- For other characters of the same name, see Nicholas.
Nicolas Gryphonheart was the last Gryphonheart king of the Enrothian nation of Erathia, the husband of Gwenllian and father to both Catherine Gryphonheart-Ironfist and Beatrice Gryphonheart. A distant yet unwavering ally to Roland Ironfist and prolific peacemaker, his murder by Lord Haart and Sandro was the catalyst for the Restoration Wars, during which he was reanimated by the Necromancers of Deyja - his long-time enemies - as the formidable Lich King Gryphonheart.
Reign over the Kingdom
Nicolas was born in either 1110 or 1111 AS, and inherited the throne of Erathia at a young age from his (unnamed) predecessor. Nicolas married his lover Gwenllian in 1133 AS, who gave birth to two daughters - the future Queen Catherine in 1134, and Beatrice in 1141.
In his early reign, a relatively young Nicolas narrowly escaped an early death with the aid of his squire, Sir Kentaine. During a hunting expedition, his party of Knights was slain almost to the man, along with the majority of his squires. Trapped beneath his dead steed, Nicolas was left incapable of defending himself. Kentaine, the sole other survivor, grabbed a fallen spear and charged the attackers, freeing the King and escaping to safety. Soon afterwards, Nicolas appointed Kentaine the Gryphonheart blade Swordbearer.
As the Erathian ruler, he became famed throughout his reign for banishing the Necromancers of Deyja from his kingdom, who had apparently previously held a presence there. He was also renowned as a peacemaker; for example, following border skirmishes from Tatalia on the western shore near Marshland in 1145, Nicolas intervened, signing an agreement to cease hostilities between both nations for as long as his reign should last.
When his daughter Princess Catherine joined the Erathian military on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolas almost ordered her brought back to Castle Gryphonheart in chains, but Queen Gwenllian convinced him otherwise. Catherine quickly proved herself an excellent warrior and strategist, and was given the Erathian Medal of Courage by a now-proud Nicolas after putting an end to Connel Traxton, an envious Erathian General.
Turmoil in Erathia
Gwenllian and Beatrice Gryphonheart were both killed by marauders two years later while travelling Antagarich's northern coast. According to Professor Marcus Finch, "It is said that the King nearly destroyed the palace when he received word, and that Catherine nearly destroyed the barracks. The funeral and the days which followed were perhaps the most somber time in recent memory, disturbed only by the news of the swift and complete punishment dealt upon the marauders who were responsible for the murders."
Blaming herself for the demise of her mother and sister, Catherine resigned from the military and became her father's personal guard. Out of fear for her wellbeing, Nicolas arranged for Catherine to marry his ally, King Roland Ironfist of Enroth, in May 1154. Impressed by the young King's abilties in the recent Succession Wars against his brother, Nicolas convinced Catherine to marry Roland. The wedding took place at Castle Ironfist on the first day of August. Next year, Catherine gave birth to a son - Nicolai - named in honour of Nicolas himself.
With Catherine in Enroth, Nicolas' fears had proven well-founded, as discontent soon spread throughout the continent. After Vayarad infiltrated the Forest Guard and ordered an unwitting Gelu to perform devastating atrocities in AvLee, Nicolas became directly involved, expressing he understood Gelu's position. Soon afterward, during Sandro's invasion of Erathia, he became concerned that Krewlish Barbarians were defending the border. During the Clash of the Dragons, Nicolas personally led forces alongside the AvLeean Elvenking, Eldrich Parson, against the Dragon Queen of Nighon, Mutare.
Following his defeat in Deyja, Sandro formulated a plot to incite widespread war in Antagarich. Forging an alliance with the Dungeon Overlords and the Kreegans, Sandro contacted the Enrothian Knight-turned-Deyjan cultist, Lord Haart. Because of his access to Steadwick, the capitol of Erathia, Haart made a perfect assassin for King Gryphonheart. Though Sandro was tricked and imprisoned by Finneas Vilmar, the King of Deyja, the plan went ahead and Lord Haart secretly poisoned Nicolas.
The King's death threw the entire country into disarray, allowing Erathia's enemies to grab undefended lands at will. Word of Nicolas' death spread as far as Enroth, and Catherine departed for home with a full armada at the end of 1164 to attend his funeral. Meanwhile, the Necromancers of Deyja invaded northeastern Erathia and captured Stonecastle, the city where Nicolas' body had been interred. King Vilmar himself stole into the tomb with an artifact - the Spirit of Oppression - harbouring an ironic goal in mind.
He necromantically reanimated King Nicolas' corpse using the Ritual of Endless Night, fusing the Spirit of Oppression with the dead King's soul to transform him into a semi-sentient Lich bound to his service. However, the spell failed to bind, and Nicolas was raised as an uncharacteristically power-mad, rogue Lich obsessed with avenging his own death. The Lich of Nicolas murdered Finneas in the tomb and departed with the sole intent of reclaiming his former throne as the new King of Deyja.
Lich King Gryphonheart
As his first act, Nicolas had thousands of Skeletons reanimated within a matter of months and exacted retribution on the rebellious Death Knight, Mot, killing him and reviving his corpse. During his reign, Sandro was also released from prison, and a full invasion of Erathia was launched directly after Catherine had driven the Dungeon Overlords back across the Nighon Straits.
Nicolas' wild, incredible power became too much for even his own underlings to handle. When Catherine turned her attention to the northern invasion, already allied with AvLee and Bracada, the traitorous Necromancer Nimbus acted as an emissary for his like-minded deviants, joining forces with Catherine to destroy her father and secretly revealing the truth of Lord Haart's betrayal. The four-point attack succeeded, and Stonecastle was retaken.
Tactfully, Catherine brought Lord Haart among her vanguard into the city, leading him to Nicolas' chamber. The King remained stock still on his throne as Catherine approached, poised to slay him - but she instead turned her blade in Haart's direction, offering her father a chance to claim his vengeance. Before he could defend himself, Haart was attacked and slain by the Lich King. Catherine then destroyed Nicolas' marred corpse with a Lightning Bolt spell, silently pondering Nicolas' kindness in life instead of his crimes in death as his soul visibly soared into the night sky, to Paradise.
Influence on Palaedra
Even after the Reckoning, Nicolas was vividly remembered by the people of Erathia's successor-kingdom, Palaedra. In 525 AC in the Axeoth timeline (1179 AS), Sir Worton - the son of Sir Kentaine - arrived at Lord Lysander's court, claiming that he was Nicolas' illegitimate child (bearing the False Gryphonheart blade as proof). This sparked a lengthy struggle for the throne, in which Lysander proved Worton an imposter with Sir Kentaine's aid.
Sir Daymarc, the regent of Palaedra, "knew the Gryphonhearts well and he believes King Gryphonheart would never have a child out of wedlock". Apparently, although Lord Lysander was inexplicably a Gryphonheart, Nicolas was not his father.
Nicolas appears only in *Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Restoration of Erathia, and is mentioned in Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Shadow of Death, Heroes Chronicles: Clash of the Dragons, Might and Magic VI, Might and Magic VII, Heroes of Might and Magic III: Armageddon's Blade and in Heroes of Might and Magic IV.
- A large computer-generated hero portrait for Lich King Gryphonheart was created by Kenneth Thomson Jr. for Heroes III, but was unused in the game. It was rescued for use in Might and Magic VII, where it was utilised as Halfgild Wynac's portrait.
- Nicolas is the only main antagonist in the Heroes series who has never appeared as a playable hero.