When Sarlat was still a Questing Knight searching for the Grail , he encountered the Wood Elves of Athel Loren. The Elves assisted him in his quest, but in return demanded a boon from him, a favour which they would claim at a later time. They gave him a small, ivory carving of an eagle as a token of that debt. Unbeknownst to him, the Elves had prohesised that he would protect their lands in many years to come, on a battlefield far from their homeland of Athel Loren, against an army of undead .
Smoke curled upwards into the darkening night. From the pyres, the last embers slowly lost their fiery glow. A cold wind blew across the field, setting the long grass swaying. Slowly, the men surrounding the mounds of ash and charred wood turned away. Starlight gleamed from the plates of steel that encased them—where the polish was not lost beneath the blood and grime of battle. The knights marched away in dour silence, their spirits haunted by the malignity of their vanquished foes. Bold warriors who would have happily boasted of felling giants and slaying dragons , men who existed solely to test their valour, still they felt the deathly chill of their enemies lingering all around them. Even in the green country of Bretonnia, even in the hearts of that land’s noble defenders, there were some things too unholy to contemplate.
The knights did not celebrate their victory. As they climbed into the saddles of their destriers, they did not look back to the scene of the day’s battle. None of them wanted to be reminded of the horrors they had seen. In ghostly silence, the men rode away, moving across the fields, hurrying to the promise of hearth and home. Among the knights, one rider lingered, casting a cold gaze across the smouldering mounds of ash. Normally, the burning of the dead would have been peasant work, but there had been no time to levy soldiers from the villages. The importance of consigning the enemy bodies to flame had been too great to wait for gangs of peasants to be brought to the field. That base duty had fallen to the knights themselves to perform. The lone knight smoothed the torn tabard he wore over his armour, his fingers lingering against the golden grail embroidered across the breast. His hand fell away from the grail, reaching instead to his belt. From a small pouch, he withdrew a small piece of ivory carved into the semblance of a great eagle. He stared at it for a moment, then shifted about in his saddle, fixing his grim gaze upon the growing darkness.
There was no one to meet his gaze, but he knew there was something out there in the darkness. The same something that had rallied to his knights during the battle. Volleys of arrows had struck the enemy’s flanks without any sign of the archers. Strange lightning and eerie fires had played about the enemy’s ranks. Weird witch-lights had darted about the knights, guarding them from the blades and magic of their foes. A power older than men, perhaps older than the gods themselves, had assisted the Bretonnians and helped them to victory. But it was a power that had first summoned the knights to the field of battle, sending strange visions to Duc Sarlat d’Armen, dreams which had compelled him to assemble his warriors and ride to battle upon the Field of Razac. Only once before had Duc Sarlat encountered the mysterious fey-folk, during his Grail Quest. The fey had demanded a boon from him, a favour which they would claim at a later time. The ivory eagle had been the token of that debt. Now the debt was closed. The knight had no doubt as to the nature of his mysterious allies, nor to the force which had summoned him. The fey-folk had ventured from their haunted forest to help the Bretonnians, but Duc Sarlat knew it was only because the knights, in turn, had helped the fey. “I honour my promise,” Duc Sarlat called out to the night. He glanced down at the ivory eagle. He felt exploited and deceived. Men had died because they had followed him into battle, died fighting for the fey. Angrily his fingers tightened about the carving. “You have your boon!” the knight snarled, hurling the carving into the darkness. He did not hear it strike the ground. “Do not call upon me again,” Duc Sarlat snarled. Savagely, he drove his spurs into the flanks of his steed, moving off through the tall grass. He did not see the pale hand which caught the ivory token, or the limpid blue eyes that studied his retreat from the battlefield.
- 1: The Hour of Shadows - By C.L Warner (Prologue)