Chapter Four: Forge
“And when Melkor saw that these lies were smouldering, and that pride and anger were awake among the Noldor, he spoke to them concerning weapons; and in that time the Noldor began the smithying of swords and axes and spears.” ~ Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Silmarils
Year of the Trees 1451:
What was this supposed to be?
Nelyo frowned at the sheet of vellum. By its slightly rough surface, he could tell it had been recently scraped clean of its previous content. It now bore a drawing of what looked like a long double-edged knife. It was a strange design. Two edges on a knife that long would make it nearly useless for either skinning or butchering. He cocked his head at the depiction, taking in the length of the queer cross bar where the metal met the hilt and the bulbous pommel at the end. Perhaps it was meant to be used like a bill hook for pruning and clearing. But then, why was the blade leaf shaped? A triangular cross-section would provide a far sturdier design for such a tool.
Nelyo looked up from the drawing. "I do not understand, Atar."
His father did not answer. Rather, he began laying out bars of steel as long as his forearm onto the pitted and scared surface of the table before him.
"We shall kneed iron for the core," Fëanáro said.
"It is meant to be a knife, then?" Nelyo asked. The highest quality knives were made from welding steel to a wrought iron core. The iron would keep the blade from breaking while the steel would take and hold an edge better than any other metal. Farming tools were made from iron where toughness and durability were more important than strength and sharpness.
"Nay, yonya. It is not meant to be a knife."
Nelyo brushed his soot stained hands on his leather apron but only succeed in smearing it further. He could not help feeling a little annoyed. His father had pulled him from the making of several dozen broad heads. He intended to use them on the hunting trip he and Findekáno were talking in a few days. He would have declined but his father had asked him for help crafting a new tool, something he seldom did nowadays with his many apprentices and two other sons skilled in the art of metallurgy. Nelyo curbed his impatience as his father began inspecting the steel bars in Telperion's silvery light that emanated from the unshuttered window behind the table.
The iron ore had been partially melted a cylindrical furnace called a bloomery until it became sponge iron. The sponge iron was then removed and repeatedly beaten with sledgehammers to remove the slag and weld the iron together, creating wrought iron. It had then been shipped to his father's workshop. There began the long process of heating and beating the iron while adding charcoal and then the quenching and tempering stage. All this converted the wrought iron into various grades of hardened steel. It had been Aulë that had taught them the knowledge of the smelting of metals but as his father often said, it was a Noldo who discovered how to turn iron into steel.
His father gathered the steel he deemed acceptable into a pile. "I want you to help me form the blade."
"Why do you not ask Moryo or Curvo?" Nelyo wondered.
His youngest brother, Curvo, had inherited their father's skill with rocks and crystals and was mostly interested in silver and gold. Yet his skill with other metals was nearly as good as their father's. Moryo possessed his father's talent with iron and steel and Nelyo often found he could not distinguish between their works. His brothers were in opposite ends of the workshop. Curvo was at a workbench, giving facets to a green beryl. Moryo was beating a length of iron upon an anvil, the heat from the nearby forge causing sweat drip down his forehead, despite the rain that pounded against the roof.
"They have not the skill in welding iron and steel together as you do," His father said.
Nelyo smiled, pleased. He was different from his brothers. Kano had their sire's skill with words, wit and quill. While Tyelco inherited their father's talent in the arts of hunting, bow craft and surviving in the wild, uninhabited regions of Aman. Yet rather than having inherited a particular talent of their father he seemed to have ended up possessing as portion of all of them. He did not excel in any given area other than, perhaps, quelling the arguments between his brothers. Or maybe in soothing their father's anger. He placed the vellum sheet back down on the table before him.
“Of course I will assist you. Yet what is its function?” Nelyo queried.
“It is for protection, yonya,” his father replied.
“Protection from what?” he asked, bewildered.
His father did not answer. He tapped a finger on the drawing, frowning in concentration. “We shall have to be careful with how it is balance. If there is too much weight in the tip it will be difficult to wield.”
“I still do not understand what it is,” Nelyo said wryly, feeling a little exasperated.
“It is a weapon, I thought that would be obvious.”
“It is for hunting?” he asked, doubtfully, unable to imagine how such a weapon would be useful.
“Nay, Melkórë spoke to me about a future in which weapons might again be needed for protection. This is the design he described to me, which he said would be more efficacious than spears and axes.”
“You said he was not to be trusted,” Nelyo reminded him.
“Trust? Nay yonya, I do not trust him. Yet I am not so foolish to ignore sound ideas when I hear them.”
“Even if they come from a Vala?” Nelyo asked, mostly in jest. His father’s distain for the Valar was well known. It had cause quite an argument when Tyelco desired to become a servant of Oromë.
Fëanáro smiled. “Even so. The Valar keep much knowledge hidden from us. We would be wise to use whatever they deign to impart to us. They have existed longer than we and understand much about the world.”
“Then tell me how we ought to begin,” Nelyo said.
He felt troubled at the thought of crafting a weapon for protection. Such things had not been done since the Great Journey, before even his father’s lifetime. And what did they need protection from? There were no dangerous beasts here as there were in Endórë, the tales of which his grandfather Finwë had regaled him with when he was an Elfling. Did his father think they could defend themselves from the Valar? Their might was too great for any weapon. No, his father would never be so rash, for all his antipathy towards the Lords of Aman. Nelyo wondered, briefly, if his father intended to use his new weapon against other Eldar. He shook his head at his own foolishness.
No one, not even his often hot-tempered father, would ever do anything as horrible as that.
Nelyo (Quenya): shortened form of ‘Nelyafinwë’.His Sindarin name is ‘Maedhros’.
“…what looked like a long double-edged knife”: the earliest swords were short swords made of bronze and later of iron and then steel. The design remained the same for centuries throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, from the Greek xiphos to the Roman gladius. The sword described is a Bronze Age Naue II style sword created with Dark Ages technology.
Atar (Quenya): ‘father’.
Fëanáro (Quenya): the Quenya form of the name Fëanor.
Yonya (Quenya): ‘My son’.
Findekáno (Quenya): the Quenya form of the name‘Fingon’.
Moryo (Quenya): shortened form of Morifinwë. His Sindarin name is Caranthir.
Curvo (Quenya): shortened form of ‘Curufinwë’.His Sindarin name is Curufin.
“…His youngest brother.”: this story takes place before the Ambarussa are born.
Kano (Quenya): shortened form of Kanafinwë. His Sindarin name is Maglor.
Tyelco (Quenya): shortened form of Tyelkormo. His Sindarin name is Celegorm.
Melkórë (Quenya): ‘Melkor’. This is an older form of the name.