For most avid readers of Dragonlance, the name Sir Liam Ehrling means little. There isn’t much known about the man who served as Grand Master following Gunthar uth Wistan’s death. What there is known though is that Ehrling killed the dream of the knighthood. While many fans of the series credit the changes of the knighthood to Jaymes Markham, in reality it was through Ehrling’s poor leadership that this happened.
Sir Liam Ehrling is a knight who served during the War of the Lance. During the war he was able to be under the command of the legendary Sturm Brightblade and witnessed his sacrifice at the High Clerist’s Tower. This event was said to have a profound impact on his life and he vowed to live up to Sturm’s ideals.
Following the war, Liam rose through the ranks of the knighthood to the coveted position of High Justice. Prior to the war, the various prestigious ranks had sat empty for centuries. While Liam was one of the first to serve in one of those ranks, he also continued the tradition of ineptness that plagued the knighthood since the failure of Lord Soth.
When the knighthood thought of attacking Pyrothraxus, it was Liam who suggested to let the dragon live because he had been peaceful to the knighthood. Already prior to Gunthar’s death, we see a man who fails to lead. Liam needed more men to attack the dragon, a commodity that was hard to come by. Gunthar knowing the destruction of the dragon sought a radical solution, combining two knighthoods.
Gunthar proposed his ill-fated plans of combining the Knights of Solamnia and Knights of Takhisis together, Liam was hesitate. Added to this was the pressure that the dragon overlords poised to all of Solamnia, not just the isle of Sancrist. To deal with this threat and strike a blow to all of the overlords, a radical idea was needed but also strong leadership to carry out the idea.
The strong leadership was in the form of the 99-year-old Gunthar, who was struggling to lead as he had retired years earlier but was pressed to keep on working. This is mainly due to the failures of others to rise up to lead, with Liam Ehrling being one of them. Gunthar who was instrumental in the rebuilding of the knighthood post War of the Lance and the prosperity that Solamnia experienced under his leadership.
The Chaos War would change all of this and even Gunthar was not privy to the planned defeat of the Solamnics by powers greater than mortals. Even still, he pressed on and led during this time to provide hope. This weakened the knighthood considerably. Even though many regarded the Solamnics as still powerful, they lost much during the Chaos War. The end battle of the war made Gunthar believe that a chance to combine the Dark Knights with the Solamnic Knighthood was possible. Unfortunately, this was a miscalculation as the Dark Knights had no intentions in becoming one knighthood under his vision, a mistake that cost Gunthar his life.
During this process, Liam could have been the hero the knighthood needed. Instead, he chose to sit back and complain about the process, but not do anything about it. For a man who idolized Sturm’s ideals, he failed to see how Sturm had lived. Instead of standing up for the knighthood and rallying it he was contempt to sit back. The very idea of combining the knighthoods came from his inability to act.
After Gunthar’s death, Liam was chosen to succeed him – another mistake made by the council. While Gunthar had sought to expand the knighthood and to make it relative, Liam did nothing. While mainland Solamnia languished during the period of Dragon Overlords, the new Grand Master played knight in Sancrist. Ignoring the plight and instead focusing on the isle and overseeing what remained of the knighthood.
As the War of Souls raged around the world, once again the chance for the Knights of Solamnia to rise up was quickly thwarted with the fall of Solanthus. The mainland nation was defeated without so much of a whimper from the Grand Master, who once again did not lead from his isle. Liam Ehrling was a man who by this time was past his prime, but a man who lived up to his track record of failing to act. Through his failures, mainland Solamnia chose another path and fell under the command of Bakkard du Chagne. While the traditional knighthood continued on the isle under the failing leadership of Liam, the new knighthood rose on the mainland.
This knighthood that was born under the leadership of Bakkard was a stark contrast to what many viewed as the proper knighthood. The proper knighthood, though, died a long and painful death, beginning with their defeat in the Chaos War. It was because of Liam’s failed leadership that a man like Jaymes Markham would be needed to take control of the land. This failed leadership would also allow the corruption that sprang up in the formation of the three divisions of the knighthood. The end result of Liam’s time in command was the ending of the old order on mainland Solamnia and a remnant of its past glory on Sancrist.