Creating DAMASCUS STEEL
Rachel was still wondering just what this assignment was about.
She had found out too late that what the company referred to as "assignments in situations that involve serious risk to life and limb," in its recruiting materials were more accurately described as "situations in which the survival of the contracted employee is considered unnecessary or undesirable" when they were looking for customers.
Within twenty-four hours of signing her contract, she'd found herself being prepped for surgery as a "volunteer" donor for a heart-lung transplant. The surgical team had been scrubbing up when the intended recipient had a stroke, giving the family an excuse to cancel the operation (and thus preserve their inheritance). After her lucky escape, the company had kept her busy with errands and "personal service" assignments in their facility while trying to find a more permanent use for her. After about a month, they had come up with this one.
For the past week, she'd been living and working in this blacksmith's forge. Doing odd jobs like pumping the bellows and sweeping up at the end of the day, but mainly kneeling passively while the smith (she'd never heard his name used) lectured his apprentices, Henry and Jeff, about Damascus steel and the fine art of sword making. Rachel vaguely remembered the term from high school history, but couldn't figure out why it worried her.
The apprentices had taken advantage of Rachel's presence in the shop, discreetly harassing her during the day and taking turns sleeping with her at night. The smith, however, seemed indifferent to her, aside from giving curt orders when he had work for her to do. The apprentices were mainly interested in her as a decorative woman who didn't have the right to say "No." If they knew why she was there, they weren't willing to talk about it. Somehow though, she doubted that the smith had paid the company's enormous fee just to have a nude woman to do the menial work around the shop and be a plaything for his students.
Today, she'd gotten the impression that the sword that they'd been working on was nearly done. The smith was talking in terms of "the final heating," and had kept her at the bellows most of the morning while he did finishing work the blade. Even at a slow and steady pace, Rachel was getting tired. Finally, he was satisfied. He gave orders to his apprentices, "Henry, take over the bellows. Jeff, get the girl up on the table."
Rachel didn't bother to struggle when Jeff grasped her from behind and guided her to the work table across from the anvil, even if she hadn't been tired her experiences over the past week had shown the futility of wrestling with blacksmiths. He had her sit straddling the table while he tied her legs to its, then made her lie back with her arms outstretched. Jeff tied ropes from her wrists to the table legs at that end and added a rope around her, and the table's, middle. It was a very uncomfortable position, but Rachel had a feeling she wasn't going to be in it long. She suspected that she was about to find out exactly why she'd been sent here.
While Jeff was getting Rachel positioned, the smith had the sword back in the forge and was giving instructions to Henry, "Faster! Keep pumping! We have to get it white hot!" After about ten minutes, the smith was satisfied with the forge's temperature and resumed his lecturing tone. Rachel had let most of his lectures during the proceeding week go in one ear and out the other, but this time he had her undivided attention.
The smith was explaining, "In later years, Damascus blades were tempered by quenching them in a trough of warm water with leather soaking in it. But that was something that was only developed as an economical expedient. The original process was discovered by accident, and our patron has been good enough to provide us with what we need to do things the original way."
The smith was still working the forge, with his back toward her, but it seemed to Rachel that he was speaking directly to her. "A king of Damascus had a condemned prisoner, and it amused him to have the prisoner executed by running him through with a white hot sword. After the execution, it was discovered that the sword used was considerably stronger and more flexible than it had been previously. The superstition of the time held that the improvement was a result of the victim's soul being trapped in the blade."
"For some time thereafter, the best swords were always quenched in the living bodies of slaves." Turning, he stepped to the table. He held the glowing blade out in front of him. "Which we will now do."
Rachel's horrified "No, no," turned into a scream as he thrust the blade between Rachel's spread legs, into her vagina, searing and piercing its way through her uterus and guts. Her scream was cut short when her diaphragm was punctured, making it impossible for her to exhale. Finally, with his fist pressed against her opening, it sliced into her heart.
Even without the burning of the white hot metal, the sword stroke would have been almost instantly fatal. Her last thought was surprise as the smith began to slowly withdraw the blade, somehow that hurt worse because of her inner meat being burned onto it.
The blade would have to be carefully cleaned and polished before delivery to the wealthy man who had commissioned it.
This was a pretty quick kill, but that's necessary in the very short stories like this, if there's to be any anticipation.
I like the story, apart from a weird technical quibble: white-hot is actually the opposite of what you'd want for making Damascus steel. Getting it too hot would destroy the layered effect. It was worked at fairly low temperatures, corresponding to a dull red glow. That would still be enough to cause horrific burns from such intimate contact, though, even apart from impalement.
I don't know if you've noticed that this is not a technical manual. I don't know of anyone reading on this site who is in the least interested in forging a sward of Damascus steel. In the interests of brevity and with the fewest possible commonly used words, attempted to create an horrific image for the reader. Red hot does not to most sound nearly as pain-provoking as white hot. The truth lies in quite a different color, beginning with red of the setting sun on the desert, then cooling before the work of the anvil and hammer to . . . but here I go boring you with detail that is not relevant to the telling of a tale. So I'll just leave it there, and speak of taking licence with the finer details as being in the interest of spinning an effective yarn. If you wish to pass on this story and go on to something more technically accurate, the Literature folder is full of such work.
If you're going to be autistic about forging, you'd also need to point out that uneven body temperature, hitting bones on the way in, and having to puncture flesh with a hot, workable, blade, is a great way to bend the ever loving shit out of your blade. Just shut up and fap.
Thanks for the feedback, Anon, I'm pleased to see how concerned you are about making me a better writer of fiction, the kind that totally mirrors reality. I understand there are people for whom suspension of belief is outside their range. People in that narrow category were unable to grasp the message or enjoy stories such as Gulliver's Travels and Mobey Dick, which are clearly, by your standards, deeply flawed literature. Had you been the writer of this tale, you would have to put the young lady through a blender first, to ensure an even slurry. That would, unfortunately, ruin the intent, which was to follow historical practices.
I'm not a medical guy, but I do know there is relatively good consistency inside the torso, all of it a high percentage of water, as long as you avoid the bones, not too difficult in a human torso, and somewhat denser meat of organs, which are also mostly water. I've read in several accounts that this is how Damascus Steel was first made, as far back as 300 BC.
Here is an excerpt from a story printed in the New York Times, Sept. 29, 1961
In a recent letter to the museum a Pakistani told of a sword held in his family for many generations, quenched by its Afghan makers in donkey urine. Some medieval smiths recommended the urine of redheaded boys or that from a three-year-old goat fed only ferns for three days.
For eight centuries the Arab sword makers succeeded in concealing their techniques from competitors -and from posterity. Those in Europe only revealed that they quenched in red medicine or green medicine. A less abrupt form of cooling, according to one account, was achieved when the blade, still red hot, was carried in a furious gallop by a horseman on a fast horse.
Writings found in Asia Minor said that to temper a Damascus sword the blade must be heated until it glows like the sun rising in the desert. It then should be cooled to the color of royal purple and plunged into the body of a muscular slave so that his strength would be transferred to the sword.
In the ancient accounts there is more than one reference to such homicidal quenching. In a recent interview, Dr. Nickel pointed out that while many of the quenching techniques were based on superstition, they may have contributed to the success of the process, as by adding nitrogen to the alloy.
No ideas are new, it's what we do with them that counts.
Nitrogen perhaps, but it seems like _carbon_ would be the most relevant element added by quenching the sword by thrusting it into an unfortunate participant. As we know now, it's the addition of carbon to iron that turns it into steel.
My thanks too to the anon(s?) trying to improve the story with believable scientific/historical details. I'm one of those people who finds fiction, including erotic fiction, more compelling the more I can picture it actually happening in real life.
Heavy disbelief suspenders get in the way of my fun, as it were ;P
@ Psy & Anon
The concept is based on both myths and proven research on a barbaric practice that has sexually stimulating potential. I attempted to harness that potential in a brief and easily dismissed bit of fiction that, if moved to be technically accurate, means the story idea is fatally flawed. If it doesn't work for you, then please move along to something more satisfying for you, stories that bring you pleasure. That, after all, is the point to the exercise, is it not?
If you are unable to suspend disbelief, and I fully understand such people exist, the 2nd paragraph gave you all the information necessary to bail out and move on, as it describes an extremely unlikely situation in which Rachel is entrapped.
Continuing this conversation is singularly unrewarding, and I'm going to get on with my life. Enjoy good health and prosper.
Oops, that's dangerously close to an idea borrowed from a ridiculously unlikely and unsupportable concept for a science fiction story not worth producing. The late Eugene Wesley Roddenberry must have been a delusional fool, thinking people would enjoy a TV series with a misspelled title, Star Trek.
I think anyone interested in some pretty steamy text might want to research Damascus Steel history. A lot of people died in blacksmith workshops testing the stories on it's amazing properties, particularly in the creation of weapons.