The Guilded Chain

"A magical ritual of a sword through the heart binds each to his ward - if not the king himself then to whom ever else the monarch designates - with absolute loyalty." (Back cover)

A last measure attempt of true loyalty does not condone acts such as a spiritual binding. There are many reasons why a binding such as this in Duncan's world is wrong. There is always the shadow of death lurking around the corner - both literally and figuratively. Men who undergo this procedure must first complete four years of intense training, day in and day out before they are considered for a binding. There is physical harm, emotional and/or mental strain and the conflict of a split loyalty to consider. Each of these do harm to the person and in the long run.

The physical harm that will come to the candidates during the binding will differ from group Blades in the Royal Guard and then individual Blades. Blades in the Royal Guard will face danger everyday but only for the next ten to fifteen years as they stand as bound Blades to defend and fight for their king.

Individual Blades must lay their own life before their ward for the rest of their lives. Individual Blades are assigned to nobles, Royalty (other than the King), or whomever else the King decrees. Such a binding will take over the Blade's will for the rest of his life - or until the ward dies first. A Blade will have absolutely no sense of individuality. After a binding, the ward means the world and everything must be done to keep him or her from harm and danger for the rest of his or her life. Though this way of life is chosen years before the actual binding, loyalty is something that cannot be changed from one ward to another ward after the ritual is complete. Loyalty is permanently forced into the heart of the Blade by whomever the ward is, sovereign or other.

If the man decides to have a family before his stint in the Royal Guard is completed and there is danger everywhere, the Blade must without choice, leave his family immediately to go and defend his king.

"'Where?' he said. 'Everywhere!' She screamed again. 'It's terrible! Stop it!' He snatched up his sword and an enchanted lantern - one of a score that he had bullied out of the College - and dashed for the door. Any normal man who abandoned his wife and children like that would be a despicable poltroon, but a Blade had no option." (Pg. 260)

There is a permanent dent on the psych and there is constant mental and/or emotional strain that a Blade must suffer in doing his duty. Before the binding, when a Blade is still only a candidate, he must fight the constant fear that the conjuration might fail and end up fatal.

"The candidates were warned early in their training that binding could kill." (Pg.27)

"He shrugged and spoke his three words of ritual: 'Serve or die!' He poked the sword into Harvest's chest. No matter how good the conjuration, that must hurt. All Blades admitted the binding had hurt, although briefly. In this case, the prospective ward did not strike very forcefully, for the point failed to emerge from Harvest's back, and yet the spurt of blood was much heavier than usual. With a faint moan, Harvest let his head drop.. Durendal and Byless resisted, took the strain, and then stared at each other in horror as the awful truth dawned.. The conjuration had failed." (Pg. 27)

When the sword strikes the heart by the person wielding it, the candidate immediately becomes a protector for the newly made ward, if they survive. Anyone or anything that previously seemed special is replaced with the loyalty and special connection between Blade and ward and absolutely nothing is more valuable to the former than the latter.

"Suddenly his attention was caught by the Marquis, that green-faced, shivering pimp in the background. How strange! It was as if that pseudo- aristocratic ninny was the only illuminated thing in the room, with everyone and everything else in darkness. Nobody else mattered. He must be looked after and kept safe." (Pg.33-34)

Aside from the fact that the ward must be kept safe, if the ward dies by violence of any sort, the binding through the Blade's heart is shattered - so is their sanity. The only thing running through his mind is that his ward has died and he can think of nothing, but killing everyone else, a state referred to as:

".Stark, raving mad." (Pg.198)

By then of course, other Blades, for they are the only ones out there with enough skill and speed to compete with another Blade, will either kill him, or find a way to immobilize the lunatic Blade:

"The superhuman reflexes of his Blade might have saved him even then, had not Montpurse and Hoare at that moment enveloped Durendal in the net. the Guard bundled him in enough stout hemp to rig a galleon. Chefney took his feet and Montpurse his shoulders. They carried him out like a roll of carpet and loaded him into the coach.he still screamed." (Pg.90)

Then there is the conflict of split loyalty. But this is only the case when a candidate is assigned to someone other than the King, or Queen if there is no King. The way it works is that a Blade's first loyalty lies within whoever plunged the sword through his heart. For individual Blades, since they are still ultimately each The King's Blades, their loyalty is also within the sovereign. There is such a thing as a member of the aristocracy, or royalty committing treason. When this happens, the Blade is torn between feelings of hate and contempt for their ward, as well hopelessness since there is nothing he can do about it. While knowing treason is wicked, everything must be done to make sure that the ward is unharmed.

"The Marquis laughed. 'I can't shake him off. He sticks like a birthmark. Besides, he is an ideal accomplice. He wouldn't betray me under torture. Would you, Sir Durendal?' Durendal ignored the mockery. 'What foulness are you plotting, my lord? You must remember that I am a servant of the King.' 'But I come first! And I stand or fall with my accomplices here, so you can betray none of us.' Smirk, smirk, smirk! . 'I cannot betray you, so I must stop you. It is obvious that you are planning to use conjuration against His Majesty, and that is a capital offense." (Pg. 80-81)

The Blade starts off serving his King by training at Ironhall, going through a binding, and defending his ward with loyalty. Ironically, in serving his King still, he ends up fighting off the King's men while assisting his ward.

"He could still hope for the conspiracy to be uncovered, yet he could do nothing to expose it." (Pg. 85)

"Durendal risked a quick glance above and behind him. the Marquis was stumbling down between two men-at-arms. He cut the left-hand guard's throat before the man could even pull his sword away from the Marquis's chin. The man on the other side tried to draw and died." (Pg.89-90)

Durendal, a Blade to his ward the Marquis of Nutting, held no qualms against killing those who intended to hurt and arrest his master simply because the binding forced him to action to keep his ward safe.

The king's men are dead, the Marquis is accidentally killed, a house becomes ruins, and the best Blade in generations has gone insane.

Though binding does enforce lifelong loyalty in ones guardians, it causes a lot more harm in the end. Those who are not Blades, simply men- at-arms, will be killed in cases of Blades trying to defend their wards. The result of binding is much more costly, serious, and disastrous. True loyalty may be hard to find, but binding is not the answer.

Besides, people have been buying loyalty for millennia. Why should Duncan's world be any different?