Cold Iron is a metal traditionally known to be the bane of the Fair Folk - it has maximum effect when hand-forged at a lower temperatures to preserve its delicate properties.
|“|| Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.
“Good!” cried the Baron, sitting in his hall,
“But iron, cold iron, is master of them all”.
|— Rudyard Kipling, “Cold Iron”|
Ordinary iron disgusts the Others, who find its presence uncomfortable and frightening. Hand-forged iron, beaten into shape by raw, brute force, actively repels them. Its very presence is painful to them, and its touch sears their flesh as though the metal were straight from the forge’s heat. Changelings are vulnerable to iron weaponry inasmuch as their mystical defenses, coming as they do from the same source as the Others’, are of no use against it, but they do not suffer from the deep-seated loathing of the substance that binds the Gentry. In other words, cold iron ignores all fae magic defenses, and hand-forged iron deals aggravated damage to the fae.
According to the books, if it’s usually called iron, it counts as cold iron at least, if not hand-forged iron. If it’s called steel or oxides or anything else, it doesn’t. Intentionally forged alloys aren’t iron any more, but a hunk of iron ore pulled out of the ground is, as its impurities are naturally occurring. It’s also worth pointing out that the term “cold iron” is just a bit of poetry. Iron doesn’t literally need to be cold to have its effects on the fae. You could pick up a wrought-iron fencepost that’s been sitting out in an Arizona summer sun all day and it will still break through fae enchantments.
In effect, an item made from relatively pure iron (not steel) ignores defenses contrived by the fae and their magics. A protection Contract will not offer any safety from an iron weapon, for example. A changeling wearing fae armor will find it’s no protection from a spike torn from a wrought iron fence. Iron pure enough to be called “cold iron” is used very rarely in the modern world, and most Lost who look for a weapon to use against their fellows must often hunt through antique stores to find items with the distinctive grain or forge it themselves.
Iron weapons forged by hand have even more power. Mass-produced, machine-cut knives are not “cold iron”, nor is metal that has been conjured, transmuted, or even shaped by magic. The most damaging iron has been hammered into its shape with nothing but muscle, a hammer, and patience. Hand-forged iron confers an additional benefit, but only against the Gentry — True Fae suffer aggravated damage from hand-forged iron weapons. Even contact with hand-forged iron causes discomfort to the Others. Against changelings, hand-forged iron works the same as pure iron.
Among the Lost, no one truly knows why iron is anathema to the power of Faerie. Some of the Fae tell a curious tale about the Fair Folk’s weakness to cold iron. Below are some of the most popular theories:
A Contract Torn Asunder - According to one of those legends, long ago, a powerful Other called the Red Prince of Dreams made a Contract with Iron itself, but that creature failed to honor the terms of the Contract. Thereafter, iron swore itself as an enemy to the prodigal people, cold and unyielding in its grudge against them. This elemental animosity passed down to the changelings, as well.
The Hope of Man - According to another of these legends, during the Bronze Age, there was a witch doctor of great power. He cast a big spell to call the Spirit of Iron, telling it that his people would use iron to conquer the world if Iron promises to protect them from the supernatural creatures. Iron thinks that sounds like a sweet gig, and since he’s new enough on the scene that he doesn’t owe anything to anybody else, he says sure.
The Foe of All Unreason - According to this theory, there's nothing special about Iron at all. Iron cuts through faerie magic like it wasn’t even there because Iron is literally the most non-magical substance on earth. Some people say it’s because iron symbolically represents the way mankind traded wonder for reason, it being the metal that made so much of modern science and technology possible. No one knows for sure.
Luckily for changelings, pure iron, especially handforged, is somewhat rare in most modern environments. Objects built from metal for durability are typically made of steel or other alloys. Iron is less common, less practical and even regarded as a bit “primitive” in certain contexts — consider the somewhat coarse look of a hand-wrought iron fence when compared to a mass-produced chain-link fence.
Especially among weaponry (where iron is most likely to come into play), iron is the exception rather than the rule. Iron implements can be had relatively easily, but they’ll probably have to be special ordered or created by custom work. Crafting hand-forged iron items is a grueling task; most freeholds will have at most one artisan who works in the stuff, and even then it’s usually an occasional thing, unless the Gentry are a very real and active threat to the freehold.
To maintain effectiveness as a weapon, handforged iron cannot be subject to the heat of the forge. This means if the weapon breaks or must be re-forged, the best that can be done is to remake it into two or more smaller weapons (and only the greatest among the Smiths could tell you otherwise). To forge iron by hand requires a full set of blacksmithing tools and at least a Strength of 4.
Dice Pool: Strength + Crafts
Action: Extended (variable successes required; each roll represents a day of forging)
The Blacksmith must roll a number of successes equal to double the Structure of the intended item. Only count the actual iron portion of the object’s Size when determining its Structure; for example, a spear has a Size of 4, but most of that is the wooden haft. The iron head is no bigger than a dagger, so the spear has a Size of 1.
Types of IronEdit
It’s all well and good to say “anything called iron counts as iron”, but it’s not always readily obvious what sorts of things are made out of iron these days. While far from a comprehensive list, the following should prove helpful:
• Iron Ore: Iron ore is iron as it is mined out of the ground. Iron ore resembles a rock more than a metal, and is loaded with impurities, but still considered iron. Iron ore is never worked into any finished product without several more refining steps, but a fist-sized chunk makes a serviceable improvised weapon. Since iron ore hasn’t been treated by a forge, it inflicts aggravated damage against the True Fae. Sample Weapons - Fist-sized chunk of ore (+0B), two-handed chunk of ore (+1B).
• Pig Iron: Pig iron is raw iron immediately after it has been smelted in a blast furnace. Pig iron’s high carbon content makes it far too brittle for use in construction, but pig iron can be found in limited applications such as weights and anchors. Because it has been heated, pig iron does not inflict aggravated damage against the Others. Sample Weapons - Theater curtain “pig weight” (+1B), boat anchor (+2B).
• Cast Iron: Cast iron is a group of iron-carbon alloys with a carbon content greater than 2%. Once pig iron has been further purified, it becomes cast iron. Cast iron is used in a wide variety of fields, most notably cookware, but also in the construction of pipes, car parts and heavy machinery. Sample Weapons - Cast iron skillet (+0B), crankshaft (+1B), length of iron pipe (+1B).
• Wrought Iron: Wrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon (less than 0.08%), and has fibrous inclusions known as slag up to 2% by weight. Wrought iron was once the most common form of iron in the Western world, used for everything from chains to rivets to building materials. Today, most instances of wrought iron are decorative, and in fact most are actually a soft form of steel. More than one changeling has wrenched a piece of wrought iron fence free to serve as a weapon, only to learn too late that the “wrought iron” was a cheap steel imitation. Sample Weapons - Fence post (+1L), antique lamppost (+2B, requires Strength 4).
A hand-forged iron tool has been beaten into shape with nothing but muscle power; a hand-forged tool is never heated by the hand of man. Technically speaking, there is almost no such thing as true hand-forged iron, since iron ore must be smelted to produce a metal pure enough to work with. Changeling smiths have found ways around this, albeit costly ones, that allow the smiths to begin with an unworked ingot of cast iron or wrought iron.
Items made of hand-forged iron deal aggravated damage to both Changeling and True Fae; additionally, such materials ignore completely all their magics. The Others are particularly disturbed by items made of hand-forged iron and its very presence unnerves them; if a Fae finds hand-forged iron touching his body (even through clothes or armor), the creature suffers a –2 dice penalty to all Resolve or Composure rolls. Changelings have reported various strange effects after injuring one of the Gentry with such a weapon: one time, steam may rise from the wound, while another time a blade might withdraw with crystals of ice upon it. One of the Lost even claims that a wound opened by a hand-forged blade began vomiting fat, green horseflies.
The most highly sought-after material for weapons against the True Fae is meteoric iron. Meteoric iron, as the name suggests, came to earth in the form of meteorites, where the heat of atmospheric entry smelts the iron naturally. Since the metal was never heated by the hands of man, it can be cold-worked into true hand-forged iron.