J is for Jaan van de Kuypers

The following article revolves around - in my opinion - perhaps the greatest oversight contained within the pages of Marienburg: Sold Down the River. Countless times are we told about Jaan van de Kuypers, and countless times we see his treachery, cunning, conniving and underhanded ways, and yet never once do we receive so much as a description of the man who would rule the world of commerce... As such, the following is largely scraped together from various sources, and added to with my own impressions of the man.

When one speaks of the Sultan of Araby, or the Tzarina of Kislev, or the King of Bretonnia, or even Emperor Karl-Franz, one can think of but two things they all have in common - money and power. Whilst they may have plenty of the latter, the former doesn't actually belong to them. It belongs to Jaan van de Kuypers, or at least a large amount of it does.

Jaan, head of House van de Kuypers, leader of the Directorate, richest of the Ten (and indeed the world) sits in his lofty mansion in the heart of Marienburg calmly sipping tea, all day, every day, entertaining the latest vassal-come-client of the rulers of the world. He nods, sips, nods again, and then apologises to the man who himself represents thousands of swords, pikes, rifles and steam tanks that unfortunately he needs to start coughing up the money, otherwise all of that military might will be defaulted.

Because the world is in debt to Jaan van de Kuypers, and that's just the way he likes it.

Very early on in life, Jaan discovered one secret about money. That is, it doesn't actually exist. People only accept that money equals power because they let it have power. Why would a man exchange a chicken for a disk of copper? You can't eat copper. You certainly can't get another disk of copper, rub them together, and make more copper. And, left to its own devises, when called, copper will do no more than sit on a shelf staring at you blankly whilst another man runs you through with a blade so that he himself can get his hands on the copper disk.

This discovery, in another man, might lead him to forsake money, take to the mountains, and live the rest of his life in quiet poverty. In Jaan, however, it lead him to world domination. If people would kill for these disks, then he would save them the trouble and just give them away. That is, away with a promise of return some day. But he would give and give and give. He would lend a man the value of a thousand chickens when that man only had the breeding capacity for a dozen. He would lend a man money enough to pay for a million suits of armour, even though he had but a hundred Men-at-Arms.

At first, the merchants of Marienburg scoffed at Jaan's obviously foolish expenses. That is, until the debtors arrived. It was suddenly time to pay that money back, but so squandered it all was, that no one could afford the incredible fees he charged, which themselves were enforced by highly-over-paid debt collectors. His clients made ready to run for the hills until Jaan van de Kuypers said the most cunning thing ever uttered in the Old World.

"It's no matter. No matter at all. You don't have to pay back the money. You'll just owe me a favour."

Every client left smiling from ear to ear. Until the notes of favour started coming in. Ever increasing in scope, Jaan amassed such power to his name that it was easy enough to amass more wealth. And with more wealth, he had enough to lend more and more, and to bail out those who had lent money off others to pay their fees to Jaan and before anyone noticed, the Old World had a ruler...

It's such a shame that Jaan's early years were so terrible for him, however. He suffered a great tragedy in his 20th year, when his Brother, Bertold van de Kuypers brutally dismembered his father, mother and sister, leaving himself, Jaan and their grand-mother the sole survivors of the family. Naturally, Bertold was dragged away to Rijker's Isle, so rich he was that he 'escaped' execution. To this day, Jaan searches for his missing grand-mother with an eerie and hungry gleam in his eye - anxious to find the last living witness... Pardon... Family member of his alive.

Until that day, this balding, grey, over weight 57-year-old will continue to take tea in his office, smiling over at the crying face of the Tzarina's retainer as she sobbingly details how her Lady-Majesty is defaulting once again. War is so expensive, don't you know? But it's no matter.

No matter at all.