The Old Ones
Baron von Renken
Reiksfreiherr von Renken’s origins are somewhat shrouded, though it is known he originally came from a village named Renken on the outskirts of Karlstadt in Wissenland. As the third son of an unskilled thatcher, young Karl of Renken enlisted in The Imperial Legion at a young age and took part in the successful suppression of the bread riots in Wittgenstein.
He was a solid, dependable soldier though his origins and disdain for authority prevented him from ever rising about the rank of Oberst (Sergeant). The rank of sergeant did elevate him out of serfdom and thus allowed him to marry freely without the permission of his liege lord. He settled happily with a young woman named Jutta, a skilled herbalist who cared for the mules in the 11th Legion’s baggage train.
Karl of Renken’s moment of destiny arrived at the Battle of the Blackfire Pass. The Kantic slave-army of the city-state of Salt-In-Wounds was engaged in a Locust Crusade , a holy war that swept across the continents in search of massive quantities of living sacrifices to be fed to the great chained up Tarrasque to ensure another few decades of slumber.
Tens of thousands died in the battle, yet the tide was turning in the Empire’s favor. The priests had already begun branding heretic prisoners and singing holy chants of victory when the overzealous Emperor himself charged forward into the fray. He was unhorsed by a flight of stones from the 5th Meridian’s Balaeric slingers. His bodyguards were deeply engaged in battle and could not find him in the crushing melee. It was at this moment that Karl of Renken stepped into history. Though badly wounded himself he leapt upon his panicking commander’s horse and rushed to his Emperor. It is said he cleaved his way through a dozen Norska mercenaries with his own greatsword on the way in and rode out on a captured Kantic destrier, with the Emperor himself hanging from the saddle.
The Elevation of a Baron
The geography of battle shifted, and Karl of Renken was cut off from the the main body of troops, though his unit still maintained a connection to the supply train. It was there that he brought the Emperor to his wife and begged her to do everything in her power to cure him. Indeed his wife had healing abilities far beyond that of a normal herbalist, but these skills were learned in the deep forests and swampy glades of her home, from heretical women of the woods. The Emperor’s body is to be only cured by Holy Vornish priests, yet his life was saved by a common woods witch. Believing himself to be dying, the Emperor raised Karl and his wife to the rank of Baron before losing consciousness.
When the battle was over and the priests entered the tent they were horrified to see that their Emperor was cured by magic, that of a chaotic wild sort. Yet they could not defy their Emperor himself, for it was by his own word that Karl became Baron von Renken.
Life in the Capitol
Baron and Baroness von Renken were feasted in the capitol city of Vornheim, and given great wealth and status. Jutta’s provincial manner and known heretical magic created something of an embarrassing issue. It was not long before she drew the attention of The Inquisition. Jutta von Renken was taken away by agents of the Church to be administered the Ritual of Gentling. On occasion a noble family’s joy at a successful birth is tempered by the discovery that the child is ‘Clouded’ – touched by the magical weave and capable of untold things. Most of these children are Gentled at a young age – some of them even survive it with all their faculties intact and go on to live successful lives with nobody the wiser. Jutta von Renken did not. Her mind was not the only casualty of this process – her unborn child was lost and quietly disposed of, though it is unclear of how much of this traumatic event she even understood.
She became unable to control her own bodily functions or interact in court at all – her communication was limited to shrieks and babbling. This was a rather scandalous issue in the Imperial court, and Baron von Renken was swiftly granted the fiefdom of Whitecliff along with a sizable fortune in silver and hurriedly ushered out of the capitol.
Castle Whitecliff had lain empty for years as its previous lord had died with no issue and the title remained in a sort of ecclesiastical limbo as various factions jockeyed their rival ancient claims against each other. Fortunately the battle of Blackfire Pass managed to chop this legal Gordian knot as all three claimants to the barony were struck down in the melee. It was to this long neglected castle that Baron von Renken made his home. He was accompanied by the remainder of his Legionary century, the Blackfire Bastards, as well as his personal household.
The Baron was bitter, to say the least. He quickly came to an understanding with the Snakeport Syndicate, a group of slavers, pirates, smugglers, and on occasion legitimate traders. He allowed them their smuggling for a share of the profits, and even allowed the corrupt Imperial factor of Snakeport, Bodenschatze, to leak details of juicy shipping targets.
The Baron was an avid buyer of magical artifacts in an effort to find some possible way of curing his wife. He hired astrologers, woods witches, herbalists, barbers, apothecaries, soothsayers, and all manner of Kantic prophets and healers, but it was all to no avail. Things changed when he made contact with a fugitive member of the Least Priests,named Remembrance.
Remembrance quickly became the Baron’s confidante by demonstrating his unique abilities and giving council undiluted by the cautious orthodoxy of The Church of Vorn.
Remembrance could not work alone, and he encouraged the Baron gain a following of powerful magic-users. This was difficult work, as all magic performed outside of the bounds of the Church or the Collegium is considered heresy in the Empire. The opportunity came when the Baron learned of the coming of the great prison hulk Catamite, bearing incredibly dangerous chained heretics and mages to the island prison of Dreadhold.
Lacking naval forces himself, and being unwilling to so openly defy Imperial law, he used his connections with the Syndicate to get them to assault and capture the ship when it stopped to take on supplies.
This was a move too far for the Syndicate – though they openly flout the law and trade in magical artifacts, many of them are true Vornishmen and find the creators and practitioners of these artifacts themselves to be anathema. The Syndicate men involved in the capture of the ship were executed by the Baron’s men, and its prisoners were freed. Those who would not work with the Baron were killed on the spot.
In the ensuing months since the _Catamite__ incident the Baron and his newfound allies struck against the Church, killing or capturing its agents throughout the Barony of Whitecliff. Facing insurrection at Snakeport, the Baron has taken to extorting gold and goods from his other towns in order to hire mercenaries to achieve his own ends. He has vowed to cure his wife, whatever the cost – and failing that, do his best to bring down the Church of Vorn itself.
The Baron’s lands are isolated – hemmed in to the North, South, and East by the ocean. To the west lies The Rot. Due to the distance and political troubles at home, it is unlikely that any sizable Imperial force would make it to the Baron’s lands before he does something drastic and irreversible…..
What’s Going On?
You have learned much of the Baron’s origins and plans from Bodenschatze. You have learned even more from Locke’s outlaw gang and their interrogation of Hans. Here is some vital information, as well as some other things of interest you know to be going on.
- With Remembrance’s aid, the Baron is making contact with dark cults. He seeks new allies throughout these wild lands, and he’ll trade anything to achieve his ends.
-It is known that the Baron’s men are seeking to crush the active rebellion flaring up in the forests near Turten’s Cot.
Update: You met with Locke, the leader of the rebellion, as well as Hauptmann Errol, the captain of the Baron’s forces in the area. You managed to treat with both groups. Ultimately you found the wizard Felix Longworm and retrieved the Feathered Swine cysts from the cavern. Felix made it out alive, though without his left arm and spellbook.
-No one has seen Remembrance in public in the last few weeks.
Update: Through the tortured confession of Unteroffizier Hans, of the Blackfire Bastards, you have learned that the Baron has made some sort of death-pact with Remembrance. As long as the priest lives, the Baron cannot die.
-One of the Catamite prisoners, Zaetus, has grown quite powerful and stands as the Baron’s right hand. He reportedly passed through Yellen Hole with many children in tow.
Update: The madman Velkis the Vile spoke of Zaetus in the expanding pit of what was once Yeglen Hole. What exactly is Zaetus up to? Velkis believes it has something to do with The Lay of the Gestatae .
- The bulk of the Baron’s forces are besieging the dwarves at Thalrock Mesa, for reasons unknown.
Update: Through interrogation it is known that the attackers are awaiting the arrival of a group of mercenary siege engineers from the East, known as Ba’halud’s Breachers.
- The Baron himself is known to be searching for ancient Dambuilder ruins, and hoping to plunder the secrets of a prehistoric past.
- Grimhilt’s benefactors have insisted she assassinate the mercenary known as Father Drum.
Update: DEAD! Ashley’s benefactors insist that they will contact her again…
- You learned that certain factions in Snakeport were secretly trading with beings known as the Olm, unknowable creatures from deep within the Veins of the Underdark.
Update: Canyon Runner, of the Men Behind the Sun, was sent down to the caverns under false information to investigate these beings. The only other survivor of the group, Bellali Spillios, escaped with the gemstone looted from the Tower of the Stargazer.
- From the Olm you received a journal that appears to be over a thousand years old, describing an expedition to an island of the southern archipelago.
- In the wreck of the Profundis you found a singed treasure map, leading to a place known as Blowhole Grotto.