Today we bring you a short missive from the desk of our own TS Luikart about a secretive, and somewhat shady, group known only as the Talons of Verena. The group can be used in your games in a number of ways. If you’re thinking of starting off a new campaign, they provide an unusual framework about which to build a group of adventurers. In an already established game, they provide a useful, if brutal, ally for Characters suffering under the boot heel of the authorities. Finally, their means and methods make them a dangerous enemy for Characters who, rightly or wrongly, are accused of escaping more usual forms of justice.
The Talons of Verena exemplify the darker side of what passes for justice in the Old World, and many a peasant owes their lives to their timely, if bloody, intervention. You too may find a use for The Talons of Verena — if, that is, you can find them…
The Talons of Verena
‘You meant “no harm”, my Lord? Then why is the woman dead? Spare me your false tears, they won’t bring her back to her family. Neither, in truth, will what we’re about to do to you, but justice, at least, will be served.” —Ebore Mader, the Midnight Rose
Justice in the Old World is a commodity the poor usually cannot afford. A citizen of limited means arrested for even petty theft is likely to face harsh punishment, whereas nobles and the wealthy can readily get away with murder — quite literally — so long as their victims all come from the ranks of the lower social strata. When the well-to-do are actually caught committing a crime, they rarely suffer worse than a token punishment and fines, so long as their lawbreaking avoided any overt heresy. Many believe this is simply the way of the world. Indeed, some opine that even attempting to change this ‘proper order of things’ is seditious.
The Talons of Verena believe otherwise. Founded to ensure that justice is done upon those who are effectively beyond the law and to help those who’ve been unfairly accused, the Talons exist to bring the crimes of the guilty to light and exact fitting punishments against those who’ve transgressed. The Talons do their best to help the innocent, regardless of their class, and have, on occasion, even saved honourable lower-ranking nobles from the depredations of their betters. The Talons far more often focus their efforts on punishing individuals who use their power or wealth to mask their crimes and act as if they believe they will never have to face the consequences of their vile misconduct.
There are many fantastic stories about the tragedy, or act of epic lawbreaking, which caused the Talons of Verena to be founded. One recounts the tale of a cobbler whose family was slain for sport by uncaring nobles over a protruding hobnail. The cobbler committed herself to a life of vengeance eternal by swearing a sacred oath within a temple of the Goddess of Justice. Another suggests that the Talons were founded by a group of peasants in order to hunt down a merchant that had arranged for the entire populace of several villages to starve to death after some sums declared their deaths to be ‘financially prudent’.
Those few scholars that know something of the Talons beyond fictional tall-tales point to Tilea as their original country of origin. Even this story is murky conjecture, long obscured by oral traditions of a group that has always been clandestine and taciturn. The Talons have always worked in the shadows as, somewhat ironically, but not unsurprisingly, their activities are highly illegal. Those with a deep knowledge of law or theology know that they are an ‘unofficial’ sect of the Verenan Order of Everlasting Light — one the Order publicly disavows, but more than likely secretly supports. The rarely-seen symbol of the Talons of Verena is a stylized owl’s foot, three sharp talons wrapped over the top of a short blade, with the fourth talon, coming up from the underside, broken. Rumour holds that one can direct their wrath by leaving detailed stories of crimes committed bound in parchment and marked with their symbol at certain Temples of Verena or at one of the few strongholds of the Knights of the Everlasting Light.
There are several folk tales indicating that only a fool would summon the Talons lightly, for stories abound of the terrible vengeance they took on those that called upon them without good reason. The price for their services is said to vary wildly, but is generally adjusted to the means of the requester. Some are merely asked to do a favour for the Talons in the future — perhaps they will be asked to keep someone in their home as an honored guest for a few weeks, with no questions, or they may be entrusted with a message that must be delivered at a certain place and time without fail. Others, particularly wealthy beneficiaries of the Talon’s services, may be asked to commission and fully furnish a riverboat to be turned over to the Talons or they may be requested to contribute a large purse of gold crowns.
Some say that those who owe Verena penance for their transgressions, especially ones with the means to assist the Talons in righting an injustice, may, on occasion, be ‘seconded’ to the Talons for a particular mission, directed to aid them in order to achieve atonement from the goddess. No Verenan priest would ever admit to this, but still, in certain quarters, the rumours persist.
The Talons of Verena are committed to their cause and are, to a certain extent, what they appear to be. Under the cover of darkness, their acts could be called ‘heroic’ though if Imperial authorities catch them, they are killed, for not only are their activities ‘criminal’, there is one more thing you must know about the Talons…
They are all ‘reformed’ heretics. They are ex-mass murderers, former cultists, secret mutants, and worse. The Talons and a special group of Verena’s priests have a series of rituals that allow them to divine when someone is truly repentant for their crimes and wishes atonement. The price of their redemption, of being rescued in both a literal (such as form the gallows or the pyre) or spiritual sense is to devote the rest of their life to justice and the Talons’ cause. In the final ritual that inducts a penitent into the Talons, Verena herself is said to speak to them in their thoughts:
‘From this day forth, you are mine, now and forever. You will serve Justice till the day you die, when my husband shall take you into his embrace and you will know peace at last. Then, alone, shall you be truly forgiven.’
Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.© Games Workshop 2020