U is for Urdithriel Imraholen

As Marienburg is an entirely sea-locked city, it is no surprise that ships of all shapes and sizes make up the mastscape of the city. On any given day, citizens of Marienburg can see three-to-four masted Carracks, smaller yet faster two-masted Caravels, massive multi-decked four-masted Galleons, tiny single-masted Sloops, and agile three-to-four masted Schooners. This is not to mention the thousands of little rowing boats, and river-going Barges and Cogs which frequent the Reik either.

However, when discussing sea-vessels in Marienburg, once must first ask the question "Human-made or Elf-made?", because it does make a difference. The finest Human-built ships are little more than floating washtubs in comparison to the lowliest Elf-made marvels - that is at least the opinion of Urdithriel Imraholen. Urdithriel of Clan Lianllach, who has styled himself as the finest shipwright in all the Old World, and indeed the Known World, is incredibly skilled at his craft, and can command prices of 1,000 Guilders for the smallest jobs done (a sum that would cripple even the wealthiest of the Middle Classes).

But the price is the last barrier one must face to have the master of Race the Winds boatyard to take you on as a client. If you're not a resident of Sith Rionnasc (so, if you're not an Elf), you need to apply to Imraholen with a sufficiently flattering letter (hopefully accompanied by another letter from an existing customer) and hope for the best. If the Master Shipwright reads your letter and finds it flattering, yet not pandering, he will have one of his clerks reply stating a time and date for your appointment (which could be from a week to three months away).

Once you turn up to this appointment, Imraholen will take you for a tour of his shipyard. If you do not oo-and-ah at the right moments, and do not show the appropriate amount of respect and knowledge about fine water-craft, he will have a page politely show you to the door. If you argue, he will have his Ogre Watchman, Mordagg less-politely show you the door. However, should you show the kind of appreciative eye he is looking for, Urdithriel will deign to listen to your request.

The Shipwright will ponder your ideas for an indeterminate amount of time, and either send you a letter with his acceptance and a quote, or you will never hear from him again. Then, once paid in full up front, he will make changes to the design and essentially do whatever he feels is best, and will construct your ship for you.

Despite this abhorrent treatment, and the unmistakable and inexcusably chauvinistic and racist air that Urdithriel Imraholen exudes, the boats are exceptional. Nothing the world over compares to their speed, beauty and grace, and without a doubt the slowest of his Carracks would be far faster and more manoeuvrable than the fastest possible Human-build Caravel. 

Additionally, if you mention it in hushed tones, the Shipwright will be willing to add all sorts of hidden compartments and other accomplishments which would not be considered all to legal. But Imraholen isn't stupid, either, and like Lea-Jan Cobbius, he keeps records of every such addition he makes - where it is located - and how to access it. In a sense, he owns the single record of every Sea-Elf smuggling operation in the Known World.

Furthermore, just like Lea-Jan Coobius, Urdithriel has been closely watching the Elf-Human hostilities that are rising in the city, and detests the fact that the Clan Lords have yet to take any real action. As such, he has begun a small gang of vigilantes to "Solve the Human Problem". Whilst the beatings have been mistaken as common muggings so far, it is likely that soon they will escalate further, and Imraholen doesn't seem to care that this could cause a Civil War.

T is for the Ten

Often has the actions, motivations and movements of the Directorate been discussed thus far, but an explanation of what it actually is has yet to be given. I shall remedy that now... Please be advised that this is a very long article, and in fact took several days to write, which has caused it to be late. I do apologise for this. I wont be able to catch up the difference today, but perhaps later this month I will make a double post one day to fix it all up.

Marienburg's politics are handled by a council known as the Stadsraad, a bi-house parliament which meets to debate and discuss the minutiae of Wasteland affairs - from the prices on various bridge taxes, to the exact nature of minor and ancient laws.

The Stadsraad is made up of two houses, as mentioned, with the upper house (the Rijkskamer) being comprised of the priests of all the recognised cults, the deans of the various university schools, and a few remaining nobility who held on to power by selling out their fellows. It meets very rarely, and when it does, it is presided over by the Staadtholder - the elected president of the Stadsraad.

The lower house - the Burgerhof - is a rowdy collection of the heads of each Guild, and the aldermen elected by the householders of each Ward and prominent Wasteland town. It officially meets weekly (with minor matters being presented daily) in loud debates and often fist-fights. It is overseen by Speaker Nieut Gyngrijk, a defacto Judge/Peacekeeper, who is a favourite with the working class, and is very slow to break up fights when they serve his purpose.

Above the Stadsraad is the Directorate proper - the executive council. Any laws or decisions passed by the Stadsraad then pass through the Directorate, and vice versa (though there has never been a recorded 'Nay' vote from a decree passing through from the Directorate). The Directorate itself meets weekly in the New Palace, and its members are made up of the High Priests of Manaan, Verena, Shallya and Haendryk, as well as the Rector of Baron Henryk's College, and the indomitable Ten. Whilst the Directorates sessions are technically open to the public, they are somewhat of a farce, with the real debating and politicking happening behind closed doors, and the decisions just being presented at the meetings.

Whilst the priests and Rector hold a seat, each one is actually allied to one of the Ten, and it truth, it is they who hold all the power in Marienburg. Who are the Ten, then? Well, they are the heads of each of the ten richest families in the city. Whilst it is possible for these positions to change, they haven't done so for the past 17 years.

The Ten, as they currently stand, are listed below in no particular order:

House van de Kuypers, lead by Jaan van de Kuypers sits as the richest House in the Ten, and is the real power broker of the city, with all acts either being presented by them for their interests, or against them by the other Houses to attempt to topple their monopoly. Collectively, through his agents and allies, he commands a block of 8 votes - which is exactly enough to break any ties. Among his allies are House van Raemerswijk, van Scheldt, den Euwe and Rothemuur. He also commands the admiration from the High Priests of Haendryk and Verena, and the suppose of the Rector of Baron Henryk's as the man is his cousin. They have the widest trade interests, stretching from Averland corn futures, to medicines from Cathay, and all the way to the Lustrian trade.

House van Onderzoeker, lead by Thijs "the Lesser", is currently in a state of decline, as the recently deceased Rembrand van Onderzoeker (father of Thijs) placed the house heavily in debt due to mostly losing court cases. Rembrand attempted to aggressively cut out the middleman with the continental trade routes with the Empire and the Dwarves further inland. As such, the house has lost its allies in House Fooger, and can only call House van den Nijmenk their friends. Due to this decline, they may find themselves ousted from a position on the Directorate. But, even if they fall, Thijs is determined to take House van Haagen with him, as he is certain that they in fact murdered his father.

House de Roelef, lead by Clotilde de Roelef, which is actually the only remaining noble family to have succeeded in business and who won their security after the fall of the Baron. They won their seat again on the Directorate with the fall of House Akkerman, when they were revealed to be Slaaneshi cultists. Clotilde is still unmarried at 47, and spurns all suitors, including Jaan van de Kuypers. They trade mostly in luxury imports from Araby, Tilea and Estalia, and export Imperial cloth, liquors, and Wasteland lace. She counts among her friends several Arabyan, Tilean and Estalian rulers, as well as most of the other Directorate members (excluding Jaan, who she holds nothing but disgust for). She is particularly close with Arkat Fooger.

House van Haagen, lead by Leo van Haagen, is the second wealthiest of the Ten. They trade extensively in continental affairs, which causes nothing but hot blood between them and House van Onderzoeker. However, their wealth far outweighs their products' value, which has caused some to speculate that they are more heavily involved with smuggling than first expected. They have even been known to call for bans on products, only to secretly be smuggling them in for a higher price. Further rumours claim that they might even be involved in the illegal body-trade of slavery! Stranger still, they have no standing friendships on the Directorate - with almost every house openly despising them. Yet, somehow, every time they call for a vote they just narrowly win...

House van Scheldt, lead by Wessel van Scheldt, is concerned chiefly with fishing and fish-packing. They have managed to set every fisherman in the city either in debt or indentured to them through rather nasty tactics. As such, the vast majority of fishermen have to sell their catch to them at a reduced price to await salting and packing. These fish are then exported to Kislev, or the Empire. A recent attempt on Wessel's life has lead him to become a shut-in - only leaving his manse for Directorate meetings. As such, his influence is dwindling, and the lack of an heir is even more concerning. Whilst he still holds the alliance with van de Kuypers, Raemerswijk, den Euwe and Rothemuur, his paranoia and grim prospects have meant that few even on the council listen to him any more.

House van Raemerswijk, lead by Luitpold van Raemerswijk (the current Staadtholder), is a puppet house. Luitpold, known as the "old bull seal" for his girth and great moustache, was chosen for the role precisely because he wanted it, and because everyone knew that he wouldn't know what to do with it. He is happy to sit and preside over things whilst not actually taking an active or aggressive interest in them himself. the house doesn't actually trade in anything itself, but is the junior partner in several ventures in the city and Old World at large, where their sponsorship gains them profits. Their ties to House van de Kuypers are so close that some have renamed the house van Raemerkuypers. Luitpold has never failed to cast his tie breaking vote with his allies.

House Fooger, lead by Arkat Fooger, holds all ties to the Dwarven trade routes deeper into the Old World and beyond (a fact which has caused conflict with van Onderzoeker). They also control the letting of public works contracts, which has made them a favourite with Lea-Jan Cobbius and his guild. The house holds close ties with no particular other house, as they are traditionally close to their chest in the Dwarven fashion, but Arkat has been courting an alliance with House de Roelef.

House van den Nijmenk, lead by Sasha van den Nijmenk, whose line is a mix from Kislev and Norsca. Sasha was forced to take over the family interests and abandon his sea-faring ways when the rest of his line met unfortunate ends during the previous decade of war and strife. Now, he is resigned to picking up the pieces and staying in Marienburg to oversee them. The house has great contacts up and down the River Lynsk, and Sasha calls King Naranbaatar I ni Praag his close and personal friend. They mainly trade in rich amber, furs, gems, and other products unique to Kislev and Norsca. The house is particularly famous for the wondrous unique goods it brings back from its many expeditions into the two snow-bound countries.

House den Euwe, lead by Karl den Euwe, is the smallest of the Ten, but has made its sizeable wealth through the trade of gems, precious metals and alchemical ingredients, all of which are sourced from their extensive trade network in Cathay and Nippon. These trade networks have given the house much prestige in the Empire, as many nobles will only purchase their diamonds and other rarities from the house. Furthermore, the White, Gold and Blue colleges purchase all their alchemical ingredients and magical accoutrements from the house, and eagerly await the trade in magical grimoires that has been promised from the East. This patronage has made the house strong, and made Karl bold. Karl, despite being an ally of Jaan van de Kuypers, fears the man's reach, and has begun amassing a secret counter-balance alliance of the Foogers, van den Nijmenks, de Roelefs, van Onderzoekers, and the Cult of Shallya.

House Rothemuur, lead by Maximilian Rothemuur, concentrates its trade on Araby and the New World markets. The former has placed them in contention with the de Roelefs, whilst the latter is done with support of the van de Kuypers. The house also holds significant ties to the Sea Elves, which aids their Lustrian trade. Maximilian was recently and horribly embarrassed when he proposed marriage to Clotilde de Roelef and she laughed in his face until tears rolled down her cheeks.

There stand the Ten most influential people in Marienburg - even if not all of them grasp at their power. The movements of one can effect the others, and what may be decided on a whim for them could spell doom or elation for hundreds of thousands of Old Worlders...

S is for Suiddock

For the past 18 posts of the A-to-Z challenge I've variously mentioned the great Ward of Suiddock. Well, it is finally time to explain that reference.

Whilst the first thing anyone sees when entering Marienburg by boat is, undoubtedly Rijker's Isle, the first place any visitor, coming by boat or carriage, is Suiddock. Sitting in the dead centre of the city, and run through by the Bruynwater Canal, the largest and deepest canal which allows even sea-going ships, Suiddock is often considered the true heart of Marienburg.

Normally I don't add pictures to my A-to-Z posts.
But I freakin' love maps.
Due to the accessibility of the Bruynwater, and the central nature of the three islands (from west to east; Riddra, Stoessel and Luydenhoek), Suiddock enjoys the attentions of every level of Marienburg's citizenry. It boasts the patronage of the upper class merchants come to the Wasteland Import-Export Exchange, the middle class working for institutions such as the Pilots' and Seamen's Guild, the lower class who make up the ranks of the Stevedores & Teamster's Guild, and even clergy come to pay their respects at the Church of St. Olovold and the Orphanage of St. Rutha. Truly, Suiddock is Marienburg.

It's not just the three islands, though - the Ward also encompasses Hightower Isle, which connects onto the richer northern parts of the city, as well as the southern bank of the Bruynwater. Each side of the canal is crammed full of wharves, shops, warehouses, whore houses, drinking holes, tanneries, workshops, tailors, brewers, butchers, and really anything that could benefit from the patronage of sailors. Here, Theophilius Graveland and the Black Caps attempt to maintain order, but really the show is run by Adalbert Henschmann.

But, whatever your vice, virtue, want or need is, Suiddock and her delightful people will be able to cater. If you want some smoking herbs from far-flung Cathay, just visit Venk Kataswaran and his Dreaming House (more on him when we get to 'V'). If you need a stiff drink, visit Ishmael Boorsevelt at the Pelican's Perch (just don't mention his wooden leg!). And if you fancy a fine night out with a bit of murder...

What's that? Oh, you haven't heard? Well - they say that at night, out of the fog, comes rowing a small little ferry which will take hapless travellers home. The man who sits at the helm is a kindly fellow, with handsome features and a nervous shyness. He's obviously harmless...whilst the light is on him. When the light lowers, the keen-eyed will notice a change just before he hacked your head from your shoulders to join his shelf. For the poor young man has no one to talk to, and sooner or later the heads stop whispering back. When that happens, it's time for a new friend.

Yes indeed - Suiddock is a fine place to find yourself. Just make sure no one else finds you there first...

Q is for Trancas Quendalmanliye

So I searched and I searched for something in Marienburg starting with the letter 'Q', and I found squat... As such, I'm going with the next best thing - a character whose last name starts with 'Q'. He's a cool character, though, so it sort of makes up for it!

The path is shrouded in fog. Before you looms a glaring, flaming spectre in the night - a shapeless mass of writhing colours. Screams, whoops, and shouts echo from its direction, and the clatter of bones sinks into your soul. A shrill squeal leaps towards you, and you're subsumed into the cacophony and light.

Are you trapped? Are you about to die? No. You're about the lose your money at the Three of a Kind Cabaret & Casino!

The famous, illustrious, and highly fashionable club is owned in joint by three partners: Fredrik "Freddie" Greendale, Morgaine Bauersdottir, and the brains of the group, Trancas Quendalmanliye. It stands as the premier entertainment for the elite and wealthy of the city, sitting in the middle of the Elfgate Bridge. Not quite Marienburg, and not quite Elftown, the club enjoys a level of freedom from taxation that is seldom found elsewhere in the city. At least, this is the lie given by the owners.

The Three of a Kind is a three-storey affair, open all night, and accommodating anyone with a full purse. The ground floor - which is actually the middle floor - is a cabaret and restaurant, where some of the finest food in the city can be eaten whilst the best dancers, magicians, comedians and musicians ply their trade on the central stage. Then, if you're looking for a bit more spice, you've two options. One can go into the warren of private back rooms for 5 Guilders for 30 minutes, or 30 Guilders for a night and explore some of the other guests. Or, if one is truly game, they can go down stairs.

At a nod from Trancas or one of his associates, you'll be admitted into the Casino proper, where every game of chance can be found - from cards to dice to fortune wheels. Usually a 20 Guilder limit sits on all bets, but this is often waived for the grander clients. But one word out of line, one dispute of Trancas's rules, and you're out on your ass.

All of this is a front, of sorts. Don't mistake it - Trancas genuinely prefers Human company, a fact that makes him the strangest Elf in Marienburg - but the lofty, gentlemanly owner of the fine establishments has other motives. Quendalmanliye is the most successful and effective information broker in the city, and will sell any information, or gather any information that you're willing to pay for. On top of this, he himself is hunting more than a few terrible sorts - namely a child-smuggling ring which has infested the Reik Valley for the past hundred or so years.

Why would a Wood Elf forsake his kin and work away his infinite years bringing justice to Human affairs? Why would he care?

It was over a hundred years ago, and fog shrouded the path in front of him. The young Trancas could hear the whoop of Orcs as they rode down the defences of his family's woodland realm. He can still hear the scream. He can still feel the life-blood course out of the Human noble who set the Orcs down upon them. He can still hear the gallows being drawn up to accept his neck, and the greedy clink of Gold Crowns as the bounty is paid.

Trancas is hunted, and he chooses to hide in plain sight.

P is for the Prince's Rest

Marienburg, like any city, is filled with watering holes and restaurants for all levels of society. And, like any city of the Old World, they have the signature best establishment - however, in Marienburg's case, they have the best the Old World has to offer this side of the Grey Mountains. The object of this praise is, of course, The Prince's Rest.

The Rest's original name has been lost to time, but took on its current one when Grand Prince Rikard of the Reikland decided, some centuries ago, that it would be his favoured spot when in town visiting the then Baron of Marienburg. At first this caused some insult towards the Baron, but after being invited personally to eat and lodge there, the Baron well understood Prince Rikard's preference. This royal patronage brought with it many boons - the signed and sealed decree that the wait-staff could wear purple, the Prince's colours, and also an incredible influx of 'fashionable' Lords and Ladies, all wishing to get closer to their aristocratic rulers.

With the rise of the Middle Class, and the breaking of the barrier between Middle and Upper, many merchants were adding their own names to the growing waiting lists, and were reserving the scant few rooms available in the opulent three-storey abode. Therefore, by the time the aristocracy was ousted from the city, the clientèle had merely shifted to "noble of purse" instead of "noble of blood". I can tell you, Rudolf Aesenberg the current owner of the club, certainly doesn't mind!

Like the cycle of the heavens, the boons and bonuses of the club seem to roll forward - the rich clientèle bring money into the coffers, and the money is spent on the finest of delicacies to treat them, which in turn brings more prestige and more custom. People are known to wait years for a single night of Master Chef August Bardolino's world famous cooking, which was good enough to land him as the personal chef of the Miraglianese royalty. Those who wait are treated to the greatest wine cellar the Old World knows - stocked full of the finest Bretonnian, Estalian and Tilean vintages (note that mention of "Imperial Wines" will result in laughter and a scolding).

If a customer is one of the lucky few to manage to squeeze in on the waiting list for the few rooms offered, they will be met with the finest Bretonnian goose-feather mattresses and pillows, Cathayan silk sheets, and Averlandian lamb's-wool blankets. Each is equipped with a personal footman who is but a bell-chime away, and under each bed is a magically scented bed-pan, paid for at ridiculous expense by the owners.

No, the prestige nor the clientèle is not what is making Rudolf Aesenberg unhappy. What is dampening his spirits is the fact that the Inn is haunted! Should ever this embarrassment be widely known, it could well spell doom for The Prince's Rest!

So, Rudolf is now searching earnestly for a cure to his problem, and all the while, the sounds of tiny feet in the night, and the unsightly and uncharacteristically swift growth of fungus continues to ruin his reputation.

O is for the Orphanage of Saint Rutha

The Old World is harsh indeed, and even in the metropolitan, and highly civilised Marienburg, many young people still lose their lives way to early. As a result the city, like all others, is teaming with orphans - ejected due to ailing or deceased parents, or because they were chosen as the strongest of the children, and the most capable of fending for themselves during hard times.

Whatever the reason, the children have few places to go. The tenants of Haendryk preach that economic success is a sign of divine favour, and poverty is the affliction given to sinners. As such, 'charity' is hardly known of within the walls. Some children then turn to street gangs, such as The Captains in Kruiersmuur. The others, who are lucky, find their way to the Orphanage of Saint Rutha.

Originally established as a Shallyan mission, the Orphanage eventually fell on rather hard times as they became unable to pay for the simplest objects or meals for the children under their care. Terrified of what to do, the priesthood turned to one of their newest members some years back - Brother Albertus Cobbius.

Albertus Cobbius, 'little' brother of Lea-Jan Cobbius, is and always was a very large and powerfully built man who grew up on the wrong side of the canal. In his early years, he took to street fighting in the local and illegal pit-fighting competitions, where he made a name for himself as one of the most terrifying men imaginable. What made him so unsettling to fight was that you could read in his eyes, every second that he was beating the life out of you, that he truly, deeply, wished that he never had to hurt another person again. Poverty forces terrible circumstances on us all.

Around about the time that Lea-Jan took control of the Stevedores & Teamsters Guild, and Albertus had some money to escape his life, the two brothers had a falling out. Albertus refused to condone the terrible things he and his brother were forced to do during their poverty to survive, and as such stripped himself of all his old ties and joined the Shallyan church as a penitent.

The Shallyans were dismayed to have a former pit-fighter, let alone a man join their ranks, and consistently attempted to pass him off to other orders - including attempting to send him to Middenheim to become an Ulrican. They tried everything, even giving him the basest jobs, such as begging. It was there that they realised his worth.

No one is quite sure what it is about Brother Albertus, but everyone agrees - you just can't say "No" to him forever. Whether it is his build, his sympathetic yet determined eyes, his knowing smile, or the guilt that he manages to fold into every phrase, but Albertus has never been turned away. He can squeeze even a spare Guilder off the tightest merchant in town!

So, when the Orphanage was failing, they sent Brother Albertus in to fix things up. Within a year, it was a booming success. The original building has since adopted the two neighbouring buildings as part of the complex (a generous show of charity from the local business owners), and the walls and roof are slowly being renovated to fix all drafts and drips. The orphans who live in the walls now number up to 30 at any one time, from the earliest ages up to 14 years old - each of them leaving with a solid apprenticeship hardly fought for by Brother Albertus and the child themselves. And every night they go to sleep with full bellies, paid for by the army of beggars that Albertus has trained.

For, Brother Albertus does indeed teach them a lot! He teaches them how to persistently ask for charity, and even how to handle themselves in a street fight (never how to hurt, but always how to disarm). He teaches them how to read and write, and on subjects he himself doesn't know, he manages to convince others to come and tutor the kids. Now, every week, more and more tutors are coming to the Orphanage - Anders Versalion, the local doktor, comes to check up on them all and teach them first aid, Haam Markvalt, a local revolutionary, teaches them oratory, public speaking, and poetry, and merchants from House Fooger have even been seen to come by and teach them proper business acumen!

Truly, the good work that Brother Albertus does now is enough to rub away the sins of his past. Let us just hope his old enemies agree, and don't come back to hurt him, now that he has something to lose...

L is for Lea-Jan Cobbius

Sorry for the lateness of this post. Nurgle's Rot has well and truly dug its Chaotic claws into me, and as such I am finding myself unable to do near anything... But, the show must go on, so I've decided to bump back this week's posts by two days, and will skip the Sunday breaks, so that I will still finish on schedule.

They say that whoever controls the flow of goods in and out of Marienburg, controls the city itself. Whilst this is certainly true, trade goods aren't worth squat if they're stuck on board a ship, or lashed into a cart. That is where the Stevedores & Teamsters Guild comes into play.

Perhaps the most powerful unified guild in Marienburg, the Guild is headed by one Lea-Jan Cobbius, a battle-axe of some sixty years who has held the position for the last thirty. Today, he controls all the unskilled labour of Suiddock - which accounts for nearly 90% of the population of the Ward. He maintains control over this throng with a strong but nurturing hand.

The Stevedores & Teamsters Guild boasts perhaps the greatest perks of any organisation in the Old World: the payment of medical bills, widows' and orphans' pensions, and even short-term unemployment benefits for those labourers unable to work. Furthermore, the guild house - outwardly an unimpressive building - is stocked full of creature comforts. One can always find at least twenty guild members within its walls gambling, drinking, and lounging about between shifts.

How did Lea-Jan manage to create a guild of this quality, you ask? He was fortunate in two ways - the first is the declaration of 2482, which decreed that only guilds officially recognised by the Stadsraad would be given dues, and the Guild was the only one of its category. The second, is that Cobbius cunningly holds onto records of everything he and his men load and unload. Now, as with all organisations in Marienburg, the Guild is involved in a measure of crime (even Adalbert Henschmann is forced to use official stevedores and teamsters when unloading illicit goods) but due to their charter they are technically blameless in this trafficking. All it would take is one word from Cobbius, and the Excise would be bearing down on the offenders.

Despite this constant state of threat, Cobbius has nurtured close relations to many figures throughout Marienburg, including the aforementioned "Casanova", agents of the Black Caps, and several others besides. All who meet the man know him to be a harsh and uncompromising man who is deeply in love with Suiddock, and would do anything in his power to protect it.

And it would seem his protection is becoming more and more necessary. Recent escalations between the Stevedores & Teamsters Guild and the labourers of Elftown (which is the one Ward where others are legally allowed to perform docker duties) have resulted in beatings and arson on both sides of the canal. Lea-Jan urges his followers to peace, and has declared that he is personally looking into a solution to this problem. What this solution is, is unknown, however many believe it will involve unknown agents, cold steel, black clothes and a great deal of fire.

K is for Koos, the Mutant King

Marienburg is an island, at the mouth of the River Reik in more ways than mere geography. It is an island of civilisation among the endless, stinking, foetid, disease-ridden, monster-infested Grootscher Marsh which makes up the vast majority of the land mass of the Wasteland. Whilst the city is itself fed humans via the two raised causeways to Middenheim and Gisoreux respectively, the Marsh has a tendency for swallowing whole hapless travellers foolish enough to stumble from the road.

What in the swamp devours them, you ask? Mainly sucking bogs and giant leeches; perhaps even the occasional beaked, Cyclopean monster, if you believe such rumours. But otherwise it is the Fen Loonies, a band of madmen, outcasts, vagabonds and mutants deemed too far gone for even the cesspool of Doodkanal. Here, in the centre of the Cursed Marsh sits Koos Jaapszoon, the Mutant King.

Koos, like many of the Loonies, started out life as a lowly Marienburger - making his way thanks to his greater size and stubbornness; threatening, beating and stabbing his way to food and shelter each evening. He ran at the centre of a small group of cronies - already a King of sorts.

It was one such evening, some thirty-odd years ago, that Koos attempted to knife his way to a hot meal. He approached his mark in the middle of the night - a hunched, weak-looking man all covered in rags. He punched the knife forward, low on the back right where the kidneys should be for a quick and silent death. When the knife connected, however, he felt the blade turn, and heard the soft tearing of scales breaking free under the onslaught.

The Mutant spun and seized Koos round the throat, raking its black, weeping claws along his face as it did so. Koos was no stranger to brawls (especially not those involving knives), and centred a few upward stabs under the man's rib cage. The Mutant died with a soft lizard tick in his throat.

Koos carried on - bought himself a bagel and some bratwurst, and a pint or two to settle the throbbing in his head. He awoke with one hell of a hang-over, and three lines of scales down his cheek where the scars were forming.

It wasn't long before Koos found himself in the Marsh - a common enough place to flee when the heat gets up for smugglers and the less savoury. He strolled through the endless cat tails and reeds until he was fallen upon by a band of ne'er-do-wells not unlike himself. Now, this isn't to say that all Mutants are evil beings - not by a long shot. What is being said is that the Fen Loonies are evil.

Cannibals (though they don't consider Humans to be their kin anymore), cut throats, raving lunatics and failed daemonologists - the band didn't take long to elect Koos as their leader (that is, Koos killed the previous leader and wore his testicles as a neck-tie). Now, he manages them - telling them when they can and cannot raid the causeways, or venture into the city they all hate and bring back a Black Cap's head as sport. He's horrid but he is also wise.

To add to his increasing list of mutations (which thus far includes a generous covering of scales, an orange crest upon his crown, and unnaturally corded muscles along his upper arms) is a new phenomenon - he hasn't seemed to age in the thirty years since he fled the city. Apparently immortal and now worshipped as a God by his followers, Koos has all the time in the world to plan his revenge upon the city that spat him out.

(I would just like to say 'Thank you!' to Sean O'Connell for editing this post for me after I had already published it - apparently writing whilst inflicted with Nurgle's Rot isn't exactly the best idea in the Old World.)

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.

F is for Fidelius Cloverhill

There is a story floating around the Old World of a country man come to Marienburg to see the sights. It tells of this poor country bumpkin's trip through the city, being raised to the level of kings one day, and to the lowest wretch the next. Each telling embellishes details, and no one can truly say for certain which parts are true. Except one. There is a section of the tale in which the man is convinced by a wily Halfling brush-salesman to purchase his own shoes off the Halfling. When the man walks away, he has a smile on his face.

No one knows who the man was - no one really cares. But the Halfling? Why, he was none other than Fidelius Cloverhill. Considered, by far, the best salesman in Marienburg to date, Fidelius runs the Hall of Trade in Elftown as its manager and chief auctioneer. He came to the attention of Clan Aisellion of the Elves when he managed to convince them to purchase nearly three dozen useless brushes, including a full seven to the clan lord himself. Rather than stitch him up for the con, they put him to work.

People come from far and wide every morning to trade in the Hall of Trade, but more still come just to watch "Fat" Fidelius wave around his baton and sandwich, calling out clearly each bid, and return-insults to his hecklers despite his sandwich stuffed mouth. No one leaves an auction unscathed, and everyone leaves with a smile on their faces (even those who have been conned).

In a very real sense, Cloverhill represents the heart and soul of Marienburg - very Low born, foreign, and non-Human, he has managed to rise to one of the most respectable positions based on his quick wit, tongue and eye. Needless to say, getting on his good side will reap bountiful rewards (though it could cost you a full seven course meal at some of the finer establishments in the Halfling Quarter).

D is for Dimitri Hrodovsky

When city life is getting you down, or a stinging cough is rattling in your chest, there are plenty of quacks around Marienburg to cure what ails ye'. However, anyone who knows anything about Marienburg would point you first and foremost to Dimitri Hrodovsky, Apothecary, Herbalist, Chemist and Charlatan. That last one he doesn't advertise.

But it's true. Rest assured, the drugs he sells will work - usually far better than any other tinctures, concoctions, and potions that anyone else will sell - but there is always one lurking (one in five, to be precise) which is a little bit more. No one knows it (that is, no one above the Underworld of Marienburg), but Hrodovsky laces many of his medicines with addictive narcotics.

Just enough, that is, to cause an addiction.

For you see, the doddering old nanny brings back her satchel of medicines to the coughing child, and within a day he springs back from the brink, cured to perfection. Then, as the days slide on, he ails again - shaking, coughing and scratching at his skin. The nanny thinks he is falling ill again, so goes to a closer, cheaper drug store to buy more medicine. This, however, doesn't do the trick - the boy isn't sick, you see, but addicted. So she eventually buckles and tries the only medicine that seems to work; Dimitri Hrodovsky's tonics.

No one is any wiser, and no one much cares - most of the local Black Caps are regulars anyway, and he only drugs a percentage, so there is more than enough customers who give glowing testimonials in his defence.

And if anyone who knows him for what he is attempt to speak the truth, well, "Casanova" will come calling.

So he goes on, day in and day out, this heavy-set Kislevite in his late fifties, with a salt and pepper beard and almost-kind eyes. Sure, the drugs may be free the first time, because little Timmy really needs his medicine and you can't pay, but before you know it "The market will change" and the price will go up.

The price always goes up, and woe always befalls those with a little star marked next to their names in Dimitri's ledger.

A is for Adalbert "Casanova" Henschmann

If there is one guild that everyone living in or visiting Marienburg has certainly heard of, it's the Guild We've Never Heard Of. Contradictions aside, the Guild, headed by the organisation known as the League of Gentlemen Entrepreneurs, is the most established and far flung criminal organisation this side of Tilea.

Reigning over it all - less like a King and more like a greasy, heavy-handed mediator - is Adalbert Henschmann, or "Casanova" to the ladies. Or so he believes.

Henschmann is a heavy-set fifty-year-old standing at average height. He wears clothes of fine quality, but somehow manages to show a complete lack of taste in everything he wears, says and does. Despite his slicked-back hair (too much Bretonnian mousse, I'm afraid), and his phlegmy voice, he seems to exude an aura of menace and power far beyond his actual reach (which is, ironically, the cause of the length of his already incredible reach). It is one of the single most foolish things to do in Marienburg: getting on Henschmann's bad side. (Though, finding his good side is said to be the single most difficult thing, that is, after getting a free penny off a Wastelander).

When once asked what he wanted from life, "Casanova" replied simply and honestly; "I want more". As his only motivations are money, power and sex, and he is easily the second most powerful man in the city, this life aspiration isn't to difficult to achieve - some would say he had already achieved it. But not Henschmann. There is always more.

Despite being a cruel, slimy, despicable man, he is incredibly intelligent, and he knows the true source of power - mutually agreeable terms. He spends all his free time (that is, time not spent whoring, gambling, drinking, and being an all-round sleaze) settling disputes between the various crime lords that make up the League of Gentlemen Entrepreneurs in the hopes of avoiding a similar gang war to the one in which he stole power. But when someone crosses him, you can be sure they'll be hurt bad, and in spectacular fashion.

Character Profiles - Jorn Hussen

Greetings all!

My apologies for my lack of posts recently. Between looking for work, and Impossible Worlds, I've found far less time than I would like to devote to writing for versamus. However, I have managed to whip something together for you all, in the vein of the old Altdorfer character cards.

I present to you Jorn Hussen, first of my Character Profiles series - a stream of NPCs that I will be creating using the Expanded Character Module produced by the fan-community for WFRP2e.

Feel free to download a copy, tear him apart, feature him as is, or whatever you please.