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.
- Skadi: winter goddess of jötunnic origins.
- Seiomenn: men who practice conjuring magics.
- Greta: the queen’s seeress.
- Alfar: fairies, elves.
Part 1 “Prologue“
The attack had come unexpectedly upon a village situated far to the north, close to the mountains. Its people were a wary lot. Raids were not uncommon, but everything about this assault was unusual. In the middle of winter, the village looked to fire for comfort and protection. Instead, it gave rise to utter ruin and death. The settlement was destroyed, burnt to the ground. The survivors fleeing south whispered of an infernal creature composed entirely of flames.
The borders were reinforced with more of the king’s guard from the cities. Eventually, the fiery beast appeared again. Steel and magic were brought to bear against this unknown threat but to no avail. The creature blasted and melted all it confronted.
The kingdom had until recently enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity. The king’s smith had labored tirelessly to produce fantastical items of power capable of keeping the countryside safe throughout the darkest times of the year. But, Gobban wrought in with fire. Heat, light, and flame were essential to his craft. With the aid of these elements, he shaped and imbued his metals with fiery magic. His weapons enabled the king’s guard to drive back icy giants who came down from the mountains with their cold, cruel pangs of hunger to hunt.
Now, Gobban was faced with an entirely different kind of threat. He threw himself into the task of forging a weapon to slay the monster. The smith efforts were thwarted by the incredible intensity of the beast’s fires. Gobban knew success depended on founding his weaponry within the mightiest heat he could bring to bear. But, the fiend proved capable of burning far hotter than any fire the smith could fashion. No matter how he hardened and tempered the steel, the weapons melted and turned to slag upon striking this implacable foe.
Gobban revealed with great pain and embarrassment, he did not have the wherewithal to protect his craft from the ruinous effects incurred within the fiend’s internal firestorms. Only the random appearance of harsh winter snows did anything to hinder the fiery demon. But, ever the threat returned when the storms abated.
As time passed, people fled south, seeking safety behind city walls. The king’s guard was reduced to keeping peace and order among the refugees or providing swift transport to seiomenn attempting to conjure foul weather to douse the devilish brute’s inferno.
As soon as the news reached the citadel of the first assault on a fortified city, tensions ran high as people waited to discover if its defenses would hold. Grim was the report declaring even solid stone walls gave way beneath the onslaught of hellishly hot blows. Everyone wondered what would stop this new terror when the summer suns returned?
With Gobban’s armaments failing and the seiomenn’s abjuration magic proving ineffective, the king turned to the völvur to uncover a way to save the kingdom. The seers, with the queen, withdrew into solitude to probe the spirit world for answers. Err long, the völvur, with the aid of their seidr magic, announced a strategy had been divined to defeat the enemy.
During the king’s council, a path to salvation was laid out. Beyond the borders, a being existed with the knowledge Gobban lacked. The seers spoke of marrying the power of fire and ice to create a sword. They urged the king to dispatch an envoy with speed to parley and strike a bargain securing the desired assistance.
Gobban was dismayed. He begged to learn more details regarding the exact nature of the omens. He could only perceive a great folly in their plan. He wondered how he could be expected to lay all he knew aside, to ignore reason! He argued some laws of nature could not be disregarded. And yet, Gobban was expected to try.
Greta, the queen’s seeress, a woman greatly respected, if not afeared, was adamant Gobban must forge a great sword to serve as a talisman against the unstoppable devil. She vowed there was no other way. She insisted salvation lie within Gobban’s reach. Every portent the völvur read alluded to a blade quenched and tempered within frigid forces only Skadi, the winter goddess, could provide. This paradox would forestall the perils posed by the diabolical heats wreathing the beast.
The smith balked at the absurdity of this idea. Fire and ice did not suffer each other’s company; they could not co-exist. Gobban was dreadfully afraid. He refused to believe deliverance would come from steel. He begged the völvur to scry again. Gobban suggested looking to the boundless waters of the sea to bring about an end to the monster. But, the king and the other council members were confident this was the course of action to take.
Eventually, the smith acquiesced, agreeing to carry out this preposterous scheme. But, he was devoid of all hope. Gobban granted a radical change in tactics was necessary, but he doubted this approach was it. He could find no solace in the auguries. All others were convinced a frost forged blade would endure the inferno long enough to pierce the beast’s heart. But, Gobban worried his skills were insufficient for the job.
The fleetest messengers were dispatched to the wilds of the mountains and forests. Quick was the reply. Now, a stranger was coming to work with the smith. Disliking the unknown, Gobban’s mind fell to endlessly speculation.
Who or what was coming? Was this wild ally human? Could it be possible, Skadi herself would arrive?
Gobban didn’t believe the winter goddess would deign to intervene directly. Indeed, he thought she’d send a vassal or minion to nose about his smithy. But, the question of what or who continued to torment the smith.
What he did know failed to allay his trepidation. Whatever journeyed toward him and his forge was traveling from the hinterlands, a place inhabited by giants, spirits, and gods. He had been taught from an early age to avoid such areas. In the counsels, Gobban did not reveal his immense distrust of the jötunn. Now, he regretted holding his tongue.
Blast the völvur and their signs! Help must come from the jötunn? Twaddle, I say! Gibberish indeed! Only a fool harkens to dubious advice from a chaotic otherworldly being!
Gobban believed unless Skadi and her attendants chose to directly confront the fiery monster, no genuine aid would come from that quarter. He wondered quietly what her motives were. Many invoked Skadi for warmth and succor throughout the dark months of the year, but Gobban was not one of them.
He remembered and distrusted the goddess’ origins. Skadi was not always exalted as one of the gods. She was a giantess, a member of the jötunn. Gobban had dedicated his life to keeping the darker jötunnic powers at bay. Reflecting, he realized the prospect of collaborating with the winter goddess had quite unnerved him. The smith prayed he was up to the task.
Coming Next: (Part 2 of 7) “The Arrival”