So I decided to do a special post going diving into the background of an npc that has been around since the first session, Ernst Steurmann. Ernst has been a prominent npc that has aided the party on more than one occasion since the very start of the campaign. He was there to provide them passage to Bogenhafen, and although largely absent during the events of Bogenhafen, he was able to help them escape the town after things started to heat up for the party. He was directly responsible for getting the party involved in the Graf’s business, which didn’t turn out so well… And he proved quite valuable in lending them further aid with introducing them to the Palisades. Whether or not this is an actual blessing, remains to be seen.
He has also been a companion to Liliana de Karling-Satou, who he was originally hired to bring her back to her father, which he later decided against doing. Yet irony would rear its head as Liliana decided to voluntarily go to Marienburg with Ernst after waking up from her coma, and being on the brink of death.
At the time when he met the party, Ernst Steurmann was selling himself off as a barge captain, and owner of the Berebelli barge. This however was a ruse, crafted for him by Emmerich de Karling-Satou, who gave him one of his barges and tasked him with returning his beloved daughter, Liliana.
But the river life was not something Ernst had craved, and before he met the party, he had lived a rather interesting life, most of which was spent mounted on his steed, Faux, and traversing the Empire.
Ernsts mother hails from Wissenland, but he has more of his father in him, who was a Reiklander. He grew up in the town of Hornfurt, to a poor family. His father was a roadwarden for Wissenland, and would often disappear for a month or two while on the road. Ernst grew up admiring his father, for if it wasn’t for them, the roads would be littered with brigands and other foul folk. That’s not to say the roads aren’t, but they’d be a lot worse than they are now.
At that stage, Ernst had already made his mind up about what he’d want to be, despite his father trying to deter him away from such ambitious, which only drove Ernst on further.
At the cusp of adulthood, Ernst had learned a terrible secret. His father had been taking advantage of his position as a roadwarden. He had been robbing travelers on the road, as well as confiscating property that was not his. He did not act alone, as his fellow wardens were also involved. He was in a position of trust and he had abused that position, and now a bounty was out for him. Ernst had learned that one of his father’s fellow wardens had been captured and confessed to everything. Ernst didn’t believe it at first when the family was told, but now it all started to come together. His father would often come back with the spoils, and he would always have a crafty excuse. The occasions that Ernst had requested to learn the ropes of being a warden were always denied, and now he knew why…
With his father on the run, and the family now hated and shunned by his neighbors, Ernst did not feel welcome anymore. Some had even whispered that he and his mother were in on it, and there were calls to bring them to justice. Ernst was not an only child, he had a brother and a sister, who now had nothing but a bleak future to look forward to. Facing the prospect of paying for his father’s sins, Ernst volunteered to join a posse, a group of townsfolk who volunteered to bring his father and the rest of the corrupt wardens to justice. Initially Ernst’s offer to help was scoffed at, as he was not trusted, but one of the men was a good friend of the family and had vouched for him, and so Ernst found himself part of a group of men hunting for his father. He did not envision his future to be like this.
They had tracked his father as far north as Reikland. They had suspicions his father would seek his home province out. They were right. Justice would catch up to his father, but it wouldn’t be Ernst or the posse. Fate would have it that his father would die at the hands of a herd of beastmen. By the time they came across the camp deep within the Reikwald forest, there was nothing left but an orgy of violence and discarded limbs, half-eaten corpses of men. His father was among them.
Ernst felt relieved, yet also cheated. He would have his payback when the beastmen struck the following night as they set camp. The fight was fierce, yet they prevailed, perhaps only as a result that many of the beastmen still nursed injuries and losses from dealing with his father.
With their job now done, and nothing else for it but to lick their wounds and limp back to Wissenland, Ernst and the remaining few men of the posse turned their mounts south and made for the long road back to their homes.
Yet, Ernst would never arrive back in Wissenland. The gods decided it wouldn’t be, and had other plans for Ernst.
It was on the road to Bogenhafen when they came across a grisly sight. Mutants, chaos infested abominations had sprung from the forest and attacked a carriage further up the way. The carriage was with an armed escort, yet this did not seem to deter the fierce assault.
Tired and weary, and still nursing wounds from their battle with the beastfolk, Ernst had no luck trying to persuade them to lend aid. Cursing them under his breath as he forced his steed into a gallop, Ernst rode on towards the carriage, sword in hand and charged at the nearest mutant. Yet his bravery was betrayed by his very steed, a random beast and not anything like the true loyal steed he would have later in the years. It reared up and tossed him off its sadle. Ernst stifled a cry as the mutant charged at him, raising an axe towards him. Ernst deflected the blow while prone, and tore through it with his sword, killing it outright.
Getting up, he surveyed the carnage. Most of the escorts were dead, and those who still fought were occupied. Two of the mutant beasts were now trying to jar open the carriage doors, after killing the carriage driver. Ernst picked up a crossbow from one of the dead escorts, and fired off a bolt towards one of the mutants trying to break in. It landed true, causing it to fall back away from the carriage. The other mutant however had succeeded in breaking the door, and had clambered in. Ernst heard a woman scream, and that’s all he needed to make a dash for the carriage.
As he reached the side of the carriage, he saw the mutant ready to deliver a killing blow to a young noble woman. Ernst stuck it from behind, driving his sword through its neck, and then kicking it out.
It so happens that the young woman he saved was the first wife of Wilhelm von Saponatheim, the Graf of Bogenhafen and Graunberg. Wilhelm could not thank Ernst enough for his actions, and had rewarded him greatly. However, the greatest reward would be friendship, as the two became fast friends and Ernst found himself not wanting for anything. Rather than go back to Hornfurt, Ernst would end up in the employ of his Wilhelm von Saponatheim as an Outrider and personal scout for Saponatheim. Ernst did not forget his family however, and had sent word to them as to his current well-being along with a courier bearing a hefty coin purse.
Ernst would spend the next few years working for the Graf. When news came of trouble in the Borderlands concerning a particular infamous group of outlaws causing monetary loss for trade between Wissenland and Reikland, Ernst was handpicked to lead a group of men to route them out. He had journeyed down to Wissenland, seeking out old friends who might join him, a few from his old posse. Ernst had also sought out his brother, who had become a decent outrider himself, but had learned, much to his disappointment, that his brother’s main concern now was running a pig farm just outside Hornfurt.
However, it was his brother’s son that took an interest in Ernst’s request for aid. Kall Horst, Ernst’s nephew, had become discontent with living his life on a pig farm and sought out a more exciting prospect as an outrider.
The they would soon depart a couple of years later, and would not see each other again until many winters have passed, until a certain fateful encounter in Altdorf…