The Nine and Six and One
Warforged Combat Healer. Intelligent but naive. Does not understand breathlings much, but is trying to learn. Heals a lot, yells some, speaks very little.
Bulwark is slightly smaller in stature than most combat (melee-oriented) Warforged, though still impressively sized compared to any “breathling”. He otherwise has standard physical feature of a Warforged.
What initially looks like massive plate armor is in fact a series of large, grey, sliding and overlapping stone slabs that is Bulwark’s “skin”. Tough, thick, wood-like fiber bundles can be glimpsed between the seams of the stone slabs as Bulwark moves. These are Bulwark’s “muscles”.
Bulwark’s eyes are dark and recessed in his skull. Soft pinpoints of grey light indicate presence of his pupils. They occasionally expand and flash brightly or change color when Bulwark expresses strong emotion, most often a terrifying bright blood red when enraged, or a soft light blue when introspective.
At the center of his chest is an odd artifact that produces varying levels of light (or none at all), apparently at Bulwark’s will. Bulwark offers little explanation how he acquired such an artifact, other than that it “was given to him for use during the war.”
The Story of Bulwark
As a Warforged being, Bulwark began “life” much as any other Warforged: Stepping forth into the world out of the magical aura of a creation forge of House Cannith, his mind blank and ready to be infused with the single-minded purpose of fighting in the Last War. Although the most popular roles for Warforged tended to be combat-oriented, the physical resilience of these beings made them useful in other functions as well. In Bulwark’s case, his intended role was that of a fighting support unit — a so-called “softie” who could still handle himself in combat if attacked. Bulwark’s type was pitched to prospective buyers as a way to shift fighting units, which otherwise would have had to guard vulnerable healers and casters, away from rear-line guard duty to front line combat. As such, while so many other of his brethren were forged for enhanced endurance and great physical strength, Bulwark found himself instead bestowed with additional mental acuity and even a touch of curiosity, to aid in his training as a healer. It was not a glamorous role, but it was a useful and purposeful one. Bulwark did not mind; he did not know how. In any case, no one asked for his opinion (which he had none of anyway) nor was he offered a choice in the matter. From the very beginning, Warforged were impressed with the notion that their lot in life was to serve their intended purpose, for whomever bought and owned them. Their fate was not their own; their choices were made for them by others. Such was the way of things for the Warforged in the Last War.
By the time of Bulwark’s forging, House Cannith had developed a brutally efficient schedule for the instruction and indoctrination of their Warforged creations. Straight-up fighting (what breathers would call “brawling”) came naturally to practically all Warforged, but it took time and careful attention to teach them such advanced notions as tactics, use of weapons, military hierarchies and the chain of command, the concept and meaning of enemies, allies, and civilians, and so forth.
Having been created with less emphasis on physical strength than his combat-oriented colleagues, Bulwark (and any of his type, really) did not fare overly well in basic combat training. This was to be expected, given his intended support role, but training was training and the masters did not give anyone slack or excuse. Thus, Bulwark’s first experienced emotion in his existence was that of shame and disappointment as he faced berating from his trainers for his defeat and failures. These emotions drove him onwards to improve and excel in spite of his limitations.
Fortunately, as training progressed, Bulwark’s enhanced intelligence began making its effects felt. He was a quick study on skills and subjects more relevant to his role, such as healing and tactics. In later, more advanced combat training, he even found himself in minor leadership roles, directing his small group of teammates against tactical opportunities and weakness that he saw in their enemies. When the overseers complimented him on his team’s victories, he experienced his first emotions of pride and satisfaction.
All things, good and bad, come to an end, and in due course Bulwark’s instruction was completed. Bulwark was ready for the world. He was ultimately sold to an enterprising Aundair General, who saw a use for such “self sufficient support” units in his military line-up.
Bulwark’s combat experiences in the Last War were mostly unremarkable for a Warforged. Like most other Warforged, Bulwark had little interest or understanding of the causes driving the war, nor did he care about the high level diplomatic and political maneuvering that were taking place. Those were not things a typical Warforged worried about. A Warforged being followed orders and obeyed its master. Bulwark was no different. He received orders and he followed orders. In discharging his duties, he healed many comrades and allies, and killed his share of enemies. War was the only life Bulwark knew, and it was a comfortable enough life for him. He had structure, purpose, and a master.
Some times, Bulwark was even given a broader objective and placed in a position to GIVE orders to a few subordinate units (breathers and Warforged alike) to achieve those objectives. Bulwark found it easy and natural dealing with other Warforged — in the role of a leader, he gave orders and they followed his orders. Warforged knew their place. He, in turn, received and followed orders from his master as always. That is at it should be. Dealing with the soft, squishy breathers, however, was more problematic. Mostly they followed his orders, but at times they talked back or even actively argued with him. They dragged their feet completing certain tasks for no apparent reason that he could tell. They were (so thought Bulwark and other Warforged) overly frail and emotional. Bulwark learned, through some trial and error, that when the initial order or request was not enough to effect compliance from a breathling, then raising his voice and yelling at them seemed to have the desired effect. He learned to use this technique a lot around breathlings. It was simple, and worked for a large number of situations. He never thought to ask what the breathlings thought of it.
Time passed. Battles were fought, won and lost.
Then on one otherwise unremarkable day, during the morning muster of his unit, Bulwark and other Warforged units were informed of the cessation of hostilities, the signing of the Treaty of Thronehold, and the release of all Warforged from bondage. It was thus that Bulwark experienced yet another new emotion: uncertainty. He and other Warforged did not understand what they had just heard. They understood the words, of course, but not the meaning. The announcement was neither an order nor information pertaining to a objective they were to achieve, nor concerned a task they were to perform. What were they supposed to do? No hint of that was given in the announcement. Bulwark and the other Warforged awaited further instructions. Finally, three days later, their exasperated commander ordered them off the field.
“What are you all doing, still standing out here?” the Commander yelled at them. “The war is over! You are all free to go. So go! Leave!”
That sounded like an order, at least. As Bulwark and the other Warforged turned to leave the field, their former human master yelled a final thought after them: “Stay out of trouble! Make yourselves useful or something.”
Bulwark choose to accept that as a final order, a last bit of structure and purpose to cling to in his newfound…“freedom.”
In the following months, Bulwark wandered relatively aimlessly from place to place. Staying out of trouble was not too difficult. Mostly, people tended to avoid him. On occasion, he would encounter some hostility from a few individuals. Some times they would even throw things at him. Bulwark left the area quickly in those cases, brushing off their physical and verbal insults.
Making himself useful was a more difficult order to follow, unfortunately. The same propensity people had for avoiding him also made it hard for him to find work anywhere. After a time, Bulwark considered making work for himself. As he traveled, then, he would spend time doing things that seemed useful, like repairing bridges or clearing wreckage off the road. It kept him busy, and that filled him with a small sense of purpose.
Finally, Bulwark arrived at a small farming village near the border of Aundair and the Eldeen Reaches. The village had been struck by disease and many of its people were sick. Here, Bulwark found purpose close to his original calling. Although the people of the village weren’t exactly allies, and certainly were not his comrades in battle, but they were not enemies either. Bulwark figured it was safe (and useful) to heal them, which he did. Afterward, a person who identified himself as the mayor of the small settlement offered his thanks, and explained that Bulwark was welcome to say as a healer for the people. That sounded like a useful purpose, and a role that Bulwark knew he could do well, so he accepted. They gave him a small shack located at the outskirts of the village, which he rarely used, needing neither sleep nor shelter in this mild weather.
News traveled quickly of the new, able healer in the area, and Bulwark had a steady stream of visitors each day from the surrounding settlements, seeking his healing abilities. Now that he once again had a role and a purpose, Bulwark decided he would be even more useful if he could improve his skills. His own healing skills were innate, but he also knew that healing could come in other forms as well. He thus took up the “hobby” of studying Restorative Alchemy. He spoke with alchemists, read what few books he could find and borrow on the subject, experimented with creating potions from various plants and herbs he could find in the area. It was slow going, and it felt odd…doing something he wasn’t expressly told to do. Was this what “freedom” was about, then? Bulwark felt content, at any rate, believing he was at least staying out of trouble and being useful to someone.
In any case, this was Bulwark’s role and routine for a number of months, until one day he was approached by an odd stranger in the village inn…