- "I am but a simple man. To serve this most holy quest is reward enough for me."
- —Anonymous Grail Pilgrim.
Whilst worship of the Lady is centred on the nobility, the peasants do not ignore her. It is true that most peasants give their primary devotion to the other deities of the Old World. A few peasants, however, are as devoted to the Lady of the Lake as any Grail Knight. As these peasants cannot become Grail Knights or Damsels themselves, they try to be as close as possible to those who have. Damsels of the Lady are more feared than loved by most peasants, and most would drive off any who started following them around, so the vast majority of these peasants join the entourage of a Grail Knight. Such people are known as Grail Pilgrims.
A Grail Pilgrim, as long as he follows his Grail Knight, accepting the hardships of life on the road, is deemed to be on pilgrimage and thus cannot be seized by his lord. Few join purely for this independence, however, as Grail Knights seek out dangerous places, and the life expectancy of Grail Pilgrims is not long...
Driven by relentless obsession, these pilgrims collect almost anything that a Grail Knight casts aside, whether it be scrap of ruined armour, clothing, or even discarded food. Such is their burning passion, these religious scavengers will follow their idol through all weathers and lands, exulting in his acts and praising his sparing words.[1a]
The knights bear these followers with a dutiful resignation that borders on the stoic, though they endeavour not to encourage their self-appointed apostles. This is a vain hope, for even the merest word or gesture is seized upon as an act of great import and eagerly immortalised in tales and discordant song. If a Grail Knight is unfortunate enough to fall in battle his devoted followers will swarm over his corpse, picking it clean of anything that could bear the Blessing of the Lady.[1a]
It has been known for these desperate peasants to mistake gravely wounded knights for dead - indeed it does not stretch credibility to believe that more than a few Grail Knights could well have met their demise as a result of being crushed by scavenging pilgrims. To such a zealot the most prized of all the possessions of a Grail Knight is his body itself. In fact, many bands of pilgrims cart around a Reliquae wherever they go, with the corpse of a departed knight resting at its centre. The outside of the reliquae is a gaudy mélange, adorned with trinkets gathered from many Grail Knights from across all corners of Bretonnia. The pilgrims devote themselves to this construction, supplicating themselves before it as if it were a living Grail Knight, praying for its blessings.[1a]
To the pilgrims, the reliquae is the ultimate icon of their devotion to both the Lady of the Lake and her knights - mobile shrines from which the chosen amongst them can preach their creed. There is never a shortage of listeners for these demagogues, for at each town or village the common people will flock to the reliquae so that they might hear graphic detail the latest tales and deeds of the heroic knight who unintentionally leads the procession. These gatherings can often turn ugly, the fanatical zeal of the pilgrims exploding into violence that the local militias can have difficulty containing. Such outbreaks are always short-lived, subsiding instantly at the command of a Grail Knight, the pilgrims collapsing into rapture at the thought of actually having been noticed by their idol.[1a]
Often, peasants in the crowd will choose to join the ragtag band of pilgrims, drawn by promises of salvation and the blessing of the Lady. Others are drafted into the ranks through threats and near blackmail, generously being offered an opportunity to earn the redemption of the Lady for crimes and misdeeds that are sometimes real but, more usually, invented by the fanatical preachers who are ever eager to expand their flock through any means. Battle Pilgrims are the fanatical worshippers of the knights from which they derive their namesake. They are furious warriors, utterly dedicated to their patrons. A ramshackle band of zealots, Grail Pilgrims make up for what they lack in skill with fury and righteous fire.[1a]
A Day in the Life
The Grail Pilgrim wakes in a makeshift camp alongside his fellows. After taking breakfast and breaking camp they follow the trail of the Grail Knight they seek, singing chansons about his exploits as they go. The pilgrims stop regularly to take repast and swap anecdotes about the knight, seeking to outdo one another with tales of his deeds or boasting of a time when he supposedly spoke or gestured to them.[2a]
The pilgrim will gather any of the Grail Knight’s discarded effects he comes across. He will equip himself with bits of armour, bent swords, and broken lances. If the knight should fall during his travels the pilgrims will make a grisly prize of the corpse, using it as the centrepiece of a sacred reliquary. Care of this reliquary is of paramount importance to the pilgrims and they bear it with great honour.[2a]
The pilgrim must be ready to defend himself, for he follows the Grail Knight through wild areas of Bretonnia, where Beastmen and Greenskins wait to waylay travellers. Sometimes the inhabitants of a farmstead are unwilling to provide the pilgrim with the provisions he needs, and violence often ensues.[2a]
Should he encounter the Grail Knight he follows the Grail Pilgrim will immediately make showy obeisance. Such encounters usually result in uncomfortable stand-offs, the pilgrim too awed to speak and the knight somewhat humiliated by the presence of a low-born devotee dressed in his cast-off gear. When the knight sets off again there is palpable relief, and the pilgrim waits a while in respectful reverie before following after his hero once more.[2a]
Grail Pilgrims are looked on with a mixture of contempt and fear by the normal folk of Bretonnia. The peasantry of the kingdom all agree Grail Knights are awe-inspiring figures, and so understand how easy it might be to idolise them in this manner. On the other hand, Grail Pilgrims are notoriously zealous and dangerous, and have been known to raid villages and farmsteads when foraging for supplies.[2a]
The Bretonnian nobility view them as pests in peacetime. Some dukes may see wandering bands of pilgrims on their lands imprisoned or killed. In times of war this attitude changes, for the fanatical pilgrim bands make doughty fighters and their presence on a battlefield is viewed as a boon.[2a]
- 1: Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia (6th Edition)
- 1a: pg. 51
- 2: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Career Compendium
- 2a: pg. 90
- 3: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Knights of the Grail