Thursday, 30 January 2020

GREAT CANON: Teclis - Part 1: The Sculpting of a Mage (1992)


Welcome to Great Canon, a new feature I'd like to try out, where I put my ability to accumulate and retain pointless information for decades to good use, and detail the complete publication, miniature, background and game history of long standing Games Workshop characters, from their origins (typically in the original Warhammer Fantasy Battle), all the way through to the present day. Up first is a series of posts covering Teclis, who hastily edged out the Archaon stuff I'd previously been putting together in the wake of the Lumineth Realm-Lords reveal.


Teclis would first be glimpsed by the world in miniature form as a Jes Goodwin green stuff sculpt in the early days of the early days of Warhammer's 4th edition, in September 1992's White Dwarf 153 (then credited merely as 'High Elf Wizard'), before he and his twin brother Tyrion would go on to make their storied magazine debut in White Dwarf 156. As far as I can surmise, the majority of 4th edition Warhammer Armies books (the very first of their kind) were developed more or less in tandem, owing to the framework of the cohesive setting that followed; with background and rules written for them appearing in advance as White Dwarf articles as the books were still being worked on.

A strangely popular misconception about Teclis and Tyrion is that they were Warhammer (and Games Workshop)'s first special characters, a statement that's largely mistaken whatever angle you choose to look at it from. Named characters have been a staple of Warhammer since its inception, and several of the earliest (Joseph Bugman, Grom and Golgfag to name a few) would go on to become cornerstones of the setting. Even if you were to argue that Teclis and Tyrion as they first appeared in White Dwarf 156, were the first special characters presented in the modern sense, with an article covering their extensive background, and unique rules as opposed to stock profiles typically representing the leader of a Regiment of Renown, or a character in a scenario pack, then you'd be incorrect, as the Emperor Karl Franz, and Tzarina Katrin of Kislev previously appeared in this way as part of the Empire army list featured in White Dwarf 147.

Chronological schematics aside, the twins' debut article is nothing short of fantastic, and would go on to become probably the definitive piece of Warhammer elf background (it would be reprinted a lot), and so I'm going to cover it in detail in this first instalment. Credited to Bill King and Andy Chambers, though commonly attributed by King to himself and Jes Goodwin in subsequent interviews, it consists of five pages of background, detailing the twins' origins and coming of age during the an invasion of Ulthuan by Dark Elves and their Chaos allies, 200 years prior to Warhammer's 'present day'; accompanied by rules, magic items, and artwork by Wayne England and Geoff Taylor, and an 'Eavy Metal feature by Mike McVey on painting the pair, both of whom are still strong sculpts today (though Teclis is certainly more timeless) - you can only imagine the reception they received back in 1992.

Those hats cannot be good for their delicate elven spines

Jes Goodwin is said to have sculpted Tyrion and Teclis with distinct sun and moon motifs and let their characters flow from there, Tyrion is bright, strong and physically powerful, while Teclis is an inscrutable stargazer. The High Elves as they were being developed at the time took a lot of visual and narrative inspiration from Michael Moorcock's Melnibon√©ans (several of the earliest Citadel High Elf miniatures of the 1980s having been Eternal Champion miniatures from a previous licensed range), and Teclis and Tyrion were no exception, with the core of the pair essentially boiling down to 'hey, what if Elric were two characters instead of one?' Bill King (credited in his later Black Library works as William), is as significant a figure in the history of Games Workshop as they come, an incredibly skilled fiction writer tasked with populating words created by history nuts with larger than life story lines and characters, he pioneered what to this day are still the both the design studio and Black Library's house styles, and if you've got a favourite Warhammer or 40k hero or villain, chances are he probably helped create them.

After a quick preamble introducing unfamiliar readers to Ulthuan (notable for the first time the Sundering is named as such), we are introduced to Tyrion and Teclis, descended from the cursed line of Aenarion, the equal parts messianic and tragic first Phoenix King of Ulthuan. Teclis is described as everything his brother isn't, pale, dark haired, gaunt, caustic-tongued, bitter, frail, sickly, and dependant on enabling potions to achieve a normal level of mortal strength; all or some of these apparently the result of the (rather ambiguous) curse inherited by his bloodline.

Fuelled by curiosity, Teclis would become something of a magical prodigy, tutored by the Loremasters of the Tower of Hoeth. From there we are off to the Great Chaos Incursion (more commonly known as the Great War Against Chaos in the Old World), part of the background that had first shown up the original Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay in 1986, and been expanded on ever since. During the largest worldwide Chaos invasion of generations, Malekith (formatively referred to here only as the Witch King, with no stated connection to Aenarion) had seized the opportunity to ally with the forces of Chaos (Dark Elves here are described as Chaos worshippers) and launch a full scale combined invasion of Ulthuan in Imperial year 2303, during which Teclis is described as a 'youth'.

When the invasion hits, Tyrion rescues Alarielle, the then newly crowned Everqueen from the clutches of a Dark Elf army, and after being poisoned by a Witch Elf is forced to flee into Ulthuan's ancient forests with her. The Everqueen's loss sends ripples of despair across Ulthuan, but in the White Tower of Hoeth, Teclis, who shares a special link with Tyrion and claims he'd be able to tell, refuses to believe he or Alarielle are dead, forges himself an enchanted sword (the aptly named Sword of Teclis), and after the High Loremaster realises he can't be dissuaded from looking for the pair is gifted with the War Crown of Saphery. As Dark Elves capture the Blighted Isle and Altar of Khaine, and the reduced High Elf forces are forced to fight a guerrilla war, Teclis makes short work of a few Chaos champions and beings to develop a rep.

Eventually discovering the location of the Everqueen, the Witch King sets the Keeper of Secrets N'Kari (also in his debut appearance) loose on her and Tyrion, only for Teclis to find them in the nick of time, banishing the daemon and healing up his brother (it's a little inconstant with Alarielle's depiction in later editions as a super powerful wizard in her own right that she wasn't able to heal Tyrion herself, and something Bill King later artfully explains in his novel Bane of Malekith). The trio then hitch a lift on a boat heading to Finuval Plain in Saphery, where the remaining High Elf armies are mustering for a last stand, news of Alarielle's survival restoring the defenders' shattered morale.


The Dark Elves rock up, and on the eve of battle, while Tyrion is bequeathed his the Dragon Armour of Aenerion, Heart of Averlorn, and his steed Malhandir by his father Arathion, Alarielle and the elves of Ellyrian respectively; Alarielle gifts Teclis the Moon Staff of the goddess Lilaeth, able to grant him enough strength and power to not be dependant on enabling potions anymore. The Battle of Finuval Plain kicks off with Urian Poisonblade, the Witch King's personal champion and greatest assassin issuing a challenge to Ulthuan's mightiest warriors, quickly killing two, Arhalien of the Yvresse, and Korhain Ironglaive, captain of the White Lions, before Tyrion steps up. Urian and Tyrion are almost evenly matched, and fighting for an hour, while Teclis is locked in a magical dual, with the Witch King, dispelling the sorceries cast by the Dark Elf ruler to aid his champion, Tyrion eventually managing to stab Urian through the heart. The Dark Elves erupt, and the armies clash, with casualties on both sides in the thousands. Teclis and the Witch King continue to exchange spells, the later's millennia honed magical prowess meeting its match for the first time.

Observing that the High Elves are outnumbered and about to loose, Teclis goes for a Hail Mary play, and invokes the power of Lilaeth, filling the Moon Staff with all the remaining magical energy available to him, and casting it all into a single bolt, directed at the Witch King, who is forced to throw himself into the warp (referred to in subsequent printings as the Realm of Chaos) to escape death. Leaderless, the Dark Elves quickly crumble, giving the High Elves their first major victory of the war. Tyrion and Teclis ride south at the head of the army, reliving Lorthern, and are greeted by the Phoenix King (following Malekith, never referred to here as Finubar). A great military plan is drawn up to be drive the Dark Elves from Ulthuan, but before it can be enacted, a battered Imperial ship limps into Lorthern's harbour, containing Pieter Lazlo, personal ambassador of Magnus the Pious, future Emperor, and leader of the coalition of Old World forces about to be overwhelmed by the tides of Chaos.

Lazlo explains that Kislev been overrun, and the Empire is on the brink, putting the High Elves in a seriously tough corner, as while they can't afford to spare single soldier, they know that if the Old World falls Ulthuan will soon follow. Teclis then hatches the bright idea that his magic might be able to drastically change the course of the human war, and along with his fellow White Tower mages Yrtle and Finreir, volunteers to sail west and aid the Empire. Proving himself right, Teclis's awesome sorceries and sage advice make him an invaluable asset, quickly turn the tide of the war, though not before Yrtle falls in battle. On Magnus the Pious' coronation as Emperor he performs his most significant act, and requests Teclis and Finreir teach the secret of magic to the Empire, as another weapon to hold back the tide of Chaos with (how they'd been managing to go up against armies fielding level 4 wizards without their own for the last 23 centuries I do not know).

Teclis founded the Empire's Colleges of Magic, and remained there for over two decades, during which he became fond of humans, and aware of both the possibility and threat that they may one day surpass the declining race of elves. The twins reunite in IC 2325, when Teclis returns to Ulthuan for his father, Arathion's funeral, Teclis only being persuaded to stay in Ulthuan and not return to the Empire on learning that the High Loremaster of the Tower of Hoeth had passed away, and the council had elected him to fill the vacant position. In the following centuries Teclis settles into his position as High Loremaster, his research often taking him to corners of the world as distant as Cathay and Lustria, and aiding human and High Elf armies against evil forces.


Teclis' profile was almost entirely standard, that of a regular elf wizard lord in everything but the extra point of leadership - in sharp contrast to Tyrion (and Malhandir's) rather pumped up ones and (like most models at the time) he had no unique special rules - it's his unique magic items that really cause him to shine. Presented in the card format prevalent at the time, each one came with a bit of colour text, followed by their rules. The Sword of Teclis was crafted by Teclis ahead of his exit from the White Tower, and is for all intents and purposes a fairly standard magical weapon, crackling with celestial energy and ignoring armour saves - it seems to be returning with his AoS incarnation, I wonder if it'll have any link to Azyr? The War Crown of Saphery is a relic of the elf mages at the time of the very first Chaos incursion, and bestows it's wearer with the power of all the magical knowledge gleamed by the High Elves since, in game bestowing an extra magic level.


The Moon Staff of Lileath is described as being able to channel the power of the goddess Lileath; in game it allows Teclis to make like he did to the Witch King, and summon a one-time ostentatious amount of magical power at the cost of his physical prowess. Lileath would decades later, eventually become not only central figure of Teclis' story, but the entire Warhammer setting's, but for most of her publication history remained a relatively inconsequential deity (depending on how far down the line you think GW may have had the idea to make her Bretonnia's Lady of the Lake). We're not told anything about Lileath here, no domain and no backstory, just that she's a goddess and (presumably) the naked chick topping Teclis' staff.

Curiously, Lileath actually made her first equally brief appearance in 1990's White Dwarf 127, as member of the Eldar pantheon of gods, in the defining article that brought Craftworlds and their inhabitants to Warhammer 40,000; the Eldar, and a little later Warhammer's elves sharing most of the same gods. The two settings having familiar mutual elements was not something uncommon at the time, as both were being developed by the same team, and if you're going to painstakingly craft a unique set of gods for your space elves, there's little reason not give the same pantheon to your more conventional ground elves. Lileath's 40k debut is more of a cameo, where she has a bad dream about Khaine being wailed on by Kurnos and Isha's mortal kid, with no hard information on what she's the goddess of, just that she had vaguely prophetic dreams.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Lileath, being a relatively minor divine figure had probably been devised along with the rest of the Eldar/elf pantheon by Jes Goodwin and the studio writers, but was insignificant enough that actually saying what she did was overlooked. Lileath's sphere of influence as Lileath the Maiden, goddess of dreams and fortune would eventually see print years later, in 1994's original Codex: Eldar. Given Lileath's revealed significance and connection to Teclis, I'll continue to keep tabs on her development over the course of these articles.



And that concludes the first part of my look at Teclis. Head over to Part 2 for Teclis' first two High Elf army books, and the lowdown on his vaunted ancestor Aenarion. Please let me know if you feel I've made any errors or failed to mention anything in this article.

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