Flash Fiction: Cracked Stucco


Here’s another piece of flash fiction. It needs more work, but I had fun with it. Liked the idea of the woman being fearless while her boyfriend is the scaredy-cat! LOL.

“Sinister Muse”

Ben and Zoey slipped through the hole in a fence surrounding the abandoned estate. Legends of greed, untimely death, and cult activity attracted paranormal enthusiasts to the infamous movie mogul’s home like bugs to a porchlight.

The local authorities made some effort to keep the structure boarded up. Still, a new blog posting details of past investigations had revitalized interest.

“Think we parked the car far enough away?”

“Yeah, relax.”

“My parents will kill me if we’re arrested for trespassing.”

“I think the cops have better things to worry about.”

The couple crept across the overgrown grounds toward the rear of the building.

“This is a bad idea. I can’t see anything.”

“Come on. Don’t wimp out now.”

“I’m not. I’m just stating the obvious.”

“Want me to go back and get the night vision goggles?”

“You have night-vision goggles?”

“No, stupid.”

“Oh.”

“Honestly, you’re so gullible, Ben.”

“How am I supposed to know? You have an infra-red gun, EMF meter, and a voice recorder. I’m surprised you don’t have night-vision goggles.”

“You’re stalling.”

“By all means, then lead the way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you fall into a ditch.”

Zoey kissed Ben on the cheek.

“You’re so sexy when you’re frightened.”

“Wow. That’s dark. Were you a black widow in a previous life?”

“Probably. Now, help me find this poorly secured window someone posted about yesterday.”

A few splinters and a nasty scratch later, Zoey stumbled upon what she was looking for.

“Yes, told you. The plywood comes right off. It looks attached, but the nails are cut. See, just the heads are left.”

“I’ll take your word for it. Let’s just do this before I chicken out.”

They climbed inside, pulling the board back across the window. Thumbing their phone lights on, they began to explore. Zoey scanned the room with the EMF meter.

“Whoa! Zoey! This place is remarkably well-preserved! The furniture’s still here. Filthy, but still all here!”

“I knew you’d love it. I heard the family insisted on leaving everything exactly as it was on the day of the murder.”

“It’s like stepping back to the golden age of Hollywood.”

“Plenty of inspiration here for a set design intern. Still scared?”

“Yes. But, it helps feeling like I’m in a scene from Grand Hotel.”

“Take lots of pictures.”

“You know they debunked ghost orbs. They’re just motes of dust.”

“No, for your scrapbook. Crazy how the owners decorated the place. How much do you think it would cost nowadays to have all this carved wood?”

“Actually, it’s not wood.”

“What?”

“That’s not wood.”

“I heard you the first time. What is it then?”

“Stucco. It’s a kind of plaster. Very versatile. Easier to work with and cheaper.”

“Learn that in architecture?”

“Yep, and while working with my uncle during vacation.”

“Glad to see art school is teaching you something practical.”

“Hey, interior design is a respectable career. My uncle makes tons of money. And it’s safer than investigative journalism. I know you’re dying to cover a war zone someday. Pun intended.”

“Oh, you have no idea, Benny-Boy. I’ll be there in a heartbeat. I’m the next Clarissa Ward.”

“As long as you’re home for dinner.”

“Come on, Martha. Let’s check the rest of this place out.”

Ben followed Zoey out into a hallway.

“Need to find the main stairwell. It’s a hotbed of paranormal activity.”

“Great, now I’m anxious again.”

“Come on, baby. You can hold my hand.”

“I’d rather we went back to the car and made out.”

“I’ve got a better idea. Let’s find the master suite.”

“Sure, because that doesn’t sound like the plot of every horror movie ever made.”

The EMF scanner chirped, startling both of them.

“Ooh, we’re picking something up.”

Zoey squeezed Ben’s hand as they shuffled forward. One by one, indicator lights turned on until the entire array blazed brightly. Before them, a large space loomed.

“Zoey, look. This is the formal entrance. There’s the grand staircase.”

“Loads of EMF activity!”

“Can we leave now?”

“Oh, come on, Ben.”

“I’m sorry. This is super creepy!”

“Just five minutes. I want to take a few temperature readings and try to capture an EVP.”

“Ah, fine!”

“Why don’t you explore the decorum. This part of the house is probably fancier. You know, first impressions and that kind of thing.”

Ben shone a light about the foyer at the bottom of the stairs while Zoey busied herself with ghost hunting.

“You’re right. Check out these wall sconces!”

“Uh, huh. Nice.”

“And the detail around the front door is absolutely exquisite.”

“Temperature’s cooler over here.”

Absorbed in taking photos, Ben stumbled unexpectedly over something.

“What the…? There’s crap all over the place. Watch your step.”

“Uh, huh. I will.”

Picking up a piece of rubble, Ben recognized the chalky, white material.

“Stucco.”

He flipped over another chunk, revealing the cracked visage of a woman.

“That’s a shame.”

“What?”

“Looks like someone decided to tear down and crush all this statuary.”

“Maybe an earthquake?”

“And dumped it all in a pile here?”

“Probably fell from the walls.

“Everything in here seems intact.”

“I don’t know then.”

“Me either. Are you ready to go? I like this place less and less the longer we’re here.”

“I want to go upstairs.”

“Come on. I’m bored and hungry.”

“And scared.”

“Yes, but I think I’ve made a lot of progress today. You’re not going to turn me into a paranormal investigator overnight.”

“Just to the top of the landing. I promise.”

“Fine.”

Zoey grinned and rushed over to give Ben a kiss.

“I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

“You better.”

Ben shivered, watching Zoey climb the stairs with the temperature gun in one hand and the EMF meter in the other. Her excitement grew with each step as her equipment’s sensors flashed and beeped with increasing intensity.

“You should come up here! This is amazing.”

“I’m good.”

The EMF meter’s lights silhouetting Zoey fell dark as she reached the last step.

“Damn! Can’t be the battery? I just charged everything.”

Frustrated, she examined the equipment.

“It’s a sign we should go.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Let’s go.”

Ben huffed as Zoey lingered.

“Hey! There’s lots more stucco up here. It’s all over the floor.”

Her feet crunched as she moved onto the balcony.

“You said to the top of the stairs. Come on, Zoey! Let’s go!”

“I think I figured out where all your stucco came from. The ceiling’s covered with it. See, I was right. It must have fallen during an earthquake. Look.”

Her phone’s narrow beam of light illuminated a classically-garbed figure.

“Its face is missing. Are there more?”

“Yeah.”

Zoey highlighted another statue.

“Have your tactical flashlight on you?”

“Yes. But, I thought you were worried about attracting attention.”

“Turn it on for a second. I want to see more of the ceiling.”

“Ooh, babe! Risky! I like this new, brave Ben.”

“Shut up and just do it.”

An oblong patch of light spilled across the ceiling revealing elaborate decorations and multiple effigies of robed women.

“It’s the muses.”

“How can you tell?”

“Easy. That one’s Urania with the globe and compass. There’s Terpsichore with a lyre. That one’s quite damaged, but I can see the comedy mask and shepherd’s staff. That’s Thalia. Besides, there are nine figures, one for each Greek muse.”

“You think someone vandalized these?”

“I mean, I guess an earthquake could have, but only the faces have been damaged.”

Zoey headed back toward the staircase.

“Hey, Ben? Something’s odd.”

Zoey’s voice sounded tense.

“What?”

“Only five have been defaced.”

“So?”

“Someone did this on purpose. And I think I know why.”

“Why?”

“You probably can’t see from down there, but scratches connecting the destroyed heads are scored into the plaster.”

“Probably caused by whatever they used to scrape the stucco away.”

“Maybe.”

Zoey’s step quickened as she descended the stairs.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to scare you, but you know there’s one thing I don’t mess around with when doing an investigation.”

“You mean…?”

“Don’t say it.”

Zoey stood close to Ben, squeezing his hand tight as she peered up.

“Five faces destroyed. Look at the order, the spacing. The lines are difficult to see down here, but that’s a pentagram.”

“That settles it. I’m definitely not a ghost hunter.”

“Come on, let’s get out of here.”

“Happily.”

Ben stopped short and turned.

“Put that crazy-ass light out.”

“No one’s going to see it. The place is boarded up.”

“Please turn it off.”

“Ok, ok.”

Darkness engulfed the room, surprising both of them.

“Turn your phone light back on!”

“It was on! Turn yours on!”

“I’m trying!”

“Stop fucking around, Zoey!”

“I’m not!”

“Use the flashlight again!”

“Give me a sec!”

“Zoey!”

“It’s not working either!”

The EMF meter squawked, indicator lights blazing.

“Zoey! The ceiling! Look at the ceiling!”

“Just run!”

Fleeing, Zoey glanced up. Unearthly eyes shone down menacingly from the five ruined faces forming the points of an eerily shimmering pentagram.


Word Count: 1500

Word Prompt: cracked stucco

Courtesy of The Twiglets. Great site for writing prompts and inspiration. Check it out!

Nakul and Indali

Hello!

I still can’t get the sound of the otters trying to convince Nakul to slide into the river out of my head. LOL.

I’ve written about Nakul and Indali before way back last July. Here are links providing a quick jump to those older posts for those interested. Enjoy!

I’m curious to learn more about these characters. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up featuring in future pieces of flash fiction.

Flash Fiction: Doing What You Want Instead of What You Otter.

Photo by Kieren Ridley on Pexels.com

Here is a quick piece I had fun with in response to April 25 Your Daily Word Prompt. Great Site. Check it out.


Nakul huffed as he lugged the bucket toward the river. 

“Why do I always have to fetch the water?”

The dusty path slowly wound its way downhill. A constant swarm of gnats nipped at the boy, further souring his mood. At first, he tried reasoning with them but realized their thirst and hunger made that impossible. 

“It’s just when she’s about to do something interesting, too!”

The heavy bucket bounced annoyingly against his legs. He hoped it would leave a bruise, causing Indali to feel guilty. 

“Don’t touch that, Nakul! Shh, Nakul! Back to work, Nakul! All she does is order me around.”

He had come to learn from Indali, but she hadn’t taught him anything as far as he was concerned. For months now, the woman merely lectured Nakul about responsibility and the danger of communicating with animals. He had tried to argue he couldn’t stop hearing what they said. Nonetheless, Indali insisted mastering his ability to tune out the surrounding wildlife’s constant chatter was important.

Continue reading “Flash Fiction: Doing What You Want Instead of What You Otter.”

Micro Fiction: Pressing Concerns


Hello All! After weeks of diligent work, I am proud to announce I’ve submitted my first story for consideration with the magazine, Shoreline of Infinity. September’s themed issue will feature fairytales with a science fiction twist. Anyone involved in writing knows, competition is fierce and rejections are inevitable. I’m just happy I finally had the guts to throw my hat into the ring! One can never succeed without trying! I’ll keep you posted as to when and where you can read my story.


In the meantime, my focus has returned to practicing my skills with flash fiction!

Enjoy the piece I wrote below for this month’s 75-Word Writing Challenge at Chronicles Sci-fi and Fantasy Community.

“Pressing Concerns”

“Gold!”

The barbarian tromped heedlessly forward.

“Padraig, wait!”

The thief cursed watching a flagstone sink. 

“Stop!”

Padraig froze.

“Ness? What’s wrong?”

“Pressure trap.”

“I stepped on it?”

“Yes.”

“Bah! Nothing happened!”

“Don’t move!”

Something clicked as Padraig lifted his foot. Tumbling backwards, Ness escaped the falling portcullis. She scowled through the grating.

“We’ve discussed this! Let me check first!”

“Can you open it?”

“Probably.”

“Uh oh! Ceiling’s dropping!”

“Good thing I work well under pressure.”


Word Count: 75 words

Genre: Speculative Fiction

Word Prompt: pressure

Flash Fiction: Eye of the Beholder

“Nothing ventured. nothing gained.”

Brion stood tall, proudly smirking. 

“Admit it. You doubted.”

Frowning, Marigold gazed into the garden.

“No, said it was dangerous.”

Most laughed until realizing Brion actually intended to try. The aldermen cautioned the pacifist farmer. 

“You’ll be accountable for any unpleasantry or mayhem.”

Anxious villagers considered Marigold’s husband’s goal foolhardy. Accusations of treason spread. The constable visited every day. 

Watching Uqukh work peacefully, Brion indulged his urge to boast.

“I know I’ve upset some, but it seemed right, offering the creature a chance to thrive.”

Marigold didn’t have the opportunity to reply. 

“Marigold! Marigold!”

The goblin rushed over, carrying a basket of vegetables.

“Lots of tasty roots, seeds, and pods. You take. Make a tasty supper?”

The sincere offering touched her. 

“Thank you, Uqukh. Yes, these will be delicious.”

Brion clapped the goblin on the shoulder. 

“Uqukh. It’s getting late. Time to bring the cattle in. Go give Dillon a hand. I’ll join you in a moment.”

Nodding enthusiastically, the goblin scampered off whistling. 

“Sorry, should’ve had more faith in you, my love. Fear prevented me from seeing the good you saw in him. You’ve saved his life.”

“All it took was patience, kindness, and love.”


Word Count: 200

In response to word prompt: thrive

Courtesy of Your Daily Word Prompt for March 14, 2022.

I encourage anyone looking for a fun, easy to interact with website for daily creative inspiration!

“The Forging of Isaz” (Part 7 of 7)

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. 

“Yes.”

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. 

“Agreed.”

“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?”

Gobban laughed. 

“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. 

“I disagree.”

“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?”

“Kalda?”

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,”

“Ok.”

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.”

“Oh.”

Gobban frowned.

“But, you’re not… I mean, you’ve… changed?”

Kalda reflected. 

“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. 

“How old…?”

“Older than you can count, master smith. And yet, I am beginning to feel young again.”

Flash Fiction: “Um…that’s Fake!”


Have to be honest, I struggle with word count limits!

Some writers really excel at crafting rich, meaningful flash fiction stories.

Check out this author I follow: joanne the geek. I’m always inspired by their ability to convey so much with so few words.

Well…practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. My goal this year is to enter writing contests requiring entries with 500 words or less.

Read my first contest entry below!


75 word (YES! ONLY 75 WORDS!) writing contest. The Prompt/Theme: Fake

My Name Is Actually Gill

Draca the Spider, weakened by age, ruled behind illusion and fabrications.

Pratt, ever an enterprising thief, sought to expand his operations.

Draca handed his bodyguard a potion.

“Assume my form. Eliminate this upstart!”

Infiltrating Pratt’s chambers, the swordsman surprised the man. Outmatched, Pratt fell for his opponent’s feint, exposing a flank.

“Pratt, disband your guild. Flee before the Spider decides to sting!”

“Ha! I only play at being Pratt while he visits the real Spider!”


Check out Chronicles Science Fiction & Fantasy Community for information on future flash fiction writing contests.

Writers Are Readers First!

Taking the Time to Applaud and Celebrate Others!

Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

As a new writer at the beginning of this journey into the creative process, I am fascinated with the new opportunities authors have with the advent of self-publishing platforms. One of the best things we can do as a writer is read, read, read (and read even more) content from our genre.

Below is a review of a recent book I enjoyed reading on my Amazon Kindle from author Kent Wayne (AKA Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha). Check it out!


A Door Into Evermoor (The Unbound Realm Book 1) by Kent Wayne

A Book Review

Two very different, competing desires drive an avid fantasy fiction reader’s decision to delve into a new book series. On the one hand, we all long to experience again the joy felt while reading a celebrated epic fantasy classic. Yet, we also choose to explore the work of new authors because we hope to encounter something fresh, unique, and unexpected. Kent Wayne endeavors valiantly to fulfill both of these needs with his first YA fantasy novel, A Door Into Evermoor.

The story introduces Jon, a college student struggling to find his life’s purpose. A bizarre chance encounter with a marine recruiter sets the young man onto the path of “something different.” The reader follows Jon into an alternate world comfortably familiar to fantasy fiction fans. But, Kent Wayne quickly surprises us while elucidating how Evermoor has recently fallen upon ill-times. A well-meaning wizard has created a vast network of magical forces, allowing instant communication and travel. Although initially used for the well-being of all, this magical technology lends itself to misuse and the rapid rise of hatred and tyranny. Sound familiar? If you read purely for escapism, fear not! There is plenty of arcane spell casting, sword-fighting, tavern brawling, pick-pocketing, and adventuring to satisfy any RPG enthusiast. The story’s tone alternates between light-hearted goofiness with frequent comical asides and moments of philosophical musing.

How the author attempts to draw parallels with actual current events does stand out. Anyone looking to contemplate the human condition playfully should read this novel. Kent Wayne follows a rich tradition of fantasy authors who use fiction to explore and better understand the world. This nascent epic series works both as a tale rendering the events of the quest to destroy evil and as a chronicle of personal growth. The Door to Evermoor subtly gently explores an individual’s fight to forge a uniquely meaningful life. The book’s more profound message argues misfortune results when a person resigns themselves to living a life full of monotonous routines, neglecting to exercise free will.

Support independent authors!!!

Just in case you missed it here’s link to book I just reviewed: A Door Into Evermoor (The Unbound Realm Book 1)

“The Forging of Isaz” (Part 6 of 7)

A Short Story Set in a Mythical Nordic Medieval World.

Photo by sam Hancock on Pexels.com

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 6 “Runes”

Holding the elegant blade aloft engendered within Gobban a hope he hadn’t felt for weeks. It felt good allowing himself to celebrate. But, the moment passed quickly. The smith became grave again, worry and concern shrouding the radiance on his face.

“Now, we come to the real test, Kalda.”

The ice sprite tensed, perceiving a solemn air of importance hovering between them. 

“If we fail, nothing short of divine intervention will stop the beast from consuming the entire kingdom with his infernal fire,” he said. 

Kalda reflected. 

“I fear the assistance you seek from the otherworld is already standing before you. I pray I am equal to the task.”

Gobban smiled, nodding. 

“I believe you are.”

“Tell me what needs to be done.”

“We must create the hottest possible fire to harden the sword. The winds you conjure should be sufficient.”

“What will prevent the steel from melting?”

“The magic inherent in this forge’s construction will imbue the metal with a resistance matching the fire’s intensity.”

“Then truly all that’s required to defeat our foe is to build a fire greater than its own.”

“Yes.”

Kalda studied Gobban’s face trying to identify what he didn’t say. 

“You are troubled by something else.”

Gobban snorted, shaking his head. 

“You see right through me.”

“It isn’t difficult to read your aura.”

Her revelation surprised the smith. He stared disbelievingly at Kalda. 

“My aura? You speak as a völvur. What signs do you see circling about me?”

The sapphire light behind the ice sprite’s eyes intensified. 

“You are afraid. Our task is more dangerous than you say.”

Gobban sighed. 

“I can’t be certain the forge will contain the fires even with my smithing magic. This is uncharted territory.”

“Remember, you don’t carry this burden alone, Gobban. You will have my magic supporting you. Together, we shan’t allow the fires to get out of control.”

“Your confidence is reassuring, but quenching the blade will present the most danger. The extreme shift in temperature is always violent.”

Kalda smiled, her magical barrier expanding. She reached out, touching the nearby barrel of water instantly freezing it. Gobban grimaced as the expanding ice cracked the wood. 

“Hey! There’s a hole in that now.” he laughed. 

“I wanted to remind you of what I am capable of.”

Gobban rolled his eyes.  

“I assure you I hadn’t forgotten.”

“Let us begin then?” Kalda asked. 

“Sooner we start, the sooner we’ll know if we’re successful.”

Gobban threw more fuel on the fire, carefully raking the coals to create a hollow. Laying the sword in the furnace, he raised his mighty voice to sing and chant while Kalda fed the flames with a steady current of frigid air.

Feast and Fed! Flare up! Burn bright! 

Surtr, the swarthy one, harken to my plea! 

Hammer, anvil, tongs, and bellows! 

Coal, wood, peat, and oil! 

Surtr, creation comes through you!

Fire, I seek.

Fire, I start.

Fire, I tend.

Fire, I shelter.

Forge of Muspellheim, my need is great!

The fire grew so intense it pained Gobban to stand close by. The hue of the flames shifted from blue to white. The radiance silhouetted Gobban as he paced, gesturing with his hands to evoke a shield of warding magic around the forge.

“The fire needs more air!” 

Kalda responded, increasing the airflow from outside.

“Good!” he shouted. 

Containing the heat and fire was becoming arduous. Gobban rushed to and fro, reinforcing the magical barriers. His voice grew hoarse, no longer singing, he shouted his incantations over the roar of the storm Kalda had brought into the room. 

Steinvegg strong have I built! Holde seg!”

Gobban gasped, exhausted from his efforts. As the flames intensified, they increasingly threatened to escape. The rising heat required him to redouble his focus on providing a scaffolding of magic about the sword, but continuing to confine the firestorm demanded too much of his attention. Ensuring the sword endured meant Gobban had to risk allowing the fire to damage the smithy.

Holde seg! Be content within the steinvegg!” 

The firestorm obeyed briefly as the smith called out to the ice sprite. 

“The sword is in danger! I can no longer protect it while reining in the fire’s desire to spread!”

“I will stand guard for errant flames!” Kalda said. 

Releasing his grasp on the raging inferno, Gobban watched in dismay as wooden beams above the furnace erupted into flames. He struggled to concentrate as a blast of snow and ice snuffed out the fire. He whooped gleefully, seeing the charred wood drip with moisture. Gobban could now focus on the sword, knowing Kalda would watch the fire. Thankful most things in the smithy were made of stone or metal, but he winced, noting his bellows had already been reduced to ash.

Attending to the steel blade nestled deep within the forge, Gobban saw it shone with the light of the midday sun. Now, his task was to maintain a tight wrapping of magical force about the sword. He naturally did this with all his craft, but rarely to this extent. Standard weapons and armor did not require a heat of this magnitude. 

Eventually, Gobban realized they could achieve no more. He decided to withdraw the sword from the forge. Hopefully, the heat they created was enough. Reports of city walls sloughing apart in the beast’s fiery grasp harried his mind. Urgently, the smith studied the forge’s stonework. The granite sill running atop the furnace’s circumference showed signs of bowing inward. Still, his spirits soared, noting the great slabs of dark augite lining the interior walls remained firm, holding their shape. 

“It is time! I am going to quench the sword! Prepare yourself, Kalda! Wrap yourself tight within your snowy magic!”

Gobban fearing the blade would bend, continued to chant a protective spell about his work. His hands screamed as intense heat instantly radiated up through the metal tongs. The pungent smell of singed hair clawed at his nostrils. Gobban charged forward, plunging the brilliant white steel into the quenching vat. The oil erupted violently, causing the smith to stumble backward. Gobban fought to maintain his grasp on the tongs as splattering grease peppered his unprotected arms with angry blisters.

“I fear our success is also our undoing! Our magic allowed us to preserve the sword’s integrity within a heat that should have melted it. But it’s taking too long to cool! I can sense the steel threatening to buckle. It will take all my skill to safeguard our progress.”

“Have a care!” Kalda shouted.

The smith disappeared behind a dark cloud as the oil started to smoke. The fumes billowed and spread, rolling across the ceiling, cascading down the walls to fill the room with their acrid stench. The roar of the boiling oil increased, reminding the ice sprite of a mountain stream swollen with spring meltwater. Gobban’s hazy outline reappeared as the oil ignited, throwing flames high. 

“It’s too hot! The amount of oil is insufficient! It shan’t cool the blade fast enough!” he cried.

 “Let me extinguish the fire and chill the sword,” Kalda said. 

“No! You’ll create an explosion! The ice and snow will react with the oil throwing it everywhere!” 

“Then what shall we do?” Kalda asked. 

“Snuff it out. Pull the air out again with your magic. We’ll have to start over once I devise a way to safely quench the blade.”

“But that will take more time!” 

“There is nothing else we can do. We can’t safely cool the blade fast enough right now.”

Coughing, eyes burning, Gobban continued to sing his magic as he extracted the sword from the burning vat. Oil clung to the metal, wreathing it in flames.

“Wait! It needs to be cooled quickly?”

“Yes, an almost instant drop in temperature is required,” he said. 

Gobban could sense the sprite was about to do something rash. 

“Stop, Kalda. Let us ponder and try again. It is too dangerous!”

“Brace yourself! Keep a firm stance!” she cried. 

“Kalda! No!”

A vortex materialized about the sword threatening to wrest it free with powerful suction. Currents of air siphoned heat, smoke, flame, and oil away from the blade carrying them out the window. Seeing clearly again, Gobban marveled the steel continued to glow brightly with a white-hot radiance. 

A narrow shaft of cold moisture struck without warning, enveloping the sword in pale blue magic. Gobban reflexively flinched against the blast of steam. But, the expected onslaught never came. A strong, warm current of air protected him from behind, shunting the hot vapors into the expanding whirlwind.

Within seconds the sword’s heat and its light diminished and disappeared completely. The smith reached carefully to test the temperature of the blade. He laughed, feeling it was cool to the touch.

“My gods! You’ve done it!”

Kalda danced about the room, chasing the smoke out and smothering the remaining pieces of leather, wood, and cloth still smoldering about the smithy. Gobban noted the ice sprite avoided the vat of fiery grease. She had listened to his warning about trying to use water to douse it. Laying the sword gently aside, he moved to deal with the burning oil. Throwing handfuls of the scouring sand onto the flames, he tamed the fire and secured a lid atop to extinguish the blaze.

“Did I quench the blade fast enough?” Kalda asked.

Gobban picked up the sword and carefully examined it. His face beamed as he looked up across the room. 

“Yes, Kalda,” he whispered, awestruck.

“We are done now?” she asked. “Have we succeeded?”

Gobban could only laugh as he nodded and wept for joy. 

“Yes, we have accomplished a miracle. This weapon has endured even when the granite stones have not. Look at my forge!”

“Then we are done.” Kalda smiled. 

“Almost. Now, let us gently heat our masterpiece to temper and relax the steel. This will prevent the blade from becoming brittle. Otherwise, it could shatter in battle. Supple strength is our goal.”

Gobban returned the sword to rest amid the diminished furnace coals. Kalda watched as he frequently adjusted the sword’s position to modulate the heat.

“We will need to clean and resharpen the edge once more. Are you able to repeat what you did before?”

“I do not tire easily as your kind does,” Kalda smirked. 

“You underestimate humanity.” he laughed. 

Another layer of snow and ice buried Gobban as he held the blade beneath the scouring magic Kalda created. But, the smith found it easier to tolerate knowing their work would indeed fashion a weapon capable of defending the kingdom. He dried and oiled the sword admiring its beauty. Gobban looked up, beaming at Kalda.  

“I believe, my dear Kalda….” Gobban stopped short, realizing what he had just said. He flushed with embarrassment. 

Kalda’s blue incandescent gaze sparkled. 

“Continue my master smith. What do you believe?”

Gobban’s heart burned with a stinging warmth like the tingle fingers experience while thawing from frostbite.

“I believe this is the strongest blade I have…we could ever craft,” he said. 

“Then we have succeeded?”

“I can dare to hope so.”

Kalda thought for a moment. 

“Do you not ward your weapons with runes?”

“Yes, I often do when the need is great.”

“Which will you etch into this blade?”

Gobban considered. 

“Mannaz, certainly, to support and augment the wielder’s power. Urug to foster strength of will. Algiz to provide protection. Naudhiz to declare a great need. Lastly, Sowila to claim success.”

Kalda nodded, quietly thinking. Gobban watched a frown spread across her face. 

“What? What is it?”

“I suggest you add one more additional rune.”

“Which one?”

“Isaz.”

“The ice rune?”


Coming Next: (Part 7 of 7) “Winter Thaws”

“The Forging of Isaz” (Part 5 of 7)

A Short Story Set in a Mythical Nordic Medieval World.

Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

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 5 “Force of Nature”

Absorbed by visions of the unfinished blade’s future glory, Gobban’s dreamy eyes widened into a far-off stare. A rich, exultant laugh burst forth from his mouth as a triumphant smile creased his face.

Kalda was moved, and yet, puzzled by Gobban’s sudden outburst.  

“Claymore?” she asked.

The question’s sobering effect was instantaneous.

“Oh, I see.”

“What is it you see?” she asked eagerly. 

“Forgive me, Kalda. I do not mean to speak in riddles. Let me explain what a claymore is.”

“I assume it is a mighty sword.”

“Yes, in the hands of an able swordsman, it is formidable.”

“This lethal weapon is your creation?”

“No. It is a Pictish blade.”

“Pictish?”

“Across the western sea lies a kingdom of fierce warriors. We raided their coastal villages as is our custom, quickly finding the Picts to be capable foes. Our men returned with tales of a mighty sword outmatching our best blades. The king respectfully made peace, pledging friendship. Our two peoples have since wreaked great havoc upon the weaker southern peoples. This alliance has brought great wealth and renown to our kingdoms.”

Kalda took a step backward, shaking her head. 

“You are a mighty people. I tremble to think what will become of the Alfar and even the gods themselves if you made war upon us.”

Gobban reached out a hand beseechingly.

“Fear not, Kalda. We are more than our ambitions. Most of us are quick to mend our ways when we recognize the pain it causes.”

Kalda stood her ground behind an intensified screen of protective snows.  

“Humans have always yearned for more. They waste their meager years seeking greater wealth, power, and control.”

Gobban cringed, feeling the weight of Kalda’s judgment.

“Yes. You are correct. Our mortality renders us susceptible to envy and other dark emotions. Too many are jealous of the splendor the Alfar possess. But, I think attacking the fey people is an attack on nature itself. Well, anyway, that’s what my mother taught me.”

Kalda said nothing for a time. Gobban worried the ice sprite would leave. But, gradually, the magic veil about her thinned as the snowy vortex slowed its rotation. The smith realized he desperately needed Kalda to trust him.

“This weapon will protect and defend, Kalda. I give you my word.”

The woman listened to his words, reflecting. She then nodded solemnly, stepping forward.

“Who will wield it?”

Gobban was taken aback by the question. He shook his head, shrugging. 

“That’s not for me to decide. But, I suspect the king’s son will.”

“Why?”

“The prince is greatly skilled in arms. He is honorable, asking of others only what he asks of himself. He alone has returned alive from attempting to slay the beast in one-to-one combat. If anyone can dispatch the fiery devil, the prince can.”

“Then let us return to fashioning a sword worthy of this protector of the people.”

“Agreed.” 

Gobban looked down to reexamined the sword. He shook his head, clucking his tongue. 

“We’ve dallied too long. I need to restore the metal to a workable temperature.”

Returning the blade to the forge, Gobban sighed, staring into the fire as he waited. He could feel the ice sprite’s sapphire blue eyes upon him in the silence. He turned to face Kalda. 

“Thank you for helping me.”

Kalda nodded. 

“Sing, master smith. Sing to the fire. I would hear your song of heat and flame again as I fan the coals.”

Gobban smirked. 

“With pleasure.”

Each better understood how to complement and support the other’s efforts, and they found themselves working together with greater ease.

Gobban stood confidently, legs wide, hands on his hips, singing to the fire. His leather apron and hair thrashed about him in the winds Kalda conjured. Sparks leaped into the air, dancing in the smoke, as the smith banked the coals around the steel. 

Kalda noted the strength of Gobban’s build. She marveled, watching him labor so close to the furnace’s raging inferno. The ice sprite imagined she watched a jötunnic smith high atop a fire mountain far to the north. She had heard many tales of how the giants forged mighty weapons within the molten fires deep inside those peaks.  

Gobban once again laid the soft, pliable sword on the anvil. Kalda could see the air above the hot metal ripple and wave. As before, she outstretched her hands, summoning the cold from outside. Her fingers danced as she constructed an eddy of cool wind about the blade. Periodically with a flick of her wrist, she would toss a slight breeze across the smith’s sweating brow. 

Sparks erupted like fireworks as Gobban pounded the steel. The unworked end slowly curved and narrowed with each hammer fall. Eventually, Gobban had pinched the steel into a point. Satisfied, the smith lay the sword flat. Beginning with one side, he painstakingly adjusted the force of his strikes to create a beveled edge down the sword’s length. Flipping it, he repeated the process, compressing the other side’s boxy shape. Gobban stopped to admire his work. 

“You are satisfied?” Kalda asked. 

“I am pleased with the proportions and how the weight is distributed.”

The smith swung the blade smoothly. 

“Are you a skilled swordsman as well?”

“My skill ends with the crafting of the weapon. I leave the gruesome work to others better suited to the task than I.”

Kalda studied the man. 

“I sense you would be a dangerous foe if pushed to fight.”

Gobban abruptly looked at Kalda.

“I certainly would do all I could in my power to protect the weak and vulnerable.”

The smith once again found himself staring intently into the ice sprite’s eyes. 

“And… if the time ever arose, I hope I wouldn’t hesitate to lay down my life safeguarding those I love.”

Wondering why his mind dwelt on thoughts of love, Gobban realized he teetered on the edge of a strange emotional precipice. He was a human, and she was an ice sprite, a jötunnic being. He didn’t know if she possessed the capability to feel love. Chastising himself for becoming distracted, Gobban tried to refocus on the task of creating a weapon to slay the flame monster. 

For her part, Kalda was also perplexed. At first, she thought she was too close to the forge but then decided the peculiar itch of warmth she felt had to be something else. Struggling to identify the strange sensation, the ice sprite startled, realizing it felt oddly familiar on one level. Kalda couldn’t recall ever feeling this before. Perplexed, she decided it was prudent to lay the mystery aside and focus on aiding Gobban’s work.

“What happens now, Gobban?” she asked. 

The smith panicked; he coughed to hide his embarrassment. 

“Kalda?” he squeaked. 

“Surely, you have more work to do before the sword is complete,” she stated. 

Relief flooding over Gobban. He smiled, forcing a laugh as he nodded his head rapidly. 

“Oh, yes! Yes! Yes, the next step is normalizing. I have to normalize the adamantium steel. This process requires a little less heat.”

“Shall I reduce the airflow then? Do you want me to continue fanning the forge fires?”

“Yes, please. But, not too much.”

Eager to move away from Kalda, Gobban returned the sword to the forge. He wanted to clear his head. He cursed inwardly the persistent ache of tension he now felt around the ice sprite.

“What will normalizing accomplish?” Kalda asked. 

Grateful for the opportunity to redirect his thoughts, Gobban happily explained in detail what was required during this part of the process.  

“There are internal weaknesses scattered throughout the steel now after shaping it with the hammer and anvil. This must be mended and set right. It is the first step in hardening and strengthening the sword.”

“I see. And a cooler flame will repair these injuries sustained during the forging?”

“Yes.”

The smithy grew quiet again as they waited. Gobban listened to the crackle of the fire. The moonlight coming through the window highlighted delicate snowflakes floating about in the gentle currents of air Kalda fanned into the furnace. The smith watched pensively as the sword began to glow again with a hellish orange light. He shuffled coals around to maintain the perfect temperature like a cook fussing over a complicated dish. Eventually, he pulled the sword out of the fire.

“How do you know when it’s ready?” Kalda ask.

Gobban snorted and chuckled. 

“Years and years of practice.” he smiled and shrugged his shoulder. “Truthfully, it’s just a hunch.”

Laying the sword on the anvil, Gobban fumbled about in his pockets. After a moment’s search, he found what he wanted. The smith held up a dark, pitted stone.

“Lodestone,” he stated.

“I don’t know what that is.”

“A wayfinder?”

“I am unfamiliar with that word too.”

“Helmsman use such stones to guide our ships west across the sea?”

Kalda stared uncomprehendingly. 

“This stone longs for the iron residing within strong steel. I learned from a young age to test the metal of a new sword to ensure a lodestone clings to it. Shaping the sword disrupts its ability to lure and hold fast such a stone. If there is no attraction, the sword is weak and will break in battle.”

“Normalizing…restores this attraction?”

“Yes.”

Gobban crooned with happiness, seeing the lodestone stick to the blade as he waved the sword about.

“She begins to look like a real sword!” Gobban exclaimed. 

“Indeed it does.”

“Now, we must smooth and hone the blade. I must warn you this is a tediously long process.”

Kalda ventured closer to look upon the rough, blackened blade while Gobban lumbered off to a far corner of the room. 

“How will you clean and sharpen it?”

“Sand, gravel, and wool will scrub the blade clean. I’ll sharpen it with my whetstone.” Gobban called out distractedly. 

The smith had overturned a large barrel and rolled it over. Righting the cask, he popped off the top to reveal water still sloshing about from the movement. Gobban had several burlap sacks over his shoulders which he let drop with a thud to the stone floor. He reached into one bag and pulled out a handful of fine sand. 

“I’ll scour the steel with grit finer and finer and then finish with a clump of rough wool. The metal will gleam like a mirror when done.”

The smith smiled smugly. 

“How long does that take?” Kalda asked with a raised eyebrow. 

“Ooh, it could take days.”

“Does the kingdom have time for that? How many more will die while you perfect your art?”

“Now, listen. It’s the only way to ensure I don’t mar the balance while putting a razor-sharp edge on it.”

“I still don’t really see how I’ve helped you craft a better sword. Is all this effort going to work?”

Gobban looked sadly up from scraping the flat of the blade. 

“I don’t know, Kalda. We have greatly increased the forge’s heat. I have been able to shape the steel in less than a quarter of the time it normally takes me. But, the most difficult work is still before us. I hope using your magic will allow me to harden the sword with a temperature more potent than the beast’s.”

“I overheard a rumor your cities’ stone walls have been bested by the monster. Surely, your stone forge would not contain a fire so hot.”

“I do not know what stone those walls were constructed of. Some rock is better suited to heat and flame. I can only hope the forge’s stonework can contain a stronger fire.”

Gobban went back to work. Kalda silently watched and waited.

“You may as well go and rest, Kalda. Wouldn’t you prefer the cold outdoors? I will labor through the night and tomorrow. Return next night, and we shall build an even mightier fire to harden the sword.”

Kalda said nothing, intently observing Gobban scrub and wash the steel. 

“I may be able to quicken the process for you. Is it the blade ready to endure great cold?” the ice sprite suddenly interjected. 

Gobban stopped to consider the question. His eyes narrowed apprehensively.

“Yes, provided we don’t hit it with a direct strike. What are you proposing?”

Kalda’s azure eyes gleamed with excitement. 

“Water and ice grind down even the mightiest of mountains over time. I have witnessed incredible changes made in a short time when their power is focused. Allow me to use my magic to clean and hone the blade.”

“Unconventional. This I would like to see.”

Gobban held out the blade forgetting how Kalda had suffered when touching the steel before. The ice sprite flinched reflexively. 

“I’m sorry. I should have remembered the effect metal has on you. I will hold the blade for you.”

“I fear my magic my harm you, Gobban. I will venture nearer the heat to work with the sword at the anvil. But, I will still need you to secure the blade and maneuver it when need be.”

“Then we shall take solace in the fact both of us are uncomfortable. It will make the suffering bearable.”

“Indeed.”

Standing close together, Gobban shivered, his breath crystallizing. Kalda pulled her protective screen of wintery weather close to her body. The perpetual swirling vortex hissed, creating a cloud of mist above her. 

“Scrubbing away the carbon from the fire is simple enough, but allow me to quickly demonstrate the basic technique required to hone the edges.”

Kalda carefully noted the angle and direction Gobban used to run the whetstone along the sword’s edge. 

“I have seen enough to mimic your technique. Hold the blade as securely as you can. The blast will be strong.” Kalda said. 

Gobban readied his grip, nodding he was set for Kalda to begin. 

“I will do my best to direct the ice flow away from you.”

Gobban smirked. 

“I appreciate that.”

Knowing something was going to happen still failed to prepare Gobban. Chaos exploded, instantly engulfing him. The sword jolted forward, nearly slipping free from the smith’s firm grasp. His eyes snapped shut as a spray of ice struck, needling his skin with countless pricks of pain. A high-pitched squeal pierced the air, and a biting cold rapidly numbed his hands.

He tried to watch, but Kalda’s magic obscured the sword behind the turbulence of her wintry power. Gobban held the sword with all his might. Time became difficult to discern. He began to worry the ice sprite would damage the steel.

“Flip the blade!” Kalda said. 

The command buoyed Gobban’s ebbing resolve. He wrenched his frozen hands, twisting the sword over. 

The freezing flow of arcane forces shifted, coating the smith in a fine layer of sleet and snow. His body ached as if suddenly plunged into a cold, underground well. He consoled himself, knowing the task was half-finished.

“Can you manage to slide the sword slowly at an angle one way and then another? I want to better sharpen the edge!”

“I’ll try! It’s difficult to see through this storm of yours!”

Working metal, day in and day out, for years upon the stalwart anvil, Gobban knew its every bump, dent, and crack. He discovered he had no need to see to find his way about. The smith expertly positioned the blade pushing its edge slowly into the blast of icy magic.  

As quickly as it began, the tumult ceased. Relative quiet returned, although Gobban failed to notice due to the residual ringing in his ears.

“Is this what you desire?” Kalda asked. 

Opening his eyes, the smith beheld the brilliant gleam upon the sword. Immediately, he recognized he would have spent hours polishing to achieve what Kalda had in minutes. 

Gobban was speechless.

Lifting the sword from the anvil, the smith winced as bits of skin from his palms stuck to the frigid metal. He moved closer to the fire, allowing the weapon to warm. Gobban ran a bloodied hand along the flat of the sword, now smooth as the surface of a river stone. Rotating the blade, he tested the edge with his thumb. He felt the satisfying nip of sharpness bite into him. 

“Yes,” he whispered. “This is marvelous work, Kalda.”

Gobban looked to see how the ice sprite fared so close to the forge. Surprisingly, Kalda beamed, a smile dominating her face. She showed hardly any sign of distress. In fact, he decided she looked healthier than before. Kale’s facial features appeared less severe. He noted a softness in her lips and a hint of pink on her cheeks. The smith marveled, unable to account for the change.

“Kalda, contrary to what you may say, I think the heat suits you.”

The ice sprite raised one eyebrow quizzically and laughed. 

“Gobban, I fear the cold from my magic disagrees with you! You look like a straggling mountain-top pine. Are you still well under that layer of ice and snow?”

The smith ran a hand through his hair, causing ice to cascade to the floor around him. Stomping his feet, brushing his clothes off, he laughed with Kalda. 

“Never fear, my lady. The heat required to harden and temper our work will thaw my body.”

Gobban held the sword aloft, admiring it in the firelight. The weapon glistened radiantly, reflecting the fire’s dancing flames upon its polished steel. 


Coming Next: (Part 6 of 7) “Runes”