Heroes of Freeport present the backstory of some of the characters depicted in art (and sometimes text) in Freeport: City of Adventure, and the Return to Freeport adventure path. They serve as examples of the kinds of characters that may be found in the City of Freeport, and be used as inspiration for PCs or as NPC backgrounds for the GM to draw from.
“Curse me, revile me, it makes no matter. I cleave to the Necromantic Censure, and it is my sacred duty to destroy those blasphemous creations of the necromancers, to bring to justice all those who dabble in the dark arts. It is thankless work, but I know that for each black wizard I burn, I am doing my part in thwarting the ancient Necro-Kings from rising once more.”
—Tovarik Gertensen, Witch Hunter (Freeport: City of Adventure, 398)
The Gertensen family name goes back 200 years in Freeport… and can be traced back no further anywhere. Erhilt may have taken a new name to ensure her defense of the fledgling pirate haven would not cause trouble for any family left on the mainland; or perhaps the previous Gertensen scions had simp
ly been too boring to have their names remembered. The first mention of the name is Erhilt Gertensen, an inquisitor of the Church of Retribution during the time of Captain Drac and the foundation of modern Freeport. Erhilt was no pirate, instead dedicating her life to the hunt for and extermination of demonic forces, but somehow her twin loyalties to the gods of Justice and Retribution lead to her bloodying her sword in defense of the pirate have of Freeport. Perhaps some captain of a Continental naval ship dared to call upon demons to destroy Freeport. Perhaps Erhilt saw that the people of Freeport desired self-rule, and felt the demands of Justice required her to help them claim it.
Whatever the case, Sea Lord Drac came to understand that while the inquisitor would not aid him in his darker dealings, she would fight to protect Freeport from fiends, mortal and infernal. When the Church of Retribution sent forces to face a demonic invasion on the island of Devil’s Cry, Erhilt was left to protect the city in their wake. When no inquisitor returned from that campaign, Erhilt was one of the faithful who kept the Church limping along, and she took a husband and bore four children to ensure that duty would be maintained for generations to come. Her husband’s name is lost to history, in part because Erhilt saw to it her offspring were also named Gertensen. Two daughters and two sons took the name, and each joined the Church of Retribution and kept its doors open and its principles active.
The generations have not been kind to the four lines of the Gertensen family. One line migrated to Hexworth decades ago, where rumor claims they have taken up the study of darker arts. A second line died out just before the Church of Retribution finally closed its doors, every surviving member found gutted in their house on the same night. The third line left the Church before its final days, and actively supports the Swords of the Edict. These Gertensens are the most numerous… and the most presumptive. They believe only the Swords can save Freeport from itself, and spend as much time hunting down corrupt guards as true evils, and even more time preaching to common folk about the errors of their ways.
The fourth line, born of the single son of the Erhilt’s youngest daughter, and never numerous, saw the door of the Church of Retribution shuttered, but joined no other group. Each of these Gertensen lines taught a single child the ways of the old inquisition, swore them to the Necromantic Censure, and tasked that child with keeping the old ways strong, and passing their knowledge on to a single heir who was to pick up the torch should their parent falter.
And thus, 42 years ago, Tovarik Gertensen was born to Trute Gertensen and raised to be the last true inquisitor of the Church of Retribution. He trained hard under his mother’s tutelage, learning to speak the languages of fiends and to find truth in the words of madmen. A dozen evils had been faced and overcome by his line, but Trute taught her son that the greatest of all evils were not the demons who whispered in men’s ears, not the serpent folk who took human form. It was men themselves, most notably those who sought out necromancy, witchcraft, diabolatry, and the thousand other vile ways mortals can use dark arts to gain power.
When Tovarik came of age at 18, Trute told her son she believed some remnant of the inquisitors who had served the Church of Retribution might still exist near the island of Devil’s Cry. One of the war priests of that expedition had used an image of a morningstar with bearclaw spikes as a personal sigil, and rumor claimed that crates marked with such a sigil had begun to trickle into the Freeport docks, though none could say from what ships. As Tovarik was old enough to uphold the family duty Trute chartered a small ship to scout the area around the island, to see if the suggestion there were survivors was true. She never returned.
Young, alone, and driven to uphold the holy trust he had been given, Tovarik scoured the city in hopes of finding the source of the rumors that had led his mother to undertake her final voyage. More often than not, he found likely candidates were truly nothing more than rumor mongers and smugglers spreading false tales to earn a coin or distract the guard. These were not the evils Tovarik sought, but when he found the occasional slaver or kidnapper, his blade was quick to dispatch them. Slowly, word spread that Tovarik was an honest man, if not a friendly one, and someone who could be trusted to aid the downtrodden if no other aid was available.
Tovarik found himself besieged with minor horrors and family tragedies by hopeful, but often poor residents of Freeport, especially in the Eastern District. Mindful that common crime could be used to hide darker deeds, Tovarik spent years tracking down missing children, rousting illegal drug dens, and opposing fledgling gangs. From time to time he found a minor necromancer or mad alchemist, and filled with righteous fury, struck true and injured imps and minor demons no other blade would harm. Though many he aided could not afford to pay more than a few silver for his help, they offered what gratitude they could. When he saved the youngest niece of a shopkeeper named Assad for example, he was offered permanent room and board at Assad’s Smoke Shop, living beneath the common room in a small basement apartment, his presence not generally known, and voices from even hushed conversations above often drifting down to him.
When a rash of missing halfling children in the eastern District could not be solved by the guard, Tovarik was once again asked to investigate. His inquiries soon led him to the Hellhound Social Club, a stark building with little sign of being social, and the stern enforcers also called “Hellhounds” who operated from it to keep the peace in the Eastern District. Dunbar, the leader of the Hellhounds, dismissed Tovarik’s concerns, and even allowed the inquisitor to search the building. Finding nothing, Tovarik set about the boring work of watching the building night and day. After a week, he witnessed a Hellhound leaving the club late at night, only to be met by a tall and lean man who whispered to the Hellhound, and then lead him away into an alley.
Tovarik followed, moving with skilled silence and trusting his dark clothing to conceal him. Deep in the ally, the lean man gave the Hellhound instructions on how many halfling children to kidnap and bring to the lean man that night. The Hellhound replied only in monotones. Tovarik realized the enforcer was under some vile charm, and leapt to attack the tall man. His attack forced the man to leap back, dropping his cloak and revealing himself to be inhumanly tall and lean, with gray skin, and no face.
Tovarik and the Faceless Man battled, and Tovarik screamed and yelled. His cries brought other Hellhounds from the nearby club, who then restrained their fellow enforcer and helped Tovarik drive off the Faceless Man. Tovarik gave chase, tracking the figure only to lose him in a nearly empty street. A single bent elderly woman claimed to have seen the figure flee down an ally and Tovarik was about to follow… when he realized the old woman was bleeding. Upon seizing her, she revealed herself to be the Faceless Man, and Tovarik fought and slew her.
When the Hellhounds caught up, led by Dunbar, Tovarik explained that at least one of their number had been kidnapping the halfling children all along, under the influence of enchantment magic. Tovarik also reasoned that anything involving so many children would need space, and the Faceless Man likely fled toward his lair. Dunbar ordered the Hellhounds to roust every resident on the street, and search every room. By dawn, a dozen halfling children were found bound in a hidden basement beneath a dilapidated candy shop. No sign was ever found of six more who’d been missing, though all assumed the worst.
Dunbar offered Tovarik a place among the Hellhounds, which the inquisitor refused. But the two did form an uneasy alliance. From time to time Tovarik assists when the Hellhounds believe they have found a hint of the unholy in a disturbance in the eastern District. In return, the Hellhounds mostly have a hands-off policy in regards to Tovarik, and they keep their eyes and ears open for any sign of the bearclaw-morningstar sigil. However, Dunbar hasn’t mentioned that the Faceless Man’s lair included two crates with those markings. That information he is saving for a rainy day.
Owen K.C. Stephens is a game designer who has worked on a number of products for Pathfinder, the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and more. He is our Fantasy AGE Line Developer when he’s not working one of his other jobs, running his own company (Rogue Genius Games), or writing things for his patrons at https://www.patreon.com/OwenKCStephens.