Grail Companions

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An ancient mural of the Grail Companions.
The Companion, Marcus, facing the gigantic Norse Lord Svengar.

The Grail Companions were the first of the Grail Knights and the loyal companions of Gilles le Breton when he founded the Kingdom of Bretonnia. Blessed by The Lady, these Grail Companions were each Dukes of a Bretonni Dukedom, all of whom were ultimately found worthy by the Lady to aid Gilles in his quest of unification. These Companions were amongst the greatest beings to ever walk the world, Knights that truly embodied the warrior tradition of the anceint Bretonni horsemen of old. The blessing by the Lady gave these Knights a halo of light, and they fought with such ferocity and courage that it would make them seem inhuman, able to take on entire armies of monsters and undead.

History

Gilles, already famed throughout the lands of the Bretonni after he sought out and slew the giant red Dragon Smearghus over twenty years earlier, inherited the crown of Bastonne after his father died repelling the Orc armies that had invaded his lands. Joining forces with his friend Thierulf and the famed Lord Landuin of Mousillon, Gilles prepared for one final, great battle.

On the morning of the battle, a ghostly vision came unto them, a maiden of surpassing beauty and fey power arising from the mirror-sheened lake beside which they were camped in the Forest of Châlons. The knights knew full well that the sublime apparition was no mortal creature, for not a ripple disturbed the waters. She blessed Gilles, enchanting his banner with her likeness. The bodies of the Companions became suffused with unearthly strength and light. Their eyes did glow with lambent flame from within, and their weapons and armours shone with new power. Thus did Gilles, Landuin and Thierulf trascend the mortal clay and earn sanctity to become the first of the Grail Knights, the famed Grail Companions.

At some point the Vampire Abhorash encountered the mythic Grail Companions and their leader, Gilles le Breton. The two mighty warriors dueled, resulting in Abhorash swearing an oath of service to the Bretonnian. He later helped with the construction of la Maisontaal Abbey as payment of his debt to Gilles.

The Twelve Great Battles

The morning after his encounter with the Lady of the Lake and his first grand victory over the Greenskins, Duke Gilles of Bastonne led his army against the Orcs besieging the Dukedom of Bordeleaux. The three Grail Companions did as much slaughter as the rest of their armies combined, and the Greenskin hordes were driven into the ocean. Seeing a means to retake their lands from the Greenskins, Lord Marcus d'Bordeleaux and Lord Fredemund d'Aquitaine eagerly joined Gilles and his ever-growing army of Knights. After the victory feast, the Lady of the Lake appeared in the private chamber where the Lords were gathered, where she bestowed Marcus and Fredemund the Holy Grail and thus become the fourth and fifth Grail Companion. Marcus turned that chamber within his castle into the first Grail Chapel, a site still of unparalleled sanctity today.

Second Battle

As the Companions rode south to the Dukedom of Brionne, they found their way blocked by the army of a giant and bloated Orc by the name of Warlord Brogtar. Lord Fredemund summoned a great flock of Falcons, which struck the flying beasts of the Orcish armies from the sky. With the flying beast slain, the Grail Companions sounded the charge and fought their way deep into the heart of the enemy army, where Lord Landuin struck the Warlord down with his own sword. With victory achieved, the Companions hurried their armies towards the besieged capital of Brionne.

Third Battle

Once they reached their destination, they found the castle under-siege by a horde of Greenskin warriors. The Knights drove through the unsuspecting besiegers from the rear-flank, shattering their resolve and breaking the siege. Lord Balduin d'Brionne sallied forth from his castle with the last of his knights. He smote down the largest of the enemy Warbosses, but not before his adversary's massive axe became embedded deep in his shield. Such was the strength of the blow that the weapon could not be removed, but Balduin fought on for the remainder of the day bearing the immense burden without faltering. From then on, the battle-axe would be the heraldic sigil of Brionne. Balduin then met Gilles within the midst of the Orcish army. As they clasped forearms as brothers, the Lady of the Lake appeared and gave Balduin a drink from the Holy Grail, thus becoming the sixth Grail Companion. Although the Knights were outnumbered three-hundred to one, the Grail Companions were able to still drive the Orcs from the battlefield, tearing through greenskins like wheat before a scythe.

Fourth Battle

Urged on by the vision of the Lady, the army crossed the River Rienne and rode east through the ravaged Dukedom of Carcassonne, towards the besieged Dukedom of Quenelles. As they rode, Lord Lambard d'Carcassonne rallied to their banner and entered Quenelles. Upon their arrival, they found that the Forest of Loren was in flames, assaulted by another army of Orcish warriors. Some of the Knights were afraid to venture towards the burning forest, for fear of the dreaded Fay Enchantress that has made the Forest her home. Unafraid, Gilles urged them on, and upon entering the Forest, the Knights were attacked by the Orcs.

Though all of them were bone-weary and in sore need of succor, the divine power of the Lady flowed strong, and the Companions attacked the greenskins that were hacking and burning the ancient forests. In a night of blood and fire, the Companions fought tirelessly with skill unmatched and awesome majesty. The dark was lit by shining sword and eye ablaze, and the wrath of the goddess was such that her champions could not fall. Bough joined blade as the ancient forest came to the Companions' aid, to choke and bind, to smite flesh and break bone. The Wood Elves of that haunted forest flitted and glimmered beyond sight amongst the branches, striking down those that dared do harm to their realm. Thus did Gilles become friend to the Fay, and won his Fourth Great Battle.

During the battle, the Fay Enchantress appeared from the shadows and lent her aid towards the Knights, with the very trees of the Forest rising up to meet the Greenskin invaders. As the battle raged on, the Knights had also met with the army of Rademund the Pure, Lord of Quenelles, and with the last Orc slain, the Lady blessed both Rademund and Lambard for their bravery, thus becoming the seventh and eighth Grail Companions.

Fifth Battle

Riding north to the Dukedom of Parravon, the Grail Companions found it's beautiful capital lying in ruins. Rampaging Giants rained down boulders upon the city walls from the mountains above, whilst a horde of Goblins from the Severed Head Tribe looted the city streets. Borne aloft on his faithful pegasus Glorfinial, Lord Agilgar of Parravon wheeled through the air above the city, the better to take the battle to the crags and aeries, the companions fought on through the green hordes, managing to defeat the foe.

Meanwhile, the Goblins of the Severed Hand tribe were defiling the streets and citizens below, setting a great flame and taking fair maidens into slavehood. The Companions charged through the cobbled streets, cleansing alleys and courtyards, riding down enemies casting twisted bodies into the flames. Thus was Parravon saved, and Agilgar gladly pledged his lance to Gilles.

Sixth Battle

Heading further north-west, the Companions alongside Lord Agilgar, came to the aid of the Dukedom of Montfort. Besieged and surrounded, Gilles ordered the charge against the Greenskin invaders, he slaughtered many but was struck by a cowardly ballista from one of the Greenskin war-machines. His companions rallied about him and fought their way towards the city, where they were met by the towering Lord Martrud d'Montfort. As Lord Agilgar and Martrud watched over the body of Gilles, the companions prepared to mourn their leader. However, as dawn broke the fallen hero grasped the shaft of the giant bolt with a great roar and pulled it bodily from his chest, where light streamed out. Grim and wrathful, Gilles was like a divine sky-warrior as he rode forth once more, killing three Wyverns that descended upon him from the black-bellied skies, one felled by the very bolt that had struck him. For their dedication to Gilles, the Lady blessed Lord Agilgar and Martrud in becoming the ninth and tenth Grail Companion.

Seventh Battle

With the Greenskins retreating, Gilles ordered a counter-attack and plunged deep into the cavernous homes of the Goblin Kings. Plunging into the everlasting night of the caves. On and down they galloped, ever deeper through the labyrinth, surrounded by their holy radiance and the flame that licked from blade and blazed in eye. They slew all the Trolls and the dark creatures of the depths that came upon them, delving ever downward into the dark heart of the mountain where man was not meant to tread. Within those dank and foetid halls, the Goblin Kings were cut down from their thrones and skewered on lances like hogs, their armies broken and crushed. Thus was the Seventh Great Battle won, and Gilles fought a path back towards the light, drenched in the black blood of the foe.

Eighth Battle

Now with ten of the Bretonni Lords following his banner, Gilles turned west to face the Greenskins despoiling the Duke of Gisoreux. Joining forces with Duke Beren d'Gisoreux, Gilles faced a horde containing many of the most deadly Orc Shamans, who turned their foul magic upon the Bretonni. The power of Gork and Mork, but they were protected from the greenskin magic. There began a fierce fight, and Lord Balduin rode before the Companions in a fury like a Norscan Berserker, cutting the heads of a dozen shamans with his axe.

Tens of thousands died that day, but not a single drop of blood fell from the Companions in their charge. The greenskins beasts fled in disarray and fear, for as their spells failed, they lost all hope to win.

Ninth Battle

Now wasted and burning, the Knights walked through the wasteland and met Duke Folgar d'Artios within the city of Mousillon. Duke Folgar told the Knights that an army of Beastmen and Undead warriors march upon the city within a matter of hours, and so the Knights took to the city's defences and stood resolute. Beset on all sides by beasts and Undead, the Companions fought, one to each wall, there to hold out alone against the foe. Gilles hewed the head from an immense Zombie Dragon's shoulders. Thierulf wrestled with a monstrous two-headed Chaos Giant while Agilgar, borne aloft upon his pegasus, joined battle with Terrorgheist fiends in the lightning laced clouds above. Landuin was said to be enraged at the desecration of his homeland, and he disappeared into the dark army. For an entire day, Landuin fought within the undead horde, surrounded on all sides by a sea of undeath, slaughtering all in his path. The battle finally ended when Landuin struck down the Vampire Lord who was controlling the Undead, returning fouled with gore and bearing the creatures foul head. Seeing this, the Beastmen tried to retreat, with the Grail Companions perusing the fleeing beastmen army into the dark forests. When Duke Beren and Duke Folgar returned from the slaughter, they shined with the light of the Lady, becoming now the eleventh and twelfth Grail Companions.

Tenth Battle

The victorious Lords turned north, riding through the Forest of Arden until they reached the besieged port-city of L'Anguille. There, they found the great city under-siege by an army of Norsemen Marauders and Chaos Warriors, attacking from both land and sea. Duke Corduin of L'Anguille cut a path through the besiegers and met up with Duke Gilles. At length, Lord Marcus of Bordeleaux challenged the leader of the Norse, the gigantic Svengar of the Skaelings, to single combat, with the conditions that the loser's forces would withdraw. Too proud to refuse, the giant warrior met Marcus upon a lighthouse tower. After a brutal fight, Marcus finally opened his foe's guard, and struck his opponent with a blow of such might he fell in twain to the rocks below. In respect and awe of the warrior skills of the Bretonnian lords, the Norse took sail back to their icy homelands.

Eleventh Battle

After but a nights rest, the Grail Companions rode eastward where they met up with Duke Carleond d'Couronne. There the Duke joined the armies of Gilles and fought an Orc horde at the River Sannez. There they faced the amassing armies of Orcs pushing toward L'Anguille. The battle was fought on the banks of the fast-flowing river, and the water ran black that day with the foul blood spilled. The Orcs turned their eyes from the great halo of light playing round the Companions, and were struck down into the mire as they turned to flee. It is said that never before had such a great toll of greenskins been slain upon a single day, nor ever since. So much tainted blood quenched the dry earth that it seems as marshland underfoot even to this very day. With victory achieved, the Knights rode with all haste to the city of Couronne.

Twelfth Battle

Gathering within Couronne, the Knights heard news of a massive host of Beastmen, Trolls, and nameless creatures of Chaos pouring from the Forest of Arden. An army of Greenskins warriors, the largest they have ever seen, were pouring out of the mountainous region known as the Pale Sisters. Worst yet, when the Knights assembled outside the walls of the city, an army of Skaven rose up from the sewer networks to pillage and destroy. As the Lords took counsel before the fight, the Lady of the Lake appeared. There she had Lord Corduin and Caerleond drink from the Holy Grail, thus being the last and final members of the Grail Companions. Surrounded on all sides by a number of foe beyond countenance, the Companions stood resolute and without fear; for the lords of each of the fourteen lands of the Bretonni now stood as one, the gathering complete, and their brotherhood and bonds of faith stood stronger than steel. They knew in their hearts the power of the Lady of the Lake flowed through them that day, and that none could stand against them. Each Companion performed such deeds as to fill the sagas until the end of time, slaying countless thousands. The moons raced across the darkened sky, replaced by the burning orb of the sun, but to no respite. Only the Lady knows the number of weeks that saw battle, but against all odds, the Companions emerged victorious. The piles of the dead were stacked like mountains, and searing pyres burnt the slain enemies for so long that night was turned to day for a season.

Aftermath

After this last victory, in 979 IC the lands of the Bretonni tribes were finally secured. A great meeting took place in the home of Folgar of Artois. There, the formal dukedoms were created, and the Bretonnian calendar is introduced. Each of the great lords of the Bretonni, the fourteen Grail Companions, including Gilles le Breton, were named Dukes. The Dukes swore oaths of allegiance to Gilles, who was crowned as King, and Bretonnia was formed. Fredemund, Duke of Aquitaine, the so-called 'Bird of Prey', wedded then Gilles' youngest sister, Annabel.

The Companions of the Grail

Artifacts

Some of Gilles and the Companions blessed armoury have been reverently protected and maintained, wielded only in Bretonnia's darkest hours, by their greatest knights.

  • Forged by Gilles himself, the Silver Lance of the Blessed can only be carried by one who is completely pure of heart. To grasp the lance is said to be the true test of courage and spiritual strength, for an aspirant who is found wanting will be consumed by searing white flame. It is only used by mounted fighters, and never by those on foot.
  • The Lance of Artois was the lance used by Folgar of Artois, who became one of Gilles' Grail Companions and was renowned for his skill at the joust. The lance tip remains as sharp as it ever was, despite the passing of time. In times of need, the lance is removed from the Grail Chapel of St. Folgar and bestowed upon a mounted knight for the duration of battle.
  • The Mane of the Purebreed is part of the mane of Gilles' faithful steed. It is a revered relic of Bretonnia. Strands of this precious artefact can be woven into a horse's mane, conferring the strength and fortitude of the Lord of all Horses onto one of his bloodline.
  • The Falcon-horn of Fredemund, This ancient horn was once used by the Grail Companion, Duke Fredemund of Aquitaine. When blown, this horn emits a piercing cry, and the skies become filled with all manner of birds, in memory of the great man.
  • The Braid of Bordeleaux was said to be a braid cut from the hair of the god Manann, this was a sacred artefact of the first Duke of Bordeleaux. Its dark hair is entwined with kelp and sea shells, and salt water constantly drips from it. When held in the hand and Manann invoked, the caller is filled with divine energy, though this can be a very draining experience.
  • The The Banner of The Lady was first carried by Gilles le Breton himself, who rode to victory under the Lady's benevolent gaze, instilling fear of Her wrath into his enemies. It is only used by those on foot or upon a Bretonnian Warhorse, and is currently wielded by Duke Armand d'Aquitaine.
  • The Prayer Icon of Quenelles, of all the Grail Companions, Duke Rademund of Quenelles was possibly the most devoted to the Lady of the Lake. When opened, this prayer icon displays a miraculously painted image of the Lady that inspires unfettered devotion, giving its wielder The Lady's Blessing.
  • The Perilous Dart was the bolt that struck Gilles down, and which he then used to kill the wyvern, is said to still exist. An item of great power, it drives events around its bearer to a crisis, where he can, by his own efforts, either gain a great victory or suffer a great loss. The bolt does not care about the goals of its holder, and those at a great disadvantage in a struggle for which they care deeply sometimes seek it out, trusting to the crisis to give them a victory otherwise unattainable.
  • The Grail Shield has been blessed by each of the Grail Companions. It is said that its bearer, always a Grail Knight, will not grow a day older whilst it is in his possession.

Year of Woe

In the year 2520 IC, as mortals reckon time, was when Tzeentch sent Kairos Fateweaver to steal the twelve enchanted artifacts once possessed by the companions of Gilles le Breton. So important was this goal to Tzeentch that he dispatched the greater part of his armies to the mortal plane. So began Bretonnia’s Year of Woe, where the tombs of the companions were ransacked, nearby towns razed and countless thousands of Bretonnians — high and low born alike - met their deaths at the tentacles of Tzeentchian Daemons. Castles were of no defence, for their crude stones were easily tumbled by the sorceries of Pink Horrors or transmuted by the warpfires of Flamers. Only at Grail shrines, where the power of the Lady still waxed strong, could any shelter be found. Worse, with each artefact recovered, Fateweaver’s Daemons grew ever more powerful. In the initial battles about Montfort and Quenelles, the lances and valour of the Bretonnian Knights cost the daemonic hosts greatly. By the time eight artefacts had been seized, only the boldest Dukes would even consider taking the field. In the twelfth month, with only a single artifact outside of Fateweaver's clutches, only King Louen chanced his arm — and he lost far more battles than he won.

The final battle of the Year of Woe was the Siege of Mousillon, for ’twas in this city that the last artifact lay. At the height of the siege, the Bretonnian armies made one last sortie against their abusers. As they did so, help arrived from a most unusual source. Nurgle had long been fond of Mousillon, for it had been the breeding ground for many of his favourite plagues. He could not bear the thought of the city being eradicated by the minions of hated Tzeentch, and so loosed his own armies. Unaware of the wider battle being fought, the Bretonnian's gave no quarter that day. They saw only an army of Daemons given over to fighting amongst itself, and slaughtered everything that came before their lances. Ku’gath Plaguefather, bludgeoned Kairos Fateweaver to feathered ruin, only to find himself pierced on the points of a dozen blessed lances. With the destruction of their leaders, both Daemon armies vanished — doubtless to pursue the battle on more familiar territory — leaving only their battle-ravaged fallen and the very items Fateweaver had come to steal.

Other bands of famous Knights

  • The Chevaliers de la Damoiselle de Guerre, were an elite band of Knights Errant who were part of Repanse de Lyonesse's army.

Sources

1. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Knights of the Grail 2nd Edition

2. Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia 6th Edition

3. Knights of Bretonnia (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds.

4. Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos (8th Edition)