- "Witness the armour of black, the unraised visor, the iron-clad fist that rules from the shadows! Yes, darkness is abroad, from the City of the Damned to the hovels of the wretched. Mousillon is lost indeed, and if you seek to find it, traveller, you will find only death."
- —The Serpent of Mousillon.
Mallobaude, also known as The Serpent or The Black Knight, was a mysterious figure who appointed himself Duke of Mousillon and later attempted to claim the crown of Bretonnia, riding into war as a ferocious Blood Knight.
None know for sure the true identity of the Knight now known as Mallobaude. Although rumours persist that he is the bastard son of King Louen Leoncoeur himself. Whatever his origins, Mallobaude was certainly once a dashing and heroic knight, one of the finest young lances in Bretonnia. He was, and still certainly is, both a magnificent warrior and a man whose honour and principles were bound in iron. It is told that after setting off to fight in the Border Princes, returning as the only member of his warband left alive, Mallobaude earned his spurs and was confirmed as a full Knight of the Realm. However, such was his devotion to the Knightly Code that he immediately renounced his lance and rode out as a Questing Knight, seeking the Blessing of the Lady and a revelation from the Grail about what purpose his life should serve.[1a]
Mallobaude rode all across Bretonnia, devoting himself to the life of denial and toil demanded of a Questing Knight. Again, he seems content to allow rumours to fly among Mousillon’s nobles about his deeds as a Questing Knight. It is said he rode through the Massif Orcal and cleansed whole valleys of the Greenskins, battled bat-winged Harpies in the Grey Mountains, and stemmed the advance of an entire Goblin tribe at Axe Bite Pass. Other tales have him rooting out a Chaos cult among the foreign merchants in L’Anguille and hunting down the monstrous Blue Hag of the Forest of Chalons.[1a]
One of the most persistent stories relates how Mallobaude, after long years of questing for the Grail, became weary of his hardships and finally came to rest at a Grail Chapel. The Grail Damsel welcomed him in, but Mallobaude was grim-faced and angry. Why had the Lady forsaken him? Had he not done enough for her? He had he not slain Bretonnia’s monsters, sought to help its innocents, and punished its wicked? Yet why had he seen no sign of the Grail and received no message from the Lady? He railed in anger that he should devote his life to the quest and yet gain nothing from it. The Grail Damsel had counselled many Questing Knights, and she answered him as she had all those others. The Quest for the Grail, she told Mallobaude, is not a journey undertaken to gain recognition from the Lady or a trial to earn the right to drink from the Grail. The true quest is for the knight to reach this point, the point of despair, and then carry on with the quest in spite of it. This is the true test of a knight—not the strength of his sword arm but the strength of his soul, not whether he can slay a forest full of monsters but whether he can come to understand that he may never sip from the Grail and yet still continue to seek it.[1a]
Mallobaude thought on this. If it was true, then surely all he had to do was to carry on, to pit himself against the most terrible threats and meet them with passion and valour, and eventually the Lady would come to him as she had promised. With the dawn, Mallobaude rode out from the Grail Chapel and did not rest until he came to the very place where his despair would be tested—to the Land of Despair itself, to Mousillon.[1a]
Mallobaude found misery enough in Mousillon. It is almost certain it was Mallobaude who rode out against a host of the Undead who had gathered near the Orphan Hills and who delved into the caves beneath the ruined bridge at Pont’Resolu to bring the nefarious Rat-men to the sword. None can say what other adventures he had in the Lost Duchy.[1a]
As Mallobaude himself tells it, he eventually came to rest on the edge of the Forest of Arden. Though seeking Beastmen and other monsters, he instead came across a foul, brackish creek. As he watched its grey-green sheen lifted and the clouds of flies lifted, to reveal a clear, beautiful lake wreathed in chill mists. A hand reached up from the waters bearing a shining golden chalice, and Mallobaude knew he had at last found the Grail. Drinking from the Grail could have only two outcomes. If he had any taint of sin in his heart, the magic of the Grail would kill him instantly. If, however, he was pure as a true knight should be, then he would be given the blessing of the Lady, never know fear again, and ride back into civilisation as a hallowed Grail Knight. Mallobaude took the Grail, confident his years of questing must have cleansed him of any taint. He drank of its waters, and when he was not struck dead, he realised that he must have passed the test and that the blessing of the Lady was upon him. And then, he saw the truth. The Grail had no effect on him, Mallobaude did not die. Nor did he become a Grail Knight...[1a]
Instead, he received a revelation about the Lady of the Lake, the Knightly Code, and all that is at the very heart of Bretonnian chivalry. Somehow, instead of becoming a Grail Knight, Mallobaude had glimpsed past the Lady’s magic and seen the truth behind her. Or, perhaps, some madness struck him, and he saw a fevered hallucination brought about by his exposure to the misery of Mousillon. Whatever the case, Mallobaude believed it to be the truth, and it was terrible indeed.[1a]
Duke of Mousillon
Only Mallobaude’s closest co-conspirators know what Mallobaude saw when he drank from the Grail. It was devastating enough for Mallobaude to cast aside all that was knightly and curse the name of the Lady. He rode desolate back into Mousillon with everything he had ever believed in tatters, seeking only death in the Land of Despair. But he did not find death. Instead, his sorrow turned to anger, and his anger into hatred. He had been lied to since the day he was born, and worse, he had lived that lie. But he could do something about it. If he overthrew the crown of Bretonnia and abolished the worship of the Lady of the Lake, he could put right the wrong that had been done to Bretonnia. But to do that he first needed to gather an army and challenge for a dukedom, so that he could eventually seek out the throne of Bretonnia for himself. It was an insanely ambitious plan, one that required Mallobaude to be the first man to usurp the throne of Bretonnia. But the same dedication that had seen Mallobaude seek out the Grail and quest on through his despair was now turned towards his crusade against the Lady of the Lake and the crown of Bretonnia.[1a]
Mallobaude’s plan is in its early stages. He has explained his terrible vision to several of Mousillon’s nobles and many have joined with him. Some of them share his outrage at the lie that has been perpetrated on Bretonnia, while others are simply bitter, wicked men who want revenge against Bretonnia from making them outcasts. These nobles have pledged their resources to the first of Mallobaude’s objectives—a claim to the Dukedom of Mousillon itself. Their armed forces are needed both to fend off a possible challenge from the king and to enable an armed expedition to reclaim the Ducal Palace. The expedition is imminent, and it will not be long before Mallobaude strides into the halls where Maldred and Malfleur met their end.[1a]
Mallobaude’s plan relies on his creating an alliance of often wicked and treacherous men and women using only the force of his personality. Fortunately for him, Mallobaude possesses a charisma and persuasiveness that is the equal of any true Grail Knight. Though the “truth” that Mallobaude believes about Bretonnia is outlandish and frankly difficult to believe, Mallobaude states it with such conviction that many who have heard it have believed him completely. He is gracious and generous to his allies and even offers enemy nobles a single chance to join him. Mallobaude is also still an extremely honour-bound knight and has never executed a fellow noble. Instead, he gives them a chance to survive through single combat with him. In truth, this is not much of a chance as Mallobaude is one of the most skilful warriors ever born into Bretonnian chivalry, but the idea of slaughtering a nobleman like an animal is still unacceptable to Mallobaude.[1a]
Mallobaude is, however, utterly ruthless at his core. He shows commoners and foreigners none of the comparative leniency he affords Bretonnian nobles. He has had countless peasants, mercenaries, or foreign adventurers executed and worse. He also has such conviction in his cause that he is willing to send brave men, even nobles, to their certain deaths if it is in furtherance of his aims. Also, though Mallobaude is bound by his own sense of honour, he has abandoned the Knightly Code completely. Having openly refused the grace of the Lady and the authority of the king, such un-knightly pursuits as employing mercenaries or black powder war machines hold no shame for him.[1a]
Most sinisterly, Mallobaude’s devotion to his cause has even eclipsed his basic sense of right and wrong. It is said that the walking dead answer to his call, and that should the king invade Mousillon, the living will march alongside the dead in Mallobaude’s army. Some of the nobles with whom Mallobaude deals have the vilest reputations as Necromancers, Witches, and even blood-drinking fiends, and yet Mallobaude courts them all, caring only whether they can help him in furthering his aims.[1a]
Mallobaude is rarely seen in Mousillon and does not seem to have a single base of operations. Instead, he patronises the courts of the nobles who support him, both helping them recruit and deploy their forces and, presumably, checking up on them to ensure their loyalty. He wears full black armour, earning him the nickname of the Black Knight, and never raises his visor unless he is in the company of fellow noble conspirators. It is said he is a handsome but very intense man who seems as ageless and inscrutable as a true Grail Knight, and his deep, sonorous voice can convince a man of the most terrible things. Mallobaude’s heraldry is a yellow serpent on a black field, and it is displayed proudly both on his own shield and barding and on that of the select band of knights who form his personal troops. This is the standard that many are certain will soon be flying on the walls of the Barony.[1a]
By the year 1539 (2517 IC) rumours had spread throughout Bretonnia of an accursed army gathering in Mousillon, led by a mysterious knight clad in black. Mallobaude's army did not want for soldiers, as disgraced knights and vile cutthroats flocked to his banners. From among the most loyal and skillful of these ruthless warriors Mallobaude formed his personal retinue, the Knights of the Black Grail.[2a][3a]
Backed by an ever-growing army, Mallobaude commandeered the ancient city of Mousillon and raised the banners of the Serpent above its walls. The Black Knight then proclaimed himself the rightful Duke of Mousillon.[3a]
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- "Across the glades and valleys of Bretonnia, disgraced knights and covetous nobles flocked to the serpent banners of Mallobaude, illegitimate son of Louen Leoncoeur, and would-be king of that divided land. The scryer watched as the nation over the mountains descended into fiery civil war, and his eyes widened as he saw Mallobaude throw down his father at Quenelles with the aid of a skeletal figure clad in robes of crimson and black. A skull blazing with malignant power, with teeth as black as the night sky, tipped back and uttered a cackle of victory as Leoncoeur was smashed to the ground, seemingly dead at his offspring's hands..."
- —Mannfred von Carstein spies upon the Bretonnian Civil War.
On Winter's Eve of the year 1543 (2521 IC), Mallobaude began his war for the crown of Bretonnia. The defenders of the realm had been scattered and bloodied by the Kairos Fateweaver's daemonic invasion of the previous year, and King Louen decreed that Bretonnia's armies must gather and unite before facing the threat of Mallobaude. Ignoring his king's command, however, Duke Armand of Aquitaine led his army to face the Black Knight in battle, meeting Mallobaude's forces on the edge of the Forest of Châlons. Despite the support of the Fay Enchantress Morgiana, Armand's forces would have been quickly defeated had the Branchwraith Drycha not arrived with an army of forest spirits. Mallobaude's army was hard-pressed by this new enemy, yet the Branchwraith's host withdrew as mysteriously as they had appeared. Worse still for Duke Armand, the Fay Enchantress had also vanished, and without her aid the army of Aquitaine was routed by the Serpent's forces.[3a][4a]
Following Duke Armand's disastrous loss at the Battle of Châlons, dukes Huebald of Carcassonne, Adalhard of Lyonesse, and Chilfroy of Artois all declared their allegiance to Mallobaude. Despite these setbacks, the king still had the advantage. However, a year later, it was revealed that he had struck a bargain with Arkhan the Black, whose undead began to swell Mallobaude's ranks. The Serpent had even been granted the Blood Kiss of Vampirism from an old, long-established Bretonnian line of the creatures.[3a][4a]
Around this time, the Wood Elves of Athel Loren decided that they could no longer watch as the two armies tore Bretonnia apart, for if Mallobaude prevailed, an undead kingdom would form much of the western border of Athel Loren. Thus an allied Wood Elf-Bretonnian army faced Mallobaude and his knights at the Battle of Quenelles. At the centre of the battle, King Louen, wounded during a failed cavalry charge, duelled Mallobaude and was struck down, though his body was never recovered. Despite the presence of Wood Elf heroes such as Orion, Ariel, the Sisters of Twilight, Araloth, Scarloc, Skaw the Falconer, and Sceolan, the battle was lost.[3a][4a]
After this disastrous battle, Mallobaude then proceeded to travel to Gisoreux, Adelaix, and Montfort challenging any knight he found to single combat, and defeating all. When he reached Couronne, the remaining dukes united their forces against him, but they were far outnumbered and easily dispatched. Again, Mallobaude challenged any knights to single combat. This time, however, it was no worldly knight who appeared, but the ethereal Green Knight. Mallobaude and the Green Knight engaged in a brief duel, with the Green Knight beheading the Serpent of Mousillon.[4a]
Then, battle was joined again with the Green Knight at the head of the Bretonnians. Deprived of a leader, for Arkhan had already slunk off, the rebellion soon crumbled. After the battle, the Green Knight revealed himself to be none other than Gilles le Breton, returning to aid his people in their hour of greatest need. He was quickly coronated, thus ending Mallobaude's Civil War.[4a]
Aside from his father, King Louen Leoncoeur and his mother, an unnamed noblewoman, Mallobaude had a half-sister called Isabeau, who at one point was captured by the Dragon Malgrimace and rescued by Jasperre le Beau. His grandfather on Louen's side was a former King of Bretonnia, and had thus been a mighty Grail Knight.
- Mallobaude is heavily inspired by the character of Mordred from the legends of King Arthur. Mordred was King Arthur's bastard son, who eventually turned on his father and led an army to devastate the Kingdom of Camelot.
- Mallobaude is the only known Knight on which the Holy Grail has had no effect. Although it is implied that he may have hallucinated the entire affair.
- 1 Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Barony of the Damned
- 2 Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia (6th Edition)
- 2a pg. 39
- 3 Warhammer Armies: Wood Elves (8th Edition)
- 3a pg. 33
- 4 Warhammer: Nagash
- 4a pg. 30