Mage: The Gun Quarter
Heat wafted from the coals, filling the small workshop with inviting warmth. The coals sat in the basin of the furnace, glowing hot-white with each pump of the bellows. The rush of air into the furnace made a bright, hot heat. Long blackened rods were shoved into the coals and watched mindfully until they turned yellow and orange in colour.
Thrunn Halvar, the blacksmith, wore a heavy, red glove on his left hand. It held a pair of tongs. In his right hand he held a hammer. He grasped one of the glowing rods and set it on an anvil before him. He brought his hammer down on the hot, wrought-iron and patiently began to shape it with each blow.
The sound of his hammer tinkled in the air to his own rhythmic beat. He pressed the hammer into the steel as if it were mere flesh, bending it to his will. His arm flexed with each swing of the hammer. His labour was rewarded with beads of sweat gathering at his brow, soaking his blonde hair until it matted to his forehead. A stray drop of sweat fell from his nose and landed on the hot metal with a momentary hiss.
He was utterly focused in the moment, as if nothing else mattered or could possibly sway him from his task. Slowly but surely, the metal took shape, a pointed tip, flaring at the middle and narrowing again at the base. Thrunn had been a blacksmith since high school. Forging metal had come easily to him, it captured his imagination and he was able to produce works of art collectors fought to have.
’It’s a Halvar piece’ they’d say knowingly. They’d point to the colour of the metal, the fine craftsmanship, the artwork, and determine that what they held in their hand was, ‘the real deal.’
Thrunn looked up from his work for only a moment and his concentration faltered. He was being intently watched. A wide, unblinking eye stared at him in the dim light, emotionless and cold. He looked back down immediately, feeling his cheeks grow hot with embarrassment.
“Don’t look at it” he scolded himself gently … it was too late.
“Cut!” a voice called out. It was the director. An American with all sorts of swagger was sitting in his little, canvas chair.
‘Not so much bravado out in the cold though,’ Thrunn thought.
Thrunn set his hammer down and set the rod aside. He looked up at the camera and then to the cameraman and director. They’d told him to ignore the camera, act as if it wasn’t there. It wasn’t so easy. The big, glass lens was like a black hole, taking everything in and daring you to peek at it.
“Sorry,” Thrun muttered. He shed his glove and backed away from the furnace. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand.
“No, no, don’t be sorry man, that was good. Exactly what we needed,” The director said. His name was Scott.
“We need to swap batteries anyway,” the cameraman said, “The cold just kills them.” The cameraman was named Jim, he was also American. He unzipped his coat and fished two, long, black, flat battery packs from the inside pockets.
Jim flipped open a small box on the back of the camera and pulled out two battery packs. He slid the new ones in place and clapped the lid shut. Thrunn watched with mild curiosity. Jim noticed and smiled.
“My body heat is just enough to keep the batteries warm so they’ll work. It’s easier to keep them in my jacket and swap them on the fly than fucking around with my kit,” Jim explained.
Jim swore casually and often. It had surprised Thrunn to hear an American swearing so liberally, without a care in the world about the words that were coming out of his mouth. Words had consequences.
Jim also smoked and drank heavily at the end of the shooting every day, neither of which seemed to bother Scott or the rest of the film crew. Thrunn had noted that most of them drank their fare share of booze in the off hours.
‘Americans,’ Thrunn shrugged. “The heat of the workshop isn’t enough?”
“Naw man, it’s not the workshop. Heading out into the cold, sitting in the truck, even for 15 or 20 minutes will kill the batteries before we get indoors. They’re pretty fickle technology. If I left them in the cold, I mightaswell fuck the dog,” Jim said.
Thrunn paused for a moment, he didn’t know what Jim had said.
“Fuck the dog?” Thrunn repeated the phrase slowly, turning it over in his mind. He had good English, but idiom and slang were lost on him.
Jim ignored Thrunn’s question entirely, oblivious to the colloquial confusion.
“Seriously though man, great job. It’s not every day we get to shoot with the closest living thing to a real Viking blacksmith,” Jim gushed.
The Americans were shooting scenes for an action movie just outside Oslo. They’d hired Thrunn to be their armourer, supplying weapons and gear at the request of the costume department and acting as a general consultant on the matters therein. It’d been a year since they’d first contacted him for the job. Since then, he’d been steadily working on swords, spears and the like for the film.
When Scott met Thrunn, he was taken aback by the giant blonde man with Scandanavian good-looks. Thrunn wore a big, blonde beard that was naturally red along his jaw line before fading into blonde. His eyes were that piercing, Nordic blue, practically glowing when he looked at youScott immediately told Thrunn that he was going to be cast for a short scene as a blacksmith. Before Thrunn could decline, Scott had offered a decent sum of money and a lot of booze. Thrunn relented, much to his chagrin.
Today was the second day of shooting the blacksmith scenes. Thrunn hoped it would be the last day for shooting his scenes. The cold weather had set in. He was used to it, but it had made all the Americans cranky. It hadn’t occurred to any of them that Oslo was a different kind of snow and cold.
He preferred to get back to his regular work routine, rather than the fickle and arbitrary nature of a film shoot. They had makeup and costumes, lighting and wires, it was all much ado about, well, not nothing, but very little.
“I’m going to have a smoke, wanna come?” Jim asked Thrunn.
Thrunn shrugged. “Sure, I could use a break.”
He grabbed his heavy winter jacket and pulled a toque over his head. Jim zipped up his jacket and fished a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket. They stepped out into the biting cold and huddled next to the wall of the workshop.
Jim huffed and puffed as the shock of the cold air hit his face and lungs. He popped a cigarette into his mouth and pulled out a lighter. His hands trembled and shivered in the chilly air. He struggled to flick the flame to life in his small, Bic lighter, his hands shook so hard that he extinguished the flame when he finally got it to spark up.
“Fuck,” He grumbled. The unlit cigarette bounced up and down between his lips.
Thrunn pulled a small pack of matches from his pocket and snapped one to life, holding it aloft for Jim’s cigarette. Jim leaned into the flame and puffed his cigarette. He took a long drag and exhaled, his face was momentarily shrouded in smoke.
The film location was partially set up in a reenactment village that Thrunn had helped build. In between smithing and other hobbies, he’d dedicated himself to fostering the creation of the village.
It served many purposes: building culture, preserving history, sharing knowledge and joining with the community to celebrate the past. Thrunn, along with his other cabal-mates had found that being members of the community in good standing led to a lot of good will. That was invaluable for their line of work.
“Jim,” Thrunn began to speak. His ’j’s’ were silent, more like ‘Y’s’. “You will get used to the cold. It will not be so bad for so long.”
Jim shivered smoking and lusting after what little heat the cigarette let him inhale.
“It will make you strong. It is good for your heart and lungs, it will make your skin clear and healthy,” Thrunn said. “Hardship makes us … res …resilient.”
Jim didn’t seem swayed by Thrunn’s argument. A man approached them from the village. He was tall and had a long face, accompanied by long features and a thin nose. He had a long, rugged beard and wore his hair long, down past his shoulders. He was dressed in furs and skins, just like the other re-enactors from the village. His breath rolled in lazy circles when he exhaled. Like Thrunn, the cold did not seem to bother him.
If Thrunn was cheerful and gregarious, Amund seemed to be overly serious. His face was lined with worry in this particular moment, making his features seem darker and more severe than usual.
“Well met Amund,” Thrunn said cheerfully.
”Well, met brother,” Amund replied in their native tongue, rather than English.
Jim looked askance; most of the Norwegians spoke English in these parts. They tended to speak English as a matter of politeness around the Americans and tourists.
“This is Jim. He operates a camera for the movie,” Thrunn motioned to the shivering, smoking man.
“Hello – my English … not so good,” Amund lied, affecting a heavy Norwegian accent.
Jim nodded. Jim shivered.
Amund and Thrunn switched to Norwegian instead of English.
”One of the wards was tripped early this morning,” Amund wasted no time telling Thrunn his worries. ”I would like you and Brynhildr to come with me and check the site.”
”Yeah? Are you sure it wasn’t an animal seeking refuge from the cold?” Thrunn asked.
”I am sure. Earthly animals won’t set off the ward, only humans or something that crossed the bridge from the other side would have raised the alarms,” Amund said.
Thrunn furrowed his brow.
”I will have to tell them we have pressing concerns and I cannot finish today’s shooting,” Thrunn said.
He turned to Jim, whose cigarette was nearly finished.
“I have some serious business to attend to. It could be a matter of life and death, so I cannot finish filming today,” Thrunn said.
Jim flicked his cigarette into the snow. “You’re fucking kidding right?”
“I promise you, I am not making jokes,” Thrunn said.
Amund wasted no time waiting for Thrunn. ”I’ve packed your gear in a satchel and placed it in the back of your truck, including your hammer. Brynhildr is waiting for us to come get her.”
The two Vikings set off toward Thrunn’s truck, leaving a shivering Jim cursing them out.
“Hey, you can’t just leave. Time is money man, Scott will lose his motherfuckin’ mind,” Jim shouted.