"His crimes are too great! He deserves only to rot in a pit for all eternity!"
Mad King Gryphonheart is the unnamed king who ruled Erathia during the events of Heroes Chronicles: Revolt of the Beastmasters. He is mentioned throughout the game, but only appears in-game in the last scenario, The First Tatalian War.
Mad King Gryphonheart was a descendant of Rion Gryphonheart, first King of Erathia, and inherited the nation through the power of his bloodline. He was, sadly, far less honorable and sane than his ancestors, and ruled the nobles through fear, rather than love or devotion. This cruelty extended even to his own sons: When his oldest son, Niven, was six, and his other son five, the King took them aside and told them that whoever killed the other, would inherit the kingdom - and then he laughed.
During Mad King Gryphonheart's rule, the Mudlander slaves started to rebel against their masters, and the beastmaster Tarnum gathered an army and slew the cruel Lord Onsten. The Mad King killed the messenger who brought him the news and then burned down his own stables. When Tarnum's rebels approached the lands of Baron Paglon, the King sent troops and resources to reinforce the Baron's towns, but the Mudlanders proved to be too much of a challenge, and the Baron had to flee. When he reinforced himself in another Castle, the King sent more reinforcements, but also warned the Baron that if he failed again, he would be stripped of his title. To deal with the rebels, the Mad King commanded that any slave walking the land without shackles and the written permission of their master would be put to death, and he placed a bounty of ten silver for the head of any escaped slave. Murderous bounty hunters attacked any slave that looked vulnerable enough, shipping their heads back to the Baron's lands. But even with the King's reinforcements and the aid of every greedy brigand in the land, the Baron was no match for Tarnum.
The Mad King then sent sixteen-year-old Niven to Earl Rambert's lands to take care of the rebellion. The boy was an excellent tactician and had the best education and the well-trained forces of Erathia at his back. The boy removed the bounty on slave heads and instead placed a large bounty on Tarnum's head, hoping to stop the rebels by taking out their leader. A well-orchestrated ambush put a large amount of Mudlander prisoners in his hands, but despite Earl Rambert's pleas, Niven refused to execute the noncombatants. When Tarnum prepared to move against the prince, an Erathian noble approached him to ask him to spare Niven's life. He told him that the King thought he prince was far too compassionate and had sent him here to die since he might be able to raise the Erathian nobles against him. Tarnum realized that if he could be convinced of the righteousness of the Mudlander cause, Niven could be a weapon against his father.
Tarnum abducted Niven, and by showing him the horrors of slavery, he eventually brought the prince around to his cause. Once Tarnum and his new ally had dealt with Earl Rambert, Niven went back to Erathia to speak to the dissatisfied nobles and turn them against the Mad King.
Tarnum and the Mudlanders could finally leave Erathia behind them, but they finally realized why they hadn't met Mad King Gryphonheart on the battlefield: the king had marched his considerable forces around them to block them from freedom. They were outnumbered ten-to-one, and Gryphonheart was not taking prisoners. He stated: "I will stop at nothing less than the total eradication of these escaped slaves!" His army was scattered, so the Mudlanders would first face his vanguard. The rebels were outnumbered, but the Mad King ordered his troops to attack at night, which turned out to be a poor decision, considering that, unlike the Erathians, the Mudlanders were native to the swamps around them, and could see far better in the dark. The surviving members of the strike force were forced to flee, and Tarnum realized that they could use the darkness as an ally. They raided the enemy camps, stealing resources and slaying soldiers, so the Erathian could never feel safe. Tarnum knew this would eventually destroy their morale.
Tarnum suggested that the Mudlanders should claim the swamps as their own and create a nation for themselves, which would turn King Gryphonheart into a foreign aggressor instead of a king trying to control his own people. The Mudlanders named this nation Tatalia, after an old word for community. King Gryphonheart's response was rage, but this surprised no one. Since Gryphonheart's forces still heavily outnumbered his own, Tarnum hired a group of barbarian mercenaries to fill his ranks. The barbarians were expensive but effective, and the Erathians were soon driven back.
Niven had talked freely with the nobles, and since they agreed that the Mad King had dragged the once-proud nation into dishonor, they named Niven the true King of Erathia. Niven wrote to Tarnum that he would muster what troops he could and march to his aid, but also asked him to force his father's troops to a specific place, where Niven and Tarnum would have the advantage and the Mad King would be unable to flee. Tarnum agreed with this strategy, and though his barbarian mercenaries suffered heavy losses, he was successful.
The Mad King had lost the support of Erathia and had nothing left but whatever thieves and mercenaries he could hire. Unable to face his foes in honest combat, he relied on the same ambush tactics that Tarnum had used against him, though less effectively. He also put out a bounty of 20 000 gold on his son's head, twice the price he had offered for Tarnum's. He also sent an assassin after Niven, but the attempt failed.
When Tarnum and Niven marched against him, the Mad King's troops fought to the last man. Tarnum and the Mad King faced each other on the battlefield, and though the former was a far better swordsman, they both dealt a mortal blow.
After his father's death, Niven ruled Erathia in peace.
Mad King Gryphonheart appears in The First Tatalian War. He is a Knight, and has an army consisting of 5 angels, 10 champions, 20 zealots, 40 crusaders, 80 royal griffins, 150 marksmen, and 300 rogues.
Mad King Gryphonheart appears in Revolt of the Beastmasters.