The red-hot embers glowed with brilliant intensity as Alus pumped air into the forge. Taking a step back, he picked up a set of tongs, and used them to grasp his material; a rectangular piece of iron. The fire of the forge sparked intensely, and he paused to let the bed of coal cool. The temperature had to be just right. The patronizing eyes of Vulcanus, the god of blacksmiths, watched over his work. The red light of the fire was reflected eerily upon the bronze symbol of the god he had brought to the forge. The unblinking eyes were aligned so that they were always directed towards the area where Alus did his work, to lend wisdom to his craftsmanship. As the forge fire calmed, Alus carefully placed his iron in the forge. The color quickly intensified, from a dull crimson to a brilliant red. He adjusted the position of the iron material with the tongs, blinking the sweat out of his eyes and muttering curses at the weight of the tongs. The brilliant red color eventually spread over the entire piece of iron, and he carefully grasped it with the tongs and placed it upon the anvil. Voicing a prayer to the god of fire, he grasped his hammer tightly and begun to swing.
Beating the material into shape was a long process. The better part of Alus’ day was spent hammering the glowering hot iron until it cooled, then heating it in the forge, moving back and forth between his work stations while regularly raking clinker out of the forge. Around evening his work became more irregular as his arms and shoulders had started to tire. The iron material on his anvil had taken shape, however. It resembled a strong blade, though it was heavier and clumsier than a Spatha. He muttered a curse at his failure to work with precision and hammered the red surface furiously when he noticed a curious glow. The hammer appeared to heat up as he beat on the iron, it’s head glowing bright red. Alus did not take time to question the phenomenon, but kept working with renewed vigor. Each blow left a residual wave of heat that coursed through the blade, shaping it after his design. When he was done he quenched the iron, letting head a sigh of satisfaction be heard as the steam rose from the water barrel. Casting a glance above, the idol of Vulcanus seemed to be grinning. When the blade was finished, the first he had ever managed to create, he cast a sacrifice into the great bonfire outside in honor of the god of the forge fire.
Alus pushed the iron deeper into the forge, where the heat was most intense. The air was filled with fumes from the burning impurities as the material was cleansed and purified. He had reached the next level of his craft, new truths had been revealed to him concerning the shaping of iron. He grasped a rake and swiftly probed the forge, pulling clinker out when ever he felt the familiar resistance of impurities from metal and fuel molten together into undesirable lumps. When the fire had been purged the heat continued to intensify, and the bright yellow of the iron was a clear indication that it was ready to be shaped. Alus pulled the iron out of the forge and laid it on the anvil. The hammer was in his hand almost instantly and he started to hammer the iron, but immediatly noticed the balance was off. Turning the hot iron over with his tongs, it was appearent it had been in the forge for too long and had started to melt. The properties changed when the rigid masterial lost its stable form, and it would be useless to him now. Alus cursed and threw the iron bar into his quenching barrel. He would need more pratice.
The pyre roared outside the smithy as he fed more wood to the devouring flames. Thick black smoke rose high above, seen from afar by anyone travelling nearby. Alus brought the last of his prepared firewood to the pyre, then turned to his religious enterprise. A bucket of water containing newly caught fish that vore the symbol of Vulcan had been placed nearby. The fish were long dead, but Alus had instunctively kept them in their natural element to present a more genuine sacrifice. He grasped the bucked and heaved the contents into the heart of the pyre, noticing that the water evaporated almost instantly while the sacrificial fish burnt more slowly. The last firewood was quickly added to inscrease the heat. As the scales of the fish turned to ash, he said his prayers.
Hours later he hammered his iron, the yellow glow of the heated material lending the forge artificial light. The blade came into shape perfectly, and he was careful to keep the heat even, setting the iron back in the forge when the glow faded into a red nuance. Each blow of his hammer felt driven by the Smelter God himself, and his iron material did not breach or shatter. The blade took form, stronger, thinner and sharper than its predecessor. Even after quenching the blade in olive oil, Alus could feel an inner heat in the material. He knew that he had created a sword by divine design. The visage of Vulcanus seemed to watch with approval from its place on the wall.
Alus studied the document closely, as written by the Flamen Volcanalis of Telborea. The text had arrived with the shipment of armaments at his request. He lit the lamps in his room, hired from the innkeep of Hamley at a fair price, and sat down to read. He mumbled each word as he read it, his plebeian accent unheard by his fellow officers.
Scolls of Mulciber wrote ...
The patron of the forge fire can be observed in any flame not lit in lamp, on candle, or in hearth. He burns vigorously in the wild fire that is hot enough to shape metal, that we trap in the forge with his blessing.
The sacrifice to Vulcanus is made over a large fire lit under open sky. When crafting a blade, offer fish or cattle. When crafting a scythe or any implement for the fields, sacrifice bread. When you forge tools for tradesmen, burn fine wood made for elaborate carvings. When you make rings and ornaments, sacrifice fine silks and cloths.
If you cast into the fire what can not burn, your rite is irreligious and Vulcanus will be offended. If your pyre burns with a sooty flame, your rite is also irreligious. Do not enter the smithy until a day has passed and a proper sacrifice has been made, or your place of work will be cursed.
Alus understood the logic. He made weapons of war, so he had to give living things to Vulcanus. If he did not, the god would surely not let him create items that bring death. He must be careful to study the sacrificial pyre in the future, or his divine mandate to forge the weapons of the Empire would be negated, and he would suffer a curse.
Alus poured the molten bronze into the hole left at the bottom of his clay mold. The mold had been shaped by a wooden version of his creation, then tempered by heat to withstand the molten metal that would fill it. The two sides had finally been merged into one. The molten bronze steamed with foul gases as it slowly filled the mold. When it almost poured over the edges of the mold, Alus withdrew the small melting pot he used for fine crafts. The mold rested on a stable bed of stand gathered on a plate of lead. Hot coals were placed under the lead plate, and Alus removed them one after the other as the hours passed, letting the bronze cool slowly. When it was finally done, he split the mold and removed the bronze statue from the broken clay.
Alus spent the remainder of the day filing down strands of bronze that had founds it's way out of the narrow holes in the mold he had left so that the metal could expand without breaking the clay. He polished the material almost obsessively until it was up to his standards. The statue of was one of Vulancus. The maimed god stood tall with his hammer raised. The thick beard and long hair seemed quite life-like, and the damaged done to the god's leg was an obvious mark of pain. Though not perfect, the muscles and proportions were quite realistic, with some dramatic overtones. Alus was proud of his work, and set his new idol to Vulcan Mulciber to stand watch over his work at the forge.
Thinner and thinner he hammered the iron. Alus hammered the material at a calculated pace, heating the material after every few blows from the hammer. As the blade took shape it seemed too frail to endure, yet he worked it into that shape intentionally. As he worked he muttered every prayer he had learnt from the scrolls of Mulciber. He laid the blade to rest and grasped for a rake. Against every instict of the blacksmith caring for his workplace, he shoved his prepared sacrifice into the forge. The smoke blackened the fizzling noise of evaporating moist was heard over the roading fire. Clenching his jaw at the thought of pollution, he once again place the blade in the forge and gave shout, offering his dedication to Vulcanus.
When he pulled the blade from the fire, it was coated by a layer of a grayish brown substance. Alus quenched the blade quickly. The water did not come to boil or emit any gases, and Alus lifted the blade after estimating the correct time it would need to harden. He was surprised to see silvery veins forming in the iron as soon as it leaved the water. The veins started to creep over the blade, forming irregular patterns. Removing it carefully, holding the heavy tongs still, Alus placed the blade on the anvil to inspect it. As soon as it touched the surface, the blade shattered. The stern eyes of Vulcanus' idol watched Alus' creation shatter.
In his sanctuary, Alus breathed in the vapors of the boiling substance in his kettle. The hallucinogenics slowly loosened the chains of immediate reality that focused his mind. He gazed upon the idols of the gods, Roman and Telborean both, he had crafted out of precious metals. His imagination was washed away by the soothing touch of narcotics until his mind was opened to the light of heaven, the wisdom of the ancients.
He watched the birth of the world at the hands of ancient beings that he could not comprehend, how the father molded rock and mother furnished life. The world was cast into black chaos as the whirlwinds of creation swept across it and elementals reigned on the surface of the world, below the supreme beings. The earth trembled as continents crashed into each other to form mountains, and oceans sprang up in their wake. The ancient mother brought plants to grow in the soil and animals to spring from acorns fallen from heaven to populate the lands. The land settled, the elementals dissipated, and all seemed peaceful for a time until a melody rose of lust and inspiration. The children of creation emerged, and the eldest rose to lead them. Saturn stood wisest and strongest among his kin, and cast his ambitious stare upon his creator. The ancient mother gave birth to numerous creatures, but the ancient father loathed them all and cast them away like refuse.
Heaven wept with his cruel abuse. When the sun blackened for but an hour, the ancient mother spoke to Saturn from its shadow. He alone took up the duty to champion the living creatures. He came upon the ancient father as the creator watched his world with cruel apathy, and tore him asunder with twin sickles before he could raise his weapons. Saturn's physical form shone with divine radiance as it was showered with the remains of the ancient one, the violent conquest inaugurating his ascension. The blood and bones of the all-father rained upon the earth, and from it sprung gods and spirits of nature. Thus began the reign of Saturnus Invictus, the golden age.
Alus awoke, his vision blurry and mouth dry. His enlightenment was at hand.