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Musings on…the priesthoods of Bretonnia, part 3: Priests of the Old World Gods during Unification PDF Print E-mail
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Written by The Musing Minstrel   
Sunday, 02 February 2014
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Musings on…the priesthoods of Bretonnia, part 3: Priests of the Old World Gods during Unification
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In the previous two articles I made a rough sketch of what Old World Gods the Bretonni believed in and more importantly how they believed in them. Now we're going to look at how the priests and devotees of these Gods reacted to the events of the Unification of Bretonnia. Let's start by first looking at what these events actually are.

 


Unification

For sake of convenience and to prevent unnecessary referencing, I'll give a summary of what has so far been published on Unification. In I.C. 976, the armies of Gilles, Thierulf and Landuin - the rulers of the early Dukedoms of Bastonne, Lyonesse and Mousillon respectively - met together for an honorable death fighting the innumerable Greenskin hordes that were ravaging their lands. They were visited by the Lady of the Lake, who asked the trio to free Bretonnia in her name from all the evils that plagued it. She made them sup from the Grail, which turned them into the first Grail Knights. The next morning the three Lords and their armies attacked a horde of Orcs and Goblins in what would become the first of the Twelve Great Battles of Unification. With their newfound strength and abilities they scattered the Greenskins so utterly they ended up in the neighboring province of Bordeleaux. Naturally, the victorious knights finished the day with a feast in the private hall of Lord Marcus of Bordeleaux. The Lady of the Lake also showed up for the festivities and blessed both Marcus and Lord Fredemund of Aquitaine. The trio of Grail Companions had become a quintet.

 

They then rode south to Brionne, where the castle of Lord Balduin was besieged by Greenskins. Realizing the opportunity before him, the boisterous ruler of Brionne sallied forth and fought his way to the relieving force. Once Gilles and Balduin came across each other during the battle and shook hand, the Lady manifested to let Balduin sup from the Grail. After the Greenskins were defeated the Grail Companions journeyed to Carcasonne. They were swiftly joined by the stoic Lord Lambard, but the Lady of the Lake did not yet appear to him. As the army went further east they arrived in Quenelles and saw that Athel Loren, the forest of the Fay, was overflowing with rampaging Orcs. The Companions entered the forest whereupon they met the armies of the Fay and Rademund the Pure, Lord of Quenelles. Once the battle was done and the warriors had rested, Lambard and Rademund were alight with power. They said that the Lady of the Lake had come to them in their dreams.

 

Afterwards the Grail Companions went to the neighboring province of Parravon. Here they encountered Lord Agilgar, friend of the Pegasi. Once the enemies of Parravon were defeated they swiftly rode on to the mountains of Montfort. Gilles got a giant dart in his chest for his trouble. Carrying him out of the fray, his friends fought their way to the castle of Lord Martrud to enable his recovery. The Companions took turn watching over their bedridden leader. When it was the turn of Agilgar and Martrud, the Lady appeared to heal Gilles and to bless the two rulers of Parravon and Montfort.

 

The ten holy warriors continued on their crusade by way of Gisoreux, where they picked up Lord Beren. Then they went further west to Mousillon, where they heard from Lord Folgar of Artois that legions of the Undead were coming their way. While the living corpses were being vanquished, Beren and Folgar chanced upon the Lady and received the power of the Grail. L'Anguille was the next port of call for the Grail Companions. Once Marcus defeated Svengar, the leader of the pillaging Norscans that had wrecked the city, the grief-stricken Lord Corduin joined the army of Gilles. The Companions then rode eastward to the city of Couronne, where they ran across of Caerleond, the brother of Thierulf. Just before the army left for the final battlefield, the Lady came to bless Corduin and Caerleond. The final battle in and around the city went on for weeks, but at last victory was theirs.

 

On a side note here, I find it curious that the Lady only presents herself to first a trio and then to pairs of would-be Grail Knights. Gilles, Landuin and Thierulf at first; then we have Marcus and Fredemund at the festivities in Castle Bordeleaux; Lambard and Rademund in Athel Loren; Agilgar and Martrud when they watch over the ailing Gilles; Folgar and Beren in the forest near Mousillon; and finally Corduin and Caerleond right before the battle for Couronne began. The only exception to this is Balduin of Brionne during the siege of his castle. However, he's described as being the brute of the Grail-supped bunch and he was completely surrounded by Greenskins at the time the Lady of the Lake appeared to him with the promise of power. It's thus debatable whether he thought the consequences of this through. My point is that I wouldn't be surprised if the Goddess of Chivalry used some subtle form of peer pressure to make the Bretonni Lords sup from the Grail. It would certainly go some way to explaining why they would devote themselves to a suddenly ambitious patron saint of the land, no matter how beautiful she is or how much power she now possesses.

 

Once victory was finally obtained, Caerleond was made the ruler of Couronne, since its Lord perished at some point unknown to us. The fourteen Bretonni tribes were now unified as the country of Bretonnia, and the Lady of the Lake crowned Gilles le Breton as its King. He still remained the direct ruler of Bastonne, which together with the thirteen other regions of the former tribes were proclaimed as Dukedoms, each with a Grail Companion as their Duke. But while the Lady of the Lake gave Gilles and his Dukes extra-ordinary powers, they were neither invincible nor immortal. One by one they passed away, either through battle or old age. In I.C. 995, or the year 17 of the newly established Bretonnian calendar, the King was killed unexpectedly by Greenskins. He was borne away to a mist-shrouded island by a woman who later identified herself as the Fay Enchantress, the direct representative of the Lady and a reliable advisor to the throne. However, the throne was now unoccupied. The problem here, aside from the death of a beloved icon, was that there were no clearly established rules of succession. Normally in a monarchy the most direct descendant of the king would be crowned, which in this case would be Louis, Gilles's only son who was born under mysterious circumstances. His mother was rumored to be the Lady of the Lake herself. But aside from the fact that he was young (no age is given, but since his father only met his presumed mother no more than nineteen years ago, he would be at his most about eighteen years old and probably younger than that), he hadn't drunk from the Grail. Considering that the power of the Lady was what gave Gilles and his Grail Companions the strength to unite the country in the first place, there were those who believed that one of the remaining Companions should be installed as King of Bretonnia. Landuin, Thierulf and Marcus were al considered for the throne.

 

A council of the great and good of Bretonnia eventually decided that only one who had the blessing of the Lady could become the King. Immediately, Louis declared he would search for the Grail, an act which earned him the title of ‘the Rash'. He asked Landuin, Thierulf and Marcus to serve as regents of the country while he was away on his quest. After about six years, Louis the Rash returned with the recognition and blessing of the Lady, whereupon he was swiftly crowned by the Fay Enchantress as the King of Bretonnia. The newly installed monarch created the Decrees of Chivalry, in which the codes of conduit for the Bretonnian nobility were formalized. In these decrees he also established the custom of the Questing Knight, the pattern by which a knight of Bretonnia could search for the Grail. Those who succeed can drink from the holy cup and become Grail Knights, the new elite of country as the fourteen Companions died one by one.[1][2][3][4]

 

Back to the show

In the context of these articles, the question now is as follows: how would the various cults of the Old World Gods respond to Gilles le Breton, the powerful Grail Knights and the former-patron-saint-and-now-Goddess, the Lady of the Lake? As worship of the Lady is now the state cult of the country and the Old World Gods are still worshipped in Bretonnia, it would appear this transfer of power went with relative little fuss. Rather than the Goddess of Chivalry removing thoughts of all the other Gods and their priests from the hearts of Bretonnians, she simply replaced them. But a second look tells us that this wouldn't happen effortlessly.

 

While it would be easy to say that the priests of the Old World Gods all drop on their knees and convert to the Lady of the Lake, this seems unlikely. Firstly I've already established that the Bretonni regarded the Lady as a patriotic spirit of the tribes and their lands in part 1. Although her hitherto unknown power would certainly surprise the Bretonnian cults of the Old World pantheon, it's not as if she would be completely unfamiliar to them. Secondly, there isn't any mention of the Grail Companions or anyone else trying to persuade other people into worshipping the Lady. In fact, it wasn't until Gilles died that the Fay Enchantress appeared, the first and so far only true priestess of the Goddess of Chivalry. Furthermore, before Louis the Rash returned from his Grail Quest it was apparently thought impossible that people other than the Companions could drink from the Grail and gain the divine sanction of the Lady. Thirdly, the Bretonni were at that point in time well established in the region that would become Bretonnia; close to a thousand years in fact. It would be downright insulting, to say nothing of boring, to allege that the resident cults would just roll over and die.

 

Now we have that out the way, let's see how the nobles and priests would respond to the Lady and her Grail Companions. Considering that the cults weren't strictly organized or united, to say nothing of the many threats roaming the countryside before and during Unification, I think it's fair to say that the head honcho of the tribes, cults and other groups wouldn't deal with Gilles le Breton until he arrived at their doorstep. Especially since he had an army with him with which he tried his utmost to destroy every last terror that was plaguing the land. As such, I think it's also fair - and easier - to say that the cults' response to Unification can be discussed one cult at a time. Besides, since the Lady of the Lake was considered a patron saint of the Bretonni long before Unification, it seems natural to say that the powers-that-be would regard stories of a large army praying to the Lady as patriotic behavior in these harsh times.

 

If the first trio of Grail Companions had any overtly religious beliefs before meeting the Lady, it's not mentioned. Even if they did have previous beliefs, once they received the blessing of the Lady they attacked the Greenskins with such passion that they ended up in another region. In other words, their priests and kinsmen would not have time to dissuade them. Once Gilles, Landuin and Thierulf came back to their homelands they already had the support of half of the country. Also, when they returned the Mousillon region was teeming with Undead and Beastmen, while the Grail Companions seem to have skirted around Lyonesse and Bastonne. The naysayers from these three early Dukedoms would have trouble making their case against the Lady if they couldn't meet up with their rulers. As such, the Lords of Bastonne, Lyonesse and Mousillon and their kinsmen can be safely ignored for now. This brings us to the next in line to sup from the Grail, namely Marcus of Bordeleaux, beloved of Manann.

 

Calming the sea

I already talked about the sentiments of Manann, his followers and the Dukedom of Bordeleaux in the previous articles, so I won't repeat myself here. With that in mind I find it interesting that a province who fervently worships a wrathful sea deity would support a delicate Goddess of Chivalry. Especially when one considers the fact that the Cult of Manann is still well regarded by the ruling classes of Bretonnia today, not least of which Bordeleaux. This would imply that the Cult of Manann and the followers of the Lady are on relatively good terms with each other. But how could that happen?

 

The answer to this question lies in the location of the Grail Companions' first party. There are various mentions in Knights of the Grail that the Lady revealed herself to the Lords of Bordeleaux and Aquitaine in the private hall of Marcus's castle. This means that unless Marcus was so impressed by Gilles, Thierulf and Landuin that he ordered his family, friends, advisors and servants - who would most likely be interested in these ‘Grail Companions' and their devotion to the Lady of the Lake - to stay away from the festivities, it would appear that the Companions, Marcus and Fredemund of Aquitaine were not alone in the private hall. This in turn means that his court, and more importantly for us the resident priest of Manann, also saw the Lady of the Lake in all her glory.

 

I don't think that the priest would bend over backwards for the Lady; the Cult of Manann is nothing if not headstrong. More likely he would treat her with contempt, complaining about how strange women lying in ponds and their farcical aquatic ceremonies are no basis for a system of government. But since it's suggested numerous times that Marcus was a wise ruler - and that we already know that this story has a happy ending - it's fair to say that he managed to appease both the raving priest and the enigmatic Goddess. How you might ask? To quote Knights of the Grail: "Bordelen nobles tend to think that the domain of the Lady of the Lake ends where the water turns salt."[5] This might seem flippant, but it does fit with what we know about cultists of Manann. They focus on the sea and care little about what happens inland. "When not at sea, cultists spend their days preparing for when they can go back out again - few venture far from large bodies of water, and most become irritable and twitchy if they can't smell the salt of the ocean or hear the cries of the gulls in the wind."[6] Let's say that Marcus convinces the high priest of Manann that as long as the Sea God still gets his due and it doesn't affect the sea and its inhabitants, it shouldn't matter to the Cult of Manann what the Bretonnians do when there's no sea or river in sight. This gives us a reason why the cult would work together with the Grail Companions and be loyal to the new government of Bretonnia, which in turn would explain why the Cult of Manann still gets respect and devotion from the nobility of Bretonnia to this day.

 

After the feast in Marcus' castle, Gilles and his drinking buddies went to Aquitaine, but I'm going to ignore that region. The reason for this is that Fredemund, the ruler of this early Dukedom, was at that point already a Grail Knight, but also because he was called the Lord of the Skies and was capable of summoning huge flocks of birds to do his bidding.[7] It's not firmly established whether this was a natural ability to him or he could do this via a magical horn. But regardless of the source of this power, it is certain that he had the power, which in turn makes it unlikelier that his subjects would oppose him. You don't mess with someone who controls an army of birds large enough to blot out the sun. It's of course possible that this power came from one of the Old World Gods, but the only fitting candidates among the main pantheon are Taal - since he's the God of Nature and Wild Places - and Myrmiddia, because she and her cultists are fond of eagles. But Fredemund is described as hating everyone who used missile weapons. "Though a dozen or more steeds were shot from under him on the battlefield of Aquitaine, Fredemund never lost his contempt for those that eschewed the martial values of meeting one's foe face-to-face."[8] Perhaps hypocritical considering he had a personal legion of killer-birds at his beck and call, but there you go. Since Taal's followers are mostly hunters and the Cult of Myrmiddia makes extensive use of every trick in the book, including missile weapons, the chance that Fredemund devoted himself fully to either of them becomes rather slim. Aside from that, I have more fitting places for the Grail Companions to match wits with the priests of Myrmiddia and Taal.

 


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