There is a mysterious Rhulic alloy which allows for a unique synergy between a gun mage and his weapon —known as Magelock Steel. To the naked eye it looks the same as regular steel, but gun mages can discern the difference with a touch; the material attuned on an almost mystic level to arcane energies. Only firearms of this alloy allow gun mages to unlock their full potential.
Like serricsteel, the formulae for magelock steel is a trade secret, although in this case shared between clans in Rhul and those living abroad at the Ironhead Conclave in Cygnar. Magelock pistols have become a signature work of clans living in the Ironhead Conclave who partnered with a clan in Ghord to create the Ironhead Metallurgy and Smithing Conglomerate (shortened to the Ironhead Conglomerate). This conglomerate controls magelock production in Western Immoren. The only two places with facilities capable of producing this alloy are in Ghord and Ironhead, with most magelock pistols crafted at the latter. While located in the heart of Cygnar, the conclave agreements preserve their status as full Rhulic citizens. This has enabled the Conglomerate to leverage a uniquely profitable relationship with the Cygnaran Army.
Metallurgy is a highly respected art among dwarves — many Rhulic metalworkers have attempted to develop signature metals or alloys with useful properties. Clan Searforge in Ghord is one example, a prestigious family noted for exceptional metallurgists with a long-standing relationship with Stone Clan Odom, who lead the Brand of Odom wizards. In the late 200’s, Clan Searforge was attempting to create an improved alloy to aid in the production of robust and increasingly small cortexes.
A breakthrough happened as a result of inter-clan feuding in 280 AR when a competing clan deprived Searforge of access to coal and coke required for refining iron alloys. The Searforge clan lord boasted he’d create a new steel without relying on the carbon of coal or coke; he turned to exotic materials to strengthen iron. At great cost he created a new steel alloy boasting a considerably higher melting point, albeit requiring a difficult and extended alloying process. This alloy responded particularly well to arcane energies, but it would be centuries before its properties would be fully exploited. The cost of manufacture made it an interesting but expensive alternative for one of the vital components of cortexes in Rhul, only used in a minority of cortexes such as those required to be in higher than normal temperatures (such as very small steamjacks).
Meanwhile, Clan Grauss was busy with an unrelated enterprise far to the south in the lands of man. This clan was among the first to make the exodus from Rhul in the 200’s, lured by rich untapped resources in the Wyrmwall Mountains. Grauss entered into permanent alliance with Clan Derigur, a local mining clan, to ensure access to plentiful iron and other minerals and metals. Grauss made a name for its peerless smiths, capable of finely crafted metalwork utilizing unusual alloys. In time they garnered a reputation for gunsmithing and cannon fabrication. Grauss ornamental bronze pistols still command a premium among those seeking exotic sidearms.
Demand for fine weapons and other dwarven-made items increased tremendously after the creation of Ironhead Station and the railroad’s arrival to the area in 577 AR. Trade between Caspia and the conclaves of Orven and Ironhead increased, to the benefit of both. The reputation of Grauss and Derigur reached the ears of military minds in the Cygnaran Army who had been struggling with an ongoing problem. The clans were hired on retainer by the Strategic Academy to develop a pistol that could endure special stresses. Their patron was a new branch of that military school, dubbed the “Tempest Academy,” home of the budding Militant Order of the Arcane Tempest. The powerful energies they channeled through firearms had the costly side-effect of burning out metal at an accelerated rate.
Brobek Grauss — one of the most noted gunsmiths of his clan and an accomplished metallurgist—remembered the Rhulic cortex alloy, noted for its high melting point. After some negotiation, Clan Searforge agreed to join the Ironhead Conglomerate as a full partner and sent clan representatives to Ironhead to set up the required alloy manufacturing process. The Wyrmwall proved rich in rare trace metals and minerals, perfect for such work. Clan Derigur acquired several mines with access to these “curious” substances, which until this point had no practical use. With the resulting alloy they crafted the first prototype pistol and invited their Caspian patrons to come and test its worthiness.
These tests exceeded the wildest dreams of Tempest Academy. The firearm endured channeled power without suffering any wear whatsoever. As an experiment, the testing gun mage carved reinforcement runes on its barrel. The gun reacted like a living thing, unlocking hitherto untapped abilities in the gun mage. The type of gun was soon termed a “Magelock” after this process of rune-imprinting, whereby a gun became attuned to its owner and a conduit for his power.
These clans entered into an exclusive arrangements with the Cygnaran Crown in 585 AR. Cygnar was soon persuaded to also allow sale of this metal to their long standing ally, Llael, which broadened the market. Both the Militant Order of the Arcane Tempest and the Llaelese Loyal Order of the Amethyst Rose paid high prices for these weapons to those who could craft them.
The Llaelese preferred to import the metal from Rhul and craft their own pistols, rather than dealing with Ironhead, and established a direct relationship with Clan Searforge. The finest gunsmiths of the Order of the Golden Crucible crafted passable magelocks, although discerning pistoleers claim the Ironforge ones are superior. The Crucible may have even unlocked the fundamental techniques for creating the alloy, but the difficulty and cost required made it more economical to import the metal from Rhul; whether or not any of the individuals knowing the secret of magelock steel survived the invasion is unknown. Weapons smuggling to the resistance includes magelocks to the Amethyst Rose members who ght the Khadorans from hidden resistance strongholds and safe houses.
Meanwhile, in Ironhead the Conglomerate have been endeavoring to create other similar alloys, such as a metal to ease item enchantment for arcanists such as the Fraternal Order of Wizardry. The fields of both traditional wizardry and mechanika offer lucrative opportunities for metallurgy.
The Conglomerate fiercely protects the smelting process for magelock steel, but Magelock steel consists of normal steel with small admixtures of other metals, particularly those with high melting points. The most important added element is derived by reducing alchemical tungstic acid with charcoal. The alloy includes trace amounts of platinum and more esoteric metals like “red lead” and a nearly impossible to melt substance discovered during copper mining which translates from Rhulic as “hard-lead”.
The alloying process requires specialized superheating mechanikal crucibles and furnaces with precise applications of heat and air, and an equally precise quenching sequence. While the metal is excellent steel, it lacks the durability of Serricsteel and its use outside of Rhul is limited to magelock firearms.