the wisps of moisture steaming up from her hand.
“To me, sir, the metal is quite hot! I now understand why the weapons you craft are mortal to the jötunn from the frozen lands and northern mountains.”
Coming Next: (Part 3 of 7) “Fire Draws Breath“