Vaudin Sormere, a young Knight of the Foremost Wall, an organization devoted not to a god or pantheon, but to the structure, safety, and ascendancy of civilization itself. They enshrine and adore the society-building races, and see in civilization the means by which otherwise base creatures can elevate themselves above the putrescent mud of ignorance and baseness. Without societies and civilization, races like men, elves, and dwarves are nothing more than myopic beasts, deserving of each brutality that might fall upon their jutting brows. Civilization, as a product of security, provides space for the sentient races to shed their primitive snake skins and engage in the higher functions: art, commerce, governance, life freed from the vicissitudes of the natural world. Knights of the Foremost Wall lavish praise and protection on those elements of civilization that could not exist outside its walls.
The Knights, then, see themselves as the first barrier against entropic encroachment. They are the living barriers against all manner of chaos, anarchy, and violent disruption to society, at once so profoundly necessary and so fragile. The Knights repel brigands, hunt rampaging beasts, deter unrest; they protect scholarly expeditions and road crews, venturing into uncharted wildernesses (for with their maps and charts, these men and women are constructing knowledge, peeling back the wild unknown, and shackling empty spaces to inhabited ones).
The Knights are beholden to no kingdom, religion, or creed other than their own hierarchy. Once in full service to their order, many Knights may claim a city or kingdom, and thus construct a permanent post from which they operate in alone or in small groups; others seek the roaming lifestyle, drifting across the continents to prop up the settled, city-strewn world. Above all, they honor order and stability. They loathe criminality when it festers above its shadowed boundaries–because in moderation, even thieves maintain a certain order and societal harmony. Likewise, they maintain no compunctions against removing (bodily, if need be) corrupt city or court officials who, with the pestilence of their corruption, are rotting civilization’s thin structure from the inside. Civil war and pure anarchic strife are their worst fears, and of any such movements, the Knights are quick and brutal to respond. If an invading empire were to show greater discipline or more thoroughly enact their laws than their victim, one might find the Knights fighting for the invaders, opening the city gates (if such an action could legitimately quell any burgeoning chaos), or at least standing by in neutrality. As Knight initiates are drilled: Order above Justice, Justice above Mercy.
Born and raised in the alpine village of Clannadeigh, Vaudin was apprenticed to a local blacksmith and began to learn the ironworking trade. Simple, pleasant life in the mountain valley, which of course means something is going to go invariably wrong. In Vaudin’s case, in his fourteenth year, a massive snowstorm and avalanche decimated Clannadeigh. For days, the village remained almost buried and utterly disconnected from the outside world–villages in nearby valleys, trading towns in the lowland plains. Some died in the storm and avalanche itself, but many more starved in the tight-packed darkness of their own homes, or buried beneath feet of hardening snow.
Slowly, the village dug itself out, Vaudin and his family intact. Still cut off from help and with their livelihoods destroyed, the people of Clannadeigh spiraled into anarchy. Friends and neighbors devolved into beasts, blood-eyed and ravaging. Within days, the strongest and most vicious claimed Clannadeigh as their roost. Otherwise decent men and women, thrust into the abhorrence of privation and struggle, emerged from bloody chrysalises as petty tyrants. Slavery, abuse, banditry, and vileness pumped through the slowly-clearing streets like sewage.
Vaudin was separated from his family, his ironworking put to use to forge new tools and blades for Clannadeigh’s self-appointed warlords. For a few weeks, while the snows melted and the mountain passes opened again, Vaudin toiled beneath cudgel and whip, making swords and spearpoints, which now seemed so useless as Clannadeigh’s remaining food stores plummeted under the warlords’ gorging and excess. He had no word of his parents or his younger brother, Yoren.
He awoke one night to the sounds of fighting–someone had escaped Clannadeigh, and an assembled militia from nearby villages had come to restore order. For the second time in not so long, Vaudin huddled in the darkness, made himself as small and quiet as possible, and waited for the chaos to pass. Eventually, men and women from the militia found him and brought him to Clannadeigh’s central square, where the survivors now congregated. He found his parents, hollow-eyed and grey. He found Yoren, too, wandering the square. They were all alive, yes, but something in their ordeal had rendered them incomplete, broken. Clannadeigh itself was ruined as well. It could be rebuilt, but whatever vital essence it had encased before had escaped into the air. It was a place of stones and timber and hollow spaces.
Someone from the militia offered to take the Sormeres back to their own village, to start anew. But given the opportunity, Vaudin chose instead to go to the lowland plains and the larger trading cities. His family, bereft of any means to support themselves, let him go without much pushback. He took passage with a trading caravan back to Lifted Root, the largest nearby trading city, where he submitted himself and his craft to the local ironworking guild.
There, he worked for a number of years, always looking for opportunities to help strengthen walls or doors or homes–whatever he could do to reinforce the vulnerable against potential catastrophes. It was never quite enough, and this period for Vaudin is littered with failures, his contributions unappreciated, ineffectual, or counterproductive. Mere ironworking, reinforcing gates or buildings, could not protect against the roiling, bestial impulses he now knew lurked beneath people’s gazes; nor would his works do much to stem external agents of chaos for long. He needed to find something more robust, more permanent. Something…heavier. Whether by chance or careful planning, an errant Knight Captain of the Foremost Wall came to the forge where Vaudin worked one day, looking for repairs to her armor.
See it now: the Knight Captain, sitting on an oak stump in the forge’s yard, reclining against a red brick wall, smoking from a long-stemmed pipe, chatting with Vaudin, who has paused in his work. Her words entwine with the smoke and drift across the dusty yard to curl inside Vaudin’s electrified brain. Heavy afternoon light slats across her sharp features, Vaudin’s wide eyes, her burnished platemail that he holds forgotten in his hands. A simple conversation, voices low and pleasant. Vaudin, motionless and staring agape while every nerve within him jumps, feeling with each word she forms that incomprehensible matters are now finally clicking into place and assuming a simple shape: Order above Justice, Justice above Mercy.
“Come with me,” she says with a polite, small smile. “You are meant for more.”
Character Sheet: Vaudin Sormere (OoV Paladin)