|Guild||Black Company (Tonka)|
- There neither was nor ever will be a man who was not born with a good chance of misfortune — and the greater the man, the greater the misfortune.
- —Herodotus of Halicarnassus
Grimald was a soldier from Poitain and a mercenary of the Black Company. A brutal fighter and strong leader, Grim possessed a bright, commanding personality and a love for life unhindered by his bloody, tragic past.
Grimald was imposingly tall for a Poitanian, with battle-forged muscles perpetually tensed. His blue eyes blazed under a mane of long brown hair that he cut with a dagger and bound before battle. The mercenary’s hawkish face was as stern and severe as his nickname, with coarse stubble and a wolf-like grin. He showed the mementos of a decade of war in his weathered skin, studded with old wounds, and carried a red scar over his left eye. His calloused hands had a steely grip, and the soles of his feet were like leather.
Grim always wore his panoply of plate, mail, and leather, with twin blades resting at his hips and a well-worn cloak slung over his shoulders. Possessing a soldier's discipline, he kept himself and his equipment clean of dust, blood, and grease, even on prolonged campaigns. His commanding demeanor exuded confidence and charisma, and threatened swift violence at the slightest insult.
PersonalityEditA Cimmerian mercenary, braver than most, once asked Grimald, “Why do you fight? Your land was taken, but you have friends in Poitain. You could have a good life there. A nobleborn wife and a flock of dirtborn doxies. Fertile land instead of this dusty road.” Grimald looked up from his cards and grinned a fox’s grin. “But then I wouldn’t get to kill anyone.” What he meant was, Then none but my sons and neighbors would know my name. Now I can engrave it with my sword on the hearts and minds of my enemies.
Grim found kindred spirits in other soldiers, in men who had tasted blood and combat and felt war’s consequence. He never let his educated intellect hold him above his compatriots, but it contributed to the sarcastic wit at the core of his unquenchable personality. The mercenary made a habit of finding himself in the thick of things and taking charge, and those around him made a habit of deferring to his good judgment, delivered with terse and entertaining jest.
As a soldier, Grimald displayed a combination of bravery, integrity, dignity, and frankness that inspired those around him in battle and made him a natural leader. He sometimes spoke sarcastically but always spoke candidly. He had many friends and none of them fully understood him—he liked it that way. He was never moody and generally hid his feelings well. Well educated and traveled, little came as a surprise to him.
With his first campaign at the age of sixteen, the tough Poitanian youth quickly learned to live without the pleasures and comforts of the highborn, and he never cared for their idleness. Grim found a sublime beneficence in his rough, hardy life. He appreciated the ascetic pleasures of a hard bunk, a tired bedroll, and a hot meal, no matter the taste or texture. His appetites for wine, women, and food were moderate, but his bloodlust was insatiable, a consuming passion that he considered a virtue. Grim cut down men as a farmer scythes wheat. He was good at killing and it won him honor.
Grimald’s morality was an amalgam of contradictions. He felt no compunction to obey any authority outside the Company, but generally stuck to his word. Although he took no joy in seeing the pain of others, he rarely stepped up to help strangers. He was always willing to help a friend, and often mediated disputes, resolved problems, made sacrifices, and fought battles and brawls for his brothers of the battlefield.
HistoryEditA series of self-inflicted tragedies brought Grimald from his patrician origins to the status of a brutal mercenary.
Born to a noble Poitain family, his childhood was one of privilege and luxury. His father Thegan’s prosperous estate stretched along the eastern fringes of the Rabirian Mountains dividing Poitain’s fertile slice of country and Aquilonia proper, including acres of good farmland and two prosperous iron mines. Thegan took his only son along when he rode through the yellow fields and well-ordered training grounds in the cool light of sunrise. He was a proud and unforgiving ruler, with hands that knew sword and soil. A nod or cold glare from the laconic Lord could reduce his subjects to cowering obedience, and his humorless presence dominated even the gayest festivals. Thegan’s bright-eyed son took on many of his father’s traits but lacked his fervent patriotism and retained a childish mischief and sarcastic charisma all his own.
Under Thegan’s Argossian steward Hadrian, Grim learned rhetoric, history, and science, and he memorized the Aquilonian epic poem the Khorotaead. However, he spent far more time in the stables and the workshop, breaking in horses and working iron from his family’s mines. In every spare moment he rushed outside to tail the estate’s one-eyed weapons master or spar with Thegan’s guards in the barracks, who loved him even when he began besting them in duels. His knighthood was inevitable.
- It is not only the hard lands that breed hard men. Poitain was surrounded by covetous neighbors and her sons learned hardihood in incessant wars. The knights of Poitain held their lands by the weight and edge of their swords, and little of ease and idleness they knew.
- —Robert E. Howard, Hour of the Dragon
Beginning at the age of sixteen, Grimald served with his father in campaigns against Nemedia and Zingara, and volunteered for two more after his father’s retirement, becoming well known among Aquilonia’s enemies as a bloodthirsty and merciless fighter. He never committed a soldier’s more vulgar sins in the wake of his victories, and found his men’s rapine abhorrent. On the battlefield, however, nothing could slake his violent lust but the enemy’s destruction. Grimald placed himself in the thickest fighting, leading and inspiring his knights with whirling blades steaming with gore, eyes bright as under the steel brim of his helmet.
He was 24 years old and commanded a squadron of hardened cavalrymen to Aquilonia’s defense when the resurrected Acheronian sorcerer Xaltotun led neighboring Nemedia on the warpath. The Nemedians and their sinister necromancer crushed King Conan and the Aquilonian army in the valley of Valkia, instilling in Grim a burning hatred for the arcane and the Nemedians. The knight survived the battle, saved by his fiery spirit and vicious perseverance, although he often wished that fate let him die alongside his countrymen. The battle left him with a scar over his left eye, a constant reminder of his failures and flaws.
The SlaveEditUnconscious, Grimald was dragged from the ruin of his regiment by the Nemedian victors, disarmed, and pushed into shameful slavery in the house of Lord Macrinus of Nemedia. They whipped and beat him but could not take his noble bearing or extinguish the fire in his cerulean eyes. One week later, Macrinus was found dead. Although some suspected the unruly new Poitanian stable worker, Grimald’s alibi was solid. He was sold, along with the rest of Macrinus’ household slaves, to a dark-skinned Stygian merchant, who sailed south down the Red River to the sea. When Grim awoke on a beach on Tortage in the Barachan Isles, a month had passed, and he had no memory of it. In the shallow lagoon lay the wreckage of the Stygian galley, and he seemed to be the sole survivor.
Grimald made his way to Tortage City, where he heard news that Conan had destroyed Xaltotun and expelled the invading Nemedians after a lengthy and destructive occupation. He took a job on a galley set for ancient Tarantia, a city he hardly recognized in the wake of the war, and traveled south through the mountains back to the fair and familiar plains of Poitain.
His father’s estate was destroyed. The fields were torched and salted. The mines were caved in by some sorcery. Grimald’s family was dead, including his revered father and his pretty young wife, and the retainers who once fought for him and the peasants who once worked the land were gone. The Nemedians punished Grimald for all the blood he took from them on the battlefield by stealing his life and home. Dispossessed and full of noxious guilt, he spent the next few weeks wandering in and out of taverns, too angry to live and too proud to die. It took bloodshed to reawaken him.
- Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and the stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content.
- —Conan of Cimmeria (Robert E. Howard, Queen of the Black Coast)
Grim was alone at the Broken Lantern tavern with his face nestled in his arms and a dozen empty mugs in front of him when they swaggered in—three local street urchins with bared steel and big egos. He knew what was coming and sat up to watch. The three kids, none of them over twenty years, sat at a table and demanded drinks on the house. Then they demanded the barkeep’s coin. One of them pulled the screaming serving girl into his lap, and another went up to Grim with a short sword, a pigsticker made for the bloodiest sort of killing, and told him to mind his own business.
The sullied old soldier looked unimpressed. He smiled as he kicked the kid’s legs out from under him and found the sword in his hands. Something snapped. The blade’s felt-wrapped hilt stirred some latent power not felt since the bloody morning at Valkia and rekindled the rebellious glint in Grim’s eyes. His wolfish grin widened. When it was over, the three rogues were dead, and Grim had a purpose. He exchanged his blood and ale soaked rags for mail and leather and joined a mercenary troop of the Free Companies headed north to the Cimmerian border. There, he transferred to the Black Company, attracted by their history and their reputation for being the best.
Grim’s blades were his new life, his brothers-in-arms his kin, and the Company his home. With them he plied his bloody trade, living for battle and for the man next to him, and everything finally felt right.