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Zerxus Ilerez is a human paladin who served as First Knight of the city of Avalir. He is played by Luis Carazo.

Description

Appearance

Zerxus was 6 feet tall and muscular, with broad shoulders. He has medium tan-brown skin, amber eyes, and dark, wavy hair.[6]

Personality

Zerxus has a troubled expression, and sometimes emptiness behind his amber eyes.[7] The death of his husband Evandrin has weighed heavily on him, and that, coupled with the extremely isolated life of The First Knight, has resulted in "an often stoic and serious Zerxus, whose demeanor is most often softened by the humor of his long time friend Nydas."[8]

Biography

Background

Originally from a town near Cathmoíra, some time prior to the events of Exandria Unlimited: Calamity Zerxus met and married the love of his life Evandrin. Evandrin had arrived in Cathmoíra with his infant son, Elias, who looked like a younger version of his father,[9] and rose to become First Knight of Avalir, a title given to a legendary hero tasked with slaying monstrous threats and defending the city.[8] During that time Zerxus trained in the Hall of Prophecy, where he learned healing magic and befriended Sofyra, a future oracle; he had oracle leanings himself, but wasn't aware of it, focusing more on the martial field.[10]

Although the origin of this is unknown, at some point Zerxus became interested in the figures of the Betrayer Gods, researching about old religious texts and reading about them.[11]

Seven years before "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04), Evandrin became aware of Laerryn's early experiments with the Astral Leywright. He told her that as First Knight, he should be its first test subject. He was transported to another realm of existence and in the process, became anchored to it. This fundamentally altered his being enough so that the Tree of Names no longer recognized him as native to Exandria, and its protective forces slowly pushed him from the Material Plane.[12]

Upon Evandrin's disappearance and presumed death, his title of First Knight of Avalir went to Zerxus.[8] However, unable to live with the situation, Zerxus asked Patia to perform a resurrection ritual which concentrated enough power that no body parts of the deceased were required. The ritual was performed, apparently flawlessly, but failed. In his pain, Zerxus asked Patia to alter his memory, substituting Evandrin's actual condition with an unknown illness and erasing the resurrection attempt from his memory.[14]

On the eve of the Calamity, Zerxus lived in the Tower of the First Knight in Avalir with his griffon Tempus. His son Elias had been living for the past seven years in Cathmoíra with Eaedalus Okiro, the alcald and brother of Zerxus' best friend, Nydas. Perhaps catalyzed by Evandrin's death, their father-son relationship was not good, as Elias apparently was hesitant about contacting his father.[15][16]

Fan art of Tempus the griffin, by Clara.[art 2]

"Excelsior" (E3x01)

On the morning of the day before Avalir was to land and begin the Replenishment, Zerxus dreamed of navigating fire and explosions in a war-shredded city, hearing calls to arms coming from the chaos around him, searching for people he knew. In a bubble of calmness, he found his son Elias (apparently only five-years-old) fishing in a pool of endless space and the familiar stars above Cathmoíra. Within it and around him were whispers in Draconic with the words "Ghor Dranas". Elias reminded him that he would look different when Zerxus returned home, and Zerxus pleaded for him to stay, but Elias was pulled into the pool as a mountain-sized figure crashed into the city. The horned face apologized, reaching his marketplace-sized hand toward him revealing a vision of Zerxus' late husband Evandrin. Another mountainous figure with the sun in place of his face crashed into the first one, crushing him further into the rubble of the city with his foot on his throat. As he readied to fatally strike, Zerxus commanded him to stop and Pelor was abjured. As the horned figure thanked him, Zerxus woke up.

Later, at Patia Por'co's Replenishment party, Zerxus shared his nightmare and the words "Ghor Dranas" with the Ring of Brass. He and Loquatius Seelie followed the departing Purvan Suul from the party, which, as they later learned, likely saved Purvan's life.

"Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02)

When Zerxus and the others returned to Patia's ongoing party, Laerryn told the group that she had mastered the ability to allow Avalir to travel to another plane of existence. When they inspected the body of the dead cultist, Zerxus heard a voice speaking Infernal and the words, "Ghor Dranas".

Later that night, he and Nydas Okiro went to the Hall of Prophecy, learning that all the oracles had gradually gone mad. Visiting one, Zerxus casts Divine Sense and in a reflective sheet of water pouring down one wall, saw that the oracle in the bed was actually a grievously wounded Asmodeus but the sense of the fiendish was coming incredibly strongly from the wall of water. Zerxus walked through it and found the wounded Asmodeus in a bed there. Zerxus cast Cure Wounds on him, keeping him from dying, and noticed that he was beautiful, resembling Evandrin. The fiend explained his appearance changes with the beholder. As Zerxus cared for his wounds, Asmodeus offered his justification for his actions during The Founding. Zerxus urged Asmodeus not to forget that mortals are also capable of kindness, and that the Betrayers had turned on mortals and hurt them, as well. He begged him not to take his pain out on mortals, and pledged to help him against those who had done this to him.

Asmodeus swore not to forget him, and told him that he was being lied to, but not by a god. He further told him there was a poison in the city that Zerxus knew the shape of. Asmodeus cast Protection from Good and Evil on him and told him he had work still to do. Zerxus walked back through the wall and returned to his body.

When Laerryn's telepathic emergency call came to rejoin at the Helm, Zerxus along with the others of the Ring of Brass found himself surrounded and facing Lacrytia Hollow.

"Blood and Shadow" (E3x03)

During the battle, in which Zerxus rode Tempus and tried to keep his friends safe, Lacrytia summoned a female erinyes Xartaza, and the First Knight realized that he was capable of understanding Infernal. When the winged devil attacked the human, his Protection from Good and Evil activated to Xartaza's admiration. In the middle of the battle Zerxus received a message from the Captain of the Chancellor's Guard alerting him about attacks in the batteries of the Meridian Labyrinth. The paladin, focused on Xartaza, told her in Infernal to ask Asmodeus to cease the attack, and she answered cryptically, saying that they would honor that agreement if Zerxus "brings him"; he, for his part, decided to attack Milus Phren, whom he killed without being prevented by the erinyes, but when he turned to her, she wounded him, screamed in ecstasy when he struck back, and after reminding him of her name and promising that she would serve him, retired with his blood on her sword.

With the battle over, the group pooled the information they'd gathered so far; during that conversation, Cerrit became interested in Zerxus' sudden knowledge of the infernal language, but he could not explain why. Zerxus recalled his dream again, connecting it with the disease that killed Evandrin, his husband, to which Patia revealed that there was a memory of the paladin that had been deliberately hidden from him at his request. When the entire Ring of Brass gathered in the Labyrinth, Zerxus, worried about the group's insincerity, cast Zone of Truth, causing tension between them, but after a brief argument with Nydas, they calmed down. Zerxus' memories were restored, revealing how when his husband died, he and Patia attempted a True Resurrection spell, which failed; the First Knight tortured himself for it, but his friend argued that if a perfectly executed spell failed, perhaps it was because Evandrin was not dead. Upon this revelation, Laerryn also confessed that Evandrin participated in her experiment with the Astral Leywright, and that he contracted his "illness" after that event. Investigating the conspiracy that was taking place in Avalir, the group discovered that Zerxus' blood was important: the disguised hodmedod at Patia's party was supposed to get it, but since it failed, Xartaza did it.

The group (minus Cerrit, who went to check on his children) went to the Arboreal Calix where the Tree of Names was, suspecting that the mystery of Evandrin's whereabouts might lie there. Laerryn, furious at deducing that the tree interfered with her planeshifting experiment and may have caused her friend's death, tried to destroy it with Blight, but Nydas stopped her, causing a confrontation within the group itself. The former pirate managed to paralyze Loquatius and his ex-wife with Hold Person, and Zerxus took the opportunity to read a scroll from the Architect Arcane in which the Gau Drashari stated that they did not trust the mages of Avalir. Just then Dweomer, an associate of Laerryn, arrived and defended her mistress by casting Disintegrate on Nydas, but Zerxus Counterspelled it. While all this happened, Patia cast Legend Lore on the tree, being overwhelmed by a series of emotions and memories; when Loquatius tried to help her he got trapped as well, and soon after, two branches of the tree tried to impale them both, at which point Laerryn, after yelling to Zerxus that she had seen Evandrin's face in the tree, cast Blight successfully, destroying the Tree of Names. From its remains a flaming portal emerged in which were Vespin Chloras (now a K'nauth) and Asmodeus.

"Fire and Ruin" (E3x04)

The destruction of the Tree of Names was accompanied by a fiery wave so powerful that it knocked down everyone present (except Laerryn) and killed Patia, who had just transmitted the knowledge of the tree to her friends through the telepathic bond they shared; during this magical shock wave many magical objects were destroyed, and while Zerxus's Holy Avenger wasn't, being near the unholy presence of Asmodeus was enough to ruin it. Time Stop was cast and Zerxus regained consciousness. He saw Asmodeus through the portal and glimpsed a tortured and helpless part of the archidiablo, and tried to reach him. As he did so, Asmodeus's forces began to pass into the Material Plane, including Xartaza the erinyes, still with Zerxus' blood on her sword. Asmodeus healed Zerxus, but when he answered by trying to use his Cleansing Touch to return Asmodeus to a less diabolical form, the Betrayer God became enraged and stabbed him, outraged by the paladin's belief that he needed to redeem him from something. The two argued, with the mortal claiming that the gods needed mortals and were not responsible for their creation, while Asmodeus blamed them for the deities having split in the first place, manifesting his intention to take over every mortal soul and to lock the Prime Deities into the Nine Hells; during the whole discussion, time was stopped and Asmodeus was killing and reviving the First Knight again and again. Finally the Father of Lies recognized that Zerxus's pride would make him a good champion, after which he killed Xartaza and created with her life force the Mace of the Black Crown; in that moment let Zerxus decide whether he would accept the weapon to return to the Material Plane at the cost of his soul, or whether he would let his soul ascend to another plane; after that, the god instructed Vespin about his duties in Avalir before transporting himself to Ghor Dranas, where he greeted Gruumsh and began preparing the assault on Vasselheim.

Fan art of Zerxus and Evandrin, by Sakyora.[art 3]

Zerxus remained in the Astral Plane, where he was reunited with Evandrin, whose own spirit had been linked to that plane, now residing there as an astral being. The former First Knight of Avalir comforted his husband and expressed the love he still felt for him and for their son, Elias. As Evandrin could not travel to Exandria to bring the boy to safety, Zerxus, despite wanting to go to the afterlife, decided to accept Asmodeus's artifact to try to save Elias; when he did, he grew two ram's horns and his appearance became more devil-like. As he returns to the mortal world, Evandrin reminded him that he loved him and that he would find a way to bring him home. Laerryn, the only one at the Arboreal Calix who had survived and escaped, saw the transformed Zerxus return through the eyes of Dweomer and demanded that if he was still himself, he revive Loquatius and Patia. The first thing the paladin did was use his Cleansing Touch on Vespin to request his help; the temporarily redeemed mage managed to postpone the moment in which the contract between Asmodeus and Zerxus would take effect, giving Zerxus freedom until sunrise. The First Knight revived Loquatius, who was frightened by his transformation but helped him revive Patia, after which Zerxus also healed Nydas, who was alive but unconscious. Vespin, who was reverting to his K'nauth form, advised them in his last moments of lucidity to go to the Hall of Prophecies, before he teleported away.

The entire Ring of Brass met again and caught up, including Zerxus's deal and his last night before his soul becomes the Lord of Hells'. They set up a plan and split up: Zerxus, flying with Tempus, held aloft the Banner of Avalir to alert the city, which was already under attack by devils. Afterwards, he descended to the also endangered Cathmoíra followed by Cerrit; there he met Elias for the first time in years, who had been living with Eaedalus Okiro (Nydas' brother) and his family, and although the boy was intimidated by his father's new appearance, he accepted the diary that his father gave him and a feather that his griffon dropped. Despite the tension in their relationship, when Zerxus was leaving, Elias, worried, asked him to stay safe. Zerxus tried to stop the devil troops from advancing by yelling at them in Infernal, and although he managed to interfere with their attack on Cathmoíra, Asmodeus noticed this (as well as the alteration of his contract) and prevented his orders from reaching Avalir.

Fan art of Zerxus' death, by Lap Pun Cheung.[art 4]

The Ring of Brass met again and prepared to put their plan in motion: to use Laerryn's Astral Leywright to send the elementals sealed under Cathmoíra to another plane, thus preventing them from joining the Betrayer Gods and saving Exandria. Zerxus was willing to help them, but he knew that in a matter of minutes he could turn on his friends, and he let them know. When Vespin Chloras and various sabotaged taxmen appeared to try and stop them, battle ensued. The First Knight of Avalir fought bravely alongside his friends, but fell unconscious, his griffin Tempus still fighting in his place. Knowing the eternity that awaited his friend when the sun rose, Nydas prepared to offer him a way out, and when he himself was knocked unconscious, he made sure his sword hit the paladin, opening up the possibility that if he died before his contract was effective, he could go to the afterlife instead of the Nine Hells. The plan of the Ring of Brass worked, but not without consequences: the process began to destroy the continent of Domunas. In his final moments Zerxus caught a glimpse of Tempus reuniting with Elias and leading him to Evandrin through a portal, seeing them reunited at last; with that last reassurance, and with his husband's voice promising to bring him home, Zerxus allowed the hellfire to claim him, believing that even if the Lord of the Nine Hells turned him into something terrible, redemption was still within reach even for someone like himself.

Relationships

Elias

Zerxus has a son, Elias, whom he adopted when Elias was an infant. At the time of the events of Exandria Unlimited: Calamity, Elias was almost 14 years old. Zerxus had not seen him in seven years.[17]

Zerxus had a very happy marriage to Elias's father Evandrin Alterra before his death. He still wears a name stone necklace that belonged to him.[18]

Evandrin Alterra

Fan art of Zerxus and Evandrin in the Astral Sea, by CT Chen.[art 5]

Asmodeus

Fan art of Zerxus speaking with Asmodeus, by KattFish.[art 6]

Asmodeus saw Zerxus as the perfect pawn necessary to free him and the other Betrayer Gods completely from their prison. He constructed a narrative and persona that would elicit sympathy, knowing that Zerxus believed so strongly in the power and possibility of redemption that he would be unable to resist aiding him. He appeared to Zerxus several times in dreams and visions, first being attacked by Pelor, then wounded and weakened. He told Zerxus that he had arrived in Exandria as a celestial of light[19] along with the other deities and that mortals had misunderstood his "gifts". The Betrayers were trapped in what Asmodeus described as "not a kind place [...] a place made to teach us a lesson."[20]

In "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04), when the Tree of Names was destroyed, Zerxus saw Asmodeus within it, apparently some part of him tortured, terrified, and shrieking in pain. Zerxus fought through to reach and touch him, holding his hand to pull him through into Exandria. Once freed, Asmodeus showed his true colors. When Zerxus used Cleansing Touch on him, it failed to have any effect. Angered at the assumption he had done something wrong that needed to be atoned for, Asmodeus stabbed Zerxus through the heart, then healed him. Zerxus argued with him that mortals were on Exandria long before the gods came, but Asmodeus scornfully called mortals "a bad first draft", and ripped the skin off Zerxus' skull, smashed him into the floor, and broke his spine, then healed him again. He told him that mortals were the ones who were his enemies, not the Prime Deities who were his siblings. It was mortals who came to matter so much to the Prime Deities that they were willing to throw the Betrayer Gods away. Asmodeus's quarrel was with mortals, and his goal was to collect all their souls in his pit and punish them for eternity. There was infinite hatred in his eyes. Zerxus looked at him with pity, telling him to look at how much he hated himself along with everything else.

Asmodeus told him his pride would make him a great Champion. He killed Zerxus a third time, then offered him the Mace of the Black Crown, at the price of becoming his Champion and surrendering his soul. Zerxus eventually accepted the mace in his effort to reunite Evandrin with their son Elias before the cataclysm that destroyed Avalir and marked the beginning of the Calamity, and at the end accepted his fate in the belief that he, too, could still be redeemed.

Character information

Notable items

Former items

Abilities

  • Zerxus drew his power not from one of the gods, but from the people of Avalir.[27]
  • During the battle against Lacrytia Hollow, Zerxus realized that he could now understand Infernal.[28]

Paladin abilities

  • Lay on Hands
  • Divine Sense[29]
  • Divine Smite
  • Fighting Style
  • Spellcasting
  • Divine Health
  • Sacred Oath (Oath of Redemption)[8]
    • Oath Spells
      • 3rd    sanctuary, sleep
      • 5th    calm emotions, hold person
      • 9th    counterspell, hypnotic pattern
      • 13th    Otiluke's resilient sphere, stoneskin
      • 17th    hold monster, wall of force
    • Channel Divinity: Emissary of Peace
    • Channel Divinity: Rebuke the Violent
    • Aura of the Guardian
  • Extra Attack
  • Aura of Protection
  • Aura of Courage
  • Improved Divine Smite
  • Cleansing Touch

Paladin spells

1st-level
  • Sanctuary
  • Shield of Faith[30]
  • Sleep
  • Ceremony[31]
  • Cure Wounds[32]
2nd-level
  • Calm Emotions
  • Hold Person
  • Zone of Truth[33]
3rd-level
  • Counterspell
  • Hypnotic Pattern
  • Revivify[34]
4th-level
  • Otiluke's Resilient Sphere
  • Stoneskin

Feats

  • Inspiring Leader[35]
  • Mounted Combatant

Appearances and mentions

Quotations

  • "That is precisely why I kneel to no god, because the second you kneel to one of them, you kneel to them all."[36]

Trivia

  • Zerxus was the third player character who was a widow when he was introduced, the other two being Orym of Exandria Unlimited and Campaign Three, and Yasha Nydoorin of Campaign Two.
  • His son Elias, was already born when Zerxus met Evandrin, suggesting he was not his first partner.[37]
  • Zerxus has the highest STR and AC of any player character. The next-highest values belong to Grog Strongjaw (26 STR) and Arkhan (24 AC).
  • He was the only member of the Ring of Brass whose exact age is confirmed.[38]
  • Despite not being her worshipper, Zerxus held the Everlight, goddess of redemption, in high regard, due to their common beliefs.[39]
    • Moreover, both the goddess and the paladin share a common experience, having been betrayed by Asmodeus.
  • Luis Carazo, who created Zerxus, stated that he viewed the primary connection between Asmodeus and Zerxus as paternal. "That was one of Zerxus's primary drives, was the need to be a good father, in light of having been a missing father, and so taking care of the Lord of Hells and looking out for him to me felt so much more paternal than romantic."[40]

References

  1. https://twitter.com/Luiscarazo/status/1536832346690793472?t=QHT13sZk6Z3tU5eSUDQc4g&s=19
  2. See "Blood and Shadow" (E3x03) at 1:04:45.  Zerxus began to speak and understand Infernal during the battle with the Erinyes.
  3. See "Blood and Shadow" (E3x03) at 4:30:26.  Zerxus spoke Primordial to the Tree of Names.
  4. See "Excelsior" (E3x01) at 6:20.
  5. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 4:59:33.
  6. See "Excelsior" (E3x01) at 6:20.
  7. See "Excelsior" (E3x01) at 0:06:38.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 See "Hype! Exandria Unlimited: Calamity Q&A with Luis Carazo" on critrole.com.
  9. See "Excelsior" (E3x01) at 21:22.
  10. https://twitter.com/Luiscarazo/status/1538562311400529922?s=20&t=vtJZadbllAaCp2WfwXva4g
  11. See "Exandria Unlimited: Calamity Interview with Brennan Lee Mulligan" at 0:21:48.
  12. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 1:47:20.
  13. See "Blood and Shadow" (E3x03) from 3:44:14 through 3:48:44.
  14. See "Blood and Shadow" (E3x03) at 3:34:59.  See also [13]
  15. See "Excelsior" (E3x01) at 2:51:23.
  16. See "Excelsior" (E3x01) at 3:09:03.
  17. See "Excelsior" (E3x01) at 3:09:03.
  18. See "Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02) at 3:57:49.
  19. See "Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02) at 4:13:44.
  20. See "Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02) at 4:10:55.
  21. Luis replied on Twitter that Zerxus gets his high STR score from a Belt of Storm Giant Strength (source).
  22. See "Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02) at 3:57:49.
  23. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 0:24:19.
  24. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 0:24:19.
  25. See "Blood and Shadow" (E3x03) at 2:11:13.
  26. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 0:26:08.
  27. See "Excelsior" (E3x01) at 3:35:30.
  28. See "Blood and Shadow" (E3x03) at 1:04:45.
  29. See "Excelsior" (E3x01) at 3:15:25.
  30. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 4:41:46.
  31. See "Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02) at 4:12:48.
  32. See "Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02) at 4:04:26.
  33. See "Blood and Shadow" (E3x03) at 3:40:41.
  34. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 2:11:25.
  35. See "Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02) at 1:46:31.
  36. See "Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02) at 1:45:37.
  37. See "Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02) at 4:18:54.
  38. https://twitter.com/Luiscarazo/status/1536832346690793472?t=QHT13sZk6Z3tU5eSUDQc4g&s=19
  39. https://twitter.com/Luiscarazo/status/1537882695295873024?s=20&t=i0YtyX_Np-49bwtDVhA-JQ
  40. Twitter Post-finale Chat with the Exandria Unlimited: Calamity Cast, Twitter Spaces Q&A session held 22 June 2022. Full transcript here.

Art:

  1. Official art of Zerxus Ilerez, by Hannah Friederichs (source). This file is a copyrighted work. Its use in this article is asserted to qualify as fair use of the material under United States copyright law.
  2. Fan art of Tempus the griffin, by Clara (source). Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Zerxus and Evandrin, by Sakyora (source). Used with permission.
  4. Fan art of Zerxus' death, by Lap Pun Cheung (source). Used with permission.
  5. Fan art of Zerxus and Evandrin in the Astral Sea, by CT Chen (source). Used with permission.
  6. Fan art of Zerxus speaking with Asmodeus, by KattFish (source). Used with permission.
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