Askanir may not be as populated as it once was, but there are still people of influence, men and women who others consider important. There are rulers, though their realms may be small, and there are still leaders, though their entourage may only consist of a few hundred souls.
There are few that could be considered ‚good‘ in the common sense, but though their aims may be selfish, the deeds of some of them benefit more than just themselves. One man’s good is another man’s evil, as the Imperial philosopher Casadries said.
The Crimson Mantis is one of the crime syndicates that operate in Tarratoria, hunted by the city watch and the theurgy as well. At least, that is what the Proconsul and the High Theurg claim.
In reality, the Mantis (and at least three other syndicates) are the true rulers of the city - or what is left of it. The streets are their realm, and after nightfall, only the criminals dare to face the undead roaming the streets.
The Red Claw is one of their leaders. Nobody really knows how many heads lead the syndicate, but Red Claw is the best known. At least, the name is known - or rather, whispered, whenever a body with a slit throat is found floating in the waters of the docks. He (if it's indeed a man) is the master assassin, the knife in the dark, the unseen blade.
Secret: The Red Claw goes by the name of Balthasar, and is the personal valet of the Proconsul himself. Some call him the Proconsul's spymaster, but he rejects the title. Even his master does not know, that he is one of the leaders of the Crimson Mantis. He is a humble servant to his lord, always obedient, always loyal.
After the fall of the Southern Empire, and the death of the last Emperor, the city of Tarratoria is ruled by the Proconsul.
When there was an Emperor, the title was a mere bureaucratic thing, a person that governed the city for the Emperor. But now, the Proconsul is the last in the line of rulers of the Empire.
Venikles I has passed his fortieth birthday some time ago, but is still full of vigor. And he takes his job rather seriously, trying to keep the city in shape and order. But times are hard, and even a Proconsul has to cope with that.
He knows, that crime syndicates literally run the city, but has long ago decided to use them rather than fight them. Through his valet Balthasar, he steers them, using their power to further his own cause. And if this means weakening the Theurgy, well, that may not be so bad, after all...