Light Armor Forging

There are two classes of light armor, metallic and non-metallic. Elven and Glass are metallic light armor. You may be surprised to think that Glass can be thought of as metallic, but appearances are deceiving. What we call Glass is nothing like the windows panes you see in houses. The greenish material is far stronger and has a much higher melting point.

Non-metallic armors are Hide, Studded, Leather, and Scaled. For these armor types, the forger is as much tailor as blacksmith. All use large pieces of leather, stitched together with leather strips.

Studded armor also need iron ingots, from which you will make the studs and metal rings that make it more effective than simple hide. Scaled armor uses steel instead of iron, but the steel is infused with Corundum to make the metal inserts stronger.

For centuries the secret of making Elven armor was a closely guarded secret on Summerset Isle. Then the Betrayal of Ulvul Llaren brought it the rest of Tamriel. Ulvul was a Dark Elf slave, working the bellows for Nuulion, master smith of the isle from the fifth through the seventh century of the second era. When Ulvul escaped, he could think of no greater punishment to mete out to his cruel master than to reveal all his secrets to the world. Thus we came to know that Moonstone is the key ingredient in Elven armor, and that salt water must be used to quench the hot metal.

For Gilded Elven armor, you must also meld in Quicksilver. It melts at a much lower heat than Moonstone, making it tricky to work the two metals together.

The trickiest of all is Glass. Hammer blows struck across the grain run the risk of shattering the armor. It’s principle ingredient is Malachite, although it also requires Moonstone to give it the right strength.

Last Scabbard of Akrash

For several warm summer days in the year 3E 407, a young, pretty Dunmer woman in a veil regularly visited one of the master armorers in the city of Tear. The locals decided that she was young and pretty by her figure and her poise, though no one ever saw her face. She and the armorer would retire to the back of his shop, and he would close down his business and dismiss his apprentices for a few hours. Then, at mid-afternoon, she would leave, only to return at precisely the same time the next day. As gossip goes, it was fairly meager stuff, though what the old man was doing with such a well dressed and attractively proportioned woman was the source of several crude jokes. After several weeks, the visits stopped, and life returned to normal in the slums of Tear.

It was not until a month or two after the visits had stopped, that in one of the many taverns in the neighborhood, a young local tailor, having imbibed too much sauce, asked the armorer, “So whatever happened to your lady friend? You break her heart?”

The armorer, well aware of the rumors, simply replied, “She is a proper young lady of quality. There was nothing between her and the likes of me.”

“What was she doing at your shop every day for?” asked the tavern wench, who had been dying to get the subject open.

“If you must know,” said the armorer. “I was teaching her the craft.”

“You’re putting us on,” laughed the tailor.

“No, the young lady had a particular fascination with my particular kind of artistry,” the armorer said, with a hint of pride before getting lost in the reverie. “I taught her how to mend swords specifically, from all kinds of nicks and breaks, hairline fissures, cracked pommels, quillons, and grips. When she first started, she had no idea how to secure the grips to the tang of the blade… Well, of course she was green to start off with, why wouldn’t she be? But she weren’t afraid to get her hands dirty. I taught her how to patch the little inlaid silver and gold filigree you find on really fine blades, and how to polish it all to a mirror sheen so the sword looks like the gods just pulled it from their celestial anvil.”

The tavern wench and the tailor laughed out loud. No matter what he alleged, the armorer was speaking of the young lady’s training as another man speaks of a long lost love.

More of the locals in the tavern would have listened to the armorer’s pathetic tale, but more important gossip had taken precedence. There was another murdered slave-trader found in the center of town, gutted from fore to aft. That made six of them total in barely a fortnight. Some called the killer “The Liberator,” but that sort of anti-slavery zeal was rare among the common folk. They preferred calling him “The Lopper,” as several of the earlier victims had been completely beheaded. Others had been simply perforated, sliced, or gutted, but “The Lopper” still kept his original sobriquet.

While the enthusiastic hooligans made bets about the condition of the next slave-trader’s corpse, several dozen of the surviving members of that trade were meeting at the manor house of Serjo Dres Minegaur. Minegaur was a minor houseman of House Dres, but a major member of the slave-trading fraternity. Perhaps his best years were behind him, but his associates still counted on him for wisdom.

“We need to take what we know of this Lopper and search accordingly,” said Minegaur, seated in front of his opulent hearth. “We know he has an unreasonable hatred of slavery and slave-traders. We know he is skilled with a blade. We know he has the stealth and finesse to execute our most well-secured brethren in their most secure abodes. It sounds to me to be an adventurer, an Outlander. Surely no citizen of Morrowind would strike at us like this.”

The slave-traders nodded in agreement. An Outlander seemed most likely for their troubles. It was always true.

“Were I fifty years younger, I would take down my blade Akrash from the hearth,” Minegaur made an expansive gesture to the shimmering weapon. “And join you in seeking out this terror. Search him out where adventurers meet — taverns and guildhalls. Then show him a little lopping of my own.”

The slave-traders laughed politely.

“You wouldn’t let us borrow your blade for the execution, I suppose, would you, Serjo?” asked Soron Jeles, a young toadying slaver enthusiastically.

“It would be an excellent use for Akrash,” sighed Minegaur. “But I vowed to retire her when I retired.”

Minegaur called for his daughter Peliah to bring the slavers more flin, but they waved the girl away. It was to be a night for hunting the Lopper, not drinking away their troubles. Minegaur heartily approved of their devotion, particular as expensive as the liquor was getting to be.

When the last of the slavers had left, the old man kissed his daughter on the head, took one last admiring look at Akrash, and toddled off to his bed. No sooner had he done so then Peliah had the blade off the mantle, and was flying with it across the field behind the manor house. She knew Kazagh had been waiting for her for hours in the stables.

He sprung out at her from the shadows, and wrapping his strong, furry arms around her, kissed her long and sweet. Holding him as long as she dared to, she finally broke away and handed him the blade. He tested its edge.

“The finest Khajiiti swordsmith couldn’t hone an edge this keen,” he said, looking at his beloved with pride. “And I know I nicked it up good last night.”

“That you did,” said Peliah. “You must have cut through an iron cuirass.”

“The slavers are taking precautions now,” he replied. “What did they say during their meeting?”

“They think it’s an Outlander adventurer,” she laughed. “It didn’t occur to any of them that a Khajiiti slave would possess the skill to commit all these ‘loppings.’”

“And your father doesn’t suspect that it’s his dear Akrash that is striking into the heart of oppression?”

“Why would he, when every day he finds it fresh as the day before? Now I must go before anyone notices I’m gone. My nurse sometimes comes in to ask me some detail about the wedding, as if I had any choice in the matter at all.”

“I promise you,” said Kazagh very seriously. “You will not be forced into any marriage to cement your family’s slave-dealing dynasty. The last scabbard Akrash will be sheathed into will be your father’s heart. And when you are an orphan, you can free the slaves, move to a more enlightened province, and marry who you like.”

“I wonder who that will be,” Peliah teased, and raced out of the stables.

Just before dawn, Peliah awoke and crept out to the garden, where she found Akrash hidden in the bittergreen vines. The edge was still relatively keen, but there were scratches vertically across the blade’s surface. Another beheading, she thought, as she took pumice stone and patiently rubbed out the marks, finally polishing it with a solution of salt and vinegar. It was up on the mantle in pristine condition when her father came into the sitting room for his breakfast.

When the news came that Kemillith Torom, Peliah’s husband-to-be, had been found outside of a canton, his head on a spike some feet away, she did not have to pretend to grieve. Her father knew she did not want to marry him.

“It is a shame,” he said. “The lad was a good slaver. But there are plenty of other young men who would appreciate an alliance with our family. What about young Soron Jeles?”

Two days nights later, Soron Jeles was visited by the Lopper. The struggle did not take long, but Soron had had armed himself with one small defense—a needle dipped in the ichor of poisonplant, hidden up his sleeve. After the mortal blow, he collapsed forward and stuck Kazagh in the calf with the pin. By the time he made it back to the Minegaur manorhouse, he was dying.

Vision blurring, he climbed up to the eaves of the house to Peliah’s window and rapped. Peliah did not answer immediately, as she was in a deep, wonderful sleep, dreaming about her future with her Khajiiti lover. He rapped louder, which woke up not only Peliah, but also her father in the next room.

“Kazagh!” she cried, opening up the window. The next person in the bedroom was Minegaur himself.

As he saw it, this slave, his property, was about to lop off the head of his daughter, his property, with his sword, his property. Suddenly, with the energy of a young man, Minegaur rushed at the dying Khajiit, knocking the sword out of his hand. Before Peliah could stop him, her father had thrust the blade into her lover’s heart.

The excitement over, the old man dropped the sword and turned to the door to call the Guard. As an after thought, it occurred to him to make certain that his daughter hadn’t been injured and might require a Healer. Minegaur turned to her. For a moment, he felt simply disoriented, feeling the force of the blow, but not the blade itself. Then he saw the blood and then felt the pain. Before he fully realized that his daughter had stabbed him with Akrash, he was dead. The blade, at last, found its scabbard.

A week later, after the official investigations, the slave was buried in an unmarked grave in the manor field, and Serjo Dres Minegaur found his resting place in a modest corner of the family’s opulent mausoleum. A larger crowd of curious onlookers came to view the funeral of the noble slaver whose secret life was as the savage Lopper of his competitors. The audience was respectfully quiet, though there was not a person there not imagining the final moments of the man’s life. Attacking his own daughter in his madness, luckily defended by the loyal, hapless slave, before turning the blade on himself.

Among the viewers was an old armorer who saw for one last time the veiled young lady before she disappeared forever from Tear.

Heavy Armor Forging

Heavy armor must be designed to take a lot of punishment. It will receive direct blows from all sorts of weapons while protecting the wearer. Leather strips are used to make the straps and bindings in all armor.

Iron and steel are easy to work. Just heat them up and pound them into shape. The heat of the forge is not that critical. Avoid filing off any of the metal. Always try to conserve the metal and work it back into shape.

Iron armor requires a large number of iron ingots. A smith might need a couple of dozen to complete a full set of iron armor. Steel armor primarily uses steel ingots, but some iron is used as well.

Dwarven armor is made from dwarven metal. The secret of this material was lost when the dwarves disappeared millennia ago. Now it can only be found as scrap in the ruins of their abandoned cities and fortresses.

Orcish armor requires large amounts of Orichalcum, melded with a bit of iron. Heat should be used sparingly, lest it become brittle. The Orcs are masters of this technique, but it can be learned by any smith with patience and skill.

Steel plate mail is made by adding steel to molten Corundum Ore. The alloy is stronger than either metal by itself. Corundum is a finicky material requiring the heat from the forge to be steady and not vary much.

Ebony can only be worked when heated. It will develop small cracks that eventually shatter the material if hammered cold. Unlike most other armors, Ebony will not alloy with iron. It must be used pure.

I can only tell you tales of how to make Daedric armor. I have never seen it myself, nor do I know anyone that has. The stories say that it should always be worked on at night… ideally under a new or full moon, and never during an eclipse. A red harvest moon is best. Ebony is the principal material, but at the right moment a daedra heart must be thrown into the fire.

Cherim’s Heart of Anequina

Contemporary with Maqamat Lusign (interviewed in volume seventeen of this series) is the Khajiti Cherim, whose tapestries have been hailed as masterpieces all over the Empire for nigh on thirty years now. His four factories located throughout Elsweyr make reproductions of his work, but his original tapestries command stellar prices. The Emperor himself owns ten Cherim tapestries, and his representatives are currently negotiating the sale of five more.

The muted use of color contrasted with the luminous skin tones of Cherim’s subjects is a marked contrast with the old style of tapestry. The subjects of his work in recent years have been fabulous tales of the ancient past: the Gods meeting to discuss the formation of the world; the Chimer following the Prophet Veloth into Morrowind; the Wild Elves battling Morihaus and his legions at the White-Gold Tower. His earliest designs dealt with more contemporary subjects. I had the opportunity to discuss with him one of his first masterpieces, The Heart of Anequina, at his villa in Orcrest.

The Heart of Anequina presents an historic battle of the Five Year War between Elsweyr and Valenwood which raged from 3E 394 (or 3E 395, depending on what one considers to be the beginning of the war) until 3E 399. In most fair accounts, the war lasted 4 years and 9 months, but artistic license from the great epic poets added an additional three months to the ordeal.

The actual details of the battle itself, as interpreted by Cherim, are explicit. The faces of a hundred and twenty Wood Elf archers can be differentiated one from the other, each registering fear at the approach of the Khajiti army. Their hauberks catch the dim light of the sun. The menacing shadows of the Elsweyr battlecats loom on the hills, every muscle strained, ready to pounce in command. It is not surprising that he got all the details right, because Cherim was in the midst of it, as a Khajiti foot soldier.

Every minute part of the Khajiti medium-weight armor can be seen in the soldiers in the foreground. The embroidered edging and striped patterns on the tunics. Each lacquered plate on loose-fitting leather in the Elsweyr style. The helmets of cloth and fluted silver.

“Cherim does not understand the point of plate mail,” said Cherim. “It is hot, for one, like being both burned and buried alive. Cherim wore it at the insistence of our Nord advisors during the Battle of Zelinin, and Cherim couldn’t even turn to see what my fellow Khajiit were doing. Cherim did some sketches for a tapestry of the Battle of Zelinin, but Cherim finds that to make it realistic, the figures came out very mechanical, like iron golems or dwemer centurions. Knowing our Khajiti commanders, Cherim would not be surprised if giving up the heavy plate was more aesthetic than practical.”

“Elsweyr lost the Battle of Zelinin, didn’t she?”

“Yes, but Elsweyr won the war, starting at the next battle, the Heart of Anequina,” said Cherim with a smile. “The tide turned as soon as we Khajiit sent our Nordic advisors back to Solitude. We had to get rid of all the heavy armor they brought to us and find enough traditional medium armor our troops felt comfortable wearing. Obviously, the principle advantage of the medium armor was that we could move easily in it, as you can see from the natural stances of the soldiers in the tapestry.

“Now if you look at this poor perforated Cathay-raht who just keeps battling on in the bottom background, you see the other advantage. It seems strange to say, but one of the best features of medium armor is that an arrow will either deflect completely or pass all the way through. An arrow head is like a hook, made to stick where it strikes if it doesn’t pass through. A soldier in medium armor will find himself with a hole in his body and the bolt on the other side. Our healers can fix such a wound easily if it isn’t fatal, but if the arrow still remains in the armor, as it does with heavier armor, the wound will be reopened every time the fellow moves. Unless the Khajiit strips off the armor and pulls out the arrow, which is what we had to do at the Battle of Zelinin. A difficult and time-consuming process in the heat of battle, to say the least.”

I asked him next, “Is there a self portrait in the battle?”

“Yes,” Cherim said with another grin. “You see the small figure of the Khajiit stealing the rings off the dead Wood Elf? His back is facing you, but he has a brown and orange striped tail like Cherim’s. Cherim does not say that all stereotypes about the Khajiit are fair, but Cherim must sometimes acknowledge them.”

A self-deprecating style in self-portraiture is also evident in the tapestries of Ranulf Hook, the next artist interviewed in volume nineteen of this series.