From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
'Ye Gods, Mardonius, what men have you brought us to fight against? Men who fight not for gold, but for honor.'
- ~~Tigranes, Persian general, 480 B.C.
The Order is my own unique take on classic superhero secret agencies like the JLA, Avengers, G.I. Joe, and S.H.I.E.L.D. Unlike those organizations, however, the Einherjar are independently-led, organized, and funded, with little outside contact and no government oversight. They have also existed since the early Dark Ages, a fact that sets them apart from agencies like Vanguard, Wyvern, and Longbow, which have been established only recently following the rise of superheroes in the 1930's. Rather than having a specific worldwide mandate, they are instead solely focused on combating their deadly ancient enemies, who are insidious and possess their own formidable army and resources. In this way, they have many elements in common (albeit unintentionally) with the BPAA-THAP organization (reworked 'Jungle Patrol') from the recent TV reboot of The Phantom.
The Order of the Einherjar
Having existed continuously in some form since the year 523 A.D., the Order of the Einherjar is the oldest established European superhero organization. Over the last fifteen centuries, its members have engaged in world-altering events, leading armies, battling tyrants, building cities and fortresses, and even developing new technologies. In its current 21st-century state, it consists of a wealthy and powerful multi-national paramilitary force dedicated to the defense of the European continent from all forms of super-powered threats. Throughout history, however, it has continually waged a clandestine war against a rival group of powerful villains, the Jotunheim Scourge, whose origins are still largely a mystery.
Discovery and Alteration
In the year 523 A.D., a group of Norse warriors were carrying out a hunting expedition on the tundra of Norway. It was late August, and the short summer thaw was coming to an end. Out of arrows and with their supplies running low, the hunters hastened to return to the safety of their fishing village before the first snows came. In foul humor due to their lack of success in the hunt, they grudgingly made camp for the night beside a low, wide earthen hillock a few miles from a river crossing. As the first stars began to shine in the darkening sky, one of the hunters noticed one of them beginning to grow in size. Getting the attention of his companions, the sixteen of them watched the falling star become larger and larger. With amazement, and growing trepidation, as they saw its fiery tail, they realized that it was coming down directly over their heads. It screamed over the top of the hillock and crashed with deafening sound and earthshaking force into the tundra behind it.
Picking themselves up, the sixteen hunters scrambled over the hill and rushed over the half-mile or so of frozen ground to where the crater lay burning. Not knowing what to expect, the hunters saw a number of pieces, large and small, of what looked like shiny rock scattered over a small area strewn with dying flames. While not much in the area was glowing with heat, some of the pieces of metallic rock were giving off dim beams of light. More curious than afraid, one of the men crept carefully towards one of the strange beams and looked into it. Finding nothing that he could see, he shrugged and backed away, then suggested to his comrades that they return to their camp and investigate again in the morning. Surprisingly, none of the others objected, and they returned to the fallen star again the next morning. While the area around the debris was still warm, it had cooled considerably overnight, and amazingly, the larger chunks of metal-rock were barely warm to the touch. Without any game and unwilling to return to their village empty-handed, the men filled their sacks with as many of the smaller pieces as they could gather up, hoping that it might be of use to the smiths or, at least, of value in barter back home. Despite having no pressing reason to stay any longer, the men unanimously decided to move their camp from the other side of the hill to the area directly adjacent to the fallen star. They managed to spot and fell a deer around midday, on which they feasted that night before falling asleep.
When they awoke the next morning, they made an astonishing discovery. All of the large chunks of rock had cracked apart during the night, and lying next to each of them was an identical pair of armor - mail shirts and helmets - each the most beautifully-made pieces any of the warriors had ever seen. They were flawlessly crafted, and their metal shone with an unearthly lustre. Not being wealthy, none of the sixteen hunters had ever owned anything quite so magnificent, and they fingered the raiments with wonder and awe in their eyes. They were convinced that these were gifts sent down to them by the gods - who else could have landed a falling star almost directly at their feet? They wrapped the armor up in deerskin and packed it in their sacks, now crammed to bulging with armor and sky stones.
Returning to their village, the hunters showed everyone the armor and stones that they had collected. Believing the star's fall to be a sign of favor from the gods, the sixteen hunters convinced the villagers to go north and collect as much of the sky stone as they could. Only a few of the largest pieces could be gathered before the winter snows came, but the smallest pieces, one kept in each family's house through the winter, seemed to exude such warmth and vital energy that not one of the villagers felt cold or fell sick that entire long winter. The sixteen hunters, clad in their 'gods-given armor', made regular trips up to the fallen star despite the harshness of the weather. Each time they went out they made certain that no one else had come upon the spot or disturbed any of the sky stone, and each time they returned they remarked that not one of them had ever felt the chill through the armor that they wore. When the weather warmed somewhat and the snows fell, the villagers took their sledges up to the spot where the sky stone had fallen. Driven by some invigorating fervor, they gathered up every bit of it, from the largest shattered boulder to the tiniest shiny pebble.
That summer, the sixteen hunters ranged far and wide, providing more than enough food for the entire village whilst everyone else worked tirelessly to store the sky stone. Some of it they secured in large stone basins that they carved out of the hillside and lined with rock; others took small stones and lined the paths between the houses with them; some of it they crushed into fine gravel and spread on the floors of each house. Every villager worked as though possessed by some otherworldly force; they simply took it for divine inspiration, the will of the gods. As the years passed the village grew into a town, with paved roads and high walls, and then a castle and a garrison. Under the direction of the sixteen hunters, the 'skystone-finders', the village became a bastion of military and economic strength in fewer than twenty years.
Opposition and Purpose
The original village was an isolated and unimportant place just a few miles south of one of the largest northern glaciers. Despite its rapid and exponential growth, the citizens felt no need to rush out to proclaim their newfound prominence. The sudden explosion of its size and population could not outweigh its remoteness, and no one from the outside ever came to discover its existence. The years passed, and the town still grew, somehow always enjoying a surplus of food and skilled labor, existing as an isolated oasis on the edge of the barren glacier. It seemed as though the presence of the sky stone had caused a noticeable change in the local weather, and soon the soil around the river became good enough for the citizens to begin regularly farming it. Despite the passing of twenty long years since they had returned with the sky stone and their armor, the sixteen hunters had hardly aged in that time, though their minds had definitely been irrevocably changed.
One spring day, in the twenty-fourth year since the discovery of the sky stone, an army of evil-looking men arrived on the town's borders. While not greater in number than the sixteen and their own sworn warriors, they were certainly more fearsome looking. Without warning they threw themselves at the walls of the town, killing many before those outside could be brought within the walls and the gates shut tight. The sixteen and their warriors fought bravely, and after a hard-fought battle they drove the invaders from the walls. Two of the sixteen were slain in the battle, proving to the townsfolk that though the bearers of the armor seemed not to age, they could yet still die. The armor was passed on to the sons of those that had found it, and immediately the sixteen held a council to determine who their mysterious foes were and where they had come from. After many weeks of deliberations they could yet arrive at no answer save one; these invaders were implacable and dangerous, and in order to properly defend against them again the sixteen and their townsfolk would need greater strength, greater numbers, and greater information.
It was decided that the sixteen would divide themselves into four groups of four, each to undertake a different purpose. The first circle would remain to strengthen, prepare, and defend the town. The second would venture out to seek willing allies and recruits to help them in their struggle. The third would venture out along with the second, but with the purpose of finding new sources of food, wealth, and materials for the tasks at hand. The fourth circle had the most difficult and dangerous task of all, requiring them to travel the farthest afield and with, perhaps, no hope of ever returning - to seek out the mysterious enemy and learn about them what they could. Still believing themselves to be the chosen of the gods, they decided that from that day forth, they would call themselves Einherjar, after those who would fight alongside the gods against the jotuns at Ragnarok. And so began their war against what they would eventually come to discover as the Jotunheim Scourge, though it would be many years before any of them learned that name.
History and Evolution
The four Circles of the Einherjar spent centuries carrying out their appointed tasks. Despite being sheltered in their isolated river valley at the base of the glacier, they nonetheless made their presence felt, if not known, to the rest of Europe. Barely three hundred years after their rise to power, Harald Fairhair launched his campaign to become king of a unified Norway. Among his supporters were the Second and Third Circles of the Einherjar, whose unrivaled combat power all but ensured his victory and made their own tasks that much easier. Since the earliest days of the kingdom, the Norwegian monarchy alone has been aware of the existence of the Order, and although many unscrupulous kings have attempted to exploit or even subvert the Einherjar in the past, their power and influence have always been sufficient threat to ultimately dissuade them - or, on occasion, when necessary, to overthrow them completely. Most of the Norwegian monarchs have realized the value of having the super-powered Einherjar as their allies, rather than their foes.
The Fourth Circle was always the most active throughout Europe. In their mission to uncover the face of their mysterious enemy they roamed far and wide, often settling permanently in other countries for decades at a time in order to gather information. As time passed, they discovered the workings of an intricate and insidious force comparable in power to their own in the countries they visited - a force obviously just as bent upon gathering power and influence through subversive means as the Einherjar were determined to make clandestine alliances in order to protect themselves and others. In nearly every army of historical prominence assembled during the Middle Ages, a member of the Einherjar fought alongside its leader. Charles Martel, William the Conqueror, Bohemond of Taranto, Prince-Bishop Hermann Dorpat, William Wallace, Henry V, ...all these leaders had Fourth Circle Einherjar in the armies...because their foes, Abdul Raman Al Ghafiqi, Harold Godwinson, Alexius I Comnenus, Alexandre Nevskii, King Edward II, and King Charles D'Albret were all members of the Jotunheim Scourge. While not all of these battles ended in victory, the Einherjar largely succeeded in keeping those they supported in power. They could not, however, prevent the Scourge from causing upheaval and unrest in Europe, and there were many times when the Einherjar found their allies at odds with each other.
At other times, their efforts to counter or unravel the Scourge's plots caused long-lasting detrimental consequences for centuries to come. When the Templars were infiltrated by the Scourge prior to the Third Crusade, leading to the disastrous Battle of Hattin and the loss of the Holy Land, the Einherjar successfully removed Gerard de Ridefort. But their insistence on maintaining the secrecy of their involvement aroused the suspicions of the Papacy, which soon gave in to pressure from Philip IV of France, another member of the Scourge. This ultimately lead to the successful elimination of the entire Templar Order altogether. The discovery and exploitation of the Americas was another such incidence. The Einherjar knew full well, from their involvement in Leif Ericsson's voyages, that two continents lay between Europe and India. The Einherjar had actively supported the Reconquista of Spain, and were instrumental in acquiring the Spanish monarchy's support for Christopher Columbus' voyages to the New World. The Order had hoped to beat the Scourge to the Americas, thus securing its vast resources for use in defeating them, but the Scourge was too insidious. Nearly all of the Spanish conquistador leaders, like Cortes and Pizarro, were members of the Scourge, and their brutality resulted in the three-hundred year-long Spanish rule of South and Central America and the near-eradication of their native populations. Realizing that the Spanish could no longer be counted on, the Einherjar threw their support to the French efforts to colonize Canada, only to be thwarted by the course of normal historical events when the English defeated them in the French and Indian War.
Old Crusades, Modern Wars
As the medieval gave way to the modern, the Einherjar found themselves increasingly unable to follow the Scourge's increasingly insidious plots as they spread through the seamy underbelly of Europe and up into the vital hierarchies. As kings and barons, popes and bishops began to fall under the sway of the Scourge's influence, the Einherjar began to reveal themselves to people on the other side of the spectrum - individuals that the Einherjar knew to have exceptional potential, but were otherwise completely ordinary - at least, at that time. Leonardo da Vinci, Roger Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, even William Shakespeare were amongst those approached to act as the eyes and ears of the Einherjar's secret war against the Scourge. Perhaps the Sixteen's greatest victory was the cultivation of the Freemasonic movement, an effort that eventually spawned the Order of the Freemasons, a powerful international organization that finally succeeded where the Templars had failed.
Despite all the efforts of the Scourge to entrench their own forces firmly into the institutional bedrock of the Americas, the Einherjar ultimately succeeded in establishing their own foothold. With all of the Enlightenment thinkers and philosophers on their side, it was only a matter of time before the resulting revolution in thought, spurred on by the knowledge of what would befall Western civilization if the Scourge succeeded, gave birth to a revolution in politics. Inspired by Enlightenment philosophy, carried out by Freemasonic agents, and directly supported by the Einherjar, the American Revolution established the United States of America as the world's first major democratic power. Despite the inherent risk involved, the Einherjar determined to permanently station the Fourth Circle in the Americas, as a final bastion to defend their New World holdings against Scourge attack.
The Scourge, however, did not remain idle for long. In fewer than fifty years, they had created their own revolution in Europe, a bloody and mindless slaughter in France that would pave the way for their puppet Napoleon to launch his bid to conquer all of Europe. His defeat in 1815 did little to deter them, and less than fifty years after that, they had instigated the Civil War with the intent of destroying the Einherjar's foothold into their territory. Four years and 600,000 casualties later, the war was ended - but the nation was still, for all intents and purposes, divided. With their attention focused on stabilizing the United States, they were unable to prevent the greatest catastrophe yet to befall Europe. All it took was one assassin's bullet, delivered from one gun in Serbia, to plunge Europe into war. Four years and eleven million casualties later, it was over...and the seeds were already sown for a sequel. Despite all their influence, the Einherjar, unlike the Scourge, did not wield control...and there was nothing the Americans or the League of Nations could do to prevent the Europeans from enacting the economic persecution and military emasculation that would slowly grind Germany down...only to have it rise up again twenty years later. The Second World War was more devastating than the first: six years of carnage and nearly sixty million casualties left Europe in smoldering ruins. By this time, however, the age of superheroes had arrived, and despite their widespread usage by all of the major combatants, in the end the Scourge saw their efforts once again foiled.
The Order's ancestral homeland of Norway was woefully unprepared to repel the Nazi invasion that came in 1940. The Scourge had been successful in fostering a climate of pacifism and appeasement throughout Europe in the post-war years; combined with the worldwide economic depression, this left the democratic nations nearly toothless in the face of the massive armies that had been assembled by the new totalitarian regimes. The Einherjar had been overconfidently counting on the strength of England and the United States to defeat the Axis countries, and believed that their personal strength could repel any Scourge or Nazi attack against Scandinavia. However, they were unprepared for the speed and tactics of the German forces, as well as the number of meta-human operatives at their command. Spread thin as they were throughout the United States and Europe, the Einherjar found themselves pushed back along with the European troops they helped command. Belgium, France, and Denmark fell within weeks, leaving members of the Second and Third Circles isolated and cut off in German-held territory. The First Circle was quickly relegated to leading the Norwegian resistance forces, fighting desperately to hold a few narrow mountain valleys in order to prevent the Nazis from discovering their hidden city.
Not long after, the Fourth Circle found themselves engaged in battle against the Fifth Column in Paragon City. The secret Nazi army struck hard against America's easternmost metropolis, hoping to cripple the United States in tandem with the Japanese attack on the west. The four members of the Fourth Circle were able to use the chaos and confusion to mask their presence from the city's other heroes, while still fighting to keep Paragon City secure from the invaders. Once the battle was over, however, they finally received the First Circle's summons to come to the Order's aid in Europe. It was not until 1942 that the Fourth Circle was able to return to Norway, but even their intervention could not break the near-total Nazi stranglehold on the peninsula. Though America and its heroes finally entered the European theater at that time, it was not until the aftermath of D-Day that the isolated Einherjar and their resistance cells were successfully liberated. Despite having fought the German forces since the beginning of the war, the Einherjar now pulled their members out of the fighting, leaving the liberation of Europe to the Allies and focusing instead on their home base defense. This decision would ultimately come to haunt them in the following decades. When the final defeat of the German armies came, and the United States used its newfound atomic power to smash Japan into submission, much of the world was in ruins...but despite all odds, the Order's anonymity was still secure.
Forced to operate in a world now filled with naturally super-powered heroes, the centuries-old Einherjar did not know what form their order would take. They only knew that no one else could be counted upon to face the insidious threat posed by the Scourge. Truth be told, the Order had an unsurprisingly dismissive view towards the thousands of heroes that Statesman had inadvertently created. Even if the world's new 'rookie' superheroes could be bothered to take their attention away from their newfound fame and the world's many mundane threats, they had neither the patience nor the experience to deal with a force as powerful as the Scourge. With fifteen hundred years' worth of experience remaining hidden, the Einherjar had little trouble keeping off the radar of even the most powerful superhero. As the Cold War began to heat up, the Einherjar took advantage of the world's military buildups to re-equip and reorganize their order. For centuries, they had placed themselves at the forefront of Europe's armies in order to fight the Scourge. During the Second World War, however, they had been forced to make a choice: hold back their efforts and retain their anonymity in the face of the world's new superheroes, or dive headlong into the fight against the Axis and reveal themselves completely. It was a situation in which they had not found themselves before, and centuries of reactionism and subterfuge had made them conservative. Though they could not help being swept up in the initial Nazi tide, they fought only as long and as hard as was necessary to protect themselves. Once events allowed them to pull back, they did so. The speed and ferocity of the Nazi war machine had put them on the defensive and shaken their resolve; coupled with their perennial fear of discovery, this led them to withdraw to reassess their role in this new military-industrial world.
The Order Expands
The Sixteen realized that their intervention could have ended the Second World War far sooner and with far fewer casualties. Unable to reconcile their need for anonymity with the burden of their conscience, yet unwilling to blatantly reveal their existence, the Einherjar decided that they needed to take a more active, less subtle stance - albeit one that would still leave the majority of the world oblivious to their presence. After centuries of leading the armies of others, the Einherjar decided to build an army of their own. After years of work, the Four Circles managed to locate and secure an artifact known as the Mimir - the ancient Asgardian Well of Knowledge. Identified by the Einherjar as an alien device, possession of the Mimir enabled them to better understand themselves - and by extension - their armor. With the help of the Mimir, the Einherjar deciphered more about the inner workings of their armor in one year than they had in the past hundred; not enough to truly reproduce a fully functional suit of Einherjar battle armor, but more than enough to engineer combat suits far in advance of anything Earth possessed. The Order's standards were high, and recruitment was slow - but one battle-armored Midgardian was more effective on the battlefield than ten conventional soldiers. Harnessing resources carefully secured over the centuries, the Order built up its military forces with heavy armor and aerial units, as well as constantly upgrading their equipment as they worked with the Mimir. The Einherjar flexed their new army's muscles throughout the Cold War, and the rest of the meta-human community took some notice, though they could gather up only scattered clues as the mystery soldiers struck and vanished with amazing speed. Decades before the establishment of Longbow and Vanguard, the Midgardian Battalions were the original super-powered auxiliary army, and they proved surprisingly effective in battling the evil of the Scourge.
When the Rikti War struck rapidly and unexpectedly, the Einherjar and their troops, like all the rest of the world's forces, found themselves embroiled directly in the maelstrom. It was during this unprovoked invasion that the Einherjar first gained their suspicions regarding the origins of their armor, given the remarkable effectiveness of their equipment in fighting the aliens. Even the Midgardians were able to hold their own against the Rikti troops, despite the fact that their own armor was constructed of Earth-based materials. While not part of the American-led assaults that ultimately drove the Rikti invaders from Earth, by that point in the war, it was only the Einherjar and their forces that were keeping Europe from being completely overrun. Their tireless efforts to stop the Rikti cold tied up vital enemy forces that would otherwise have been redirected to oppose Statesman and his strike teams. When the fighting ceased, and Earth's cities lay in ruins, the Einherjar used their resources to keep Europe alive. This was their redemption, their penance for failing to prevent the destruction that nearly consumed Europe after World War Two and their inability to help reconstruct it, a task that had fallen to the United States in the following decades. Midgardians walked openly in the shattered streets, distributing food and medical supplies, clearing debris and raising the broken skeletons of buildings back up to face the smoke-clouded sky.
Like all parasites, the Scourge had lain hidden as the predatory Rikti ravaged and destroyed all in their path; then, with the global threat pacified, they re-emerged to take advantage of the chaos and destruction that the aliens had left in their wake. With the world's economies and militaries weakened and disorganized, it was the perfect time for them to strike. With even the Einherjar and their forces damaged, and their efforts focused on providing relief, rather than vigilance, the Scourge succeeded in making inroads all over the world. With the losses they had suffered throughout the ages, especially during the recent Rikti War, the Einherjar were hard-pressed to provide effective opposition to every threat the Scourge presented. With an entire Circle's worth of Einherjar having fallen, their armor having shut down, most likely permanently, they were forced to dispatch squads of Midgardians to deal with situations that normally would have required the attention of a full-rank Einherjar. Increasingly, the Order was forced to bring other heroes into the fight on their side. In most cases, these were local superheroes who had felt the influence of the Scourge plots in their own areas of operations, who were then contacted by the mysterious Einherjar and offered support. In most cases, it took further conflict, even deaths, to convince the cocky local sentinels that these seemingly arrogant 'old-schoolers' actually knew what they were talking about. The battle against the Scourge was beginning to become a worldwide conflict, though it remained a hidden one.
The individual Einherjar and their Midgardian shock troopers have no inherent superpowers of their own. However, for those that survive, prolonged exposure to their armor seems to generate significant changes to the wearer's genetic code, manifesting in enhanced physical and mental capabilities. The oldest surviving Einherjar are doubly powerful, possessing superhuman abilities that are even further enhanced by their suits of armor, which are themselves super-engineered and attuned by hundreds of years of development.
Einherjar Battle Armor
The sixteen suits of Einherjar armor are highly advanced pieces of alien-designed technology. Designed, built, and sent to Earth by an unknown alien race, at their basic level, they are even more powerful than a standard Rikti battlesuit. Heavily armored and yet amazingly flexible, each layer of exotic material that composes the armor serves a specific function in the overall operation of the armor.
The innermost layers of the armor provide data storage, processing capability, control systems, shock absorption, life support, bioneural feedback, and first-level muscular impulse response. A sealed, full-body cushion of kineto-reactive gel absorbs the energy transferred to it from the outside layers of the suit through paper-thin secondary gel layers that are sandwiched throughout the other primary layers. Each of these layers serves to protect the wearer from physical trauma and concussion inflicted from weapon impacts and high-yield explosive detonations. The inner body cushion is laced with advanced bioneural feedback sensors, as well as an advanced optical crystal data transmission network. A hybrid system of the standard biofeedback sensors used in basic powered armors and the direct neural feedback systems utilized by the most advanced powered armors, the bioneural feedback system analyzes thousands of biological and neurological responses per second in order to provide precise control of the suit and its systems. With sensors located all throughout the body cushion in tandem with the data transmission system, the suit possesses a totally decentralized 'nervous system' that allows both stored data and freshly analyzed information to be shared and processed instantaneously, resulting in an operations lag of only 1.25 milliseconds between command and action. The inner cushion also doubles as a full medical sensory suite, capable of constantly monitoring the wearer's entire physical and mental state and taking proper reactionary measures to maintain them at normal levels. The cushion is capable of expanding within the suit, sealing wounds and stabilizing fractured limbs as needed. It can also provide direct mechanical or electrical stimulation of nerve and muscle clusters; this means that it can automatically perform CPR, artificially induce the lungs to breathe, clear airways, and even allow the user to move otherwise crippled limbs in an emergency.
The data transmission network houses what the Einherjar refer to as the 'soul' of their armors. While not fully understood, it is known that each suit of battle armor possesses an advanced, 'semi-sentient' central operating personality. In their original, 'unseasoned' configuration, the suits contained a series of basic operational programs designed to facilitate the process of integration between each suit and its adoptive wearer. However, the highly advanced bioneural feedback systems, combined with the optical data transmission network and the body cushion itself, work together to achieve a synergistic effect, creating an adaptive neural learning matrix. As the suit records and analyzes the bioneural readouts of the user, including their brainwaves, thought patterns, and emotional responses, it begins to rewrite certain sections of code that gradually expand throughout the processing network. This evolution of the basic operating system also takes into account the situations the operator faces, as well as the decisions and responses they make to those situations. Over time, the core operating system begins to develop a distinct personality based on the mental, emotional, and moral behavior of the wearer. In essence, the suit itself begins to think like the person wearing it, resulting in enhanced muscle memory and decreased response time. By understanding how the user will respond in a certain situation, the suit is able to more accurately predict the wearer's commands. As the suit's cognitive abilities increase, however, so do those of the wearer. As the wearer begins to understand how the suit thinks, they are able to make the neural connections between their mind and the operating system more complex. In essence, they are able to utilize a portion of the suit's far greater processing power to augment their brain's own information processing capability. Receiving stimuli through the suit's more advanced tactile, visual, and aural receptors enables them to receive and process sensory data more quickly. It also allows them to absorb and comprehend new information at an accelerated rate, enabling them to become masters of any art or field in a fraction of the time it would take an ordinary human.
The middle layers of the armor provide second-level muscular impulse response, life support generation, power generation, temperature regulation, skeletal support, and mechanical infrastructure. Rather than utilizing primitive hydraulic systems or motors, each suit's musculature is composed of advanced, fiber-based, techno-organic muscles. Similar in design to natural organic muscles, their comparative density and tensile ability is exponentially higher. At a baseline level, they are capable of providing the average human with 150% greater strength at minimum - above-average humans enjoy a significantly greater boost in raw muscular power. They are able to contract or relax far faster than natural organic muscles, as well; combined with the enhanced sensory perception and cognitive processing provided by the transmission network, this results in an increase in both regular movement speed and normal reflex response time.
The suit's life support, temperature regulation, and power generation systems all form a single, interlinked, closed-circuit network that works simultaneously to protect the wearer from extremes of temperature and harsh environments, as well as generating the necessary energy required to keep the suit operational. Utilizing small, ultra-efficient energy converters, the suit can use carbon dioxide gas expelled by the wearer to convert internal heat into electrical energy. These converters are also capable of harnessing a portion of the kinetic energy used in normal motion and converting it into usable power, much like a hydroelectric power plant. The process is less efficient than the larger-scale method, however, since the suit must first expend power in order to produce the movement needed to generate it. Essentially, whenever the suit moves, it generates energy to cover the expenditure. As movement continues, more converters kick in, and except in extreme situations, a net charge can be generated. Thus the suit generates the most power at the point when it needs it most - during combat. An intricate series of small internal batteries is used to collect and store electrical charge throughout the suit, rather than storing it all in a few centralized 'sinks'. In this way, power for operations is stored locally for each part of the suit, reducing the amount of energy that would be lost in having to transfer it via conduits throughout the arms and legs.
The most advanced component of the intermediate layer is the adaptive slipsoidal mechanical interlink strata, or ASMIS. Composed of a techno-organic nanoscopic substrate, the ASMIS is capable of reconfiguring itself to provide physical capacity and electrical and command infrastructure for new mechanical and technological systems. Simply put, the ASMIS resembles a type of 'technological putty', which is capable of receding and then coalescing around a piece of equipment that the wearer has seen fit to install. Once the components have been installed, the ASMIS will reform itself around the new piece of gear and establish new power and control conduits to it, essentially making the addition a piece of the overall suit nearly instantaneously. For components that require access through the ASMIS to a point on the suit's outer layer, (such as sensors, weapons, and propulsive devices) the ASMIS is capable of extending itself throughout the 'port' that the wearer must drill through the outer layers, thus filling the space around the component and allowing new armor plate to be mounted around the aperture.
The outer layers of the armor are the most resilient, not only because they must provide the bulk of each suit's defenses, but also because they perform a number of vital functions that require them to be highly damage-resistant. The outermost layer is composed of the same type of variable-density 'smart' material as the ASMIS, and provides the suit's primary defensive capability. With a tensile strength varying between that of soft commercial plastic and titanium/tungsten-reinforced arconium carbonite, it is capable of reactively hardening against any form of kinetic weapon. It is also this exterior armor layer that responds to direct mental manipulation from each individual Einherjar, allowing them to physically customize the appearance of their battlesuits.
Running through and beneath this armored layer is a network of superconducting lattice capable of multiphasic energy conversion. The armor can effectively absorb any type of radiation, from the standard electromagnetic spectrum to more exotic forms of directed energy. In essence, an Einherjar can keep their armor's batteries charged simply by walking through an illuminated room, out in the sunlight, through a raging inferno or a crossfire of plasma blasts. Due to its superconductive properties, it can be charged to create a defensive field to repel enemy attacks; however, this requires a significant investment of energy, and seriously impedes the armor's ability to draw off energy from incoming fire. The innermost layer of the outer skin consists of reactive thermal armor. When exposed to extreme heat or extreme cold, the suit's thermal sensors trigger an endothermic or exothermic reaction, altering the surface temperature and protecting the integrity of the suit. The external layers' smart sensors automatically register the surrounding atmosphere (or lack thereof) and adjust the consistency of the exterior armor accordingly. This allows the Einherjar to function safely and effectively in almost any environment, up to and including a vacuum. Even if the outer armor layer is breached by weapons fire, both the ASMIS and the inner body cushion are capable of sealing themselves to prevent any loss of internal pressure and atmosphere.
For all of their sophistication and power, the Einherjar battlesuits have their flaws. Despite the storage, processing, and operational capacity of each suit's controlling intelligence, they are not true artificial intelligences. Regardless of their capabilities, they are, at best, extremely sophisticated VIs and thus have limited utility compared to a true living, thinking AI. Although the Einherjar have uncovered evidence that their suits' control intelligences have some capacity for adaptation and evolution, they have yet to discover a means of purposefully unlocking and directing that capability, assuming that it truly does exist.
Perhaps the battle armor's greatest weakness is the extreme restriction involved in its operation. When the original Sixteen first donned the armors, they were imprinted directly with their individual genetic profiles. Over time, the Einherjar realized that their suits were linked to them directly, and none of them could even attempt to wear, much less operate, any of the others' suits of armor. When one of the Einherjar fell in battle, it was found that their armor could only be operated again by one of their blood relatives, due to the genetic markers that the suit utilized to recognize its proper wearer. In the early days of the Order, only a close relation, such as a brother, son, or daughter, could effectively match the armors' strict genetic screening profile. The modern Einherjar have taken some steps to relax the security programming of their suits, widening the candidate pool to include first cousins, nieces, and nephews - but the problem of finding a suitable, willing replacement candidate for a fallen Einherjar still remains. The process can often take years, which is not an ideal situation. The VI control interface program seems to require close contact with a properly-attuned human mind in order to function at peak effectiveness; prolonged periods of isolation cause the suit to effectively 'lose' cognitive capability at an increasingly entropic rate. As time passes, the suit gradually loses the cognitive, mnemonic, and interactive abilities that it developed from decades or centuries spent in close proximity with one or more operators. In several cases, unused suits have suffered complete operative decay and gone into total shutdown mode, rendering them inert and unusable. If there is a way in which to 'reset' the armor's control systems and restart it clean, the Einherjar have been unable to discover it, leaving them with suits of battle armor that are useful for little more than hallway decoration.
For all their adaptive and defensive qualities, the battle suits are still pieces of machinery. They are not impervious to damage, and while the Einherjar have learned enough about them to be able to repair them with modern tools and materials, theirs is a dangerous job, and the chance always exists that an enemy assault will penetrate the armor's multi-layered defenses. All of the Einherjars' individual suits vary in design and function; some have stronger defenses while others possess better offensive capabilities - yet none of them are totally optimized to protect against all conceivable forms of attack. It is impossible to construct an armor that makes the wearer totally impervious to energy, magic, psionics, chemicals, explosions, or projectiles all simultaneously. In heavy combat situations, the Einherjar, like all other heroes, must rely on a combination of speed, stealth, skill, and cunning to survive, outmaneuver, and eventually overpower their foes.
The Einherjar have been known to develop meta-human abilities over time. The alterations are gradual and subtle, often manifesting only after years of exposure to the alien battle armor technology. It is theorized that the armor not only reads the user's DNA in order to facilitate operations, but also somehow modifies their genetic code as well. This is most likely a response to the existing lag between the armor's full performance capabilities and the limits of the user's organic body; in order to fully utilize the improved capabilities that the suit develops, it is necessary to marginally improve the wearer in return. The most noticeable changes include improved bone and muscle densities, allowing the wearer to withstand the stress of suit-enhanced movement without suffering serious injury. Other improvements to vision, hearing, and reflexes have been documented as well. The oldest surviving Einherjar have apparently grown so accustomed to the interface with the suit's advanced sensors that they actually possess a form of limited precognition, enabling them to see and hear events in a combat environment as much as 1.5 seconds before they occur. They have also demonstrated an ability to communicate telepathically with each other within a short radius of a few miles or so.
The Order's greatest asset is their hidden refuge of Midgardheim. Having risen from its meager origins as a tiny, poverty-stricken village into a thriving industrial city, the modern metropolis lies in a fertile valley on the edge of a glacier. With a current population of over 135,000 and numerous heavy industries, many of which are devoted to supporting the Order's paramilitary force and its ongoing war against the Scourge, it also generates a large quantity of top-quality consumer goods for export. The city's remarkably temperate local climate is due to the presence of an as-yet unidentified light element that has been strategically dispersed throughout the city limits and its suburbs. This uncharacteristically warm environment allows food crops to be produced despite the extremely intemperate weather that rages outside this zone, and the implementation of cutting-edge farming technology allows the Einherjar's loyal citizens to generate their own self-sufficient food supply. The Order's contacts with the leadership of many European countries allows them to import sufficient amounts of raw materials to drive their war machine, and their cutting-edge military actually tends to support itself, as they are able to 'loan out' approximately 20% of their force at any given time to assist the European Union in combating super-powered threats.
All over the world, there are people with exceptional talent, skills, and intelligence that often go wasted. These above-average individuals are prevented from realizing their true potential by socio-economic conditions beyond their control, and are forced to spend their lives trapped in slums, struggling to survive poverty, crime, violence, and disease. If they survive, these are the types of people who are often suborned into joining criminal organizations out of desperation or coercion, where their considerable abilities are used for evil rather than good.
For decades, the Einherjar have spent considerable time, effort, and resources scouring undeveloped and impoverished regions of the earth for these individuals. Covert scouting teams of disguised, specially-trained Midgardians track down leads in some of the roughest, most dangerous urban neighborhoods on the planet, locating, contacting, and extracting potential recruits and their families from harm's way. Once safely transported to Midgardheim, they are given access to everything they lacked in their former home; food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine, and education. In return, they are assigned to assist the Order and its followers in their never-ending war against the Scourge. In spite of the price these rescued souls must pay in exchange for their new lives, not one of them has yet shown any reservation in doing what they are asked to do by their mysterious benefactors.
Recent events have led to an explosion of new research projects within the Order's military-industrial complex. Several months ago, the Aegirian Templar became the first member of the Order to successfully analyze components of Scourge enslavement technology. Although these components self-destructed within minutes of being exposed, their discovery gave the Order the first clue in fifteen centuries as to the nature of their enemy. Upon analyzing the remains of Scourge thralls, it was discovered that the Scourge use some form of radical nanotechnology to turn ordinary humans into cyborg slaves, replacing vital organs, blood vessels, and even nerves with technological components. This is somehow done from the inside out, without any of the extreme augmentative surgery that would typically be required to make such comprehensive changes to an organic body. What components exist to differentiate mindless Scourge soldiers from the obviously more independent Scourge commanders is unknown; however, it is likely that at least some varieties of basic nanotech are utilized in all of them.
Study of the captured Scourge nanotechnology promises to greatly advance cybernetic prosthetics research, particularly in the area of artificial nerve production. Already the Einherjar have made tremendous leaps in the development of medical nanobots, tissue regeneration, neuron reinforcement, synthetic brain function redundancies, mnemonic augmentation, and even psionic enhancement. They have also begun making progress on a type of wireless signal disruptor designed to inhibit the function of Scourge nanotech within a fairly wide area. The most important recent development has been the distribution of special 'nano-immunizers' to key Order allies; packed with thousands of defensive nanobots, they are designed to render a person immune to the initial stages of Scourge infection.
Since the early 1980s, the Einherjar have maintained and fielded their own elite paramilitary force. Consisting of power-armored combat troopers, heavy-armor anti-vehicle units, and high-speed helojet-based transports and gunships, the Einherjar dispatch these forces to deal with threats all across the globe. In recent years, their deployment has become alarmingly frequent, as the dangers presented by both the Rikti invasion forces and the mercenaries employed by the Jotunheim Scourge seem to reassert themselves even more strongly after each defeat they suffer.
Combat Troopers (Midgardians)
Numbering in the thousands, these infantry soldiers are actually the hardest element of the army to maintain. Their gear, reverse-engineered from the Einherjar's own powered armors, is the most costly and intricate equipment manufactured by the Order, and as such, it cannot be entrusted to just anyone. For this reason, only the most worthy, skilled, and dedicated recruits are admitted into the training regimen, and only a select few are inducted into the ranks each year. While their armor is not nearly as advanced as the suits they are based upon, with none of the intricate internal adaptive capabilities, they still serve to magnify the Midgardians' strength and reflexes, and their sensors are of equal strength. The adaptive defensive capabilities are still present, as well as a near-identical model of the ASMIS. This allows the Einherjar to periodically upgrade their troopers' armor with new capabilities as they unlock more reverse-engineering capability from their own battlesuits.
Midgardians are organized in a traditional squad/platoon system. They are generally armed with energy-based small arms, similar to a phased particle beam weapon. Each platoon's heavy weapons section generally wields heavy particle cannons and high-explosive anti-vehicle rocket launchers. Specialist squads are also known to exist; deployed in a special forces role, they receive special training and are equipped with all manner of weapons, from sniper rifles to high-energy system disruptors. Like those of the Einherjar themselves, the configuration of the Midgardians' battlesuits varies according to their combat role, although every suit possesses the same array of baseline components.
The process of training Midgardians and manufacturing their battle armor was developed over a period of thirty years, under the auspices of Project Midgard.
Heavy Assault Armor Units (Mjolnirs)
Massive and powerful, the exoskeletal Mjolnirs are the bipedal heavy tanks of the Einherjar army. Designed to operate around a single battle-armored Midgardian trooper who stands within its cockpit, the Mjolnirs are deployed only in combat situations where extreme ground-based firepower is required. Built using more conventional technology similar to that utilized by Vanguard HVASs, they nevertheless strike a credible balance between armor plating and maneuverability, though their speed often leaves something to be desired. Unconfirmed battlefield reports seem to indicate that the Einherjar have begun equipping a few experimental models with short-range teleportation devices. If true, then these formidable war machines may soon have an unequaled ability to deploy to any position on a battlefield, allowing them to unleash their deadly payload regardless of the terrain. Armed with dual-mounted, cryogenically-cooled particle beam gatlings, high-explosive anti-vehicle rockets, a back-mounted siege mortar, and a structure-destroying high-velocity railgun for use against field fortifications, the Mjolnirs are capable of fighting against any type of ground-based enemy force. Like all tanks, however, they are vulnerable to both air attack and a skilled, close-in infantry attack, and require comprehensive air and infantry support in order to operate effectively on the battlefield.
The process of designing, engineering, and constructing the Mjolnirs was developed by studying similar, previously-existing machines. Midgardheim engineers disassembled and reverse-engineered a number of 'borrowed' Nemesis Warhulks, Malta Titans, Longbow Cataphracts, and Vanguard HVAS's as part of Project Mjolnir.
Air Units (Helojets)
For air transport and air combat duties, the Einherjar paramilitary force relies on helojets; sleek airframed vehicles that rely on multiple banks of variable-thrust jet engines to achieve VTOL capability. Their structural shape loosely resembles that of helicopters, and they perform similarly, albeit at much greater speed, due to their usage of high-yield jet engines as opposed to rotors.
The Sleipnir-Class transport is used to rapidly deploy Midgardian and Mjolnir units to any combat zone around the world. Capable of transporting a single infantry platoon and its associated Mjolnir, as well as all of their weapons and equipment, within a six-thousand mile radius operational area at a speed of up to 1,200 miles per hour, the Sleipnir is designed for fast tactical transport and deployment of assets to quickly-erupting combat zones. Armed with an array of local area point defense weapons, each Sleipnir is capable of providing limited air-to-ground support for its deployed infantry units, although most of its equipment is geared towards self-defensive purposes.
(Author's Note: The Sleipnir transports were inspired largely by the UNSC 'Pelican' dropships from the Halo series of games.)
Smaller, faster, and far deadlier than the utilitarian Sleipnir, the heavily-armed, highly maneuverable Gungnir is a multi-purpose combat aircraft. Capable of fulfilling a number of roles, including close air support and air superiority, the Gungnir is deployed with punishing regularity wherever the Einherjar's paramilitary forces are engaged. Their most common role is flying escort for Sleipnir transports going into enemy-controlled territory. Armed with twin particle beam gatling cannons, multi-function micro-missiles, and a spinal-mount siege railgun, it has more firepower than most modern tactical bombers. With eight multi-directional thrusters positioned on the fuselage, a Gungnir requires an extremely adept pilot simply to keep it stable in flight. With a properly-trained pilot at the controls, it can perform maneuvers that no other conventional aircraft could even attempt, making it a lethal dogfighter.
(Author's Note: The Gungnir gunships were inspired largely by the futuristic 'helojet' aircraft used by the EU and PAC from the game Battlefield: 2142.)
The massive Tanngrisnir is the helojet equivalent of a C-5 military transport. Capable of transporting an entire company of infantry and Mjolnirs, as well as a substantial cargo of supplies, this gigantic airship is used to bring in the forces and materiel needed to maintain an offensive against Scourge forces anywhere in the world. The Einherjar only deploy these conspicuous behemoths during major campaigns where the high level of threat mandates force at the expense of secrecy. A few specially-modified versions are used as high-altitude gun platforms; packed with heavy artillery, they are capable of mounting large-scale aerial sieges against fortified ground positions.
The original technology used to construct the first helojet prototypes was developed in the late 1960s. It took another fifteen years of development to craft the first field-ready Sleipnirs and Gungnirs; Project Sleipnir and Project Gungnir were initiated at the same time, and both craft utilize essentially the same technology, albeit for different purposes. Project Tanngrisnir was a longer-term research project, given the greater difficulties involved, and did not yield a field-usable craft until the late 1990s.
Larger and more powerful than a Gungnir, though lacking the smaller unit's maneuverability, the new Valkyrie-Class aerospace-superiority fighters were designed and built as a direct counter to the Rikti's low-orbital assault craft ("dropships"). Their propulsion systems include variable-thrust 'aerospike' ramjet engines, which allow them to enter low Earth orbit, as well as high-efficiency pulsed fusion drives for sustained out-of-atmosphere flight. Recent technological developments have allowed the Order to equip them with light electromagnetic deflector field systems, allowing them to survive multiple hits from high-yield weapons. In terms of armament, Valkyries carry particle cannons similar to those mounted on the smaller Gungnirs, albeit of a moderately-higher power output, as well as eight long-range, high-explosive cruise missiles.
(Author's Note: While dissimilar in design and armament, the concept of the Valkyries as a combination atmospheric/space fighter was largely inspired by the F-302 fighter/interceptors from the Stargate SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe TV series.)
Since the Order's establishment in the early 6th century, secrecy has been its guiding principle. Only a select few individuals have ever been directly informed of its existence, and most of those have been persons living in the 20th century. Up until that point, there were few Europeans with the education and intellect required to understand something as extraordinary and complicated as the Order and its war against the Scourge. Throughout the entire span of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution, the Einherjar found their list of potential allies to be very short indeed. Those few exceptional writers, thinkers, philosophers, and inventors whose aid they succeeded in enlisting were able to help prevent the Scourge's influence over governments and people from becoming absolute. In spite of all the advancements that humanity made between the creation of the Order and today, the Order's diplomatic efforts were not made any easier by the ever-increasing amount of chaos that those advancements brought. Today, their allies are still few and far between, and despite their possession of one of the most powerful private military forces on Earth, their need for outside assistance has not been changed. Their inherent distrust of outsiders, however, particularly the superheroic 'rookies' to whom the safety of the world has apparently been entrusted, still prevents them from openly announcing their existence to the world at large.
- Kingdom of Norway - the royal family of Norway have always been the Order's first and primary allies, ever since the Einherjar backed the first king of Norway in his bid to unify the disparate clans under one banner. Their unilateral support of the country throughout the centuries has assured them a safe haven, as well as provided them with federal-level support in their mission. While the Order itself has centuries worth of experience in covering its tracks and keeping itself hidden, it has often taken advantage of the Norwegian government's willingness to run diplomatic interference in order to protect its 'secret team' of national superheroes.
- NATO - when Norway decided to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949, they did so only after consulting with the leaders of the Order. Faced with the looming Communist threat, and in light of what Norway had suffered through during the Second World War, the Einherjar endorsed the idea of a pan-European military alliance...but made it clear to the government that their existence was not to be disclosed. For nearly thirty years, the Order remained anonymous to the rest of Europe, despite regulations requiring that all meta-human citizens of NATO countries be registered for potential activation. It was not until the Einherjar began deploying their Midgardian units and helojets that they came forwards and explained their existence and purpose to the NATO leadership. While the other European nations were not happy, they realized that to oppose these super-powered warriors in their agenda would mean losing Norway's participation, and so the Order's autonomy was respected. In return for their discretion, the Einherjar made a portion of their army available for use as NATO meta-human auxiliaries.
- Statesman - with the emergence of the first true superheroes in the early 1930s, the Order found themselves forced to tiptoe around first dozens, then hundreds of cocky, well-meaning, idealistic rookies, all with far more enthusiasm than experience. Alarmed by the utter lack of cohesion, organization, or control amongst all of these brand new 'potential disasters', the Einherjar decided to appeal directly to the apparent source, and the one man who might possibly be able to rein them in - that person being Statesman himself. While Marcus Cole was successful in organizing and leading the heroes of Paragon City, his focus was on fighting crime and corruption there, and he had neither the time or the desire to act as the world's international meta-human babysitter. Although his role on the world stage did expand greatly in the following decades, and he continued to provide an example for some heroes to live up to, Statesman never officially controlled anything beyond the Freedom Phalanx. However, during that time, he was also one of the only heroes to know of the existence of the Order. As the decades have passed, he has come to understand the Crusader's position and views far more clearly, and he has spared whatever time and energy he could to assist the Einherjar in the war against the Scourge.
- Local Hero Groups - as part of its worldwide war against the Scourge, the Order often has to move its forces into position to deal with threats in areas where other superheroes are already present. While Paragon City is the nexus of meta-human activity on Earth, it is not their exclusive home - there are pockets of super-powered heroes and villains scattered all throughout the globe. Often, these locations come under the focus of Scourge infiltration operations, leaving it up to the Einherjar to coordinate defenses against them. More often than not, this takes the form of several companies of Midgardians, not to mention one or more Einherjar, deployed directly to the city in question. The reaction to their arrival is usually mixed; few heroes take kindly to having a group of hardcore military supers barging into their hometown and announcing that they're taking charge of the defensive action. Once the Scourge soldiers begin taking over the streets, however, the expert support is usually (if grudgingly) accepted, since such combat is generally not an affair that most small-town supers are accustomed to undertaking.
- Vanguard - When you've been fighting a global war against an insidious foe for centuries, far longer than any other organization on Earth has even existed, it's understandable to see yourself as the top dog on the block - even if no one else is supposed to know that you exist. This essentially sums up the Order's stance towards the Vanguard; they are extremely skeptical of this infantile group of jarheads, only barely established, that are convinced of their own capability. Since Vanguard is tasked by the United Nations with leading Earth's defense against the Rikti, they expect to be made aware of every viable military asset on the planet that can be called upon to help protect it. Thus, the matter of the Order's ironclad anonymity is a subject of tension for Vanguard, as it is for many other organizations on Earth. It is known that Lady Grey and the Dark Watcher both have expended significant time and resources trying to uncover the identity of this mystery army, but NATO and the European governments that support it have denied having any knowledge of its existence. The Crusader and the rest of the First Circle are not in any hurry to let Vanguard's leadership in on their innermost secrets, however; for the most part, they are content to let Vanguard focus on the Rikti threat, while the Order continues its secret campaign against the far more insidious threat of the Scourge.
- Jotunheim Scourge
- Crey Industries
Ranks & Roster
The sixteen Einherjar are organized into four groups, called Circles. Each Einherjar possesses an individual rank within their Circle, referred to as their Tier. While each successive Circle is technically considered subordinate to those above it, the members of each Tier are considered equal to one another in experience and ability. While each Circle has its own area of expertise and responsibility, all four Circles possess command of all paramilitary units within their operational theater.
The First Circle is responsible for the overall command of the Einherjar. Located within Norway, the members of the First Circle devise, implement, and oversee the economic, industrial, scientific, engineering, and military policies and programs that drive the Order's war against the Scourge. As the de facto ruling council of the Order, it is up to the First Circle to decide where and how to allocate material and military resources across the world.
The Odinian Crusader
- Armor/Lineage: Odin-Aspect armor (Original bearer)
- Former Designation: Odin's Warleader (changed in 1096)
- Personal Status: Alive, Uninjured
- Armor Status: Operational, Undamaged
- Equipment: Broadsword, Shield
The oldest and most powerful member of the Einherjar, the Odinian Crusader is the only surviving original discoverer of the alien-designed battle armor. At nearly sixteen-hundred years old, the Odinian Crusader has seen, experienced, and learned more than any other member of the Einherjar ever has. The Crusader is a determined leader, an efficient administrator, and an unmatched warrior. He exudes an aura of authority and command; yet he also exhibits a weary sadness at times, a legacy of centuries spent fighting a bitter and unending war in which he has seen thousands of his close friends and loyal soldiers die.
Equipped with the powerful Odin-Aspect armor and wielding a deadly impervium broadsword and shield, the Odinian Crusader has always lead from the front. In his bright golden armor, he is a highly visible commander on the battlefield. The full extent of his armor's capabilities is not known to anyone but himself, but it is believed to be capable of teleportation, high speed movement, and flight. His remarkable longevity and uncanny cognitive abilities have given rise to many rumors about him personally as well, even within the ranks of the Order that serves him with total unquestioning loyalty.
The Thorian Warlord
- Armor/Lineage: Thor-Aspect armor; 3rd bearer (grandson of original bearer)
- Personal Status: Alive, Uninjured
- Armor Status: Operational, Undamaged
- Equipment: Warmace, Shield
Capable of matching even the Odinian Crusader in terms of combat, the Thorian Warlord is the nearest individual the Einherjar have to a dedicated military leader. Each wearer of the Thor-Aspect armor throughout the centuries has been devoted almost single-mindedly to military pursuits, and though the more recent Warlords have gained something in the way of sophistication in modern times, they still focus their efforts toward strategy, tactics, and combat ability. Despite their position within the First Circle, the Thorian Warlords have never hesitated to leave the boundaries of their glacial stronghold to engage in battle with the Scourge's minions. The current Thorian Warlord is the de facto commander of the Einherjar paramilitary forces, responsible for managing their deployment throughout the world. Given their propensity for charging headlong into the fray, more Warlords have fallen throughout the Order's history than any other; however, the resilience of both they and their armor have always ensured a clear line of succession and prevented the powerful Thor-Aspect armor from suffering the performance degradation that has afflicted many of the other battlesuits.
The Tyrian Lion
- Armor/Lineage: Tyr-Aspect armor; 2nd bearer (son of original bearer)
- Former Designation: Tyrian Lord (changed in 1400s)
- Personal Status: Alive, Uninjured
- Armor Status: Operational, Undamaged
- Equipment: Broadsword, Short Sword
The third-highest ranking member of the Einherjar, the Tyrian Lion fills the Third Tier of the First Circle. No less skilled in matters of war and combat than the Crusader and Warlord, the Lions' true strength lies in their ability to inspire and motivate the lower-ranking members of the Order. For hundreds of years, the Lion has overseen the day-to-day operations in the Order's hidden city of Midgardheim. The bearers of the Tyr-Aspect armor are responsible for the industrial and commercial well-being of the city, as well as ensuring that its infrastructure is kept well-maintained. They also manage the rigorous recruitment and training programs that are needed in order to keep the Order's military at full readiness at all times.
The Balderian Marshal
- Armor/Lineage: Balder-Aspect armor; no current bearer (last bearer was 7th; great grand-nephew of original bearer)
- Former Designation: Balder's Herald (changed in 1500s)
- Personal Status: Deceased
- Armor Status: Intact, Nonfunctional (in permanent shutdown)
- Equipment: Broadsword, Shield
Like its mythological namesake, the position of Balderian Marshal has fallen into oblivion in recent years. Traditionally responsible for the direct command of the forces stationed in the European theater, the last Balderian Marshal was killed in battle against the forces of the Scourge nearly thirty years ago. Without a close blood relative available to take up the Marshal's station, the militarily-potent Balder-Aspect armor swiftly deteriorated and went into total shutdown. Deprived of their best general and facing the likely permanent loss of the armor's function, the Order enshrined the now-useless Balder-Aspect in the Halls of the Fallen.
The Second Circle was originally deployed to act as the Einherjar's secret ambassadors and emissaries. Their task was to investigate, approach, and negotiate with those who might be willing to aid and support the Einherjar in their war against the Scourge. Given that a single wrong evaluation could spell disaster for the entire order and the world, they developed a reputation for their discernment and methodical, no-nonsense investigative approaches to their work. Today, the members of the Third Circle continue to act as the Order's primary international negotiators and ambassadors. They tend to work closely with the members of the Third Circle in order to secure material and personnel resources from their secret partners in government and corporate institutions.
The Third Circle's task has always been the locating and securing of resources needed to support the Order's operations. Originally, this entailed finding nearby deposits of raw minerals and annexable farmland around the outskirts of Midgardheim. As the centuries passed and the city expanded, however, so did the Second Circle's responsibilities. They are currently responsible for the Order's worldwide recruitment program, an arduous and secretive task that involves locating, screening, and arranging transport for qualified individuals willing to either live and work in Midgardheim, or join the Order paramilitary forces.
The fabled Fourth Circle is the one most currently active in terms of the modern superheroic world. When the existence of the entity that would come to be known as the Scourge was first discovered, the members of the Fourth Circle were tasked with perhaps the most difficult and dangerous mission of all; to seek out and gather information about the Order's mysterious new enemy and, if necessary, confront them head-on. As such, the members of the Fourth Circle are perhaps the most powerful, skilled, and tortured members of the Einherjar; faced with life and death scenarios on an almost daily basis, they must hone their fighting skills or meet their demise. Throughout the centuries, the members of the Fourth Circle have had the highest 'turnaround' rate of any segment of the Order, and the resulting instability of their battlesuits usually diminishes the effect of whatever edge their enhanced combat skills might offer them. As the Order's de facto 'chief spies' abroad in the world, the members of the Fourth Circle are renowned for their ability to acquire and process information from all manner of sources, in order to fulfill their task of rooting out Scourge infiltration in any organization they may encounter.
- Armor/Lineage: Lytir-Aspect armor; 11th bearer (nephew of 10th bearer)
- Personal Status: Alive, Uninjured
- Armor Status: Intact, Functional (currently suffering from impaired functionality)
- Equipment: Impervium katana
The Lytirian Warder has traditionally performed the task of watchman for the Fourth Circle; despite their position in the Third Tier, the Warders have always been responsible for overseeing the conduct of each new member of the Fourth Circle - usually, the individuals in the Fourth Tier position, The Aegirian Templars. As such, they tend to have the same kind of bearing and attitude as traditional military sergeants; gruff, no-nonsense, battle-hardened veterans without much patience for the foibles of energetic young rookies. Unfortunately, the worst of the Warders have usually come to see their low rank in the Fourth Circle as unfair, or, even worse, to see their designated duties as some sort of chore or punishment. While the First Circle have always striven to select each new Lytirian Warder carefully, inevitably a less than ideal candidate will sometimes end up being installed.
The current Lytirian Warder has served continuously for the last sixty-eight years, and has a reputation for paying overmuch attention to the actions of the Aegirian Templar, sometimes to the detriment of his own duties, which first and foremost consists of watching for signs of Scourge influence in America's centers of political and economic power - namely, New York and Washington, D.C. The current Warder was well-acquainted with the former Aegirian Templar, and prejudicially believes that the current Templar will display the same kind of behavior that he believes led to his predecessor's premature death - a situation that tends to create difficulty for the current Aegirian Templar. While this is a narrow-minded and unfair point of view, his years of otherwise satisfactory service and the Order's dire need for manpower prevent the First Circle from addressing the Warder's attitude directly.
- Armor/Lineage: Aegir-Aspect armor; 12th bearer (grandson of 11th bearer)
- Former Designation: Swordsman of Aegir (changed in 1119)
- Personal Status: Alive, Uninjured
- Armor Status: Intact, Functional (currently regaining functionality/attuning to new user)
- Equipment: Twin impervium katanas
The Aegirian Templar is the newest initiated member of the Order of the Einherjar. The current Templar is the grandson of the last Aegirian Templar, who was killed in battle against Scourge forces over forty years ago. Deprived of a user for all that time, the Aegir-Aspect armor was on the verge of falling into permanent shutdown by the time a new bearer was finally found. Despite having been saved from obsolescence, the armor's VI system has suffered from severe entropic decay, resulting in a near-wiping of all of its cognitive development to the point of reverting back to its original undeveloped state. It is currently undergoing readjustment and re-training due to exposure to the mind of its new bearer; this process is proceeding on schedule, having been worn by its bearer for just over three years now.
The current Templar is the first member of the Fourth Circle to be stationed directly within the 'meta-human mecca' of Paragon City, Rhode Island, and is serving as a silent link between the Order and the heart of the superhero community. Directed to observe and report on events and individuals within the city, the Templar's primary mission is to watch for signs of Scourge infiltration.
- The creation of the Einherjar came as a result of my trying to come up with a backstory for my main hero character, the Aegirian Templar. It took a few months to come up with the concept, and even longer to get it fleshed out to where it stands now. As I think back on it now, I realize that there are alot of heroes that utilize the 'last or isolated survivor' backstory - members of superhero organizations that have been wiped out, or that they've been irretrievably separated from. I suppose I thought that the idea of having a hero whose backstory was the opposite of that - being a mostly normal guy getting roped into a secret order of superheroes - would be a bit more novel than the usual Player Info filler.
- As I developed the Order (as well as their yet-undescribed opponents, the Scourge) I took inspiration from Norse mythology, naming the characters and ancillary items after individuals from the Asgardian pantheon. As this trend continued, I began to take cues from another, similarly-themed setting - namely, the Asgard and Goa'uld from Stargate: SG-1. The two opposing factions are not direct draws from Mr. Cooper and Mr. Wright's creations, of course - fundamentally large differences do exist - but the inspiration is still there.
- The Seal includes a number of elements from the history of the Order itself. The crest on the shield clearly denotes the hill where the original Sixteen found the armors, as well as the meteor that delivered them to Earth. The four interlocking circles represent the four interconnected Circles of the Einherjar. The shield itself, as well as the sword and hammer, represent the three primary interests of the Order - defense of civilization against the Scourge, active military operations against the Scourge, and the military-industrial operations that support the Order and its paramilitary forces. The stylized, abstract Valkyrie wings on either side of the shield are intended to add a bit of Norse stylization to the seal.