Gi: History and Rumors
Fold and Hammer
The chant rolled gently through the man's mind; the one his master had driven into him years ago in the earliest days of his apprenticeship. Fold and hammer. Fold and hammer. Fold and hammer.
Before him was his work, and he doubted he would ever best it. He struck the metal repeatedly; each blow with a measured strength, a measured rhythm, and a measured amount of time. He felt the rhythm as a part of him. He could almost sing his chant, and he began to hum with the percussion of his hammer. The heat poured off in tangible orange waves as strike by strike the blade took shape. This would be many days yet to finish and the metal was cooling now so he plunged the blade into a trough of cold water and set it aside. Peeling off the creamy white tunic and pants, he hung these on a peg inside the door to the small smithy and left, shutting the door with just a quick glance behind him.
That night he dreamed of his creation. It was finished, the finest sword he'd ever made, the surface rippling ever so slightly from the laminate layers. In his dream, he lifted the sword, feeling the wire-wrapped hilt secure in his grip, and he declared it finished. No sooner had he done so then a demonic creature stepped from the shadows to face him. Staring down with fanged smile and glowing eyes, the being demanded a tribute of his creation, and the terrified smith handed over the glorious blade with shaking hands.
He jolted awake and wept. The dream felt real, visceral, and he could not shake the cold feeling in the pit of his stomach. He could not bring himself to touch the blade that day and instead worked on another project, finishing weary and saddened still.
That night he dreamed again. It was the same dream, his hands holding aloft the blade and examining with joy his beauty and workmanship, only to have the demon appear before him and demand tribute. This second night of dreaming the man refused, and he was eviscerated. He crumpled to the floor, empty hands covering the rent in his abdomen and was awakened by the sound of his own tortured voice. He thought of putting off finishing the blade, but then a stab of anger ran up his spine. He made a commitment that he would begin again despite any dreams. And although he felt a prickle when he first returned to his working of the blade, he was soon caught up in the melody and rhthym. Fold and hammer. Fold and hammer. Fold and hammer.
This night, as he feared, he again dreamed of the demon. As he ran calloused fingers over the finished blade, the demon again materialized before the man and demanded his prize. The man, having already faced the loss of his work and his life, instead took the blade and plunged it deeply into the demon's stomach, declaring to never again be overtaken by his fears. The demon laughed, but dispersed into a plume of flame and ash, leaving smoldering scorch marks in the floor and ceiling of his smithy.
The next morning he awoke feeling stronger and more determined than ever. He chanted what had become a mantra for him over and over. Fold and hammer. Fold and hammer. Days and weeks passed; the blade was finished, and he began on the hilt, the engraving, and finally, after months had passed, the polishing. All this time, no dreams plagued him, and he worked in a solitary peace, feeling the sword come to life under his fingers.
The day he looked into the sword's blade and saw his perfect reflection, he set the masterpiece down and turned, only to smell sulfurous smoke and feel the heat of flame and hate on his skin, hotter than any forge. The demon, alive as if it had walked from his dream, stood before him and let loose a cacophonous laugh that shook the man to his knees. Still laughing, the demon held out a bloody red hand and said simply, "Mine."
The man paused, thinking. Then, with a fearful twist to his lips and a furrow of anger on his brow, he took the sword by the hilt and stepped toward the creature, holding out the blade. The demon grinned; his eyes alight on the shining blade as he reached out. With a grace that only comes from familiarity, the smith lunged and struck the demon square in its swollen, red belly. The demon howled with such pain and anger that the windows of the smithy shattered, and the demon vanished in a haze of red mist leaving a string of invective pounding in the ears of the man.
He opened his eyes, wiping stinging red liquid from his face. He was on his knees with the sword pointed up and at an angle. The demon was gone. He stood on creaking knees and held the blade before him exactly as he had in the dream and let the quiet proclaim his victory.
There is a lesson here, children. That lesson is of our indomitable will. Bloodstone learned this as have many a pirate and thug. As the smith, we will not give in to our fears no matter what they look like.
- A bedtime story often told to children in Gi
The oldest taun in the Telish Throne to have a continuous history, Gi has long since been synonymous with the finest katanas on Layonara. Founded in 543 by a collective of artisans including two sword makers, Gi was grounded in the concept of friendship and cooperation between the 53 craftsmen. Even the word gi means friendship in the fading language of the Rohden Alliance.
For almost 900 years, Gi has been home to weavers, smiths, tailors, painters, and woodcarvers, all living in quiet reflection and dedication to their craft. Because of the number of families with multiple generations laid into the foundations of the taun, newcomers should expect to be tested and should also expect to conform to Gi's pace and preferences or face a rejection that can be shattering in such a small population.
Of all the crafts practiced, the one that has defined the essence of the taun is that of sword making. From the legacy of Imito Nagurac and Lataou Shen'shou, the human and elven master swordsmiths who helped found the taun, to the modern-day masters Chiyo Amie, Akane Shen'shou, and the devout Toranite Migumi, the quality of the blades that come from these forges far surpass those found anywhere else on the island and most places in the world. Ore is obtained via trade or from a few small, carefully dug mines in the surrounding hills. Every effort is made to avoid damaging the land; prayer and rituals to the nature spirits in the forest and hills are mandatory before harvesting the bounty of the deep earth.
Apprentices are everywhere in Gi; sometimes they are from the local area and sometimes they are from farther away. The Three Masters, as they are sometimes called, have several apprentices that are responsible for the rough shaping, heating, and hammering of blades. There is a handful of artisans who specialize in armors and other metal goods as well. The master engraver Kent Schumacher has commissions from all over Layonara to produce his ethereal etchings.
During the War of Bloodstone, residents of Gi escaped everyone's notice, even Bloodstone's. While the taun was destroyed in the takeover of Tilmar, the residents were able to flee to the Spine Mountains via Bilkan Castle. They hid there with the Bilkanese until help arrived, making what they could with limited resources and tools to help their neighbors. After the emancipation, the families returned to Gi, rebuilding quickly. They have expanded slightly since, taking on new artisans and some laborers to help with the mining and heavy work.
No mention of Gi would be complete without a nod to the Efficiency Collective. This group of gnomes has set about improving the process by which swords are made, ostensibly to better arm the Telish military. Many an artisan has stood up from some particularly focused work to find a pair of bright watching eyes ducking up and down from behind a parchment pad, while the gnomish owner of said eyes scribbles like mad. The Collective has been banned from the majority of the smithies but Sitchu Jeeh has taken pity on them and allowed them to document his procedures. From this, surprisingly, has come a series of steps that the sitchu does in fact think will speed up mass production of weapons, and he is preparing to take the Collective to Huangjin to meet with the mido and present their ideas.