Blademasters of Megalos
“You ask why I was delayed, my lord? I rode from Teridar with three hundred men-at-arms, veterans all. To reach Kethalos in time we chose a shorter route and found upon it a single bridge. And upon that bridge stood one man with no mail or shield and only a single sword. I saw upon his arms the dragon-mark naming him Gaidin, and he refused to stand aside. So I chose another path that would not lead these men to ruin.”
First Consul Aloysius of Terand, when asked of a peer why his war-band did not reach Kethalos to aid against a massive Northern raid.
Called Gaidin by many though no one has ever identified the origin of this word or more frequently ‘dragon-marked,’ the blademasters of Megalos are professional swordsman trained to a level of skill unseen in most students of the sword. Their origin remains shrouded in mystery – the first recorded instance of a dragon-marked blademaster predates Megalos itself. In 980, two such men were said to have dueled with over a hundred local tribesmen near the area that would become Craine and Emperor Menelaus was said to have been so impressed by their abilities with a sword that he enlisted nearly twenty of them to act as his personal guard. It was Menelaus himself who first suggested the adoption of a stylized dragon tattoo upon a blademaster’s forearm to identify his proficiency.
The number of active blademasters have never been especially high, reaching their high point during Megalos’ own apex, and experiencing a corresponding dwindling in gravitas as the empire itself began to collapse. As a purely Megalos institution, there are no equivalents to this curious institution in other lands, although some, such as the elven blade dancers, come close and are believed by many to have been the inspiration for the first human blademasters. No organized training regimen exists – a prospective student might study under only a single master or half a dozen, and in very rare instances, might attain the level of master without ever studying until an acknowledged dragon-mark himself.
Blademasters are formally recognized as such in Megalos when one of two things occurs: either they defeat a known blademaster in single combat with appropriate witnesses, or they are judged by five blademasters, via unanimous vote, to have demonstrated sufficient skill. Upon being acknowledged as such, this new master is awarded his ‘dragon-mark’ in the form of a stylized tattoo. Depending upon the wealth of the blademaster, the wealth of the region, or his personal tradition, this tattoo can be extraordinarily elaborate, with differing inks or even mild magical enhancements, or the tattoo may be a much simpler affair. In nearly all cases, the dragon’s head begins upon the back of the blademaster’s hand with the tail reaching close to the elbow.
“You may be stripped of everything in this life, but will always have the dragon-mark. To strip a Gaidin of this mark, to sever his arm at the elbow, is dishonor beyond what can be swallowed for you take not only their mark but their craft as well.”
Gaidin Jearom, considered the greatest swordsman to ever live. It is said he fought over 10,000 times in battle and single combat. He only lost once to a farmer with a quarterstaff.
Pictured is a representation of the most frequently used dragon-mark throughout the so-called “Age of Steel.”