OOC note - This is an NPC who may or may not be upgraded to PC status. Depends how much he gets played.
“My two basic responsibilities will always be foremost in my mind; the accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers.”
Name: Balthazar (doesn't use the family name so it is not associated with his misdeeds).
Nicknames/Titles: Captain Balthazar of the Steel Company.
Steel Captain Balthazar (Stahl Hauptmann Balthazar).
Race: Human, Teutaic Uradel.
Occupation: Landsknecht Mercenary Captain.
Height: 6' 0”
Weight: 195 lbs.
Physical Description: Cropped hair, a long square-cut beard and a trimmed moustache waxed into points at the ends. A single scar creases one cheek, making his face look older from that side. Otherwise his cheekbones are prominent but smooth, highlighting pale blue eyes that seem 'well-framed' as if the muscles around them have been developed by repeated harsh narrowing.
Leanly built, being tall enough to be considered lanky and wiry, with a particularly narrow waist and a wide-legged stance that generally keep his feet shoulder-width apart without having his legs at an unusual angle. On areas where his muscle can be seen he is visibly well-toned and athletic.
Personality: Spares little time for flowery formality, friendly jokes, or elegant put-downs. Instead he just wants to see things sorted out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Simple statements of fact are his favourite mannerisms, as are clear outlines of plans. Keeps his words to the point, concise, and relevant to the subject at hand. Criticisms are fairly welcome if done in a similar manner.
Has little time for principles either, other than the welfare of his men. Sees a good cause as one that pays well and with as little risk to his soldiers as possible, whether the job is systematically exterminating the children of a village or defending a temple that cares for the sick.
Although the welfare of his men is important to him. Does not set his own men up to fail, does not take careless risks with their lives, and feels an honest desire when on campaign to bring as many of his troops back safely as possible even if they are planning to retire. The prime motive for his ruthlessness is making sure his men are well-provided for, and he sees most principles as getting in the way of that.
The key to Balthazar's success is ruthless pragmatism. Is fully willing and able to use brutal torture, mutilation or the murder of innocents to get what he wants, such as ransacking and plundering an undefended village without regard for the suffering of its inhabitants. At the same time, is fully capable of kindness to someone in a difficult situation. May choose between cruelty and compassion as serves his purposes.
Commanding an independent mercenary company demands a variety of logistical skills. Most importantly being able to organise food and pay, division of loot, manage a command structure and persuade a group of men to follow him into battle. Knows and can direct battle tactics, an encampment set up, or training and drilling the men for formation and daily military life.
Achieving this rank demands a certain combat ability. Is a highly-experienced mercenary who had undergone training for knighthood. Able to fight on horseback or on foot, with pike or sword or firearms or his fists all effectively enough to earn the respect of his soldiers, meaning he is likely to defeat most men he faces on the field.
It goes without saying he is stronger than average, fast, and tough enough to take a wound and keep fighting.
Additionally is level-headed. Can think clearly when surrounded by the chaos and confusion of battle, noticing details and acting on them appropriately. This extends to when tired or stressed.
Fundamentally Balthazar is an amoral mercenary, who dislikes moral principles in general. Pretending to be motivated by anything other than profit for him and his troops is very difficult for him, and such a pretence would slip very quickly. Most idealistic characters distrust him accordingly.
Willing to do a great deal for money... particularly for a great deal of money. Feels that money and power are a means to all aims and so will pursue them even when he has no pressing need for them at the time. The prospect of immediate personal reward can cloud his judgement, waving profit under his nose can get him to a lot of risky things that he would not otherwise consider.
A consequence of his work has caused him one physical difficulty; loud bangs from massed firearms have desensitised Balthazar's hearing. While he can still hear normal voices well enough, soft sounds or subtleties will go unnoticed, including the footsteps of a potential enemy sneaking up on him.
Although Balthazar values his military rank far above his status as a nobleman, he does limit himself according to his perceived station. Part of this is he will only bring his 2 bodyguards and a single servant on personal errands even when he has easy access to far more. This means he is far easier to catch relatively unguarded than a mercenary captain should be.
Balthazar was a second son, and for Uradel the rule was that the first son was the heir, the second would join the military, and the third would join the church. So Balthazar's future was decided for him from the moment of his birth.
It started off well. He remembered having a rough but caring father, who was proud of any combative instincts his son showed, but also of any signs of good judgement and thought. And his mother was both proud and extremely supportive of her children. They were a rich family, landowners in control of a small village, so Balthazar's first years were a comfortable lifestyle and a patient education.
From around age 8, Balthazar became page to a duke, although was fortunate enough to start as one of the senior pages by virtue of his family's favour. This gave him some of the easier tasks when he was not being educated in the ways of battle, such as dressing the duke and lady or accompanying them to fetch items or carry wine or whatever they would require around the household. It was fairly dull, but got the boy involved in hunting and hawking and other 'noble' activities.
Around the age of 14 Balthazar was kept on as a squire, still serving the duke. Less adventurous than travelling with a knight, but as a squire Balthazar was more free to mingle at court, particularly with young noblewomen. The duties he had gave him something to talk about, as he trained and practised with the duke's men-at-arms in earnest. In particular, he joined in drills with state troops, and took a special interest in learning the handguns and black powder weapons.
A few years later his brother joined the same duke as a page, and Balthazar used the opportunity to help guide and mentor his younger brother, giving the lessons he received so that the younger brother could excel above the rest.
Unfortunately, serving the duke gave little involvement in war, and at the age of 20 Balthazar joined a landsknecht muster. Most of the mustered recruits were commoners or middle-class men with little training or equipment, possibly some mandatory training as part of the city levy laws, but nothing beginning to approach the armour and skill of even a desk-squire. This was able to earn him standing as a doppelsoldner and a gemeinwebel, a spokesperson for the troops, although the higher officers were made up of the personal staff and aides of the obrist (colonel) raising the unit to begin with.
An oath-taking ceremony was done to cause, kaiser and comrades, which Balthazar found uncomfortable. He had joined for personal gain, but still took oath-swearing seriously.
The muster was to support a league of dukes in the lands of the west beyond the empire seeking to establish their own domain independent from their king (who was engaged in a dynastic struggle that had broken out into war). To do this they needed to secure military control of their lands that would otherwise remain loyal to the king, and hired mercenaries to help fight loyalist resistance within the cities.
The kaiser did not interfere with the raising of landsknechts for this campaign due to turbulent relations with the neighbouring king. This would weaken a formerly threatening neighbour without involving his own realm in the conflict, as the Gothic mercenaries' oaths to the kaiser only extended to not taking up their arms against him, and did not make them Imperial troops unless employed by the crown. It was the actions of independent mercenaries, and frankly forcibly disbanding them might lead to a battle with those who did not take their oaths seriously, and the kaiser was not about to risk fighting his own people for the sake of a foreign monarch who was expected to one day invade his realm.
During the Free Lord Campaign, Balthazar fought mostly against town militia. As hard as the loyalists tried to exist, most of them were simply not armed or trained to his standard. The loyalist primary weapons were glaives and crossbows, but lacked the landsknecht weapons of pike phalanxes and gunpowder. When his formation engaged the enemy very few of them could get past the reach of the pikes, and Balthazar's role was to cut down those few that got close.
When besieging the cities things became more difficult. Scaling ladders or towers did not allow for the full use of pike formations, and the breaches caused by cannons or rams were unreliable. Also, rams could not be brought to enemy walls by men bearing pikes, meaning the defenders would send out parties sallying from the walls to attack the men at the ram. This was more of a test of Balthazar's ability, since often he would be among the men under portable shelters against enemy arrows, accompanying the ram-bearers to protect them from sorties by the defenders.
There were losses and casualties, but overall he did generally well. He survived, and he fought off most of these attacks.
Eventually, the mercenaries succeeded in conquering the few cities within the lord's domain. It took months, but with their employers having most of the military forces in the region and some supporters within the cities, the loyalists did not hold out too long. Problems came when the city fell and the looting began, as it unnecessarily damaged the city their employers wanted intact and it was costly for some of their employer's supporters.
The free lords chose to start holding back pay in retaliation for their losses. They were able to string the landsknecht along for a little while, but partway through the campaign, after taking another city, the mercenaries turned more or less to mutiny. After sacking and occupying the city they found themselves troubled when supplies were no longer coming in, so Balthazar organised raiding parties from among the mercenaries to sack nearby farms and villages for supplies.
Which is how he became a Schwarz Reiter. Among his loot was a new warhorse, who he was able to adopt with some work, and he persuaded an armourer to make a set of horse armour.
Eventually the disruption to not only the city but the surrounding territory forced the former employers to the negotiating table. The obrist and his officers still wanted to salvage the situation, but the regiment had broken down, individual companies were divided, and a life of looting seemed so appealing while resuming their contract where pay would be delayed seemed so dull.
Balthazar became the ringleader of a group, and managed to convince enough of them of the city's dwindling resources, but also of another contract to make them richer men than before where gold was common and warriors were needed. He was able to arrange a private deal with messengers from the league of dukes. They could get him and his men out of the area. All they had to do was pay travel expenses.
To Verre Zon.
Ships, supplies, crew. The works. A fleet brought Balthazar and his followers across the ocean, even small artillery on the galleons. It was tiresome going, but they arrived at the city with plenty of loot to sell, they were moderately rich men, and they were professional soldiers highly in demand.
Balthazar more than most. The commander of a large force of soldiers was able to get some funding from the Conclave, enough to support his entire company comfortably, and even for his men to upgrade his equipment. His company started to grow.
In the five years he has spent in Verre Zon he has fought in a few Flower Wars, although most of the time the Ameyatl attacks had not been where he was posted. He researched his foes, and when he first fought against them he was prepared.
This was his first time leading his company into battle, and since he was aware of his inexperience he took a defensive position, relying on his cannon and crossbows to wear the enemy down while protected by his pikemen. It worked in that it thinned enemy ranks, allowing his pikemen and doppelsoldners to fend off the enemy that reached them. But his was not the only company fighting in that battle, other captains who used more aggressive tactics that day reported back accusing Balthazar of cowardice.
Balthazar had to answer for these reports before the Conclave. He discussed his tactics frankly, pointed out his contributions to the battle, and then accused his detractors of giving misleading reports for political gain. His own men began a smear campaign designed to discredit his opponents, unearthing their own affiliations to imply that they were attempting to bring him down to weaken competition outside of the faction they supported.
Eventually Balthazar succeeded in playing factions against each other for the charges to be dropped. At the cost of calling the reputations of several other captains into question, and earning a few lasting grudges.
But his own position was left in question, and Balthazar needed to accomplish something that would prove the worth of his company to the Conclave and make them respected among the other mercenaries. The less regard a company was held in, the more expendable it would be, and the less choice they would have in contracts. In an effort to preserve the future of his company, he arranged contracts with certain members of the Conclave who favoured a more aggressive policy towards the Ameyatl, offering to launch attacks on Ameyatl territory, as a means to disprove the rumours of cowardice.
The method he chose was a form of scorched earth, ravaging rural communities in Ameyatl lands. This was along the routes used in Flower Wars, the destruction reducing the use of those areas for Ameyatl armies to resupply on their way towards territory held by Verre Zon.
From the communities themselves he faced only moderate resistance, facing only the locally raised defenders, nobles and their men. Plunder gained was in some gold and precious stones, but mostly cloth, animal skins, and stolen household goods as well as prisoners to be kept as either slaves or ransom. However, his pillaging did not go unanswered by the Ameyatl.
An army was sent out to put a stop to his company and their attacks. In a manner of speaking they succeeded, as Balthazar was retreating rather than risking a confrontation with their army. Seeing as the prisoners were slowing him down, he slaughtered most of them, kept some as hostages and released others to ensure the army pursuing him knew he had hostages and was willing to butcher them if needed.
It did not work. The Ameyatl army continued their pursuit, and Balthazar refrained from slaughtering the rest of the prisoners (or at least those who cooperated) because he was reluctant to lose all his hostages with an enemy army on his tail. The enemy held back their attack to begin with, because only the vanguard of their army was close enough to attack, their goal was to force him to take a defensive position until they could gather their numbers before attacking. Balthazar used his wagon-mounted cannon to keep the enemy vanguard out of range where possible, buying himself time.
He fled to a village outside Ameyatl territory, warning the locals of an Ameyatl army heading their way as part of a Flower War. The prisoners he claimed were scouts he had captured from the enemy army. The targets of the Flower War was the local villages (including this one). His deception successfully convinced the villagers to join forces with him.
Balthazar ordered a wagenburg (wagon-fort) formed at one of the entrances to the village, presenting a stronger front since the village defences covered his rear and flanks. Then he marched out the prisoners in a display for the enemy to see, and started slaughtering them in plain sight to provoke them into attack.
The battle did not go as planned. There were losses and there was difficulty, but he managed to destroy enough of the Ameyatl army to be able to return to Verre Zon without further conflict.
Results for his reputation were mixed. Certain more peace-and-trade inclined members of the Conclave were not pleased with him, however having attacked Ameyatl territory as well as fought and won against them did effectively establish his credentials as a mercenary captain. He was forced to release his prisoners to be returned home, as well as pay an amount of restitution (so the Conclave could appease the Ameyatl and prevent serious reprisal). However, his employers protected him from serious punishment and the expedition was still a profit.
Balthazar began some experiments with trading the plunder he had gained from the campaign, which certainly lasted him and made a profit. He was a fairly rich man.
A few months later, he was approached by a merchant willing to offer him a lasting contract to act as his private army and thus enable the merchant to become eligible to become a governor. Looking up the terms, establishing that Balthazar would have tactical control over his company, he accepted the contract to the merchant Tobias Rombout.
Only later did he learn that the merchant had made a similar contract with Halpern Tauermann, one of the captains who had accused him of cowardice, and one of the men who Balthazar had launched a smear-campaign against in counter. While they were seldom asked to work together, Tobias had considered the possibility that his mercenaries might choose to take over the governorship, and had hired two mutually hostile mercenary companies so he could play them against each other if needed.
While the situation is comfortable and profitable for his men, Balthazar dislikes the enforced association with Tauermann, and the Steel Company and Bloody Banner both regularly compete or try to undermine the other. Currently Balthazar is looking for other work for both him and his men, preferably something which would enable him to break away from the contract without giving up the funding that supports his men.
Given his temperament and ruthlessness, criminal activity seems likely.
Owns a set of three-quarter plate armour, which is black-and-white coloured with gold trim on the edges. Wears a burgonet helmet with a crest-like fin on the top and a cap-like peak, plumed with grey, red, and yellow feathers, and with a 'falling buff' visor drawn up with straps rather than lowered. This will stand up to swords and pikes easily, and to firearms with only some bruising. Also wears a sash with alternating red, yellow and grey.
Fights with a brace of pistols and a sword, and will bring a bec de faucon (polearm with a pronged hammer, anti-armour weapon) when marching onto the battlefield. Both pistols are wheellocks, and the sword is a longsword (deadly fast with two hands, but usable with one).
Keeps a warhorse named Eisen, who is of course iron grey. Protects him with plate barding, covered in a layer of cloth in the red, grey and yellow of his company.
Regular companions are his two trabentan/bodyguards and the Hauptmanns Junge or squire. Both bodyguards (Ewalt and Vinzenz) are picked from the strongest dependable fighters in the company, carrying huge zweihander swords or halberds although each is armed with a pistol as well, wearing similar armour to their captain.
The Hauptmann's Junge (Elias) is little help in combat, since he is 15 and too young to be an effective fighter. He does however carry a pistol and a katzbalger (short sword), which may be used if there is trouble.
Other useful facts:
Leader a mercenary company which he can mobilise for campaigns, posted around Verre Zon and the nearby settlements. It takes a few weeks to gather his men for battle, and he dislikes to take them away from their posts since it loses money, but when called to arms he can raise roughly 600 soldiers (250 pikemen, 50 doppelsoldners, 100 arquebusiers, 75 crossbowmen, 50 schwarz reiters, and 75 artillery crew with 12 light cannon originally hijacked from a galleon). Includes plenty of 5 year veterans who first accompanied him to Verre Zon, although some have retired or fell in battle and new men have been recruited since then.
Generally speaking, the 'old guard' are likely to be doppelsoldners, schwarz reiters, and arquebusiers while the newer recruits are more likely pikemen and crossbowmen.
Following behind are a camp follower contingent of roughly 400 (250 women & 150 children), mostly the wives and family of the soldiers. They transport the military necessities, food and belongings of each soldier. They also act as support staff or day labourers, helping mend equipment or handle animals, or even treat wounds and perform minor surgery. Balthazar ensures that the Tross (camp followers) receive training and education, mostly from each other.
Balthazar takes care to ensure his men have reasonable training and equipment. Minimum armour is a padded coat of some kind with a mail mantle for the shoulders and a metal skullcap, and backup short swords come as standard. Equipment is initially given on loan until the soldier is able to pay back the cost from their wages, the men are well-paid enough that this rarely takes more than a few months (unless the soldier has large pre-existing expenses), and after that they can afford to regularly improve their gear.
All are full-time soldiers, will normally be trained by him or his subordinate officers if not on missions, so are competent fighters and difficult to catch off guard, although not very inventive in their methods and tactics.