Insider 12-30-2011

This time, let’s talk about Krueger. You know him: the Stormwrath, the Stormlord, the guy with the lightning and the wind. He has become one of our most memorable HORDES characters. He is an iconoclast among a faction that reveres chaos, and his rebellious cantankerousness somehow embodies the ideals of the Circle Orboros.

There is something appealing but also disturbing in the unapologetic way Krueger wields power. On a personal level, I have always had an uneasy relationship with Krueger—as is likely true for anyone who has spent substantial time with him—but there is no doubt he is a fully realized character. Even when writing him, I don’t always know exactly what he will do next. He makes his own decisions.

I remember writing the initial draft for Krueger for HORDES: Primal, back when we were first figuring out the factions and their initial characters. I had been arguing with Jason Soles about Hoarluk Doomshaper at the time. My first drafts of that character were too cerebral, too focused on his lore and wisdom as a shaman. Jason rightly pointed out that I had not captured his seething anger and animosity toward humanity. He was right, but as I entered into writing Krueger, I was in an agitated mood. I decided to go way over the top. I intended to write an entry so extreme that Jason would want me to pull it back. Soon I got caught up writing about Krueger’s desire to drown the city of Orven with a flood, of his gnawing on the hearts of the slain alongside the Tharn, and his dream of obliterating every institution of civilized man. Jason’s note back was something like, “Perfect!” I was chagrined until I realized I had indeed captured Krueger the Stormwrath.

It was while writing Krueger’s encounter with Kromac in HORDES: Evolution that I really got to know him. When Krueger recruited the Tharn chieftain he was being both terribly manipulative as well as strangely honest. Without question, he was taking advantage of Kromac in a moment of vulnerability after the Tharn’s falling out with Morvahna. At the same time, there was a genuine connection between them. I found it interesting that as a reader you are inclined to side with Krueger even knowing Morvahna is likely doing the right thing by marshaling her forces against the Legion of Everblight. Krueger is arguably stabbing his own faction in the foot by withdrawing his allies, in pulling Kromac away. But his arguments seem persuasive, and his friendship with Kromac genuine; given Morvahna was being so callous toward Kromac’s people, you leave this scene rooting for Krueger despite everything. We want him to be right.

While he is certainly a schemer, Krueger is also impulsive. He is willing to drop everything and change his plans when a new (and in his mind, better) idea arises. He is unpredictable and his mind leaps ahead so quickly not even those in his inner circle can anticipate him.
Krueger’s story in Metamorphosis was particularly revealing about his quixotic mind. In the midst of a fight with Zevanna Agha, Krueger is shown something that prompts one of these lightning-leaps of logic. He tosses aside his previous plans, steals an artifact of his order to prove a hunch, and defies all three of the omnipotents. Anyone else might consider facing a dragon like Blighterghast to be suicidal, but not Krueger. He risks obliteration to stand before this god-like creature on a gamble about how the dragon will react to news of Everblight. His goal in doing so is nothing less than provoking war between dragons, where the best-case scenario is death and destruction on an unfathomable scale.

By the story in Forces of HORDES: Circle Orboros, Krueger had moved on as if setting in motion the dragons was one tick on a checklist. He does not even bother to attend the trial where his peers debate his execution. Instead, he contacts Wurmwood and heads into the Bloodstone Marches to confront the Protectorate of Menoth. Amid a confrontation reflecting the primal war between the gods of law and natural chaos, Krueger invoked the fury of the storm to devour the Menite army. As he watched them drown, I am sure he thought back to how his own Menite parents tried to burn him alive as a sacrifice to the god of law.

During the trial in his absence, Krueger’s place in the faction was vindicated by Wurmwood, who heralded him as an oracle of apocalypse. I imagine this led to some sobering thoughts among the ranking members of the Circle. What did it mean that one of their own had become so powerful by following their philosophy that they could no longer control him or predict what terrors he might bring into the world? As always, Krueger makes his own decisions, and despite it all we find it impossible not to root for him. His actions are as exhilarating as they are dangerous—much like the storms he summons. Who doesn’t love the excitement of a good thunderstorm?