This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 7.9.
Altruis Hedeby hesitated before the roaring flame of the furnace. The hunk of metal he was about to destroy was an old weapon unlike any he had seen before. Despite years of neglect and rust, he found a certain beauty and grace in its distinct double-barrel design. He spun the weighty gun in his hands, noticing engraved flourishes atypical of the cheap, mass-produced weapons found across Asura.
Hedeby crossed the foundry floor to show the weapon to his supervisor, who generally considered anything that didn’t function to be furnace fodder. She was less than impressed and gave him two options: melt it with the rest of the scrap or keep it, with the cost coming from his wages. Under her watchful gaze, he returned to the furnace and, with a heavy heart, tossed it into the flames. He immediately regretted the decision, but it would come to change his life.
The care and craftsmanship put into that weapon inspired Hedeby to uncover its history. The journey sparked an obsession into unique and antique personal weapons that led him to found Hedeby Gunworks – a weapons manufacturer unlike any other in the universe.
THE EAGER APPRENTICE
Hedeby desperately wanted to keep the unusual old weapon, but his family needed every credit to survive. Born in the Ferron system in 2884, he was the oldest of five siblings. His parents struggled to keep the family fed under Tram’s tough economic conditions and, at the age of fifteen, Hedeby abandoned his Equivalency studies to support his siblings. He lied about his age to land a job at a foundry that collected scrap and melted it into cheap, everyday items sold at stalls across the city. Hedeby immediately took to the foundry floor, never feeling more alive than when the flames from the furnace almost licked his skin. His heat tolerance and enthusiasm for the work quickly elevated him from scrap sorter to furnace operator, which is where the strange weapon landed in his hands.
Despite destroying it, Hedeby became fascinated with the simple elegance of the gun. He constantly sketched it from memory, trying to get the dimensions and details just right. He also did extensive research, which didn’t lead to an answer, but began an obsession with antique firearms. At work, he pestered longtime employees with questions about metalworking until someone recommended that he talk to Chae Ekstrom, a local smith with a small shop on the industrial outskirts of Tram. Inside, he found Ekstrom hand-repairing the hull of an old drone and became captivated by the artistry of the detailed metalwork. Hedeby offered to buy Ekstrom a drink in exchange for a few questions. While Ekstrom couldn’t identify the mysterious weapon Hedeby described, he was impressed by the teenager’s unbridled enthusiasm and offered him an apprenticeship.
For the next decade, Hedeby juggled his job at the foundry with learning metalworking under the master smith’s tutelage. He worked at the foundry during the day and assisted Ekstrom in repairs and custom work at night. On the weekends, he turned his new-found skills toward his true passion of gunsmithing. Although he had never finished school, he discovered a new love of learning, pouring over whatever texts he could find and testing out techniques on leftover scrap metal. It took him six years of trial and error but, eventually, Hedeby crafted his first working weapon – a double-barreled pistol inspired by the one he found in the scrapyard so many years prior.
While he loved learning forgotten techniques, Hedeby found his true creative inspiration in Ekstrom’s training. Raised in Banu space by a metalworking souli, Ekstrom had studied a variety of techniques not commonly used in the UEE. Ekstrom explained that Banu were always eager to utilize new techniques and methodologies, but only when they were proven to be better. The result was a style of metalworking that was simultaneously classic and cutting-edge. It was this combination that had allowed Ekstrom to excel at repairing older tech and what inspired Hedeby to incorporate bolder designs into his attempts at recreating the expertly crafted weapons of the past.
Eventually, Hedeby offered gunsmithing services from Ekstrom’s shop. At first it was merely repairs, but he soon began experimenting with making existing weapons better. Ekstrom considered some of these mods unsafe, but they became quite popular. When one such modification caused a weapon to explode and seriously injure a patron, Ekstrom demanded that Hedeby stop due to the liability it placed on his business. This rift would prove to be one that could not be mended. Hedeby left to start his own forge so only he would be responsible for the success or failure of his future experiments.
FORGING THE FUTURE FROM THE PAST
Hedeby scavenged materials from Tram’s abandoned factories and set up a small forge in his backyard in 2921. He undertook gun repair work and hand-engraving to pay the bills while continuing to experiment with new designs and attempting to master old techniques. Word quickly spread about his operations and it wasn’t long before Hedeby Gunworks had more work than he could handle alone. Eventually, he moved the forge to a larger location, where he hired and trained apprentices to handle the repair work so he could focus on designing weapons.
While his traditional pistols and rifles became popular with locals, Hedeby was eager to put his mark on the field and craft a weapon in the Banu-style, albeit in a way that would be uniquely his. After numerous attempts to improve the designs of the past, a new weapon came to form. The Salvo started as a normal pistol but evolved into something new when Hedeby added a freezing primer to mitigate overheating and wound up with a supercooled casing that could be shattered into a deadly spray of high-velocity fragments. The first time he fired the gun, the unexpected explosion and thunderous boom knocked Hedeby off his feet. He knew that he had something special. Hedeby made and tested modifications before personally forging ten Salvo pistols. He sent one to Ekstrom and gave the rest to his most loyal customers.
Orders for the Salvo soon overwhelmed the gunworks and investors lined up to fund its expansion. Hedeby took time to weigh his options and develop more unique gun designs. Meanwhile, Hedeby’s growing reputation among collectors and gun enthusiasts made the brand increasingly popular. The company’s slow and steady expansion ensured that its signature style and unique production techniques weren’t compromised. Even to this day, every weapon follows a specific manufacturing process established by Hedeby himself that blends hand-forging and machining.
Years after sending Ekstrom one of the first Salvo pistols, Hedeby still hadn’t heard from his former mentor. One day, Ekstrom walked into Hedeby Gunworks carrying a crate. Inside was the weapon Hedeby had tossed into the furnace. It took decades to track down, but Ekstrom had discovered the Doussaint, a failed weapon prototype with both ballistic and energy fire modes. The design proved to be so dangerous that most Doussaints exploded during testing, leaving only a few left in the universe. Together, Ekstrom and Hedeby painstakingly refurbished the weapon. Though they never fired it, it is prominently displayed near Hedeby’s workbench as a reminder of his origins and as motivation to remain original.