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Sigil of the Blood Dragons

The Blood Dragons, formally known as the Order of the Blood Dragon, were a fearsome order of Blood Knight Vampires known for their peerless martial prowess in battle. They were consummate warriors, whose skill at arms was unmatched in the Old World, living only for martial combat and brutal battle. Usually fighting from horseback, the Blood Dragons sometimes fought on foot, and were masters of all forms of combat and all weapons, though they eschewed cowardly ranged weapons and magic in favour of pure physical strength and martial skills, believing only in that which was physical; however, they were not above using magic, and would sometimes use their innate (though poorly developed) abilities in Necromancy to raise undead servants.

Blood Dragon Vampires were one of the most well disguised bloodlines in the Old World for, in the war-torn world of Warhammer, the vampires could easily hide among knightly orders or distant outposts, feeding on those they could to avoid detection while using their disguise and opportunities for battle to test their skills and push themselves, living only for combat, the attainment of honour, and the thrill of battle, a dark parody of the virtue of mortal knights.

Ever seeking to emulate their progenitor, Blood Dragon vampires were as much a scourge upon the world as any other vampire; though they claimed to be honourable and sometimes spared those they fought, they were no friends of humanity in the Old World and would readily kill those they deemed weak or without honour, though each vampire had a different code and some were more merciful than others.

History

The history of the Blood Dragon vampires is a long one, harking back to the ancient days of Nehekhara at the peak of its power. There, in the city of Lahmia, a warrior known as Abhorash dwelt. He was the protector of Lahmia's queen, Neferata, and had sworn always to uphold her honour and defend the kingdom from any threat, commanding the queen's personal bodyguard as their captain. He was a peerless swordsman even in those days, and ancient scrolls found in the sandy ruins told of his legendary skill and loyalty, his heart filled with love for his people, but with an even greater love for his queen.

When Neferata discovered the dark art of Necromancy from the books of Nagash, and recreated an imperfect version of the Great Necromancer's potion of immortality, she became the first vampire. Gifting the rest of her court with her dark gift, she took a liking to Abhorash, who she saw as a pure and noble man that she could corrupt. Drawing him in with her supernatural allure, she made false promises of love and devotion, enchanting his mind and tricking him into drinking her befouled blood. Tainted with vampirism and much to his horror, Abhorash soon began to thirst for living blood. Much to the amusement of his queen, Abhorash refused to feed upon those he had sworn to protect, so great was his martial pride. Yet his resistance was short-lived, for he could not resist the powerful thirst for blood that had overtaken him. In a night of gory feasting the captain of the guard slaughtered a dozen of the queen's subjects and drank their blood, sullying his purity and damning himself forevermore.

Filled with sorrow and guilt over what he had done, Abhorash swore to never again drink the blood of innocents, and every night henceforth he lit a dozen candles in memory of those he had killed, and only drank the blood of criminals and enemies of Lahmia.

The Fall of Lahmia

When the city was besieged by the Priest Kings who sought to end the threat of Nagash's legacy once and for all, Abhorash was at the forefront of its defence, standing with the mortal soldiers of Lahmia in battle. Ancient hieroglyphs asserted that Abhorash slew hundreds of the Priest Kings' warriors until the steps of the palace were awash with blood.

Despite his best efforts however the city fell, though Abhorash did not join Nagash when the other vampires fled to Nagashizzar, but instead chose to exile himself, followed by his zealous Vampire disciples. Believing he had been betrayed not only by the mortal Priest Kings who had slain all those he had loved and protected, but also by his queen who had made him what he had become and who had fled to serve Nagash and forsaken her people, Abhorash swore an oath to never again trust mortals. Abhorash continued to light the twelve candles, though they represented his hatred for humanity instead of his sorrow for those he had killed.

Rather than seeking dominion over the land or knowledge of arcane arts as the other vampires did, Abhorash directed his powers towards attaining the absolute pinnacle of martial achievement, striving to become the ultimate, perfect warrior. He taught his followers, among whom were Walach Harkon and Varison the Blade, that single combat and honour in battle were the only true measures of greatness, and told them that only the impure fed upon the weak. Abhorash himself refused outright to feed upon those he deemed weak, and contented himself only with the blood of tribal chiefs and other great fighters, travelling far and wide in pursuit of this goal. He sought out the most lauded warriors, and slew countless Orc warlords, human tribal leaders, Champions of Chaos and other great fighters - none, however, could match him.

Abhorash's Ascension and Legacy

Eventually Abhorash's quest took him to a mighty peak in the Worlds Edge Mountains, its summit wreathed in fire and smoke. He scaled the daunting edifice in a single day, and came upon the lair of an ancient and immense red dragon. Knowing then that he had found the challenge he had been seeking, Abhorash drew his sword and dared to enter the lair of the beast. The vampire and the dragon threw themselves at each other. The monster's breath bathed Abhorash in flames, but his immortal flesh did not char. Its claws and fangs tore rents in his shield and armour, while Abhorash's sword cleaved immense gashes in the thick hide of the dragon. They battled for the whole night, and the mountains echoed with the fierceness of the clash. Just before daybreak, Abhorash's sword found the dragon's heart and he dealt it a final, fatal blow. Even as the last of the dragon's life bubbled from the wound Abhorash bared his fangs and burrowed his head into the gaping cut, gulping deeply at the lifeblood of the dragon.

Abhorash drank and drank, filling himself with the dragon's life force. He cast the monstrous beast's bloodless carcass from the mountaintop and gave a roar of victory that caused avalanches to tumble for many miles around. Invigorated by the blood of the dragon, infused with its ancient strength, Abhorash no longer thirsted for the blood of humans. Finally, after centuries of torment, he had freed himself from the blighted unlife Neferata had cursed him with.

Awed and inspired by his deeds, Abhorash's disciples dispersed far and wide across the world, seeking to emulate the achievements of their undying master. Many died in battle against heroic warriors and fearsome beasts, others survived and their names passed into legend and infamy; Walach Harkon; The Red Duke; Varison the Blade; the Dark Knight of Maleaux and many others, some founding their own orders of knights or corrupting existing ones in emulation of Abhorash. Many vampires sought the mountain home of Abhorash, hoping that he would deem their goals worthy enough to pass on his creed of war.

The Knights of Blood Keep

Though many different orders, groups, bands and solitary duellists from all over the world called themselves Blood Dragons and bore the blood of Abhorash, the most famous of the Blood Dragon orders were the Knights of Blood Keep, their story one of tragedy and corruption.

Many years ago, the people of the Empire would have named the knights of the Order of the Blood Dragon amongst the noblest and most virtuous warriors defending their lands. Their great fortress, Blood Keep, guarded the passes to Bretonnia and was famed for the strength of its walls and the valour of its defenders. Yet their terrible fall from the lofty heights of their noble purity into blackest darkness and corruption came not from within, but from without. One night, a man of great stature and noble bearing appeared before the gates of the fortress and demanded entrance. He named himself as Walach of the Harkon family, and when the knights opened the gates to him they unwittingly sealed their doom.

Walach challenged the knights to single combat. Fighting them all with peerless skill and unnatural vigour and strength, he slew the mortal Knights of Sigmar with ease, for he was a vampire who had learned his war craft in ancient days from the great and fabled Abhorash, first of the Blood Dragons. Though none of the knights could hope to defeat the undead monster, Walach spared those who fought bravely and with honour, passing to them his curse of vampirism and corrupting them utterly, slaying the others without pause or mercy and feasting on their blood.

Rising from their defeat as deathless monsters, the fallen, pale-faced knights became a scourge upon the land under the leadership of their new Grand Master. Forsaking their oaths to Sigmar and the people of his Empire, the knights removed all objects of faith from their keep, throwing them from the walls after slaughtering their confused squires and retainers and raising them into undeath. They tore all sacred symbols of faith from their armour that quickly became twisted by the dark power coursing through their veins.

Sallying forth in dark parody of their former selves atop nightmare steeds forged from the carcasses of their once-noble chargers, the bloodthirsty knights began to prey on those they had protected, sowing terror and death among the villages and towns they had once sworn to defend, revelling in their new power and liberation. The people who had once showered the knights with affection now lived in fear under the terrible shadow of Blood Keep, now a spirit-haunted lair of monsters, and cried out for help.

The Fall of Blood Keep

The peoples' suffering did not go unnoticed. Many decades later the Witch Hunter, Gunther van Hel, discovered the truth of the Order's fate and attacked the darkened Blood Keep with an army amassed from Wissenland and Reikland, supported by no less than four knightly orders.

The siege lasted for three years, during which the bloodshed was like nothing the soldiers of the Empire had seen as they faced the fallen champions they had once counted as brothers, their noble features twisted in psychotic bloodlust as their eyes glowed like hell fire. Many a time the knights charged out from the gates of their fortress, crashing into the ranks of the Imperial army and slaughtering hundreds with each devastating attack, yet the resolve of the Imperial troops was unbreakable, and they fought with determination against the twisted vampires, slaying many of the monstrous warriors.

Eventually the Imperial troops managed to storm the castle, and the Knights of Blood Keep, unable to resist the onslaught of the vast army, were slain or scattered throughout the wilds, hunted by the vengeful soldiers and Van Hel for years. Following the siege, Blood Keep fell into ruin and its evil masters passed into myth.

However, though the Knights that once called Blood Keep their home may have been defeated, they were not destroyed. Some escaped retribution, scattering across the lands of the Empire, Bretonnia, Tilea and further afield. Accomplished with lance and sword, these fell warriors became dark mercenaries, solitary duellists and fearsome raiders.

Yet many centuries after the fall of Blood Keep and the demise of their order, whispers and rumours abound that Blood Keep was inhabited once more. Those who lived near the mountains spoke of nocturnal hunters troubling the Dwarven Holds. Gossipmongers claimed that immortal knights once again feasted on human blood in the ancient, dusty halls, and skeletal sentries patrolled the ramparts. Some said that Walach had returned, and that he had gathered his forces to wage war upon those who had tried to destroy him.

Appearance

Blood-dragon-art

The Knights of Blood Keep are a macabre, horrific parody of the virtuous templars that Walach corrupted. Blood Dragon vampires that hail from elsewhere than Blood Keep are equally twisted, many being once-prodigal sons or daughters, the prides of their families or realms fallen, quite tragically, into darkness, their shining armour befouled and their names dashed from records, forsaken by the light and their people as they forsook their own oaths. Many of these knights wear custom-made armour crafted by the finest artisans by commission, sometimes wearing the heraldry they bore in their mortal lives, and though many hide among human knights and maintain an illusion of mortality, many are also desolate, hermetic fiends who stalk the wilds, or dwell in caves training almost-constantly.

Though the Knights of Blood Keep retain the image of the dragon as their symbol, it is the only remnant of their former selves; their armour is encrusted with terrifying images of death and slaughter. Their blades are fell weapons inscribed with dark runes, chased with precious metals and fashioned in the likeness of evil beasts. The blazons and crests of Blood Keep take the shape of dragons and dragon wings. The Knights do not ride flesh-and-blood horses, but charge into battle upon evil Nightmares with fiery eyes and foetid breath, clad in thick barding painted with disturbing icons of necromantic power.

Sources

  • Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts 6th Edition
  • Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts 7th Edition
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying: Night's Dark Masters
  • Warhammer End Times: Nagash
  • Warhammer: Dark Omen (1998)

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