A knight lives to serve. To protect. To sacrifice. There is no greater calling. There will be spoilers.
At the core of any game is the story. A player character may go to and fro based on your whims and wishes, but the lives of a non-player character are predestined by the myriad of authors and designers that pool together their hearts and souls to bring life to their creation. They have given a character life, and they have the power to take it away. It is in human nature to question death, to deny, to argue, until they finally come to terms with it. It is, however, rude to accuse a character of only existing to die.
Lord Haurchefant Greystone was the bastard son of Count Edmont de Fortemps. His father was a caring man, which in turn was both a blessing and a curse. In a society where birthright was everything, Haurchefant found himself ostracized by the nobles that he was surrounded by. His step-mother despised him for what he was, and who could blame her with the symbol of the Count’s infidelity living in her very home. It was her hatred that unwittingly set up Haurchefant to be the great man he would become.
Banned from attending a party in House Fortemps at the age of twelve, Haurchefant met and befriended a child of the neighboring House Haillenarte, Francel. Fast friends despite Haurchefant’s illegitimate heritage, the two grew up on the stories of honorable knights and their adventures. At the age of seventeen, Francel de Haillenarte was kidnapped by three captors. Haurchefant rescued his friend with only a knife and took an arrow in his forearm in the process. For this act of bravery, Haurchefant was rewarded with knighthood and his bastard lineage forgotten.
Unlike the rest of his peers in Ishgard, Haurchefant was open-minded and jovial, a stark contrast to the uptight Ishgardians. Always there with a smile and a word of encouragement, others believed him to be romantic in his ideals but in truth it was just sincerity. He was a man of integrity and honor.
It was these qualities that leads to Haurchefant being the Warrior of Light’s greatest ally. Upon first meeting with him in Camp Dragonhead he is the only Ishgardian native willing to assist you in your trials. In exchange, he does ask you to assist him in clearing the name of his friend Francel de Haillenarte who is currently suspected of being a heretic. One would think that this was simply a matter of a favor for a favor, but Haurchefant only asks because of his concern for his friend and the stories he had heard of your triumphs. After clearing Francel’s name, Haurchefant is more than happy to call you a friend and offer you any assistance you may need. It takes some time, but it is an offer you take him up on.
The world has turned upside down, and all your best intentions have indeed paved the path to hell. The Crystal Braves, the task force you helped assemble, have proven to be full of traitors. The Sultana of Ul’dah has been assassinated and you set up to be the fall guy. Your friends, one by one, have sacrificed themselves so that you may escape. With no where to turn, no one who you can trust, Haurchefant welcomes you to Camp Dragonhead with open arms and hot cocoa. For what little you, the Warrior of Light, destroyer of false Gods, have done for this man, he is willing to help you in your darkest hour.
While hiding in asylum in Dragonhead, Haurchefant pulls through once more, gaining you and your remaining comrades entry into Ishgard. He houses you in the very same house he grew up in, you meet his father and his brothers who all treat him with respect. It is here you learn of his heritage and the way he was treated and still treated by the knights of the Heaven’s Ward.
Through no fault of your own, you’re quickly caught up in the political intrigue in Ishgard. Accused of being a heretic, you and your friends are forced into a trial by combat. With countless numbers of his peers crying for your head, Haurchefant cheers you on regardless. He knows you to be a good person and risks his own safety in letting his voice be heard.
Later, the Warrior of Light returns to an Ishgard in a state of panic. The streets are ablaze as the city is attacked by heretics. However, all is not as it seems. Lady Iceheart, the leader of the heretics is with you and has had no part of this attack. When Haurchefant finds you in her presence, he does not question your motives. Instead, he convinces the Temple Knights to aid in rescuing victims rather than harass you and your companions.
Haurchefant’s faith in you would not go unrewarded. You tell him the truth of Ishgard that you’ve discovered on your journey. You tell him of how the Noble houses of old murdered a dragon for the power in her eyes, how this murder instigated the Dragonsong War that has been raging without end for hundreds of years. You tell him of how Archbishop Thordan VII has been perpetuating lies to keep the Nobles in power and the Commoners under their heels.
Upon hearing that Sir Aymeric de Borel has confronted Archbishop Thordan concerning the truth of Ishgard’s past and been locked away for it, Haurchefant volunteers to assist in the raid on The Vault to rescue Aymeric. While a group of friends assault the prison where Aymeric is being held, you and Haurchefant ascend The Vault to confront the Archbishop. You do battle with a number of the Heaven’s Ward sent to slow your down while the Archbishop escapes.
It is there atop the towers, as the Archbishop is boarding his personal airship, that Haurchefant’s story comes to an end. Spotting a surprise attack meant for the Warrior of Light, Haurchefant jumps in the way with his shield raised.
The force of the blow pierces through Haurchefant’s shield and he is struck down. You turn to give aid, allowing the Archbishop to escape in the process. It is there that you hold Haurchefant in your arms as he lays dying. Above all else, he is happy to see that you are unharmed. With his dying breath, he asks that you smile for him, a request that you cannot deny. Your smile is the last thing he sees before passing.
Haurchefant Greystone died as he lived. He was a knight that truly believed it was his duty to serve and protect. Taking a blow for a friend was an action that he would never second guess. He did it for Francel. He did it for you.
This is a death that seems to have caused a rift in the player base. There are those who have admitted to openly weeping as the events in The Vault played out, and there are those that hold fast to having never liked Haurchefant. The latter camp will always spout arguments that Haurchefant didn’t need to take the blow, that the Warrior of Light could easily survive such an attack. Be that as it may, what in Haurchefant’s personality would allow him to watch such a thing without taking action? Not taking the blow would go against all of his ideals and values. This was a death that was predestined, not just because the authors decided it must come to pass, but because it was the only option for the character they had created.
In a world where you have defeated countless Gods, a world that you have saved on at least two separate occasions at this point, everyone treats you as their errand boy. Sure, you are a well of unrestrained power, the Sword of Eorzea, a Warrior of Light, but they will always ask you to retrieve some package they lost or slay a handful of rats without so much as a half-hearted thank you when you once more completed their task. In a world like this, Haurchefant is the only person who truly sees you as a friend, not a pawn. He risks his safety for you by offering you asylum, by bringing you to Ishgard, by cheering for you at your trial by combat. When the world is against you he is there with a smile, a joke, and a mug of hot cocoa. His death matters. To disregard it as forced, as a means to simply make you feel, is a terrible thing.
Death has happened in games before, we all remember Aerith. Never before have I had to approach the surviving family members and inform them of their loss. Standing before Count Edmont and Haurchefant’s brothers with the broken shield was harder than watching it happen. While the brothers show their sadness, Count Edmont maintains his composure. He recites the knight’s oath that Haurchefant lived by, turns away from the Warrior of Light, and drops to his knees in sorrow.
At the core of every game is a story. The player character is the protagonist, the lead actor in these stories while the non-player characters are relegated to a supporting role. The authors breath life into them so that we become attached, that we care, that we feel. They put their heart and soul into these non-player characters so that they may be remembered. I will remember Haurchefant. When I am old and the hour is late, cold wind driving snow against my windows, hot cocoa in hand, I will remember.
A knight lives to serve. To protect. To sacrifice. There is no greater calling.