FANDOM


Castle Mousillon
Mousillons
The gateway into Castle Mousillon
Vital statistics
Inhabitants Humans, Undead, Ghouls
Type Ducal Capital, Fortress-City
Location Mousillon
Population Unknown
Allegiance Vampire Counts (Formerly Bretonnia)
Industry Unknown
Castle Mousillon is a Fortress-City and the ducal capital of Mousillon. The city of Mousillon stands near the mouth of the River Grismerie, surrounded by swamps. It seems to be slowly crumbling back into the swamp, but somehow it still survives. Few parts are actually maintained, the walls being one of the main exceptions. The repairs are not pretty, but they are effective—the residents of the city want to keep the inhabitants of the swamps out in the swamps.[1a]

The economy of the city is something of a mystery. There are taverns, brothels, drug dens, fighting pits, and places where even darker vices are indulged. There are shops selling forbidden books, the accouterments of forbidden cults, and poisons and assassins' tools of every variety. There seem to be no basic food shops, or tailors, or any of the normal requirements of a city. Most of the residents seem to have some business outside the walls, and wagons and boats laden with basic necessities arrive every day. Most observers think that the Mousillonians barter among themselves for the basics.[1a]

Overview

Built on the site of a handsome Elven city and now fallen into ruin and lawlessness, the city of Mousillon is a battle-scarred sinkhole of poverty, crime, and depravity. By Bretonnian standards, it was a large and prosperous town two centuries ago, the Ducal Palace at its centre and stout defensive walls that had stood since Landuin's reign. Much of its prosperity can still be seen in the splendour of the palace and the houses of some of Mousillon's richer plague victims, but large stretches of the city are now ruined and abandoned, and clusters of hovels house the poverty-stricken inhabitants too terrified of the city's ill reputation to spend their nights within its bounds. Most activity in the city is centred around the docks, where ships that fly no flag come and go, often under cover of night, and the wrong word can get your throat slit in an instant.[2a]

The city is split into several areas, often largely isolated from the others thanks to the stretches of ruined, haunted city between. Some parts are as treacherous as the most monster-plagued forest, and all of it shares the common evils of criminal violence and disease.[2a]

The Charnel Hills

Map City Mousillon

Map of Mousillon

The entire population of the city died between 1219 (2297) and 1322 (2300) when it was besieged by the forces of the king. The Red Pox struck and wiped out almost the whole population of the duchy, hitting the city the hardest. And when the Pox was done, the dead were heaped up in the streets. Rather than simply leave them to rot and further foul Landuin's legacy, the king ordered the bodies the city's dead and the Pox victims from his own army to be buried in mass graves outside the city walls. The Charnel Hills are the result, low rises of the earth where the soil was piled up on these mass graves. Even after two hundred years they still stand in mute testament to the magnitude of the suffering inflicted by the Red Pox.[2a]

The plague dead are still buried in the shadow of the Charnel Hills, with new plague pits opened regularly. Because of this, the soil is fouled beyond belief, and just breathing the air can be lethal. Some of the dead rise as Zombies, while flesh-eating Ghouls hunt for fresh bodies to eat. Though only just beyond the city's walls, a visit to the Charnel Hills requires an armed expedition and plenty of luck. Apart from the mass burials, however, there are reasons to venture into the Hills. Foremost among these is the fact that many plague dead are buried in an indecent hurry, and the Red Pox outbreak of 1319 took nobles as well as the poor. That means many bodies were buried with jewellery and money still on them, making the Charnel Hills a rare source of treasure in Mousillon. Nobles from elsewhere in Bretonnia have even been known to offer rewards for bringing back an heirloom that was interred in the Charnel Hills when a relative died of the Red Pox. No one knows if a grave robber has ever actually collected such a reward, but if they have, then they surely received more wealth than they could ever otherwise find in Mousillon.[2a]

The South Gate

Mousillon City Exterior

Mousillon exterior

With the North gate ruined and haunted by Zombies from the Charnel Hills, everyone entering the city from elsewhere in Mousillon does so through the South Gate. The Gate is of original Elven design and retains its grandeur in spite of the scores of hovels that cluster around it. A community of poverty-stricken peasants has grown up around the gate, existing by begging, stealing, or occasionally trading with people entering or leaving the city of Mousillon.[2a]

The South Gate is a dismal place inhabited by peasants who do not even have swamping rights to their name, and it is the default home of anyone who, through superstition or outright fear, does not wish to spend their nights inside the city itself. Travellers entering through the South Gate can expect to be stopped at every turn by plague-scarred beggars pleading for food or by would-be cutthroats demanding money.[2a]

The Grismerie

As it winds through the city, the River Grismerie becomes wide and sluggish. Its waters are irredeemably foul, choked with rubbish, filth, and corpses and fairly bubbling with all manner of poxes and plagues. The river's waters are dubious enough upstream, but in the city, they are positively lethal. Though there are no officially enforced laws in the city, common mob justice uses drowning in the Grismerie as a punishment. When the Grismerie reaches the sea, it forms a wide harbour where ships can dock on either bank.[2a]

The Chapel Quarter

Most of the city's inhabitable buildings are in the southwest of the town, centred on the Grail Chapel built by Maldred on the southern bank of the Grismerie. The houses here are poor and ramshackle, often far grander properties divided and fallen into disrepair, but the streets are reasonably free of non-Human threats, and most importantly, the well in the square outside the Grail Chapel is the safest source of drinking water in the city (and possibly the whole of Mousillon). It has ever been known for outsiders to drink unboiled water from the well and not perish. Almost everyone who lives in the Chapel District makes a daily journey to the well to collect water and take it back to wherever they live. A self-appointed militia guards the well, with support from the priesthood in the Chapel itself.[2a]

The Grail Chapel is handsome and lavish, perhaps rather too ornate to be a truly humble offering to the Lady. Crusted with gargoyles and layered in carved depictions of Gilles' Companions and their Twelve Battles, the Chapel is a wonder compared to the rest of the city. Only the black patina that still remains from the smoke of the siege and the plague-stricken beggars dying on its steps suggest that it belongs here. Inside, the Chapel has been stripped of all its statues, furniture, and finery, but it is still an impressive sight with shafts of pallid sunlight reaching between its pillars and a mighty altar to the Lady.[2a][2b]

The Chapel is run by a group of men and women calling themselves "the priesthood". These are no Grail Damsels, however, and they do not administer alms to the poor or sing the praises of the Lady. The head priestess, Aurore, runs what is best described as an organised crime syndicate based in the Chapel. Aurore and her "priests" sell blessings, religious indulgences, and superstitious trinkets to the city's inhabitants. Few here would engage in a risky activity or make a significant decision without first travelling to the Chapel and spending what little they have on a prayer or religious trinket from the priests of the Grail Chapel. Some even come in from elsewhere in the duchy, making a sort of pilgrimage into the city for a few words of prayer. It is not that everyone in Mousillon is stupid enough to believe Aurore's priests really do the work of the Lady (although plenty of people are), but rather that with so little in the duchy that is holy, they take what they can get. Aurore's prices range from one thumb-sized black snail shell for a few words of blessing, to a fatted pig for the right to drink from the Chapel's own grail (a pretty but totally mundane chalice). Even nobles have been known to make the trip to the Chapel to receive a dubious blessing from Aurore herself. The popularity of her services has made Aurore Mousillon's most successful businesswoman and one of the most profitable criminals in all Bretonnia.[2b]

The Chapel bustles with activity, with a queue of thugs, beggars, and more waiting to buy a tiny piece of holiness, all surrounded by a gaggle of people drawing from the well. The militia protecting the well are supplied with weapons and other support by Aurore, because the proximity of the well to the Chapel helps bring in more customers. Aurore has not yet dared to charge for using the well, since even a "Grail Damsel" such as herself could not hope to survive the violence that would surely result from denying the people their only source of clean water.[2b]

Bridge Quarter

Mousillon Bridge Quarter

The River Grismerie defines the city, and Landuin's Crossing is the largest bridge across the river (and the only surviving stone bridge in the city itself). The Bridge Quarter serves the needs of the dockside gangs and the crews of the ships who come into the docks, making it a sinkhole of vice. Brothels, drinking pits, and gambling holes are the more respectable locations on and around the Crossing. A few blocks of concentrated debauchery, the Bridge Quarter is where the little money that comes into the city is spent.[2b]

The Quarter was once a relatively prosperous district. Its upmarket houses have been converted into drinking dens and bordellos, and its streets are little better, with cutpurses mixing with the beggars and thugs. Landuin's Crossing itself now groans with jerry-built structures, since the bridge itself is the prime location for drawing in sailors from the docks. The Fallen Heaven, a combination of musical hall and tavern, is the largest and most profitable establishment in the Bridge Quarter and consists of an ugly, rickety building perching precariously on the bridge.[2b]

The Docks

The Docks are the beating heart of ailing Mousillon, the only factor keeping the city inhabited and the duchy itself alive. The Docks see ships arrive daily which fly no flag and have often just made the precarious run through waters patrolled by the Bretonnian fleet. Exotic substances from Araby, pilfered antiquities from the New World, the proceeds of piracy and slave-trading, and all manner of other illegal cargoes are unloaded onto the docks for transport out of the duchy. The ships pick up supplies, the crew savour the delights of the Bridge Quarter, and then the ships leave as anonymously as they arrived.[2c]

The process is overseen by the dock gangs. There are several gangs, and the areas of the docks they control and the services they monopolise are in constant flux. The gangs exact a tax in gold or kind for allowing ships to dock, and while this tax is high and enforced with violence, it still works out far less than an honest captain would have to pay in a lawful elsewhere in the Old World even if their cargoes were legal. The same gangs also move cargoes out of Mousillon, either across the Cordon Sanitaire and into Bordeleaux or on to buyers elsewhere in Mousillon itself (often the duchy's shadier nobles). Members of the dock gangs tend to be short-lived, but they do have the chance, however small, of working their way up to a position of importance and relative wealth. More than a few gang members are ships' crewmen who spent a copper too many in the Bridge Quarter and missed their ride home, while others are peasants who have ventured into the city and found themselves violent and unscrupulous enough to find employment on the docks.[2c]

Almost nothing on the docks happens without the gangs' approval. They take a cut of everything, from the incoming cargoes to the crusts handed out to beggars. The Docks are the only parts of the city to have any regular imposition of law, since the gangs deal with infractions quickly and decisively. They also engage in sporadic violence between gangs, but no one gang has ever managed to maintain supremacy. Principal gangs include the Sang'Argent (led by an old Tilean pirate and based in the ship the Damoiselle Vert), the Garde Cimetiere (violent and morbid brotherhood who live in ransacked tombs on the edge of the city's old cemetery) and the Ecorcheurs (specialists in moving slaves and captives, based in the city's ruined lighthouse).[2c]

The Docks are in relatively good repair with the various gangs having good reason to keep them from falling to ruin. Ships come and go constantly, and there are usually a few anchored at the docks at any one time. Makeshift buildings house gang barracks, warehouses, and auction-rooms while other landmarks of the docks include the elegant-but-decaying Damoisele Vert permanently anchored on the north dock, the ruined lighthouse on the end of the southern dock, and the temple to Manann.[2c]

The temple is kept as well as it ever was during the city's heyday because the sailors who come into the docks are genuinely terrified of Manann. As the God of the sea, Manann holds their lives almost literally in his hands, and the temple is exclusively to his violent, stormy, ship-wrecking side. All the gangs have a hand in the temple's upkeep, and it is a rare sailor who leaves the docks without first leaving a keepsake or handful of pennies at the temple. Unlike the city's Grail Chapel, Manann's temple is a genuinely sacred place and no one disrespects the building the name of Manann on the docks. The standard punishment for courting Manann's anger is immediate drowning.[2c]

The Lance of Light

Lance of Light

Mousillon's lighthouse, the Lance of Light, stands alone at the tip of the southern dock. When Mousillon was at its height, the Lance was essential to guide the countless ships into the docks and keep them away from the treacherous shores to the north and south. In past eras it was lit with a huge oil lamp, but during Maldred's reign, he refurbished the Lance, and it was lit by Malfleur's sorcery. The Lance burned continuously through the siege of the city, and it is said when the light finally went out, the king knew for sure that Malfleur was dead and that the city had fallen.[2c]

Now the Lance, having fallen into disrepair in the centuries since, is a half-collapsed death trap, and it looks like a skeletal arm reaching feebly towards the sky. The Lance is visible from most parts of the city, a ghostly silhouette against the grey sky. Most consider it uninhabited, but it has recently become the headquarters of one of the major dock gangs, the Ecorcheurs. The Echorcheurs are notably violent even among the hard-bitten criminals of the docks. Their specialty is dealing with live cargo. This is particularly tricky to deal with since it can run away as well be stolen or damaged, and Ecorcheurs have become notoriously ruthless in their dealings as a result. The Lance of Light is as much a prison as a headquarters, and its upper floors (those that have not completely collapsed) are used for holding slaves and fugitives until they can be moved out again. Being so far above ground, these floors are not troubled by the city's poor drainage and so they are relatively free of the disease that is the greatest danger to their merchandise. The rest of the Lance is formidably defended by traps, makeshift fortifications, and several well-armed Ecorcheurs.[2c]

Unknown to the Ecorcheurs, and probably to the rest of the city's inhabitants, the Lance of Light was not originally a lighthouse at all. Prior to a great expansion of the city after Landuin's death, the docks only occupied the north side of the river harbour, leaving the south side free. A powerful sorceress built her tower on the south of the river opposite the city, so she could be at once close to the land of the Lady and also to the town. This sorceress, Manon, never married and considered herself wed to the land of her birth, Mousillon. She felt a great darkness coming to Bretonnia's fairest duchy and resolved to stay there and hold off the coming curse as best she could. Manon, though reclusive and little known even in to Landuin's court, was an exceptionally powerful sorceress devoted to saving Mousillon.[2c]

Alas, Manon did not succeed. The very same night that Landuin died in his bed, someone stole into Manon's tower and stabbed her as she slept. How someone could do such a thing when Manon's powers of divination were so formidable, none can say. Manon was solemnly buried some way up the coast, her grave marked by a sample marble slab worm by the salty sea wind. Her tower was converted into the lighthouse when the southern docks were built, and gradually everyone in Mousillon forgot Manon had ever existed. Manon, perhaps alone in all the Old World, understood the nature of the curse coming down over Mousillon, but her life was ended before she could pass that knowledge on.[2d]

Sometimes, the captives held in the Lance see a slim, mournful, pale-faced lady drifting through the top floor of the lighthouse, always weeping, desperately trying to say something but never able to speak. But these are surely the delirious visions of desperate and diseased slaves, and the Ecorcheurs pay them no mind.[2d]

The Ducal Palace

The Ducal Palace is the grandest and oldest building in Mousillon. Built around a single tower evidently of original Elven architecture, even the newer parts of the palace probably date from before Landuin. During the reign of Maldred, the Palace was made extraordinarily lavish, as priceless tapestries hung from every wall, the finest gilded furnishings graced every room, and feasting and entertainment were endless. It was a rare pleasure to be invited to the court of Mousillon, one well worth travelling through the rest of the duchy at the time. But since the terrible Affair of the False Grail, that has changed.[2d]

During the siege of the city, the Ducal Palace was locked against the hordes of plague-infected peasants outside and Maldred, Malfleur, and dozens of courtiers and servants remained inside, ignoring the plague and battle raging around them. It is said (although none can be sure) the most heinous crimes of debauchery were committed in those final days, ordered by Maldred to drown out the pleas of the dying. When the king's army finally opened the gates and sent men to the palace to arrest Maldred, they found the gilded rooms full of corpses. Everyone in the palace died in mid-revel to an unknown cause. The king ordered the palace sealed, and the dead were left where they were--as far as anyone knows, they are still there.[2d]

The Palace is sealed to this day, and none venture near it. Many say it is the seat of Mousillon's curse, though in truth the duchy was damned long before Maldred. In any case, the palace is a place of evil and death. The Elven tower, elegant and sombre, rises to dominate the skyline of the northern half of the city. Two wings, the Lord's and the Lady's Wings flank the tower and are in turn surrounded by a high sheer wall. A few other smaller buildings stand in the shadow of the Palace within the wall, such as stables for the Duke's horses and quarters for his servants. The whole place is decorated with elaborate carved scrollwork that echoes the Elven designs. It is far more tasteful and entrancing than the gaudy decoration of the Grail Chapel, and the Ducal Palace is easily the most beautiful building in the duchy. It is still very defensible, however, and had Maldred not been occupied with his obscene revels, it could have held out for many months even after the city itself had fallen.

The Palace's many rooms include the High Gallery where the Duke held audiences, the Lady Chapel, the Ducal Quarters at the pinnacle of the tower, and the Hall of Landuin's Grace where Maldred held his famous banquets. They are all presumably dressed in the same finery as they were when Maldred was duke but now suffer from damp and disrepair. The bodies are probably there, too, left where they were killed either by plague or by some unknown hand. No one knows for sure since no one has been confirmed as having ventured into the Palace in two hundred years. Some madmen or naive liars claim to have scaled the walls and seen inside, but in truth, everyone in the city is afflicted with a nameless dread of the Ducal Palace. Even visitors from outside Mousillon come under a pall of cold fear when they approach the Palace. The structure seems shrouded in darkness and decay even from a distance. In spite of this, the story has spread that at nights, the feasting in the Palace begins anew and ghosts of Maldred and Malfleur hold their terrible revels, doomed to dance to the music of the dead for all time.[2d][2e]

Should anyone ever venture into the Palace and live, they would surely find riches beyond compare, enough to probably buy the whole of Mousillon and certainly enough to make them disgracefully rich for the rest of their days. But even those who have ventured through the worst of the Lost Town to the gates of the Palace walls have faltered, halted by the dread that suffuses the place. All who went so far have either returned quickly or, some say darkly, been trapped in Maldred's court, compelled to dance with the dead forever.[2e]

The Lost Town

Much of the city was ruined and abandoned during the siege, and with no one to rebuild them, these areas have stayed ruined and abandoned. Abandoned by people, that is--there are dark things in the city that make the Lost Town their home. There is also much reward for the skilled and lucky should they wish to venture into the places where the dead walk the rubble-strewn streets.[2e]

Much of the city north of the Grismerie lies in ruins, the area around the Ducal Palace particularly badly hit (although, the Palace was miraculously spared any damage). The town's south-eastern portion is also lost, as are pockets of ruins dotted elsewhere around the town. It is written that the siege of the city was the first time the King of Bretonnia authorised the use of war machines such as catapults and trebuchets by the peasants in his army, ruling that this did not contravene a knight's vow to the Lady. The war machines reaped a horrible toll among the people and buildings of the city, and in the Lost Town one can find scores of boulders and chunks of masonry that were used as ammunition, still lying in the streets or among the ruins of shattered buildings.[2e]

The Lost Town includes what were once the city's wealthier areas. This means there are many hidden caches of gold and valuable trinkets that might have survived the elements. Specialised thieves prowl through the Lost Town, and some even find valuable things that, if they can find someone to sell them to, can net them enough to buy their way out of Mousillon and start a new life. There are very few such individuals, however, since the lost Town is haunted.[2e]

The Undead walk the streets in the Lost Town. The mouldering Skeletons of plague victims and the bloated corpses of the more recently deceased often walk or crawl through the Lost Town, certain evidence of the stain of evil left on the city by Maldred's impiety. Nests of Zombies pose an immediate hazard to anyone who goes near them and even worse, degenerate half-human things scuttle up from beneath the ground to snatch away the unwary and eat them alive. These Ghouls are the real scourge of the Lost Town. They are predatory and cunning, and always hungry. On the rare occasion that the Ghouls venture out into the city's populated areas, they are met with flaming brands by mobs of fearful peasants. These events give rise to stories of creatures that come in the night to steal away children or suck out your soul. Such stories are, of course, true, and the resulting fear of the Lost Town is enough to ensure that no coordinated effort to explore and recover the Lost Town has ever been made.[2e]

The Barony

Few tales in the city are as outlandish as the description of a hidden kingdom beneath the town, a court of Ghouls lorded over by a monster. Inevitably, this particular tale is true. Few in the City of Mousillon suspect the size and extent of the Barony, but all of them suffer from its depredations in some way. A parasite that lives off the misery and weakness of the people above, the Barony is probably the most civilised place in the city while at the same time being the most brutal.[2e]

A largely forgotten Duke of Mousillon, Afregar, had ambitions well beyond his capabilities and resources. He wanted a modern city such as he had seen in the Empire or like the mighty Dwarf-built fortresses he had heard of. He hired the best architects from Nuln and set them about improving Mousillon so it would represent the height of both Bretonnian tradition and modernity. The first thing he needed was a modern sewer system to cope with Mousillon's extremely poor drainage. Afregar immediately had his architects begin work digging an impressive sewer system beneath the city's streets, featuring high vaulted ceiling and carved columns, so that Afregar's city could be as dramatic beneath as it would be above the streets. Unfortunately, with the sewers less than a quarter finished, Afregar's money ran out, and soon after he died in a hunting accident when his horse tripped on a molehill. The sewers left incomplete and were subsequently forgotten, as was Afregar.[2e][2f]

That was more than three hundred years ago. The sewers are still down there, and with grim inevitability, they have been colonised by the very worst of the city's inhabitants. A colony of Ghouls came to infest Mousillon's sewers, and these flesh-eating creatures sometimes stopped squabbling long enough to raid the surface-dwellers above. The Ghouls were dangerous but ill-organised, content to survive beneath the city and nothing more. That was, until one arrived amongst them with the capacity to rule.[2f]

Next to nothing is known about the Cannibal Knight, the King of Ghouls. Relatively few in the city have even heard of him. A few tales tell of how he was a man from the city who desired revenge for some reason on his fellow Humans, who went down beneath the streets to tame the Ghouls. It is equally possible he is just a particularly strong and vicious Ghoul who killed his way to the top of the food chain and stayed there. Whatever the Cannibal Knight is, the most common stories tell of how he has turned the unruly Ghoul colony into a kingdom mirroring Bretonnia itself. The Cannibal Knight is king, and he has Dukes beneath him (especially violent and strong Ghouls) ruling the lowliest of Ghouls (the commoners) below. The Cannibal Knight's relative intelligence means he can be negotiated with and one dock gang--the Garde Cimetiere--claim they are an ally of the Cannibal Knight and send legions of Ghouls after those who challenge them. Whether true or not, it is open to question and perhaps the Cannibal Knight will one day send his flesh-eating army after the Garde Cimetiere for having the audacity to claim such a thing. If it is true, however, then it suggests the most evil and strong-stomached of the city's criminals could find an able ally in the Cannibal Knight and his kingdom beneath the streets.[2f]

The Barony itself consists of the improbably grand sewer sections, which look more like the vaulted chambers of an underground cathedral than conduits for the city's waste and crude connecting tunnels dug by the Ghouls. The Barony is a kingdom in miniature with its own villages of hovels and particular sections furnished and decorated like debased palaces for the higher-ranking Ghouls. The Cannibal Knight's "palace" is an extraordinary junction of sewer sections where the Knight himself sits on a throne of well-gnawed bones and rules a court of jesters, gladiators, and petty sorcerers. Much of the Barony exists in pitch darkness, and it is doubtful if anyone in the city above has penetrated more than a few steps into the Barony and returned alive.[2f]

Source

  • 1: Knights of the Grail (Fantasy Roleplay 2nd ED)
    • 1a: pg. 83 - 84
  • 2: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Barony of the Damned
    • 2a: pg. 12
    • 2b: pg. 13
    • 2c: pg. 16
    • 2d: pg. 17
    • 2e: pg. 18
    • 2f: pg. 19