Bretonnia Prelude Part I
The Duke entered the chamber, weary of the days legislation and the endless quarrels of the peasants. Nevertheless he was honor-bound to protect the lowliest of people and hear their needs. He heavily sat down on a padded arm chair facing the large fireplace in his chamber and rested his legs on a small table used by his late mother for brunches with her lady-friends. As the rain pitter-pattered outside he leaned forward resting his head on his hand. It was moments like this one that gave the Duke solace; the warmth of the hearth and the sound of the calm rain. A soft knock on the door broke his moment of respite.“Never a moment of calm to myself. A burden my birthright, not a blessing,” he mumbled to himself. “Yes what is it?” he called louder.
“My liege, two emissaries seek your audience.” He recognized the voice of his elder steward.
“At this hour?! Give them quarters and tell them to wait til morn!”
“My liege, they insist the audience be held now. They say it is of dire nature.”
The Duke sighed heavily. As if the toils of the day were not enough, now his evening would be taken as well. “Very well, show them to the Lion’s Chamber.”
“Most humble apologies my liege, but the elves stand here by my side. I believe they intend to meet you in your chamber as to not burden you of another trip down the drafty passages of the keep.”
The Duke’s heart sank. Elves? The High Elves ventured not into Quenelles. It could only be the Wood Elves from the dark forest. A shiver ran down his spine. His youngest son had disappeared in those woods almost twelve years ago when he was but a child. Parties were sent in and did not return; or returned days later, decades older. However, he knew the Wood Elves were no enemies of Bretonnia, it was the sheer foolishness and quest for glory that lured Bretonnians into the woods. “Very well, show the faerie folk in,” the Duke said, loud enough for the emissaries to hear.
The stewards opened the door and in entered two tall figures clad in cloaks wet from the nights rain.One by his apparel appeared to be a Wood Elf. The other figure had the height of a elf, but was clad in a heavy cloak covering his face; the only thing visible was a thin white hand grasping a graceful staff.
“Duke Tancred II of Quenelles, my humble greetings from the court of Queen Ariel,” the Wood Elf bowed lowly pulling back the hood of his cloak.
“Why Scarloc! Had I known it was you I would have received you warmer!” the Duke rose and gave the Waywatcher a friendly hug. “My, it has been many seasons since we have seen each other.”
“But a few weeks my lord, but time has not treated you well. You seem to have aged decades!” the waywatcher jested.
“Ah you and your faerie magics! Heavy is the mantle that lays on my shoulders. Time and the complaints of the peasants break the body more so than a fierce battle. So tell me old friend, what is the dire nature of this visit and who is your stoic friend?”
Scarloc cast a quick glance at his companion who remained at the door, “Dire news indeed… my lord it is with great regret that I sour this reunion with tart wine.” Duke Tancred’s brow furrowed as he resumed his seat and motioned to his guests to two remaining seats. Scarloc continued, “I come here at the bidding of Queen Ariel. She has had dark dreams my lord. Dark dreams for Athel Loren. Dark dreams for Bretonnia. “
“Bretonnia has always been plagued with the hosts of Chaos. Ever-hungry greenskins. Restless undead stirring in their graves. Skaven poking their heads out of the ground like moles. We are no strangers to struggle. Tell me what could be more troubling than what we have already triumphed over,” Tancred asked.
“In ages past the Asrai have aided Bretonnia in her struggles. We have fought together against many a common foe. Now the time has come for Athel Loren to call Bretonnia to her aid.”
Tancred raised his eyebrows in surprise, “And what role does Quenelles play in this struggle. The people fear your forest Scarloc, know that convincing them to go to war on your behalf will be no easy feat. And we are but one province of Bretonnia, if the struggle is so dire, how can we help?”
“I come to you old friend because only through your reasoning and understanding will Bretonnia listen to our plea. You must speak to your counterparts and your King. Athel Loren did not hesitate to drive the Skaven back in the Red Pox. I have personally come to your aid in countless battles.” Scarloc placed his hands on the back of an arm-chair and dug his fingers in. The tension on the Wood Elf’s face was apparent. The noble race did not easily ask for help. “Winter is on the horizon, the treemen will be at rest. Cyanathair will not. To the race of men he is known as Morghur. If you cannot slow his descent on Athel Loren until Spring, then the Asrai are doomed.”
The Duke sat quietly stroking his grey beard. After a moment of silence had passed, Tancred asked, “The beastmen… Yes, I had wondered what was the cause of the stir in the north of my realm. Bastonne has reported similar disturbances. The Forests of Chalons and Arden are astir. Irregardless of your plea Scarloc, Quenelles is already and would continue to suppress the beastmen. What more could we do that we are already not?”
“The warherds of Chalons and Arden are vast, but a mere shadow of the storm that descends from the north. The Drakwald is on the march through the Wasteland and Grey Mountains.”
“But that is leagues away from Quenelles! You would have to buy the allegiance of Parravon and Montfort for that struggle! That is a steep price…” the Duke stated.
“You must aid us in stalling the beastmen. The Asrai alone cannot hold against this onslaught. We need you to buy time!”
“It will be hard to sell an alliance where we defend your livelihood… Tell me, in all your wisdom, how to convince the realm of men that the lives of the Wood Elves are of value.”
“The dark storm that descends upon Athel Loren is intended for us. I spoke of another Darkness that looms over Bretonnia…” Scarloc walked to the shutters of the chambers window and threw them open. The rains had stopped and clouds parted to reveal bright moons. He leaned out the window and inhaled the fresh night air. A moment of calm filled him until he looked up at the sky. He unblocked the window and pointed towards the night sky, “Darkness descends upon Bretonnia as well.
The Duke stood up and approached the window. He cast a hesitant glance out the window at the two moons. His eyes froze as he looked up. His mouth opened slightly as he took in the scene of thousands of bats quietly flying through the night sky from the east to the north-west. “An ill omen… what know you of this Scarloc?” the Duke asked with anxiety in his voice.
The other elf who had been standing silently at the door the whole time stepped forward removing his hood, “Vampires, Lord Tancred the Second of Quenelles. Vampires.”
The Duke was startled by the other elf’s voice and stepped back from the window and faced the new elf. With his hood removed it was immediately apparent that this was no Wood Elf. “And what hope can the race of Elves hope to give Bretonnia if they ask us for aid against the beastmen?”
“Ah yes humble apologies, may I present Diladis of Ulthuan, mage of the White Tower,” Scarloc stated, waiting for the right moment to introduce his companion.
“When a messenger reached the Court of Karl Franz with this plea from Athel Loren, the Phoenix King sent me to the Oak of Ages to seal the alliance. We come to ask for the thousand swords and lances of Bretonnia to ride with us against the hordes of Chaos. We know of the Death that approaches your land.You ask what the Wood Elves have to offer to aid Bretonnia in this struggle when they themselves ask for aid,” the Archmage drew a long slender blade from under her cloak and lifted it to moonlight – it immediately began to glow blue, “We offer you our allegiance, and our swords. The tide that is washing upon the shores of Bretonnia will consume the flower of her chivalry. Forged from Dwarven metals infused with powerful runes by the blind smiths of Vaul I present to you the only weapon that will bring death to the undead. Whether you aid us or not the weapons are already en route from Lothern. The Vampires have united, and Bretonnia cannot fall. So you see noble Duke, we need each other. Look to the City of the Damned and write with haste to Parravon.” Diladis handed the sword to Tancred.
The Duke looked at the exquisitely crafted sword. “Woe unto me whose son is in Mousillon and daughter in Parravon…” he quietly said to himself. “I shall write with haste and tell your Queen that Quenelles is with you friend Scarloc.”