BK II, Chapter Eighteen: Cloudsteel Armour

 

“I’m sorry”, Valerian said, thinking he had not been clear enough. “I meant to ask, what it is made from? What does it do?”

The smith sighed but said nothing. Luckily, Jonas took this as a cue to explain.

“The mercurial orb is an ancient menhirionn creation meant to act as an arcanist’s focus, weapon and protection all at once. The process of its manufacture is something known only to the top-ranked artificers of the clan”, he revealed. “I don’t know much just that it’s made from a natural alloy of silver and mercury called arquerite and then put through a secret process to produce what you have in front of you.

“I doubt you understand how great an honour it is for you to carry that Valerian. We have very few artefacts that date back to before our fall and the mercurial orb is one of them. It is one of the best artefacts an arcanist can have and its worth is more than three times its weight in gold. However, its use requires a gifted metal attributed arcanist and sadly, ours is a largely tellurian clan. Only six other people wield one of these. Vorm is one of them”, Jonas said wistfully.

“His armour!” Valerian realised. “He’d always wondered how his uncle was able to do that trick where he liquefied his armour and sucked into his spatial ring like that. Now, he knew.

“How do I use it?” Valerian asked eagerly.

“That’s the best part. The mercurial orb can do whatever you ask of it. and it can be used as a medium with which to command and control the world essence. As for the how, I’m afraid I’m not too certain about that”, he said with a slight glance towards the great elder to their side.

The man sighed again. “The material is greatly receptive to all forms of energy and is capable of all feats that require the harnessing, boosting and channelling of essence. However, proper use of the orb itself requires a very specific skill. Metal manipulation. Specifically, the sort of manipulation only metal attributed arcanists are capable of. If you wish to command the orb simply do so in the same way you do you summoned blades and do so bearing in mind that it is able to take whatever shape or form you require, channelling any of your forces and acting as your focus”, he stated dryly.

Valerian gave it a try. Immediately, nine weapons, a mix of daggers and crossbow quarrels, exactly like the ones he’d used for so long, slipped out of the orb. They hovered around him in the same formation he was used to, ready to be sent to strike his enemies. The only strange thing about them was that he could actually use them to feel out his surroundings with his arcane sense. A small bit of concentration was all he required and each of the weapons begun to gather metal essence. He stopped and tried wind essence. That worked too. He could even enhance them with his qi.

Unable to believe his eyes, Valerian took one dagger into his hands and tried bending it. It was as solid as any dagger he’d ever used. Putting in some effort, he attempted to bend it but it completely resisted his attempts. This caused him to frown. By now, his strength had long since exceeded thirty tonnes even in his base form and yet the dagger in his hands was entirely unblemished. He laid a palm over it and withdrew from it every bit of qi and arcane energy it had and then tried again. This time it was only able to resist slightly before bending into a nice “U” shape. However the moment he stopped applying his strength it bent back as if nothing ever happened.

Valerian put it away, letting fly back up and join its fellows. Instead, he took a good look at the orb in front of him. Amazingly, he had just created nine weapons from it and it didn’t even look like had touched it. Just how many could he make? As if sensing his question, Elder Richard spoke up.

“That, there, is nine tonnes of liquid metal. More than enough to use for anything you want especially if you succeed in furthering your manipulation skill. The orb is blood and essence bound and will accompany you for the rest of your life. Don’t worry. No one, not even an Emperor tiered cultivator can successfully take it away. The safety features make it such that only a Steelborn could ever wield it. Should the connection somehow break or should you die, the orb will become inert and completely unusable until it is collected by another Steelborn who knows what to do.”

Valerian listened. Finding out that he could not part with it unless he died was very … comforting. Especially with the way the smith took his time to describe it. He gave the orb another look, marvelling at its mirror-like surface. Valerian liked that he didn’t have to control it. It remained next to him at a set distance, constantly floating in midair. This was good since he doubted he could carry a nine-tonne ball of metal everywhere he went.

“There is one more requirement to using the mercurial orb”, Richard informed him. Valerian and Jonas had their ears perk up at once.

“You must take care to refine it regularly. Simply treat it like you would your own self and refine it with your qi and arcane energy. This will strengthen the orb and the connection you share allowing it to grow and better personalise itself to your needs and preferences. Only then will you be capable of using its true might”, the man divulged.

Valerian thought back to the amount of arcane energy and qi the orb gas consumed when forging the connection and hoped that it wouldn’t require such a massive amount every time. Jonas for his part nodded wistfully as if he’d finally come to understand something. Richard considered them for a few moments and moved on to the next item on the list.

“Here is your armour!” he announced, pulling out a covered rack from his spatial ring and placing it on the floor. He had been unable to do so with the orb since using Valerian’s blood in its crafting had made it impossible to store it that way. The armour, however, had no such troublesome properties letting him do with it whatever he liked. Taking a few steps back, Richard found that some small part of him was eager to see the expressions the two would make when they saw this artefact.

Valerian walked up to the rack enthusiastically and uncovered it. The first artefact had been so incredible, how could the second be inferior? Nevertheless, even knowing that he was getting something good did not prepare Valerian for what lay under the sheet. It was magnificent. The mercurial orb had outstanding properties but it didn’t have much in terms of appearance. This suit of armour, on the other hand, wasn’t just imposing, it carried a promise of power.

“Hurry up and put it on”, came the impatient voice of the old man at their side.

Valerian had been standing open-mouthed in front of the rack, long enough to show he needed someone to punt him into action. He couldn’t be blamed though. Even Richard was proud of his creation. Obliging the elder, Valerian rushed to put it on. He could not discard his current set fast enough. Once done, he walked up to a full-length mirror placed conveniently on a nearby wall and looked at himself.

This armour set was made from heavy steel stained with dark cobalt hues, with lines of a black metal and gold filigree to act as decoration. The black and gold lines they created outlined the individual pieces of the suit whilst contributing to a greater pattern that impressed itself on onlookers. It felt solid and comfortable, easily resizing itself to fit him perfectly. Valerian particularly loved the subtle feather designs on the armour as well as the black stormhawk sigil on his breast. It even had a mantle woven from golden feathers that wrapped around his shoulders and trailed down to the small of his back.

Everything about this armour said wealth, power and strength, in that order. This was proper Steelborn armour. Valerian couldn’t help but be impressed by the level of craftsmanship and detail that had gone into it. He clenched and unclenched his fists, even jumped around a bit to get a feel for the sort movement it allowed. He needn’t have bothered. This was better and more freeing than being naked.

“Bind it properly!” Richard barked at him, breaking him out or his reverie.

Startled, Valerian quickly did so. His last suit hadn’t need to be bound but obviously, it couldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as this one. Upon marking it with his blood, Valerian felt a bond take hold. It caused a deep thrum of power to fill the suit in response as it drew upon his forces to perform its functions. Before this, Valerian had not known that armour could be or feel this good. He could sense it at work now, making him stronger, boosting his qi and shoring up his defences.

The sensations caused his eyes to burn with the desire to test it out but he knew that he couldn’t do so here without breaking something. Resolving to put it through its paces when he got home, Valerian let that desire go, for now. One thing was for sure. Vorm was in for a surprise in their next sparring session.

“Try pulling up the hood and channelling some qi into it”, came the voice of its maker.

Valerian reached behind him, having not known until then that it had a hood. He found it as part of his mantle and pulled over his head, noting that it was made from the same metallic gold feathers as the rest of the mantle. Channelling qi into it caused these feathers and the steel threads that wove them together to stiffen and meld together till they formed a winged helmet made of gold and cobalt steel that covered most of his face and head. Retracting it caused it to revert to being a hood.

Valerian was stunned. The helmet fit perfectly with the armour whiles giving him a fierce look. It made it so that despite telling the smith that he did not want a helmet, he actually couldn’t voice a single word of complaint.

“What’s it made from?” he couldn’t help but ask.

“First, transform!” Richard told him. “I need to be sure it works well and holds through your transformations”

Valerian did so immediately, eager to see what the results would be as well. The armour moulded itself perfectly to his battle form actually serving to increase the output of his qi in that state.

“I made this suit primarily from cloud metal”, Richard disclosed. he was walking around Valerian, constantly scrutinising his creation and taking multiple readings.

“It’s not a particularly strong metal but it works quite well with both the metal and wind attributes”, he confessed.

“Alloying it with generous amounts of titan bone and frost iron allowed me to give it more solidity and structure in addition to making sure that it defends you from mishaps like what happened with your last set. I then enhanced it with parts from a gryphon and a lodestone beast. The leftovers were used to created the mantle and decorate your armour.”

Standing up he gave the armour a final once over and proclaimed., “You should have no problem using this set. However, should any problems crop up bring it to me immediately.”

That left a humanoid peng hovering in the air of his smithy. Its massive golden wings were outstretched and made even more eye-catching by the armour that it wore. Soft, translucent golden qi glimmered on the surface of the armour, adding to its mystique and majesty.

Jonas summed up the sight in four words, “Valerian, you look incredible.”

Even when he transformed back Valerian found himself simply looking at himself in the mirror and running his hands over the plate. He’d never had anything this powerful or this extravagant.

“What is it called?” he asked the smith. There was a new depth to his gaze now. There was more than respect to it. There was also gratitude and reverence for his skills.

“What’s what called?” the man asked him.

“The armour! What’s it called?” Valerian reiterated.

The smith shrugged nonchalantly. He hadn’t bothered to name it.  While it looked nice, the piece was nothing great. He honestly couldn’t remember the last time he’d made a suit that low tiered. The only challenge he’d had with it was due to him having never made a set to channel the power of peng before and not knowing how to go about it.

“It has none”, he revealed. “Name it whatever you want.”

Valerian looked at himself in the mirror, glancing out through the eyeholes of his helmet at his armoured form. The focus has a simple name encapsulating its material and abilities. The armour should have something similar he decided.

“I’ll call it cloudsteel armour!”

“That’s good enough I suppose”, it’s creator acknowledged. “Now, if you’re done ogling yourself, you can get out. I’ve got a lot of work to do”, came the smith’s curt voice.


Author’s Note

We follow up our Easter celebrations with today’s Good Friday release. Please enjoy. If you’d like to support the series please check out my social media pages. Follow me on Twitter page @LupineKing and Google+. Try and also take a glance at our all new Patreon page. Don’t forget to Vote for HoGW on Top Web Fiction! The votes refresh every week but it only takes a few seconds and doesn’t even require a signup or login.

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