The Office of the Imperial Chamberlain has all sorts of uses, for all sorts of people. Erich Schur fulfills one particular role very well: he is the iron hand within the steel gauntlet.
Born ‘in some gutter to some pox ridden prostitute’, as he is famously fond of declaiming, Erich Schur comes from the humblest of beginnings. Adopted by a camp follower who found him squalling by training camps of the 7th regiment of the Steel Legion, army men and the army way of life is all Erich has ever known.
The only fond memories people have of the man seem to be from his childhood, where he participated in regimental drills and practices as a toddler. He quickly became something of a mascot, a good luck charm for the regiment, attending almost all the drills with the indefatigable energy and fervor of youth. It would not be false to say that, by the time he came of age, his body had been sculpted to that of a soldier. Regardless, malnutrition at a critical developmental stage and fate conspired to keep him from ever joining the ranks of the Steel Legion by denying him the height needed to be accepted.
That didn’t stop him from trying out at every trial. Each time he would rank first, and each time he would be passed over. A bitter life of disappointment and dissolution that would probably end in an alley stabbing was averted when the Imperial Chamberlain attended his last trial. Mildly impressed by the way he dismantled the favorite at the trials, his curiosity was truly piqued when he found out about his stubborn refusal to give up.
A small favor was called in after a few discreet inquiries were made and the next time Schur showed up at the trials, he was not passed over; he was offered a scholarship at the War College. The Chamberlain was a shrewd man, and he knew the Steel Legion would never bend their inflexible recruiting standards at his say so. He also knew a man like Schur would not accept charity from a stranger. His solution both allowed the Steel Legion to save face and assuaged the young aspirant’s pride.
Schur was not a good student at the War Colleges. What he was was unstoppable. He struggled to learn his letters and numbers, but he never surrendered. By hook or by crook, through guile and a judicious use of force he earned his place in the War Colleges. When he graduated with a barely passing grade, he was surprised to find out his first commission had been bought by the Imperial Chamberlain. He served as an adjutant to Bastien Genest, one of the most respected and feared free captains of the Hundred Kingdoms. He cut his teeth during the siege of Narava, which also saw his first command.
Terse, unflinching and no stranger to the privation of the average soldier, Erich quickly endeared himself to the men under his command by sharing their burdens on the march and fighting in the front line. He is no way the world’s greatest strategist. He does not outfox his foe from the command tent. He is a frontline leader who knows the limits of his men better than they know them themselves. Though his tally of victories is bloody, those men who fight under his command respect him because he understands the simple creed of the mercenary: he has chosen to put his life on the line, to wager it against gold. Sometimes this means you win, sometimes it means you lose and sometimes it means you die. The difference is he does not expend their lives recklessly, or value the court-born over the gutter-born. He fights alongside his men on every engagement, risking his own life as he would risk his men’s. And for this they would follow him anywhere.
His skill with the blades has saved his life countless times, curiously more often off the field than on it. There are few men alive who have fought as many duels as Erich Schur. His meteoric rise, terse manners and common origin make him a natural target for the disdain of the nobility; his quick temper and impossible pride take care of the rest.
This simple fact is the only thing that has kept Erich from becoming one of the most successful Free Captains in the Hundred Kingdoms. He could have commanded his own mercenary host or retired to a life of wealth and luxury if he could only swallow his pride. Instead, he drinks and brawls almost obsessively, displaying the vices that are attributed to common soldiers as much as he displays the virtues. If it were not for the efforts of a dedicated cadre of junior officers and veterans who all but worship him, the story of Erich Schur would no doubt have ended in a seedy alley behind a tavern with his cooling body feeding the city’s carrion.
This situation suits the Chamberlains just fine, granting him almost exclusive use of one of the most proficient and successful mercenary front-line commanders in the Hundred Kingdoms. The Imperial crest rests almost permanently on Schur’s armor as his employer’s mark and, even if “the iron hand within the steel gauntlet” may not be the most elegant tool in the Chamberlain’s arsenal, Schur’s purpose is not to be elegant.