Ironhall is an academy for young, and often wayward, male children. Formed initially as a sort of reform school it quickly became a very disciplined place of learning where the focus is on military tactics and swordsmanship. Any student who walks the hallowed halls of Ironhall will have spent almost their entire youth there, starting around six summers and lasting until between sixteen and eighteen summers depending on their skill and the demand for graduates.
Graduation involves a long ceremony in which the student is given a sword forged to fit their specific fighting style, balanced for their hand, and bound to protect a certain person of importance for however long is necessary. During the ceremony, all the elements are invoked as the student swears to protect his new master. However, the ceremony also has the student swearing that he will protect, first and foremost, the Emperor and come to the Emperor’s aid should he call. The student sits on a massive anvil in the center of the ceremony chambers while his master-to-be takes the newly crafted sword, tells the student to serve loyally or die, and then stabs him through the heart. Drawing the blade back out, if the ceremony has gone correctly, the student will rise from the anvil with only a scar. If the ceremony has gone wrong, the student dies on the anvil, and Ironhall begins an inspection as to whom was at fault, the student or the master.
The Binding –
Should the student survive being bound, they are granted the title of Blade, and go to serve the person whom they were bound to. There are many legends about the supposed perks of being bound, ranging from simply overcoming the need for sleep to some more silly ones including prowess in bed. Regardless, a bound Blade has a certain level of spiritual attachment to the one they are bound to, allowing them to sense when their master is in danger. This attachment also makes it extremely hard for the Blade to leave their master’s side. Should their master die untimely and horribly, Blades have been known to go berserk, slaying many before they can be put down.
Should the master no longer need the Blade they can perform a ceremony in which the Blade is released from the binding, allowing them to go free and live their life as they see fit. The return to being unbound is usually very hard on Blades, causing bouts of depression and even driving a very small percent to commit suicide. However, most retire and become merchants or some other peaceful profession, but some return to Ironhall to teach the next generation of Blades.
Ironhall Training –
The training provided by Ironhall begins on the first day, as soon as a boy is admitted to the student body. The boy is taken in, stripped of his name and his past, and branded as ‘the brat’ until a new kid shows up. The brat is often treated like dirt, or worse, and is often forced to do menial tasks like shining the shoes of the seniors or mucking out the stables. This is allowed to go on, to an extent, by the teachers of Ironhall, as they feel it helps break down the young, innocent naivety about the world and open their eyes to the cold, hard reality.
Once the title of ‘the brat’ has been saddled on someone new, the old brat becomes a normal student, treated far better but still belittled by the upper-classmen. Now training begins. At this age, they learn basic literacy. Reading, writing, mathematics, history, all of these subjects are taught to the students to insure that they’re intelligent Blades, not ignorant swordsmen. They begin learning some of the basic principles of armed combat.
After several years, they move up and begin to learn tactics and strategy while studying military conflicts in history. Combat training is stepped up, learning some basic open-handed techniques while the teachers decide whether each student seems to excel in the use of either rapiers or broadswords. This information is noted, and the student will eventually focus their studies towards mastering one weapon or the other. In some rare cases, a student excels at both forms and is therefore taught both.
As a student reaches their eighth year or so, the studies become even more intense. They learn court etiquette, study other languages, and begin running strategic exercises. Combat training becomes much more intense, featuring monitored sparring with live weapons. Training in both rapiers and broadswords continues, but the student can mostly choose which to practice with from day to day.
In the last few months, a student knows they’re ready for the binding ceremony. They help teach the younger students while continuing their studies of history and strategy, sparring when they feel like it, refining their already refined skills. These students are ready for the ceremony and only await a person to be bound to.
Ironhall and Magic –
While Ironhall does not teach magic, some of the teachers have studied and employ it, mostly in the form of ritual magic. Used to accelerate, decelerate, or otherwise manipulate the growth of a student’s body, they attempt to form the student’s body into that of the perfect swordsman. Thus, as far as height and build go, Ironhall students usually don’t differ a great amount, though there are always exceptions. The average Ironhall swordsman is 5’ 10” with an average to light build.
The Cat’s Eye Sword –
The sword granted to a Blade is called a cat’s eye sword. A cat’s eye jewel is set in the hilt to mark the wielder as an Ironhall graduate, which is why they have been given the name they have. The sword is either a rapier or a broadsword, forged by master smiths that have spent months studying each graduate, preparing to forge the sword that will be wielded by the graduate’s hands. Thus the sword is forged to fit the style of the owner perfectly, allowing that Blade to use it flawlessly. Once the Blade is bound and given his sword, he chooses a name for it, and it is entered into the records.
Whenever a Blade finally reaches his end, his cat’s eye sword is returned to Ironhall, where it is hung in the Sky of Swords. The Sky of Swords, a great collection of the swords of former Blades, is located in the rafters of Ironhall’s largest hall.
When a boy becomes part of Ironhall, his name and his past is cast aside, forgotten. When the boy reaches a certain age, usually ten summers, he is allowed to choose his new name. Some choose the names of former Blades, others choose brand new ones, and the large majority first choose a gag name like ‘Wumpus’ and get stern looks from the teachers. Some more famous Blade names are Durandal, Wasp, Jackal, Edge, and Corsair.
Affiliation and Binding Candidates –
The Emperor funds Ironhall almost in full. It is because of this that he collects almost half of the graduates to protect himself or his close family. In order to become a candidate for binding one must contact the Emperor and convince him that you need the protection. Having good standing with him always helps of course, as he probably won’t hand Blades out to people he finds rather detestable.