Army Showcase - The Horde of Dreux

This is where I'll gush about my Vampire Counts army. As the blog fills up with my meandering waffling I'll put the more relevant images and posts in here, such as finished units and so on.

Corpse Cart - Amun's Chirurgery
The rattling, creaking, bone-strewn cart that ambles along with the horde has been home to Amun the faceless for an age. Beside Morbius himself, Amun is probably the oldest creature in the army, and he certainly emphasises this fact at every opportunity, being given to frequent complaint about this ache or that twinge. None seem inclined to argue with Amun that such things are an impossibility for a being that has been dead for an aeon, partially as Amun likes few things better than a good argument.

When Morbius first ventured North from Khemri, one of the few servants that travelled with him was Amun, who was ancient then. Often acting in the manner of a tutting grandmother, Amun is prone to badgering the liche in a manner that few others would dare. As is the way with many of Morbius’ servants, this old wraith is quite eccentric, and displays traits many would find atypical of the undead. Morbius himself appears to barely even notice Amun’s incessant chiding.

When one considers Amun’s somewhat unique skills, it is no surprise he enjoys such tolerance from Morbius. Few creatures have as deep an affinity with the undead, and such skills to repair and reanimate them, often improving them in some fashion. Many times it has been noted that a skeleton returning from Amun’s attentions is now more resilient, a zombie suddenly has the coordination to fire a crossbow, or a grave guard can play a great game of chess.

Amun takes great pride and care is restoring those fallen in battle. As one carefully restoring an antique, he uses his considerable powers to knit bones, seal wounds and repair aged equipment. It has been known for Amun to scour the battlefield looking for a specific tooth, and his hoard of salves and ointments can re-invigorate and empower even the most humble of undead monstrosities.

Indescribably ancient or not, Amun can still fell mortals with chilling efficiency. In battle he tuts and sighs at the damage he’ll have to tend to later, even as he whips the living’s heads from their shoulders with his serrated scythe, marking those he may return to later...

Vampire: Thomas Von Carstein
Thomas is a member of the infamous Von Carstein family, and under normal circumstances would be more likely to be staked and burned by Stephane than made a captain in his army. The reason for this unusual state of affairs is a mutual hatred of the vampire Stephane hunts - Albrecht Von Cartstein, their sire. This alone would still not serve to keep Thomas’ head upon his shoulders, but Stephane’s hand is staying by Morbius’ council. The old Liche holds Thomas to some manner of obligation, and so the vampire serves Morbius and thusly, Stephane.

Stephane is aware that having a ‘brother’ so close at hand makes the search easier. His connection to Albrecht is stronger when Thomas is close, and aids his quest. He does not trust Thomas, however, and keeps him under a watchful eye. Most often this eye belongs to Pieter, Stephane’s champion, who despises the Von Carstein. Perhaps he is right, as Morbius will not reveal what gives him his power over Thomas. Whatever it is, it must be dire indeed to compel the vampire to serve those who should be his enemies.

For Thomas’ part, he is a natural survivor. He is by no means a coward, but does not put himself in harms way needlessly. He is patient in a way no human could understand. If there is a foe who threatens his plans, Thomas may wait until he grows old and dies. If he feels the times are too dangerous, he may sleep for a few decades until things calm down. In such a way Thomas creeps down the centuries, and in such a way Thomas bides his time until his true intentions can be made clear.

Until then, he is content to serve.

Necromancer: Morbius
Morbius is old. He drifted North from Khemri many thousands of years ago. His mind is quick and clever, and over the many years he has developed a robust sense of humour which, understandably, is unusual for a Liche. He often acts as a steward for the army if Stephane is away on a quest. He takes something of a liberty with this power and regularly leads the army off on errands of his own, much to Stephane’s consternation.

Morbius met Stephane in Mordheim, where the old Liche saved the knight from destruction after a failed attempt to gain information on his sires location from one of his ‘brothers’. Morbius bore the vampire away to safety, more out of curiosity than kindness. Stephane now allows Morbius and his rather eccentric band of followers to travel with him out of obligation to this debt, but does not approve of Morbius’ methods. He is a master of necromancy, and has a child-like enthusiasm for his calling, coupled with an almost paternal pride in his creations.

Morbius’ four captains, Longhorn, Screamer, Reaper and Hellblade have served him for centuries, and he often dispatches them to locate items of interest. It was Longhorn who tracked down Melkhior.

Morbius hopes that with Stephane’s success he will allow the Liche sanctuary in the Dreux estates to work in peace. Stephane is deeply unsettled by this prospect, as it presents a curious dilemma of honour he cannot resolve.

Zombies: The Grail Born
These noisome monsters are given the terrible semblance of life by the disembodied spirits of Stephane’s army. Those of the horde whose bodies have been utterly destroyed can inhabit the corpse of another, but many now lack the will to animate these wretched vessels in anything like a coordinated manner. For all this, though, the eyes of these ragged creatures blaze with balefire fuelled by an almost unquenchable thirst for vengeance.

In battle, the main purpose of the grail born is to serve as a shambling, festering warning to those who would stand against the horde of Dreux. A foe must face rotting drow standing and fighting alongside decomposing orcs, skaven and men from a multitude of armies that have been ruthlessly crushed and absorbed by Stephane’s vengeful dead. To see the fate of so many enemies has broken the will of many before the first blow has landed. This is further compounded as the foeman reads the words
upon the banner of the grail born - ‘As we are so you shall be’

Grave Guard: The Order of Dust
The order of dust, once the knights hellion, now follow their lord as wights. Unlike the followers of other vampires, the Guard are not bound to Stephane. The follow him of their own free will, hoping for the chance for vengeance and salvation.

Their standard depicts a blood-filled grail, the blood of the vampire responsible for their deaths in the grail Stephane carries. This is their salvation, finding the creature and destroying it utterly. Their hatred for Albrecht Von Carstein is a single-minded hatred that can only be fostered by terrible and unending suffering.

Though they are powerful undead, Amun had been forced to rebuild a fallen warrior from time to time. This has given the unit a strange appearance over the years, vastly different from the original grandeur of its proud warriors. As time wears on the wights can sometimes forget the urgency of their quest, but thankfully they are led by Jarl, a powerful wight blessed by the Lady who reminds them why they march ever on as their memories of life begin to fade. Jarl was Captain of the knights hellion and was with Stephane when he was taken. Jarl was the very last man to die, and remembers it all.

They were three days from safety when the vampire and its servants attacked them in the ruined abbey, a place Jarl had thought safe. Though they fought long and hard, their enemies were tireless opponents, and, eventually, he was alone. As Jarl backed up a ruined stairs away from the grasping hands, he saw the vampire tear the throat from Daenery as she lay pinned by his rotten servants. With tears in his eyes Jarl screamed in despair as his foes fell upon him.

He awoke at the bottom of the stair, his lord standing over him. Stephane was pale, a look of horror creasing his bloody face. Confused, Jarl fled from the abbey. He stopped at a gurgling brook, and gazing at his reflection, realization drove him to his knees. When he rose again, hours later, he returned to the abbey. Stephane was waiting, and Jarl recovered his sword from the foot of the steps. As he picked it up it gleamed white, and hope of redemption flowered in his silent heart. His purpose renewed by the Lady, Jarl has followed Stephane ever since, determined not to fail him a second time.

Dire Wolves: The Hounds of Winter
This pack of rotting wolves have tracked after Melkhior since he wandered alone in the vastness of the great forest. They are not his servants as such, but perhaps by virtue of the dense aura of dark magic that surrounds Melkhior they instinctively look to him as their master.

It is rare indeed that at least one of the hulking monsters is not padding about after Melkhior as he attends to his undead charges. Though many of these creatures have been felled in battle, the pack never seems to diminish. In truth, Melkhior himself wonders about this, as they are not creatures of his making, and though he has long since grown accustomed to the beasts, in moments of reverie he reflects that their stare is not one of vacant automata. he can sense no malignant power guiding the wolves, and yet...

The leader of the pack is the mighty warg, Grendel. This particularly massive brute exemplifies animal cunning in the extreme. Many foe has not even had time to inhale the breath to scream before they are torn to offal. Mindful of the terror such ferocity can instil, Stephane often uses the wolves for the less honourable but nevertheless necessary duties of battle.

Occasionally Grendel will bring Melkhior some offering from the carnage, a talisman perhaps, or some other worthy trinket. The gift is often only discernible after the gore has been washed off. The fact that Grendel has the wit to notice such things gives Melkhior further pause for thought, but, as the pack are as loyal and obedient as any master could wish, the thought is more often than not a fleeting one.

The rest of the backstory is included here, though the units are, as yet, unfinished.

Vampire Lord - Stephane Dreux
Stephane Dreux was cursed as he lay dying in front of the shrine to the lady in the ruined abbey of Aregisel, on the border of his own lands, near Quenelles. After the vampire had destroyed his army and infected him with plague of vampirism, it had abandoned him to his fate. Stephane crawled painfully to the chalice that lay untouched on the worn flagstones. He had carried it with him since his quest to find it had ended in the fens of Sylvania a year earlier. Neither the vampire or his minions could touch it, and it lay where it had fallen.

When Stephane grasped the grail it burned him terribly, but he would not release it. His body smoked and blackened as the newborn vampire clung onto the holy object. He wanted to die rather than exist as a perversion of the man he had been only scant hours before. As he burst into flame the lady moved to save him. Aregisel was built over a spring sacred to the Bretonnian deity, and she had sensed the host of men battle valiantly against their enemies. Stephane had defended her shrine until he had been transfixed by his enemies blade, and she resolved that his fate was not to die in agony and failure.

The following night Stephane awoke clutching the grail. He had been granted a vision by the lady. He had to find and destroy his vampiric sire before he succumbed fully to his malady, and in doing so find peace and redemption. His flesh was whole, and the chalice no longer burned. The coldness and the hunger remained, however, and in time would begin to erode the nobility of the knight’s cause. Filled with fresh purpose, Stephane arose to seek his vengeance.

Necromancer - Melkhior
Melkhior had lived as a peaceful townsman all his life, until Gulag and his orcish raiders burned his village and cut him down as he ran for his life. A century later, Mannfred Von Carstein was advancing through the Empire bent on conquest. After a great battle he paused near the tumbled ruins of Melkhior’s town to bolster his forces. Melkhior rose through the leaf mould and crumbling bricks to madness. Through some miscast
of speck of lingering will, Melkhior was raised whole and intact. As other corpses shrugged up through the ruin he fled into the forest, appalled at his rotten form.

For many years he crept through the endless woods, feared by all, as Melkhior was more powerful than any wight. He could see the winds of magic coursing through the air and pooling amongst the roots of the ancient trees, and could manipulate them to his will, after a fashion. After a lengthy search, Longhorn, Morbius’ captain, found Melkhior. Morbius had long sought the wight in the woods, as Melkhior had become known. Melkhior agreed to follow Longhorn back to Morbius’ home, who saw his potential and took him as an apprentice.

Melkhior came to be a powerful Liche, and holds Morbius in great esteem. After the shackled began to appear, Melkhior recognised his own undead birth in these pitiful creatures, and believes he is somehow responsible. Melkhior is correct in this assumption, though not in the way he believes.

Black Coach - Imnachar's Tomb
When Imnachar and Daenery learned Stephane was returning home, they set out with a contingent of troops to meet him at the border of the Dreux lands at Aregise. They arrived at Aregisel Abbey a day before Stephane’s army. So it was that when Albrecht Von Carstein attacked the Bretonnians there, he caught Stephane’s grandfather and sister in his trap as well. Imnachar was a noble man, and desperately faced the vampire down. His loyal hounds snarled and flung themselves at the undead creature, trying to buy time for four of his knights to bear Daenery to safety. His aim was true, but his sword was mere steel, and the vampire slew Imnachar even as he laughed off the wounds the knight had struck.

When Stephane gained his favour from the Lady, his new senses settled on a niggling presence near a pile of slaughtered ghouls. He found his grandfather’s body surrounded by the ragged bodies of his hounds, all long since grown cold. he knew that the man’s soul lingered on, tied to his mortal remains. Stephane willed his grandfather’s ghost to rise from his ruined shell, his first unwitting act of Necromancy. The shade gazed at him mournfully, both equally horrified by the others fate.

Imnachar was cursed, rejected by Morr for failing to protect Daenery, forced to linger on until he might fulfil his last oath. To this end Stephane’s forlorn men fashioned a carriage to bear Imnachar’s corpse along with the army, drawn by skeletal steeds that had once served as mighty chargers. The sad remnants of his retainers guard his body still.

Imnachar’s ghost walks inexorably on among the dead of the host, driven to see his last foe struck down. The dry skeletons of this hounds still heed the call of their master, and he yet cradles his rusted broadsword in his ethereal grip. The spirits of his knights and yeomen follow him loyally, hoping for final rest when they have followed their lord to his vengeance.

Cairn Wraiths - Daenery’s Knights
Daenery was Stephane’s younger sister, and through her rank and sheer bull-headedness was grudgingly allowed to bear arms as her brothers. It came as a surprise to her family that she proved the consummate warrior, humbling many who were foolish enough to dismiss her. She was not offered an honourable battle at
Aregisel. She and the knights charged with protecting her were overwhelmed as they sought to break free of the trap. They were brought down by the horde as the vampire skulked behind his followers and laughed at the challenge of a woman.

As so many others from the host, Daenery rose with her knights to seek vengeance. Her screams of challenge are now enough to freeze the heart of all but the most stalwart, who are in turn cut down by the jagged broadswords of her former protectors, who still seek to fulfil their final orders. The ignominy of her death consumes Daenery, and she finds it ever more difficult to find comfort in thoughts of honour or vengeance. More alarmingly, she is beginning to revel in the terror she now causes in the hearts of mortals.

Morbius watches Daenery, and though Stephane still believes she can be saved, the old Liche worries. Deanery lingers about Stephane, encouraging him and driving him on to the fulfilment of his quest. She has the ear of the ghostly host that swirls about the army, and they see in her a change for ill, that soon she may be beyond even the Lady’s grace.

Skeletons - Riccar’s Spears
Former men-at-arms of the house of Dreux, this unit has survived relatively intact down the years, thanks in no small part to the actions of Riccar de Purcell, the master at arms of the house of Dreux. So many of the warriors spirits still inhabit their original bodies that the burden of bearing the pain of undeath weighs heavily on them. It is only the protection of the Lady and Riccars attentions that prevents them from becoming
true undead, pliable and silent.

Riccar de Purcell was once responsible for the martial training of all the noble sons of the house of Dreux. It was he who trained Stephane in the use of arms when he was a youth. Riccar, now a mail-clad skeleton, leads his dead-at-arms in battle after battle. These once-men, by their very success, have begun a slide into true undeath as the spirits inhabiting the rotten bodies grow weary from such a long period of walking the world of the living. They have invested more and more of their will in Riccar, who bears this responsibility with no small sense of unease. This burden, combined with the comfort and council Riccar gives to Daenery, weakens him. He is turn relies on the clouds of spirits who follow the host, in particular Imnachar, to keep his own will whole and intact.

Morbius keeps an eye on Riccar, (but then, he only has one) as he is more important to the fragile balance of energies that keep the army held together than anyone but Morbius realises.

Skeletons - The Shackled
As the army that follows Stephane is driven, for the most part, by the spirits of those who died at Aregisel, there is little need for the powers of Morbius and Melkhior to maintain the army. However, not all those who follow Stephane do so freely.

After a vicious battle against the elves of Ulthuan neat L’Anguille, the spirits of those who had fallen gathered near the bodies of the elves. As the first elven corpse regained its feet it sprang at Stephane, who struck it down. The carcass rose again, it’s wounds closing as fast as they were inflicted. Eventually Morbius had to employ his magical talents to hold the creature back. Morbius soon discovered that as the spirit of Euric Bertram, one of the Knights of Dust, had entered the shell of the elf, the unique nature of the possession allowed the original spirit of the creature to return instead. Nor, now, could it leave. Each time the elf was destroyed, it would rise again. Waleran, the elf, desperate with horror, was given the chance to follow Stephane until Morbius and Melkhior found a way to release it from it’s prison of rotting flesh, or be forever bound to serve. Having no alternative but madness, the elf accepted. To Stephane’s shame, this has since happened a number of times over the years. Now these curious wretches are gathered together and watched over closely. Some, the orcs and evil creatures are bound, as Stephane will not allow such powerful undead free to roam the world. Some, like Waleran, follow Stephane freely, hoping one day to find peace.

Gulag, a once mighty orc, leads the shackled. When Melkhior returned from the wild with this creature, Stephane flew into a rage and would have slain Melkhior there and then had Morbius not intervened. Explaining that Melkhior had raised and bound Gulag with its mind intact as punishment for its crimes, Morbius reminded Stephane of his own quest, and so he relented. But Melkhior was overconfident. Orcs make poor slaves, and Gulag called out to Gork to free him. The deity broke the binding magics that held Gulag in thrall, and granted the dead orc a portion of its power, but hid this from Melkhior. It is Gulag’s increasingly powerful attempts at Necromancy that create the shackled. Many of these creatures know
Gulag means to rebel against the vampire and his liches, and wait for a sign...

Gulag himself dreams of the day when he can tear Melkhior’s head from his shoulders and raise a great horde of undead greenskins to follow him to war.

Spirit Host - The Rusting Oath
As Imnachar’s mortal remains are bourne along with the horde by the foetid forms of his former retainers in a creaking wagon, so his soul is unfettered and free to follow. His ghostly form leads the pallid phantoms of his most loyal knights ahead of the army on the quest put a final end to the vampire Albrecht Von Carstein. Each of the ghosts has sworn an oath that before their weapons rust to red dust they will have buried them in the foul body of the vampire. So it is that each of the spirits, the ethereal echo of once proud knights, carries a tarnished and rusted sword, the only material remnant of their mortal forms they bear. With these rusting weapons they drift ever on, the ragged and skeletal remains of Imnachar’s hounds ranging ahead to continue the hunt.

Corpse Cart - The Seat of Dreaming
When a spirit of the horde has become so weary that it cannot even join those of the grail born, it seeks out the Seat of Dreaming. Here it may sink into a peaceful oblivion for a time, a taste of the peace it may achieve should the horde complete their quest. Thus replenished, the shade will rejoin the horde once more. The Seat is, to mortal eyes, a ramshackle, stinking cart piled high with corpses, pulled along by foul cadavers lashed and impaled to the yoke. Reigning over this rot is Vassago, a cloaked and hooded figure. He never leaves the cart, and is charged with the care of the souls of the entire host, for Vassago is a daemon of Morr.

The gates of the afterlife are closed to the horde. Through Stepahane’s oath to the lady and the thirst for revenge that disturbs what rest they might have known, Morr will not allow them to pass into his realm. He did not abandon them, however. So Vassago was sent to minister to the souls of the horde in what manner he could, and to help guide them to fulfil their oaths. He cannot intervene in the world of the living, unless they would delay the return of Morr’s own to his cold welcome.

Vassago sits high upon his cart, a watchful presence that misses no slight against his master’s subjects. This tally will no doubt one day be levelled against those who have offended Morr, a fact that causes Morbius to resent the presence of Vassago in the extreme. The liche would dearly love to banish the daemon, but is mindful of the benefits its presence brings. Added to this the daemon is high in Stephane’s favour, and openly crossing the vampire can be troublesome.

And so another tenuous truce is delicately maintained in the horde, for now, but the glare that Vassago visits upon Morbius from his festering perch would turn the liche’s blood cold, were it not already so.

Ghouls - The Charnel Dogs
The tribe of ghouls that follow in the wake of the horde were once known as the charnel dogs by the grave wardens of the great cemeteries around the Bretonnian city of Mousillon. This particular tribe of ghouls grew bold over the years, as evil things are common in that cursed city. They would often walk abroad by day, watching the funeral processions bringing fresh meat to the crypts and mausoleums.

The leader of this degenerate mob was known as Old Gristle by the wardens for his culinary preferences. Indeed, Old Gristle’s appetites are exotic, even for a ghoul. His wants had only grown more unusual since he devoured a great portion of an ogre’s corpse that he discovered in the marshes near the city. He will often leave the lean flesh, instead gorging on offal. This has made the ghast somewhat corpulent.

Old Gristle’s appetites do not stop there, disconcertingly. He is both leader, father, uncle and brother to many of the tribe’s members. This familial bond (along with his massive frame and sharpened shovel) gives Old Gristle absolute authority over the rest of the tribe. His second in command, Flint, is the closet thing to a shaman that might exist in ghoul society. Flint is quite the thief, and has pilfered many items over the years. His prized possession is a huge chunk of flint stone. He has discovered how to strike a fire, and this gives him magical powers in the eyes of his fellow ghouls. Even Old Gristle seems slightly awed by this powerful ability. With less ghouls freezing to death each Winter, the tribe grew strong. This eventually led to their downfall, however.

After the complaints of mourners and priests about the numbers of ghouls in the hills became unbearable, the Duke eventually sanctioned a purge against the creatures. The charnel dogs were driven from Mousillon, and many were slain in the rout. Old Gristle led the rest into the wild marshes, where in the dank mists they were preyed on by the mysterious one-eyed fimir.

Their salvation came as they were drawn, inexorably, to Stephane, who had been traversing the marshes on an errand of some urgency. The ghoul tribe shadowed the vampire for days, wary of his wrath but unable to resist the lure of the his presence. He reluctantly led them from the marshes, unable to drive them away. Since that time they have treated Stephane as a God-like saviour, and though he is repelled by them he cannot shake off the slinking creatures who dog the heels of the horde like the scavengers they are.

Wayland Games

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