A.N. I can't believe it's been over a year since I posted anything but following a protracted illness I have been re-reading the Icelandic Sagas, as translated by the late Magnus Magnusson KBE (Scottish based broadcaster and journalist), whilst recuperating. In line with my approach to Goblin society, in HP and the Great Manipulator, I felt that I should try to write a one-shot about Ragnok in the style of the Sagas by way of getting back into writing. Hopefully I have managed this.
Disclaimer: Harry, et al, belongs to Jakey.
There was a Goblin named Ragnok of the Bloodaxe Clan, son of Þorfin Grimmasson and Freydris Gunnarsdottir. He came from Fljótshhlið near to the volcano under Eyjafjallajökul and like his father was skilled in the arts of the smith. As a youngling he had aided his father at the furnace and the anvil and had even assisted him during the creation of his father's greatest work, the mighty sword Óvinurbani. His uncle, Björn Grimmasson, was a skilled miner and taught Ragnok much of the ores within the earth and the lore of metals and precious jewels and how to seek for them. His mother was a shieldmaiden of renoun and carried her husband's sword Óvinurbani proudly into many battles. She had no daughters, so trained her son, Ragnok, in the way of the warrior lest her knowledge of weaponcraft be lost.
Thus it was that when Ragnok came of age on the twenty-first anniversary of his birth he had already achieved journeyman status as both a miner and a smith and was one of the few males who, in addition to having the usual masculine skills with axe and hammer, was considered an elite swordsman. He went unto his parents and spoke to them. "Mother, Father, it is now time that I go into the world to tread my own path. I shall sail south to the islands of Britain and Erin, there to seek my fate with our people in those lands."
So it was that he took passage with the shipwright, Snörri Þorfinnsson (*) of Vinland, sailing from Krossavik at the mouth of Reyðafjorður in an open longboat, the Skuldelev, of the design taught many years before to the Norsemen, aboard which they used to go a viking from their Scandinavian homelands. Upon its prow was the carven likeness of a dragon's head and its sail bore the emblem of a pied raven (†) in flight. At the urging of his parents, Ragnok carried with him his father's axe Blóðdrykkjumaður and his mother's sword Óvinurbani alongside his smithying toolson his southwards quest.
Eastwards and to the south they sailed for nigh on six days, through storm and wind and rain till they reached the islands of the Faeroe's. The early summer storms had surprised them and the crew were glad to make landfall near to the human settlement of Þórshaven where could be found the small magical settlement served by the Goblin bank of Gringott's. The magical settlement was located near the harbour in Tinganes, where could be seen the turfed roofs of the human parliament buildings.
It was the season of the Grindadráp (¤) and the humans had been successful in luring a school of the small whales onto the beach whereupon they had commenced to the slaughter of the stranded beasts to provide them with meat for the winter season, which was never far away. The crew of the longboat Skuldelev were keen to help and joined the hunt. Alas, during the hunt, a human youngling had been caught in the frenzy of the beaching and his leg had been crushed. He had been brought to the healers in Þórshaven so that they might heal his leg and let him walk again, however their ministrations were in vain.
So it was that the human youngling, Henrik Karlsson, was introduced to the world of goblin magiks. He spent many days under the careful attentions of both human and goblin healers but to no avail. His right leg had been so completely crushed that there was no possibility of proper healing and the healers had been left with no other recourse but to remove the damaged limb. Thus he was left unable to walk, a cripple and a burden to others in his homeland. Ragnok met with the youngling and saw within him a burning desire to greatness and a sharpness of intellect. He spent many hours in conversation with him and saw that here was someone that would let no other demean him. Neither would he allow others to take advantage of his disabilities.
So it was that Ragnok sought out the boy's parent and spake with them. "I have talked with your son often these last several days since the accident that has left him crippled and have seen within him much to indicate that he could become a man of greatness one day. I am willing to teach him in the craft of metalwork that I learned from my father, Þorfin Grimmasson the smith of Fljótshhlið, but I must also continue my journey south to the islands of Britain and Erin. If you are willing I will take Henrik with me in my travels as my companion and apprentice."
The boy's parents were amazed at the generosity of the offer from Ragnok. "Ragnok Þorfinsson you honour us and our son greatly with this boon" said the boy's father. "We will ever after remember you and your people with fondness and friendship. May your enemies lie scattered at your feet and may your hands overflow with gold."
"The honour is mine" said Ragnok. "In your son I see the great man he can become and I am pleased to have your permission to teach him the ways of my craft. Henceforth let you and yours be know throughout the lands as Goblin-friends." With these words they parted in peace and friendship.
The following morning they took ship aboard the Skuldelev and sailed on the high tide. Southwards they tracked but by mid-afternoon they had lost the wind and had to resort to the oars. "Ragnok" said the boy, Henrik. "Though no longer have I both legs, I yet have both my arms. Let me row with you that we may swifter reach our destination." Ragnok smiled at the boy and nodded his assent. "Indeed, Henrik" he replied. "And two stout arms at that. Let us to the oars with a will, alongside our sailing companions, that we may soon make landfall and a welcome harbour."
Thus all the crew and passengers set to the oars and southward they sailed. Past the islands of Shetland and Orkney they sailed and within days made landfall on the northern coast of Alba on the beach at Torrisdale. When they stepped ashore they found a land in the midst of strife. Inland they followed the river up the valley of Strathnaver until they reached the small settlement of Altnaharra. All around they saw families being evicted from the land to make way for sheep. They had arrived at the peak of the clearances of the highlands when those who had been entrusted with caring for the land and its people cared more for money and profit. "Surely Ragnok, is this not a great injustice we see around us" said Henrik. "It is indeed" replied his mentor. "Alas, we are but two travellers in this land and there is little we can do to right these wrongs."
Nevertheless the two proceeded to set up a small smithy wherein Ragnok started to teach the boy in the ways of his craft. They spent three years in the village, Henrik daily honing his skills at the anvil and furnace, until Ragnok was satisfied that his charge was swiftly becoming a master of the craft. They had built a reputation as crafters of fine agricultural implements, knives of quality and master farriers; shoeing many of the small highland ponies which were the local beasts of burden. One day Ragnok took his apprentice aside to speak. "Henrik. You are now almost a master-smith in your own right. You have mastered the creation of fine tools in iron and steel, however I have yet to teach you the arts of weapon-making. Let us now begin to turn our ploughshares into swords." And so it was that Ragnok taught the boy, now young man, the fine art of sword-making. Not just the creation of fine Damascene blades but also the delicate decoration of hilt and scabbard in silver and jewels.
Throughout this time Ragnok maintained a glamour, thus he looked human to the eyes of the local inhabitants but news of the Goblin smith and his apprentice spread southwards through the magical communities of the land. One day, about ten years after their arrival in Alba, a visitor came to the village to seek out the pair. "Mastersmiths Ragnok Þorfinsson and Henrik Karlsson" said the man. " I have come many miles to speak with you both." They invited him into their house beside the smithy and bade him sit.
"Pray stranger, why have you come seeking us?" asked Ragnok.
"Let me introduce myself mastersmith" said the stranger. "My name is Phineas Nigellus Black, Headmaster of Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and have come to you to seek a boon." He laid a sword on the table. It's hilt of silver, bejewelled with a large ruby in the pommel and two more rubies at the ends of the cross-guard, glittered in the light. The silvered blade was engraved with the name Godric Gryffindor along the fuller. "This is the sword forged by Ragnuk the First for Godric Gryffindor. Oft have I been told the tale of it's forging and it's theft from the Goblin Nation" said Ragnok darkly.
"I too have heard the tail of it's 'theft' as the Goblin's call it" said the wizard "but the magiks on this blade compel it to return to Hogwart's whenever a worthy from the house of Gryffindor has need of it."
"If that be so" said Ragnok "then there can be no theft in my eyes, however others of my people may not see it thus. Why do you bring this sword to me?"
"I have heard a prophesy from the seer Cassandra Trelawney about this sword" said the wizard. "One will come who has great need of it to banish a great evil from these lands. Alas others will try to stop him. Thus I am in need of a copy of the sword to lead them away from the true one."
Ragnok sat in thought for some time. "It can be done but I am not the one to forge a copy of this blade" he said, after pondering awhile. "If I were to do this for you then our Goblin laws would demand it's return to us after you have passed from this plain. It must be Henrik who is to forge the new blade."
And so it was that Henrik commenced to forge the new blade. Ragnok carefully studied the original and sent his magic into the core of the blade to discover that it had been forged of several layers of steel to provide both strength and flexibility. The structure of the blade was akin to that of the Soshu Kitae method of the Japanese mastersmiths with several layers of Hagane steel, giving the edge its hardness surrounding a layer of Kawagane and a core of Shigane to provide the flexibility.
For many days and weeks, Henrik worked at the forge folding, hammering, heating and quenching the steel until the blade emerged. Then he crafted the hilt and finished it off in fine silver as with the blade. Within the setting for the ruby in the pommel Henrik set his own mark identifying the sword as crafted by his hand but not to be seen by others so that the copy be indistinguishable from the famed original.
In time he showed the results of his efforts to his mentor. "Henrik" said the Goblin. "This is indeed one of the finest blades I have seen. It deserves to be wielded in battle as befits a sword of beauty and might. Alas that it be only for show to lead others from the true sword of Gryffindor."
"Then so it shall" said Henrik. "Let us speak to the Headmaster and ask if the sword can be carried into battle before resting in his school."
Thus the two travelled for many days to Hogwart's school to meet with the Headmaster. "Headmaster Black," said Ragnok. "Mastersmith Karlsson has completed your commission and we are here to ask of you a boon of our own."
"Indeed?" said the Headmaster. "Pray tell me what is this boon you request?"
"A sword of such beauty and might should not just lie unused without being drawn in battle" said Henrik. "The young men of this country are being recruited for the army to fight in the east. For them it is a chance to escape from the clearances of the land for sheep and to return with renown to the place of their ancestors. Allow us to gift the sword to one who is destined for the battles ahead in Crimea, to be returned to you once the war is over."
"What you say is true" replied the Headmaster. "I have a student here who has finished his final examinations and wishes to return home to the North. He has expressed his desire to join his countrymen in the fight that is to come. I shall lend him the sword to carry with him on his ventures in the east."
And so it was that the newly commissioned Lieutenant Ruraidth McGonagall was gifted the sword of Henrik Karlsson to carry, proudly, into battle with the 93rd Regiment of Foot (‡) and achieve renown during the Battle of Balaclava as part of the 'Thin Red Line'. On his return from the war he graciously presented the sword that had defended his life on that fateful day to Headmaster Black so that it could rest in glory in the school.
Henrik and Ragnok returned to their smithy but soon Ragnok felt within him the desire to travel once again. "Henrik my friend" said Ragnok to his protégé. "It is time that I set out on my travels once again. I would take you with me but you are now settled here and are a mastersmith of renown. I fear that soon our paths must part and you remain while I trek south to the land of the English."
Thus it was that the pair parted in friendship. Ragnok to journey onwards and Henrik to remain, where he continued to exercise the art of the smith and later to pass those skills onto his children, for he met and married a local lass who bore him two strong sons and three fair daughters. Thereafter the MacKendrick family, as they became known built, their future fortune on their skills with metals and with fine jewels and were known far and near as Goblin-friends.
Ragnok continued southward passing through the lands of Central Scotland where he saw the squalor of the newly growing industrial towns centred around the mining of coal and forging of steel. "Alas for these poor humans" he thought to himself. "They know nothing of the joy of creating a fine weapon or a well crafted tool. The art of the smith is dieing due to the greed of the rich and the debasement of the artisans to mere wage slaves." With these sad thoughts he continued his way southwards into the land of the English where he saw further the rape of the land in the industrial cities of Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham. He did his best to avoid the large cities and remained as much as possible in the countryside, enjoying still the beauty of the pastoral landscape until he reached the capital, London, where he knew resided many of his people working in the great financial institution that was Gringott's Bank in Diagon Alley.
On that day when he ventured into Gringott's Bank in Diagon Alley fate played her final hand in the life of Ragnok Þorfinsson. One of the guards within the bank was a young maiden fair of face and lithe of limb. It was her first day as guard and though she was well trained by her mother, none other than the Matriarch elect, Hjördís Sigrúnssdottir, she, Ragnfriðr Hjördíssdottir was as yet untried in battle. As Ragnok made his entry to the building, a wizard who had, through much ill luck at the gambling tables in the less salubrious establishments of Knockturn Alley, lost all the galleons he had once possessed, took issue with the goblins of the bank as they had transferred the last of his monies to his creditors and closed his vault. The wizard a young but foolish man withdrew his wand from within the folds of his cloak and attempted to cast a curse at the teller who had finalised the transaction and the young guard stepped forward to prevent him from casting a spell. The wizard turned and started to cast the killing curse at Ragnfriðr, whereupon Ragnok drew Óvinurbani from beneath his cloak and with a flourish sliced off the wand arm of the wizzard. Immediately Ragnok knelt down with bowed head. "Forgive me fair shieldmaiden" he said "I know bloodshead is not allowed within these hallowed halls but let me beg your forgiveness, since I did so to defend one as fair as thee."
As two others from the guard removed the offending wizard to hand him over to the Department for Magical Law Enforcement, since any attempt to draw a wand within the confines of Gringott's Bank was a breach of the Treaty between wizardkind and the Goblin Nation following the end of hostilities from the last Goblin Rebellion in 1707, Ragnok heard a gentle laughter from the maiden. She extended her hand to the prostrated goblin and helped him to his feet. "Mastersmith Ragnok Þorfinsson, your renown proceeds you. We have awaited your arrival here in London for we have long had knowledge of your journey from your home in Fljótshhlið. Your adventures in the Faeroe's. Your teaching of your protégé, Henrik Karlsson and how both his and your skills are known throughout these islands but I knew not of your skills with weilding such a weapon as the sword you carry."
"This is the sword my father forged for my mother, the shieldmaiden Freydris Gunnarsdottir, Óvinurbani by name. She taught me weaponcraft as my father taught me the arts of the smith but forgive me fair maiden. I find myself at somewhat of a disadvantage. You know of me and my tale yet I do not even know your name and such beauty surely has a fair name" said Ragnok, bowing over the hand she had proffered to him and kissing the back of it.
"Your skill with hammer and anvil is well known Ragnok but not your skill with words" said the maiden. "My name you shall have for your fair tongue pleases me much and I would wish to hear it more. I am Ragnfriðr daughter of Hjördís Sigrúnssdottir the reigning Matriarch of the Goblin Nation."
Ragnok immediately prostrated himself on the floor once again. "Forgive me princess. My tongue doth run away from me. I meant no disrespect with what I said. If I can plead mitigation it is your beauty that has clouded my judgement."
She bent down again and raised him to his feet. "There is nothing to forgive, Ragnok Þorfinsson. Rarely have I heard such fair words as thine. Rather, I would wish to know thee better and continue to bask in the pleasures of your voice."
"My princess" ragnok started to say.
"My name is Ragnfriðr" she interupted. "I would be honoured that you use it and I shall call you Ragnok"
"'Wise and beautiful', my lady. Your name does indeed suit you more than one could say" replied Ragnok.
"And 'Strong wisdom' suits you also Ragnok" she replied.
She took Ragnok by the hand and led him to the royal suite within the Bank to meet her mother. There Ragnok spent several hours relating the tale of his travels to the Matriarch and was thanked profusely by her for intervening in the attack from the wizard and thus saving the life of the princess. The Matriarch saw that her daughter was enamoured of the mastersmith and was pleased that she had found a person of honour and integrity upon which to bestow her favour. She appointed Ragnok to the role of assistant director where, swiftly he learned the intricacies of high finance and the politics of the magical world, dealing regularly with the Ministry of Magic, much to the advantage of the Goblin Nation. As the weeks progressed Ragnok found himself deeply in love with the young princess and sought out the Matriarch for an audience.
"Your Majesty" he said. "I find that I have become completely enamoured of your daughter Ragnfriðr. I know I am but a lowly smith with some knowledge of finance however I would ask of you the boon of seeking the hand of the princess in marriage."
"Ragnok Þorfinsson" she replied. "You are far from being a lowly smith. You are a person of houour, renown and integrity. I am pleased to call you friend and my daughter is as enamoured of you as you are of her. I grant you this boon and welcome you to my family. I foresee that you will give my daughter strong sons. Moreover I see a time in the future when a daughter of your's shall lead our people into the future with dignity and strenght. A future we shall share with wizardkind and other beings of magic as equals."
Thus it was that Ragnok Þorfinsson, the smith from Fljótshhlið married his princess, Ragnfriðr Hjördíssdottir, with his friend, Henrik Karlsson, and the Matriarch as witnesses to the wedding. Their marriage was fruitful and full of joy and Ragnfriðr gave birth to twelve strong sons who all learned from their father the arts of the smith and high finance. Their mother also taught them the way of the warrior and all were skilled with both sword and axe. Finally Ragnfriðr had a daughter but alas her pregnancy had been a difficult one and she died in childbirth. Ragnok was distraught at the loss of his beautiful princess however with the aid of his mother-in-law, the matriarch, and that of his sons he raised his daughter, Astriðr, to become the finest shieldmaiden in the land. She would become the next Matriach of the Goblin Nation at the end of the Wizarding War with Voldemort but that is another story.
Pronunciation notes. Several of the words and names in this story are Icelandic which has two letters not found in the traditional roman alphabet. These are the runic letter thorn, Þ (upper case) þ (lower case), which is pronounced with a hard 'th' sound as in Thursday and throw, and the letter eth, Ð (upper case) ð (lower case), which is pronounced with a soft 'th' sound as in the, there and that.
(*) I couldn't resist using this name. Snörri Þorfinnsson, son of Þorfinnr Karlsefni and Guðríðr Þorbjarnardóttir, was the first recorded person of ethnic european origin to be to be born on the North American continent, sometime between 1004 and 1013. A statue depicting his father can be seen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(†) The Pied Raven (Corvus corax varius morpha leucophaeus) was a colour morph of the North Atlantic subspecies of the Common Raven which was only found on the Faeroe Islands and has disappeared since the mid twentieth century. The last known individual was found in the winter of 1947 on Nólsoy, and disappeared late in 1948.
(¤) I am not, and never have been in favour of whaleing, especially the practice of the Faeroe Islanders mentioned above. I do however recognise, that for many on the subsistance level living of those times, especially in such a harsh environment, the fruits of the Grindadráp meant the difference between life and death for the islanders.
(‡) The 93rd Regiment of Foot (Sutherland Highlanders) was raised in the Scottish counties of Sutherland and Caithness. The are especially remembered for their action during the Battle of Balaclava 25th Oct 1854 where they repulsed a Russian cavalry charge with just two ranks, the now famous "Thin Red Line". The Regiment later merged to form the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders which in March 2006 became the 5th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.