Mousillon: City of the Damned

Throughout the history of the Warhammer fantasy setting Mousillon is probably one of the least talked about place in the community. I myself had never paid attention to the place until I got my hands on the 3rd ed Bretonnia army book. within its aged old pages of 90’s colour and knightly nobility (in art and miniatures), I was captivated by the narrative and lore behind Mousillon. A place that once equaled to the capital of Bretonnia: a city so clean, magnificent, awe inspiring and proud turned to ruin by the evil corruption that seeped into the hearts and minds of the nobility of Mousillon.

They call it the City of the Damned; a place of misery and despair after the Red Pox devastated the population, causing the destabilization of life as it was. The dead walk its streets by the dozen and lurk around in the mausoleums dotted outside the city. Creatures of the night lurk in the shadows hunting for the flesh of the peasantry hiding in their grimy houses. A city that’s constantly flooded making the ground muddy and damp, truly this city is damned forever.

Nobility still lingers to this place like a torch in a sea of darkness, a futile attempt by the nobles of Bretonnia to reclaim this city back. Once the seeds of corruption are sown and sprung to life, there is little chance of change that will banish this affliction for many centuries.

This is collection of information that’ve been scouring through old tomes, articles and references in books, gathering what I could find and present this article for you to enjoy reading.

For my sources:

  • Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia 3rd Edition [Written by Nigel Stillman, published by Games Workshop, originally released in 1996, sourced from the 1999 reprint]
  • Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts 7th Edition [Written by Gav Thorpe and additional material by Bill King, published by Games Workshop, released in 2008]
  • Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th Edition Rulebook [Produced by Games Workshop team and published by Games Workshop, released in 2010]
  • Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts 8th Edition [Written by Phil Kelly, published by Games Workshop, released in 2011]
  • Storm of Magic Warhammer Fantasy Battles expansion book [Written by Matt Ward and Jeremy Vettock, published by Games Workshop, released in 2012]
  • White Dwarf Magazine issue 385 [Released on January 2012]
  • The End Times: The Return of Nagash [Written by Josh Reynolds, published by Black Library, released in 2014]

In the beginning…

To understand Mousillon we need to go back in time to 1996 when Bretonnia got its time to shine having its own army book in 3rd edition. The copy I got was a 1999 reprint that had some corrections made. In the book there are wealth of lore and background material that goes through the founding of Bretonnia as a human faction carving its own philosophy, society and culture entirely removed from the Empire. A society governed by nobility, honour and bravery as knights defend the realm from the evil that corners their land from all sides. To be a knight is a highly regarded status as a courageous noble warrior willing to ride out and defend ones land in the name of his king and the Lady of the Lake. But such privilege’s has a heavy burden for one who would don the livery of his house, one must adhere to the Code of Chivalry and always fight honorably and let not corruption and desire sway your path.

The Code of Chivalry was however cast aside by the Duke of Mousillon, Maldred, who was seduced by corruption and power to rule. His price for personal gains has damned his realm to this day…

Part of the country of Bretonnia is a small province between Lyonesse, Bordeleaux, Bastonne, Grisoreux and Artois. it was founded in the Dark Age when Settra raids had forced refugees to find safety in Bretonnia, settling near the River Grismerie. A marshy valley that would be the site of the settlement grew in time to become a city housing many of the ancestors who first established Mousillon, however their decedents would live a life of hard work and toil in misery such as a place in the lower class. Because there were so many that settled in the river bank in It’s day, flooding became a common problem for many, especially when the Skaven started to lurk around.

Mousillon’s border to Lyonesse used to be much farther afield than its current size, however due to Mousillon effectively become a leaderless land that hasn’t had a Duke appointed since Maldreds downfall, Loyonesse had gained much more land as part of it’s province. The City of the damned was a port city in its day for trade, however, since the city degraded over the years it has been flooded numerous times to the point where trade has all but dried up.

The question is, who is Duke Maldred, what happened to Mousillon and why did it earn the name ‘The City of the Damned?

Malfleur

Before we delve into the events that was the False Grail, we needs to first understand the one who pulled all the strings. The Bretonnia army book devotes quite a few pages to the False Grail, Mousillon and extracts of an ongoing story of a man seeking to become a Knight Errant. what all of these have in common is a woman by the name of Malfleur, who is said to be an attractive fair woman with purple eyes who was by Maldreds side during the Affair of the False Grail. Once you read through the army book and put the pieces together; you’ll find that this jolly 90’s knights in shining armour book has a dark secret. Only those that paid attention and read through the army book will know the truth…

Malfleur was a daughter to a family who lived in a castle with her mother, father and her seven brothers who each seeked to become a knight. The oldest achieved his quest to be a Knight of the Realm, creating his own domain near River Grismerie and a maiden of his own. the other brothers had their own quests to fulfil down the line until only the second youngest brother, Girauld went on his quest to become a knight. At first news coming back to the family told of the sons progress and his noble feats, but soon all was silent and his whereabouts were a mystery.

The youngest son was Thibault, who was hated by his mother and only partially accepted by his father, decided his quest would be to find his brother and discover his fate. This of course didn’t please anyone, but he still committed to his quest despite his parents having no faith in him. The only person in his life who didn’t despise him was his younger sister, Malfleur, who gave him something for his travels and told him to go to a location where his brother may be. As he traveled some distance away from him, he unraveled his gift to reveal a immaculate sword with strange runes down its blade.

It’s revealed that Mayfleur had planned the downfall of her brother, Girauld, and the sword she gave to Thibault was the only evidence of her involvement in her brothers disappearance. you see, Girauld would be cursed to become the Black Knight by night and by day he would aged many times over as an old man. Thibault found his brother at Melys Gu, who was cursed to stay there forever unless his curse is lifted. For that he would need to be slain. The tale would finish on a cliffhanger as Thibault weighed his options as to whether to free his brother or leave but never become a knight (if he slays his brother, Girauld would be free from his prison but Thibault would in turn be cursed to take the mantle of the Black Knight), he raises his word ready to finish the fight as he would show mercy to his brother.

The plan all along was Girauld to fall on his vanity, for the sword to be given to someone who would do the deed whether he succeeded or not. what her family dosent know is that Mayfleur has the ability in some way to use magic, her abilities needed time to grow but for such a young age of six, she has already become wise and a good schemer on her brothers downfall. although she doesn’t hate Thibault for he was the only brother she liked out of the seven, but the magical influence in her soul would disregard her family as a means to an end for her benefit to grow.

From this it is clear to see that Mayfleur is gifted in magic, although she has a long way to go before she can channel the winds of magic like that of a wizard or a Chaos vessel. The story is pitched as Thibault’s tale as a Knight Errant, but it was actually a story about the first evil deed to Mayfleur’s origin story. Was she a pawn of Chaos? Is it Necromancy in the making? A misguided magic user who went down the wrong path? hmmm…

Maldred, Malfleur and The Affair of the False Grail: The King falls and a devious plan sets in motion

Now for the final part in the story of Mousillon and Mayfleur as everything comes together in a fateful story of treachery and bloodshed. The fall of Mousillon into the City of the Damned.

The Duke of Mousillon was Maldred who was said to be a fair and handsome man who ruled one of the most beautiful cities in Bretonnia. He had it all, a city like a palace of white stone, the finest markets and trade in the land, a beautiful assistant and the privilege to rule as Duke in service to the king and the lady. But its all a façade. a trick, a foul creature lurked under the skin of Mousillons outer exterior. only at night does the monster reveal itself from behind the mask of nobility.

The citizen would always question why they all go to their houses before night and lock their doors. The Duke and his trusted lot would eat, drink and party in the night as their laughter would echo out from the tower tops. in the streets as the night comes in and all is silent, shadowy figures would dock at the port carrying cargo in and out in the warehouses. no one knew who they were or what they were doing.

Its thanks to Mayfleur’s magic that everything was going well, for her spells had made the citizens stay in their homes and ensure theses shadowy figures could carry on their dark deeds undisturbed.

The chain of events started when the king at the time, Jules, was slain by battle against a Chaos Knight. In the beaches of North Bretonnia the king and his foe were both defeated in battle, but his death meant there needed to be an heir to the throne, for the king had no male heir to take his place. His only child was his daughter, Isoulde, by right if there were no heir to the throne then Isoulde would set a perilous challenge for any knight to take if they are to succeeded as king. For Maldred this was the prefect opportunity to become the new king of Bretonnia. In a time when no one can lead a kingdom should it face danger, such a danger was coming as the Orcs were making their way down the Grey Mountains in waves of raids on Bretonnia.

Maldred was a commander of great skill, shrewd as he was, but nonthless a Duke who could protect his land. To become the king would asscend him to greatness, a chance to become a powerful force that can command all before him. He would not however wed Isoulde for he was already married to Mayfleur. The Quest was simple, slay a Jabberwock. Many had failed, killed in action to try and slay the last of the beasts kind. But for Maldred, a plot between him and his wife was made to take the throne.

Mayfleur was taught how to harness the craft of magic in Altdorf, her skills would prove useful for the plan ahead. she sent her servants to scour ruins to find anything that fit the required item for the plan. They brought back many things from the burial sits , and from the treasures they found Mayfleur picked a chalice. a fine crafted piece of craftsmanship that would be used as the False Grail. For the servants reward, they were permanently silenced for their knowledge in the part they played in finding the chalice for Mayfleur.

Meanwhile the Duke went on a quest to find the Grail, which he was very quick to have found it and returned to proclaim that the Lady herself had given him the Grail. No one questioned this for it was obvious that a king must be found for the Orcs were getting more bolder raids into Bretonnia.

Maldred, Malfleur and The Affair of the False Grail: The Fay Enchantress kidnapped and Gaston de Geste rides forth

Although the couple had fooled everyone into thinking the Grail was given to Maldred by The Lady, there were two obstacles that needed to be dealt with in order for the throne to be taken. For one the Grail Knights would not be fooled by such trickery for they would know by sight alone that this Grail was a false grail. Another problem was the Fay Enchantress for she could rally all to her side and ruin Maldreds chance at succeeding the throne. So Maldred sent armed soldiers as Knights Errant to capture the Fay Enchantress and take her to Donjon of Dol where she would be locked up and imprisoned so she cannot guide the Grail Knights.

However, Gaston de Geste, a Grail knight seeking to slay the Jabberwock had by chance found the Enchantress trapped in the tower, he rescued her and slayed a Spawn of Chaos which was bound by Mayfleur’s magic. With the Fay Enchantress saved, Gaston took her to the outskirts of Mousillon and readied the Grail Knights who were not fooled by Maldred deception. Civil war would commence on Mousillon!

Maldred, Malfleur and The Affair of the False Grail: Maldred and Mayfleur fall and the Red Pox

The civil war would take three years, in that time Mousillon had locked itself up as Maldred and his wife barred all, locking themselves in the highest tower to be safe from the war below. Whilst Maldred had secured food supplies before the war so the city could self sustain itself, it would prove useless when those below fared ill by the war. worse still, the Red Pox had arrived as it infected the peasants and knights. Even the Duke and wife were victims of this plague…

in the end, when the sun rose and the city drenched in red light from dawn, all was silent. the city was a tragic mockery of its once perfect exterior, now turned into a ruin of misery and decay. All the guards, citizens, peasants and knights in Mousillon had died just like that! The Fay Enchantress and her Grail Knights entered Mousillon to see the devestation wrought from the war. As they reached the main chamber they saw the remains of the court of skeletons frozen in time. the interior and furniture had deteriorated drastically, the court memebers were nothing but skeletons sitting forever before their corpse king and queen. Mayfleur was dead, hollowed eyed and wirthered in maggots, Maldred too was hollow but gripped his boney hand on the False Grail.

The Fay Enchantress looked into the dark liquid surface of the ruby encrusted Chalice and fainted from the horrors she saw within the cup. She odered the place to be bricked up to barr and entery into the acursed place. the dead were buried in great mounds.

Gaston would wed Isoulde as her king. The king would not appoint a new Duke for Mousillon for he saw it as a waste land too steeped in evil corruption, only by errantry will it be purified and settled again.

And that is how Mousillon earned its name, The City of The Damned.

_________________

7th and 8th edition and retcons

Now that you know the whole tale of Mousillon: its origins, tales, rise and fall from the land of Bretonnia, what happened to the setting since its publication from 1996? Retcons, the tale would be scrapped to its most basic vague lore to cast aside Mayfleur and the False Grail. The imperial calendar marks the event in 2300, which had been the established date all the way back in 3rd ed.

Duke Maldred would succumb to the Red Pox and die, Mousillon suffers greatly from the pox. The city is in ruin and no Duke is appointed since the downfall of Duke Maldred. They say the dead walk its streets by night.

This would be mentioned in both 7th and 8th edition Vampire Counts army books, the latter which was written by Phil Kelly, would include some bits of lore surrounding Mousillon. Rather than going on and on about these scatterings of lore I thought it would be better to list these.

  • The Corpse Cart lore section would mention about a similar type of unit that travels the outskirts of Mousillon. These are called Charnevals.
  • Crypt Ghouls would skulk around in great burial tombs dotted around Mousillon, Tomb guards would go in dozens rather than a few for the Ghouls are known to lurk around. A size of a small army, these degenerate creatures will swarm around the city when the Chaos moon is high.
  • A magic item called the Cursed Pennant of Mousillon was taken by the undead who bear this cursed item from the same place. It is known to give those who bear it ill fortunes.
  • Mousillon is a place drenched in pure dark magic, such essence attracts the undead like a moth to a flame, the dead will rise by the stuff as they serve their Necromancer or Vampire master.
  • A Necromancer by the name of Jacques de Noirot botched his spell when he razed dozens of zombies in one of the cemeteries in Mousillon. He was eaten alive afterwards. The Men-at-arms were sent in to kill the zombie’s after they rampaged through the city streets.
  • There’s mention of Skeleton guards that are stationed below the city waiting for orders from their Duke to go to war.

In the expansion, Storm of Magic, Duke Gisoreux and his knights were hunting down a covern of vampires led by Count Malvous. The Count had been hiding in Mousillons crypts before he had to flee from the Duke.

In WD385 January 2012, Jervis Johnson created The Civil War expansion for Warhamer Fantasy Battles 8th ed. A game of armies of the same faction who would face off each other with reasonable in game and lore wise rules with charts on what the would be fought over. Lore is presented of examples of civil war like The Sundering, The Time of Three Emperors and so on.

Mousillon got a mention as one such civil war, a massively retconned lore with a different date, character name changes and plot reason for why the war happened. In 1814 ‘Madness at Mousillon’, Duke Merovech celebrates his victory for defeating the Skaven and the carriers of the Red Pox a year earlier, and holds a great feast to mark this success. However, due to his madness, Merovech spilt the blood of his king at this very feast! The Duke is denounced from the kingdom and war ensues as Bretonnia is in civil war. Loyonesse carries out the attack into Mousillon and slays the treacherous Duke. All the lands wealth is taken by Loynesse as Mousillon falls to ruin. This would start a long and dark age for those in the city…

Interestingly enough, the article mentions how Jervis was a keen history buff who knew much about the War of the Roses, The Thirty Year War and The Sundering. Either the retcon was intentional or Jervis didn’t read that 3rd ed Bretonnia army book. Not surprising when Bretonnia was a faction who didn’t receive much love in later years.

The retcon was exactly in line with the release of the VC 8th ed army book (January 14th) which had the old blurb of it being about Maldred killed by the Red Pox in 2300! Whether it was editorial changes at last minute or lazy writing is anyone’s guess, but it must be an eyesore for those who had the book and White Dwarf magazine scratching their heads at such an obvious contradiction!

The End Times

Admittedly I don’t have a copy of the expansion book for Nagash, due to the fact that I couldn’t afford it at the time and it was a limited release. The paper back edition didn’t last long either. Despite the obvious cash grab at something so big, there are some small information describing the creatures skulking around Mousillon. Josh Reynold’s The End Times: The Return of Nagash mentions these little bits of lore to make the place still meaningful in some way. Its been half a decade since I’ve read the book and ive only just recently gone back to read it again so there might be more info should I find any.

_____________________

The Legacy of Mousillon

From knights, to civil war, to the Affair of the False Grails and the Red Pox, Mousillon had a huge part to play in the lore of Bretonnia and its illustrious history in the Warhammer World. A tale of the fate of those who disregard the Code of Chivalry for personal gains and to deny the king and the Lady can be a dire tragedy. Maldred and Mayfleur had met this fate out of their desire to seek the throne for themselves.

Mayfleur is the sole reason for all of these events as she plotted and weaved her way into position of power. sacrificing her brothers, her family and the people of her kings city for what? That is the question we may never know. Was her goal to claim the throne for herself using Maldred as her pawn? did she really go to Altdorf despite being able to bound a Pawn of Chaos?

A woman of great mystery, and sadly a character who has very much been retconned out of the lore. She could’ve been beside such female characters like Morathi, Allarielle, Neferata and Guinevere, one of many powerful and influnetial female characters in the Warhammer World. Alas due to reasons, she would lose her place and be forgotten.

But that’s not to say I cant recreate Mayfleur by retcon return. 😉

Mousillon would then mark its bloody history as the Vampires reign of terror, a place marked by the influence of dark magic that concentrates within the realm for the emotional trauma, rage, despair and death that has attracted such foul stuff of evil. The dead rise up to walk the streets, ghouls linger in the crypts eating the long dead corpses for sustenance and Necromancers do foul rituals to build a mighty army.

Then to put a stake into the heart of this beast it would be fully retconned in 1814 rather than 2300 with a generic mad duke tale with no substance and real meaning behind the tale.

But, what if I were to say I had a really crazy theory that Mousillons legacy has a continuation? Not a continuation in the sense of narrative and lore but as a source material of inspiration behind one particular faction in Warhammer Age of Sigmar?

That’s right, the Mortarch of Despair herself shares similar traits to that of Mayfleur in terms of treachery, scheming and taking the throne by disposing the current rulers. It’s a far fetched theory that is only connected by similarities, but I’d argue that elements of Lady Olynder’s story and those around her like Kurdoss Valentian and Gharest Malcor were influenced by Maldred and Mayfleurs dark legacy.

___________________

That is all for todays lore research on Mousillon. This was a really fun project to work on when it came to gathering all of my books to source as much information that I could find. Whilst I would like to imagine I’ve covered everything here on this subject, the truth however is that there’s probably more information that I haven’t found yet. I would like to find out if editions between 3rd and 7th had anymore information. Did the next Bretonnia army book after 3rd ed retcon the Affair of the False Grail? many of these questions will be on my mind.

Mousillon was an inspiration for me to redo my lore on my Stormcast Eternals homebrew, from Lords of the Pisces to Knights of Mousillon. A tribute to the fantastic work by Games Workshop for how they crafted an engaging and mysterious story that read like a myth of history.

I hope you have enjoyed this post examining one of many places in the Warhammer world that has shaped the game and stories we play in this community of gamers and painters. If you have any subject that you would like me to cover (if I have the source material to research on), I will research it and present that in a future post.

My next research subject will be on Warhammer 8th edition rulebook, although I might add a mini research post should I need more time.

Until next time,

-Bjorn

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