Valentinian Decimus Merula
Billed Name: Vaer Saagt
Vaer Saagt was born Valentinian Decimus Merula on Theta Tauri XIV. Better known as K'Ehleyr, the scrub covered planet planet is known for the cuisine and the agricultural exports. Valentinian was discovered at a young age, and had a distinguished service record in the military. But after his discharge, he realized that he missed the adventure that only being in the Legion had provided. A chance encounter with his former commanding officer put him on a course that would lead him to accept the challenge to become a bit player. But his natural abilities and aptitude for the adventure could not be denied.
Though the butcher's bill for the Levy of Dwarven Tears was by all accounts extreme, it was the birthplace of Vaer Saagt. And time would tell in his rising star in several epics. His sudden retirement after The Longest Fall was quite a blow to the Theatrum, marred by technical difficulties in the broadcast. But that slip in his legacy still doesn't mar the fact that audiences clamor for recordings of his adventures.
The Real Story
Valentinian never had any intention of becoming an inspirati. Born the third of three sons to a farmer that struggled to eke out a living on a small marginally successful colony, he wanted to do more. He just wasn't sure how.
When he reached the age of 16, his father took him to register with the imperial census and become a citizen of the Empire. It was an exciting day- the day of his majority and manhood, and after watching his brothers grow up, he was anxious to do the same.
A chance theft set him on the path to glory, as while he was awaiting his turn in line, his father realized that the man that had bumped against him had stolen his identstick. Running after him, he told Valentinan to stay in line as he pursued the thief. Right beside the census takers, there was a recruiter for the legions- and by the time his father returned, he'd chosen military service instead of simple citizenship.
There were two very important lessons that Valentinian learned while in the military. First, that he didn't do well with authority figures that he didn't . Second, was that he liked to fight, and was good at it. The two lessons clashed when on a mission, command failures led to a tragic incident of friendly fire that resulted in the deaths of his whole squad.
Unable to believe or participate in the system that failed not only its living soldiers, but their memory as the commander was not punished for his failure, he killed his commander and went AWOL, staying one step ahead of the Imperial Service as he did whatever he needed to in order to survive.
In the end, it wasn't enough, and he was eventually brought down. His choices- life in prison, a shorter life on a work detail, or an even shorter life as bit player for the Theatrum. Given his personality, though adventures on Critixia were not conducive to long life, it was one where he at least had a chance.
His first adventure was as a porter. Sometimes, the Theatrum required that the main star be outfitted with more adventurers as cannon fodder, as no one in their right minds would want to embark on the expedition at face value. Levy of Dwarven Tears was one of those adventures. The Emperor was still cleaning up some of the Prince-Regent's mistake, and the conflict with the Dwarves over the mineral rights in the Tears of Kenlodahr was one of his largest. The Hammer of Bhirnbuldor- an artifact lost for many years- was their price for a resumption of standardized relations, so after discovering it's location, the Emperor offered an obscene reward for its return, and outfitted several teams to go after it- only two of which were expeditions from the Theatrum.
That adventure was one of the bloodiest and the highest grossing of any released. And those that made it out alive had their careers assured. But none so much as Valentinian. From that point, his adventures sold more than any other Inspirati, and he was in continuous demand by the Guild. His sentence was suspended, and he became an instantly recognizable personality all over the Empire. At first, caught up in the unexpected recognition and prosperity, he thought that he'd finally achieved his childhood dreams. He worked extensively to increase his fame and the name Vaer Saagt, using his stage name more than his own. He spent more time on adventures than he did in leisure, and worked to increase his abilities in all areas. But in the end, the cost in blood overwhelmed him.
Through all of the violence in his life, he'd had a code. He never went after anyone who didn't have the some sort of choice, and who wasn't playing in the same field on some level. It might not have been fair- he'd seen enough in his life to know that fair and right didn't exist. You took what you'd been given, and squeezed as much as you could out of the opportunities you had. But non-combatants- especially children- were off limits. And at the height of his power, the first two lessons he though he'd learned from brought him down again. In the end, all inspirati were out for themselves. In a twist, the inspirati that was supposed to be watching his back plunged a knife into it. That he could live with. It happens. But then he killed the family that had sheltered him several times during his adventures- just to ramp up the tension, and kidnapped the daughter. His race to find her fueled the most profitable adventure that he'd ever done. And his vengeance opus when he was too late to save her topped that. It would have been forgiveable- after all, money was the driving force with the Guild. But he also killed the guild officials that facilitated the story line. Then he went offline, on the run again.
But there was a difference between a suspended sentence and a pardon. He became the most hunted person on Kardatha, as whole adventures were financed around finding him and bringing him to justice. And though he was good, he found out the hard way that everyone gets caught eventually.
Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for him, his name- or rather his stage name- was too valuable to allow the story to end in that way. Again he was given the chance to participate in a suicidal adventure- The Longest Fall cut close to the truth, as the story was about Vaer being caught between death and assassinating the Emperor. The studio expected it to be a tragedy- a fitting end to Vaer's story. In the end, they received more and less than they hoped for- the road to the assassination was epic and drew record audiences. But the climax- the showdown between the Emperor and Vaer- happened off-screen. Right as the final conflict began, the broadcast was cut...
As a pacifying factor, the conflicts on Critixia worked to keep the population docile. But when the most hyped transmission ever in the history of the Guild was cut off at it's climax, the Empire saw the other side of that equation. Rioting spread like brushfire through the Empire's worlds. That one *glitch*- for that was what it was ascribed to- caused millions of deaths and uncounted solariis of damage to infrastructure and markets. Heads rolled for that incident, but not the one head that the administration wanted.
Vaer doesn't talk about what happened. But the Emperor is no longer in control, and the Vestinian Empire is transitioning to more of a Republic, as there was no framework set forth for succession. Though not a part of the government of the new Republic, Vaer does appear to be in a position of influence within it. And he is an outlaw in the Imperium, though the Imperium has larger problems.
Questions and Answers
Family that had sheltered him. What about his own family? After the suspended sentence, did Vaer reach back out to his family of origin? Has he ever considered a family of his own?
"Always forward, never back. It's usually those things behind you that weigh you down. The past that you drag along. The people that you love. Once you reach back, you've started the inevitable decline. At least, that's the life lesson that a 16 year old that wants too damn much, and has had to grow up too fast begins to view life. Then there's that one moment of... clarity. That one moment that shows him that he's not the hero of the story."
"On the run from the Imperium, I found myself with no friends, doing things I never thought I would, associating with people that I never thought I would. But I made it, to the embarrassment of the Imperial services. One hot shot agent decided to approach the issue from another perspective. He put out through everywhere he could that because of the heinous nature of the crime, and my cowardice for not facing justice, that my family would pay the price for my crimes. Not just my father who never wanted me to join the Legions, but my older brothers. And their families."
"I talked myself out of doing anything. After all, I knew how things worked. Even if I turned myself in, they'd kill them. Not because they had to or anything, but because it was more expedient."
"I visited K'Ehleyr once in the time when I found myself on the right side of the law. To see my family's farm for myself. Do you know that nothing grows there? It's just a black grit that gets into everything and produces nothing. Ashes and dust."
"It wasn't for the family. It wasn't even for the daughter. It was out of guilt. Self-loathing for the person that I'd become."
"I'm damned both by my actions and my inactions. Ain't that a bitch."
Where does Vaer draw the line between error and incompetence... and when do either justify murder of one's superior?
"Is it bad that I've never thought about that question?"
"One thing you have to understand. I'm not a thinker. I'm a doer. And for all that one might view me as an unfeeling brute, the exact opposite is true. My emotions drive me. That's why I have simple rules. Always deal a straight hand to your brothers- even if it means that you have to clean up your own mess. Centurion Lepidus didn't believe that. And he thought he could get away with betraying the trust of the men that served under him."
"Don't get me wrong, here. I believe in law and order. I just don't believe that it works all the time. And when it doesn't, sometimes things need a *push.*"
"I know, I know. I still haven't answered the question."
"Ok. Error is something you learn from. Incompetence is when you don't take that chance. And as for justification? We'll leave that in the hands of some higher being if you still believe in such things."