- "The Lady's light burns strong within you."
- —A Damsel looks upon Calard.
Calard of Garamont was a famous and mighty Grail Knight, Lord of Garamont, Castellan of Bastonne and one of the Companions of Quenelles. He became a renowned hero of Bretonnia after saving the kingdom from an army of Undead.
- "Time and again, he had kicked Gringolet into a gallop and struck the stationary training target, bracing himself for the impact as his lance-tip made contact. The heavy wooden target would teeter and fall to the ground only against the finest of knocks, whereupon peasant servants would scramble to right it, ready for his next pass. For hour after hour he had charged the heavy target, until his shoulder and arm were bruised a dark purple from the lance..."
- —Calard's relentless attitude to training.
Born alongside his twin sister Anara into the noble family of Garamont, Calard's mother died when he was very young - he was always told it was the result of a miscarriage - whilst his sister was taken away by the Fay Enchantress at a young age. His father eventually remarried and had another son, Bertelis, who would become his favourite. Growing up, Calard always found his father to be cold and distant, and his stepmother bitter that he would inherent Garamont over her own child.
The young Calard and his brother would often roam their father’s land from one end to the other. It took almost a full day to ride from Castle Garamont to the eastern border and back, and as youngsters these lands had seemed impossibly vast and filled with adventure. They would often purposefully lose their chaperones, much to the distress of those bidden to see them safe, and embark on quests and crusades against imaginary foes. The boys rescued many fair damsels from the maws of monstrous beasts, and bested many evil knights in those childhood years.
By the time Calard and his brother had entered manhood, they were already skilled Knights Errant, having been trained since childhood by one of Bastonne's, and possibly even Bretonnia's, greatest swordsmen. Calard himself was a notably strong and powerfully built warrior, his body honed through constant, near obsessive levels of training. In the years that followed, both he and his brother would be forged anew through the trials of war and battle, often fighting alongside Reolus, a renowned and mighty Grail Knight.
- "I am Calard of Garamont, first born son and heir of Lutheure of Garamont, Castellan of Bastonne... and you peasants are trespassing on Garamont land."
- —Calard introduces himself to a group of poachers.
That morning, the knights of Bastonne sat astride their Warhorses on the grasslands beyond the towering walls of Castle Garamont, their armour shined to perfection and colourful banners whipping in the stiff breeze. Fully armoured and wearing flowing cloaks that mirrored the colours of their livery, Calard and his brother knelt before their father, the Lord of Garamont. Calard could still smell the delicate scent of his lover, Elisabet in his nostrils, and he breathed in deeply. Moments before he had offered to marry her should he survive the coming battle, and she had accepted with tears in her soulful eyes, before tying a silk ribbon around his arm as a Token of her love.
Calard's heart pounded with barely restrained excitement as he knelt before his father, though he felt a tinge of unease. On one hand, this was his chance, at last, to prove himself in the field of battle, and he was full of noble confidence in his own abilities and those of his brother. He could not deny however that his ageing father had grown frail and sickly of late, and prayed to the Lady for his safety. After his father's blessing - which was mostly directed towards Bertelis - Calard and his brother mounted their horses with a cheer. Squires passed them their weapons and shields, and Calard felt trembling excitement at the prospect of war. They joined the ranks of the knights as their family's ancestral blade was brought forth to be wielded by their father.
Calling out for their victory, the Lord of Garamont's voice was met with another cheer, and the host of Garamont lifted their lances high in salute. Calard and the knights then turned to the west, towards the distant sea and the lands of Bordeleaux. Blushing ladies threw flowers before the resplendent knights, and peasant children and dogs ran alongside them. Trumpets blared as they rode away from Castle Garamont, and Calard gave the Castle that had been his home these last decades a final look, before kicking his spurs into the flanks of his steed, Gringolet. His brother whooped in excitement, and Calard laughed at his brother's exuberance as he felt his own excitement rise.
Alongside many other young Knights Errant, this would be Calard's first true battle, a battle in which his long years of training were put to great use. The young noble galloped into the fray, slaughtering musclebound Orcs with lance and sword, whilst both knights and greenskins died all around him.
His whole existence seemed to become centred on the tip of his lance, and he levelled it at the barrelling chest of a greenskin brute that roared its defiance as he bore down upon it. The creature leapt forward to meet the knights head-on, and Calard followed its every move with the tip of his lance. He took in every detail of the barbarous creature: its foul hide, which was the colour of rotting vegetation; the assortment of rusted armour plates that covered its broad shoulders; its malicious red eyes filled with bloodlust and bestial hatred. Gore dripped from the heavy bladed cleavers clasped in its massive fists, and thick tusks extended from its lower jaw. Its heavily scarred arms were immense, easily as thick as his thighs.
The lance tip smashed into the orc’s chest with a shuddering impact, and Calard tensed his muscles as he drove the lance through the creature’s ribcage, as he had been taught on the practice fields of Garamont. The power of the blow shuddered up Calard’s arm and into his body, as the vamplate of his lance was driven back into his breastplate, and his body rocked backwards in the saddle. The lance drove clear through the creature’s body, impaling it, and the weapon was ripped from Calard’s hands. The fallen orc was trampled beneath Gringolet’s hooves, its bones crushed as it was kicked and stamped by the knights close behind. Then Calard was past the orc, his sword hissing from his scabbard in a flash of silver. In what seemed like a fraction of a second, he had been blooded in battle, and had made his first kill with the lance. Calard’s blade flashed out, glancing off the skull of an orc as he surged past, and other greenskins were lifted into the air as they were impaled on the lances of the other knights.
Calard’s earlier nervousness was replaced by an empowering surge of adrenaline, and he whooped savagely, voicing his enthusiasm and excitement as the formation of knights thundered through the village, running down and slaughtering the greenskins. Nothing could stand against them, and the feeling of power and speed was intoxicating.
Calard and the other Knights took a brief moment of respite before pushing on once more. He accepted a new lance offered to him by a soldier, bearing the colours of his father, and at the sound of a horn blown by one of the knights, the nobles of Bastonne rode from the devastated village and onto more slaughter, where the main bulk of the Greenskin army were fighting.
Calard’s jaw dropped as he drew to a halt atop the rise and looked down upon the seething battle underway below. Clarion horns sounded, and thousands of knights churned up the earth as they thundered across the field, lances lowering as they smashed into the massed ranks of the enemy. The greenskins surged like an overwhelming tide, their numbers inconceivable.
Kicking his steed onwards, Calard and the knights of Bastonne powered down the grassy hill to meet a horde of brutal Boar Riders, who came pouring out of the Orc’s infantry ranks. Calard, his face flushed with anger, shouted a wordless cry, which was lost amongst the cacophony of war, as he urged Gringolet on, willing the stallion to gallop faster.
Too late, the boar riders realised this new danger, and tried to haul their bulky steeds around to face the knights’ charge. The creatures were stubborn, obstinate beasts, and they snarled and slavered as their riders pulled brutally at them. Several of them threw their riders, bucking and spinning, and the massive tuskers gored each other in the confusion. The scent of blood drove them to madness, and they ripped at each other, as their riders tried frantically to control the wild beasts. Then Calard and the knights of Bastonne slammed into them.
Calard’s lance glanced off the armoured shoulder of an orc, throwing it off balance, and Gringolet’s armoured bulk smashed the creature aside. It lost its precarious balance upon the ridged back of its mount, and fell beneath the flashing hooves of the warhorses, even as the boar was impaled upon the lance of another knight, spitting and snarling as it fell. A knight alongside Calard was thrown from the saddle as a spear struck his breastplate, and he saw his brother’s lance break as it sank deep into the body of another boar. Tucking his own lance tightly under his arm, he drove its point into the face of a savagely painted greenskin, feeling the satisfying impact as the long weapon drove through its eye socket and brain, before punching through the back of its skull. Then the knights were free, having smashed through the flank of the boar riders, splitting them.
Then, in perfect unison, the knights of Bastonne pulled their steeds around to the right in a wide arc, wheeling to face the remnants of the boar riders, before charging into the green horde. Calard screamed in savage fury as he killed. His lance was wrenched from his hand, so he drew his glittering sword and split the helmet and head of another greenskin...
Within the hour, the field had been won, and the remnants of the greenskin army were fleeing back into the trees, pursued by small regiments of knights and mounted Yeomen. Calard reined his steed in, breathing heavily. His immaculate blue and red tabard was splattered with blood and ripped where a cowardly arrow, fired by the enemy, had glanced across his chest. His shield, bearing his white Dragon rampant upon a blue and red field, was battered and scratched.
This battle had proven to be both brutal and bloody, but in the end Calard had succeeded in his first duty as a defender of Bretonnia. There was no time to revel in this victory however. The Bretonnians soon realised that the Orcs and Goblins had not been rampaging across the countryside as a mere act of aggression, but had been fleeing from another army... an entire Warherd of Beastmen.
This army was far larger and more organised than the greenskin horde they had defeated earlier, with dukedoms from across Bretonnia pledging their knights in Bretonnia's defence. The mighty Paladin Reolus had even ridden out to lend his holy wrath in the battle to come, an arrival which renewed the knight's spirits. Calard soon discovered that his long lost sister, Anara, had become both a powerful Damsel of the Lady and Reolus' paramour, and she too lent her power to the Bretonnian host. Even with a Grail Knight and a Damsel leading them, the assembled Bretonnians still faced a fierce and bloody battle, against an enemy that far outnumbered them...
When the initial assault was launched, Calard stared in horror as dozens of Men-at-Arms were hauled away from the front lines. They were being dragged kicking and screaming back towards the distant tree line, where the Beastmen's monstrous leader, the Gave, stood pacing back and forth like a caged animal, surrounded by its armoured guard. He had no time to consider the grim fate of these men however, as trumpets blared, and the order to charge was declared.
Calard slammed down the visor of his simple, unadorned helmet and kicked Gringolet into a gallop. All around the battlefield, knights charged. The ranks of the men-at-arms opened up before Calard and the Knights Errant, and they charged through the gap. They covered fifty yards in seconds, and Calard felt the thrill of battle wash over him. Beastmen streamed into the gap created by the parting ranks of the Bretonnian infantry, and lances were lowered. Tensing for the impact, Calard picked his target, a hulking brute with horns spiralling from its forehead, wielding a pair of rusted cleavers.
The knights ploughed into the enemy, and Calard's lance took his foe squarely in the chest, punching through the ribcage. It fell to the ground, blood pumping from the wound, tearing the lance from Calard's hands, and his sword flashed into his hand in an instant. Swinging the blade in a low arc, Calard carved a bloody slash across the neck of another Beastman, and it fell with a scream, even as another lance tore into its shoulder, smashing it to the ground. On Calard and the knights charged, driving through the enemy ranks and smashing them aside. Spears and blades glanced off shields and armour, and dozens of Beastmen were crushed to the ground, trampled into pulp beneath the hooves of the warhorses. The ground trembled beneath the charge of the knights. Nothing could stand in their path.
Surging through the press, Calard's formation swung to the north, riding hard in front of a line of angled, peasant stakes, tearing through the enemy pushing forwards there. Faced with enemies on two sides, the Beastmen fought desperately. Hundreds of Beastmen surged forwards at the knights, screaming as they ran, covering the ground with swift leaps and bounds. They came on in an endless tide, and the air was filled with their braying roars. Calard shattered the horns and skull of another beast with a downward strike, and reeled backwards in the saddle as a blade slammed into his shield, almost knocking him from the saddle. He fought for balance, his arm tingling from the impact, but remained in tight formation with the other young knights. The Knights Errant swung around in a wide arc, cutting and killing, struggling to maintain their impetus against the sheer number of Beastmen.
A monstrous form burst through the tide of enemies, tossing Beastmen aside in its eagerness to kill. Its immense, mutated form was covered in spines of bone and snapping jaws, and rents in its flesh gaped open, exposing countless mouths and tongues that writhed like serpents. It trailed lengths of chain behind it, and rampaged forwards. A myriad of blood-shot eyes on stalks swung towards the young knights, and it screamed in pain and bloodlust, the sound coming from half a dozen throats. With a shout, Calard the knights angled towards the monstrosity, cutting down the savage Beastmen in their path. A thick neck of glistening, exposed muscle burst from within the hulking mass, and snapping jaws closed around the neck of a horse, even as five lances drove home into the beast. Arms ending in bony spurs punched forward, skewering knights and tearing them from their saddles, and lashing tentacles wrapped around steeds, burrowing through flesh and eye-sockets, dragging them down.
Calard slashed with his sword, severing half a dozen eyestalks that spurted black, hissing blood as they were cut, and the remaining eyes retracted within the monstrous creature's body. More lances and swords met Calard's, plunging into its malformed bulk, and its lifeblood gushed forth in a torrent, spurting from a dozen wounds. It flopped to the ground, thrashing madly in its death spasms, killing another pair of knights as it died. A spear smashed into the side of Calard's helmet, and he reeled, his ears ringing, and he saw scores of Beastmen closing in around them. He kicked Gringolet forward with a shout, and the knights were then galloping clear, leaving the dying monstrosity behind them.
Galloping back towards the Bretonnian lines, the massed forces of the enemy scattering before them, the Knights Errant urged their steeds on. the men-at-arms again parted before them, and they thundered through the gap. The ranks closed behind them, and it was only then that Calard saw how many of his comrades had fallen. Suddenly fearful, he glanced around to see his brother. Bertelis was still there, at his side. Bloodied, Calard and his fellow knights cantered up the hillside, and wheeled around to face the battlefield once more. Peasants ran forwards, handing fresh lances to them and passing flagons of water. Hundreds of Beastmen were still streaming from the trees in a relentless, never ending swarm, and Calard felt a stab of panic. He had barely survived the first charge, but it had made virtually no impact on the enemy ranks. Breathing heavily, he took a sip of water, before passing the skin back to a peasant and making ready for another charge. It was going to be a long night...
Soon, Calard was breathing heavily, having cut his way free of the enemy and rode clear. His armour was dented and pierced in a dozen places, and he had cast off his helmet after he had sustained a ringing blow to his head that had wrenched the helm out of shape and partially obscured his vision. Parts of his chainmail hung in loose shreds, the links having been shattered by swords and axes, and the blue and red shield that proudly bore his personal Heraldry was battered and dented. Gringolet sported dozens of cuts and wounds, but none of them were deep, the destrier's plate and chain barding having taken the brunt of the damage, though the proud red and blue caparison was torn in dozens of places. The battle had raged for hours, and Calard had seen dozens of young men slain, never to gain their full knighthood. No more than half a dozen knights remained in the formation of knights errant that Calard had started the battle fighting alongside, and they had been joined by the shattered remnants of other under-strength regiments.
The sheer number of Beastmen was slowly whittling the Bretonnian ranks down. Calard's heart raced as he heard the signal for a last, desperate charge. He was positioned towards the edge of the northern-most wing of the thick wedge of knights, and, though he bristled that he was not closer to the apex of the attack, just to be riding in such august company made him swell with pride. Had it not been nearing midnight and the battlefield swathed in darkness, the charge would have been an awesome sight, every last living knight riding forth in one final, desperate attack. He prayed that he would make a good account of himself, and that somehow his father would hear of it. Calard urged Gringolet forwards with a kick, the mighty grey reacting instantly to his spurs. His weariness and the pain of his injuries were forgotten as he rode towards the enemy.
Though he knew that he would almost certainly die, he felt suddenly powerful, invincible, like one of the companions of Gilles le Breton, whose deeds were recounted in ballad and song. Calard and his brother had both seen so much death in the last months. The reality of war was far different from what either of them had imagined. Calard felt stupid, for though he did not really expect things to be like the tales they had listened to as wide-eyed children, he realised that he had not really known what to expect. Certainly not the stench of the battlefield. For a second, his thoughts drifted to Elisabet, and her face reared in his mind's eye. He saw her seductive, playful dark eyes. The scent of her had all but faded from the silk scarf tied around his upper arm, but its mere presence lent him strength. Calard lowered his lance, and the wall of knights slammed into the enemy once more...
This final battle proved to be far more devastating than the Bretonnians could have realised, but nevertheless, thanks to the knights bravery, they were victorious. After their last charge had broken through, Calard charged towards the enemy leader. They briefly duelled, but the young Knight Errant was defeated and his faithful steed slain. The Gave grabbed the injured knight, and probed into Calard's mind with its fell magic, learning everything it needed to know. Garamont peasants had found Calard, lying comatose amid piles of the dead, and at first they mourned for him. They bore his lifeless body back to camp, convinced that he had been claimed by Morr. It was only when physicians had examined him that a faint, fluttering heartbeat was felt. When he finally awoke, Calard relayed to his sister and Reolus that the entire invasion had been a diversion. At that very moment the tribe's leader, the Gave, was travelling across Bretonnia, intent on destroying Castle Garamont...
- "For Garamont and the King!"
- —Calard charges the invading Beastmen.
Only twenty-five knights had been chosen, though Calard still did not understand the nature of the journey. Surely they had no time for this ritual, whatever it was. The Gave could only be the better part of a week ahead of them, and he had no idea how they were to find it, or catch up to it. It was all too confusing. He didn't understand what was occurring around him, and it made his anger rise to be kept in the dark so. He wished that his brother could have joined them, but he was injured during the battle, and so it was impossible. He felt deep unease at the prospect of riding to battle Bertelis. His brother would remain with the rest of the knights, and he prayed that he would see them again.
His sister began an incantation. Mist began to rise from the still pond they were arrayed before, as if summoned by Anara's lilting voice. It flowed across the top of the mirror-like pool and coiled around his legs. It billowed upwards, and, with a gasp, Calard saw a ghostly form take shape within the mist. It glided forwards like a spirit, its body transparent, and he saw that it was a woman of incredible, haunting beauty. Calard breathed in awe, it was the Lady of the Lake.
Her hair flowed around her as if she was underwater, and her billowing dress rippled like the surface of a lake. Her arms were held out to either side, and she glided through the mist like an apparition. She seemed to glow from within, and yet Calard could see the trees on the far side of the sacred pool through her body. Her lips moved, but Calard heard no sound. Anara answered her, still speaking in that otherworldly tongue, and the ethereal, graceful Lady gestured with one elegant, slender limb. She inclined her head to Reolus, who bowed deeply, and then her almond shaped eyes roved over the gathered knights. Calard felt his mouth dry up as he felt the power of those eyes turn towards him. He lowered his gaze, toying with the reins in his hands, unable to meet her stare.
A swirling mist began to surround the gathered knights, and Calard saw that the vision of the Lady was fading, and he cried out to her, not wishing to be parted from her holy presence. A hint of a smile played upon her lips, and she was gone. Calard could see nothing of his surroundings now, the mist having swallowed everything. The other knights were gone, as was Anara, and he was alone, lost adrift in the mists. Then, Anara's whispering voice told him to step forward, apparently from a great distance, and Calard closed his eyes and did as she bid him, leading his chestnut warhorse.
It seemed like an age had passed before the mists began to clear and Calard began to make out shapes around him once more. Shadows of trees loomed over him, and he saw the stars overhead, glinting in between boughs and leaves. He recognised these woods, and his brow creased in confusion. Like ghosts appearing out of the mist, he saw the others walking alongside him, each one leading his horse, and Anara, walking out in front, leading her snow-white mare. A chill wind rustled the leaves overhead, and the mists lifted away, dissipating as if they had never been. Calard saw that his limbs were solid once more, and let out a breath of amazement. It was night, and Mannslieb was a glowing disc of light high in the heavens overhead, though it had been the break of dawn but moments before. Anara removed the scarf covering her mare's eyes, and the other knights did likewise. In silence, they followed the damsel through the woods, gazing around in wondering incomprehension. Finally, they came to its edge, and again Calard's jaw dropped. In the distance, out across the rolling, dark fields was his home, Castle Garamont. It was on fire.
The main keep and two of the towers were ablaze, fires roaring from windows and lighting up the night hellishly. They galloped past rundown, peasant hovels, whose inhabitants were standing out in the night, wailing and staring at the distant fires in horror. Calard heard his sister chant, and a peal of thunder roll across the heavens. Heavy droplets of rain began to fall, just a few at first, and then more, until the skies erupted in a torrential downpour. The rain made it hard to see, and it seeped inside Calard's armour, soaking the padding beneath and weighing him down, but he pushed aside these minor concerns. On they rode, kicking their tired steeds forward.
Desperation and panic was growing within Calard. As lightning flashed, they saw a flood of black figures racing towards the castle, streaming through the shattered gatehouse into the courtyard beyond, and Calard gave a cry of despair, kicking his steed on with renewed vigour. In that split second of sudden light, he had seen countless hundreds of Beastmen spilling from the forest, and racing towards the castle. They came upon a herd of the beasts, who turned and hurled themselves into their path, and Calard's lance rammed deep into the chest of the first of them, lifting it off the ground. One knight fell, but the others continued on, smashing aside the enemy and crushing them mercilessly.
Lightning flashed again, and Calard cried out in desperation as he saw the sheer number of the enemy. They were but a handful of knights, and he saw no hope of stemming the tide of Beastmen, especially since the castle had already been breached. He rode on, regardless, determined to die defending his home if such was the Lady's will. They got closer, overtaking scores of Beastmen in the race to the castle, and Calard, having discarded his lance, swung a lethal blow into the back of the head of one of the enemy, his strike powered by desperation and rage. They thundered onto the cobbled road leading into the castle, and two more knights fell, one with a jagged spear jutting from his neck, and another as an axe hammered into his steed's chest.
They pounded across the lowered drawbridge. The portcullis was a shattered ruin, its black iron lattice wrenched completely out of shape by some colossal force. The heavy wooden doors of Castle Garamont were twisted and contorted completely out of shape, writhing tree limbs and sap dripping roots having sprouted from the ancient planks and torn the gate apart. They passed scores of bodies, loyal men-at-arms that had died defending the castle. Their bodies had been viciously hacked apart, their limbs thrown haphazardly across the cobbles. Galloping after Reolus, the knights thundered through the gatehouse. A beast hurled itself from an overhead balcony and tackled a knight from the saddle. The man was instantly swamped with enemies, who hacked at him with axes and swords, rending him limb from limb.
Galloping free of the gatehouse, Calard saw that the courtyard within was teeming with the enemy. They were running riot, smashing burning and killing. Through the driving rain, he saw men-at-arms upon the battlements fighting hard against the creatures that swarmed up the stone stairways. From atop the towers, bowmen fired into the heaving mass of beasts within the courtyard, but it was like spitting into the wind. Flames licked up at another of the towers, and he saw men jump from its top, hurtling down to smash amongst the carnage below rather than be burnt alive. There, standing among the carnage, was the beast, the Gave, revelling in the destruction being wrought. It snarled, and directed its minions towards the knights with sharp sweeps of its staff. Then it barked, animalistic commands as it stalked up the steps towards the keep. Calard raked his spurs into the flanks of his warhorse, urging it towards the creature.
Then, Anara completed her chanting. Lightning flashed down from the dark sky, stabbing into the densely packed enemy ranks of the Beastmen. Dozens of creatures were consumed as the powerful energy coursed down from the heavens. and scores more were slain y a second blast, their flesh was cooked and their blood boiled. Calard struggled to remain in the saddle, clinging frantically to his steed's neck as it reared in terror. Several knights were thrown, hitting the ground hard as they fell. Calard wrenched on the reins, dragging the destrier back under control, and kicked it towards the shattered great doors leading into the keep, galloping over the burning and smoking corpses of those killed by the lightning strike. An acrid metallic stink rose in the wake of the crackling discharge, mingling with the repulsive smell of burnt hair and flesh. Calard slashed his sword into the charred head of an enemy as it struggled to rise, and pounded across the smoking courtyard. Other beasts were knocked aside by his warhorse's bulk, limbs broken beneath its hooves.
They rode up the great stone steps leading to the keep. The creature leading the Beastmen was pushing itself to its feet, one side of its body charred and smoking, its skin blistering and blackened from the lightning strike. Then Calard and his companions were past the creature, riding through the arched entrance, into the keep, the hooves of their steeds slipping on the smooth flagstones, echoing sharply. The beautifully carved, heavy doors to the keep had been smashed down, and shouts and screams came from within. The great entrance hall was wide, its walls lined with archaic suits of armour. The enemy was thick here, flooding the hall, intent on destruction and slaughter. Flames were consuming the ancient tapestries hanging on the walls. Priceless depictions of Gilles le Breton's famous twelve battles, which had taken a generation to weave, were destroyed in moments. The heat inside the keep was almost unbearable.
A huge chandelier covered in candles dropped from the high ceiling, the chain clattering loudly as it ran out. It slammed into the floor with a resounding clatter, crushing a pair of beasts beneath it. Clangs rang out as old suits of armour worn by past lords of Garamont were kicked from their pedestals, and Calard saw a servant dragged from a side door and butchered. Another man was slammed head first into a wall, his skull cracking under the impact. Sounds of fighting echoed up from stone side passages, and he could hear men and women screaming as the beasts ran rampant through the keep. The bodies of men-at-arms and knights littered the flagstones. Calard and the knights rode up the hallway, driving the enemy out of their path, cutting them down with sword and lance. At the far end of the wide corridor, the doors to the audience hall were being forced open, the Beastmen heaving a crude battering ram with all their brutish muscle against it. Charging the fell beasts, Calard roared out for Garamont and for the King.
Reolus charged, and the remaining knights thundered into the audience chamber. Calard took in the scene in an instant. He saw half a dozen knights in front of him, fighting back the dark beasts of the forest, their swords bloodied. He felt a stab of outrage as he saw a wasted, skeletally thin old man sitting in his father's throne, and it took a moment for him to realise, with a shock, that it was his father. Calard was filled with sudden grief. His father's muscle was all but wasted away and his skin was a sickly grey.
Someone cried out his name, and he saw his fiance Elisabet, her face streaked with tears. He swore. Wondering why she was here. Still, the hope and love he saw in her eyes filled him with grim determination. With sudden vigour, he drove the point of his sword into the unprotected back of a Beastman that had just felled one of the knights. The thrust skewered the creature between the shoulder blades, and it gave out a sickeningly human squeal of pain as it dropped.
Once the last of the enemy had been slain, Reolus called for the doors to be sealed, and Calard ran to them. The thick timbers that had barred them shut were splintered and useless, and Calard frantically looked around for something anything, that could be used to barricade the entrance. He leant his weight against them as the enemy hurled themselves against the doors from the other side, and his armoured feet began to slide across the blood-slicked flagstones. He cried out for the other knights to help, and they ran forwards to lend their weight. Others ripped long pikes and halberds from the walls of the hall and inserted them into the heavy iron brackets to bar the doors shut, but they seemed pitifully fragile against the force battering from the outside. There was a tremendous crash, and the knights were hurled backwards a step. The beasts had clearly resumed their former tactic, and were once again using their battering ram.
Then, Reolus ordered the knights to step back. As if his words were a charm, the hammering at the door ceased abruptly, and the knights looked at each other in confusion. They backed away, hands clenching around the hilts of their weapons. The tension in the room was thick, and Calard took the moment of respite to wipe the sweat from his forehead. The sudden silence was eerie, and he fully expected the doors to explode inwards at any moment. He risked a glance up at the dais, and his eyes met Elisabet's.
Taking respite on the dias alongside his stricken father and the woman he loved, Calard's life came crashing down, Anara revealed that Lord Garamont was already dying, having received doses of poison from Elisabet. This was the reason behind his increasing frailty and bouts of sickness. The young noblewoman feared that Calard's father, who had long favoured his second wife and their son Bertelis, would disown him, leaving him poor and destitute - and by extension her if she married him. Confronted, Elisabet confessed, tearfully pleading that she had only done it for the sake of their love. His world collapsing around him, Calard stumbled down to the bottom of the dais stairs and fell to his knees, his sword dropping from his limp grasp. He ripped the silk token of Elisabet's affection from his arm and let it fall to the floor.
Still no sound from the hallway beyond the double doors, but then Calard heard a new noise. It was a groaning, creaking sigh, like a house settling in the cool of evening or the sound a ship made as it rolled from side to side in a heavy swell. The hairs on Calard's body stood up, as if the air was charged with static, and he felt an acid tingle on his tongue. The flagstones themselves were lifted by dark tendrils, and the door bulged with pressure. With a tearing sound, the doors were pulled apart by the sudden growth, and there stood the Gave, eyes alight with foetid magic. The doors were wrenched further apart, and a tide of Chaotic Beastmen swarmed into the audience chamber around their master, with the Knights leaping forwards to meet them head-on.
Finally facing an enemy upon which he could unleash his fury and grief, Calard swept up his dropped sword and entered the frantic combat. He roared wordlessly as he swung the blade, all thought of protecting himself swept aside as he let his rage overcome him. He fought like one of the berserk warriors of the icy north, venting his anger in the flesh of the enemy. He hacked the arm from the first Beastman that he met, shrugging off the hammer blow he received in the chest, and smashed his blade into the beast's head, cleaving through one of its horns and smashing its skull. He slashed around in his anger and sorrow, caring not at all for his own safety. He threw himself deeper into the fray, and blows rained down upon him, but still he killed, his armour suffering the brunt of the attacks directed towards him.
Then someone cried out for the knights to fall back, to protect the Lord of Garamont, and Calard came to his senses. His father was still alive, and he had a duty to perform in protecting him. Throwing his life away meaninglessly would be a dishonour to his lord, and he was suddenly determined to make his father proud, at last, to protect him with his dying breath. A meaty fist slammed into his temple, and he was sent sprawling to the ground. Dazed, he dimly registered the towering Gave as it strode through the melee, its backwards-jointed legs giving it an awkward gait. It smashed a pair of knights aside with a sweep of its staff, and stabbed its sacrificial dagger into the throat of another. Calard cried out as it took its first step up the dais towards his father.
Calard pushed to his feet, dazed and moved towards the towering creature. A Beastman threw itself into his path, its face a snarling blend of goat and man, and Calard tried to kill it quickly. His blade flashed for its neck, but it swayed back from the blow and hacked out with its axe. The blow glanced off Calard's shield, knocking him back a step, agonisingly further away from the beast stalking up the dais steps. A pair of loyal knights defending his father stepped forwards to slow the towering beast. It ignored them, feral eyes locked on the lord of Garamont, who was staring at it with eyes filled with horror and loathing.
Two knights came at the Gave simultaneously. With inhuman speed, it stepped into the attack of the knight on its right, releasing its grip on its staff, which remained upright, rooted upon the steps. With its free hand, it caught the descending sword-arm of the knight at the wrist, wrenching the metal out of shape and pulling him violently off balance. The sacrificial knife stabbed into the knight's neck as the beast spun, punching through metal and chain, and blood gushed from the wound. Still turning, the beast slammed the knight into its other attacker, sending them sprawling down the steps. Calard just avoided another brutal attack from the Beastman he was engaged with. The beast had put too much strength behind the blow and stumbled off balance. Calard killed it with a single thrust.
Another desperate knight ran at the towering Gave, his sword held in a two-handed grip. The beast swing its staff up, and thrust it into the charging warrior. It struck the knight in the chest and root tendrils writhed over his body. His boots slipped on the smooth flagstones, and he fell heavily down the steps, the staff attached like a leech to his body. The roots of the twisted stave wriggled madly as they burrowed between gaps in the knight's armour, pushing through chain links and digging deep into muscle and flesh. It was all happening too fast. Calard surged up the stairs towards the beast, screaming in hatred and loathing. It swung towards him with inhuman speed, and backhanded him across the side of the head, sending him crashing to the bottom of the dais..
A sword flashed towards the beast, and it stepped backwards quickly, its hand flashing down to grip the weapon as it lanced towards its heart. Blood welled beneath its long spider-leg fingers as it turned the blade away, and the knight, off balance, stumbled towards it. Releasing the sword, the beast wrapped its hands around the knight's helmet and twisted. A sickening crack sounded, and the warrior fell to the ground, his head almost completely turned around. Nobody now stood between the Gave and the Castellan. Calard rose to his knee, his vision blurred, and staggered back up the dais stairs.
The beast was closing in on his father, who was making an attempt to face it, Calard leapt up the stairs with a shout, hefting his sword, but the beast was too fast. It stepped forwards, its powerful legs covering the ground quickly, and swatted the Castellan's blade aside with a contemptuous sweep of its hand, the ancient sword of Garamont spinning across the stone floor. Its hand closed around his thin neck, and it lifted him up into the air.
Knocking the thrones out of its path, it slammed the Castellan against the back wall. Calard cried out. The old lord's feet were a good foot off the ground, and he kicked weakly. The Gave bent forward and snarled, its face an inch from the Castellan's. Perhaps hearing or sensing Calard behind it, the beast swung its head around and levelled its dagger towards him, snarling in rage. Still Calard came on, and the beast bent its arm, placing the tip of the dagger against the lord of Garamont's neck. The old lord, his eyes fearful, swallowed thickly, and a bead of blood ran down his throat. Calard froze, hatred burning within him.
A lone knight appeared behind the beast and speared it with his sword. The Gave snapped the sword in half, leaving the tip protruding from its body. Then, it tore the blade from its side and sent it hissing through the air. It struck Calard in the shoulder of his sword arm as he lunged forwards, shearing through his armour and sinking deep into his flesh. The force of the throw spun him to the ground, and his sword flew from his hand. The beast turned back towards the Castellan, who was trying to drag himself away, and it stamped towards him angrily. The Garamont lord cried out weakly as the beast's hand clamped around his leg and jerked him back. Blood was running from the wound in Calard's shoulder, and his fingers felt numb. He looked around for a weapon and saw the revered Sword of Garamont lying discarded on the flagstones nearby. Shaking off his shield, he lifted the exquisite blade from the ground. He held it two-handed, forcing his numb fingers to close around the hilt.
The beast was crouching over his father, revelling in his terror. Reaching behind its heavy head with both hands, one still holding the bloody dagger in its grip, Calard heard leather ties break, and, for a moment, he could not fathom what the wretched creature was doing. Calard stared in horror as the beast removed its own face. It clawed at its features, and like a snake shedding its skin, the stitched, rotting flesh was ripped away. Even its horns fell away from its head, and, it was only when they dropped to the floor and he saw the leather ties and buckles, that Calard realised the beast had been wearing a mask. The creature blinked, and its true features were exposed. Calard's mind baulked as he found himself looking at a broad, disturbingly human face. It was like the face of a savage, its cheeks and brow heavily scarred from self-inflicted mutilations, and smeared with mud and dried blood, but it was clearly a human face. Somehow that seemed to make it even more horrific.
Ice-blue human eyes darted around before fixing once more upon the Castellan. Thick ropes of matted hair hung down to its waist, and a long goatee beard hung from its chin. If one saw just its face, and not its unnatural bestial legs and furred body, it might have passed for human, albeit one that was feral and barbaric. Its lips drew back, exposing hundreds of small, sharp teeth, and the image was shattered. Calard's father called the creature an abomination in revulsion and horror. Calard asked what the creature was, his voice thick with disgust.
Anara replied, and told him it was their brother. Calard felt his sanity begin to fray as she continued. It had been borne by their mother before she threw herself to her death in shame, a creature that should have been killed at birth. Looking past the filth that encrusted the beast's face, past the savage scars that crisscrossed its features, he saw his own face looking back at him. It was like looking in a bewitched mirror, and seeing a corrupted and distorted vision of himself looking back.
No one moved, stricken with the horror of the creature's true nature. None could dispute the familial resemblance. This beast was of the Garamont bloodline. The Gave snarled down at its father. Then, with a movement fuelled by hatred, the beast rammed its dagger into the side of his neck. Calard screamed, yet was powerless, as the serrated blade sank through his father's flesh to the hilt. The blade was wrenched clear, and it clattered on the stone as it was dropped from long fingers. Arterial blood pumped from the fatal wound, and Calard roared in protest and horror, running forwards. The beast lifted the man to its chest, cradling the dying man almost like a mother holding a sick child to her bosom. An anguished howl ripped from its throat.
Calard swung the sword of Garamont in a powerful, two-handed arc, blinded by grief and rage. The creature tilted its head back, exposing its neck. In the instant Calard's blade lashed out, all the bestial hatred, loathing and rage slipped from its face. Calard slammed the sword into the Gave's neck, the blade hacked deep into its flesh. Rich blood spurted from the shocking wound, and its head tipped backwards, only loosely attached to its body by tendons and sinews. The beast fell twitching as its blood pooled beneath it, mixing with its father's blood. Calard dropped to his knees, cradling his father's head in his hands.
The life was slipping quickly from his eyes, and his mouth moved as he tried to speak. He gasped for his son, blood gurgling from his neck. Calard replied that he was there, tears running down his face. The dying man's eyes searched past Calard frantically. He called for Bertelis, and Calard felt a pain lance his heart as he realised it was not he that his father sought. Even in death, his father spurned him. The sounds of battle continued unabated as Reolus and the surviving knights continued to hold the enemy at bay, but Calard did not register them. His eyes were locked on his father's gaunt, dead face...
Knight of the Realm
- "This one had dark hair, and wore a tabard of blue and red over his armour. A silver dragon was emblazoned on his chest. A good symbol that, he thought. To the Norse it represented power, martial strength and passion. That warrior was young, he saw, and bristled with hatred. That was an emotion Styrbjorn understood, and he knew that had this angry young knight been born of a Skaeling woman he would of been blessed by great Kharnath and become a mighty warrior indeed."
- —Jarl Egil Styrbjorn sees Calard for the first time.
The grieving Calard would become the new Lord of Garamont, a lowly Knight Errant no longer. He was daunted by his new responsibilities however, and was frequently absent from Garamont for hunts, tournaments, and social visits to neighbouring lords. The young Castellan would mask his pain on these visits by both drinking and womanising, much to the ire of the noblewomen's fathers. Meanwhile, unknown to him, his family's faithful Chamberlain Folcard, was convinced that because of the Gave, Calard was cursed. For the good of the Garamont bloodline, he had to be killed.
It was during a tournament that Calard heard of a vast Norscan army assaulting the coastlines of Lyonesse. The young Castellan quickly mustered the forces of Garamont, and set forth to aid Lyonesse in their hour of need. Calard and his retinue, made up of his brother and closest cousins, rode at the forefront of the Garamont army. Knights from households that paid fealty to their bloodline rode behind them, surrounded by Calard's men-at-arms. These peasant warriors were bedecked in new tabards of blue and red, bearing shields freshly painted with Calard's Dragon heraldry. Marching for two days through a freezing storm, Calard and his men eventually reached the Lyonessian Camp, just in time to rest for the coming battle.
The snow had continued falling throughout the night, blanketing the battlefield in a thick layer of unyielding snow, and the early morning sun was hidden behind thick clouds. Relentless drumming could be heard from the Norse lines, a mile and a half away, but the sound became muffled by the worsening storm. The howl of wind eventually muted all other sound, and swirling eddies of snow ensured that the enemy were obscured in the distance. Such a blizzard was unnatural, and Calard wondered if there might be some diabolical sorcery at work.
Calard's eyes were closed tightly and his lips moved silently as he beseeched the Lady for her protection. Warmth infused him as he whispered his prayer, dispelling the icy chill from his limbs, making him feel rested and strong. All doubt washed away as he felt the power of the goddess upon him, and he was confident that by day's end the Bretonnians would be victorious. A horn sounded and Calard completed his ritual prayers, blinking his eyes as he came back to the present. Still feeling the warmth of the Lady's blessing within him, he mounted his armoured destrier and accepted a war lance as it was handed to him. Across the battle line, some ten-thousand other knights swung up into the saddle, all having prayed to receive the blessings of the goddess. Five times that number of peasants were ranked up in deep formations behind the knights.
The Bretonnians were not at full strength however, the knights of Couronne and L'Anguille were still a day and a half's march to the north, but it seemed to Calard that trying to forestall battle until their arrival was unnecessary. Clearly the Duke of Lyonesse had come to the same conclusion, though Calard wondered how much of his decision had to do with his dukedom's running feud with L'Anguille. Muffled shouts could be heard on the wind, and banners were dipped and waved as orders were passed. In response, several thousand lightly armoured peasant bowmen ran lightly forward on the flanks of the knightly formations, and the mounted yeomen on the extreme left wing began cantering out wide. The bowmen trotted through the snow ahead of the main battle line and Calard swore. He was freezing, the snow and ice had penetrated his armour, and he just wished the battle would commence so he could get moving and warm up.
He brushed snow from his shoulders, feeling the chill through his gauntlets, and kicked away the ice that had formed on his stirrups. Muffled drums echoed in the distance, and Calard felt a brief flicker of trepidation as he heard wolves howling above the gale. Monstrous, trumpeting horns blared in the distance, and Calard briefly pondered the size of the instruments needed to make such a sound. The crisp, clear sound of Bretonnian horns blared, signalling the advance. Calard and the other knights began to move at the command, walking their steeds forward through the snow while tens of thousands of men-at-arms marched behind.
Calard had his visor down to keep the biting wind off his face, and he squinted through the blizzard, trying to see the enemy. They were nothing more than vague shadows in the distance now, and as blasts of wind and snow whipped across the valley, they were almost completely obscured. Calard prayed that the scouts had been correct in their appraisal of the Norse battle lines, for by the time they got close enough to see the enemy lines clearly it would be far too late to alter the battle plan. Nevertheless, Calard knew that there were few forces in the entire world that could stand against a concentrated Bretonnian heavy cavalry charge, and he had little doubt that today would once again reassert the dominance of the Bretonnian Knight. Even if this vile weather was some sorcery of the enemy, it would avail them little.
Horn blasts sounded, and the knights all along the battle line urged their steeds into a canter. They passed by the bowmen on each flank, kicking up powder as the destriers' momentum began to increase. Dark, low clouds hung over the Norscan army and it seemed to Calard that they were somehow unnatural; they were too dark, too low, and they seemed to shift and pulse like a living creature, their shape in constant fluctuation. Pushing the thought aside, he concentrated on making sure he kept tight with the knights around him, and as their pace increased, the knights seamlessly formed the wedged Lance Formation that had proven so deadly against the enemies of Bretonnia for so many centuries.
Calard could see the enemy moving now, could hear their drums pounding out a savage rhythm as they began loping through the knee-high snow towards the wall of knights bearing down on them. Ten-thousand lances lowered, and a roaring cry rose from the lips of the knights. Calard roared for Bastonne, and dug his spurs into his steed's side once again, urging the stallion on. His heart was racing. There was something breathtaking about being part of a massed charge, and it never failed to fill Calard with excitement. He could see the enemy more clearly now; hulking brutes bedecked in furs and hefting brutal looking axes, blades and spiked maces. The barbarians' charge faltered, individual warriors slowing as the wall of knights thundered towards them. Calard felt the thrill of victory wash through him. The enemy were men after all. They were not daemons or monsters, but merely men - men that knew fear. The howls of wolves echoed from the flanks, but Calard ignored the sounds, intent on the enemy in front of him. The flush of imminent victory spurred the Bretonnians on, and they hurtled towards the Norscans, lances lowered. The battle would not last long at all, thought Calard. Overhead, a sound like thunder shook the heavens. Little did he know that the Norscans were preparing to unleash their greatest weapon...
The Norscan advance had completely stalled, and some of them were even now turning around, pushing back against those behind in their panic. They were already breaking and running and the Bretonnians were still a little over a hundred yards from their lines. This is going to be an absolute rout, Calard thought. The entire Norscan centre turned tail and fled in the face of the Bretonnian charge. It was hard to see exactly what was going on, thanks to the blinding gale of snow and ice particles, but it was clear that the Norscan centre had almost completely dissolved. Again he heard roars and howls off to the flanks, and this time he thought he heard something else reach his ears on the wind; men screaming in pain and terror. He glanced to the east, but could see little, though he thought he saw vague shapes, animalistic and furred in the blizzard, and knights turning around in confusion and panic. The sight was alarming but there was little that he could do but concentrate on his own duty, and he dragged his attention back to the front and centre. Besides, even if the Norscans were somehow overwhelming the Bretonnian flanks, their entire centre had been all but routed. Seeing the enemy running before them, the Bretonnian war horns blared, and Calard and the army of Lyonesse swept forward into the gap.
The Bastonnians thundered into the breach in the Norscan line, and Calard lined up a fleeing man with his lance. The Norscan spun towards the knight, but Calard's lance took him in the chest before he could swing his axe, driving through his ribcage and punching out his back. The lance was wrenched from Calard's hand and he slid the blade of Garamont from its inlaid scabbard, the ancient heirloom gleaming coldly. More Norscans were run down, and Calard struck a blow upon the head of one of the barbarians, cracking the skull.
Calard realised that many of the Norscans had fled not directly away from the Bretonnians, but rather had moved off to the sides, pushing into the ranks of Norscans on the flanks. He turned his head from side to side in concern as he realised that none of the men he had faced appeared to be the heavily armoured Norscan elite that they had expected. There was something very wrong here, he realised suddenly. His gaze was drawn upwards as the shadowy outline of the reportedly haunted, towering motte at the end of the valley hove into view. Abruptly, there came a sound like a mountain falling, and a comet trailing hellish red flames shot up into the air from the top of the steep-sided hillock. It soared up high and Calard followed its trajectory skyward, mouth gaping wide in shock and wonder. Then the roaring comet reached the top of its arc and began to descend towards the ground; towards the charging Bretonnians.
Calard breathed the Lady's name as the roiling inferno came screaming down towards the valley floor, and he heard shouts of panic and fear spread through the ranks. Calard was thrown from the saddle as the missile smashed down amongst the knights fifty feet to his left, making the ground shudder beneath the impact, and the sounds of horses and men roaring in agony rose to the heavens, louder even than the screaming winds. The heatwave of the blast burnt Calard's lungs, and he gasped as, even at this distance, his plate armour heated up to an uncomfortable level. hose knights closer in to the blast were cooked alive inside their armour, their flesh bursting into flames along with tabards, banners and horseflesh. A circle over fifty yards in diameter was scorched into the ground, ice and snow instantly turning to steam. Hundreds died in that first barrage, their flesh igniting beneath the intense heat, their blood boiling within their veins. Those directly under the impact of the fireball were unrecognisable, nothing more than charred, twisted corpses that still burned fiercely. So intense were the unnaturally burning, vivid red flames that plate armour ran like quicksilver, dripping onto the ground in flaming, hissing blobs.
Hooves flashed near Calard's head as he pushed himself to his knees, horses screaming and bucking in terror all around. The stink of cooked flesh made him gag, and he staggered unsteadily to his feet as knights fought to regain control over their horses. Spying the precious blade of Garamont on the ground a few feet distant, he leapt for it, uncaring of the danger, and closing his hand around the hilt, he sheathed it. A voice cried out Calard's name, and he looked around to see his brother, Bertelis. Dodging through the chaos of terrified animals, he reached his brother, grabbed onto his saddle as he caught his breath, standing close so as to lessen the chance of getting trampled or kicked. Calard could only express his mutual confusion as Bertelis asked what had just struck them.
He spied a horse with no rider nearby, its ears flat against its head and its eyes wide in terror. He lurched towards the beast, making a grab for its reins. Securing them, he swung himself up into the saddle. The terrified animal reared, but Calard would not be unsaddled again, and the animal quickly began to calm down under his firm control. It was only then that Calard cast a quick glance around him, appraising the situation.
The Bretonnians had been duped into charging the centre, Calard realised, which had given way before them with little resistance. It had been a simple, well executed ploy, and Calard felt despair as he realised that in all likelihood no knights would ride away from this battle alive. Now the hammer blow was about to fall, and the Norscans were going to close in on either side, like wolves. Calard realised that the battle had become a massacre, and, riding towards the surviving knights of Bastonne, attempted to order a retreat. There was no victory to be had here, and alive they could regroup and seek vengeance. Alas, the knights of Bastonne were convinced otherwise. Paying Calard no heed, they charged into the massacre below, and Calard had no choice but to follow or be branded a traitor.
As one the Bastonnians broke into a gallop, charging into the snowstorm after the duke and the bulk of his army, riding hard. They could see little, though Calard knew the enemy were near at hand, and he felt certain that this ride was doomed. They came upon the army of Lyonesse abruptly as the winds shifted, and they saw that the entire force of knights was engaged in a desperate battle. The knights of Bastonne charged forwards, spearing towards the heart of the melee. More Norse were appearing out of the snowstorm, and Calard knew that they were completely surrounded. And still worse was to befall the Bretonnians, for the enemy had one final surprise. The ground began to shudder and reverberate as if shook by an earthquake and monstrous trumpeting lifted above the roar of the wind, the same sounds that Calard had heard before battle had commenced. It was akin to the blare of massive horns, but Calard could not begin to fathom the size of the instruments needed to create such a din. He didn't have to wait long to discover what it was that made the sounds, and what he saw made his blood run cold. From out of the blizzard's whitewash came three massive shapes, pounding forwards through the snow and ice, the ground reverberating with every titanic footfall of the monsters.
Calard saw what could only be the war-chieftain of the Norscans seated upon a high-backed throne atop the howdah-tower of one of the mammoths, a giant, grey-bearded warrior bedecked in dark metal, and he felt intense hatred that such a barbarian had caused the deaths of so many noble knights. His gaze flickered to the figure seated at the chieftain's feet, a woman of obvious beauty, and Calard felt his blood run cold. It was Elisabet, the woman he had once loved.
Knights were streaming from the field now, with no thought of honour or dignity, leaving their butchered comrades to lie where they fell. He could feel the displeasure of the goddess.
For a week Calard and those surviving knights that had not immediately accompanied the duke to Castle Lyonesse had dogged the progress of the barbarians. However, there were less than fifteen hundred survivors of the ten thousand knights that had fought in the battle, and they could do little to threaten them. Calard and the other survivors had engaged in running battles with the Norscans, but these were nothing more than skirmishes for they had not the numbers to force the Norscans into a decisive battle.
Eventually, the Norscan forces retreated to the sea, having succeeded in their raid. Calard was soon furious to learn that the entire relief force of L'Anguille had turned back once it had established that the enemy no longer threatened their own border. Nevertheless, he and the remaining knights made a good account for themselves in a daring attack against the last of the Norscans boarding their longships, yet the battle had little relevance; the enemy warlord - and Elisabet - managed to depart Bretonnia's shores. In impotent rage, Calard had stood upon the snow-covered beach, surrounded by dead and dying Bretonnians and Norscans, and watched as the last longships pulled away into the distance...
Upon reaching the Castle Lyonesse, Calard found himself haunted by both the savage battle and the sight of Elisabet. She had been the last person he had expected to see in the midst of that chaotic battle, a prisoner sat at the Norscan warlord's feet upon the back of the mighty beast. He hated her. She had shattered his dreams. She had poisoned his father, turning him into a withered skeleton, old before his time. And he hated himself for the fact that there was a part of him that loved her still. She was out there, he thought, a captive of the brutal Norscan warlord. His anger rose just imagining what horrors she was being subjected to by the Norse chieftain, by his men.
After three weeks of brooding and allowing his men to recover, Castle Lyonesse received a pair of unexpected, but wholly welcome visitors. Reolus, knight of the Lady and the epitome of knightly perfection, rode alongside Calard's sister, the damsel Anara. They came bearing news that the Norscans had not left Bretonnia as Calard and the knights had thought, but were making camp just off the coast, on the Isle of Landri. Calard asked if the Lady Elisabet was with them, and his sister replied that she was, and that it was the will of the Lady for her to be rescued.
The famed Pegasus Knight, Laudethaire, who had survived the previous battle against the Norscans, assisted Reolus in leading the rescue mission. Calard and his brother would accompany them, alongside Anara. Flying to the island on the backs of noble Pegasi and obsured by Anara's magic, Calard and his allies infiltrated the the Norscan camp, seeking to rescue the captive Elisabet. Stalking through the camp and witnessing the Norscans within, every instinct screamed for Calard to draw his sword and attack these vile, heathen barbarians. They appeared like ghosts to him, concealed as he was by Anara's magic.
Then he saw a lone woman, heavily pregnant and chained to a post, her head covered by a spiked helmet. A canvas sail of a Norscan longship, Calard realised - had been strung up over the woman, giving her a modicum of protection from the elements, and fires burnt outside the circle. Furs were strewn beneath her, but the tension of the chains ensured that the woman was unable to lie down upon them - the best she could manage was to sit slumped, her head lolling forward, with the chains keeping her in an upright position. To treat anyone with such disregard made Calard feel sick to the pit of his stomach, but to do so to a woman with child was beyond reason. Scores of armed guards stood around the circle, talking amongst themselves, backs to the fires to ensure they maintained their night-sight, but Calard paid them no mind, his eyes focusing on the slumped form of the pregnant woman. Even shadowy and ghostlike as she was, with her face obscured by the repulsive brank locked around her skull, he realised that there was something sickeningly familiar about her. He breathed in horror, it was Elisabet.
The closest sentries snapped to attention as he spoke aloud, their heads turning in his direction. One of them muttered something under his breath, staring straight at Calard and making a warding motion with one hand. Calard reached for his blade, his hand closing around its ornate hilt. The other sentries were hefting shields and weapons, gazing around them warily. As if awoken by the sudden tension of her captors, the imprisoned figure of Elisabet moaned and lifted her head, the chains attached to her neck clinking. One of the sentries barked a word in the harsh Norscan language, and made to lift a horn to his lips and sound a warning that would bring the entire Norse army running.
The signal would never be sent however, as Reolus stepped forth from the mystical shadows that had been cloaking his party, and cut the barbarian down. The Grail Knight called out for Calard and the other knights to fight, Calard tore the blade of Garamont from his scabbard, and leapt towards an axe-wielding ghost. He saw that his own sword too was glowing faintly, and his vision shimmered before him as he stepped out of the realm of shadows and back into reality. Sensation returned to Calard in a flood, almost stunning him with their vibrancy. The sound of battle around him was loud, and he felt the biting wind tugging at his cloak, felt the heat of the fires nearby. He smelt blood and death, and he plunged his sword into the throat of the Norscan before the hulking warrior could react to his sudden appearance. The warrior's ice-blue eyes widened as the blade slid through his flesh and severed his spine, blood bubbling up from the fatal wound.
With the knights surprise attack, all the guards were dead in seconds, and Calard ran to Elisabet's side. She had stood at the sound of battle, and he could see her eyes wide as she stared around her through the bars of her imprisoning headgear. Through great effort, Anara managed to free Elisabet from her shackles and mask, and Calard held her. Elisabet looked up at him with a smile that made his blood run cold, and as he stared into her eyes, they turned as black as night, as if ink had been dropped into her irises and was spreading rapidly to cover the entire surface of her orbs. Calard released her, recoiling as if he had suddenly found himself embracing a cadaver. This was not Elisabet, only something wearing her skin.
The woman began speaking in a nightmarish tongue, summoning forth shadowy daemons to attack her would-be rescuers. Calard was attacked upon the very moment the daemons were summoned, a pair of shadowy, insubstantial talons passing through his chest. It felt as though blades of ice were being driven into his flesh, and Calard gasped in agony as they pushed towards his heart. The nightmarish shade seemed to be savouring his torture; he saw its outline shudder as if in the throes of pleasure as it fed upon his pain, and heard its whispering hisses increase in excitement. He stared in horror as it lifted its other hand towards his face, needle-like talons of black smoke poised to ram into his brain. He could do nothing against it, paralysed in agony and terror. The creature's hissing stopped abruptly and it swung its strangely ovoid, blank face away from Calard, as if it had heard a sound. Reolus's blade, gleaming like quicksilver, sliced through its insubstantial cranium, and it emitted a horrible, wailing screech as its head came apart.
Calard's chest was numb where the daemon's talons had pushed through his flesh but feeling had returned to his fingers and he swept up his fallen sword as he leapt to his feet. Shadows danced all around, and he saw one of them rising up between him and Bertelis, who was trying to keep it at bay with sweeps of his sword as he backed away. Calard, looking through the shadowy daemon, could see his brother's face contorted in horror. The daemon glided forwards and he saw Bertelis's sword pass clear through its body. It had no visible effect on the shade, which loomed over him with taloned arms raised high, ready to plunge them down into his body.
Calard cried out and threw himself forward, and he slashed the blade of Garamont through the insubstantial creature's body. Its whispers turned into wails and it swung towards him, oily smoke coiling from its wound. It lashed out with one long, taloned arm, and again Calard saw it as it truly was for a fraction of second. The exposed muscles of its skinless arm glistened wetly, and sharp, curving bone protruded six inches from the bloody flesh of its fingertips. Calard leapt back from its strike and struck with his blade, which was gleaming with silver light. He severed the daemon's arm at the elbow and it wailed again. He cleaved his sword through its neck with his return strike. It felt like he struck nothing more solid than air, but the daemon dissipated into the night, leaving a rancid stink behind it.
Looking around at his fellow knights, Calard saw several slain, their mortal blades having no effect on the daemons. Calard ordered his brother to stay with him, keeping the creatures at bay with the ancestral Sword of Garamont, which was said to have been blessed by the Lady of the Lake. He had always thought that was just a story, but now he believed it. The shadow-wraiths were wary of the glittering blade, and they kept their distance now, chattering and whispering. As the battle raged on, time seemed to slow. Calard could here warhorns in the distance, signalling the arrival of the now alerted Norse. Whilst the chaos worshippers were bearing down on them, the Witch-Elisabet, having been wounded during the fighting, was knocked unconscious by Anara. With the noblewoman now claimed, Calard and the surviving knights raced towards their Pegasi.
Calard stepped into the stirrups and was up in the saddle in an instant. A blade arced towards him and he met it with a blow of his own, the sound of steel on steel ringing out loudly. He hacked the blade down as the pegasus reared and flapped its wings, carving through a Norscan's helmet and skull. Guiding his steed with his knees, Calard turned around, casting a wary eye around him. A pegasus nearby went down, an axe carving its legs from beneath it, splashing its pristine white body with blood, and another knight was killed, dragged from the saddle by a frenzied warrior woman and hacked apart. The Norse had encircled them.
Calard saw that Laudethaire was already airborne, and the other pegasi were eager to fly, following his lead. Another of the noble creatures was killed, an axe shattering its chest and it spilt its rider over its head as it ploughed into the ground, rolling on top of the knight and crushing the life from him. Calard slashed down at a Norscan straining to grab his reins. He sliced the fingers from the marauder's hand, and narrowly avoided being struck from the saddle by a wildly aimed axe-strike. He urged his mount, kicking the pegasus hard, and it broke into a gallop, bowling Norscans out of the way, and then he was in the air. A spear sliced past his head, and he saw another of the pegasus fall screaming as it was struck by a hurled axe.
Flying in the air, Calard turned round to see that his sister's mount had been struck down by the mighty Norscan warlord. Calard tugged frantically on the reins, dragging his steed's head around towards his sister. She had rolled clear of her dying mount, and was facing the towering Norscan looming before her. Calard guided his pegasus down towards the warlord from behind, and his blade sliced through the air as they dipped low. The Norscan sensed the attack coming and hurled himself to the side, throwing himself into a roll, avoiding Calard's blade by scant inches.
The pegasus hit the ground running, and Calard reached towards Anara with one hand. They gripped each other's forearms, and the damsel swung up behind him. The powerful steed continued to gallop for a few steps before it leaped out over the edge of the cliff, and they soared into the updraft. Calard glanced over his shoulder and saw Reolus, bearing the unconscious and pregnant body of Elisabet, launch into the air behind them. The massive Norscan chieftain standing on the cliffs edge roared in outrage, eyes blazing in fury. Turning, Calard leant forward in the saddle and patted his pegasus mount on the neck...
Upon returning to Castle Lyonesse, it was discovered that Elisabet was possessed by a Witch. This was the very sorceress who had assisted in the poisoning of Calard's father, and when Elisabet had fled Castle Garamont to confront the crone, she had taken over over her body. Travelling to the Norscan camp, the enemy warleader was impressed by her beauty and made her his consort, enacting a fell ritual to birth him a child. Anara eventually managed to exorcise the Witch's spirit from Elisabet's body, much to Calard's relief.
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. Calard and his fellow knights found themselves fighting in cramped, brutal conditions as droves of Norscan warriors assaulted the castle’s outer walls. The young Castellan of Garamont slew barbarous warriors as they breached the walls, and plunged his sword into their throats as they attempted to climb over them. Meanwhile Calard’s retinue, made up of his trusted cousins, fought alongside their lord.
As the Siege of Lyonesse continued, the beleaguered defenders were confronted with yet another challenge. A mighty Daemon Engine of the Chaos Dwarfs had been brought forth by the Norscans. This was the very weapon that had ensured the Norscan's victory against the Bretonnians weeks before. It was capable of toppling entire fortresses with its infernal firepower. It was virtually unassailable, having been transported by the Norscan’s longships to a small island along the coast. From here it could launch destruction upon the Knights of Bretonnia. Deciding that this new threat had to be dealt with, the Grail Knight Reolus met with Calard, and ordered the young Lord to ride forth alongside him. Calard and dozens of other Knights rode forth to destroy the infernal machine. He did not know how the Grail Knight intended to reach the island, only that they had to ride through the rampaging Norscans and towards the very sea itself...
It was then that Anara enacted her part of the plan. Standing atop Lyonesse’s great lighthouse, the Damsel called forth the power of the Lady, obscuring the surrounding warzone in a blanket of thick, unnatural fog. Then she focused her attention upon the roiling sea.
The mighty, thirty-foot high doors of the gatehouse groaned open. The wall of fog beyond the gate rolled through the portal as it opened, creeping across the cobblestones like a living, amorphous beast. As the knights prepared to charge, Calard lifted a devotional pendant carved in the likeness of the Lady to his lips, invoking her protection. Reolus signalled the charge, his voice infused with the power of the divine, filling the fifty knights gathered behind Reolus with fiery passion. The knights echoed Reolus’ cry, and Calard’s chest swelled with pride to be part of such an august company, to be riding behind such a holy knight. As one they kicked their steeds forward, galloping out through the gates and into the fog beyond.
Calard could not see more than ten feet in front of him, but he felt no sense of fear or doubt as they thundered out of the castle, galloping directly towards the sea across the sand-swept cobbles on the ancient roadway. The Lady was with them, and they were led by one of her greatest champions – nothing in the world could stand against them.
They came upon the Norscans suddenly, and judging by the expressions on the barbarians’ surprised faces, they must have appeared like ghostly apparitions, galloping out of the fog and led by a faintly glowing demigod of war. Still, the Norscans were a warlike people not given to fear, and they responded with admirable courage, dropping ladders and leaping forward with axes raised, war cries on their lips. Yet for all their bravery they were smashed aside by the tight wedge of knights, crushed and broken beneath the hooves of the mighty destriers.
None of the charging knights behind him faltered. A voice in Calard’s mind was urging him to pull his steed up, telling him it was utter foolishness to continue this mad ride through the fog and into the sea, but he grinned fiercely, rejoicing in the feeling of freedom that riding a warhorse at full gallop allowed. A dragon-prowed longship appeared out the mist, driving a furrow through the sand off to the right of the causeway as it slammed into the beach. Calard saw Norscans leaping over the gunwales gaping in astonishment at the formation of knights riding at full gallop along the causeway towards the ocean, but then they were past them and Calard turned his attention back to the fore. Impossibly, he heard Anara’s voice in the fog all around him. Other voices joined hers, and Calard felt an aching pang in his heart at the beauty of the half-heard song.
There was a great sucking sound from up ahead, and Calard saw the icy waters of the ocean surge away from the tip of the knightly formation. Calard and his allies rode through the parting sea, even as Norse longships fell from the water and into the ground around them. The Norscans protecting the Daemon Engine were completely unprepared for an assault on the island, and many Norscans looked on at the charging knights with expressions of shock and awe. Smashing into the barbarians, Calard’s lance took a surprised Norscan in the face, the tip of his weapon punching through the man’s eye-socket and smashing out the back of his skull. Releasing his hold on the weapon, he drew the blade of Garamont in a smooth motion and hacked down another enemy warrior, cleaving deep into flesh.
Calard knew that they were surrounded by thousands of Norscans now, and upon sighting smoke rising from the Daemon Engine, he and his allies moved to claim their prize. More Norscans ran into their path, screaming in fury, but the Bretonnians carved through them like a scythe through wheat. At a curt gesture from Reolus, half the knights riding behind Calard peeled off to the east. If the Norse overwhelmed them from the rear before they had a chance to destroy the enemy artillery then this whole gamble would be for nought, and so those knights that wheeled off from the main formation would hold them off as best they could.
Calard felt a pang of sadness and pride as the formation split. Those knights peeling away were forming a long line to protect their rear, and every last one of them must have known that he would likely not survive, yet not one of them baulked in the face of their duty. Part of Calard wished that he was riding at their side, for their names would surely be remembered in the pages of history, their noble sacrifice honoured for all time...
Calard focused his gaze upon their target, squinting towards the infernal war machine that was smashing apart Castle Lyonesse with its relentless barrage. Hulking, ape-like creatures attached to each other by chain could be seen hard at work around the machine, being whipped by squat, barrel-chested figures, but he paid them little thought, his eyes widening as he looked upon the hulking metal construction. The corpses and body parts of slain Bretonnian peasants were being shoved into the Daemon Engine’s burning maw, and Calard felt nothing but disgust.
Calard realised that the slave-creatures were orcs, though they were larger and darker-skinned than the ones he had fought as a Knight Errant in Bordeleaux. None of them registered the Bretonnians’ presence until they were almost upon them, so intent were they on their work. A hulking orc worker looked up at the knights bearing down on them as it dragged a frozen corpse up from one of the pits, and it blinked at them dumbly with beady red eyes. Then the creature bellowed, its massive tusked jaw opening wide, and its comrades lifted their heavy heads towards the Calard and the knights.
The Black Orcs were hampered by the chains welded around their necks, but they attacked the knights without fear. Perhaps they longed for death, Calard thought. Each of the beasts was huge, with densely muscled arms twice as thick as a man’s thigh. Calard slammed the blade of Garamont down onto the head of another of the dark-hued greenskins. It was like striking rock, sending a jarring shudder up his arm, but his blow shattered its skull and hacked deep into its minuscule brain, blood spurting. The creature didn’t register it was dead right away, and it snarled and swung a wild blow, forcing him to sway to the side to avoid it.
As Calard and the Bretonnians fought on, one of the Orc’s stunted masters entered the fray. Calard saw the Chaos Dwarf slavemaster heft his heavy weapon to its shoulder, and he gave a shout of warning to his fellow knights. There was a tremendous boom, and fire billowed from the widely flared barrel of the blunderbuss. A swath of death ripped through the Bretonnians and four knights were killed instantly, flesh and armour shredded.
Then there was a sound like some infernal giant beast sucking in a great intake of breath, making the air reverberate, the Daemon Engine had fired again, sending a roaring fireball skyward. At this range, the heat was nigh on unbearable, and Calard’s vision wavered before him. A Black Orc made a grab at him but he severed the creature’s arm at the wrist, leaving its immense hand locked around the reins. Another knight was thrown from the saddle as one of the greenskins wrapped its ape-like arms around the forelegs of his steed, getting trampled in the process but managing to drag the destrier down to the ground. Calard struck another Orc, his sword rebounding off its thick skull, making it reel. It stumbled and disappeared under the flashing hooves of another knight, and then they were through...
Calard and the other knights began bearing down on the Dwarf slavemaster. The heavily armoured creature had discarded its blunderbuss in favour of a heavy axe, its blade gleaming black obsidian. Its companions had joined it now, hefting heavy spiked tools in their thick, gloved hands. Each of the Dwarfs was no more than four foot high, but they were built like oxen. Each had a thick beard that fell down over their leather and iron aprons, and their arms were almost as thick as their bodies. Behind them the immense enemy war machine lurched, seemingly moving under its own impetus, and Calard recoiled in the saddle as he saw clawed legs of living bronze at the front of the war machine’s carriage ripping up the ground as they dragged its weight around to face the knights.
Being so close to the Daemon Engine caused Calard’s eyes water and his armour heat up unbearably. The barrel snapped shut as the living war machine lunged forward, straining like a wild bull at its restraints. Hellish runes glowed white-hot as it pulled against the chains. The steeds of the knights, as well trained as they were, refused to continue the charge towards the infernal daemon engine, baulking and fighting against their riders. The knightly formation fractured, some horses rearing and bucking while others came to a dead halt. Others swung to the side, flattening their ears and galloping at full speed, while some tried to throw their riders. Calard’s steed reared, pulling against him, and he fought to regain control. Only Reolus managed to ride forth.
As the Grail Knight fought the Daemon Engine, Calard was thrown from the saddle by his terrified warhorse. When Calard rose, The Chaos Dwarf slavemaster was before him, snarling hatefully as it swung its black-bladed axe in a murderous arc. Calard managed to get his shield in the path of the blow, but the axe sheared through it, knocking Calard to the side but saving him from harm. He slashed with his own blade, but the dwarf turned it aside easily. This was a foe of considerable skill, Calard realised. He did not know however, that the Dwarf was Zumarah, among the deadliest of his fell kind.
As Calard continued to dual against the Dwarf’s leader, Reolus was already defeating their Daemon Engine. Calard risked a glance towards the Grail Knight, only to be met by another strike from the Chaos Dwarf. Dodging the blow, Zumarah's dark axe sheared through Calard’s armour, but not the flesh. Reolus eventually proved victorious in his efforts, striking the Engine down with his holy blade. The runes binding the daemon hissed and disappeared, and the entire engine began to melt beneath the heat contained within it. Its metal-cogged wheels began to sag, and its brazen forelimbs dripped like syrup. Calard saw the surge of rage in the Dwarf slavemaster’s eyes, and he smiled...
A blast of superheated air exploded outwards, knocking everyone within fifty yards to the ground, and Calard closed his eyes against the furious light that surged into the heavens as the daemons were banished. It was perhaps thirty seconds later when Calard’s senses returned to him and he registered the shape of Reolus, once again in the saddle, looming over him and asking him to take his hand. In awe, Calard accepted the proffered hand, and he swung up behind the Grail Knight. Then, together with the last of the knights that had accompanied them, they turned back towards Castle Lyonesse.
Calard had no time to celebrate this victory, however. Upon his return to Castle Lyonesse, he had regrouped with his retinue, and once more prepared to defend the walls from a fresh wave of Norscan marauders...
At the height of this attack, Calard found himself face to face with one of the enemy leaders, a mighty Norscan warrior, glutted with the power of Nurgle. Pale eyes burned with cold intensity within the shadowy depths of the Norscan’s helmet. Almost as an afterthought he lashed out with one of his swords, and one of Calard’s cousins fell with a gasp of pain as the tainted weapon carved through the plate armour encasing his forearm. He dropped to his knees, grasping his wounded arm, and Calard saw his vambrace blacken and corrode. The Chaos warrior’s broad shoulders were hung with wolf pelts, and he towered over Calard and his companions. Black smoke rose from the deadly, jagged blades of his weapons, and Calard knew that this must have been one of the enemy Chieftains. More enemy warriors leapt over the walls behind him, but Calard’s gaze was fixed on the giant warrior closing towards him. This was a worthy foe, he knew, and he relished the opportunity to prove himself before the Lady and his comrades – and to himself.
Calard gripped the hilt of the Sword of Garamont tightly, and whispered a swift prayer to the Lady of the Lake as he stepped forward to meet this enemy champion. A shadow fell over him and he ducked involuntarily as a winged shape swooped low over his head. The enemy champion took a step back, raising his swords up before him, but before he could ward off the blow, a lance was driven into his chest, punching through his armour and impaling him on its length. The lance tip burst out through the back of his body, transfixing him, and then the pegasus mounted knight was past, banking sharply off to the right. A cheer rose up from the defenders as Laudethaire flew over their heads, drawing his sword and brandishing it in salute. Calard realised that scores of men had seen the Parravonian strike down the enemy chieftain, and he had no doubt that all those who had not would know of it before the day was out. Calard cursed the knight as a bastard. It seemed that Laudethaire had claimed the glory...
The Norse champion, impaled upon the length of Laudethaire’s lance, was still alive, though he was greatly wounded. The blood that dripped from his wound was black and hissed as it struck the stonework, melting shallow pits in the rock where it fell. He stared up hatefully at Calard as he stepped forward to finish the warrior. Calard’s blow shattered the Norscan’s helmet and took half his head away, but still he did not die. The shattered pieces of the warrior’s helmet fell away from his face, exposing a mass of skinless flesh. Maggots writhed through the fibrous muscles of the champion’s face, and his lipless mouth was studded with rotting fangs. A single large horn protruded from the Norscan’s forehead. Calard had thought that horn was part of the brutal ornamentation of the Norscan’s helmet, but he saw now that it was part of the champion’s own flesh and bone. The chieftain spat a gobbet of phlegm up at Calard, which splattered against his helmet, just below his eye-slit. He could hear the foul acidic sputum eating through metal, and he ripped his helmet off his head, dropping it at his feet. The enemy chieftain chuckled, his ice-white eyes filled with dark humour, and Calard struck him again, this time hacking his putrid head from his shoulders. A rancid stink rose from the corpse, and Calard gagged. Several men-at-arms were with Calard’s cousin, helping remove the armour from his arm, and Calard saw that the wound was already festering with poison. Calard barked an order, demanding that the champion’s fell, black-bladed swords be wrapped in blankets and hurled from the walls. He ordered the rancid corpse of the Norscan thrown over the battlements, and half a dozen men lost the contents of their stomach at the repulsive stink of the rapidly decomposing body.
Exhausted, Calard leant against the wall, his back to the battlements and closed his eyes, breathing hard. It seemed like only moments passed before he heard ladders slam up against the walls as the next enemy assault struck. Weary beyond words, he opened his eyes and pushed away from the battlements, turning to wait for the enemy to appear once more.
Whilst Calard and the Knights of Bretonnia continued to fight the Norscan hordes, they were completely unaware of what was about to be unleashed upon them.
The destruction of the Daemon Engine had been a massive blow to the Norscans at first, but the Jarl soon realised that the Bretonnians had shown him something that could yet see Lyonesse fall. The parting of the sea, whilst destroying many if his longships and allowing for the Daemon Engine’s destruction, had also shown its depth. The sea was just shallow enough in that area to allow the Jarl to deploy his mighty War Mammoths. This was just a part of Styrbjorn's new plan however, as he had captured a particularly craven Bretonnian peasant, one who could accompany a small group of his men and open the Castle’s harbour gates to his longships...
At the arrival of this new threat, brought on by betrayal, Duke Adalhard of Lyonesse had left his command post and stood alongside his men on the walls. Calard saw the Duke gesturing towards the arched gatehouse that spanned the entrance to the harbour, and saw a trio of white winged shapes begin hurtling towards it; Laudethaire and the last of his companions. Swearing, Calard chopped his sword into the neck of a Norscan as he scrambled over the ramparts, and he kicked the man’s body off the walls as he slumped forward. He then gave the order to his brother Bertelis, he and his cousins were to leave the wall. It was only then that Calard saw the War Mammoths.
In desperation, Calard ordered for the Mammoths to be assailed by arrowfire, seeing that the peasant bowmen all around were frozen, staring in gormless horror at three mammoths that were now charging towards the castle walls. With those monstrous beasts outside the walls, and the enemy inside the walls, Calard knew that the resolve of the peasants was about to snap. All it would take was for one of them to turn and run and the whole stinking rabble would throw down their weapons and stampede from the walls.
The rising panic and desperation was palpable as the courage of the defenders faltered, and he knew that the next few moments were critical to forestall a complete rout. His old weapon master had taught him that in moments of indecision it was the nature of men, particularly peasant inbreds, to want someone to step to the fore and give them direction. If no one did so, then they would become a mindless rabble. Calard roared, in his loudest and most authoritative voice, for the peasants to hold in the name of the King. He registered that men, even knights, were turning towards him, looking to him for direction and perhaps reassurance.
Countless shafts rained down upon the titanic creatures. Many ricocheted off the thick armour plating of the beasts, but hundreds more embedded themselves in flesh and muscle, until the lead creature’s forelegs resembled pin cushions. The Norscans upon the back of the beasts ducked behind their wooden battlements and held their shields high, and hundreds of arrows sank into the woodwork, but some were struck, screaming in pain as arrows thudded home into their flesh.
Alas, only one of the three Mammoths was stopped. The two other beasts, one bearing Egil Styrbjorn, soon bore down on the walls. The first struck with the elemental power of an avalanche and the metal lattice-work of the first portcullis buckled inwards with a sickening shriek. The heavy reinforced gates beyond were smashed apart, and the sound of wood splintering echoed sharply as the dozen immense bars that sealed the gate, each as thick as a tree trunk and bound in iron loops, were sundered. The other beast struck the wall like a living battering ram, and hundreds of men staggered as the whole wall section shook. Large hooks of black iron attached to chains were hurled over the battlements, and then the first of the enemy were over, leaping onto the walls.
Heralding the arrival of their Jarl, these warriors were Styrbjorn’s elite bodyguards, each of them a mighty champion in their own right, massive warriors clad in black plate festooned with unholy fetishes and icons. Calard and his retinue tried to fight their way towards the enemy warlord, but it was like trying to battle against a raging flood. For each step they took towards the brutal giant of a man, they were forced back three paces by the sheer weight of the enemy. Norscans were streaming over the now undermanned walls, hacking down men-at-arms and knights left and right, and Calard roared in fury as he and his kin were driven back.
Eventually Calard and Lyonesse’s defenders were forced to retreat towards the Castle’s main keep. Despite inflicting massive casualties against the invaders, the Norscan host still outnumbered the Bretonnians and Jarl Styrbjorn had no qualms about sacrificing his warriors if it meant reclaiming his child. The surprise assault from within their harbour and the arrival of the War Mammoths only sealed the decision. Calard’s rival, Laudethaire, was one of the last Bretonnians to fall before the retreat was sounded, having failed in his attempt to slay a particularly massive Chaos Spawn.
Despite victory seeming certain, albeit costly, Styrbjorn feared for his son’s life. If he breached the castle’s main keep, there was nothing stopping the Bretonnians from slaying his daemon-child in one last attempt of retaliation. He decided to stand before his army and make an offer: he would face his enemies greatest warrior - Reolus - in mortal combat; if he defeated his opponent, the Bretonnians were honour-bound to hand over his son and the Norscan army would depart.
Reolus accepted the challenge, despite Anara's pleas. A titanic duel would ensue, with Reolus seeming to have the advantage, skewering the Jarl’s face and amputating his arm. The Chaos Lord was the favoured of Khorne however, and a disemboweling wound that should have killed him, regenerated before everyone’s eyes. Reolus was eventually defeated, his head cleaved from his shoulders by the enemy that could finally best him. Calard looked on from the battlements in shock. He had fought alongside Reolus, and could not believe that the mighty warrior had fallen.
Honour bound, Calard and Bertelis 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. Calard heard a scream as Elisabet hurtled down the stairs of the keep, running to her body even as his sister announced she was dead. Calard turned to Bertelis in rage and despair, declaring that they were no longer brothers. With anger in his heart, Calard left the castle to deliver the baby to its Norscan father, who then left Bretonnia with a single message, that he would return one day alongside his fell son, ready to destroy the kingdom. Calard angrily replied that he would be waiting, and Styrbjorn instantly knew that the young Lord spoke the truth.
The loss of his beloved and the dispossession of his brother were not the only disasters to have struck Calard. He had also survived an assassination attempt by three of his cousins. Dying from a plague-stained wound he had suffered at the hands of a Norscan Chieftain, one of them feverishly confessed that Folcard had ordered Calard’s death, convincing many of his own family that his blood was tainted. Immediately upon Calard's return to Garamont, Folcard was hanged, along with the Witch, Haegtesse, who had helped Stybjorn birth his daemon child. Deciding that his path was clear, Calard passed the lordship of Garamont to his youngest cousin, Orlando, with his friend and mentor Baron Montcadas acting as regent.
That night, Calard strode through Castle Garamont, the home that he was about to leave behind for the Lady knew how long. It was highly likely that he would never live to see its halls again, but even that thought did not dampen his spirit. Quickening his pace, Calard hurried to the small shrine to the Lady on the ground floor of his castle. Outside its entrance was his lance, and he took it in his hands, bearing it before him as he entered his family’s humble chapel, where countless Garamont lords before him had prayed. Once inside, he placed the lance reverently upon the altar. Hundreds of candles lit the chapel, lending the space a serene glow. Kneeling, Calard bowed his head.
He began to recite the ritualistic vow of the Grail Quest, He felt the spirit of the Lady infuse him, warming him from within, and he knew that he had made the right decision. This was the only way that he was ever going to prove his purity, to his knights and to himself. It was time for him to face his fear, to stand and defy it.
It was time for Calard to take up the quest, never to rest until he was visited by a vision of the Lady of the Lake herself and offered a draught of her sacred Grail. For many knights such a journey took decades, though most were slain long before their goal was fulfilled. Many of those knights who succeeded in their search and drank from the Holy Grail died as a result, found unworthy; only those pure of heart, with not a hint of taint within them, survived imbibing that divine nectar. Calard smiled. He was now embarked on the Long Journey; he was now a Questing Knight of Bretonnia...
- "Six long and difficult years had passed since he had left Castle Garamont. It felt like a lifetime. Six years ago, had he taken up the Grail Quest, setting aside his lance and handing over the running of his castle. Calard had travelled the Old World and beyond seeking the Lady of the Lake, patron goddess of Bretonnia. Never in all that time had he spent more than one night in one place, as per the decree of his oath, lest the Lady find him wanting..."
- —Calard reflects on his Grail Quest.
Now several years into his journey as a Questing Knight, Calard had become a figure of renown. Seeking the Lady’s divine favour, he had bested creatures foul and murderous in the forests of the Empire, championed the oppressed in the burning lands of Araby far to the south, and battled alongside Dwarf thanes against screaming hordes of Greenskins deep beneath the Worlds Edge Mountains.
Further still, he had fought and won over a dozen duels of honour, one against a monstrous Ogre Tyrant, and battled Trolls upon the frozen Oblast of Kislev. He had rescued a nobleman’s daughter from sacrifice at the hands of cultists beneath Altdorf, and emerged victorious from the famed Dance of Blades in the cutthroat city of Sartosa. He had slain hulking monsters in the blizzards of the Northlands, and tracked and killed the dread Jabberslythe of Ostwald. He had been hunted by pallid, blind ogre-kin through the labyrinths beneath the Mountains of Mourn, and emerged triumphant...
Most recently, Calard had fought beneath the burning heavens in the Realm of Chaos and survived its countless horrors - there were few things in the world that could truly unnerve him. The Quest had hardened his body, soul and mind, forging him anew and honing his killer's instincts to a razor's edge. Soon, he found himself given another task by a group of villagers. He was to slay a particularly monstrous Wyvern. Upon accepting this quest, however, Calard could not have known that his foe was cursed, rendered virtually immortal by fell and ancient magics...
- "For the love of the Lady, just die!"
- —Calard facing the Immortal Wyvern of the Grey Mountains.
The knight's heavy plate armour, once flawless, was now dented and worn. Once it had shone like a mirror; now it was dull with grime and wear, and awash with fresh blood. Some of that blood was his, but most of it belonged to the beast. Calard prayed for the Lady to give him strength. His breath was coming in short, sharp gasps, and his heart was hammering in his chest. As if in response to his prayer, the beast roared, the sound reverberating off the dank walls of the cavern. Calard’s bearded face was splattered with the vile beast’s stinking spittle. He gritted his teeth and tightened his grip on his weapon, a bastard sword with a blade four and a half feet long. Blood dripped from the tip.
The icy mountain winds outside howled. The claws of winter tugged at Calard’s tattered woollen cloak and ruffled his unwashed hair, but he kept his eyes fixed on the beast. He had pledged his oath - his questing vow - to see this monster dead, and he would not falter. Either it would die, here and now, or he would. The cold winter light outside was quickly swallowed by the darkness of the cavern. The shape of the beast could only be dimly discerned, but its breathing was loud. The close walls further amplified the rumbling sound, giving the impression that it was the cavern itself that was breathing. Nevertheless, the darkness could not hide the sheer size of the beast.
Its reptilian, horned head was massive. Its eyes - or rather the one eye that Calard had not yet put out - glinted reflectively, filled with murderous hunger as it focused on him. The beast’s tail was poised behind it, curved over its body like a scorpion’s, ready to snap forward and impale him. Its barbed tip dripped with noxious venom. The wyvern - for it could be nothing else - was the grey-green colour of mountain rock, and the heavy blows that Calard had already landed upon its toughened hide oozed crimson.
The foetid odour of the beast was strong. Lowering its head, the wyvern bared its array of tusk-like teeth, each as long as Calard’s forearm. A bruised purple tongue, split at the ends, darted forth to taste the air. Calard saw the beast’s muscles tense as it prepared to launch itself at him. The knight lowered his centre of gravity, ready to spring. The wyvern’s growl rose to a bloodcurdling roar, and its jaws yawned open as it lunged. Calard threw himself to the left, moving towards the wyvern’s blind side as it bore down on him. Its jaws slammed shut behind him with force enough to snap a tree trunk. Calard uttered a wordless battle cry as he came to one knee and brought his sword around in an arc that connected solidly with the beast’s skull, snapping one of its tusks and digging deep into its reptilian flesh. It was like striking the mountain itself. The blow jarred up his arms painfully, and while blood gushed from the wound and he had undoubtedly chipped bone, Calard knew he had done little real damage.
Bellowing in pain, the beast swung its heavy head around, hooking one of its immense curving horns underneath Calard and hurling him into the cave wall ten feet away. The air was blasted from his lungs as he hit first the wall then the ground, and he struggled for breath as he scrambled unsteadily to his feet. The wyvern’s barbed tail speared towards Calard’s face, and he swayed to the side at the last moment to avoid being impaled. The poisoned tip slammed into the wall, and cracks spread across the rock face. Grunting with the effort, Calard brought his sword down on the wyvern’s tail. Even with all his strength, he was unable to hack through it, dense muscle and vertebrae stopping him from completely severing it. Hissing in pain, the beast pulled its tail back sharply, and Calard saw with grim satisfaction that the sting was hanging limp at its end, held on by gristle and skin. The wyvern snapped at him again and Calard, his back to the wall, had little room to move. He threw himself desperately to the side, and though he avoided the deadly bite, it caught his trailing cape in its maw. With a wrench of its head it tore him from his feet, slinging him up towards the cave roof. He hit the rock face first, breaking his nose with an agonising crack before dropping back to the floor. He crashed down onto his back and lay there unmoving for a moment, dazed, his sword slipping from numb fingers.
Blood was smeared across Calard's face, and he blinked, struggling to focus. One of the wyvern’s winged forelimbs slammed down onto his breastplate with enough force to break bones, and he gasped as his armour strained beneath the weight. The beast lowered its head towards him, growling, and a thick rope of drool dripped from its maw. The stink of the beast’s breath was overpowering, like rancid meat and offal. It was all Calard could do not to gag. Turning his head he saw his sword lying nearby, and he reached for it desperately. His fingers touched the pommel but it was just out of reach. All he succeeded in achieving was pushing it farther away. The beast’s serpentine lips rippled, and its tongue darted forth to brush Calard’s face. He grimaced at its cold, repellent touch, sickly mucus smearing his cheek. The wyvern stared down at him hungrily, its one good eye blazing with rage, glowing with dark intensity, and Calard could see himself reflected in the monster’s gaze.
Calard snarled at the monster, calling for it to finish him. A sudden gust of wind brought a flurry of snow into the cave, and the wyvern’s attention was momentarily distracted, all the while, Calard’s hand had been reaching for his belt, and he dragged his knife from its scabbard. The wyvern felt the movement and pressed down upon Calard harder, the metal of his breastplate groaning under the pressure, and swung its head back towards him. Calard rammed his knife into the claw pinning him to the ground, embedding the six inches of metal into the wyvern’s flesh, slicing through sinew and lodging it between bones. Calard had been gifted the blade over a year earlier after saving a rich merchant and his daughter from the bloodthirsty intentions of an Ogre in their employ, and he knew the blade was not of human craft. The beast roared in agony, its flesh smoking from the wound as if the glittering blade were aflame, and it pulled away sharply. The pressure was released from Calard’s chest and he rolled towards his sword, fingers closing around its hilt.
The wyvern snarled as the flesh around the knife blistered, giving off a horrible stench of burning meat. It was shaking its foreleg, trying to dislodge the gleaming blade from between its metacarpals, having seemingly forgotten Calard. The knight rose to his feet, hefting his bastard sword in front of him, and flicked his wet hair out of his eyes. Ignoring him, the wyvern gripped the knife between its teeth and pulled it free, tossing it away. Calard darted forward, hefting his heavy blade over his shoulder, mouthing a prayer to the Lady. With a grunt of effort, he slammed it into the wyvern’s neck, striking with all the force he could muster. The blade hacked deep with a sickening wet sound, and the beast screeched as hot blood gushed from the wound, spraying across Calard and painting the cavern in a red torrent. The beast reared up on its hind legs, head thrashing from side to side, almost wrenching the sword from his hands.
As the beast staggered, its head collided with the cave wall, bringing down a tumble of rocks and dust, and Calard only barely managed to avoid being knocked from his feet by its wildly thrashing tail. Stepping in precariously close to its heaving bulk, he slashed a deep cut into its pallid underbelly, unleashing a flood of grotesque intestines. The unmistakable shape of half-digested human bodies could be seen within the beast’s semi-transparent tract. Calard swallowed back his revulsion, stabbing into the wyvern’s stomach again and again. The wyvern scrambled backwards, hind claws ripping up the cave floor, and snapped at Calard, who lurched out of the way and slashed with his sword. He severed the beast’s tongue, and it gave out a piteous yelp. Blood was still gushing from its neck in rhythmic spurts. There was so much blood on the floor and walls now that the cave resembled a slaughterhouse. In sheer exasperation, Calard called out for the beast to die, lashing out at an open claw that reached for him, hacking deep into flesh and bone. The beast was backtracking frantically now, dragging its thick intestinal ropes across the floor.
It sounded like a wounded bear, a growling whine rumbling within its chest as it staggered farther back into the cave, but Calard had no intention of letting it escape. He followed it mercilessly, cutting and hacking with his blade. The last of its lifeblood pumping from its neck, the wyvern launched itself at him one last time. Its mouth opened wide, and Calard knew he had not the speed or strength remaining to avoid it. Instead, he stepped forward, directly into the path of the gaping jaws and stabbed upwards. The blade pierced the roof of the beast’s mouth as it closed upon him. Calard cried out as tusk-like teeth punched through his armour as if it were paper, but he maintained his hold on his blade, pushing it up into the monster’s brain.
With a final bellow, blood bubbling up its throat, the full weight of the wyvern’s head bore Calard to the ground. That head alone would have weighed as much as two Bretonnian warhorses and, for a panicked moment, Calard thought that was how he was to meet his fate, ignobly crushed to death by the monster he had just slain. At last, he dragged himself free and rose shakily to his feet. Breathing hard, he reversed the grip on his sword and dropped to one knee, closing his eyes as he placed his forehead against the crossbar of the hilt. He prayed to the Lady of the Lake, dedicating his kill in her honour. He remained there for many minutes, exhausted...
- "I killed it. On the honour of my family name, I killed it."
- —Calard discovers that the Wyvern yet lives.
Eventually, Calard returned to the village that the wyvern had been terrorising for so long. It was an unmarked settlement within the Grey Mountains, many of its citizens were clearly wanted criminals, brigands and runaways. Though Calard loathed them as people, he had been honour-bound to come to their aid. He dragged the massive head into the very heart of the village, surrounded by adoration and fanfare.
This fanfare ended when Calard revealed that, due to his Questing Vow, he could not stay with the villagers for another night. Furthermore, he refused their offerings of reward, simply requesting some dry tinder for his journey. Leaving the village, he only thinly disguised his disgust towards the insulted brigands.
Calard was awoken from his camp the next morning. He was roused by the sound of an angry mob. Believing that the brigands had decided to rob and kill him, Calard walked out to meet them, rolling his shoulders. They were scowling and muttering angrily, and they spread out as they closed in on him, cudgels, hatchets and daggers clenched tightly in their hands. Several of them had hunting bows in hand, arrows nocked to strings, and Calard’s disdain deepened - amongst the Bretonnian nobility, the bow was a coward’s weapon, fit only for hunting. He gripped his blade in both hands and set himself in a ready stance, ensuring that he could see each of the would-be brigands.
The villagers accused Calard of being a liar and a fraud, that the wyvern he had apparently slain was still alive, having taken another victim that night. Calard was enraged at this question upon his honour, and shouted back that he should have left the bandits to their well deserved fate. Upon this declaration, a grieving man gave out a garbled scream and lurched forward with his knife. Expecting the attack, Calard slammed the flat of its blade against the man’s wrist, knocking the blade away. The man cried out and fell to his knees in the snow, gasping in pain. Startled by the sudden move, one of the bowmen loosed his arrow. Calard was already moving, and the hastily taken shot glanced off his shoulder and struck a tree. Calard stepped forward, swinging his blade over his shoulder. He was only stopped at the command of the village burgomeister. The man reiterated that the wyvern was indeed alive, whether Calard had truly slain it or not.
Calard was filled with a silent rage as he pulled his cloak tight around his neck, trying vainly to protect himself from the blizzard. For the last half an hour he had been leading his steed by its reins, along a precarious cliff face, forging on through the thickening blanket of snow. Their tracks were covered almost instantly, erasing all evidence of their passage. Calard did not believe for a moment the villagers’ claim. He suspected that this was some ploy by the burgomeister, but for what purpose, he could not comprehend. He planned to return to the monster’s lair, find its corpse and journey back to the village with irrefutable evidence that he had done as he had pledged. He would not have his good name besmirched by mutterings of dishonour.
Eventually, there came a roar in the storm, and a monstrous, winged creature appeared out of the blizzard. It came from below, rising up the sheer cliff face with powerful beats of its immense wings. Its serpentine eyes blazed like embers, and Calard stared back in shock. For a second he was sure that it was the same beast that he had already fought, but that was madness. He had killed that one, there could be no doubt of that; he’d cut its head off and put out one of its eyes. This beast had both its eyes, and its broad, heavy head was firmly attached to its muscular neck. Calard believed it was a second wyvern. Perhaps the mate of the first.
Buffeted by the strong winds and borne aloft upon its mighty wings, the beast lunged, huge mouth gaping. Calard’s horse reared, whinnying in terror, and he was knocked to the ground, scrambling frantically not to slip over the cliff edge. The monster’s mouth clamped shut around his horse, and with a wrench of its neck it dragged the noble steed from the mountain path. One of its hooves clipped Calard’s shoulder, and he slid further over the cliff’s edge. The horse’s arterial blood sprayed, staining the snow, and the wyvern shook its head from side to side. Even through the gale, Calard heard the horrible snap as his steed’s spine was broken. The beast’s wings beat faster to compensate for the additional weight, and it dropped half a dozen feet. A sudden gust dragged it further out from the cliff face, and it disappeared in the storm. Calard’s hand closed around a jutting rock and he gripped it tightly, forestalling his fall.
His legs were dangling over the seemingly bottomless expanse. With a grunt of effort he hauled himself back onto the mountain path, clambering to his feet and unsheathing his sword. He turned and pressed his back against the cliff wall as the wyvern reappeared. It descended on him, massive hind claws extended. Calard hacked with his sword double-handed, severing two talons, and the beast bellowed. Its other leg raked downwards, carving three furrows in the rock where Calard’s head had been a moment earlier. The questing knight turned his face away as a shower of rock and snow struck him, and as the wyvern kicked at him again he threw himself further down the path. He landed on his chest in the snow, and slid half a dozen yards before coming to a halt, turning and rising to one knee, his sword at the ready. The wyvern beat its wings and disappeared into the blizzard overhead once more, and Calard risked a glance back along the path.
He saw movement at the corner of his eye. The wyvern was coming down at him again, its wings buffeting him with wind and snow. Its tail stabbed for him and he slashed with his sword as it plunged for his chest, knocking it aside and carving deep into the bony sting. The beast came in to land, one foreclaw clutching onto the cliff face for balance as it gripped the narrow path with its hind talons. One of them slipped off the edge, dislodging a landslide, but the beast regained its balance and began making its way towards him, moving crab-like along the narrow path with surprising dexterity. Calard began backing up, seeking to get under the overhang, where the wyvern’s bulk would make it almost impossible for it to come at him. Seeing what he was doing, the wyvern hopped towards him faster, closing the distance in two bounds.
Its jaw snapped towards him, slamming shut less than half a foot away, and Calard slipped, falling to one knee. The beast hopped nearer, its foreclaw and left wing clutching at the cliff face, balancing itself as it leant upon its other wing. Knowing that he couldn’t get away from the beast, Calard took the only other option that remained for him - he attacked. With a shout, Calard leapt forward and slammed his sword into the beast’s wing, breaking several of the slender bones that fanned out from its claw. The beast roared, and brought its other wing around in a sharp arc. With no room to move, Calard was smashed into the cliff face by the force of the blow, striking the back of his head hard.
The beast grabbed him around the ankle with one of its foreclaws, dropping him to his back and pulling him through the snow. He fought it, kicking and struggling as he tried to bring his blade to bear, but he was dragged helplessly towards the wyvern. He kicked the beast hard as its mouth opened, striking one of its tusk-like teeth. If the wyvern felt any pain it gave no indication, and it stretched its neck forward to bite him in half. Calard managed to thrust the blade of his sword forward, and the beast stabbed itself in the gum as it strained towards him. Blood ran down the blade, and the wyvern hissed and pulled its head back. Calard managed to kick his foot from the monster’s grasp, and he scrambled back away from it as it lunged again.
Part of the cliff path gave way beneath the wyvern’s weight suddenly, and it scrabbled for purchase. Its body slammed into the path as a boulder slipped under its hind legs, and one foreclaw gripped the rock tightly, less than two feet from Calard’s position. With a shout, he brought his sword down hard upon it, breaking bones. With a roar, the wyvern lost its grip and fell, tumbling backwards over the precipice. Its left wing would not work properly, the wing-bones broken by Calard’s first strike, and the wyvern tumbled down the cliff face, unable to keep itself airborne. It was gone almost instantly, careening off the cliff face once before being swallowed by the blinding snow...
Calard had to move, he would be dead if he did not find shelter, and so he stumbled on, fighting through the blizzard...
If anything, the storm had worsened by the time he reached the cave, and he was exhausted and half-frozen as he staggered inside. he moved to the back of the cavern in an effort to escape the biting winds. Calard couldn’t feel his fingers or his toes, and he had stopped shivering, which he knew was a bad sign. He felt incredibly tired, and the desire to just lie down on the floor and sleep was strong. The rational part of his mind knew that to do so was to die, but another part of him whispered that he would just close his eyes for a moment.
Ten minutes later, a small blaze going, and Calard crouched over it, warming frozen hands. Calard’s fingers began to tingle painfully as sensation returned. He removed part of his armour, unhooking the iced-up greaves as he attempted to rub some warmth into his limbs. With his body finally thawing, the firelight casting its orange glow across the interior of the cavern, Calard realised for the first time that the headless corpse of the wyvern was not here. Frowning, he lifted a burning brand from the fire and stood up, turning on the spot. This was most definitely where he had fought the beast; he could see evidence of the battle. Dark, rust-like patches marked the floor, and there were cracks in the wall where its monstrous sting had struck, but of the body itself there was no sign.
The Questing Knight frowned. It had been only yesterday when he had killed the beast. Surely no scavenger could have devoured it in that time, bones and all, leaving no evidence of it ever having been here except for the bloodstains on the floor. Not even the other wyvern could have eaten it in that time. Thinking about the immense, crushing jaws of the wyverns, however, he could well believe that they would be fully capable of consuming bones. There could be a brood of wyverns. There had been at least two of the creatures after all. The thought was not comforting. The stink of the beast still lingered in the cave even if its body did not, a potent animal smell that made his stomach heave. Holding his burning brand aloft, Calard ventured deeper into the cave.
It went back further than he had thought, and as he advanced the flame of his torch sent flickering shadows across its uneven walls. There were bones scattered within naturally formed alcoves, and he knelt beside them, lifting them up for inspection. Most of them were human, but there were others that were shorter and denser. He found a shattered, fanged skull tucked away in a hollow. He instantly knew it was that of an Orc, kicking the skull away. There were strange markings on the walls, he realised, and he stepped up close to one of them, lifting his torch. Underneath a layer of rock dust and grime he could see that something had been daubed onto the walls. Frowning, he brushed his hand along the crumbling granite, revealing a crude depiction of a warrior: a warrior fighting a winged beast that was unmistakably a wyvern.
Stepping back, he saw the walls were covered in similar pictures. Everywhere he looked he saw depictions of wyverns. They were devouring people and shaggy mountain cattle, flying over crudely rendered mountains with blood dripping from their exaggerated teeth and stings. In many of the pictures, there was a solitary warrior fighting the beast. Sometimes this lone warrior stood victorious over the wyvern, his sword plunged into its heart, or its severed head lying at his feet. Sometimes the warrior lay dead at the beast’s feet. Calard followed the images further back into the cave, intrigued and horrified.
He discovered the route was blocked by a large pool of dark water. Ice had formed a fragile crust around the edge of the pool, though its centre was clear. The water was black. Calard cracked the skin of ice with the heel of his boot; it was not thick. He stood there for some moments, wondering where the passage led, before shrugging and turning away. From behind him came a splash, and Calard looked around to see the surface of the black pool rippling. His sword was drawn and at the ready, the heavy blade held two-handed; the flaming torch was left burning on the ground. His gaze flicked left and right, seeing movement everywhere in the shadows cast by his flaming brand, but his attention snapped back to the pool as it began to bubble, as if it were boiling. Not taking his eyes off the pool, Calard moved towards the edge.
Something began to rise from the water; something large. The tip of its wings emerged first, then its massive head breached the surface, water spraying out as it exhaled sharply from its nostrils and sucked in a deep breath. Mouthing a curse, Calard saw that it was another wyvern, easily as big as the last two. Black water ran off its grey-green scales, and secondary eyelids flicked back from its hateful orbs. Its pupils contracted as it swung its head towards the bright light of Calard’s fallen torch, and it blinked in the glare. This must have been where the foul things were originating from. There must have been some foetid brood lair in a deeper cave, and this pool was the entrance.
Weak and half-frozen, Calard knew that he would not be able to best this one if he allowed it to emerge from the water fully. It seemed not yet to have noticed him, and so Calard leapt forward as the monster began pulling itself out of the pool. Before the monster could react, he had plunged into the icy water and thrust the tip of his sword straight into one of its eye sockets. The wyvern shrieked in agony and thrashed its head, ripping the blade out of Calard’s hands and knocking him backwards. Blood was running from the horrible wound, forming an oily film across the surface of the black pool. Bellowing deafeningly, the beast began retreating, dragging itself back the way it had come. Calard gritted his teeth, and plunged into the icy waters soon after.
- "My task here is done. In life the Wyvern defeated Orderic, yet he refused to accept death or failure. He became locked in an eternal loop, seeking always to defeat it; sometimes he would win, sometimes he would lose. Granted final rest, perhaps it too was allowed to move on, once and for all."
- —Calard reflects on his journey.
There was a ruby glow infusing the water, originating further along the tunnel, and with a final burst of strength, Calard kicked towards it. He came up quickly, breaking the surface of the water and sucked in a deep breath. He was blinded for a moment by the red light, and he blinked as his eyes adjusted to the glare, all the while treading water to keep afloat. There was a metallic taste that filled his mouth and nose, and his eyes were stinging. He was no longer underground. He was no longer anywhere that even vaguely resembled the Grey Mountains bordering Bretonnia and the Empire. A sky of fire burned overhead, and the heat was oppressive, a merciless dry heat that scorched his lungs with every breath. The horizons shimmered with heat haze, and Calard could feel the moisture on him drying up, leaving a scab-like crust of blood across his skin.
Calard was suddenly assailed with visions and voices, mocking him, calling out for his death. He turned around on the spot and saw the bones. He didn’t know how he had not seen them straight away. He was certain they had not been there before. Beside the blood-pool was the immense skeleton of a wyvern. Calard made his way around the pool towards it, moving warily. There was not a scrap of flesh or skin left on it. The bones were as dry as tinder. It was as if it had been dead for centuries. Calard’s sword was protruding from one of the empty eye sockets of the wyvern’s skull, and he moved towards it, stepping cautiously. He sheathed his knife at his waist before gingerly lifting his sword clear. It was exactly the same as it had been when he had last held it, and the weight of it was reassuring in his hands. He turned around on the spot once more before coming to his decision.
Taking a deep breath, readying himself for the difficult swim back, he dipped his head below the surface of the congealing gore. Diving down, kicking hard, he struck rock. In confusion, he felt around with his hands, thinking that perhaps he had risen up through a hole or a tunnel. Feeling around blindly, he could find no such entrance. He rose to the surface of the pool, sucked in a searing breath and dived again. Over and over he dived, searching frantically for the way back. After half an hour he gave up, despairing. Pulling himself out of the quagmire of vital fluids, he cried his horror and anguish to the heavens. Laughter all around mocked him. Calard sank to his knees in the red sand and prayed.
Calard eventually sighted a small cairn a few hundred yards away. Upon entering it, he discovered that a man was kneeling in front of a crude shrine, his back to Calard. He was dressed in plate armour, though it was battered and old, covered in a layer of red dust. His hair was long and lined with silver, and he wore a tattered cloak over one shoulder. Certain that this was another fell vision, or even a foul daemon, Calard prepared to strike. As he lifted his sword up for the killing blow, he was momentarily distracted by something glinting in the shadows. His gaze was drawn to a small icon standing upright upon the crude shrine before which the man knelt, and as his gaze focused on that pendant, the fury that had claimed him receded. With a shake of his head, Calard lowered his sword.
The icon was a small brass statuette attached to a necklace. It was perched upright, leaning upon a rock, and depicted a female figure, a large goblet held in her hands over her head. Calard breathed out the Lady's name, in awe. The kneeling figure suddenly lurched to his feet at Calard’s voice, swinging a sword around in a gleaming arc. Calard’s own blade flashed, and the two swords came together with a sharp clash, and the two knights were locked together for a moment, staring into each other’s eyes. The knight’s face was not that of some hateful daemon; it was the face of a man, though it had the hollow, haunted look of one that had seen more than his sanity was capable of enduring. The knight called out the Lady's name, praising her as soon as he locked eyes upon Calard, then collapsed to his knees.
The knight proclaimed himself to be Orderic of Montfort, a fellow Questing Knight of Bretonnia, and he soon explained the wyvern's origins to Calard. There was only the one beast, reborn time and time again. He did not know how long he had been trapped there, or how many times he had slain the monster.
Soon, the cycle had started once more. Like a sponge, the porous, dry bones were sucking up the blood, and they were now a deep, bruised red. Sinew and muscle started forming across the skeleton. Ligaments and tendons pulled the bones together tightly, and internal organs formed within the beast’s abdomen. A massive heart grew within its chest cavity, and a spider web of veins and arteries spread across the rapidly regenerating musculature. That heart began to beat, then it was obscured as more muscle and flesh built up over it. Still not yet fully formed, the wyvern rose from the ground, its red-raw body coiling sinuously, as yet unfleshed wings flexing.
The beast’s massive jaws opened in a silent challenge, its vocal chords not yet formed, and hateful eyes grew within their sockets. The wyvern clawed up the earth as it shuddered and writhed, as if in pain or ecstasy, and finally its green-grey skin began to spread across its flesh. It all happened within the space of ten heartbeats, and by the time Calard and Orderic closed on it, it was fully regenerated. The beast was already wading into the bubbling pool, and the two knights broke into a run towards it. Orderic landed knee-deep in blood, and began splashing towards the wyvern. Calard was only a step behind him. The beast swung its massive head around towards them as it registered their presence, and it let out a deafening screech.
Five minutes later, the beast was dead, and Calard and his fellow knight collapsed on the bank, exhausted and bloodied. The two knights had fought well together. Once again, the beast was nothing but bones, dry and brittle; its flesh had turned to dust as Calard had struck the fatal blow, his sword penetrating the wyvern’s heart. In the blink of an eye, the bones were back where Calard had first seen them. Indeed, the only evidence to show that he had not imagined the entire episode were the injuries that he and Orderic had sustained, and the blood on his blade, which the oppressive heat had already dried to flaking rust. Calard, declared that there must be a way to end the curse, wiping his blade clean. There had to be some way to put the beast to rest once and for all.
Taking respite, a thought occurred to Calard. If Orderic killed the beast each time it arose, then he should not have been able to fight it - twice - within the Grey Mountains. He wanted to question Orderic, but the previously talkative knight had grown unresponsive.
Exasperated, Calard probed the blood-pool, trying to find a way back to reality, but it was no use. He was becoming resigned to the idea of staying here in this hateful realm, though the thought of doing so filled him with horror. Yet if it were the Lady’s will, he had no right to argue. It was while testing the depths of the blood-pool that he found the body. Sweating and breathing hard, his lungs burning, Calard heaved it onto the bank. Orderic demanded to know what he was doing, his voice full of horror, making Calard jerk in shock; he had not heard the knight’s approach. The knight was staring down at him, panic written on his face. Calard started to explain, but his voice trailed off as he stared down at the skeletal remains that he had dredged up from the bottom of the pool. It was the skeleton of a human, wearing antiquated plate armour. The armour looked familiar.
Calard cried out the Lady's name, looking between Orderic and the corpse, he declared that his comrade was already dead. Orderic was shaking his head in denial, his face a mask of confusion and fear. Backing away, his expression was gaunt. Calard knew then, kneeling over the skeleton, he told the knight that the wyvern had already killed him. He touched the thick hole in its breastplate, a hole larger than his fist. Its sting had punched through Orderic's chest. It must have killed him almost instantly.
Orderic touched his own chest, where now there was a gaping hole, and his hand came away bloody. Calard knew that it was this place. It brought Orderic back, just like it did the wyvern. Orderic, shouted in denial, clutching his head in his hands and sinking to his haunches. Calard stood, shaking his head. he was sorry, telling the cursed knight that his quest was over, that he died, and that he should let himself go. Orderic could only cry out in denial at this revelation. Edging towards the blood-pool, away from the pitiful sight of the tortured knight. He knew why the Lady had brought him here.
Calard did not know how much time had passed before the thunder began, and the blood clouds raced once more across the burning heavens. Orderic had disappeared. Calard hoped that the knight had finally moved on, his soul passing to Morr, but he knew that was not the case. The knight would never attain that while his body dwelt in this realm. Calard truly felt sorry for him, but had faith that he was doing the right thing. This was the reason the Lady had brought him here. It was not a test of arms as he had first thought. He had not been brought here to kill the wyvern, or at least not directly. No, he had been brought here to give Orderic his Rest Eternal. He had removed the armour from the dead knight’s skeleton and bundled the bones up into a satchel, which he slung over his back.
The wyvern was in the process of reforming itself, glistening muscles building up over its skeleton, but this time Calard did not draw his sword. He merely waited as veins and sinew grew from blood, and grey-green skin encased its flesh. Fully reborn, it slipped into the bubbling pool. Orderic reappeared suddenly, his sword drawn. He cried out that beast needed to be stopped. Calard moved to intercept the knight, drawing his own blade. The wyvern had to be let through so that he could exit with the knight's remains, and grant him peace. The cursed knight prepared to confront Calard, but he sheathed his sword in response. For a moment, Calard thought the knight was going to do it, to run him through then and there, but Orderic relented, dropping to his knees. Calard told him he was sorry, but it is the only way. He turned, and moved quickly towards the blood-pool.
At last Calard came up, breaching the surface of the water and he breathed in deeply. The air was freezing, but he smiled broadly, overjoyed to be away from the burning hot otherworld. He was within the beast’s cavern lair, and he thanked the Lady. Still, the wyvern was loose, and more people would likely die if he did not hurry. 
Calard scrambled further up the mountain until he came to a glade within the pine trees. The view was spectacular, overlooking the mountains and down towards the lowlands of Bretonnia, towards Montfort. Calard dug a shallow grave and placed Orderic’s bones reverently within. He filled the grave with soil, and then spent the better part of the afternoon gathering and heaping stones on top of it in order that wolves and other scavengers did not dig it up. Atop the burial mound, Calard erected a small tri-frame of pine branches. Around the top of it, he wound Orderic’s necklace, so that the little bronze statuette of the Lady hung above his resting place. He hoped the knight could finally be at peace.
The next day, weary and footsore, Calard passed a pair of hunters, fresh kills draped across their shoulders. From those simple men, Calard heard a strange tale. They said that a wyvern had been seen abroad the day before, flying above the mountain peaks, but that it had turned to dust mid-flight, its ashes dispersed on the breeze...
Always, Calard chased the elusive presence of the goddess, yet always she led him further on. For months, Calard’s dreams had been haunted by a recurring vision. Though he could not discern its full meaning, one thing was certain beyond any doubt; the goddess wished for him to return to Castle Garamont.
The Questing Knight would return to his birthplace, only to find it in ruins, its inhabitants slaughtered by a powerful enemy. The anger at the destruction of his home spurred Calard on, grief and the lust for vengeance making him more determined than ever. Travelling to the nearby lands of Sangasse, he learned from his old rival Maloric that it was a pair of vampiric knights who had slaughtered his family and set his castle to the torch. One bore the heraldry of Mousillon.
Calard took the treacherous journey to the cursed dukedom, where he discovered that Duke Merovech, once a famed and mighty warrior, had returned from centuries of death. Revealed to be a powerful Vampire, the evil Duke had been amassing an undead army powerful enough to destroy all of Bretonnia. Calard infiltrated the ancient keep of Castle Mousillon seeking to put an end to the fell lord, only to discover his brother, now a mighty Blood Knight and champion of Merovech himself.
Bertelis revealed to Calard's horror that it was he who led the attack on Garamont, killing all who stood before him alongside his vile Duke. Corrupted by guilt and the transition to undeath, Bertelis had attacked his homeland hoping to find and kill Calard. A fierce battle soon ensued, with the Duke of Mousillon watching as his favoured get fought against his mortal brother. Bertelis was deadly, faster and stronger than any mortal could ever hope to be. Vampirism had added to his already impressive skill in combat, rivalling even the late Reolus in skill. Calard could only hope to block his brother's mighty blows with his shield.
Meanwhile, in a weak attempt of rebellion, the vile denizens of Mousillon had burst into the castle. They were led by a massive Varghulf known as the Old One, long imprisoned by Merovech and hungry for revenge. This distraction allowed Calard to seize his opportunity, striking his brother down and reducing him to ash and bone. Calard managed to escape just after Merovech had torn the mighty Varghulf's throat out, swearing to save Bretonnia from the man who had corrupted his brother and threatened his kingdom.
Riding out from Mousillon's cursed gates, Calard witnessed the awakening of countless thousands of undead. He knew his journey was nearing its end. Having prayed to the Lady for guidance, a vision had struck him with all the force of a thunderbolt, taking his breath away and dropping him to his knees. It had lasted just seconds, but the blinding series of images had been forever seared in his mind. Calard could not fathom the vision’s full meaning, but he had faith that all would become clear. The Lady had wished for him to follow an evening star into the east – and that had brought him to Athel Loren...
As loath as he was to depart the cursed realm of Mousillon while the fiend Merovech still walked, Calard could no more disobey the Lady’s command than choose for his heart to stop beating. And while he knew that Merovech and his blood-sucking knights were marching against Bretonnia at the head of a vast undead army, he could not ride to join the knights of the king until he had done as the Lady bid him.
Fighting through the magics of the fey forest and battling the false visions it gave him, Calard eventually reached the realm of the Wood Elves. It was here that he helped save the Asrai from destruction, taking part in a great battle between the Wood Elves and the traitorous Dryads. His journey ended with him duelling the ancient Drycha, plunging the Sword of Garamont into her chest and banishing her from the realm.
- "This is not a test of prowess..."
- —Realisation dawns on Calard.
The Green Knight loomed out of the dense fog. The immortal spirit's eyes flared, and its huge blade sang through the air as it sliced towards him. Had that mighty sword struck it would have cloven him in two. Calard jumped back to avoid the blow, narrowly avoiding being cut down. He reached for the Sword of Garamont but found the scabbard at his waist empty. The Green Knight swung again, and Calard hurled himself to the side to avoid being decapitated. Reaching over his back, Calard drew his heavy bastard sword. The Green Knight came at him again, and he readied to block the fey spirit's next attack.
Calard held the blade in two hands, yet even so, he was brought to his knees by the sheer force of the blow. Desperately, he regained his footing and brought his blade around to block yet another attack, this one coming around at him in a lethal arc, striking at his midsection. The blow shuddered up his arms, and he was knocked back two steps. The Green Knight came on relentlessly, allowing no time to recover. There was no subtlety or guile to the unearthly warrior's assault. He came on without pause and without remorse, delivering a tireless barrage of attacks. Each blow was delivered with staggering power, and any one of them would have felled Calard had it landed.
The fey knight stood over a head taller than Calard, and each strike sent him reeling. His hands were numb from the jarring blows, and he had no time to even consider launching a riposte. The roiling mist continued to build. All that existed was the two of them. Nothing else mattered. Calard frantically backtracked, using all his skill and battle-honed instincts to stay alive for another few seconds. His arms were tiring, the bastard sword in his hands a leaden weight. By contrast, the Green Knight was indefatigable. Finally, Calard found an opening. He deflected a heavy overhead blow, letting his foe's dimly green-glowing blade slide down the length of his sword before whipping it around to parry a low attack. Sidestepping neatly, Calard spun around the immortal spirit's next blow and slammed his bastard sword into his neck, putting his whole body weight behind the strike. His blade landed between archaic plate armour, sliding between helmet and gorget and cutting through the links of chainmail beneath, but it sank no further.
It was as if the immortal spirit's flesh were made of iron, and the force of the blow rang up both of Calard's arms. The Green Knight backhanded Calard across the jaw and he hit the ground hard, spitting blood. Scrambling, he threw himself aside to avoid the Dolorous Blade as it came again. The weapon embedded itself in the ground, and Calard staggered upright. His arms were aching, and he backed off, panic clawing its way into his heart. He had put everything he had behind that blow, and its timing was perfect. Had he struck any mortal foe, their head would have sailed into the air, hacked clean from their shoulders, but onwards the Green Knight came, unharmed.
Clearing his mind, Calard pushed his fear aside and invoked the name of his goddess. Pale fire flickered along the edge of his bastard sword, and he felt fresh vigour infuse his limbs. With a cry, Calard threw himself at the unyielding knight, thrusting and slashing. He feinted high and came in low, swinging his heavy sword around in murderous arcs. Every blow was met by the Dolorous Blade, and sparks flew as enchanted metal came together again and again. Calard and the Green Knight battled toe-to-toe, trading blows, neither giving ground. Infused with the holy light of the Lady, Calard was able to match the fury and power of his foe, and for a time it seemed that the battle might rage on forever, a never-ending duel within the mists. Time lost all meaning. All that existed was the contest. Neither warrior was able to overcome the other, and their blades were a blur as they cut and thrust.
No end was in sight, but understanding came upon Calard in a rush. This was not a test of prowess. He parried an attack slicing in towards his neck and reversed the grip on his blade suddenly, holding it like a dagger in both hands, blade pointed downwards. With a sudden thrust, he drove it into the earth, and knelt on one knee. He lowered his head, exposing the back of his neck, and closed his eyes. He felt the Green Knight step in close, raising his sword for the fatal blow. Then Calard spoke, offering his life in service to the Lady. The Dolorous Blade came slicing down upon his neck… and stopped. The sword's edge was cold against his skin. Then it was whisked away, and the Green Knight stepped aside...
- "You have drunk from the Grail.”
“I have,” said Calard, nodding. “We are both eternal servants of the Lady now. Our lives are no longer our own.”
“Father would have been proud.”
“He would,” agreed Calard, a hint of a smile touching his lips."
- —Calard and Anara, upon the completion of his quest.
Calard was now at the close of his quest, having battled through the fey forests of the Wood Elves and duelled with the fabled Green Knight, he was at last within touching distance of the legendary Grail. Its power would grant him the strength and fortitude to overcome Merovech, Dark Lord of Mousillon, and free Bretonnia from his tyranny...
Daring to breathe, Calard rose to his feet and stepped forward into the Sacred Lake to meet his goddess. Light spilled from every pore of her being, warming his face, and with faltering hands, he reached out and took the chalice. It was heavy, and he felt a strange tingle run up his arms. Looking down into the magical Grail’s fathomless depths he saw silent images of his past and future mirrored there, playing out before him. He drew the chalice up towards his lips, but he hesitated for a moment before drinking. It was said that only those pure of heart and devoid of any hint of taint upon their soul could drink from the Lady’s Grail and live. Drawing in a deep and shuddering breath, Calard lifted the golden chalice to his lips and drank.
Supping from the Grail, Calard joined the ranks of the mighty Grail Knights. His eyes flickered with holy witchfire, and he was surrounded by a vague halo of light, as if the early morning sunlight was drawn to him. He stood taller than he had before, and the faint lines around his eyes had been smoothed away. The effect did not look young so much as ageless, and his eyes spoke of things unknown to mortal men.
Filled with supernatural power, Calard was now more than capable of exacting his revenge upon Merovech. The God-King Orion, owing Calard a debt for saving Athel Loren, chose the Grail Knight to help him lead the Wild Hunt, riding straight into the very heart of Bretonnia.
Hero of Bretonnia
- "King Louen Leoncouer was helped to his feet, and Calard dropped to his knees, a move that was mirrored by every warrior on the field."
"Rise," said the king, and Calard lifted his head. Leoncouer nodded, and he stood."
"What is your name?"
"Calard of Garamont," he answered, holding his head high. "Grail Knight of Bretonnia."
- —Calard announces himself.
Merovech had led his vast horde of undeath from Mousillon to the royal gates of Couronne, slaughtering the army amassed before him. The centre of the Bretonnian battle-line buckled inward, threatening to break at any moment. Desperate to hold the line, knights charged forward to bolster the defences, but the line continued to strain. A shadow descended from above as King Louen Leoncoeur joined the fray, mounted atop a ferocious Hippogryph. For a while the new king defeated all who stood before him, but eventually a lucky blow sent his mount crashing down, pinning him beneath its bulk. Merovech, seeing the king trapped, approached his foe wielding a mighty sword, and readied the killing blow...
A light flashed as the Wild Hunt arrived, Calard stormed down the hill alongside the living god Orion, white fire flickering up the length of his blessed lance. His heart filled with rage as he saw the vast undead army besieging Couronne and his eyes blazed with holy fire. He kicked his noble steed on to match the god of the woods, lowering his lance as he neared the enemy battle line. Calard galloped ahead, the enemy falling in droves beneath the thrust of his lance and the cut of his sword. Calard fought like the living saint that he was, holy flames coruscating from his sword, his eyes flaring with fey light. He alone remained unaffected by the fury infusing the others that rode with Orion. His every blow brought ruin on the enemies of Bretonnia. He could feel the power of the Grail pounding through his veins. The enemy fell before him like wheat beneath a scythe. He foresaw the strike of every spear and rusted sword moments before it happened, and he turned them aside effortlessly, countering with devastating blows that splintered bones and shattered blades.
He saw Merovech then, looming over the stricken King, he ploughed into the Duke's vampire bodyguard, a shining light spearing through the darkness and the driving rain. Unholy Blood Knights moved to protect their dark lord. Their eyes were filled with hatred, but there was fear there too - the shining light Calard exuded was anathema to those creatures of the night, and it caused them great pain to even look upon him. Known as the Seneschals and garbed in archaic armour of ancient design, each was a mighty warrior and dark champion in their own right, but even so, they perished under Calard's furious charge, lance and sword skewering blackened hearts and sending dragon-helmed heads into the air.
Calard shouted towards Duke Merovech, drawing the vampire away from the fallen King, he batted aside a vicious swinging broadsword, and his lightning riposte stabbed deep into the flesh of another Seneschal, the white flame flickering up his sword, making the devil's skin blacken and blister. It was then that the fell Duke swung towards him. The Blood Knight held his jagged sword loosely. The blade would have taken a strong man to lift it two-handed, yet the undead warrior drew a second blade as Calard bore down on him, twirling the twin-blades. Calard had seen the Vampire Lord fight; he knew of his ungodly speed, and the brutal power that was contained within him.
Time seemed to slow. Galloping at full speed Calard saw every detail of his foe in the moment before they clashed. He saw the aristocratic disdain in Merovech’s eyes, eyes that gleamed like a wolf’s, reflecting back at Calard the holy light that surrounded him. He saw the dimly glowing runes along the length of the vampire’s mighty swords, and he saw each individual raindrop coming down, splashing off his enemy’s fluted black armour.
Calard rose in the saddle to deliver the strike. Elith-Anar speared towards the vampire's chest, but with preternatural speed, one of Merovech's blades swung up to deflect it with an elegant circular parry. With the smallest twist of the wrist, Calard caused the tip of his elven lance to roll around the vampire's blade, avoiding the deflection. Merovech's other blade came up, but in a display of skill and speed that surpassed even the vampire lord's abilities, Calard again rolled his wrist, and the flaming tip of Elith-Anar flicked around his second blade.
The lancetip took Merovech in the throat, punching out the back of his neck in an explosion of dark blood. Calard released his grip on the lance and continued on past the vampire as it fell to its knees. Hauling on the reins, Calard brought Galibor back around sharply. Dark blood pooled beneath the vampire, and his eyes registered the creature's shock. He tried to speak, but nothing emerged from his mouth but a splatter of blood.
Calard swung from the saddle of his warhorse, and stormed towards the Duke of Mousillon, the Sword of Garamont blazing in his hand. The vampire tore the lance from its throat and rose to meet him. Merovech had lost one of his swords; the other one he gripped in both hands. He hissed, and hurled himself at Calard. The Sword of Garamont came up, smashing Merovech's sword aside. Calard allowed his momentum to carry him around, so that he had his back turned to his enemy. With a movement so fast it was little more than a blur, he spun his sword around so that he was holding it in a downward, dagger-like grip, left hand resting upon the pommel. He surged backwards, driving his sword into Merovech's chest. The blade slid deep, only halting when the hilt was pressed against the vampire's breastplate. It was over.
The vampire's mouth opened wide in a final, soundless scream. His flesh began to wither and blacken, like parchment beneath a candle-flame. Calard wrenched his sword free, and the creature that had been Merovech fell to the ground, collapsing to grave-dust. The entire army of the dead dropped, the dark magic binding and animating them dissipating. The rain ceased, and a howling wind began to clear the sky. Knights leapt forward to aid the king, while others, bloodied and battle-weary, gazed around them blankly, not yet comprehending that the battle was over. Merovech, Vampire Duke of Mousillon, was no more...
- "I said that I would be waiting, and I am not a man who breaks his word."
- —Calard, on his promise to Egil Styrbjorn.
A lone knight knelt in prayer upon a rocky beach as thousands of Norse longships ploughed towards the shore. He did not rise, even as a group of heavily armed Champions approached him.
For more than fifty years Calard had fought the enemies of Bretonnia as a Grail Knight, and his deeds and exploits were renowned across the lands. Nevertheless, his face was as unlined as it had been since the day he had supped from the Grail, and there was no hint of silver in his hair. Over the past half a century he had seen sights that few men ever dreamed of, and had mourned the death of many brave and honourable men. There was one more task for Calard to complete, however; his destiny had come.
Facing him was a massive horde of Chaos led by Egil Styrbjorn, and a vast Bretonnian army was at his own back, positioned on the grasslands beyond the beach. Thousands of knights and peasant men-at-arms were gathered there, watching and waiting. Only when the Jarl approached did Calard finish his prayer and rise to his feet. After the two warriors confirmed that their gods were watching them, Styrbjorn called forth his son for a duel, one that would once again decide the outcome of a war.
Calard could feel the daemon writhing within the warrior’s flesh, but more disturbing still was the fact that he could see the features of Elisabet, the woman he had once loved, reflected in the creature's face. This was the offspring of Styrbjorn and Elisabet, the daemon-child for which so many had died. Styrbjorn told his son to fight well, and stepped aside. The daemon came towards Calard, unsheathing a massive double-handed cleaver from a scabbard strapped across his back. Dark flames rippled across the length of the blade.
Calard drew the Sword of Garamont and stepped out to meet him, his own blade wreathed in pale fire. He called for the Lady to guide his blade, thunder rumbled across the heavens, and under the watchful gaze of the Bretonnian and Norse armies, the two champions of the gods came together...
- "All told, scarce three-score knights survived from a company that had once numbered in the hundreds. However, they were the cream of what Bretonnia had once offered, driven by duty and their Lady to stand against evil wherever it was found - even in the defence of the Empire. They would forge fresh legends before the battle was done..."
- —The Companions of Quenelles.
Calard could only have been victorious in his duel, for he soon rode forth to lend his might in the Cleansing of Mousillon. His heroic charge against the forces of Chaos would later be immortalised in the form of an exquisite painting. By this time he had also attracted a force of Battle Pilgrims, zealous warriors who revered him as a living saint.
By the beginning of the End Times, Lord Calard of Garamont was finally starting to physically age. Despite this, he was still counted among Bretonnia's greatest heroes as one of the Companions of Quenelles, fighting for eight years until the Empire's destruction. During the final siege of Averheim, the defenders of the city's walls fought against the brutal hordes of the Skaramor. Few could stand against these, the chosen of Khorne, and the Imperial defenders were soon slaughtered. It was only where Ungrim's Slayers and Calard's Companions fought, that the onslaught slowed. Eventually, the flood of Skaramor turned into a tide, and the ageing hero fell against the innumerable Skullreapers, with a sword in his hand and a curse on his lips.
Calard's Heraldry bore the emblem of a Dragon common to the Knights of Bastonne. It was a fire-breathing, white Dragon Rampant, imposed upon a field of blue and red. The colours represented his parent's own heraldry, the left taken from his father's red shield and the right representing the blue of his lost mother. His helmet was crested with a Lion, holding a winged shield bearing the same Dragon Rampant. This was later changed to incorporate a Grail after he succeeded in his quest.
Wargear & Abilities
Calard was a fearsome warrior, one of the greatest to walk the Old World. He was renowned across Bretonnia and had become feared by the mightiest Vampires and Chaos Lords. Even as a mortal warrior he was capable of defeating many great foes, having slain Trolls, Wyverns, Gorgers, Ogre Tyrants and even a monstrous Jabberslythe in combat. He had defeated the ancient Drycha and equalled Gilles le Breton himself in their penultimate duel, passing his final test and drinking from the Grail. As a Grail Knight he had bested - within seconds - Merovech the Butcher, a Blood Knight who rivalled beings such as Reolus and Egil Styrbjorn in power.
Like all Grail Knights, Calard was blessed with an abnormally long lifespan and possessed strength, speed and endurance beyond any mortal warrior. He was also protected against fell magic and could predict his enemies' attacks seconds in advance. These abilities added to his already deadly skill in combat, honed through years of fighting the most powerful of foes.
- The "Sword of Garamont" was a powerful artefact, blessed by a kiss from the Lady herself. The sword was testament to the wealth and power of the Castellan of Bastonne, for it was worth more than half a lesser lord's estates. Its scabbard was inlaid with spiralling designs picked out in gold, and the pommel of the sword was shining blue steel forged in the shape of a fleur-de-lys, the symbol of the blessed Lady. Its untarnished blade blazed with a fey light as it struck down its enemies. Blood would trickle off its blade as though it were oil, and it could cut through the greatest of armours with ease. In the hands of Calard it was a weapon of righteous death, his speed and strength allowing it to cut down enemies in their droves.
- "Elith-Anar - The Dawn Spirit" was a mighty Elven lance, an ancient artefact brought to Athel Loren long ago from distant Ulthuan. It was crafted from pale wood inlaid in silver, and its curving vamplate guard had been carved in the likeness of a dragon’s head. The lance was imbued with potent magics and its blade blazed with a pale fire. Calard wielded this lance as if it was but a sword, skewering his enemies and throwing them to the ground with contemptuous ease.
- A "Token of the Damsel" was worn by Calard upon the steel rarebrace of his left arm. It was a beautiful, mauve ribbon, given to him by his lover on the eve of his first battle. Even after Elisabet's fall from grace, Calard continued to wear her token, tying it to his lance during the Siege of Lyonesse and wearing it as a kerchief during his time as Questing Knight.
- "Galibor" was a powerful Warhorse, Calard had ridden its sire "Gringolet" in battle as a young Knight Errant, and so knew the horse's great pedigree. With powerful muscles and heavy armour, it was fearless in battle and feisty in nature.
- Calard was originally featured on the front cover of Bretonnia's 6th Edition Army Book. Later, this image was used to help create the main character for the "Knights of Bretonnia" novels.
- Calard's original steed "Gringolet" is named after the horse of the same name from Arthurian legend.
- 1: Warhammer: Knight Errant
- 2: Warhammer: Knight of the Realm
- 3: Rest Eternal (Short Story)
- 4: Warhammer: Questing Knight
- 5: Warhammer: Grail Knight
- 6: Warhammer: The End Times Compilation
- 7: Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia (6th Edition)