Korl is held to be a paragon of Courage, one of the very first recognised by the Highborn Assembly of the Virtuous, and ratified by the first general assembly of the Synod.
Korl's legend was transcribed by the Highborn in the early days of their settlement in the lands that would become the Empire from oral histories passed down from the arrival of the Vard and Steinr.
The boyhood of Korl is not heavily explored in these tales; most begin with his arriving with the Vard/Steinr.
From there, the commonalities in the tales begin to pick up; he performs a few standard exploits like wrestling mountain lions and making a great spear from the tusk of a dire boar.
There were deep and dark places beneath the world in those times, and the tales suggested that the secrets of metal might be best discovered deep within them. However, few were bold enough to delve beneath the earth in the lightless cold. Those who attempted the deep places came fleeing back empty-handed - or did not return at all.
By the time Korl considered the deep places, it was thought of as foolishness to dare them. Elders and companions - even his own father and sisters - told Korl that he was simply throwing his life away, but he knew that to succeed and thrive in this new world, they would need sharper and harder weapons.
Even once his mind was made up, his path was not easy. His first few delves led only to him stumbling back to the surface, exhausted and battered, having found nothing but dead ends. But he believed passionately in the old tales of metal veins and glowing stone on which the substance could be worked into tools and weapons, and would not listen to anyone who tried to tell him that they did not exist in this new land.
So he scoured the lands that his people were migrating into, for the sharp and shining rock that also figured in the tales. Having found a promising area of jagged basalt and obsidian, deep in the woods to the east of their landing-place, he descended once again.
In contrast to his preliminary battles on the surface, the tales of his subterranean endeavours are unusually lacking in great conflicts with underground creatures. There is one great struggle with a huge, blind worm that occurs in some versions, but in general the challenges detailed are icy, dark pools leading to underwater channels, the gradual dwindling of provisions, and the all-consuming, smothering darkness which no other had been capable of enduring.
Finally, the darkness began to lift, and deep beneath the earth Korl found the glowing stone which he had sought - and unloads the heavy burden of metal he had doggedly carried through all dangers to bring the two together.
There in the fume-choked, red-lit cavern he forged the first axe-head to be made in this land, and carried back not only the axe-head itself, but the seeds of understanding that would lead to the triumph of the great smiths and their charcoal forges.
Once he returned to the surface, any ordinary man - or even any great Exemplar - might reasonably have delivered the hard-won spoils of his quest and gone back to ordinary endeavour. But the very notion of rest was alien to Korl. On hearing that there was trouble in the forest which his people were attempting to occupy, he marched boldly out with the soldiers the very day that he returned from the world beneath, mounting the axe-head on a wooden shaft and naming it Irontooth.
With the axe he had forged, he destroyed legions of the strange creatures that occupied the woodlands - twisted parodies of natural animals, merged together by the foul magics leaking from the Vallorn.
While he was content with hewing their many heads from their bodies indefinitely, one of the shy, shrewd human inhabitants of the forest - those who were not Vard, but Uskha - approached him with an idea. At first he was suspicious, as the Uskha had already began to gain a reputation for attempting to trap the Vard into bargains that would disadvantage them.
But it was clear that both Vard and Uskha would benefit from the demise of the Chimerae, so he was persuaded to listen.
He had always relied on the strength of his mighty arms and indomitable will, but to convince his fellow Vard to go along with the plan, he had to learn the art of persuasion. But having to change his battleground had never daunted him, and his sheer conviction - combined with the obvious benefits of the steel that was beginning to be made to his pattern, the fruits of the last strange endeavour he had insisted upon - supported his cause.
Instead of simply destroying the chimerae as they found them, he persuaded the Vard to herd them into particular areas - which the Uskha quickly sealed off from the wider world with their strange magics, and left signs along the perimeter to warn any from breaching them.
The death of Korl is also a topic on which the recorded tales diverge. Some say that he fell in his prime, confronting a particularly puissant chimera which refused to be lured into the designated places; others, that he had many sons and turned his hand to many battles, but then faced his dotage with the same courage as he had displayed through all his life, becoming an accomplished tutor and storyteller as his strength and vision faded, until one day he simply did not wake.
The assembly of Courage recognised the following signs as indicating that Korl was a paragon
- As an ancient paragon of Courage, a handful of people throughout history have had the hubris to claim to be Korl's reincarnation. To date, no visions have been recorded of his life from his own eyes. Most claims of this nature have come from young Winterfolk or Varushkans who ultimately disproved their claim by failing to live up to their claimed legend. Consequently, the sign of Liberation holds.
- Korl freely shared his hard-won secrets of metal-working with all people, as well as demonstrating courage in defence of his people. There is no real doubt about his Benevolence.
- Korl is held up as an Inspiration to metal workers and smiths, although the craft has advanced significantly since his time.
- The supreme feats of endurance that his journey required, and the ability to intuit the working of steel while deep within the earth, are attributed as Miracles to Korl, as is the act of cutting down an entire forest with a single axe, though this is disputed in recent times..
- While there was no organised religion in Korl's time, his tale still contains a great journey - to the depths of the earth - which has been cast by some as a Pilgrimage of Courage.
- The legendary axe Irontooth, which is said to convey great feats of supernaturally quickened recovery on its wearer in response to Korl's tireless courage while taking it to battle the chimerae, is a classic example of a Paragon's Legacy. Although it has been argued that all things forged of steel are Korl's greater legacy.
- The very early point in history that Korl's exploits took place in means that nothing is recorded that might be an indication of his past lives, so the sign of Recognition is impossible to confirm or refute.
- Korl's achievement of the sign of Salvation is debated. His endeavours led to the military success and safety of his people, rather than the improvement of their souls and assistance in the Labyrinth. The claim that steel-working enables a more civilised state of being and thereby provides more opportunities to pursue Virtue has been made - but it has had dangerous offshoots, the more extreme of which have been declared heretical from time to time, in those who would call skill with artisanry an expression of Virtue in and of itself.