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 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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.
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?”
“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.”
“The ice rune?”
Coming Next: (Part 7 of 7) “Winter Thaws”