Ralf swung his pickaxe at the rock. And then again, and again, and again. It was monotonous work, especially for him. He had always been a restless soul. But then, his family needed to eat, and his country, Obstaria, was stockpiling weapons, which meant that mining was starting to need more workers than the agriculture business. There were rumors that Obstaria was planning on getting involved with the conflict the rest of the world was in.
Still, this was truly boring work. Same old, same old, each and every swing. Which meant that when his pickaxe cleaved through the rock in a small rockslide that he was, first and formost, surprised. When the dust cleared, what he saw startled him. To say the least.
He had mined his way into a cave.
Ralf shouted for his fellow miners to come, and come they did, and the five of them slide into the cave.
Before Obstaria joined the World War in 171 PE, the country started preparations for war. The rumors that Obstaria was going to join the war were true. To do this, Obstaria needed weapons and a technological advantage, the former of which was covered by an increase in mining, especially around the Southern Hills, the later of which was covered by experiments, such as with the Raveten.
These two objectives would soon be covered in one operation. The discovery of the igneus saxum- the fiery stone. This was done in southeastern Obstaria in an iron mining operation. The area was recently discovered to have large pockets of iron, and the Obstarian war machine sent men down to fetch the stuff.
At roughly 25 foot intervals, the miners would branch out in search of veins from the main shaft. At 75 feet down, they found a rich vein. They followed it to a cave.
Ralf brought a torch with him into the cave, but he soon found he did not need it. There was plenty of light all ready in the cave. It was really quite beautiful, thought Ralf, as he stepped into the subterranean world before him.
It was a long cavern, tapering to a halt at both ends. It was quite short, thought Ralf, maybe 30, 40 feet long. Of course, none of this was truly important. What was was the flaming rocks.
Spouts of flames issued from the walls, gouts of it, each color of the rainbow. Reds, blues, greens, each and every color, pouring from the walls in every shape and size, and then, as quickly as it came, the flame flickered out. Ralf stumbled into this fiery corridor and jumped as a violet flame issued from directly beneath him.
"What is this place?" breathed one of his fellow miners.
When the Obstarian government heard of the flaming rock, they sent in sciremagi (research wizards) and scholars to investigate it. They found that a type of metal that they had never seen before was the cause. Still, as the miners used to term fiery rock, the scholars gave them a nod and named it igneus saxum, fiery rock, instead of a more accurate name.
The mining operation was taken over by the government, with each of the miners all ready hired keeping their jobs. They were given extra pay to unearth this new metal for experimentation and use. But since Obstaria was heading for war, military applications were given priority over others.
The Obstarian scholars and sciremagi soon found an easy use for it. They found that they take small chunks of Igneus Saxum and alloy it with steel, making something very similar, in terms of hardness and usefulness, to regular steel. With the benefit of flames. In fact, the Igneus Steel proved to flame more than regular Igneus Saxum, with bigger and hotter flames.
Soon, production for Igneus Steel swords started being made. The sword, for the most part, was ideal for metal. Most other weapons had the metal near wood, which would burn. With the sword, the whole thing is unflammable. Thus, the Obstarians introduced the Igneus Miles- The Fiery Soldiers, as well as the Igneus Equites- the Fiery Cavalry
These two types became the shocktroops of the army. When the enemy was fortified somewhere, especially in a rough, quickly made place (such as a trench, wooden castle, pike formation, etc.), the Obstarians would send in the Igneus Miles first. Typically armed with greatswords, the sight of the huge, flaming weapons would typically make the enemy run. Burning to death was a prospect nobody wants to face, and burns tend to leave horrible scars and cauterize cut wounds, leaving big holes in your body even if you live.
Other than this, the flames didn't really add much to the offensive. Unless you need to set fire to a gate or a house, all the flames truly do is add to the fear factor, as well as the moral of your own troops. In other words, a flaming sword simply looks really awesome, without adding much to your combat potential.
The Obstarian war machine soon grabbed up most of the Igneus Saxum, but not all of it. Though there wasn't much of the metal, only small veins near the cavern, some did make its way into the domestic sector for high prices. It became a sign of the extremely wealthy amongst Obstarian nobility (the government made sure it didn't cross their borders) to have Igneus Saxum somewhere in their home.
Some used it as a source of warmth, having a small chunk next to their fireplace. Instead of having to bother with keeping embers during the night, all you had to do was light a stick with the stone, and use the stick to light a new fire. Or you could use tongs to touch the stone to the logs, and wait for the fire to spread. Either way, fire making became easier for the rich.
Another use was as the centerpiece of a room. Instead of having some extravagant plant or a fountain, some rich people have a chunk of Igneus Saxum on display. Adding certain chemical compounds to it, as they found, made certain flame color and size combinations more likely, and at parties they would try to see what adding this and this to it would cause.
Humanity, upon discovering Igneus Saxum, mistook it for a magic rock. Anybody would have, for who could guess, and still be taken as sane, that the rock was alive?
Chunks of the metal are each a single living being, made of iron at their core. The origin of the species is lost in time, but it could have been a magical mistake, an organism dying and, instead of its soul going on to Barathra, the land of the dead, it instead went into the nearest thing: the iron nearby. But this is only at best a theory and at worst a complete guess.
The facts, not that anyone on Atheus has discovered it, is that a souls dwell in the iron near that cavern. Each vein is a tribe, with many of these life forms living in their own small corners of iron.
These life forms cannot communicate as the surface dwellers do. They lack mouths for voice and a tongue for song. What they have instead is flame. They can control it, and choose what color and what size a flame they issue is. The rest of the iron veins can sense this flame, and get the message, as easily as a human would if I were to speak a word directly next to him. The heat of the flame roughly corresponds to the loudness of the message, with extremely hot flames meaning the iron is screaming.
Of course, when humans first discovered the Igneus Saxum, all they saw was a rock that shot flames off. And wouldn't that look simply bada** as a sword? And so they cut out chunks of the rock and took it to the surface. When they did so, when the cut into the rock, the souls within the iron moved, as one would if your house was burning, and inhabited the small, broken chunks simply for survival.
Soon, the Igneus Steel was made, an alloy of the Igneus Saxum, regular iron, and the carbon. The sword became a single lifeform, living along for eternity, despite its repeated attempts at communication with the life around it through the only way it knew how- through flame.
If you do not count this loneliness, there are two things that make this creation of Igneus Steel and, through it, the creation of the Igneus Swords (which were the main things made with the steal), heart-wrenchingly sad. Both are pain, that attack the living iron in two very different ways.
Physically, the living iron had never been introduced to carbon. It had always lived in a world of iron and silicone and metal and rock- no carbon there. Then, humans brought the two together, and the living iron found that carbon was painful to it, exceedingly so. Carbon was a poison, which would forever torture the living iron.
Mentally, the living iron is a pacifist, extremely so. Oh, they had had wars for territory in the cavern. They had fought, mainly, with flame, sending gouts of it to silence the opposition. But soon, the living iron made the discovery that, though they did have a source of oxygen, it was a small thing, and the flames of war ate away at it too fast. The living iron was dependant on oxygen, and needed it to survive, and war would mean that they would suffocate. So, they became pacifists, and after many a generation, the idea of no violence became set, their very traditions and lifestyle centered around pacifism. When humanity brought it to war, the living iron hated it so very much.
Both of these cause it pain, in agonizing torture for eternity. The lives it takes, the harm it cause, the pain it feels, each of these lasts with it for eternity, until the living iron dies of old age, a feat that takes many human lifetimes.
The reason, you see, that the Igneus Steel issues flames more often than Igneus Saxum is because the steel is screaming in complete and utter agony, in eternal torment, its own personal hell. The lives you take, the harm you cause, the pain you feel, all this stays with you until your death.
All this because of human ignorance.