Born the middle child of a prosperous family in Munchen (Munich) in the year 1827, Larsson Astred had an uneventful and extremely typical childhood for the period. His father was a watchman for the local Burgomeister and veteran of the Napoleonic Wars in the service of the King, and his mother spent her days helping raise him and his three siblings.
The years passed uneventfully, and Lars grew up healthy and strong in the Zollverein (German Trade Confederation government of the period). He determined to follow in his father's footsteps, so to speak, and sought to join the Burgomeister's forces himself. He was accepted, and found that he excelled at the tasks assigned him. Lars had always been stronger than his peers, more hardy, and possessed of the extreme self-confidence of the young. He was growing into the pride of his family, and felt that his life was going to proceed exactly as he'd always hoped... he was wrong.
"Move more men over to the Barrenstrasse, the rebels may try to push through into the market district!" shouted the Burgomeister, and Lars spun and dashed down the cobblestone streets shouldering his musket and praying fervently that he would not meet with the 'rebels'... so recently his friends and neighbors, now a bloodthirsty mob. Turning another corner with his three fellow peacekeepers, he paused and swallowed hard. The street before them was filled with angry peasants, their faces stark and unforgiving in the light of torches.
"Dis... disperse at once", shouted the Sergeant in a quavering voice. The mob had other ideas. With a roar they rushed towards the four young men, only two of which even had the opportunity to shoot. The crack of rifles only seemed to anger the rabble more, and Larsson was swallowed up in a sea of bludgeoning clubs and slashing knives and farm implements. Curling up he cursed and waited for the end to come.... . What were they waiting for?
Cries of amazement and fear caused Lars to open his eyes. Perhaps the rest of the King's forces had arrived? He had to get free before they hurt him! Lars swung his fists with all his might at the wide eyed peasants pressed up against him... and was horrified as flesh tore and bodies flew tens of feet in response to his blows. The screaming mob fell back, horrified, and cries of "Demon! Monster!" reached his ears. Panicking, Lars hurled himself down the street, as the mob rallied and pursued seconds later...
Lars's unusual nature came into evidence when he was attempting to keep the peace during the Revolutions of 1848. King Ludwig I eventually responded to the rioting and unrest of the masses by abdicating in favor of his son. Unfortunately, before this could happen, Lars was stabbed and beaten by an angry mob during the aforementioned civil unrest. The clubs and knives broke, and as he frantically lashed out with his fists several men were badly injured and one was slain after being thrown clear through a nearby wall. The local reaction was one of quick hostility and fear, the new King Maximillian II sought him as a scapegoat and monster, and he fled into the night - never to see his family again.
Uncertain of the meaning of his new found abilities, Lars spent the next seven years wandering Europe, destitute and friendless. He discovered during this period that age held no terrors for him, and that he was (so far as he could tell) totally invulnerable to harm and possessed of tremendous physical strength. Far from embracing these abilities as gifts, he was horrified by them, and wondered for many years if he had been cursed. Tales of monsters, witchcraft, and black magical pacts were foremost in his thoughts, and his strong Lutheran upbringing convinced him that he was likely guilty of some unknown Sin (likely Pride), and damned.
Gradually, Lars came to grips with the new powers he possessed, moving to London to begin his life anew. Starting as an assistant in a bakery near the Thames, he worked diligently and managed to set aside enough to open his own small business. Years went by as he labored and developed his new craft, baking bread for the local workers and their families. His neighbors began to comment on his ageless face after scarcely a dozen years had passed, and Lars quickly sold his business and boarded a ship to the Americas where he hoped to lose himself in the wilds of the New World and the chaos of the post-Civil War landscape.
"I must go Mary", he said with more regret than he'd expected. Lars hadn't expected to grow so close to the young woman, and feared that she would not... could not understand his reasons for this abrupt departure. The tears and sorrow would turn to anger and recriminations later, he was sure, and she would be better for his leaving. What man worthy of the name would burden a woman with the secrets he bore? "I am seeking my fortune in the Americas, and I fear that you would... you would only slow me down", there, that would rouse her ire and ease the pain of his departure. This scene was predictable at least. He would need to take care in his relationships in the long years yet to come. It was not right to hurt those who care for him, nor to deceive them more than his condition forced him to do so.
Taking his bags and feigning strain under their weight, he finished up the discussion with the crying and furious woman, and then headed towards the docks. A ship waited for him there, one where he would work his passage to the New World, and he hoped, an opportunity to lose himself in the wilderness of the Americas.
Arriving in New York, he joined the masses of immigrants headed to the American land of promise in 1867. The city was rapidly growing, an exciting melting pot of commerce and innovation, largely untouched by the recent Civil War. Lars invested his capital into education and his ongoing pursuit of meaning, quickly finding himself destitute once more. He worked for several years as a laborer on the docks, and then drifted into one of the many rapidly booming banking firms as a clerk. Another decade passed, and once more those around him began to eye his unchanging features with unease. Lars converted his savings into ready coin and headed West to seek his fortune in the great wilderness, hoping to find peace in anonymity.
"Ha! Son, you take to this work like you was born to it!", shouted the grizzled trail boss as he rode past in a cloud of dust and grit. Lars smiled at the compliment, so rare from the hard working men he was learning from, and pulled the reins on his horse. Hundreds of cattle thundered past, a slow river of animal fury, and he wiped dust from his forehead with his bandanna. Peering along the trail, he leaned back in his saddle and took a moment to enjoy the spectacular vista spreading out before him. Then spurred his steed into motion with a 'HA!' of his own... there was work to do.
Traveling westward, through the heart of the Americas on the new cross-continental railroad, Lars found his way into work as a cowboy in the expansive Southwest in 1883. A journey that would have taken months, now took less than a week, and he marveled (with the world) at the implications of this for the vastness of the American frontier. He spent his days learning horsemanship and managing the cattle during the long cattle-drives, his nights cooking and sleeping under the brilliant stars. Years rolled past, and he traveled extensively throughout the region, avoiding long stays and close friendships to spare himself the inevitable pain of rejection. Finally, when enjoying a stay in Sacramento, he heard of a new frontier and adventure in the frozen north. Booking ship from San Francisco, Lars traveled to the Klondike in search of riches and new vistas in 1898.
Lars and Jack sat by the fire in the saloon, water dripping slowly off their boots as they sipped whiskey and gazed into the flames. Jack had been silent since Lars dragged him back from the snowy wastes, thoughtful but not afraid. He had to have seen. Lars waited quietly, sipping his whiskey.
"Man can't do what you did out there", grunted Jack. I saw the rocks falling down the face, tons of snow and rocks. We should be dead."
Lars nodded, "Would you rather we were? I'm still the same man you've known these past months Jack".
Jack grunted, "No, I don't think I ever did truly know you. How can you walk around with us, looking like us, seeing what we are and being able to do what you can do? I don't understand it. Goes against nature, like a wolf choosing to run with dogs." He shook his head. "Don't think I'll ever understand it." He looked at Lars long and hard, and Lars waited as the water dripped. "...Damned if I'm not glad you're my friend though", muttered the prospector then drained his whiskey. "Let's get some rest, we got a claim to stake tomorrow". Lars grinned and nodded, then headed off to bed.
Lars worked as a prospector for several years, meeting the likes of "Stillwater" Bill Gates and Jack London as he roamed the rugged landscape. He lost more wealth than he gained, but considered it a bargain in the face of the beauty he saw, the company he kept, and the opportunity to learn more of those who he shared the planet with. Lars began to wonder if he could truly be considered 'human' at all as his strength's might continued to exceed his expectations year by year, and the limits of his invulnerability proved impervious to the incredible cold, the weapons of claim jumpers, and rock fall.
Traveling back across the country over the next ten years, Lars spent a half dozen years living off his savings in Chicago. He felt a longing to return to the land of his childhood, and left America in 1911 to travel across the ocean back to Europe, and France. He worked in a boulangerie and as a writer, growing fond of the city of Lyons and her people and traveling often to Paris to bask in the culture and sophistication found there. This affection was returned with hostility when war broke out between France and Germany, igniting a conflagration that spread across the continent. Sickened by his experiences with killing and death, Lars fled rather than harm those who had been his friends and neighbors.
Lars ran through the snowy passes, forcing his way through the packed snow with ease. His pursuers could not follow him for months, and he drew a shuddering and angry breath. Death, always death and fear and war. He stumbled, and stopped. Drawing another deep breath in the frozen chill, he looked around. Lost. This was just perfect.
A distant sound caught his ears, the tolling of a bell. Here? Lars turned and forged onward towards the sound, peering into the perfect white glare as he sought refuge from the frozen waste around him. Rounding a bend in the mountain pass, a stone manor perched on the mountain side caught his gaze. He strode onward. A house of God, a place of refuge in these times of war and horror. Perhaps there he would find the peace he so desperately sought...
Fleeing through the passes in the Alps, Lars found refuge in a Swiss monastery. He retreated from the world for the duration of the First World War, appalled at the level of carnage and destruction. The monks never questioned their strange guest, though they surely noticed many odd things about him. He joined them in cloister and prayer, pondering the events of his long life and concluding with the assistance of this brotherhood that his concerns about damnation and sin were misplaced. After the war, a contemplative Lars returned to Germany for the first time in more than half a century.
"Get out off my way, you stinking German pig", barked the French Lieutenant.
Larsson stepped aside, muttering apologies as the Frenchman strode past. This was not what he'd expected. His countrymen were a humbled and occupied people, the French forces harsh and arbitrary. Anger simmered under the surface, waiting a spark to erupt. No, he could not stay here. The faces of the people were polite, but the rage they felt would turn on those different from them. He had seen this before, on the faces of the mob those years past in Munchen. His homeland was closed to him, at least for now.
The Weimar Republic chafed under humiliating terms of their enforced peace settlement. Though the countryside was familiar, and these were his people, Lars was astonished at the anger which seethed beneath the veneer of civility. He traveled away after only a year, uneasy with the 1923 occupation of his homeland by French and Belgian forces and determined not to intervene.
The next fifteen years saw Lars journeying across southern Europe, through Greece, Italy, and Spain. He worked and invested his money wisely, amassing a considerable fortune which he deposited in Swiss banks noted for their confidentiality and quiet deference to their customers. Lars held numerous occupations during this time, continuing to write voraciously and working as a sailor out of several Mediterranean ports. Then, in 1938, the darkness that was growing in his homeland erupted across the face of Europe.
Lars attempted to stand aside and allow history to pass, but the quality of his character would not allow him peace. A veritable explosion of unusual beings possessed of remarkable abilities startled him, as dozens of costumed superhumans clashed in the streets of Europe's cities in the years leading up to war. Following his initial encounters with Nazi agents he joined them as 'Bastion: the Living Wall', choosing to fight against his countrymen rather than countenance what was clearly a violation of all the laws of morality. His activities are countered by various Nazi 'Ubermen' and the naked evil of their vision troubles him greatly, as does what he hears rumors of amid the fertile countryside of his homeland in the concentration camps.