Bertelis of Garamont was the younger brother of the famed Grail Knight, Calard and the mystical Grail Damsel, Anara. A skilled swordsman with a reputation for womanising and recklessness, Bertelis ultimately fell from grace, becoming a fearsome Blood Knight.
- "I have to train hard. I have not your natural talent," said Calard humbly."
"Nonsense. You are clearly the better swordsman, though I am certainly far superior in the saddle," said Bertelis, flashing a smile at his brother."
- —Bertelis and his brother discuss their swordsmanship.
Bertelis grew up as his father’s favoured son. His older brother Calard and sister Anara had been born from a previous marriage, one that saw their mother die after a miscarriage. Bertelis’ mother always ensured that her husband was cold and distant towards Calard, a sentiment that Bertelis despised. He never knew his sister, as Anara had been taken as a child by the Fay Enchantress herself.
Bertelis and his brother spent their childhood training under Bastonne’s greatest swordsman. Of the two, Bertelis showed the most natural talent, whereas Calard was the most studious of the two, rising early every morning to train his battle skills. As such, the two brothers were always evenly matched, neither able to overcome the other during their sparring sessions. By the time Bertelis reached manhood his skin was a healthy bronze from the sun, his body tall and strong from years of weapons practice and riding. His eyes were dark, his face lean and handsome, and his hair the colour of the sand that was said to lie upon the beaches on the coast. He looked every inch the epitome of Bretonnian knighthood.
Bertelis and his brother were opposites in personality, whereas Calard was the more level-headed of the two, Bertelis was known for being rash and quick to anger. Whilst Calard was focused on his honour and dedicated to his fiance, Bertelis was known for drinking and bedding as many women as he could. Despite his mother's disappointment that Calard would one day rule Garamont, Bertelis did not share this feeling. He would be more than happy serving as one of his Brother's retainers. Despite their differences however, Bertelis and his brother shared an extremely close bond, and one was rarely seen without the other.
Bertilis’ first true task of knighthood was to take part in the cleansing of a Greenskin horde that had been terrorising the lands of Bretonnia. He and his brother had never fought in a battle before, let alone against Orcs, but they were nonetheless excited and confident in their abilities. The ensuing charge against the Greenskin horde saw Bertelis plunge his lance deep into a massive Orc’s throat, ripping its jugular free in a spurt of blood, his first kill in battle. The melee that followed saw the Orcs and Goblins defeated, fleeing into the forests as they were hunted down by the enthusiastic Knights Errant.
This victory was short lived however. Bertelis and his fellow knights soon discovered that the Greenskins had not been rampaging across the land without direction. Instead, they had been fleeing from a far larger and more organised army, an army of fell Beastmen. Soon, knights from across the realm were riding forth to face this new threat. Bertelis found himself awestruck by the arrival of the Grail Knight, Reolus, who had come to lend his might against the children of Chaos, but he was even more shocked to discover that his sister was present at the warcamp. In the many years since she had been taken from Garamont, Anara had risen to become a powerful Grail Damsel.
When battle came, Bertelis charged into the fray alongside his brother. The fighting was fierce, with the Beastmen cutting through the peasant infantry with relative ease, slaying thousands of Bretonnia's lowborn. More horrific still was the fact that many of the dead or dying peasants were then dragged by the Beastmen into the forest opposite, to meet a no doubt horrific fate. Bertelis and his brother charged the beastmen as they poured through the gaps in the infantry lines, they fought bravely, slaying many of the foul Beastmen. In the end, the bloodied knights wheeled around to view the battlefield once more, Bertelis was there at his brother's side, his armour was splattered with blood and he had a savage grin on his face. Bertelis and the knights had barely even dented the Beastmen's ranks however, so heavily outnumbered were they. For every wave of Beastmen slain, hundreds more would pour out of the forests and onto the battlefield...
Slowly but surely the Bretonnian forces were whittled down by the sheer number of beasts they fought. Even with a mighty Grail Knight leading them, they could not stem this tide of evil. When a final, heroic charge was declared, Bertelis clasped Calard's forearm. It was clear then that Bertelis had changed. He looked older, and his eyes were haunted by the atrocities he had witnessed. Gone were the last vestiges of boyhood. All that remained was a young knight, hard and tempered in battle.
The charge hit home, and many of the foul beats were slain under a furious stampede of steel. Soon however the formation faltered, the enemy began to swarm around them, fighting with a savage fury, and increasing numbers of men were dragged down with every passing moment. Bertelis was one of those men. He had been desperately fighting to reach his brother, and fell heavily when his steed was cut from beneath him. As he struggled to rise, an axe smashed into his helmet, wrenching it out of shape and cutting deep into his scalp.
Beastmen swarmed around the fallen Knight Errant, intent on killing him. A blade stabbed towards Bertelis as he groggily struggled to rise, and another flashed out to meet it, deflecting the Beastman's blow. Gunthar, Bertilis' old weaponmaster, was standing over him, protecting his pupil from an onslaught of bestial warriors. Bertelis desperately tried to rise, he ripped his helmet away, and blood was was streaming from his scalp. He flopped back onto the ground, crying out Gunthar's name as the old knight fought, and finally died to protect his Lord's son.
The battle finally ended in a Bretonnian victory, albeit a hollow one. The Beastmen had fled back into the forest without warning, having found whatever they had been fighting so desperately to claim. The death toll had been high for the Bretonnians. Barely a hundred knights had survived the night of blood and dozens more would go on to die from their injuries. Bertelis' head was wrapped in bandages, and his right arm was strapped and held immobile in a splint. He was told that he would not be able to wield a sword or a lance for months, and the death of his old weaponmaster haunted him.
The purpose of the Beastmen's attack was soon revealed by Anara. The Beastmen's leader, the Gave, planned on locating and slaying Bertelis' father. For the Gave was none other than Luethere's own child, born a hideous mutant. Instead of slaying the creature, Leuthere had left the child on the edges of the forest, to either die naturally or be claimed by the beasts within. Now the Gave had returned to seek its revenge. The injured Bertelis was forced to remain with the majority of the surviving knights, whilst Calard, Anara and Reolus rode forth to stop the beast's plan.
Bertelis was hundreds of miles away when the Gave murdered his father, only to be slain by Calard in turn.
Knight of the Realm
With the death of their father, Bertelis' brother inherited the lands of Garamont, a heavy responsibility that the young noble was not prepared for. Whilst his brother turned to drink, Bertelis began focusing on his swordsmanship as a means to combat his grief. Bertelis began sparring with his brother's retinue, made up of their closest cousins. None of his cousins ever felt any shame at being bested by their younger kinsman. Bertelis had always been talented with the blade, and had only increased in skill since death of his father and weaponsmaster.
Bertelis soon entered a grand tournament as a means to test and further train his swordsmanship. During the melee, the young knight came across Merovech of Arlons, a mysterious knight from Mousillon who had entered the tourney at the last minute...
Bertelis stood on the edge of the arena, rolling his arms as he stretched out his muscles. Bertelis's Heraldry, a silver Dragon on a black and red field, was displayed on an unfurled banner held aloft by one of Garamont's yeomen. Bertelis smiled and waved to the crowd, turning around on the spot, before pulling on his helmet. The yeomen clustered around him helped strap his shield onto his left arm and he strode out into the centre of the floor. His opponent, the dark armoured Merovech, walked out to meet him. Bertelis was one of the tallest knights of Garamont, yet Merovech was taller still, and he walked forward with a languid, relaxed grace that spoke of immense self-confidence. He moved as if his armour was a second skin.
Merovech's saluted Bertelis graciously as the crier and seconds cleared the arena. Bertelis returned the salute, and the two stepped away from each other, awaiting the signal for them to commence. Calard was on the stands, crying out for his brother's victory, thumping his hands on the banister. Brass horns hanging with pennants were raised to lips and they blew a resounding staccato. Bertelis drew his sword and cut the air in front of him with a few practise swings. Merovech drew the larger of the two blades scabbarded at his waist, a sword of beautiful design. Most knights would have been forced to use the weapon with two hands, such was its size and weight.
The pair of knights stalked around each other. Stepping forward with the speed of a striking serpent, Bertelis was the first to make a move, whipping his sword in towards his opponent's chest. His footwork was precise, his strike perfectly balanced. Merovech turned it aside with the minimum of effort, and feinted a riposte. The two knights continued to stalk around each other, Bertelis launching the occasional testing strike, which Merovech would deflect with the barest turn of his wrist, but neither knight had yet revealed their full speed or power. Bertelis launched another attack, an overhead strike. As Merovech's blade rose to deflect it, Bertelis rolled his wrist, flicking his sword towards his opponent's neck. It was a blindingly fast shift of direction, one that had caught Calard out on more than one occasion, but Merovech avoided it easily.
Again and again it looked like Bertelis was going to score a hit upon the taller knight, only for Merovech's sword to turn the blow aside at the last moment, scant inches from striking home. Bertelis was getting increasingly frustrated, but where in the past this might have led him to attack furiously, leaving himself open for counterattack, he now channelled his emotions, using his anger to add strength and focus to his blows. He launched a blinding series of strikes, attacking high and low. As Merovech side-stepped, Bertelis spun around on the spot, his blade slicing through the air towards his opponent's neck. It was a perfectly executed strike, and one that Bertelis had clearly set up. Merovech swayed backwards at the last second and Bertelis's sword missed him by less than an inch.
Stepping back, Merovech saluted Bertelis for a move well performed, and drew his second blade, a short-sword that he wielded in his left hand to complement the one held in his right. He twirled the blades before him, and stepped forward to engage Bertelis. The twin blades formed blurring arcs and the audience sat in silence, spellbound. Bertelis backed away steadily, desperately fending off the attacks coming at him from every angle. There was no time for him to even consider launching a counterattack of his own, and it took all his skill and concentration merely to keep his enemy's blades from his neck.
Merovech swatted Bertelis's blade to the side with his shortsword, and a spin of his other sword sent Bertelis's blade sailing into the air. It spun end over end and sank point first into the ground. The move had been so fast that the audiance could barely seen what had happened, applauding when Merovech stepped back to allow Bertelis to retrieve his weapon in order to allow the bout to continue. Saluting each other, the knights came together again. The bout lasted only a few more heartbeats. Bertelis saw an opening, and lunged forward, the tip of his blade striking for his opponent's heart. Belatedly he realised that Merovech had lured him into the strike. Bertelis's sword was battered to the side and Merovech's twin blades crossed, slipping through the gap between Bertelis's helmet and breastplate, and as they touched the chainmail coif protecting his neck, they stopped.
Merovech saluted Bertelis once more, before sheathing his swords and pulling the helmet from his head. Revealing an unnaturally pale face. Bertelis was furious with himself, but Merovech leant in to him, speaking words unheard by any other...
The tournament continued, but was soon halted when messengers arrived. Lyonesse was under attack by the Norscans, Duke Adalhard d'Lyonesse requested the knights' aid. Bertelis rode alongside his brother and the army of Garamont, travelling through a freezing storm for two days before finally reaching the Lyonessian camp, just in time for the coming battle.
The first engagement proved to be a disaster. The Bretonnian army was not at full strength, as forces from Couronne and L'Anguille were still a day and a half's march to the north. At first the Norscans were run down and butchered, only to unleash a mighty daemon-engine upon the pursuing knights of Bretonnia. Hundreds of knights were incinerated when the engine unleashed its hellish payload upon their ranks, and many more were ambushed and cut down in the ensuing confusion. Bertelis and his brother were among the few survivors.
To compound the anger felt by the Bretonnians, a prisoner was sighted with the Norscan chieftain, Calard's former fiance, Elisabet. For a week Bertelis followed his brother and the surviving knights on a series of skirmishes that dogged the progress of the barbarian horde. Eventually, the Norscan forces retreated to the sea, having succeeded in their initial raid. With that, Bertelis and his brother moved on to Castle Lyonesse, brooding over being unable to rescue the young noblewoman.
Three weeks later, Castle Lyonesse received a pair of unexpected, but wholly welcome visitors. The Grail Knight Reolus and Bertelis' sister, the Damsel Anara, had arrived. They spoke of a chaos warcamp situated not far from the Lyonessian coast, where a noblewoman of Bretonnia was being held prisoner. The famed Pegasus Knight, Laudethaire, who had survived the previous battle against the Norscans, assisted Reolus in leading the rescue mission. Bertelis and his brother would accompany them, alongside Anara, flying to the island on the backs of noble Pegasi and obscured by Anara's magic.
The knights travelled through the camp, invisible to the barbaric Norscans. They soon found Elisabet at the centre of a ritual circle, heavily pregnant and chained to a post, her head covered by a spiked helmet. At this sight, the knights broke from their mystical protection and attacked the Norscan sentries. As the first two Norscans were slain by Reolus and Calard, Bertelis sundered the skull of another, his blade carving through the man's head with a single strike. Alas, Bertelis's skill with a sword was soon rendered useless...
Elisabet was possessed. As Calard's brother had freed her from her metal shackles, she had summoned forth daemonic shades to assault her would-be rescuers. Bertelis's sword passed clear through the body of one, having no visible effect. It was only his brother, Reolus and Laudethaire who possessed the enchanted blades capable of wounding such daemons.
Many daemons were slain by the trio, vanishing completely when Anara subdued the possessed Elisabet. Bertelis and the knights soon found themselves dealing with a fresh wave of Norscan warriors, led by their enraged chieftain. Running towards his pegasus, Bertelis took a heavy blow on his shield that bent it out of shape, though his lightning riposte slashed open his attackers throat. He managed to grab the saddle of his mount and haul himself up as the surviving knights galloped alongside him. Soon the rescue party was airborne, heading back towards Castle Lyonesse.
Upon returning to Castle Lyonesse, it was discovered that Elisabet was possessed by a Witch. The Norscan warleader was impressed by her beauty and had made her his consort, enacting a fell ritual to birth him a male heir. Anara eventually managed to exorcise the Witch's spirit from Elisabet's body.
Now pregnant with a daemon child, Elisabet was cared for by her former fiancé and his sister. Meanwhile, the Norscan's leader Egil Styrbjorn, sent forth the full power of his armies, seeking to reclaim his son.
Landing on the shores beyond Castle Lyonesse, the fortress city was subject to a siege of epic proportions, with combatants from both sides dying in the thousands. Bertelis and his fellow knights found themselves fighting in cramped, brutal conditions as droves of Norscan warriors assaulted the castle’s outer walls.
The siege finally ended when Egil Styrbjorn challenged the Grail Knight Reolus to single combat. If Styrbjorn won the duel, then the Bretonnians were honour bound to hand him his son, and his army would leave Bretonnia. Bertelis and the other defenders gathered to watch as Reolus fought the mighty Chaos Lord. For most of the duel the Grail Knight had the upper hand, eventually managing to amputate the Norscan's hand and skewer his rugged face. Alas, when his sword became lodged within the stump of Styrbjorn's arm, the Chaos Lord beheaded the knight with his other.
Honour bound, Bertelis and his brother made their way to the castle and pleaded with Elisabet to hand over her child. The girl was hysterical, the half-demon child torturing her mind. When Calard was eventually given the child, his former lover ran after him crying. Bertelis grabbed Elisabet and in his anger, struck her. Elisabet stumbled, and was sent hurtling down the stairs of the keep to her death. Bertelis's brother turned to him in rage and despair, declaring that they were no longer brothers.
- "All of Mousillon salutes you, Bertelis, champion of champions."
- —Bertelis, Blood Knight champion of Merovech.
Estranged from his brother and riddled with guilt, Bertelis disappeared from Lyonesse not long after the Norscan's departure.
He later found himself huddled before a spluttering fire, miserable and soaked to the skin. The younger son of Garamont raised his head as he heard the sound of horse's hooves on the road, and watched as a knight plodded through the rain towards him. As he got closer, Bertelis recognised the knight's heraldry; a distinctive black fleur-de-lys. His jaw dropped in wonder. This was none other than Merovech of Arlons, the albino knight who had bested him in the tournament before word of the Norscan invasion had come.
He stood to welcome the swordsman to his camp, suddenly embarrassed at his pitiful fire. The knight reined in and looked down at the youngest son of Garamont. He raised the visor of his helmet, exposing his face, as pale as winter snow. Merovech instantly remembered Bertelis his heraldry. He went on to explain that he had been impressed y the young knight's swordsmanship, and had thought they would meet again. Bertelis was honoured by this compliment, replying that his skills paled in comparison to Merovech's own. Merovech smiled, exposing a set of sharp canines in the process. He told Bertelis that such skills could be learned, and that he was a very good teacher...
Bertelis would soon learn the meaning behind these words, and his new master's skill with a blade. Merovech of Arlons was actually Merovech the Butcher, the former Duke of Mousillon. The Vampire had risen from his tomb and was seeking a champion to lead his growing army of undeath. That champion was Bertelis.
The Blood Kiss warped Bertelis's feelings of guilt and sadness into anger and cruelty. Now the dark champion of Merovech, Bertelis's master decided to seal their bond with damnation. The two Blood Knights travelled to Castle Garamont, where the pair slaughtered an entire garrison of Knights and Men-at-Arms, drinking the blood of the slain and burning Garamont to the ground.
Over the course of the next several years, Bertelis trained under Merovech's watchful eye. As a mortal he had decided to take his training more seriously, devoting himself to it with a focus bordering on obsession. Only then had he started to show his true potential. As a Vampire, he eclipsed those expectations and took them to a whole new level. Bertelis’s swordsmanship soon bordered on the sublime, rivalling even the late Grail Knight, Reolus in skill.
- 1: Knights of Bretonnia (Omnibus), by Anthony Reynolds