Conversations With Zern Xerkstil
by Delwyn Ilar (aka Greg Marks)
“Conversations With” is a weekly column written by Delwyn Ilar of the Podal Prophet broadsheet, bringing you Out-Of-Character knowledge of important NPCs in the Moonsea region so that you might better portray them and their organizations in your games.
My attempts to contact the Order of the Gauntlet representative were much more straightforward than my previous efforts with the Harpers. The Order makes no secret about who they are, and so I was quickly directed to the town streets near Kuto’s Well. As usual, this busy area put on a diverse showing of Phlan’s citizenry, but one of them clearly stood apart.
To one side was a roughly looking man with the taint of orcish blood on his face. His white enameled plate mail scarred with the signs of frequent battle and a silver bladed battle axe strapped to his back, he stared intently at each of the passersby, as if searching for something in their faces. The crowd parted around him like boulder in the Stojanow. For a moment, I questioned whether I really wanted to approach this formidable warrior, but fear not gentle reader, I braved his terrible countenance to bring you this interview!
Delwyn Ilar: Excuse me, are you Zern Xerkstil?
Zern Xerkstil: I am he. You are the reporter. Stand aside and ask your questions.
DL: Umm… before we begin, might I ask what you are doing?
ZX: Hunting. Many evils hide in plain sight and must be sought out. Be ever watchful and never stop less an innocent pay the price for your lack of vigilance.
DL: Is there evil here? I see some children at play, a man selling apples and a woman drawing water.
ZX: Evil is everywhere. Any of them could be a fiend in disguise.
DL: Maybe if you could tell me more about yourself I would better understand. Can you introduce yourself and tell my readers about where you hail from?
ZX: I am Zern Xerkstil, called by some the Hammer of Impiltur. I follow Helm the Vigilant One.
DL: How did you come by that appellation, the Hammer of Impiltur?
DL: I see… could you expound upon that?
ZX: I am from Impiltur and it was there where that I fought the devils that infest my home.
DL: I thought that since the Sundering, Impiltur had trouble with demons, not devils?
ZX: Devils twist words, spread lies and further mischief. That is what they want you to believe. The demons, we have those too, but they are easy to find. They rage across the landscape and any good hearted soul knows their approach. The fiends from the Hells are a different breed.
DL: So how did this lead to being called the Hammer of Impiltur?
ZX: I had just taken my paladin vows when I heard tale of demons rampaging nearby. I rode out and indeed found the monsters, slaying them in Helm’s name. But the misery in the area did not end. In fact it seemed to spread: disease, malaise, and despair. Along with two other newly minted paladins, I tracked it to its source and found them; a band from the infernal Hells. They had attracted the demons and used them to terrify the common folk, so that the simple farmers might be tempted to entreating the devils for aid at the cost of the farmers’ souls. I rode into their hideaway and crushed them; thus ending their power in the region. . It is from those deeds that my brothers chose to call me the Hammer of Impiltur.
DL: Does this have something to do with joining the Order, or was this before that.
ZX: Standing in their lair, covered in their hot blood, reeking of brimstone, I choose to dedicate myself to hunting the fiends of Hell and right after joined the Order of the Gauntlet to bring retribution to those who perform evil deeds.
DL: That’s quite a tale. Can you tell us about your faction? Are the other members like you?
ZX: We are faithful followers of the gods of light that have chosen to watch for those that practice evil, that we might intervene and protect those in need of our aid. Evil must be met in the field and smashed, or it will swiftly overcome all.
DL: So you kill those who are evil?
ZX: We watch those who might harbor vile thoughts or inclinations, but we are not murderers. We visit justice only upon those who commit evil acts, be they fiend or man. We are brothers in faith and arms, who work together to make Faerûn a better place.
DL: A noble goal. Who is in charge of your faction?
ZX: After Helm, I serve the Order of the Gauntlet. The Order was founded by Kleef Kenric of Marsember, who has stepped back from leading us but is still one of our most honored members. Now the honor of providing our vision is for Ontharr Frume, who watches from rebuilt Elturel.
DL: You say provides a vision. How do you decide on your missions? Are you given orders?
ZX: No, Helm guides my heart and my sword. The Order and those who lead it give us direction… goals… Sometimes our leaders, the most esteemed of our brothers and sisters, will hear of an evil that needs to be brought to justice and they will send word to us, but it is our choice to proceed and how.
DL: Can you be more specific about what you and your brothers in arms hope to do in the northern Moonsea?
ZX: The Moonsea is rife with unchecked corruption! All evil doers must be punished; starting with Infernals!
DL: So you are here to kill devils?
ZX: I shall punish all those who prey upon the innocent; devil or not. Though I am sure the Infernals are close, there are other dangers. The people of Phlan suffer under the depredations of bandits just as much as they twist under the corrupt Banites who run this town. The Order will to seek out all injustice and set things right! We will make the roads safe. We will see that the common folk are treated with justice and we will stop those who traffic with evil from encroaching on the peace.
DL: That’s not very focused, are there any specific foes or dangers you see now?
ZX: At the moment the Cult of the Dragon rears its head, bolstered by the Dragon Queens legions from Hell, but we still watch Red Wizards and followers of other evil gods who prowl at the edges of the Moonsea. If they cross the line to wicked action, the Order will be there to meet them as well.
DL: Your faction is dedicated to concepts like justice, honor and protecting the innocent from evil. It seems like you and your fellows are also very direct and concerned with spreading the “good” faiths. Why did you decide ally with the other factions, many of whom do not share your ideas or methods?
ZX: Many swords make for a stronger defense, and even better to have many eyes so that harm may never fall to test that defense. The Harpers are natural watchers and obvious allies. They help us watch those who might fall to corruption and we give them a stiffer spine that they might act when action is called for. The corruption of the lizardfolk, the rise of hags and other evils of the forest are all natural concerns for both the Emerald Enclave and the Order. In addition the corruption of men harms the land as much as it harms other men, so it is no surprise that we might find common cause. The Lords Alliance was once a strong force for good in the North, though they may have fallen some in their zeal to civilize those lands. We still share many efforts to protect those beacons of light in seas of chaotic darkness.
DL: That’s only three of the other factions. What of the Zhentarim?
ZX: We watch everyone that might fall to corruption and vice.
DL: Does that mean you do not approve of working with the Zhentarim?
ZX: You have an infernal way of twisting words to cause mischief little man.
DL: I’ll take that as a no for my readers. Thank you for your time.