It is strong, flexible, and many find it easy to polish to a high shine.
In Senti tradition, they believe that their ancestors carry them into the future, and watch over them from within the steel. In this sense, their ships are, in their eyes, as alive as they are, growing and changing as the family does. Aboard many Flotillas, they believe in a gestalt deity, the very soul of the Flotilla, that flows through every piece of the burial steel.
As far as is known, burial steel has been a part of Senti Culture for as long as they have had the sapience and technology to use it, even on the homeworld of theirs that has faded into myth.
The material is harder to work with than Durandium Alloy, graphene, carbon materials, or other stronger materials but it has a holy significance and an underlying tradition that makes separation from their metals very distressing for Senti.
It is generally recommended for Senti who are to serve in any fighting force to be allowed to keep their trinkets, for the sake of their emotional health.
Senti are an iron-based organism with bodies rich in heavy metals and iron alloys. During life, these metals are used in their normal metabolic processes. Upon their death, their bodies are converted into this special steel known as Burial Steel by way of their death ritual.
When a Senti dies, a large funeral is usually held on the Flotillas. This will normally be at one of the forges built, and blessed specifically for this purpose. With their family in attendance, small trinkets made from older batches of Burial Steel are placed into a casket along with the deceased's body. When all in attendance have had the opportunity to pay their respects, the casket is closed and the body is incinerated.
During cremation, the Senti's metals melt in the crucible of the casket. It mixes with the Burial Steel of those who came before them and forms into a high quality steel. This is poured off, slag removed, and allowed to cool into ingots that can be remelted or forged and used.
It is also often made into toys, tools, knives, armor, small components, and jewelry that gets decorated with gems and crystals found in the slag.
Burial Steel is a honey-colored steel, described as extremely tough and surprisingly flexible; it easily flexes back to its original shape. It will occasionally show the face of the person it was made from.
In the case of violent death at the hands of a sapient, there is a major difference in how the steel is used. It is traditional to allow the soul of the victim to finish out their lives under the care of another, allowing the soul to recover from the shock and pain of their untimely death.
Due to cultural inconsistencies, differing personal ideologies, and other factors, Service Knives are rarely the same between Flotillas, or even between forges. They range from a ten-inch Bowie style knife to large Kerambits, even some presented as a sword similar to a broadsword. Despite this, the ritualistic construction process, alongside the oral traditions, and issuance rituals normally don't vary much, indicating a common ancestry from a far more violent time in their history.
Art by Hannah Werner
The handle is made of bone which has been extracted surgically before cremation (Normally the Humerus). This will be kept aside for use as a raw bone, and will not join the person in the steel just yet. The extracted bone is then cleaned, carved, and set into the knife's handle, as a display of unfinished business in the mortal world.
In the three reforges of this blade, the bones used can vary, so long as they are carved, and not forged.
A portion of the steel will be skimmed off to make a blade, normally between 5 and 10 inches in length. This blade is a utilitarian work knife, a tool, and one of the only weapons the Senti can produce.
The blade is carefully folded into hundreds of layers, with prayers recited throughout the process. The blade is then shaped and sharpened to a razor's edge, sharp enough to easily cut through Senti skin. The finished blades are polished to a mirror finish, etched and then engraved.
This will be issued to a Precentennial Senti upon their entering into the Law Enforcement system, a symbol of their graduation. It will have the wielder's name engraved on the blade, alongside a quote the wielder finds peace in.
Every century of the wielder's life, the blade is reforged with the steel of another death, not necessarily the same as the first. The bone handle will be reset over another layer, cleaned and cold-welded, the layers then riveted together to form a strong, ergonomic handle that may need further shaping.
When the wielder dies, whether of age or by other means, the knife is forged down with its wielder, bringing those who died with the wielder into the afterlife to watch over and protect the living.
Senti Burial Steel is extremely rare on the open market and tightly controlled by the Flotillas. It is considered priceless, similar to selling the ashes of a loved one.
Burial steel is not for sale, ever, due to its religious and cultural significance.
However, there are a few ways to get burial steel artifacts, including the knife.
The Star Army of Yamatai was able to produce a foil matching the chemical properties of the material. Unfortunately, the properties of this chemical copy are somewhat inferior to the real material.
This material was more brittle, less shiny, and had a lower tensile strength. It was also significantly less resistant to radioactive damages.