Insider 2-1-2012

Severius. His name evokes immediate gravitas. Whether in his previous incarnation as grand scrutator or after his promotion to hierarch of the Protectorate of Menoth, Severius is a major power in our setting. It is with respect and some trepidation that I subject him to closer scrutiny.

There are some characters in the Iron Kingdoms that cannot be extracted from their titles and role. This is deliberately the case with the Protectorate’s faceless scrutators. All Menite clergy wear masks to honor the masked god they credit as Creator of humanity but also to create a barrier between their station and their flock. Their faces are their masks, which are authoritative, unyielding, and unchanging. Scrutators take that further with systematic training to divorce their minds from emotions they see as frailties. While lesser priests regularly interact with the faithful, a scrutator must remain cold, dispassionate, eminently pragmatic, and focused. They cannot allow mercy or compassion to color or shape their decisions, particularly when they occupy the highest ranks and bear the greatest responsibilities.

When Severius appeared as one of the original warcasters in WARMACHINE: Prime, he served as our introduction to his caste as well as demonstrating the extreme nature of the Protectorate’s religious practices. As a writer, I had to get behind the mask and into the skull of the character to understand Severius as a person. I had occasion to first write about Severius in WARMACHINE: Superiority, in scenes that were brief but significant to my understanding of the grand scrutator. His crusade abroad was about to put him in an unusual position, one that would give new insight into his character. Before this, he had been shown engaged in the wartime activities we might expect: burning down the Cygnaran river town of Fisherbrook, assaulting (and eventually setting fire to) a Morrowan monastery outside Fellig, and other similar events. He was stern, but this fearsome portrait lacked depth. Now he was on foreign soil, cut off from the capital, and was forced to enter into a tense alliance with unbelievers. This required showing a different side of the man.

The key to unlocking Severius is considering his history. First, Severius is one of the oldest mortal warcasters who still takes to the field of battle for his nation. In eighty-plus years Severius has lived and breathed Protectorate history. His loyalties have been to the Protectorate as a whole, not to any specific hierarch. He has been alive long enough to have served the temple under Hierarchs Ravonel and Turgis, Voyle’s predecessors, and thus saw the recent increase of the Protectorate’s army and the drive for crusade. He weathered years of turmoil before Voyle seized control and emerged not only unscathed but elevated to a special position above the other scrutators. Had there been even the hint of corruption or self-serving ambition within his nature, he never would have survived.

As cruel and fanatical as he seems to outsiders, by Protectorate standards Severius is the definition of a selfless and devoted public servant. He is a man forged and tempered into just the sort of unflinching guardian of the faith that his caste embodies. Even as his body begins to fail him, he still prefers to march to war alongside his ’jacks and the massed ranks of the Northern Crusade. This is a man who felt a true calling, and his religious convictions run very deep. They are not simply a means to an end. He genuinely believes restoring humanity to worshiping their Creator is necessary, regardless of the suffering this crusade may bring.

The most telling detail of his background to me was the impact of Severius’ voice. He was once a missionary to other kingdoms and during his visits his words swayed thousands of converts. He was so effective at this that he was banished from Khadoran soil lest he undermine the resolve of its most pious citizens. This was not simply a man who would burn and destroy his enemies, but who could—with a few words—sway them to his cause. This made him as dangerous in times of peace as in war. By this I knew Severius would understand the pragmatic necessity of offering compromises to the Llaelese Resistance in order to gain a vital foothold in Llael. The faithless would be turned against his greater enemies, all while he bolstered the Menite faith and converted former heretics.

By the time I was writing WARMACHINE: Legends I had a clear sense of how Severius would conduct his crusade and act as successor to Hierarch Voyle. I enjoyed demonstrating the reach of Severius’ voice, augmented by the rites that unlocked the Covenant of Menoth, when he seized Leryn without a military engagement by using Resistance intelligence and persuasion to convert two of the Greylord ternion in charge of that city. High Executioner Reznik wracked the defiant third on Severius’ orders as a terrifying demonstration to the populace. It was after this triumphal procession that the Resistance realized how little they had gained by their bargain. Leryn was transformed into a bastion of the Northern Crusade and the throne for the Protectorate’s new hierarch. For Severius, this was all to the betterment of the souls who surrendered their hearts to the Lawgiver.

We have only begun to explore the ways in which the Protectorate may evolve and change under Severius. Even as other leaders of the faction rise to fulfill their duties or to contest with the scrutators, Severius stands regally above them. His eyes and ears are everywhere and there is little that escapes his attention. Woe betides the enemies of this incorruptible, patient, and merciless priest. His only fear is that mortality will claim him before his work to strengthen the Protectorate is done.