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"I awoke to find Mousillon a pale shadow of its glorious past, overrun with vermin, its lands annexed by its neighbours, its very name a by-word for despair and failure. But now, I have returned. Now, Mousillon will rise again. And you, my brothers, will rise with it."
Merovech, Vampire Duke of Mousillon.
450px-Merovech within his lost tomb- 2017-06-03 17-17

Merovech sitting within his desolate tomb.[2]

Duke Merovech of Mousillon, also known as Merovech the MadMerovech the Butcher, the Dark Lord of Mousillon and formerly, the Saviour of Bretonnia, was the bloody-handed ruler of Mousillon. A fearsome warrior and strong leader, his desperation to restore the glory of his dukedom would lead him to become an extremely powerful Blood Knight, feared throughout Bretonnia for his bloodlust.

History

The Saviour of Bretonnia

Around 1813 IC, the Red Pox swept through the fair lands of Bretonnia, killing many of its inhabitants. In that time, Merovech was Duke of Mousillon and a proud warrior looking with envy upon the glory days of Mousillon, during the reign of the mighty Landuin, first Duke of Mousillon, and greatest of the Grail Companions. He was desperate to restore the prestige that his city had in those distant times. With honourable intentions but led astray by corrupt advisers, Merovech set upon the path of dark powers. Thus it came that when the plague struck, the Duke and his knights remained unaffected.[2][5]

Seeing his chance for glory, Merovech mustered his men and rode out against the vile ratmen who beset the lands of Bretonnia. He rode south and broke the siege of Brionne. Believing he was Landuin reborn, he followed the same route as Gilles le Breton and his Grail Companions had taken, and headed east to Athel Loren. He relieved Quenelles from a siege. At the edge of the enchanted forest, he met with the armies of Parravon and the fey folk and battled the Skaven. A great victory was won, and the rat creatures scattered before the martial might of Merovech and his most trusted knights. In the middle of the battle, Merovech was soaked in blood, revelling in the killing. Even after his foe lay unmoving, still he continued to hack at them with his gore-soaked blade. The virtuous and honourable knights of Parravon looked on in horror.[2][5]

All were invited to celebrate the victory upon the Skaven with a great banquet in the Halls of Mousillon Castle. However, the guests were most horrified by what they saw. Dinner was served by shambling, corpse-like servants and spitted and impaled criminals were set around the hall. Merovech, drunk and feeling ill-appreciated, claimed to be dishonoured. The king expressed his revulsion at what he saw, upon which Merovech accused the king of jealousy and conspiring against the saviour of Bretonnia. The people of Mousillon tell of how the king then challenged Merovech, refusing to let one of his dukes battle in his stead. The duel started, it was fierce and Merovech fought like a daemon. The two combatants clashed throughout the great hall until finally, with rage in his heart, Merovech tore out the king's throat. The Duke then filled a goblet with the king's blood, and drank from it...[2][5][6]

Many have since claimed there was no duel, that the king was simply murdered by his insane and unchivalrous subject. Regardless, upon witnessing Merovech's act of bloodthirst, the other dukes hastily retreated from Mousillon, pursued by a horde of twisted creatures and malformed peasants.[2][5][6]

The citizens of Mousillon were led to believe that, despite his reputation, Merovech had been chosen to succeed the murdered king. In truth, the Fay Enchantress had already denounced him as a traitor alongside the newly-crowned Royarch. Lyonesse mustered its troops and led a massive invasion of Mousillon, and many of Mousillon's knights gladly took up arms against their insane ruler, having no wish to be associated with their liege-lord and swearing fealty to Lyonesse. Faced with the might of all Bretonnia, Merovech was defeated and slain, though many brave warriors fell beneath his blade. After Merovech's demise, Lyonesse absorbed the a large portion of Mousillon into their own dukedom, leaving only its most tainted lands behind.[2][5]

Though widely vilified and despised, many notable knights and families owed Merovech for saving them from the Skaven armies. After his death they banded together and in spite of the new King's wishes, built a mighty tomb for the dead Duke. The huge stone mausoleum, the size of a small keep, was constructed near the centre of Mousillon. After many centuries his tomb sunk into the marshes of Mousillon and was thought lost forever. Many a Questing Knight set out to find the tomb, but none ever succeeded.[2]

Revenge

"Tonight is the dawning of a new era in Mousillon's history. Once, our realm was the most powerful in all Bretonnia. Now we have a chance to reclaim that glory, you and I."
Merovech, Dark Lord of Mousillon.[1]
Mon 256 (3)

The corrupted Heraldry of Mousillon.

Centuries passed before Merovech rose from his tomb, revealing himself to have been a powerful vampire. Restored to full potency, he towered over mortal men and moved with unnatural precision, as if his armour was a second skin. The armour he donned was of an archaic, old fashioned style, fluted and with serrated barbs at its edges. It was of such dark steel that it was almost black, and was completed by a helmet that had been forged to resemble a snarling Dragon. The Vampire never carried a shield, but bore a pair of unholy blades strapped at his side, encrusted with dark runes. He bore no Heraldry other than a simple black fleur-de-lys, the ancient symbol of Mousillon.[1][4]

Merovech's first action upon his return was to overthrow the Varghulf leader of Mousillon, known as the "Old One". Imprisoning the beast and taking control of its Undead followers, a sizeable army began to take shape, but the Duke still needed to search for a champion. Infiltrating tournaments under the guise of a noble Knight of the Realm, Merovech discovered two young brothers, Calard and Bertelis of Garamont. He would go on to fight Bertelis, and whilst he defeated his opponent with ease, he was greatly impressed with the young knight's potential.[1][4]

Merovech bided his time, visiting Bertelis after a series of tragic events had resulted in his brother denouncing him. The morose and bitter young knight accepted the vampire’s offer to train him, eventually accepting the Blood Kiss. With his champion chosen, Merovech decided to seal their bond with damnation. The two Blood Knights travelled to Castle Garamont, where the pair slaughtered an entire garrison of Knights and Men-at-Arms, drinking the blood of the slain and burning Garamont to the ground, erasing Bertelis's ties to that realm.[1][4]

Returning to Mousillon, Merovech then summoned corrupt nobles from across Bretonnia to aid his cause, and resurrected his long-dead bodyguard of elite Blood Knights, adding to what was becoming a fearsome army. He was now close to enacting his revenge, and conquering all of Bretonnia...[1]

The Questing Knight

"Your master's going to die,' said Calard as Bertelis closed the distance between them."
"I think not,' said his brother. 'No devolved Varghulf is a match for him.
"
Calard and Bertelis witness Merovech's duel.[1]

Several years into the Vampire's plan, Calard of Garamont, now a Questing Knight, arrived within the cursed city of Mousillon. He was disguised as one of the many disgraced knights who had answered the Duke's call to war, and planned to exact revenge upon the one responsible for sacking his home.[1]

Calard's attempt to kill Merovech would not go as planned, however, for he discovered Bertelis slaughtering knights within a duelling ring, under the gaze of his new master. As the two brothers fought, Ghouls burst into the Castle, led by none other than the Old One. Calard's arrival had allowed the Varghulf's few remaining followers to release it and launch an attack.[1]

While his undead servants fought against a tide of Ghouls, Merovech entered into a mighty duel with the Vampiric beast. Taking his fight to the balcony above, he danced and weaved like a dervish, ducking under blows that would have torn him in half, twin blades flashing. He moved with preternatural speed, but the monster he fought was almost as quick, despite its bulk. Soon enough, the creature was bleeding from a dozen wounds, but it did not slow. The Old One caught Merovech in a glancing blow that sent the Duke skittering across the ground, causing the Varghulf to roar in victory and leap after him. Merovech recovered quickly, however, and rolled under the blade-like talons that hammered down towards him. As he came to his feet, both blades carved bloody furrows across the monster's chest, and it hissed in pain. Using the immense beast's arm like a ladder, Merovech turned and leapt lightly up his enemy's body, spinning both swords around in his hands so that they were pointed downwards, like daggers. Kicking off the beast's chest, he turned in mid-air and plunged both swords into its neck.[1]

The Old One bellowed. Both swords were embedded to the hilt, their tips protruding from the back of its neck as it thrashed around in pain. It reached up and ripped both weapons free, hurling them away from it, and blood gushed from the wounds. Such a blow ought to have been fatal, but the beast merely shook its head and dropped to all fours, and began stalking towards the now unarmed Duke Merovech. In the chaotic battle below, Calard, having witnessed Merovech being disarmed, briefly hoped that the Old One would be the Vampire's doom.[1]

Alas, the ancient monster was ultimately brought down, blood pooling beneath it. Its flesh was slashed and torn, hanging from it in bloody tatters. Duke Merovech stood before it then, sword in hand as the Varghulf's powerful legs bunched for one final spring, but it was never given the chance. The Blood Knight hurled his sword aside and leapt towards his enemy with a blood-curdling battle cry, hands extended like claws. He grabbed the immense creature by the head, grappling with it, and with a roar of effort, he wrenched it upwards, exposing its neck. Merovech's fangs flashed, and he tore into the Varghulf's neck. The creature fought against him, but its strength was gone. For long moments Merovech drank, glutting himself before pulling away. Then, he dragged the immense weight of the Varghulf across the floor, until he reached a distant altar. He forced the Varghulf's neck back, and lowered his mouth to its neck once more. This time he did not feed, but rather tore. He ripped open its throat, and the last of its blood gushed forth.[1]

As Merovech threw his foe’s broken corpse onto the duelling ring below, he witnessed Bertelis's destruction. The sudden arrival of the Ghouls and their master had distracted his dark champion, allowing Calard to pierce his brother’s heart with the Sword of Garamont, before retreating from the castle.[1]

Merovech dropped to one knee alongside Bertelis's ashen corpse, and something approaching sorrow ghosted across the Duke's features as he placed a hand upon the fallen knight's chest. Nevertheless, he would not be set back by the death of his favoured pupil. He would continue to amass his dark army and march upon the realm of Bretonnia, bringing vengeance with him.[1]

Gates of Couronne

The Duke of Mousillon was last seen at the head of his vast army, having fought his way to the very gates of Couronne itself. He and his elite cadre of vampire knights, his Seneschals, carved a swathe through the Bretonnian lines, butchering all stood against them. Mounted on black warhorses with eyes that glowed like coals, they thundered forwards, smashing knights from their saddles, cutting down Bretonnia’s finest with contemptuous ease. More knights pressed in to halt their rampage, but all fell before their murderous wrath.[3]

Faster and stronger than any mortal man, these vampire knights fought with callous ferocity. Their eyes were red-rimmed and savage, their slitted pupils dilating as their bloodlust surged. They struck with such force that shields shattered beneath their axes and blades. Their lances punched straight through armoured breastplates, lifting warriors from the saddle and tossing them aside like children. Merovech fought like a daemon, lips pulled back to expose his elongated canines. Blood splattered across his snow-white face as he hacked a questing knight’s head from his shoulders and thundered on, driving his heavily armoured nightmare towards the immense gates of Couronne. He slashed left and right, killing with every stroke. The centre of the Bretonnian battle-line was buckling inward, threatening to break at any moment.[3]

A shadow descended from above as King Louen Leoncoeur joined the fray, mounted atop a ferocious Hippogryph. For a while the young king defeated all who stood before him, but eventually a lucky blow sent his mount crashing down, pinning him beneath its bulk. Dozens of loyal knights pushed forward, interposing themselves before their liege and the murderous vampire knights, selling their lives dearly. Merovech began to laugh as he killed, the hideous sound booming out across the battlefield. The outcome of the battle balanced on a knife’s edge as the fell Duke hacked down the knights standing between him and the king. He slammed his sword into the standard bearer’s neck, the blade biting through armour, bone and flesh, and the royal banner fell. Merovech loomed over his stricken foe and readied his blade. The killing blow would never land, however, for Calard of Garamont had succeeded in his quest for the Grail.[3]

Riding atop a mighty warhorse and wielding a blazing lance, the Grail Knight rushed into the battle at the head of a Wood Elf Wild Hunt. Slaughtering his way through the Vampire's elite Seneschals, Calard engaged the Duke in a brief but brutal duel. Despite the Blood Knight's superhuman speed and strength, he was ultimately defeated, mouthing a silent curse as his body turned to ash. Merovech, the Vampire Duke of Mousillon... was no more.[3]

Sources

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