Mineral which heightens the positive characteristics of most metals and other substances, so far found only in the south of the Aj'Nuvic Grounds. Mithrilan has at a first glance nothing to do with the prized and now extremely rare metal mithril, however, it enhances, if enough of that substance is added, the qualities of known metals, especially iron or steel in a way, that these metals nearly reach the quality of mithril - or other positive characteristics of a metal like flexibility and grindability are heightened.
The substance of Mithrilan is found in a mixture with salt in flat, dried out
pools. There the mixture has, especially under the hot sun
of the southern
a greyish-silvery to silvery-glimmering look, depending how much of the
substance is actually solved in the salt and of which quality it is. When
purified, that is when all the salt has been washed out in a long lasting
process, the lesser valuable, but still highly prized Mithrilan has a grey
shimmering colour, the best quality has nearly no colour but is reflecting the
light, mirroring the surrounding that it is hard to look at, and its colour
can't be defined. Maybe the best description is, that - when poured on a flat
table - it looks at the first glance like a highly polished silvery ball which
floats apart to cover finally the whole surface - provided it has a rim,
otherwise it just drops onto the floor.
The same happens with the grey powder as well. It forms an ordinary heap for the moment, when poured out of a bag, but tends to spread over the whole area available soon. It has no taste, nor does it smell, but if touched it initiates a revolving feeling, an unease in the whole body. Mithrilan is a heavy mineral. One ladle of the greyish powder weighs nearly an od, the shimmering variety is even heavier, one sip weighing two and a half ods.
The finished product has a high prize, though it varies with the region sold, and gets higher with the distance from its origin.
Usages and Effects on other Substance, especially Metals. Mithrilan is not much worth as a substance of its own, but if mixed in the right amount with metals or other materials, it enhances their quality unexpectedly high, so it is well worth its exorbitant price.
The most Mithrilan is used to forge swords and knives. As everybody knows, a sword is made of two kinds of iron: One which is soft and if it would be formed to a sword it would be very flexible and not break easily, but it is not hard and is easily cut or gets damaged when it takes a strike. The other kind of iron is hard, strong and can be granddad very good. However, it has no flexibility and could break easily. The art of a good sword smith is now to combine these two kinds in a way, so that an excellent weapon is the result: flexible and hard at the same time, and very sharp. This is achieved in a difficult process of putting flat pieces of the two kinds on each other, heat them, hammer them to a certain degree (not too long though!) and then let them cool again. In a second work step, this piece of metal is folded under heat, hammered, cooled down again. The process can be repeated quite often, the more the better the sword.
Mithrilan now enhances, when added to the initial two kinds of iron, both characteristics. So quite a good sword can be obtained in only a few of the described work steps. However, if enough effort to make a good sword is put in a weapon enriched with the precise amount of Mithrilan, an excellent piece of craftsmanship will be the result. Only the best experts can tell such a sword apart from one out of pure mithril. Here even the disadvantage of the higher weight can be avoided, because it is possible to make the blades very thin.
However, if too much of the substance is used to enhance its abilities, a negative effect will take place: In the beginning an excellent weapon is created, but it will disintegrate in a short time, depending on how much of the Mithrilan was used above the optimum amount.
Of course Mithrilan enhances any other metal and other substances as well. Her only a few can be mentioned:
An anyway precious metal, its soft golden glow is accentuated and its hardness increased, so that it is equal to the best steel weapon - at least to those made without Mithrilan.
Of course its normal characteristics are deepened, but it is mostly added in very small quantities, if jewellery is produced which needs no polishing for a long time.
Not used very often in its pure form, a new usage is currently tested in New-Santhala. When a small amount of Mithrilan is added, the property of Ithildin to reflect moonlight is enhanced very strongly as we know already from their usage as torches. So the government of New-Santhala put along the river bench of the Thaehelvil River rows of small pieces of Ithildin to prevent nightly visitors from falling into the river.
Though the Shendar always deny the use of Mithrilan in their mixture for getting this bright blue colour, it is widely known, that it was at least added when the blue tiles for the northern gate of Strata where made, to lessen the risk of breaking them during the transport.
The Mithrilan-salt mixture is harvested by the
Shendar tribe of the Kha'si, who
transport most of it through the southern Nirmenith Mountains and the Lands of
Pain down to Thalambath, about a quarter
is brought to Varcopas. In both places the salt is removed till the Mithrilan is
extremely pure, for any remains of salt would spoil its effect on the metals.
The only way to get it clean is to add a huge amount of water to the salt-mithrilan mixture and dissolve the salt. The Mithrilan as a non-soluble substance remains in the washing pans, while the salty water is replaced bit by bit with fresh one. This process has to be repeated again and again. Finally the spring water has to be replaced by distilled water, until the pure Mithrilan is gained. The shimmering variety of the Mithrilan is much more difficult to treat than the lesser greyish-silvery powder. There are only a few experts who are able to do this work without loss of the valuable material.
The productiveness is dependent on the place where the Mithrilan was found, and on its quality. The lower the quality, the more Mithrilan is gained from a pygge of the salt-mixture. The best results ever gained in Thalambath were 5 ladles of the grey power in a pygge salt. But it could be just a ladle in 10 pygges as well. The better quality, the shimmering variety is even much more rare. It is due to its movability measured in sips. So two sips on a pygge is the best result ever seen in Varcopas.
Most times, a mixture of both, the lesser and the higher quality are found. It is impossible to separate them. So charging the right amount of sans for it is often a problem, because it is difficult to tell how much of which quality is in it.
The advantages Mithrilan has in the forging of mainly weapons is enormous. However, its prize is not only so high because of its rareness, but of the dangers of producing it as well, for Mithrilan is extremely poisonous. It seems to have no effect or only little when imbedded in the salt. But as soon as the salt is washed away, it gets the more poisonous the purer it is. It is not yet known exactly how it gets into touch with the body, but probably just parts of the fine powder are hanging in the air and is inhaled by those working with it. The high quality is suspected to evaporate, to give away some sort of gases, though it doesn't smell.
Symptoms of the poisoning are generally bad health which leads in bad cases to an early death, it starts with coughing, respiration problems and bloody sputum in the end. There are no known cases of a murder with this poison, probably because it is so expensive.
The price for Mithrilan varies greatly, of course depending on the quality, but on the place where it is sold as well. The lowest fair is to pay at the place of its production, in Thalambath, only very little is available for sale in Varcopas.
Rough numbers are: 500 sans for a ladle of the low quality powder, purchased in Thalambath, and up to 3000 sans for a sip or two of the highest pure quality up in Voldar or Nyermersys. The highest prizes are however paid in Shan'Thai.
Areas of Production. The main producer of Mithrilan is the southern town of Thalambath where two third of the collected salt goes to. The ever-present snow-cap of the Norong'Sorno and the from there emerging rivulets provide the town with enough fresh water to clean the Mithrilan from the salt. The production area is exclusively west of the town, some strals away and outside the town fortification, but located in old lava tubes and fortified enough to fend off common thieves who try to get some of the precious stuff the cheap way. Thalambath is therefore the town of quite a lot of sword smithies which produce high quality weapons, though they try to accomplish this with using a lot of Mithrilan instead of working on them for a long time, heating, folding and cooling them in a long process. Most of the weapons sold to the continent of Aeruillin are coming from Thalambath. Pure Mithrilan is sold to Shan'Thai as well, but only to an oversized prize.
Thalambath is said to be the place which produces the highest amount of good quality weapons in the known world, in total and referred to the count of its inhabitants as well.
The other only place where Mithrilan is gained is near the city of Varcopas, on its western shore to the south of the city. There the foothills of the cloud forest provide the working areas with plenty of water. If it is possible at all, there the purest Mithrilan is washed out, the amount of high quality Mithrilan is much higher than in Thalambath. The Thalambath smithies therefore blame the Shendar with providing them generally with lower quality, but as long as only a few Shendar are able to judge the salt for its contents of good Mithrilan (and even they deny that it is possible), nothing can be done about this than lamenting. The Mithrilan gained in Varcopas is used only partly by local smithies, maybe a quarter stays in the town, a quarter goes to Bardavos where the most artistic and beautiful weapons are made, the rest is sold world-wide.
Thalambath produces a high amount of weapons ranging from good quality to high end quality. What comes from Varcopas is rare and without exception the nearest what you get compared to a sword out of mithril f.e. Many claim, that these swords are even better than ones out of mithril, because when forging them the excellent craftsmanship of the smiths made them even better. They are not as beautiful than those of Bardavos, but the simplicity of their design stands for the excellent work concerning balance, the right amount of flexibility and hardness. A Varcopas sword is said to be an extension of your arm, it fights for you.
History of the Industry. Although the Aj'Nuvic Grounds were explored quite early during the appropriation of the Ráhaz-Dáth by the Shendar, the discovery of how to use the Mithrilan is of a far later date. The strangely shimmering salt was known for long, that it was poisonous to ancertain degree and could not be used for eating purposes was found out the hard way. It was the reason for the nearly extinction of the Shen-Kha'si and the decreasing number of Varcopas citizens. Soon after the Aj'Nuvic Grounds were found and the northern part was used as feeding ground for their animals. The salt found in the southern part was harvested to season the food, it was even priced for its nice shimmering appearance and sold on the markets of Varcopas, Uderza and Bardavos. It took years to find out the reason why the other two tribes, the Shen-D'auras and the Shen-Siuu, which used the salt out of the Makadi'Gadi salt pans, didn't suffer under the same illness. It affected especially the wealthy people, because they used the more expensive kind with the most glittering appearance.
It was not until 1000 b.S. before the it was used again - but its significance was not discovered until 567 b.S. when a talented sword smith living in Varcopas realised the importance of it and the possibilities lying in it.
Many thousand years after it was first discovered, about 1000 years before Santhros ascended to the throne, a curios young Shendar boy just wanted to find out, why this salt was so different from the one gained in the salt pans. Of course, how it happened and how he found a trace of Mithrilan is not really known, but mothers like to narrate the story of a lucky little boy to their children. The important fact however was, that he was luckily able to extract a little amount and that it was used by his uncle, a sword smith - somehow. It was found, that traces of it helped improve the qualities of the metals when mixed in it, but not to a great amount, and so it was only used rarely, and the production was more a pastime for youths who wanted to test working with a poisonous substance and get some additional money.
Known for nearly five hundred years, it took a ingenious sword smith to perceive the vast possibilities of Mithrilan.
Tahirr Kha‘iry might have even been a descendant of the boy Kha‘re, who first extracted the grey powder from the salt, for he was of Shen-Kha‘si origin as well, though his family lived in Varcopas for three generations as well known sword smiths. He was very talented and had learned his craft from his uncle. But soon his skills outflanked those of his master, and so he decided to travel and to see, what he could learn and achieve elsewhere, how he could improve his skills and learn from other smiths Santharia wide, what he could not learn at home. He never related much of his travelling, but rumours go, that he even had a dwarf of the Mitharim as an teacher.
Back in Varcopas, after long years of travelling and learning he started again to work in his inherited smithery. It is not known, what brought him to add the Mithrilan first, but he was the man, who organised excursions in the southern Aj'Nuvic Grounds to recover more of the salt in one year than was harvested in the last 100 years together. He learned to distinct the different kinds of salt and though it is nearly impossible to say exactly what amount of high paid Mithrilan is in the salt. However, he would not have succeeded, if not his younger brother Zahid helped him to build up and supervise the cleaning houses in which the pure Mithrilan was gained. After thirty years of experimenting and forging, of adding more or less of the substance to the iron, he finally found out, how much to use and how to work with it. However, it is told, that on the day he finished the sword which he considered perfect his brother Zahid died of the poisonous effects of the Mithrilan. Tahirr wanted to name the substance after his brother Zahidium to honour him, but from the day on when it was clear that it was able to enhance iron to nearly resemble mithril, Mithrilan was used by everybody.
Transporting the salt in more distant towns proved to be not cost-effective, so Thalambath and Varcopas are the only two towns producing Mithrilan till today, because they are the only two in this region who have enough water for the extraction for their disposal.
It is said, that 482 b.S. the sword King Thar wore at his coronation to the king of the newly found Tharania was crafted by Tahirr Kha‘iry of Varcopas.
The knowledge how to craft excellent swords with Mithrilan was kept a secret for quite some time in Tahirr's family. Two of his wife‘s sons and one daughter became famous sword smiths as well, and the fame spread soon far.
Of course it was known that Mithrilan was the secret of the fine swords, but it took the smithies of Thalambath about two hundred years to catch up with those of Varcopas. They never reached the skill to do so perfect swords like the meanwhile grown family Kha‘iry of Varcopas though, but were content to do good quality swords with less time and work needed to make them.
This was different with the dwarven communities farer north. Shortly before Tahirr‘s death, a dwarven order for a small amount of Mithrilan was coming in, and to the surprise of his children he wanted to send the dwarves a fair amount of high quality - for free. He even insisted on a reliable transport, and so his oldest son travelled to the Mitharim, who had sent the request.
Among the dwarves the substance was heavily disputed and most clans were very sceptical and refused to even consider using it. The Mitharim however decided to try out the slowly getting famous powder, with whom lesser skilled humans were able to produce weapons of a quality which reached the dwarven quality, or even surpassed it, which no one dared to say though.
Unfortunately the Mithrilan, known to be poisonous, turned out to have a far heavier impact on the dwarven body than on the human, and all dwarves, it is said that there were seven in number, which had worked extensively with the powder, died within three years. After these tragic incidents, Mithrilan was a tabooed substance, forbidden by Trum-Baroll himself it is said, because it was deadly to the dwarven kind. Now those, who were against its use from the beginning, brought forward that this had been clear from the beginning, because it was not gained as a metallic ore within their mountain.
The factual basis to this belief was through the deaths of the dwarven smiths obtained the hard, tragic way. Whether this is due to the enlarged dwarven nasal passages and lungs allowing a much higher level of absorption, or simply a physiological difference, is till today unknown by their alchemists and physicians. They insist that Mithrilan is simply a corrupting influence on forge craft and refuse to have any items in their households that contain the additive.
However, in these three years of the use of Mithrilan by the dwarves, the best weapons ever produced were forged under the Mithral Mountains, and none afterwards reached the high quality of this swords, now called "Blood Swords".
The Kha'iry family was shocked to hear about the impact the Mithrilan had on the dwarves. Tahirr Kha'iry died shortly after he learned about it, burdened by the knowledge of the so tragic outcome of his gift - with which, is rumoured, he wanted to thank for his teachings.
Nowadays eleven families live in Varcopas, who maintain a sword smithery which produces high quality swords and other weapons, all rivalling dwarven standard, or surpassing it. All claim to be descendants of the first smith who used Mithrilan, Tahirr Kha'iry. The swords are very sought-after, but many people prefer dwarven weapons, because the fear to have a sword, which might have a whiff of too much Mithrilan in it and crumble just in the moment when needed mostly.
There is another group which is interested in using Mithrilan, that are the gnomes. Despite the high prize, it is quite often found in their alchemist kitchens, and if there are only traces in a small glass jar. Nobody exactly knows what they are doing with it, but maybe one day they find another marvellous application.
Myth/Lore. Mithrilan is a doubtful gift of the gods, poisonous, but very useful as well. So it is no surprise, that a Shendar myth tells us that it is nothing else than an unpleasant body secretion Etherus left back when he stamped on the Nirmenith Mountains to annoy Baveras, forming accidentally the Aj‘nuvic Grounds.
Is it a myth, is it a lore, or is it reality? Nobody can say it, but rumours go, that the sword of Santhros, handed down or conquered from king to king for generations now, is the original sword given to Santhros from the dwarves on the occasion of his ascension to the throne. This sword is said to have the most excellent, even marvellous qualities, due to the process of forging it. It is said, that the clan of the Mitharim dwarves, who experimented with Mithrilan till it was declared an impure substance and its use forbidden, made three swords out of mithril, enhanced with Mithrilan. Even then the mithril was a very rare metal, but the dwarves may have had their own resources. Who can say, if this is true or just a nice tale? And if it is true, where are the other two weapons?
A saying known mainly in Uderza and the Shen-Kha‘si territories is: "As lucky as Kha're!" or "He is as lucky as Kha‘re!" This means that somebody had a stroke of luck, several unrelated incidents which turn out to be favourite for him, but don‘t really affect his life. The following story told at the nightly fires explains it.
As Lucky As Kha're. Kha‘re was a
young, vivid boy of twelve, living with his family in Uderza, who owned
with others a pottery there. When it was his family‘s turn to graze their
herds in the Aj‘Nuvic Grounds, they happened to come close to the southern
border of the northern, fertile half. Kha‘re looked over the vast lands to
the south, wondering what was behind the next bushel of ar‘pun
grass. He was not yet allowed to accompany one of the caravans to the
south. Maybe he was more curious than all Shendar children are anyway, or
he was just lucky to decide to venture for a day to the south to see, if
the landscape changed there even more.
Information provided by Talia Sturmwind