Cardinal Birmbauer: Ballista-Mage

Born into the prominent Birmbauer wizard-family, Reginald Birmbauer (X’oktheti Ettvi’Koth in the native Saloran tongue) displayed excellence in magical ability at an early age - earlier, even, than all of his 43 siblings. Reginald was destined for greatness, and began apprenticing as a BallistaMage – a modern strain of magic that involved the construction and usage of very powerful magical ballistas and blunderbusses for use in war and defense. He was the best in his class, and was headed toward a high-ranking position in the Army of Gateway. He even built an experimental Runeshot Ballistagun that had a greater range and armor-piercing capability than anything that had been developed for the military at that time.

But as he came of age, something drew him away from the Magical Arts: his faith. In school, Reginald joined up with a group dedicated to the study and worship of Ra-Vehndi – The Moon Eater. Ra-Vehndi was depicted as a giant space-crab or prawn with a single eye and was a fairly unpopular Goddess, seeing as she was blamed for several of the most misshapen moons. But Reginald and others who have worshipped her insist that her mission is to rid those moons of space-parasites, which can sometimes make their way to the Known World. Unlike most Saloran, Reginald’s belief in Ra-Vehndi took precedence in his life; his studies in magic were a distant second.

He eventually quit apprenticing and moved full-time into the priesthood. His parents were very disappointed and hoped he would reconsider, but Reginald was determined. He soon became a fully accredited priest, and, using money he had inherited from a rich aunt, had a temple constructed in the tough Fishtown neighborhood of Shad Row. The site of a temple in Fishtown was very rare; most of them were abandoned or converted into artist lofts. But Reginald was determined to spread the good word of Ra-Vehndi despite her unpopularity.

Over time, his congregation grew, but not nearly as he had hoped. He had maybe 12 parishioners, and many of them showed up just for the free coffee and donuts after the sermon. The temple was often vandalized by fishpunk gangs who would occasionally rob parishioners and eat the donation box (Ra-Vehndi only accepted edible donations). But Reginald was undeterred. He began standing in front of his temple and shouting the word of the Cosmic Moon Crab to passers-by. The initial response to these public sermons was not favorable. He had to dodge rotten fish and half-eaten sandwiches (which, ironically, made for fine donations) that were hurled at him. Eventually though, his rants became a fixture of the neighborhood, and many started showing up just to listen, despite most people thinking him crazy.

In the summer of 1865, Reginald claimed to have received a telepathic message from Ra-Vehndi herself, warning him that new and powerful cosmic parasites were gathering on the moon known as Vermanox, and were planning on attacking her temples throughout Gateway. But she was weak and needed nourishment in order to intercept these creatures and had come to Reginald for help.

Reginald recruited all of his parishioners, and even a few new followers, to help him gather food, mostly fish. They even partnered with other Ra-Vehndi temples to aid in the task. The food gathered was burned on a huge pyre in the middle of the temple, and mixed with runesmoke which would capture and carry the nourishment up into the cosmos. For weeks they did this, and awaited word from Ra-Vehndi, but none came. Many of the parishioners lost faith in the mission, believing Reginald had made up the story. His congregation abandoned him.

A week later, as he sat on the front steps of his empty temple, something above him blocked out the sun. He looked up to see about a dozen huge space-worms hurtling towards his temple from the sky. He ran into the temple and grabbed the experimental runeshot ballistagun he had constructed all those years ago and made his way back outside to do battle with the worms, now wrapped around the temple.

Onlookers fled in horror at the site of the hideous, multi-limbed worms, but Reginald faced them bravely with his ballistagun. The genius of the weapon’s design, and Reginald’s natural arcaenic power feeding into the gun’s rune-stones made it the near-perfect weapon for ripping holes into space-worm flesh. But these were powerful worms, and there were many of them. Reginald sustained multiple injuries in the heroic fight, but was eventually overpowered and forced to retreat, bloodied and badly beaten. A squadron of City-Guard armed with rune-tanks eventually succeeded in finishing off the worms, but destroyed Reginald’s temple in the process.

Angered that his Goddess had ignored him and his efforts, Reginald abandoned his faith, sold the temple grounds and accepted a position with the Army as a special weapons officer and developer.

But within a few short months, Reginald disappeared from the facility in which he was stationed. He showed up several weeks later in an underground resistance camp in Smoketown. He would not talk of what had made him leave, only that he had discovered something about the events with the space-worms that made it impossible for him to remain loyal to the Chancellor’s Army. He joined the resistance in the hopes of lending his expertise with weaponry to the fight against the Inquisitors. He also began wearing the garb of Ra-Vehndi again, but no longer would speak of his faith.