Masks of Nyarlathotep
Surgeon Major Dirk Arthur Viljoen-Ballard
Viljoen-Ballard always tries to be fashionable and well dressed, in clean clothes. However, when things become exciting, he has a tendency to remove his neck tie, and unbutton his collar.
Surgeon Major Dirk Arthur Viljoen-Ballard was born November 1st, 1885 in Smithfield, Orange Free State, the fourth son of Jan Viljoen-Ballard, a sheepherder with a huge ranch marked out along the north shore of the Caledon River. Influenced into a life of rugged individualism by Vader Jan, Dirk spent most of his days riding among the vast herds, fishing in the Caledon River, and getting into trouble in every village and kraal he could visit. However, it was long before his father and three old brothers left, as they were all of fighting age and the Uitlanders had persuaded the British to step in and take their nation. Vader Jan left Dirk in charge of the homestead, with only the ranch hands to help him with the sheep.
And so Dirk was the only fifteen when the British Army decided to move the entire family to the Bethulie Concentration Camp, before that name meant more than it does now. Lord Kitchener may not have meant to have the places be as bad as they were, but in short order, Dirk lost his mother to dysentery. Although he tried his best to understand what was going on, he was unable to help Ma, and it only helped a little when Dr. Litwer from South African College in Cape Town arrived to set up his tent. Dr. Litwer stabilized his sister Elwe, and so Dirk played his part by becoming an “acquirer of rare items” and by learning all he could under the English doctor. When the camps were dismantled, and he returned to Smithfield, he found that while he had saved his three sisters, his father and his second oldest brother had died during the two year guerilla war. Pieter the oldest was a cripple, having lost both legs to a PomPom, and Arndt, the third oldest, was in charge. Being the war had changed him, and while Vader Jan was stern, Arndt was stern and cruel. Dirk went (or ran away, whatever one wishes to call it) to Cape Town, where he learned both English and medicine under Dr. Litwer. It was here that he may or may not have met the traveling American Professor of History, Reginal Belham.
Dirk got his medical degree (such as it was) at eighteen, and spent a grand total of three months as a circuit rider in Northern Cape Province, from Cape Town to Alexander Bay before the Great War started in Europe. Dirk’s relative youth and willingness to go made him a natural to join the South African Medical Corps, and be attached to the 1st South African Brigade as a corpsman and stretcher bearer. Viljoen-Ballard got his taste of battle, from the Battle of Delville Woods (the third week of the Somme offensive) all the way to Cambrai (there was a good chance that he would have met the American ambulance driver Henry Ernst, or maybe not). After Cambrai, he agreed to be part of the Allied Expeditionary Force to Archangelsk, where he tried to help the White Russians against the Bolsheviks, and met the acquaintance of Nikolai Dmitrivich Khilov, although it is unsure whether Khilov, in the throes of losing everything, remembers him. When it became clear that there was no stopping the Bolsheviks, he accompanied the Czech Legion on the historic journey across Siberia to Vladivostok. Landing in San Francisco, he spent four years bumming around the country during the Roaring 20s, doing a bit of roaring himself. Although Viljoen-Ballard thought to make a fortune with trying to curtail Prohibition, the players in that game got real rough, real quick, so he decided that he would need to find some other way to make enough to continue his life. He could call Arndt, but his pride refuses to give in that. He’s made friends with adventurers of all types in the New York night life, including both Elias Jackson and his publisher, Jonah Kensington.
Viljoen-Ballard’s family was actually very conscientious members of the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk, abbreviated as NHK), and although Dirk did not keep with the Calvinist teachings of how to live one’s life once he became an adult, he has remembered certain tenets of hard work, responsibility to one’s fellow man and unto G_d. However, the NHK of the time taught that people had natural stations – Uitlanders were Uitlanders, kafirs were kafirs, and coolies (Indian South Africans) were coolies – but that it was wrong to mistreat them merely because of what they were. As a product of institutionalized racism, Viljoen-Ballard is bewildered by the looks he sometimes gets from his compatriots when he uses the terms that are natural to him.
Viljoen-Ballard, inspired by his youth, is much more adamant about the Hippocratic Oath, and that his ‘place’, as determined by G_d, is to heal all people, regardless of who they were. He has no issue with defending himself or his comrades, but he will not actively hurt someone he doesn’t have to, and he will not be swayed by arguments of “it’s possible they could be dangerous” in the future. Dirk knows in the end, it is the only thing that makes him worth anything to the world.
Jan Viljoen-Ballard (Vader Jan) was Dirk’s father. Less a man of affection and more of a towering icon, his death in the Boer War has elevated him in the eyes of his youngest son as an untouchable paragon of will. Dirk doesn’t even try to reach it.
Marlena Viljoen-Ballard (Ma) was Dirk’s mother. Her death in Bethulie Concentration Camp simultaneously made him suspicious of unchecked power, and his quest to be a doctor.
Dr. Edward Litwer, Professor of Medicine at South African College in Cape Town: Next to his father, Viljoen-Ballard hero worships only Dr. Litwer. Dr. Litwer hardly remembers Dirk, but only because Dr. Litwer is brilliant in a way that doesn’t have time for social interactions.
Colonel Henrik Govender: A good friend from his days with the 1st South African Brigade, where they spent the Great War smoking and discussing politics and religion. Govender resides in Cape town as well, and Dirk considers him a good friend.
Pieter and Arndt Viljoen-Ballard: Pieter lost both legs to the British, and now sits on the porch at the Smithville ranch and aggrandize his dead younger brother Willem, fights with his other younger brother Arndt. Both the brothers at the ranch are bitter and curmoudgeonly, and Dirk uses them as an example of what not to be.
Marie, Aleyna, and Sabine: Dirk’s sisters. He is fond of them, but assumes they are married and living elsewhere in the Orange State.
The Viljoen Ranch, Smithfield, The Royal Colony of South Africa: The place of his birth, and all that implies.
Chertov Utyos Rock, near Nakhovda, Russia: While Viljoen-Ballard retreated across Russia with the Czech Legion after the Bolsheviks won, he spent some time with a poor Russian girl who was the servant of one of the White Russian noble families fleeing with the Legion. She died of complications from tuberculosis just before reaching Vladivostok, so he buried her under this rock outcropping overlooking Sheplova Bay, reaching to the ocean, which she always wanted to see.
The Somme valley: It is meaningful, but not in a good way.
He doesn’t really have treasured posessions – the NHK spoke out against having things being that important, which verged on idolatry. Although he likes the finer things, he ultimately discards them as necessity dictates.
Dirk is easily entertained, and likes experiencing the finer things in life, but can do without. Where he is going to get his next meal is less important than the way he treats people, and helping those less fortunate than him. He believes that this world is worth saving, and doing everything to save it is a noble thing, and is worth his time, effort, and if need be, life.