Last time I talked about the city of Thrynn, which is the setting for most of The Shield Road. This week I thought I’d move away from locations and talk a bit about the Bladekin, the organisation that Talfrin, one of the recurring characters, belongs to.
The basics: the Bladekin are an ancient order, founded sometime after the end of the reign of giants. Having seen magic abused so much, many people wanted to remove it from society, along with any magical objects created using them. These people wore a tattoo of a sword on their left cheeks – supposedly to represent the first magic object they ever destroyed, though its name is lost to memory. Thus they became known as the Bladekin.
Not long after their foundation, the Gilgaran king, who supported them, granted them the northern city of Kadahrn as their own personal realm. Though the city has shrunk over time and is little more than a monastery today, it is still the place where Bladekin are trained in the methods of their craft, learning to be skilled, self-sufficient fighters and adept detectors of magic.
Fearing they might potentially be abused by lords and others hungry for power, early on the Bladekin adopted a code they still follow today. The basics of the code: seek out and reclaim or destroy magical objects, stay out of politics and mercenary work, and never cross blades with a Keeper.
Talfrin struggles to reconcile his oath to the Bladekin code and his personal morality several times in The Shield Road.
Here’s an extract:
The door swung open. It was Rikker.
‘What do you want?’ Talfrin asked.
He perched on the stool in the corner. ‘I just wanted to ask you a few questions.’
‘Ah. For Sabyne?’
He looked down, scratched the back of his bald head. ‘No, uh, for me.’
The Bladekin folded his arms and leant back on his bed. ‘Okay.’
‘Well, you’re a Bladekin, right? A trained killer?’
‘Why didn’t you just kill us? I’m no fool, I know you could’ve done it. Easily. And I know that crown’s worth a pretty penny.’
‘I didn’t want to spill any blood.’
The man scoffed. ‘Sure. You’ve killed hundreds, why would you stop with us?’
‘Never killed anyone who wasn’t asking for it.’
‘Hmph. And what if the emperor’s men come here? Will you fight them?’
‘I don’t plan to.’
The bandit grimaced. ‘If you don’t, we hardly stand a chance.’
‘That’s not my problem.’
‘I see,’ Rikker said, anger in his eyes. ‘Because you aren’t cutting someone’s throat yourself, you think their blood’s not on your hands.’
‘These folk follow a moss baron, they know the risk.’
‘You say that as though you don’t bear any responsibility for this mess.’
‘You do. You’re the one who found the crown. The crown makes this place a target, and you and I both know the Empire will burn this place to the ground to find it.’
‘Anyone could have found that crown. Even you could’ve, and I’m sure she’d have sent you if I hadn’t said yes.’
There was silence for a while. ‘So it’s as simple as that? There’ll be a bloodbath and you’ll do nothing because you’re too afraid to take a stance?’
‘I’m not afraid.’
‘Then what is it?’
‘I can’t go against my code.’
He stared at Talfrin, incredulous. ‘Code? What code?’
‘The Bladekin code. No politics, don’t cross blades with Keepers, and seize any magic items you find. This breaks that first rule.’
‘Saving people’s lives is political?’
‘It is when you’re killing someone else to save them. You want to save them, get Sabyne to give up the crown. That’s what this is. It’s all about who has the best claim to this land. It’s the definition of politics.’
‘That’s why she won’t let go of the crown,’ he agreed. ‘And you? What do you want the crown for?’
‘I want to hide it.’
He grinned, a grin full of malice. ‘Yeah, right. No man can resist the pull of power.’
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