- "In the middle of the night,
His grave, gaping wide,
Quietly outs the hungry Sprite,
On his horse to ride.
Hurrah! The dead do ride apace,
And over the land he speeds.
Finding prey they all give chase,
And on our blood he feeds.
Look forth, look forth, the moon shines bright,
He and the dead gallop fast through the night."
- —From The Rhyme of the Vampire Knight, a popular Bretonnian poem[3a]
The Red Duke, also known as the Scourge of Aquitaine, and El Syf by the Arabyans was a former Bretonnian Duke of Aquitaine during his mortal life, who was later transformed into a mighty Blood Knight.
An avid crusader and mighty warrior, he was betrayed by rival nobles from Bretonnia while on crusade, who sent assassins to kill him. Fighting bravely despite being caught by surprise, the Duke slew the assassins but, suffering a poisoned wound, fell to ground. As he lay there dying, he noticed a mysterious figure watching him from afar. The figure approached, and the man named himself as Abhorash, the first of the Blood Dragons. Impressed by the Duke's bravery and honour, Abhorash offered to save the man's life and give him a chance for revenge. Desperate, the Duke accepted, and drank Abhorash's immortal blood.
Falling mortally ill, he was taken back to his realm by his loyal knights, there to die in bed after three nights. Mourning the loss of their beloved Duke, the people buried him in a tomb fit for a king. However, this was not the end for the duke. Three nights later, the door of the tomb opened and out stepped the duke - reborn as a dread vampire. Transformed completely in both mind and body, the monster immediately set about attacking and killing those he had protected, starting with those who had betrayed him and usurped his Dukedom, drawing to him Knights from all across his realm who sought to emulate his warcraft as he raised deathless legions with his newfound powers.[1a]
As the reputation of the fell warrior spread, King Louis, his brother, immediately raised an army to stop him. In a great battle at Ceren Field, the Red Duke eventually encountered his younger brother. Seeing the King fighting alone against enemies on all sides, the Red Duke commanded his minions to cease their efforts against Louis, parting into a clear path between him and his prey. The Duke announced to his brother that he had betrayed him, that he could not be content as King, but had to become Duke of Aquitaine as well. With that, the final chapter of what would become known as the Battle on Ceren Field began. The Red Duke charged the Grail Knight, borne atop a spectral steed of bone and witch-fire, its corruption swathed in a black caparison, he lowered his lance, a barbed thorn of steel soaked in the blood of Bretonnian knights. The Scourge of Aquitaine was one of the mightiest Blood Knights since Abhorash himself, but even he could not stand against The Lady's wrath. Blinded by the holy light surrounding Louis, his heart was pierced by blessed lance, skewering his body and lifting him from his saddle. The Duke looked down from atop the lance towards his brother, his skin blackened and withered and blood filled his eyes as he let out a horrific moan... the Red Duke was slain.[1a]
With the Undead army destroyed and their leader defeated, Bretonnia rejoiced in its victory. King Louis however, knew that the vampire could rise again, but did not want to destroy his body out of respect for the great man his brother had been in life. Despite the pleas of the Prophetesses, Louis opted to bury the Red Duke in a magically sealed and protected tomb, from which the vampire would be unable to ever escape.[1a]
However, escape he did, almost five centuries later on a fateful night, a cabal of witches and corrupt nobles wished to evoke the warrior spirit of the Red Duke in order to channel his martial prowess into a chosen vassal for their own purposes. They broke the seals surrounding the tomb and unintentionally released Red Duke back into the world once more. However his time entombed without any blood to nourish him had driven the already viciously eccentric vampire completely mad.[1a]
In his madness the Red Duke fought a campaign recreating the war that led to his defeat at Ceren Field and the campaign in Araby. Though King Louis had long since passed away the Red Duke ignored the words of his saner associates and led his forces across the land, slaughtering his enemies, even if he didn't recognize them for who they were but rather imagining them to be his opponents from ages past, both at home and abroad. The Red Duke led an army of the Undead once again to Ceren Field, to defile the tomb of a Grail Knight, Galand, who had become legendary during the time of the Duke's imprisonment. In particular he battled against the incumbent Duke of Aquitaine, Gilon who he saw as the usurper of his dukedom. Though he killed the ageing Gilon in a fierce battle, the Red Duke was badly injured, and in turn, confronted with the truth that not only was Gilon one of his descendants, but that Galand was his own son. This drove the Vampire Lord screaming from the battlefield, his army in ruins.[1a]
Riding into the wilderness, the Red Duke was pursued by many brave knights, but never discovered... [1a]
The End Times
Rumours of the Duke's continued existence persisted for many centuries but the last confirmed sighting was towards the closing days of the End Times. When Duke Jerrod, leader of the Bretonnian contingent at the Council of Incarnates was exposed to the truth of the Lady of the Lake, he was determined to take his troops and march back into the ruined and devastated remains of Bretonnia to see out the end of the world there. The vampire count Vlad von Carstein told Jerrod that a small group of warriors, led by Gilles le Breton and an immortal warrior implied to be Abhorash, still fought in Bretonnia. He sent the Red Duke to act as a guide and escort Jerrod's knights to the ancient abbey where the forces of Bretonnia were making their great last stand.
Items and Abilities
The Red Duke was one of the mightiest Blood Knights in existence, one of Abhorash's own brood. The only other Blood Knight to have come closer to destroying Bretonnia was Duke Merovech himself.
- The "Blade of Leaping Gold" was a sword taken from an Emir of Araby the Red Duke had defeated in single combat. It carried a powerful enchantment that allowed it to attack with the power of three furious strikes instead of one.
- The "Armour of Blood" was a crimson suit of jagged, strong armour imbued with mystical properties.
- 1 Warhammer: The Knights of the Grail (Fantasy Roleplay)
- 1a p. 47 - 502 Warhammer: The Red Duke(Novel) by C. L. Werner
- 2 The Red Duke (Novel) by C. L. Werner
- 3: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Night's Dark Masters
- 3a: pg. 10
- 4: Warhammer: The End Times Collection