The Vanguard were formed out of the Oseram freebooters who fought alongside Avad during the Liberation. Aside from honoring their role in ending the Red Raids, the formation of the Vanguard was a gesture of peace to the Oseram, who had been raided relentlessly during the war. Erend, a member of the Vanguard and younger brother of then-Captain Ersa, accompanied the Carja envoy to the Sacred Lands, in order to ensure that the envoy was not attacked by Nora angry about the Red Raids.
Search for Ersa
Two years after the Liberation, Captain Ersa was contacted by Dervahl, a rogue Oseram warlord and her former ally during the Red Raids, who requested that they parley at Dimmed Bones. Suspecting it to be a trap, Ersa brought fellow Vanguard as back up. However, this proved futile against Dervahl's ambush: the Vanguard was quickly incapacitated by Dervahl's Sonic Device, and all save Ersa were murdered. Dervahl had Ersa stripped of her armor and brought to his camp, where he would enact revenge for turning against him at the end of the war.
Meanwhile, Dervahl's followers dumped the bodies of the Vanguard down below in Red Ridge Pass, placing Shadow Carja armor nearby in order to avert suspicion. Ersa's armor was placed on another body, one with the same physique but with a face too mutilated to recognize. When patrols found the bodies the next day, the Carja military, as expected, assumed that Ersa had been killed along with her men by the Shadow Carja. In light of the attack, all outlanders were subject to search before entering Meridian, and Erend was appointed as Ersa's successor. Additionally, the incident was met with outrage from the Oseram population in Meridian, who demanded that Avad retaliate against the Shadow Carja.
After helping Aloy of the Nora investigate Olin Delverson's involvement with the Eclipse, the grieving Erend convinced her to help him find the ones responsible for Ersa's murder. Erend went alone to Red Ridge Pass to meet with Aloy, not willing to risk the lives of his men for his revenge. Aloy was able to determine that the ambush had been staged, the nature of the true ambush, and that Ersa was likely still alive. Upon confirming that the body found was not Ersa, Erend alerted Avad. Marad quickly deduced Dervahl's involvement, and sent an agent to Pitchcliff to search for the warlord. Knowing that sending troops to the border would provoke the Oseram, Avad sent a few Vanguardsmen with Erend and Aloy to meet with Marad's agent.
While Marad's agent was found by Dervahl's men, he was able to draw a map to Dervahl's Camp with his blood before succumbing to his wounds. Locating the body and the map, Aloy and the Vanguard made their way to the camp, fighting their way through the men guarding it to reach the captive Ersa. While the Vanguard arrived too late to save her, the captain lived long enough to warn Erend of Dervahl's plot against Meridian.
Battle for The Spire
While the Carja military was directed towards protecting Meridian, the Vanguard were placed mainly at the Spire, although a number of them were stationed at the defenses of Meridian Village. Many Vanguard fell to the onslaught of ancient machines, with only Erend being strong enough to join Aloy in her final battle with HADES.
The Vanguard serve as Sun-King Avad's personal guard, and work in tandem with the Carja military to provide security in Meridian and the village below. By serving the Carja, the Vanguard serve as more than just soldiers: they are symbols of unity between the Carja and the Oseram. With the Red Raids still fresh in the tribes' memories, Avad will generally send Vanguardsmen when the need arises for the Carja to approach other tribes, rather than risk provoking their tribal neighbors.
Given Avad's comments about Ersa, it is likely that the Captain of the Vanguard also plays the role of diplomat, helping calm the Ealdormen.
Unlike the Carja military, women are allowed in the Vanguard, although Ersa is the only woman to be seen exercising this right.
The undergarments of Vanguard armor is a white and orange smock with tan pants. The armor itself is typical of Oseram attire, comprised of leather and Oseram steel plating, prioritizing protection above agility. While they use bows, the primary weapon of a Vanguard is a staff that can function as a hammer, crowbar, or pickaxe.
- The word "vanguard" is historically used to describe the advancing component of a military formation.