Since I’m on a bit of a roleplay bend after the previous post, I decided to put up a backstory I’m quite fond of.
NOTE TO ANY OF MY ROLEPLAY FRIENDS WHO MIGHT STUMBLE ACROSS THIS:
This is Albrecht’s backstory for the Tir Na Nog campaign—the version with his secret included. MAJOR SPOILERS.
Albrecht von Grimmelshausen was a steadfast guard of House Grimmel for many years. The house—a manor built on a cliff overlooking a storm-tossed sea—was a wonder of its age, constructed of the whitest marble and featuring the most beautiful gardens of any estate in the county.
Unfortunately, while Albrecht stood his guard in an alcove on the forward facade, turmoil struck the family. The most recent Lord Grimmel died without a male heir, and the estate was entailed away. After sitting abandoned for the better part of a decade, the lush gardens had overgrown the manor, digging their roots into the foundations, making the house a leaking mess. After four decades, the sea had chipped away a good section of the cliff on which the house had been impressively, but precariously built. And unluckily, the whitest marble in the quarry had not been, in fact, the sturdiest.
So, after fifty years, the house dropped into the ocean—leaving only the forward facade, and Albrecht, behind.
Albrecht has many fond memories of his time serving House Grimmel. Of course, he wasn’t animate for most of them, but he remembers them fondly nonetheless. He was constructed by the infamous enchanter and smith Adelaide Schmidt (infamous as she later was convicted of 27 counts of fornication with married persons, which the Grimmels used as cause to view each other with suspicion, though they had both given into Schmidt’s charms). Albrecht remembers well the day he awoke upon a table in Schmidt’s laboratory, amid the whirring and clinking of machinations, as well as a yelled, “Shit! I did it again!” before he blacked out, only to reawaken later, this time with both legs attached.
A week later, his instructions newly programmed with the strongest spell developed at the time for animated armors, he was delivered to the door of House Grimmel. Shining brightly in polished steel, laden with fine metalwork and decoration, he was greeted by Lord and Lady Grimmel, as well as their eldest (at the time, only) daughter, Elise. “A fine job, a very fine job,” said Lord Grimmel as he lit his pipe. Once he finally looked up from it and saw Albrecht, the pipe fell from his mouth. “Tall bastard, inn’e?” At that point, Albrecht stepped down from the block upon which he was standing, so that he was only a few inches taller than Lord Grimmel. The Lady of the house eyed Albrecht carefully, checking for rust spots or any other indication that her money’s worth was not fully provided. Apparently pleased, she stepped back so as to let little Elise run forward. “Abee! Abee!” she yelled excitedly, having decided the night before upon Albrecht’s name, despite not quite being able to pronounce it. She’d heard that the impressive horseman in the painting above the fireplace was named Albrecht, and so had decided that it was the perfect name for the family’s new guard, unaware that the painting was actually of Albrecht the Inept, famed for having opened the gates of his estate to a war party who claimed to be a group of traveling performers. He was Elise’s maternal grandfather, and remained above the fireplace only at Lady Grimmel’s insistence that his exploits in the county’s jousting tournaments trumped any error in judgment about traveling performers, who all look like ruffians anyway, and besides, their weapons would have made good props in a juggling act.
Over the next several years, Albrecht watched the family grow from three to six, each of the four daughters as beautiful and charming to Albrecht as the flowers in the gardens, whether or not they were conventionally considered so. He rarely had a view of the family, positioned as he was at the front of the house, but he recognized the ring of each voice and the pat of each footstep. His favorite moments were when the children would play in the front garden, splashing in the fountain and running between the hedges. Oftentimes, they would use sticks as swords, play-fighting the statue in the alcove while quoting stories of valiant knights and dragon-slaying heroes. As they grew, however, the daughters spent more time inside, studying history and learning to sew (save the youngest, who declared that she hated sewing, and much preferred horseback riding; she later knitted saddle blankets for each of the horses and took the crown in jousting at the county fair). When finally the estate was entailed away, two of the daughters were married to wealthy young nobles, and one later to a bard she met in a tavern. Elise remained unmarried, and elected to care for her mother in the inn she owned jointly with her sister-in-law: The Bard and Bowl.
Albrecht’s armor shined brightly in the faded splendor of his alcove as he waited for his house’s new owners to arrive. Gradually, he let himself slip into dormancy. It wasn’t until the great crash of the house into the sea shook him awake that he even realized he’d done so.
Albrecht’s journey from the estate was at first aimless, until his own will to survive took over; unaware of how much time had passed, and worried about the remaining strength in his enchantments, he draped furs across the gaps in his armor to keep out dust and rain. Thus, when he built up the nerve to enter the nearby town, he looked the part of a ragged knight, and not that of an empty suit of armor. The people were politely dismissive of him, but though their dialect was removed from what Albrecht was used to, he understood them well enough when he asked the direction of the inn.
The Bard and Bowl had grown over the years, now featuring its own stage area and a second bar. Albrecht headed toward the nearer one and hailed the barkeep, needlessly clearing his throat to emphasize that he was definitely not an empty suit of armor. After exchanging pleasantries in what must have been, given the barkeep’s look, a slightly archaic fashion, he asked about a prior owner of the inn—one Elise Grimmel. The barkeep sighed, expressed his sympathies, and mentioned that the funeral service several years ago had been lovely, and it was good that her daughter had been able to keep the inn in the family. Gabi always had been a capable woman, taking care of her mother as her mother had before her. No, Elise had never married—at relaying this information, the barkeep gave Albrecht a significant look—but Elise had always said that Gabi was all she ever needed.
Albrecht looked down at his hands for a moment before returning his gaze to the barkeep’s. He asked if he could see her. The barkeep nodded, his suspicions—to his mind—confirmed, and led Albrecht back to the room where Gabi was balancing figures before leaving them to talk.
They didn’t speak much of Elise. The Elise that each knew was different from the other’s, and remembering her remained a fresh wound for both. Albrecht claimed he was simply a mercenary who had stopped once at the inn and found comfort in the innkeeper’s words; this seemed to satisfy Gabi. Before he turned to leave, he asked after a book lying on the desk, well-worn but clearly decorated before the colors faded to inscrutability. “My mother’s storybook,” Gabi explained, her voice cracking softly. “She was always fond of knights.”
Albrecht made a decision that day. For all the little girls who loved stories, for the hopeless and the downtrodden, for anyone who needed a hero: He would be their knight.