In my world, there is a material called amaranthine. This material is effectively energy condensed into an unstable crystalline form (via a series of processes that aren't relevant to this question).
Amaranthine in its raw form is incredibly dangerous:
- Detonates if the surface of a sample below 1,700° C is cracked
- Produces a toxic gas if a heated crystal is exposed to certain catalysts (such as water)
- Suppresses magic nearby; the larger the quantity, the larger the area
- Drains energy from living organisms nearby; the larger the quantity, the larger the area and the more potent the effect
Amaranthine, however, has amazing properties when successfully worked that make it one of the most coveted materials:
- Able to produce any number of colors through proper additives to the forge (jewelry)
- Practically impervious to harm (armor, walls, doors, safes, etc.)
- Capable of penetrating almost any defense (weapons)
- Resistant to all forms of natural or magical energy discharges such as a fireball spell or lightning
Mining and working amaranthine is, of course, no simple feat. Only elves can resist the magic-suppressing and energy-draining effects of the raw material (but they can't use magic in the first place, so it's a moot point) and, for historical reasons, there aren't a lot of elves around, let alone ones able and willing to work with the material. Thus, states/societies/countries that possess the personnel to both mine and forge amaranthine are fiercely protective of that resource and do everything they can to conceal mines, smithies, and trade routes.
Converting raw amaranthine into a worked product is hazardous, so procedure is paramount. Early in the process, a sample must be bathed in molten iron for several hours and allowed to cool and solidify. This process helps stabilize the amaranthine sample, but also renders the iron unusable (it gets "poisoned" by the amaranthine), producing 450 kg of slag for every 1 kg of workable amaranthine. This stabilized amaranthine isn't as prone to detonation as its raw form, but it does happen, and the threat doesn't disappear entirely until the forging process is complete.
This question is specifically aimed at the design of a smithy that must combine secrecy with protection against the various threats of the raw materials.
How should an aspiring warlord, established state, or entrepreneurial society design a secret smithy capable of safely working with amaranthine?
- Amaranthine in its pre-crystalline form interferes with electricity. Thus, modern means of detection (satellites, etc.) are not a concern for secrecy.
- Worked iron can be used to contain the magic-suppressing and energy-draining effects of raw amaranthine, but doing so causes the iron to heat. Too much contained material can cause the iron to melt.
- I have considered both above- and underground designs for a smithy, but cannot settle on which would be more effective, efficient, and safe, so I leave it to you to argue which is better.
- The process of converting raw material into a final product neutralizes the dangers identified above.