Dougal & the Death of Cold Iron Edit
'Fergus' of House Gwydion, Lord of Strathcruach had called three of his nobles together to hear their council and to decide the fate of some human settlers who had carved out small farms in the southern edge of his valley. Four nobles sat around his fire. Fergus himself was the tousled-haired lord of the vale: a tall, thin lord of fearsome deeds in battle; Eilean of House Eiluned was his sorceress, lately come from the Western Isles; Macus of House Fiona, the hawk of war whose scarred hands had lifted as many bronze axes as maids' skirts; and Dougal, the hulking smith, who sat furthest from the other sidhe. He was there only as a courtesy, as it was his smithy that had made Strathcruach one of the wealthiest and most powerful remaining domains of the fae.
Once the servants had carried the last drinking bow from the room, Macus leapt to his feet, claiming that with fifteen warriors, he could drive Magmul and the human dogs from the glen.
Fergus gently chided him, reminding the fiery lord that they'd tried such things before and it hadn't worked. The humans would not be easily driven off. Plus, while the situation had only recently become a bother to the fae, it was already the third generation there. It was Erik, Magmul's grandfather who had first moved into the valley.
Macus wasn't deterred, though, as he fired back how ever since they had conveniently forgotten Erik's treaties. The human's farming wasted the land and their fires and flocks encroached on the forest holdings of Strathcruach. Plus, they had Cold Iron and had already killed two fae warriors.
"But the Iron, not the hand that uses it, is the real problem," said Dougal, not realizing he had given voice to his thoughts.
Both Sidhe lords looked at him in amazement; Macus wandering if the words were a challenge, and Fergus surprised that the smith, who had been silent for years, had finally spoken.
Eilean ignored the smith. She passed in front of the fire, which made her dress transparent and made Dougal blush. Though she agreed with young Macus' desire to deal with the problem quickly, but cautioned against open war. It was the human weapons they wanted to avoid, after all. Instead, to remove Magmul would deprive them of their leader and they would leave. She advised using some crow pooka to enchant the human's wine and promised to take care of the rest.
Of course, Fergus would have no such deceit. He said he would demand the human's withdrawal and if they would not, he and his warriors would meet them on the field of battle.
"We must not!" Dougal shouted. "I-I-I mean, Eilean is right! The iron is too dangerous. I need time... give me time to study it. Perhaps one of their blacksmiths will show me."
Eilean, clutching Dougal's raised fist, condescendingly reminded the smith that he should never have allowed the humans into his workshop in the first place. That they had used his generous gifts of knowledge to their own banal ends. Time was running out as every season there were more humans and less fae. To strike was necessary.
Face burning, Dougal left the hall. Fergus has discounted his words again and Eilean had befuddled him. In the end, the Gwydion lord had decided to send Eilean and Macus to Magmul to demand he take his people out of the valley with the coming spring. If not, the fae wold drive them out by winter. Words failed Dougal, but he wrote his honor with deeds, not words.
The Rashness of Dougal EditDougal knew the fomorian's poison was in the iron, not in the hearts of the humans. He had to drive the poison out, and soon, before the first winter snow was stained with fae and human blood. He knew he must act and when he saw the Fiona lord's chariot, he knew what had to be done. He grabbed the reins and headed toward the human village.
Nearing the first warder's fire, he quieted the horses and crept through the fir trees. He found the old warder asleep and by him lay a crude, thick-bladed, iron dagger. The dagger seemed to have its own shadow, not cast by the flames. Deep and malignant, the shadow grew, a blot in Dougal's vision.
Though the chill of the blade pierced him, he crept forward, grabbed the dagger, and ran for the trees. The horses spooked, tumbling the chariot, and fled, bouncing the chariot of the trees. But Dougal stumbled on, the iron numbing his hand; the cold beginning to burn.
At the Forge EditDougal limped into his forge hours later, his hand a smoking ruin of bone and meat. At the sight, most of his journeymen failed him and fled into the forest. Only three remained: Donovan, the engineer; Aife, the silversmith; and Morann, the nocker master of the forge.
The smith threw the iron into the furnace and turned to the three. "With coke, arsenic, hammer, and tong, I will drive the poison from the iron. I need your help but not your words. Stay, and we will make this lump of crude metal dream. I will make a weapon the world has never seen; a weapon that will save lives by its artistry and by its mere being."
"Wrap my hands, Aife, and then ready your silver. Your art will give this weapon its soul. Morann, take your bellows; the coals must be as fiery and steady as your heart. Donovan, bring me Achen and then retrieve your own. Tonight you make your masterpiece and become a master smith. We will beat out the cadence of the Dreaming on this bit of fomorian marrow and turn it to our will."
So he set to work. He heated the iron in his forge first, then sounded it with Achen. All the while, flinders of the cold iron flew into his hands and blinded his eyes, until he was a smoking monstrosity. His flesh boiled away, then his muscle, then his bone, but onward he stayed his will, and the iron changed. He alloyed it with coke and arsenic and, finally his own blood, which flowed down from his wounds, down his massive arms, and poured in torrents down Achen's handle until his blood bubbled on the iron.
The sides of the valley rolled with thunder, but the stars blazed overhead. The workmen of Dougal's forge returned first, but all of the nobles soon gathered to watch the feat. Miraculously, Magmul and his men came, too, summoned by what remained of their dreams. And Magmul's blacksmiths wondered at what they saw, but without envy; rather the felt a joy of kinship with those creating art from nothing.
Some of the journeyman who had run in cowardice motioned to help, but a look from Morann quelled and shamed them. Those lesser fae saw the great deeds of the nocker. He stood alone at the bellows and he drove with their handles as a giant might wrestle to uproot an old oak; even when the weight broke on his arms, he doubled his efforts and endured.
Aife inlayed Dougal's hammer on the blade, still hot from the forge, then the devices of the great houses. Wherever Dougal's blood poured, soon followed a rivulet of silver; but the silver and the iron blistered Aife's lovely hands, eating them slowly.
Donovan kept the cadence of his mighty heart with his hammer even as the hammer melted. He struck a blow in precisely the same place that Achen struck, and Donovan wove mighty Arts into this... his masterpiece. When the filings and flinders took his eyes, it was the power of the Dreaming that guided his hammer and tongs.
But none strove as Dougal did. At the end, he stood alone by the anvil; it had been blasted into slag from his blows. He looked like a thunderhead, swathed in mists of steam and seared flesh. Dougal's hammer and new blade glowed forth from the cloud like lightning bolts. He approached the tempering pool, and when he plunged the blade, the pool spewed forth a blast of vapor so strong the no one stayed on their feet.
Fergus was first to reach the pool; he drew the blade out from its bubbling depths. It was lighter than bronze yet stronger than iron, and it held no hate for the Dreaming. Fergus wisely gave the sword to Magmul, who passed it on to more men, and the mystery and wonder of steel spread. Such was the magic of the blade that none could bare to horde it. All took it into their hands that night. Everyone of the smiths who touched it understood suddenly the mystery of steel, and cold iron died there beneath the stars. And thus Anweyth, the inspire done, the masterpiece of Donovan and the nonpareil of Dougal, passed from hand to hand and into Dougal lore. Nobody knows where it is today, but wherever inspiration flames, there is Anweyth.
The Founding of the House Edit
A year and a day later, in the court of the High King, the three crippled smiths, Donovan, Aife, and Morann, were enabled as the first lords of House Dougal. All that swore the Oath of Dougal took on some physical reminder of Dougal's sacrifice, but they also received part of his heart. The new house took Achen as their symbol, in honor of Dougal.
And Dougal? some say his ruined body was blasted to dust. Others say he was taken by the Dreaming, and yet others believe that whatever was Dougal is now the steel that he made.