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: Psychological Warfare

Here’s this month’s attempt at micro fiction! My goal is to effectively convey an image or idea with very few words. Fun, but quite challenging! Hope you enjoy!

“Victory, together, no matter the cost! Venerate, protect, our supreme overlord!”

Why am I shouting?

Left, left, left, right, left.

I can’t stop marching!

Edward awoke, upright, moving, surrounded by soldiers. Bewildered, he struggled to remember.

What’s going on?

Images remerged of a demagogue railing against traitors within and enemies without.

(Resist. You’re brainwashed.)

Who’s there?

(We’re overriding your programming remotely. You’re free to think and do as you please.)

Edward halted, dropping his weapon.


Word Count: 75

Word Prompt: march

Prompt from Chronicles Science Fiction and Fantasy Community‘s 75 Word Challenge.

“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.”

“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 4 of 7)

A Short Story Set in a Mythical Nordic Medieval World.

Photo by Pixabay 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 4 “Songs of the Winter Forge”


Frigid air rushed into the room as Kalda stopped speaking. She turned to face the smith and his subdued forge. She furrowed her brows with concern, biting her lower lip. Gobban felt the display of emotion made the winter fairy appear more human. He instantly longed to comfort the sprite, reassuring her no great harm had been done by her magic. As he stared, he wondered what made the fey folk so different and yet similar to humans. 

“I did not realize, Gobban. I am sorry. I only sought to help.”

“Do not worry. I am hale and hearty. It will take only a little effort to recover the necessary heat to continue forging.”

Gobban walked to the furnace and stirred the embers. Adding more coal, he began to work at the bellows again and sing his enchantments to the fire.

Wood, coal, peat, and pitch.

Awaken, ignite, erupt and blaze.

Work have I, metal to shape.

Heed my voice. Raise the heat.

Ore is hard, brittle, and dense.

Coal is hot, eager to burn.  

Heed my voice. Raise the heat. 

Relax, soften, pliable be.

Hammer, anvil will transform. 

Work have I, metal to shape. 

Heed my voice. Raise the heat. 

Offerings from the four winds I make. 

Breathe deep, leap up….”

Gobban abruptly stopped chanting, letting out a triumphant shout.  

“Kalda! How foolish of me. I know exactly how you can aid my efforts!” 

“How?”

“We’ve had it backward! We don’t want to remove the air; we want more of it!”

The ice sprite peered intensely at Gobban, her sapphire blue eyes burning bright. 

“I do not understand. The cold, chill, winter air will assist in intensifying the fire?”

“Fire is alive, Kalda. It dies without air. It breathes like a living thing. The more air it consumes, the greater its heat. Speak with the wintery winds. Convince them to fan the flames in the forge. Surely, that will muster the heat I and my song can not.”

Kalda looked perplexed.

“You need the air to go into the fires?”

“Yes.”

“But, the winter winds are frigid. They are fierce and mean. They will try to destroy you and your fire. Even humans extinguish a candle with their breath.”

“That is true. But, this fire will not go out. The gusts will only make it grow.”

“Won’t you be burnt?”

“I may singe hair and scorch my hide, but gods willing, the runes I wear will prevent any lasting harm. And every smith has to concern himself with a fire out of control at one time or another. One of the first smithing songs I learned was a tune of taming. The flames will obey me. They will not leave the furnace. I will demand they remain content with their fuel and promise to keep them ever well-fed.”

Kalda nodded with a smirk and a glint in her eyes. 

“I will call upon the winter wind. It will come. Like your flames, it obeys me.”

Gobban spirits soared, feeling this strange, new connection to Kalda. His hopes for crafting a weapon capable of slaying the beast rose. He resolved going forward to have more respect for the völvur. Not since boyhood had he observed the effects of their guidance directly. As an adult, Gobban often downplayed the importance of fate, declaring he was master of his own destiny.

“Right! Let’s work with all haste.” Gobban said. 

Kalda’s voice rose with her song again. Gesturing, she beckoned the wintery elements in. The incoming air whipped about her. The ice sprite’s protective shell of magic guttered like a candle in the wind. Bits of snow, sleet, and ice hissed, violently evaporating into angry wisps of moisture as they were pulled toward the heat. Within the furnace, Goabban watched the coals flare up with a burst of flames. There was no need to pump the bellows.

“It’s working!” the smith called out. 

Gobban uttered his chants, monitoring the rapid change in the steel. It already was the familiar golden, yellow glow. Gobban observed blue flames develop, indicating the fire was growing hotter. His thoughts drifted to the tales of the devilish monster melting raw stone. He wondered exactly how hot the beast’s fire raged. He needed to forge his steel with a temperature even more intense. But, Gobban suspected the metal would then be too soft to work. Nevertheless, he knew he had to try. 

“The forge needs to burn hotter!” he bellowed. 

“I will not hold back then,” Kalda said. 

A maelstrom of wintry precipitation raged within the smithy. The stone floor was slick and damp. Kalda strained to usher more air in against a steadily building resistance. Holding the winds inside was like keeping an upturned bucket full of air underwater. 

“It would be best to open the opposite window. It will provide a path for the currents to exit. This will generate better airflow!” Kalda cried out. 

Gobban perceived the ice sprite’s growing struggle. Only a thin layer of the protective magic encircling her was discernible. 

“It’s becoming too hot for you!” he said.

He was becoming acutely aware the same was true for him. A terrible thirst wracked his throat, his lips felt cracked, and his exposed skin was blistering. 

“I won’t give up! If we can vent this torrid air through another window, I can draw in more wind to fan the forge fires without it circling back upon myself.”

Gobban ran to the shuttered window on the far wall and flung it open. A gust of escaping air buffeted him about as it rushed out. 

“It is done! Is it helping?”

“Yes!”

Gobban shielded his eyes from the brilliant light from the coals as he returned to his forge. He beheld within the inferno the blazing white-hot steel. It threatened to bend as he pulled it from the furnace. He hastily draped the steel bar across the anvil. Carefully modulating the intensity of his swing, Gobban let his hammer fall. The metal over responded to the blow. 

“Blast! It’s too soft!” he yelled.

“Wait, let me help. I comprehend now what you are endeavoring to accomplish.” 

Before the smith could respond, he felt the icy stab of a focused current of frigid air strike him. Glancing down quickly to his anvil, he saw the metal’s light dim. Gobban hammered again. The steel pushed back with tenacity while yielding favorably to the smith’s demands. 

“Well done, Kalda! The metal remains hotter and softer internally. Yet, somehow, this gentle cooling has returned just enough external integrity allowing me to continue to shape it.”

“Good. I greatly desire to observe the final result of our efforts.”

Gobban hazarded a quick glance toward Kalda. His heart leaped upon seeing an intense smile upon her face. 

“Yes, I too am eager to learn more of the unique nature this blade will possess.”

Both labored tirelessly in such a fashion. Kalda alternately kept the furnace flames ready and hot while bathing the sword Gobban worked with subtle jets of cool air. The smith could hammer and shape for longer intervals of time and waited less for the metal to return to optimal temperature when reheated.

“I will now draw the blade out.”

Gobban returned the steel briefly to the forge. Returning the sword to his anvil, he furiously attacked it with a shower of blows. Each strike fell diagonally at an angle to the length of the blade. Before long, Kalda could see the steel was noticeably thinner and had doubled its reach. 

“You have pulled the metal out to a great extent, Gobban. Will the blade not be too weak if stretched so far?” Kalda asked. 

“That would be the case with lesser steel, but adamantium steel is exceedingly strong. We are fortunate to be working with such a quantity of the highest quality material.”

“Will it be what humans call a longsword?”

“I intend to expand the reach of this weapon even further. The fiery beast radiates scorching flames far beyond its body. I hope to provide this sword’s wielder with the ability to strike from the furthest possible distance.”

“It will be a great sword indeed then.”

“It will be nearly a foot longer than a longsword. This shall be a great claymore blade!”


Coming Next: (Part 5 of 7) “Force of Nature”

“The Forging of Isaz” (Part 3 of 7)

A Short Story Set in a Mythical Nordic Medieval World.

Photo by Magoi 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 3 “Fire Draws Breath

Gobban panicked, seeing the pain in Kalda’s face. He suddenly had an intense desire to comfort and reassure her.

“Our people only use the weapons I make to protect the outlying villages from raids. We prefer peace with the mountain folk. If ever it comes, I long for the day when I may use my skills to craft fair and beautiful things to enjoy.”

Kalda’s cool blue eyes shifted. Her far-off gaze hinted she was carefully weighing Gobban’s words.

“The jötunn can be cruel and harsh. Most are jealous of the love the gods show for humans.”

“I know one or two jötunn who have aided men lost and near death in the wilderness.”

“You have journeyed through the forests into the mountain realm?”

“I was born and raised in a small, northern village. My home is in the foothills of the mountains.”

“You intrigue me, Gobban. You are a human, and yet, your aura is rather otherworldly. Perhaps your ancestors had propitious dealings with the fey folk. I have heard of humans rewarded for performing an act of service for the dwarves or the alfar.”

“I know not my lady, but my mother was the völvur for our village. We practiced the old ways. My father and grandfather were smiths before me. From them, I have learned the little I know of the magic runes I use to enhance my craft.”

Kalda nodded, looking past Gobban to the forge. Her curiosity was evident.

“Shall we begin?” he asked.

“Yes.”

Returning to his furnace, Gobban placed the steel bar into the fire. He sang softly with a rich baritone the secret rhymes his forebears used to intensify their fires. Working the bellows, he coaxed more heat from the brightly blazing coals. Abruptly, he stopped to inspect the steel. Faint blue flames licked along the edges of the metal.

“How will you know when the metal is ready?” Kalda called out.

“A natural fire requires longer to soften the metal. Our time being short, I have sung an incantation to quicken the process. I can tell when the steel is ready to work by the color.”

Gobban’s tongs lifted the bar of metal up for Kalda to see.

“Observe how the steel gives off a dim orange glow? When it dazzles like the noon-day sun, it will be ready.”

Gobban placed the metal back into the flame. He sang again, louder and bolder. After a few minutes, he withdrew the steel from the fire again. The metal gleamed yellow-white. Kalda could see the air surrounding it waver in the intense heat. She pulled her swirling cold tighter about her, warding herself from the heat.

“I will now begin by shaping the tang,” Gobban said.

The smith lay the steel strip atop the anvil and edge hammered one end of the metal. With every hammer blow, sparks exploded out like miniature shooting stars. Watching with fascination, Kalda hadn’t expected the process to be so loud. Gobban stopped periodically to inspect his progress. The ice sprite observed how rapidly the steel’s light faded, returning to its former orange-red glow.

“It cools fast.”

“Yes. I must return it to the fire.”

Gobban replaced the blade into the furnace and resumed singing and pumping the bellows. With the brilliance reinvigorated, he started hammering again.

“Why do you not sing the heating chant while hammering to keep the blade soft longer?”

“I would if I could sustain such effort, my lady. But, the strength needed to shape the metal demands too much of me.”

Kalda found herself impatient with the need to continually reheat the metal.

“With your leave, master smith, I think I know now how to help you.”

Gobban stopped. Sweating and breathing heavily, he studied the ice sprite.

“I welcome any assistance, but how my lady?”

“I can keep the metal hot and soft.”

“That would allow me to work at longer intervals. But, how?”

“I perceive the coldness in the air is actively interfering with your task. It resents the intense heat and tries to dampen it. I will summon the chill air to me, comfort it and ease its distress.”

Gobban was startled to hear Kalda speak about the air in such a fashion. The smith intimately knew fire. It was lively, temperamental. But, he gave little regard to the other elements. He merely understood them as inanimate materials to be used.

“You speak of strange things. You widen my perspective,” Gobban said.

“Perhaps, that is how my mistress feels I will aid you. Humans don’t fully appreciate the elemental forces in this world.”

Gobban snorted and nodded.

“So, you can call to the air, pacify it, and you believe this will cause the steel to remain hot longer?”

“Yes. It will stop trying to moderate the extreme temperatures from the forge.”

Gobban grimaced, wiping the sweat from his brow.

“It will also block the cold outside air from entering. Everything in your smithy should become quite hot.” Kalda said.

Gobban grinned.

“No harm in that! I am well warded. I do not fear the extra heat,” Gobban said, gesturing to tattooed runes on his forearms. “But, what of you? Surely, the increased heat will bother you.”

“I, too, am well defended,” Kalda said, waving her hand to intensify the spin of her protective snows.

Gobban laughed.

“Then let us try!”

Kalda began speaking in a language Gobban did not know. The ice sprite had turned to face outdoors. She moved her arms back and forth as if reaching out and pulling something to her. The smith felt the air about him begin to stir.

Leaving Kalda to her task, Gobban focused on what he needed to do. He reheated the steel until it radiated bright yellow-white light. Continuing to shape where the handle would sit, he listened to the ice sprite’s enchanting words.

His ears crackled painfully as the increased airflow altered the pressure in the smithy. There was now a noticeable increase in temperature about him. He redoubled his efforts to finish shaping the tang. Gobban was pleased. The steel cooled slower, allowing him more time to work.

“It’s working, my lady!”

Kalda did not reply, remaining focused on her spell of urging. Gobban was in high spirits. The rapid progress he made was remarkable. He wondered how long he could work before the metal would need to be returned to the fire. Astounded, the smith admired the finished tang.

“The first part of the sword is complete. The tang where the handle attaches is shaped.” Gobban said breathlessly.

He was feeling giddy with excitement. He paused to catch his breath, not realizing how much effort he had exerted.

“I am winded from my furious labors!” he laughed.

Suddenly, he noticed the heat from the forge felt less intense. Glancing at the furnace, he saw the firelight growing dim. Something was wrong. Gobban rushed to the fire forgetting the metal on the anvil. He worked the bellows vigorously to revive the fire’s intensity, but the coals did not respond. Incredibly the fire continued to die. Gobban realized he was gasping for air.

“I can’t breathe! Why?”

He stumbled back from the forge, wondering what had happened. He could see Kalda moving in the moonlight streaming in through the window. Her singing sounded like a lullaby. Her arms undulated back and forth, dancing. The protecting snows about her were stretched thin by the currents of air rushing out. Gobban realized it wasn’t simply the coldness Kalda was removing from his smithy. She was taking all of the air out too! He was suffocating. Straining to be heard, Gobban shouted.

“My lady! Cease! I beg you! Your magic is smothering the fires and me!”


Coming Next: (Part 4 of 7)“Songs of the Winter Forge”


Word Count: 1288

Written in response to the prompt: Cool Blue.

Check out all of the other great writing prompts at The Twiglets.

Thank you for inspiring me!

“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

Flash Fiction: Dangers of Absentmindedly Doodling

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George’s life was literally an endless, boring routine of wash, rinse, and dry. He was dishwasher at a local restaurant. 

“George! Running low on plates again!” 

Perhaps, Mr. Witherson, if you shelled out some money to buy more plates, we wouldn’t be constantly running out on a busy Friday night. 

“Right away, Sir!”

His current job at “Rodeo Ribs” was the latest in a long line of menial gigs. Never lasting, he either quit or was fired within a couple of months.

This job rots. My hands are perpetually pruned. I leave every night drenched down to my underwear and I smell like an old sponge. 

Despite being intelligent, college was a disaster. Failure to focus, when disinterested, was a constant. George dropped out after a semester. Retrieving a rack of dishes, he climbed upstairs. 

 And who puts the dish sink in the basement of a restaurant?

George wasn’t completely devoid of ambition, however. He had two passions; his art and role-playing. Drawing was intimately connected to creating fantasy characters to play. He enjoyed putting his imagination on paper. Recently, he discovered LARPing. Now, his entire world revolved around it. When live action role-playing, he felt authentic and truly alive. His alter-ego was a bold, brawny, swamp barbarian named, “Jockilur of the Murky Fens.” His character wasn’t the brightest, but compensated for this flaw with stupendous strength. The barbarian’s legendary battle-rage filled even his most formidable opponents with dread.

“George, I said plates!”

“I’m working on it, Mr. Witherson.”

George sputtered and skidded back through the hectic kitchen to the top of the stairs. Rushing, he nearly fell on the way down.

Really need some non-slip shoes or I’m gonna kill myself.

George whistled happily, daydreaming about his upcoming weekend. His LARP group was hosting this month’s regional adventure weekend. It was called, “Taming the Titan’s Tempest!”

Two whole days of play. Can’t wait to show off the new armor I’ve constructed. Good chance of winning MVP, if I effectively deliver those new jokes and taunts I’ve been rehearsing.

His barbarian’s name was a play on the word, “jocular”. Feeling particularly clever, George enjoyed explaining the name’s pronunciation accentuated the character’s ubiquitous laughter and prodigious sense of humor. Jockilur gleefully sought any opportunity to taunt his adversaries with gruesome puns foreboding impending doom. George also never forgot to mention the spelling of his character’s name alluded to the barbarian’s athletic prowess. 

Look at all these dishes! Jockilur would never tolerate having to while away the time scrubbing at dirt and grime like some kitchen wench. Ha! No need! He eats with his fingers! 

“George? Mr. Witherson is going to have a coronary. You have those plates yet?” one of the waitresses called down.

“Coming!”

Hefting a load of fresh plates, George hurried to deliver them. Taking the stairs two at a time, he failed to make proper contact with the last stair. 

“Aaugh!”

He fell with a tumultuous clatter. Plates shattered everywhere as George landed with a sickening pop on the basement floor. 

“Eeeyouch!”

“George?! Are you ok?”

The waitress clamored down.  

“Ow, ow, ow!”

George heard Mr. Witherson yelling upstairs. 

“What was that noise? Was that plates breaking?”

George racked with pain, ignored the shouting above. 

“Damn! Oh, God! Oh, God!”

“Your forehead’s bleeding!” the waitress exclaimed.

“It is?”

George swiped at his face. His hand came down slick with blood. Scrambling to get up, his right foot erupted with an agonizing explosion of pain. He crumbled to the floor and threw up.

“Somebody help! George is hurt bad!”

Mr. Witherson begrudgingly allowed a busboy to drive George to the emergency room. An x-ray confirmed his ankle was broken. George was sent home, sulking with a cast and a bottle of prescription painkillers.

Once home, beginning to feel the dull throb grow, George defeatedly collapsed on the couch. Reading the instructions on the prescription container, he tossed it on the cluttered coffee table in disgust. 

Ugh. Next pill in about four hours.

Rummaging about George found his sketch pad. Gingerly propping his foot up, he began to draw.

Thank God, I didn’t break my hand. I’d die without being able to draw. 

As the charcoal pencil danced across the paper, a figure gradually emerged. George sketched a burly man clad in furs, wearing a scaly, green, armored breastplate. Elk antlers protruded dramatically from either side of the barbarian’s helm. His face was ringed with a golden mane of unruly blonde hair. George smiled down at the image he had created of Jockilur blithely, brandishing a bloodied, double-bladed battle-axe. Gradually, he retuned to thinking about this weekend and all the fun he was going to miss. George frowned.

Damn! Whole weekend is ruined!

Disgusted, George threw the notepad and pencil across the room. The sketchbook skidded to a stop just outside the kitchen. Breathing heavily in anger, he closed his eyes, listening to the grating sound of his pencil roll across the linoleum. 

Ugh! I hate my life!

Lying still, feeling sorry for himself, George heard something. It was the sound of rustling paper. Quietly listening, attempting to identify the source, he was startled by a loud crash from the kitchen. His foot adamantly protested as he sat up quickly. 

What the…?

Glass shattered. 

“Dragon’s Piss!” someone whispered loudly.   

Alarmed, George painfully hobbled toward the kitchen, arming himself with a pillow. Reluctantly, he edged closer to the muffled commotion in the next room. Pausing, just around the corner, panic took over. He froze. 

Oh, God! Oh God! Come on George! You need to look!

He managed to peep, ever so slightly, into the other room. He was instantly paralyzed again by the sight. In the middle of his kitchen was an unnaturally large beast, back turned to George, doubled over, picking up the shards of glass from a broken pickle jar. The refrigerator door was glaring, wide open. Food littered the countertop. Initially, mistaking the figure for an animal, he realized it was a man dressed entirely in an assortment of furs. Regaining control of his body, George stepped backwards, placing the entirety of his weight on his bad ankle.

Eeeeeyy.” he squealed involuntarily. 

The man spun around. 

“What ar ya doin on yar feet? Ya’r suppose to be restin!”  

Disregarding his pain, George skittered backwards, bumped against the wall and slowly slid to the floor. This hulking man standing before him was exactly how he imagined Jockilur. The fur, the long hair, the antlered helm, even the green, dragon scale breastplate; it was all there. It was as if Jockilur had climbed straight out of George’s drawing. The man sighed with exasperation. 

“Now, I was fixin’ to whip ya up a thing, a healin’ thing. Does me ever so much good when I find meself feelin battered and bruised from battle. Trust me! It’ll work ya wonders. Ya’ll be on yar feet in no time.” 

The stranger folded his arms and laughed loud and long. George stood stock-still, gawking. Catching George completely off guard, the huge man lunged forward, his hands outstretched. 

“AHh!”

Effortlessly, he plucked George up off of the floor and schlepped him back into the living room. 

“Quit yar belly achin’ lad.”

Depositing him onto the couch with care, the giant stuffed a pillow gently underneath his injured foot. Grasping a nearby blanket, the stranger then clumsily tucked it around George.

“Thar! Snug as a bugbear.”

He chortled to himself, striding back to the kitchen. Stopping abruptly, the behemoth bent down.

“Oh. Ya dropped this.”

Holding up George’s sketch pad and pencil, he walked back over.

“Har’s yar quill n parchment. Oooh! That quill looks magical. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just touchin’ it. Mind ya, I ain’t afraid. Seem to remember haring of things such as this. Is it a quill of eternal ink?”

George lay staring up, eyes wide as saucers. He was in shock. Receiving no response, George’s new and unexpected caretaker returned to the kitchen.

“Ya’v cared for me many a times, Georgie. My turn to return the favor. I don’t spect ya’ll thank me none too soon tho. This ol’ shaman’s recipe, me Mam taught me, tastes of pig shit.”

The man snorted and guffawed as he returned to the kitchen. 

Coming to his senses with the giant out of view, George dared to quietly flip his sketch pad back to the page he been working on.

The sketch was gone.

The page was completely blank.

“Balderdash! Ya seem to lack some of the necessary ingredients. Not to worry! I’ll forage about. Shouldn’t be hard findin’ some goat snot. Course, now that I think on it, Mam did say I can always use me own.”

“Jockilur?” George whispered to himself.

Jockilar leaned his head suddenly back into the room. 

“Oh! Georgie! When ya’r feelin’ better, perchance ya’d draw me some trolls er goblins to practice me fightin’ moves with. Whatcha ya think?”

George fainted dead away. 

“Ah, lad’s all plum tuckered out.”


Word Count: 1500

Courtesy of Prompt Titled: Absentmindedly

By THESOLITARYWORDSMITH at PROMPTUARIUM.

Great sources for writing prompts! Please go visit and subscribe to their website!

Flash Fiction: Need a Hand?

This is my third piece featuring Nakul, who wields the ability to take on traits from nearby animals and use them. There is a cost though.

Photo by Rajitha Fernando on Pexels.com

This story is set in India. Below are definitions for the Hindi words you’ll find used in the story.

Mātā – mama.

Ajee! – Good gracious! Good Heavens!

Priya – Nakul’s deceased, older sister. 

Vaah! – Wow!

Are nahin – Oh no!

Ḵẖudā – diety, god, divinity

Lēnēvālā – taker 


Monsoon season dominated the countryside. A seemingly endless storm ebbed and waned, day to day, week to week and now month to month. Torrential rains submerged much of the landscape surrounding the village, its people patiently enduring this life-giving deluge.

From an outlying house, a restless boy stared out a doorway. Nakul was aching to venture outside. He was ever vigilant, scanning above for signs of any approaching respite in precipitation. The especially prolonged, heavy, soaking rain, the day began with, had miraculously ceased and a burgeoning patch of blue sky emerged high up in the sky.  

“Mātā! Mātā!”

“What is it Nakul?”

“The rain has stopped. I’m going out. I’ll stay close. I want to see how fat the stream is with rainwater.”

“Stay out of the stream, Nakul! It will be swift and the flooding disrupts the wildlife.”

“Yes, Mātā.” 

“Nakul! Your walking stick. In case of snakes. Remember, Priya. Ajee!.”

“Yes, Mātā. I remember.”

Nakul didn’t fear snakes, even the poisonous ones. He understood his mother’s dread, but he had never known his older sister. She died before he was born. 

Nakul’s favorite tree grew along the stream. He was surprised by the extent of the flooding. The familiar scene was strange and compelling. No longer along the banks, it sat within this new, swollen river.

“Vaah!” he exclaimed.

Nakul yearned to climb up and survey everything.

Reluctant to disobey his mother, the water posed a problem. He gave the situation some thought. Only a few steps would bring him to the trunk. Swishing the stick back and forth repeatedly, he probed the water. Nakul cautiously waded in. The water was just past his knees. Emboldened, he sloshed quickly to the tree and secured the stick into the submersed earth. His conscience nagged. Keen to leave the dangerous water, he blindly grabbed the lowest branch to pull himself up.

Straight away, he noted a difference. Expecting a rough, unyielding surface, his grasp instead sunk into something softer. The branch roiled. Pain lanced Nakul’s hand, jarring fingers, wrist and arm like an electrical shock. Releasing, pushing away, he stumbled backwards falling with a splash. Gaping upwards stupidly, Nakul recognized the markings of a king cobra. Dumbfounded, he peered down at two marks glistening like vibrant ruby pendants.

Finding his feet, Nakul ran. He sprinted. Adrenaline quicken his breath, his heartbeat and supercharged muscles. His frantic struggle accelerated the spread of venom throughout his body. His vision blurred and waves of dizziness disoriented him. Unbeknownst to Nakul, he was racing further away from his village. 

“Are nahin! Help! Somebody!”

Nakul struggled to breath. 

He collapsed to the damp ground in pain.

He tried to rise, but his limbs felt stiff and uncoordinated. 

“someone…help…anyone”

Nakul lay gasping, growing colder, knowing he was dying.

Moment bled slowing into moment.

He was lost and alone.

As he began to drift away from the pain, a voice shouted.

I’M COMING! DON’T GIVE UP!

Nakul searched feebly, seeing no one. But, an ember of hope flickered brighter.   

“help”

He fought to stay awake, alive.  

I’m here.

The voice sounded close.

“where?”

Here. Next to you.

Nakul turned his head to vaguely see an old, graying mongoose. Nakul understood animals didn’t speak, but he was young enough to accept this current incongruence with reality.

“A cobra bit me.”

I smell it.

“Mongoose. I’m dying.”

No. You are different. I can help. Accept my help. I am old with little time left. I will give you what I no longer need. You could demand it; take it from me, but I see you are unaware of what you are. I gift it to you. Take it.

“i …don’t know what you’re talking about…i don’t understand”

You are out of time. Let me help you.

how…how can you help

Trust me.

“ok.”

An ever so sight pain pinched Nakul. The little beast had bit his wounded hand. Now, a warm itchiness oscillated up his arm.

He felt the mongoose’s nip only added insult to injury.

Nakul wondered if the mongoose was hungry.

The thought was absurd. 

“why did you bite me?”

Giving you something only a mongoose possesses…so you may live.

Nakul felt a sweat break out. A buzzing in his ears intensified, drowning out all other sounds. He felt as if his very blood was boiling within. Somehow, he knew a battle was raging and his side was winning.

Time passed and finally all was still and silent.

The pain was gone.

“I feel better. I don’t understand?”

A mongoose is immune to snake venom. Now, you are too.

“But, how?”

Most men don’t have the speech and the ability to assume power from us. To us you are Ḵẖudā. Your kind calls you Lēnēvālā.

Nakul sat up. Observing his hand, the wound appeared now only as a bite from something non-poisonous like the checkered keelback snake. Gazing up, he startled seeing the mongoose lying prone with labored breathing.

“What’s wrong!?”

I too… change. You have given… in return… a part of yourself.

Nakul sat by the mongoose gently stroking its fur, watching in disbelief as glossy, dark brown hair replaced its grey, grizzled appearance. Suddenly, the mongoose was up. It stretched and bounced around. 

This is a tremendous boon! Youth returns! You have given me some of your natural longevity.

Nakul pondered this. He knew mongoose typically lived a fraction of the time a person might. 

“Am I going to die now?”

Hmm, I need a good look at you.

The mongoose jumped around Nakul sniffing. Satisfied with his inspection, he peered up at in Nakul.

You smell the same to me. Humans live forever to a creature such as me.

But, something else felt different to Nakul. Watching the mongoose catch and tear apart a large beetle with sharp canines, he realized what was different. Feeling inside his mouth, he confirmed it was full of sharp, pointy, jagged, canine teeth.

“Look you gave me your teeth too!”


Word Count: 1000.

Courtesy of Prompt Titled: Need a Hand?

By THESOLITARYWORDSMITH at PROMPTUARIUM.

Great sources for writing prompts! Please go visit and subscribe to their website!