“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”

“The Forging of Isaz” (Part 2 of 7)

A Short Story Set in a Mythical Nordic Medieval World.

Photo by Simon Berger 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. 
  • 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. 

Gobban beamed.

“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. 

“Yes.”

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