The Ashen Kingdom
A smith with a powerful sword and an equally powerful loan shark
Gillard is a strikingly ugly man. Not merely devoid of beauty, he is like a catalogue of unpleasant features. Hunched shoulders give the impression his head emerges from his thick and roundish body like a stubby appendage, or a hairy pimple. His leathery skin displays a patchwork of calluses, warts, colored blotches, and seemingly random patches of wiry black hair. His hands are like gnarled tree roots that have uncertainly grown around the sword they grasp almost invariably. His close-set eyes give an immediate impression of stupidity, except when his brows are furrowed in thought, during which he merely looks furtive. Gillard talks with a surprisingly steady voice and has a knack for dealing with people in a straightforward manner, just so long as they don’t look at him too closely.
Gillard Gotfried was born during the 43rd war; not a good time for infants, and the Northern Wall was no place for them. Nevertheless, his parents were committed to their work advancing the palisade, and their children suffered. Just months from the end of the war, in Gillard’s 4th year, his older brother was taken from him. As his parents slept dumbly from exhaustion, an incursion of Demon raiders swept silently over the walls and into the huts of the workers. Young Gaston’s cry was the first sound to pierce the night. The camp erupted into chaos as humans rallied to defend, and demons flitted about on their dreadful work, scooping up children and small animals to be carried back over the wall into the forest. Gillard has an image burned into his memory of his brother being dragged out of sight with an arm outstretched, eyes pleading, and shouting his name.
It is from this time that Gillard developed an obsessive, some say suicidal, desire to enter the forest. Though he’s known since he was six what happens to those who are lost over the walls, and since eight that his brother’s scattered bones were found in a pit in the forest shortly after that fateful night, Gillard still seeks something from the forests depths. If asked, he would say it is fulfillment of duty. Under duress, he might admit it is merely vainglorious desire for a place amongst his people’s most praised warriors and explorers. But in his secret heart, where the truths behind actions are sometimes hidden from the conscious will, Gillard just remembers that image of his brother, alive and pleading, and the overpowering desire to follow.