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"In the time of Bretonnia's greatest need, when it seems that all hope is gone, I shall return to aid you..."
The last words of Gilles le Breton.[4]

Gilles le Breton, also known as Gilles the Uniter, the Slayer of Monsters, the Leader of Battles and the Sacremor, was the founder of Bretonnia, its first Royarch and one of the first Grail Knights. He went onto become the Green Knight, spiritual Protector of Bretonnia, who would come to his people's aid in times of need.

History

Gilles was born into the proud Bretonni tribe, which had over nine centuries earlier migrated south past the Grey Mountains, just prior to the Battle of Black Fire Pass.[1]

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

Slaying Smearghus

"He knelt humbly with his head bowed, his famous dragon-skin cloak thrown over his shoulders. Gilles had slain the malevolent great wyrm, Smearghus, when he was little more than a boy, and had cut the cloak from its flesh. The revered artefact hung in the duke of Bastonne's castle, and every year thousands of knights made the pilgrimage to stand beneath it in awe."
Gilles le Breton, depicted in an exquisite portrait.[4]

In the year 952 IC, the embattled Bretonni were further troubled by the great red WyrmSmearghus. Much of Gilles' fiefdom of Bastonne was in flames due to the Dragon's rapacious appetite for death and terror. Although the dreaded beast was the size of Sinelle Keep and capable of swallowing whole horses without chewing, Gilles knew that he had but one course of action, for honour and courage ran thick in the young man's veins. He swore to his court that he would return to them either in victory or in a casket.[3]

At the height of summer, Gilles spied a great plume of smoke rising from the village of Sinelle. Preparing his charger, a magnificent beast quite devoid of fear, Gilles donned his armour and rode out over the hills to confront the Dragon. As he crested the rolling foothills above Sinelle and looked down upon the beleaguered town, he saw the massive Dragon wheeling and roaring above the market square and systematically spewing great torrents of flame onto building after building. From the vantage point of the hills, Gilles could hear the terrified populace. The Dragon was herding them like a wolf herds sheep. The beast's blasts of flame were carefully placed to form a raging ring of fire around the centre of the town through which the citizens could not escape. Gilles gritted his teeth, swore an oath of vengeance for those he was too late to save, and charged headlong down the hill.[3]

The bright caparison of Gilles mighty Warhorse fluttered wildly as the great wyrm Smearghus swooped overhead and landed heavily in the centre of the ring of flame. As Gilles rode through the streets he saw an unfortunate citizen flicked high into the air before a massive serpentine neck snaked out and the beast devoured him whole. Digging his spurs in and with a shout of pure defiance on his lips, Gilles charged straight through the ring of fire and into the town square. The doomed peasants caught in the Dragon's trap turned to see a shining, armoured figure mounted on a twenty-hand snarling warhorse barrelling through the fires. Flames licked Gilles's hair and livery like a wrathful halo.[3]

As the mighty Dragon turned to face this challenger. Gilles exhorted the populace to take up arms and fight. Such was the charisma of the Bretonni Duke that many took up bow and halberd to fight alongside their lord. Arrows thudded onto the Dragon's neck from the other side of the square but had no effect, indeed the beast was not distracted for a second. Smearghus opened its folded wings with a titanic crack, circled into the air and landed once more to face the oncoming Gilles. The wyrm's claws cracked flagstones as its massive head craned down.[3]

Gilles spurred his warhorse on and levelled his lance with an oath on his lips. There was a deafening hiss with the Dragon's massive intake of breath. Gilles knew a direct blast of flame would make his armour run like mercury and strip the flesh from his bones. He had but a moment to complete his charge, and he knew it was not enough.[3]

Without warning, the beast reared up with an ear-splitting roar. A long arrow shaft protruded from its eye. For a split second, its pallid underbelly was exposed to Gilles charge. The Knight's stout lance slammed home between the Dragon's hard scales, pushed deep into its heart, and then snapped in two. The violent wrench threw Gilles from his horse. With a great screech that sent peasants bolting for cover, Smearghus thrashed about in the fires of its own making. Unafraid, Gilles walked forwards into the searing flames and, with a great cry, plunged his sword beneath the beasts eyes. The menace was vanquished once and for all...[3]

After several hours of hard labour and with the aid of the town's blacksmith, Gilles finally managed to cut the wyrm's titanic head free from its neck. He took a potion of its iron-hard skin for his cloak and rode back home in triumph that day, the wyrm's head chained to his mighty warhorse. From that point on, the Dragon became part of Giles's personal heraldry. All who witnessed Gilles's triumph that day knew he was marked for greatness, but none among them suspected that one day all of the Bretonni would be allied under the young Knight's colours.[3]

The Uniter

In the year 975 IC, Gilles, already famed throughout the lands of the Bretonni for slaying Smearghus over twenty years earlier, inherited the crown of Bastonne after his father died repelling the Orcs that had invaded the realm. Gilles refused to concede his land to the encroaching darkness. Upon a mighty charger he rode out against the greenskins, those faithful to his sword accompanying him. Many of his proud knights fell to the enemy, but afore the tip of Gilles' lance, the canker devouring Bastonne was cleansed and his father was avenged.[1]

Visions began speaking to Gilles of the countless enemies that stood poised to destroy the lands of his peers. Joining forces with his friend Thierulf and the famed Lord Landuin of Mousillon, he prepared for one final, great battle.[1]

On the morning of the battle, a ghostly vision came unto them, a maiden of surpassing beauty and fey power arising from the mirror-sheened lake beside which they were camped in the Forest of Châlons. The knights knew full well that the sublime apparition was no mortal creature, for not a ripple disturbed the waters. She blessed Gilles, enchanting his banner with her likeness, before bidding them to drink from a magnificent, golden chalice. The bodies of the Companions became suffused with unearthly strength and light. Their eyes did glow with lambent flame from within, and their weapons and armour shone with new power. Thus did Gilles, Landuin and Thierulf transcend the mortal clay and earn sanctity to become the first of the Grail Knights, the famed Grail Companions...[1]

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

In this way, Gilles won the first of his famed Twelve Great Battles. He and his Companions rode out to save their land, and proved victorious in each and every battle.[1]

It was not until the Sixth Great Battle that Gilles' momentum was stopped, albeit temporarily. The blossoming coterie of Grail Companions had travelled to the land of Montfort. There they saw the towering Lord Martrud and his kin give their all to fend clear a dozen tribes of fierce Night Goblins, who gushed forth from the mountainside like a black and unstoppable flood through Axe Bite Pass, which was carpeted in a carrion feast of a thousand dead. The Companions charged into the tide of black-clad fiends and fought mightily, until Gilles was speared by a projectile thrown from a cowardly siege weapon. Weeping, the Companions bore their injured lord into Castle Montfort. They spent the night in grief and desperation, as surgeons proclaimed that Gilles was about to die. However, the Lady was with Gilles. As dawn broke, the fallen hero grasped the shaft of the bolt with a great roar and pulled it bodily from his chest, where light streamed out. Grim and wrathful, Gilles was like a divine sky-warrior as he rode forth once more, killing a flock of three Wyverns that descended upon him from the black-bellied skies, one felled by the very bolt that had struck him...[1]

Ultimately, Gilles was successful in uniting the Bretonni and forging them into kingdom of Bretonnia. In the year 979 IC, after the twelfth and greatest battle, the Companions met in the realm of Artois. Here the formal Dukedoms were created, and the Bretonnian calendar was introduced. Each of the great lords of the Bretonni were named Dukes, and they swore oaths of fealty to Gilles as the "Leader of Battles." Fredemund, the newly christened Duke of Aquitaine, then wedded Gilles' youngest sister, Annabel.[1]

Death

Alas, just seventeen years after Bretonnia was formed, death took its due. Gilles, honoured as the Breton and the Uniter, was calamitously struck down. A veritable god of war that had by his great deeds won peace. Some whispered he had no place, and had continued to seek out battle wherever it lay. He was slain by a fell weapon loosed by an unknown hand, and forever after the knights of Bretonnia forswore the coward's weapon that killed from afar.[1]

As he passed from the world, Gilles had a final vision of the Lady, and his men carried him to a nearby lake. There, he was placed on a ship which sailed into the mists, towards an isle of bliss in the mystical Otherworld, where he would join the Lady herself for all eternity...[1]

The End Times

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The mighty Green Knight.

Many centuries after Gilles passed from the mortal world, Bretonnia was in peril. They were without a king, for Louen Leoncoeur had fallen against his own bastard son, Mallobaude the Serpent. Having become a fearsome Vampire, Mallobaude led an army of Dark Knights and undead across Bretonnia, slaughtering all in his path. He challenged any knights to single combat, slaughtering all who faced him. His final battle would be at Couronne. This time, however, it was no worldly knight who stepped forward, but the mystical Green Knight. Mallobaude and his challenger engaged in a brief duel, which ended with the Green Knight beheading the Serpent of Mousillon. Deprived of a leader, the rebellion soon crumbled.[2]

After the battle, the Green Knight revealed himself to be none other than Gilles le Breton. He had returned to fulfill his ancient promise, to aid Bretonnia in its darkest hour. No longer an ethereal spirit, he existed only to take war to the enemies of his realm: he was a weapon, forged from the myths of the past and given new life by the unfathomable will of the Lady. His ageless face shone with a fay light and his countenance bore the raw weight of centuries. Thus, the Uniter was coronated once more as King of Bretonnia, ending Mallobaude's civil war.[2]

Gilles le Breton would lead Bretonnia's defence during the End Times, with he and the Lady of the Lake appointing Louen Leoncouer as their champion, sending him to fight in defence of the Empire. Meanwhile, Gilles fought alongside the legendary Abhorash, for even he bent the knee to the uniter of Bretonnia. In the closing days of the Old World, Bretonnia still stood while the Empire was destroyed. Gilles the Uniter and Abhorash the Vampire fought alongside each other, armies of the living and dead made a last stand in Bretonnia as the world finally ended. It was implied that Gilles would ascend to godhood alongside Louen Leoncoeur, part of the Lady's plan to save humanity.[2]

Sources

  • 1Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia (6th Edition) -- p. 6 - 12
  • 2The End Times I: Nagash
  • 3White Dwarf #289
  • 4Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Knights of the Grail

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