The Red Duke
The Red Duke is a former Bretonnian noble turned Vampire Count of the Blood Dragon lineage whose backstory was partially based on the real-life Castillian knight El Cid. He was introduced during the 5th edition of Warhammer Fantasy via the Circle of Blood Campaign pack. He stars in his own novel written by C.L.Werner, appeared in the Night’s Dark Master supplement for the RPG, had a minor role in the events of the End Times and even appeared as a vampire lord in Total War: Warhammer.
The Red Duke in his mortal life was once the handsome and beloved Duke of the Bretonnian Province of Aquitaine in the 1400s IC. His brother was King Louis the Righteous, both a Grail Knight and the 15th king of Bretonnia. Even back in those early days, the Red Duke (whose true name has been lost to time) was already a warrior of legend for having slain the dragon Nerluc and he was widely considered the bravest knight of the land. His skills were such that he made it a practice that any man of any station, noble or peasant, might cross swords with him at any hour. If they could but scratch him, a purse of gold would belong to the challenger. Many came to test the Duke, but the purse of gold was never claimed.
However, the Duke was not just a mighty warrior, but an honorable and selfless leader of men. He would often set out on perilous quests, coming to the aid of lands and Dukedoms that were not his own. He had campaigned alongside Duke Chararic against the Orcs that had raided his lands along the River Grismerie, and joined Duke Arnulf to hunt down the great Dragon Gundovald. He had even spent an entire month within the Lyonen court of Duke Ballomer, lending them his wisdom. Overall his reign over Aquitaine was pretty great all told and during this time he even married himself a nice noble lady.
The Duke's idyllic life in Bretonnia though was not to last however thanks to a major event that was about to shake the world courtesy of the Nation of Araby. You see Araby at that time was undergoing a bit of resurgence thanks to finally being unified for the first time since Arkhan the Black decided to wreck the place back during the Ancient Undead Wars. The reunification of 1435 IC was thanks in large part to one man, a powerful Sorcerer turned Sultan over all of Araby named Jaffar (real original there GW) who united an alliance of desert tribes into an army powerful enough to conquer all of Araby. Jaffar accomplished this goal thanks to three things: his amazing charisma, his sorcerous ability to summon and bind Djinn and Daemons, and the secret aid of the Skaven rat-men who agreed to spy on and assassinate his enemies in exchange for Warpstone. That last thing however turned out to not be such a great thing as in 1448 IC the Skaven, sensing an opportunity to weaken the realms of humanity, tricked Jaffar into thinking that the neighboring nation of Estalia was planning to invade Araby. In response, Jaffar launched a pre-emptive invasion of Estalia an act that terrified and outraged kings throughout the Old World. Infuriated by this unprovoked invasion of his neighbor King Louis ordered the first Errantry war against the Arabyans with the intent to oust the Arabyans from Estalia before they could solidify their hold on their conquest or attempt to push further into the Old World. This call to arms was swiftly answered both by the Nobles of Bretonnia and by several independent orders of Knights from the Empire during an event recorded in the histories of the Empire as the Great Crusade against Araby. Sadly despite the entreaties of Louis the Empire could not send a whole army to aid the Bretonnians as the Empire at the time was in the middle of a Civil War brought on by the death of the famed Emperor Mandred Skaven Slayer some time prior.
Unsurprisingly the Red Duke was one of the nobles to answer the king's call to arms and during the campaign in Estalia he proved himself just as great a warrior as his reputation had indicated. As thanks for his heroic actions in Estalia, the King of Magritta gifted him a loyal and powerful steed called El Morzillo who would go on to carry him through many battles in Estalia and then onto Araby itself in 1449 IC.
It was there in the deserts of Araby that the future Red Duke's noble reputation would reach its peak. During the ensuing counter-invasion of Araby (which eventually lead to the Arabyans finally leaving Estalia completely after their empire collapsed in 1456 IC), the local Arabyans seeing the terrifying skill the Duke possessed in the arts of combat gave the Duke the nickname of El Syf ash-Shml or 'The Northern Sword', though it was commonly simplified to just 'El Syf'. Adding to his legend was the fact that around this time, the Duke would acquire the mystical Blade of Leaping Gold from an Emir he defeated in single combat. This weapon carried a powerful enchantment that allowed it to attack with the power of three furious strikes instead of one something which only added to the Duke's already great reputation.
Fighting alongside his King in the scorching deserts of Araby, the Duke gained further renown where at the battle of Black Lizard in 1451 IC the Duke intercepted Jaffar's underling Mehmed-bey who had set out to the aid of his lord. Without his support, Jaffar's army was overwhelmed at the battle of Al-Haikk by the combined army made up of nomadic tribes, Bretonnians, Imperials, and the traitorous inhabitants of Al-Haikk, who had repudiated the tyrannical sorcerer. This battle marked a turning point in the war as Jaffar himself was slain by an unknown Bretonnian and without his leadership, his Sultanate would fall into the hands of his underlings before collapsing in the following years. Later the Duke would also become known as the hero of the Siege of Lashiek, helping to bring down the city’s walls...only for him to vanish shortly after the city fell. Three days after the walls of the city had fallen the Duke was found in the desert barely clinging to life and delirious. Turns out that while returning to camp from his great victory, the Duke was assailed by a horde of Arabyan assassins who were aided by a traitorous knight, one of several nobles who hoped to usurp his Dukedom. In the end, the Duke had slain all his opponents but during the fight, he had been wounded with a poisoned blade and without aid, he would soon die. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on who you ask the Duke would survive this event thanks to some unexpected intervention.
The Dark Descent
Turns out that while the Duke had been campaigning in Araby he had unintentionally garnered the attention of a certain vampire of legendary repute named Abhorash. Impressed by the Duke's skills and seeing his impending death at the hands of an assassin as being an unworthy end for such a warrior Abhorash followed him back to Bretonnia in 1454 IC and gave him the Blood Kiss. Three days after being returned home and seemingly dying from his wounds the Red Duke would rise up from the elaborate tomb his retainers had built for him, no longer a mere mortal man but a newly fledged vampire of the Blood Dragon lineage. Whatever relief and joy the people of Bretonnia felt at this seeming miracle quickly turned to horror as the Duke revealed himself to be now transformed completely in both mind and body. The now twisted Duke immediately set about attacking and killing those he had protected, starting with those who had betrayed him and usurped his Dukedom, before drawing to him Knights from all across his realm who sought to emulate his warcraft and raising deathless legions with his newfound powers. During the reign of terror which followed and which would garner him the names of "The Scourge of Aquitaine" and “the Red Duke” the Duke was regularly seen riding into battle, not on a regular warhorse but rather on a spectral steed of bone, shadow, and witch-fire, garbed in a black caparison that leaked an aura of corruption, a horrifying mount crafted from his former horse El Morzillo who had died during the Duke’s campaign in Araby. The Duke’s armor too had changed, no longer was his garb the shining armor of his former life but in its place, he wore a black iron helm that hid all but his burning red eyes, a shield, and special suit of strong jagged armor "The Armour of Blood" which was imbued with mystical properties that allowed it to not inhibit the wearer's ability to cast spells despite its heaviness. Rounding off this fearsome image were his weapons, the fearsome Blade of Leaping Gold which he had gained in Araby and a horrifying lance, a barbed thorn of steel soaked in the blood of Bretonnian knights.
As the reputation of the fell warrior spread, King Louis, his brother, immediately raised an army to stop him. In a great battle at Ceren Field, the Red Duke encountered his younger sibling. Seeing the King fighting alone against enemies on all sides, the Vampire commanded his minions to cease their efforts against Louis, parting into a clear path between him and his prey. The Duke announced to Louis that he had betrayed him, that he could not be content as King, but had to become Duke of Aquitaine as well. With that, the final chapter of what would become known as the Battle of Ceren Field began. The Scourge of Aquitaine was one of the mightiest Blood Knights since Abhorash himself, but even he could not stand against the power the Lady of the Lake had imbued Louis with. Blinded by the holy light surrounding Louis, the Duke’s heart was pierced by a blessed lance, skewering his body and lifting him from his saddle. The Duke looked down from atop the lance towards his brother, his skin blackened and withered and blood filled his eyes as he let out a final, horrific moan.
With the Undead army destroyed and their leader defeated, Bretonnia rejoiced in its victory. However, the grief-stricken Louis refused to believe that his brother could rise again, and did not want to destroy his body out of respect for the man he had once been. Despite the pleas of the priestesses of the Lady and even his own Lords, the King’s will was law. The body of the Red Duke was not consigned to the flames, as had first been ordered, but was instead borne from the field of battle. A great tower of marble was erected upon the hill overlooking Ceren Field and into this pillar, the vampire’s body was placed. A bronze statue depicting the Duke of Aquitaine at the height of his heroic glory was set atop the pillar and rich engravings chronicled the life of the noble warrior before he had descended into darkness (the fact this warrior was also the Red Duke was covered up subsequently so his mortal relatives could live without shame). A powerful sorceress and Prophetess, Isabeau, who the Red Duke had tried and failed to recruit to his army warned against honoring a thing that had turned to evil and visited such wickedness upon the land, but her words fell upon unheeding ears. The King’s grief was great; only by paying tribute to his dead enemy could he ease the burden of his heart. It would prove to be a terrible mistake.
In the darkness of the first night, after the tomb was sealed, something stirred within the marble crypt. Something engorged by the darkest of magic and aided by a magic jewel forged out of the blood of the innocent. Something that ripped the broken lance from its heart. Something that sneered at the foolish compassion that had prevented King Louis from destroying its body. The King would suffer for his mistake...or so he thought
Turns out that while the Prophetess had failed to convince the King to destroy the Duke's body she had managed to get the King to allow her to place enchantments upon the monument, spells that would protect the tomb and hold it inviolate against all manner of evil. Her spells would safeguard the tomb from the ravages of wind and rain, but they would also protect the land from that which lay within the tomb. When the Vampire attempted to leave the tomb an unseen power drove him back. No matter how hard he tried he found it impossible to even approach the walls of his crypt, repulsed by the enchantments that saturated the marble tomb. The Red Duke could only turn within the small interior of his prison and curse at the walls that confined him, the walls he couldn’t even touch. Alone in the eternal darkness of his own tomb, the Red Duke passed the long years, tormented by the bloodlust that consumed his corrupt body. Hour by hour, his ravenous hunger swelled, torturing him with pangs of longing he was powerless to satisfy. Vainly he cast his thoughts upon the past, trying to forget his hunger by reflecting upon his deeds, losing himself in moments heroic and infamous with equal abandon.
Almost 500 years would pass like this during which time the Duke would find himself descending further and further into madness. Then in 1932 IC an idiot necromancer named Renar and his cabal of witches and corrupt nobles made the mistake of cracking open the tomb of the Red Duke. Renar had intended to evoke the warrior-spirit of the Red Duke, hoping to channel his martial prowess into a chosen vassal for his cabal's dark purposes. Unfortunately for them instead of the bodiless spirit they thought they would encounter, the foolish tomb robbers instead found a vampire transformed from an already viciously eccentric and evil being into a completely insane and pissed-off monster courtesy of being imprisoned for so long without blood. Realizing they didn't have the ability to control such a being Renar and company decided instead to save their own skin by agreeing to serve the infamous Duke.
With the aid of the Necromancers, the Red Duke summoned forth his undead steed and raised an undead army before commencing a bizarre campaign that recreated the war that led to his defeat at Ceren Field and the crusade in Araby. Though King Louis had long since passed away the Red Duke ignored the words of his saner associates and led his forces across the land. The mad Vampire slaughtered his enemies, even if he did not recognize them for who they were, but imagined them as opponents from ages past, both at home and abroad. Eventually, his campaign brought him to Ceren Field once more where he found a Grail chapel had been raised in honor of a Grail Knight named Galand, who had become legendary during the Duke's imprisonment. Before he could carry out his plan to defile the tomb of someone who he saw as another usurper the Red Duke found himself confronted by an army lead by the incumbent Duke of Aquitaine, Gilon.
Gilon was a veteran of a dozen grueling campaigns, a great leader of men, and a fearsome warrior armed with an ancient holy blade that was enchanted to grant its wielder the strength of a Giant. Alas, he was nearing the end of his long life, and many expected his son, Richemont to soon succeed him. Despite his age though, Gilon was still a powerful warrior both due to his blade and the fact he had achieved the perilous Grail Quest and supped from the Grail of the Lady of the Lake. Underneath his aging appearance, the Grail knight's frame still suggested a brooding strength, just waiting to be unleashed. Gilon would have left the Dukedom to his son years earlier and retired to guard one of its Grail Chapels. However, he felt that until his son had learned patience and grown in wisdom, he could not give up his position, something which proved a wise course of action as it put him in the perfect position to deal with the threat of the Red Duke.
On the day of the battle, the Bretonnians had arrived early in the morning, and Duke Gilon, fearing that the undead would encircle them and the villages they were defending, sent scouts to investigate the movements of his enemies. The Squires entrusted with the mission returned quickly and brought word of the approaching undead. They warned of the great flights of bats that flew as a vanguard for the undead army and that the Red Duke himself rode at the head of his forces.
Later as the mists cleared the Bretonnians took advantage of the slow deployment of undead and surged forward. Duke Gilon used all his experience to command his troops to the fullest effect, commanding his son, Sir Richemont to lead his Questing Knights into battle whilst Gilon plunged into the fray atop his Pegasus. Despite Gilon's best attempts though he failed to stop the Red Duke from reaching the entrance to Galand's chapel. Using its ancient magics to empower him, the Red Duke succeeded in wiping out half of Gilon's Knights of the Realm, with Richemont surviving only thanks to his magical armor of protection. At this crucial moment, the aging Duke soared from the skies and challenged the vampire to single combat. The Red Duke was angered by Gilon's arrival, for all he saw before he was an old man, aged and wizened. Smiling coldly, the Lord of the Undead instead sent forth one of his lieutenants, the Wight known as Sir Corbinian.
A fierce duel erupted, with Corbinian injuring Gilon's pegasus with his ghost blade before he was destroyed in turn by his opponent's blessed blade. Gilon then charged towards the hated Red Duke, and what followed was a struggle of epic proportions. Despite his advanced age, Gilon was still a Grail Knight and mightier beyond any mortal, swinging his holy blade into the Red Duke and wounding him greatly. The Red Duke, however, was one of the mightiest Blood Knights in existence. He responded with his own glittering blade, cutting through Gilon's armor and inflicting a mortal wound.
The Red Duke howled in triumph, but soon noticed the reality of the situation... his undead army was withering away thanks to the holy energy of the Grail Chapel and his mortal supporters including Renar were being cut down to a man. The combined bravery of Bretonnia's knights and the sacrifice of Duke Gilon had ensured his defeat. Injured but still determined to carry out his dark task the Red Duke once more entered Galand's resting place and this time he managed to reach the depths of the chapel.
To the Red Duke's surprise though upon reaching the center of the tomb, he found someone else waiting for him, a Prophetess named Iselda who mockingly told him the Grail Knight whose tomb he intended to defile was... his own son. As it turned out, unknown to the Red Duke, his wife had been pregnant when he left to crusade in Estalia and the child who was subsequently born had been named Galand by his uncle before being hidden away when his father had returned as a vampire. After the Duke's "death" at the hand of his grief-stricken brother King Louis had decided to atone for slaying his brother by watching over Galand until he grew to adulthood and became a legendary Grail Knight. Compounding the tragedy of this revelation was the discovery that the so-called "usurper" Gilon who the Red Duke had slain earlier was a descendant of Galand and thus a descendant of the Red Duke himself!
Horrified and enraged by this realization the Red Duke killed the prophetess and tried to call out to his son's spirit only for his son's spirit to retaliate against his twisted progenitor by releasing a burst of holy energy which drove him into the Forest of Châlons. In the wake of this battle Sir Richemont inherited his father's rule as the new Duke of Aquitaine, and soon decreed that the Red Duke be hunted down throughout Bretonnia, an order that has lasted for centuries. Yet despite being pursued by many brave knights none succeeded in slaying the Vampire and it was said he continued to haunt the Forest of Châlons, awaiting his chance for revenge against the people of Aquitaine.
The End Times
Or so that was the case until the End Times happened. Near the closing days of the Warhammer world Duke Jerrod, leader of the Bretonnian contingent at the Council of Incarnates, was exposed to the horrific truth that the Lady of the Lake was nothing more than a facade used by the High Elf goddess Lileath to manipulate Bretonnia. Though the revelation caused him to ultimately reject the deceitful Elven goddess who had manipulated his homeland for centuries, Jerrod was determined to take his troops and march back into the ruined and devastated remains of Bretonnia to see-out the end of the world there. In response to this, the vampire count Vlad von Carstein told Jerrod that a small group of warriors, led by the Green Knight (who had been revealed to be the resurrected first king of Bretonnia Gilles le Breton) and an immortal warrior implied to be Abhorash, still fought in Bretonnia against Chaos. Vlad then summoned forth the Red Duke from his hiding place to act as a guide and escort Jerrod's knights to the abbey where the warrior were making their great last stand. Once the party arrived at the abbey everyone there proceeded to fight side by side against the forces of Chaos up till the bitter end when Archaon the Everchosen went and blew the whole damn planet up.
On the Tabletop
The Duke's rules are sadly out of date but here's what we know him to possess according to the few articles written about him:
He's 460 points with 6 Movement, 6 Weapon Skill, 6 Ballistic skill, 7 Strength, 6 Toughness, 4 Wound, an initiative of 9, 4 attack, 10 leadership with a save of 3+. He has the special traits of Undead, Blademaster, The Hunger, Frightening, Frenzy, and Hatred (Bretonnia) and is a level 2 necromancer that can cast from the lore of Vampires.
He also rides a nonwinged barded nightmare horse with the following tabletop stats:
8 Movement, 2 Weapon Skill, 0 Ballistic skill (obviously since it's just a fancy undead horse), 3 Strength, 3 Toughness, 1 Wound, an initiative of 2, 1 attack, 3 leadership and since it's specifically mentioned as being barded it adds a +1 armor save roll. Were it on its own it would be considered a 16 point war beast but that's not important since its point cost is already included.
For special equipment, he has his Armor of Blood which has the normal +5 heavy armor save but doesn't inhibit his casting ability. And his Blade of Leaping Gold which grants +3 attacks. There is no word about what abilities that jewel which revived him gave him, so just assume it ran out of juice reviving him the first time and forget about it.
Total War Warhammer
The Red Duke also makes an appearance in Total War Warhammer as a unique Vampire Counts lord unit. He leads the Mousillon faction in The Old World and Mortal Empires campaigns but is not playable unless you confederate his faction as one of the other Vampire Counts, or use a mod. He is available for multiplayer, however. He can cast from the lore of Vampires, rides either a Hell Steed, a zombie dragon, or a barded Nightmare, and comes with a Scroll of Leaching special item and a Potion of Strength. Stats wise he gains a bit of melee defense compared to other Vampire Lords, a small bump to overall damage making him a Melee expert, and a shield at the cost of not having a bonus vs. infantry meaning he's best suited to being a duelist that deals with enemy heroes. However, the biggest difference is that rather than being locked into one choice for the Black Knight or Grave Guard boosting ability lines he may instead take all abilities from both branches offering him incredible durability and army boosts. He's armored and shielded so he can block damage from any source apart from Armour-Piercing damage. He causes fear, has an ability that encourages his troops, can hide in the forest, has the Foe-seeker, Hunger, and Frenzy special abilities, and has a unique special ability "El Syf" which is a Hex with a duration of 24 Seconds, a cooldown of 90 seconds, a range of 200m, and causes a 48% Speed reduction in enemy speed, a -40 to enemy Melee Defence and a -22% to enemy Physical resistance.