By the time of the Dragonrise (1625), I suspect Harrek the Berserk is the best-known Hero of the age, even in Dragon Pass.
His fame has been meteoric in the last couple of years. Prior to 1621, he was best known for being the leader of the Wolf Pirates, who killed the Red Emperor in a Dart War, and who slew his people’s Bear God and wears its skin as a cloak. Pretty impressive, and I suspect there were plenty of stories about him circulating even then.
But his appearance in 1624 quickly had his reputation rise to stratospheric levels. His fleet had sailed around the world only to appear in the Choralinthor Bay and ally with King Broyan and Queen Samastina to end the Lunar siege of Nochet. He joined with the anti-Lunar forces and at the Battle of Pennel Ford, it was his charge at the Lunar priests that routed the Lunar Army. Orlanth’s Ring rose in the sky at that moment, proving that the White Bear has the Storm God’s favor.
Later it was Harrek the Berserk that drank Nochet dry and out debauched even the Demivierge of Rhigos. It was Harrek who found a way to sack and plunder the City of Wonders and take its treasures for himself. He is the Sea Wolf King of the Three Step Islands, the White Bear of legend, and the most famous adventurer ever.
If you imagine Harrek as being Heracles, Conan, Gilgamesh, and Harald Hardraada all rolled up together, you’d probably be on the right page. Harrek’s closest companion is Gunda the Guilty. imagine that Harrek and Gunda have a remarkable partnership, with Gunda being the shrewd tactical mind and Harrek providing the raw power and will to carry that forward (kind of like Conan and Belit). After Gunda, Harrek’s most notable companion is Argrath, who of course ends up having a pretty remarkable career himself.
See also Notes on Harrek the Berserk I:
The Orlanthi sing about Harrek, and for them his deeds are legendary – he is viewed as the mercenary for the gods, and his audaciousness more than compensates for his crimes. Harrek is respected for never forgetting his common and lowly origins. Here’s another thing – Harrek is actually noted for his generosity to ordinary and common people, and never lets a poor person go hungry. He wins great treasures, only to give them away to friends, followers, and his entourage.
Others curse Harrek as a rapacious reaver, who brings war and destruction. He rules with an iron-fist, without care for law or tradition. He does not fear the curse of gods or spirits, and is loyal only to his few friends (and to his word).
Is Jar-Eel as equally famous? Not so much outside of the Lunar Empire. And not nearly as much in Dragon Pass, Prax, and the Holy Country.
Are Harrek and Gunda lovers or simply companions? Companions
As the leader of the Wolf Pirates, Harrek also has the support of over 3000 warriors, many of whom have followed him around the world.
So if we imagine things from the vantage of the recently liberated Kingdom of Sartar, we have in the south this band of roaming sea-warriors led by a legendary adventurer. They raid and plunder but can also be hired/bribed away (think like the Catalan Company, Jomsvikings, Victual Brothers, etc,). They have traveled around the world, fought countless battles, and even beaten the Lunar Army. Their leader is the most famous Hero in the world, with no loyalty to the Sartarites true, but who is known to hate the Lunar Empire and even once killed the Red Emperor. But their demands are high and they are mercenary pirates. They must have a such a dangerous but romantic appeal to the Orlanthi.