Tuesday, June 7, 2011


This was an exchange of letters I just got recently. Unusual enough to publish, and as usual, it has been edited to remove names.


I am working on fantasy series that uses a sword as the instrument
that will be used to defeat evil, and close a portal between this
world and the underworld. I was hoping you could help me out with
information and advice.

The premise for the sword is it will contain 6 blades, each required
to be majically balanced with another, requiring 3 pairs.

Pair #1 - blade to control the other five (Eye of Zul) balanced with
the blade that controls time (Blade of Adamantine)

Pair # 2 - blade of fire (Blade of Molten Fire) balanced by the blade
of water / ice (Blade of Catastrophoonus)

Pair # 3 - blade of earth / life (Blade of Lilung) balanced by the
blade of death / arcane (Blade of Arcanity)

Each blade has been created using majik from the realm, the fire of
dragons, a drop of dragons blood and runes from each dragon species
associated with the majik. They are made from several types of metal
that are mixed and then folded 7 times. When the blades come in close
proximity to the blade that controls them they move and fuse with it, to
become one blade.

I am having trouble picturing this blade. I want it to be something
that a casual viewer would avoid, but in the hands of my hero it would
come alive.

Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.


(This was my considered reply)

Wikipedia has a not so bad article...albeit more opinion than fact.

And a really oversimplified process which you can adapt easily to novelization (with lots of drama, anticipation, conflict and excitement!) can be found here.

All steel as we know is made up of alloys. You can alloy iron with copper, silver, gold, and carbon. Carbon is most common. So what IS an alloy you ask? Well, an alloy is two metals which combine chemically make a third. Alloys are not "compounds" which are two materials which are mixed together. sugar and coffee can form a compound, carbon and oxygen mixed together form a third material...smoke. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_alloys They must be metals though (metals as defined on the periodic table of elements, don't mess with that with a deux ex-machina, stating that you can alloy iron with a non metal by using majik just cheapens your work and your majik. Magic has rules see....

Here is a list of alloys with dozens of links to the various properties each alloy has. It doesnt' have to be a hard slog...for instance, your dragons blood could be gold (or gold based), and the silver of the angels's tears will result in a soft green gold. Ferrosilicon would be found in Dragon shit, and the fact that in the presence of water it forms flammable hydrogen is just a bonus and proof that the digestive tracts of dragons are scary places! Cobalt is not just for colouring glass blue...it has some very awsome properties which make your "ice" sword a truly awe inspiring weapon!
Nickel got its name from "Old Nick" the devil himself because it would not melt as easily as any other steel. Go with it...the back story of how Nickel got its name is true, and lends vermilisutude to your story. An "Earth" or adamantine metal if I ever saw one!

Air is the last element of course....sodium, phosphorus and lithium all break into flames if ever exposed to air. Blades made with these elements must be carefully covered with a sheath at all times or you get smoke! They are normally stored under kerosene in a lab.

Two further elements...time and death. Uranium ticks down to become lead...it makes a beautiful yellow tinge in a glaze of any kind...such a glaze can coat a steel sword.

And that leaves "death".

What metal would most represent death? Metal is not alive, so it cannot be dead. Except for lead. Lead is dead, and by means of its use in bullets, it brings death. Lead has no ring...a bell made from lead will not ring...lead is dead.

If your swords have the above elements folded into them, you will get your magic.


(So, what would YOU tell him?)

ip-location map zoom


Ars.Gladius said...

I'm having trouble pcituring the sword myself.

I guess I would have gone something along the lines of "Not my department, you may want to talk with a wizard or soemthing about that."

Gregory House said...

That was indeed a very considered reply and a very good selection of sources. I would point out that in the author's explanation they were in fact very confused wiht a very limited understanding of swords, ritual magic, metallurgy and they more mystical realms of forging. As for what I would have said, I'm afraid I would have given them a larger list of references. Then suggested that they drastically simplify the sword concept, since it was going to be too difficult to write about in almost any setting.

Gregory House said...

To Stag on another matter still sword related.

Thanks for the compliment on my blog, I was wondering how many readers would pick up on that little reference. Good old George Sylver, a man after my own heart, who sadly lamented that the use of the knee and the boot in modern practices of defence was sadly diminished. The inclusion of his suppossed father here is in the way of highlighting the more combat orientated English styles of sword work. As for sword fighting classes, some close friends of mine set up here in the Antipodes the Stoccata School of defence via the Routiers- http://www.theroutiers.org/ I frequently cruise by your blog and watch your posts with some interest as a fellow re enactor, well done! As for the Lost Fort, the photos and research is just astounding. Now for obiligatory Red Ned plug, his next novel The Queen's Oranges will be out this week on Amazon Kindle so keep you eyes peeled and spread the word.

stag said...

Well, I am still waiting for my complimentary copy of the sword book.