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Grail Companions

An ancient portrait of the Grail Companions.

The Twelve Great Battles were a series of campaigns led by Gilles le Breton, lord of Bastonne, and his thirteen Grail Companions, against the greenskins, Beastmen, Undead and Skaven that plagued the lands that would become Bretonnia. They took place between 976 and 978 IC. They were victorious in each, and earned much honour, glory and renown. The deeds of the Companions became the epitome of aspiration for all knights, and these battles formed the basis of countless Bretonnian tales in later years.[1h]

HistoryEdit

BackgroundEdit

400px-Bretonnia

Bretonnia.

The Bretonni, proud and warlike horsemen, had arrived to the lands west of the Grey Mountains and north of Tilea around -1000 IC, and began a centuries-long war against the greenskins that roam in these fair realms. Three hundred years later, the Bretonni lands became dominated by twenty main tribes, who absorbed or destroyed the rest, and kept fighting among themselves for control over the territory - although they kept allying against the Orcs and Goblins. They built many great strongholds and castles, but in 577 IC an increase in the greenskin raids saw four of the major tribes destroyed - the other sixteen managed to claim their lands, establishing regions that would remain relatively stable to this day, although Glanborielle and Cuileux were later destroyed and absorbed by others.[1h]

In 947 IC the northern lands were overrun by greenskin tribes, as well as Beastmen that poured forth from the Forest of Arden. Around this time, the Norse began to raid the northern coastal regions and the northern Bretonni tribes were isolated from each other and their lands ravaged. Three years later, Bastonne struck an alliance with Lyonesse through the wedding of Lord Thierulf and Rosalind, sister of Gilles le Breton. The Lord of Lyonesse and the heir to Bastonne became strong strong friends, and the ties between the two realms grew strong.[1h]

In 975, Gilles, already famed throughout the lands of the Bretonni after he sought out and slew the giant red Dragon Smearghus 23 years earlier, inherited the crown of Bastonne after his father died repelling the Orc armies that had invaded Glanborielle, Quenelles, Brionne, Aquitaine, Parravon, Montfort, Bordeleaux and Bastonne. Joining forces with his friend Thierulf and the famed Lord Landuin of Mousillon, Gilles prepared for one final, great battle.[1h]

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.[1a]

First BattleEdit

Gilles le Breton

Gilles le Breton is visited by the Lady of the Lake.

On the morning after the apparition of the Lady of the Lake, Gilles le Breton, Thierulf of Lyonesse and Landuin of Mousillon led their knights in a charge against a numerous army of greenskins, and parted the tide, killing many enemies. The Orcs found themselves trapped between the Bretonni and the Great Ocean, and most drowned. Few escaped the fury of the blessed knights, and the lands were saved. Gilles then unfurled the standard of the Lady upon a great mound of the dead and the people rejoiced.[1a]

In this way, Gilles won the first of his famed Twelve Great Battles, and with it the allegiance of Lord Marcus of Bordeleaux and Lord Fredemund of Aquitaine. That day, the first-forged bonds of brotherhood that were to unite the Bretonni were the true prize.[1b]

Second BattleEdit

From there the Grail Companions took their armies south along the coast, and it is said that the seas calmed at their passage as they rode through the surf towards Brionne. As they reached that embattled region, they came upon the rearguard of a great horde of greenskins whose Warbosses rode on long-necked Wyverns. Upon their sight Fredemund sounded his clarion-horn and summoned a mighty flock of falcons that struck terror into the black hearts of the enemy and tore at the wings of the winged beasts, driving them to the ground. The knights fought deep into the heart of the greenskin horde, where Landuin struck down the bloated Orc Warlord, and Fredemund slew his monstrous mount.[1b]

Third BattleEdit

Riding hard, the Grail Companions reached Castle Brionne, which was besieged by another greenskin army. Just as they attacked from the rearguard, Lord Balduin of 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. Although they were greatly outnumbered, the Bretonni tore through the greenskins like a scythe through wheat in harvest, and Gilles and Balduin met in the midst of the battle. They clasped forearms as brothers, and Balduin was joined into the number of the Companions.[1b][1g]

Fourth BattleEdit

Afterwards, urged ever on by night-blessings and visions from the Lady of the Lake, the Grail Companions crossed the mighty River Brienne, and spurred their chargers a hundred-league through the shattered lowlands of Carcassonne towards the land of Quenelles. Grim lord Lambard of Carcassonne saw the banner of the Lady and came to join them, and as they raced through day and night the Companions clashed swords with Goblin Wolf Riders. The Companions resisted, and after several weary nights the shadow of great Quenelles fell upon them, but they could not rejoice, as they saw the borders of fair Athel Loren in flames.[1b]

Though all of them were bone-weary and in sore need of succour, 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.[1b]

Fifth BattleEdit

Granted restful sleep by the Lady of the Lake, the Grail Companions greeted the new sun to find themselves refreshed, and their wounded bodies whole and sound once more. Suffused with the vigour of a spring dawn, the Companions rode northward to lend their swords to beleaguered Parravon, now amongst their number Rademund the Pure, Lord of Quenelles.[1b]

After seven nights of long travel, the eight Companions reached Parravon, carved from stark mountainside by the River Grismerie, only to find that it stood in wrack and ruin. Several Giants positioned high up in the peaks were throwing boulders down upon Castle Parravon below. 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, and managed to defeat the foe.[1b]

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.[1c]

Sixth BattleEdit

The blossoming coterie of Grail Companions galloped on until as the sun set they came upon the land of Montfort. There they saw the towering Lord Martrud and his kin give their all to fend clear a dozen tribes of fierce Night Goblins, who gushed forth from the mountainside like a black and unstoppable flood through Axe Bite Pass, which was carpeted in a carrion feast of a thousand dead.[1c]

The Companions rode out into the tide of black clad fiends and foughtt mightily, until Gilles was speared by a projectile thrown from a Chukka. Weeping, the Companions bore their feverish lord into Castle Montfort. They spent the night in grief and desperation, as surgeons proclaimed that Gilles was about to die.[1c]

However, as dawn broke the fallen hero grasped the shaft of the 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.[1c]

The siege of Montfort went on for a full week before the Companions turned the tide and the Night Goblins fell away into their dank caverns and dark chasms to lick at their wounds as dogs in their misery.[1c]

Seventh BattleEdit

However, Gilles led his Grail Companions after the retreating foe, plunging into the everlasting night of the caves. On and down they galloped, ever deeper through the labyrinth, their only radiance 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. Thus was the Seventh Great Battle won, and Gilles fought a path back towards the light, drenched in the black blood of the foe.[1c]

Eighth BattleEdit

Bolstered by Martrud of Montfort, the ten Bretonni lords then rode north and westward towards Gisoreux. Here they were joined by Beren, master of that troubled land. Once more they battled against foul and frothing greenskins, but this time the evil beasts had called down the eyes of their base gods. Gork and Mork tried to smite the Companions, 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.[1c]

Tens of thousands died that day, but not a drop of blood fell from the Companions in their charge. The greenskins beasts fled in disarray, for as their spells failed, they lost all hope to win.[1d]

Ninth BattleEdit

Then the Grail Companions made haste to the west, entering in the lands of Mousillon, pride of the realm of Landuin. Alas, in his absence his land had been turned to smouldering ruin. Cattle lay slaughtered in blackened wasteland, and the once pure river was dark with foulness. A bilious stench carried up from swampland where in times past virgin glade stood proud. The Companions rode in grim silence through the gates of Castle Mousillon to join with the remnants of Landuin's family and Folgar, the neighbouring Lord of Artois.[1d]

Folgar had come with dire news of a great host marching under full moon. Beset on all sides by beasts and Undead, the Companions fought as chatelains, 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 Giant while Agilgar, borne aloft upon his pegasus, joined battle with bat-winged fiends in the lightning laced clouds above. The Companions found triumph when Landuin struck down the foul Vampire that had called the dead forth from their peace, and the beasts fled howling into the darkness of the forest.[1d]

Tenth BattleEdit

Marcus of Bordeleaux vs Svengar of the Skaelings 6th Edition black&white illustration

Lord Marcus defeats Svengar of the Skaelings on top of the lighthouse of L'Anguille.

Having triumphed, the Grail Companions spurred their warhorses to the north. After many long nights in the shade of the Forest of Arden, they arrived to Castle L'Anguille, city-fortress of the coast, and they hoped to find respite. Unfortunately, the grand port was embattled by crude Northmen, clad in pelt of fur and steel, and the Companions met them in a great tempestuous battle, joining the lord of the city, Lord Corduin. As the battle raged for weeks, many thousand savages and barbarians were killed and cast wailing into the sea, but the fierce foe paid no regard, for they sought glory or death in the eye of the Chaos Gods. In desperation, Lord Marcus of Bordeleaux challenged the fell lord of the Norse, the towering giant Svengar of the Skaelings, to a single combat.[1d]

In his pride, Svengar would not refuse, and the warriors met atop the towering lighthouse of L'Anguille, ancient and Elven in construction. Cloud roiled and storm lashed as the combatants fought, the elements themselves conspiring to aid the twin hammers of Svengar. After a lengthy 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 of the warrior skills of the Bretonnian lords, the Norse took sail back to their icy homelands.[1e]

Eleventh BattleEdit

The Grail Companions rested well that night. On the morning, they pressed toward the rising sun to the province of Couronne, where they were joined by Lord Carleond, the younger brother of Thierulf of Bastonne, who was the one to rally the hosts of Couronne to his side, for their own king had been slain.[1] There they faced the amassing armies of Orcs pushing toward L'Anguille. The battle was fought on the banks of the fast-flowing River Sannez, 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.[1e]

Twelfth BattleEdit

On the last of the Twelve Great Battles, the plains of Couronne were invaded from the southwest by the Beastmen of the Forest of Arden and from the southeast by the greenskins of the Pale Sisters. The Companions made their prayers and arrayed themselves for this final battle, but disaster played its hand once more as, at their back, the fair city of Castle Couronne was overrun by an unnatural tide of vermin. The Skaven killed the guard and erupted in great number from the gates to threaten the Companions from the rear. 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. 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.[1e]

AftermathEdit

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 is formed. Fredemund, Duke of Aquitaine, the so-called 'Bird of Prey', wedded then Gilles' youngest sister, Annabel.[1h]

NotesEdit

  • The Twelve Battles were based off of King Arthur's twelve battles against the Saxons.

SourceEdit

  • 1 Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia (6th Edition)

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