Throughout Critical Role’s popular ‘The Mighty Nein’ campaign, the party’s resident half-orc, Fjord Stone (played by Travis Willingham), spent much of the season struggling with the powerful yet dangerous gifts of his warlock patron, U’kotoa. As the campaign unfolded, it seemed harder and harder for the young half-orc to walk away from U’kotoa’s mysterious, magical powers. But Critical Role’s latest release by Dark Horse Comics may have just proven that Fjord’s biggest strengths had nothing to do with the eldritch entity.
The Mighty Nein Origins: Fjord Stone (by Chris ‘Doc’ Wyatt, Kevin Burke, Selina Espiritu, Matt Mercer, Travis Willingham, Diana Sousa, and VC’s Ariana Maher) delves deeply into its titular character’s history revealing Fjord’s true value. Raised as an orphan and relentlessly bullied for his orcish heritage, Fjord quickly internalizes all the cruelty and hatred that surrounds him. But when the young half-orc enters into Captain Vandran’s service and flourishes under the older man’s mentorship, it becomes clear that his most valuable skills have nothing to do with his patron. They were earned by his own hard work and determination.
At the root of Fjord’s relationship with U’kotoa are his deep-seated insecurities. His entire childhood was filled with undeserved cruelty, especially at the hands of his orphanage’s taskmaster, Master Grankton. It was inevitable that the young half-orc started to believe he really was useless and unwanted. In one of the most harrowing scenes in all of the Critical Role canon, The Mighty Nein Origins holds nothing back in depicting the most brutal way Fjord’s self-hatred manifests, by grinding down his own tusks. It’s a painful experience that feels even more poignant when U’kotoa finally enters the picture and grants Fjord access to power he never had as a child. But is his warlock pact the only type of strength Fjord has access to?
Despite the great powers U’kotoa grants Fjord, The Mighty Nein Origins takes great care in exploring how Fjord earned the skills that have always defined his character. Those namely being his proficiency with a sword and his charm. Those unique skills aren’t just important to Fjord, either. Anyone who’s played in a Dungeons & Dragons game can attest to the usefulness of a cunning mind and silver tongue. Fjord’s quick thinking and weaponized charm have helped his friends and party members escape dire situations more than once, and no one else can take credit for his signature skills. Captain Vandran may have opened the door to the young half-orc, but the Critical Role comic takes great care proving that Fjord’s swordplay and charisma are primarily a result of his hard work.
The Mighty Nein Origins takes its time developing Fjord’s skills. As he trains, the reader is guided through a plethora of panels depicting how grueling and incremental his progress is. That makes it all the more satisfying when he finally starts to show the fruits of his labor and gain the self-confidence he was robbed of as a child. It’s hard to not get excited imagining what kind of swashbuckling, sea-faring rogue Fjord may have become if he had continued under the tutelage of Captain Vandran. Unfortunately, he eventually fell under the corrupted sway of U’kotoa.
Like all the other party members, he brings something wholly unique to the table, much like Beau’s hard-headedness or Jester’s unrelenting cheer and chaotic ingenuity Despite what U’kotoa would have him believe, the core of his character that makes him beloved to the Mighty Nein, comes from his own inner strengths and hard-earned skills. This is something that can’t be taken away from him and make him such a fan favorite.