Friday, 14 February 2020

GREAT CANON: Teclis - Part 3: Mage à Trios (2000-2003)


Foundations laid in Part 1 and Part 2, Great Cannon: Teclis continues, as the High Loremaster's life gets colourful, with a controversial new model, overhauled rules, and his first Black Library novel appearance.


6th edition Warhammer launched in 2000, and would give both the setting and game the most cohesive direction they'd ever seen, pioneered by Tuomas Pirinen, and continued the stewardship of Gav Thorpe. The artwork got moodier and more atmospheric, the background gloomier and more grounded, with a real sense of a world holding out on a knife-edge against its inevitable doom, and the game became more focused on armies of rank and file troops than the derided herohammer of previous editions; largely in line with what had proved successful for Warhammer 40,000 at the time. A lot of the game's wackier units and concepts, like the Empire War Wagon and Forest Goblin Spider Riders were jettisoned entirely. Looking back it was very much moody teenage Warhammer, which as an moody teenager at the time, I easily thought was the best thing Games Workshop had ever done.

Photo taken from limited-edition-warhammer.blogspot.com

Before we get to the 6th edition High Elf army book, and the light revamp that awaited Teclis inside, it's work quickly mentioning his this 5" tall resin collectors model of him, released by a nascent Forge World in 2001. In Forge World's dim and distant past preceding their current incarnation as Space Marine and Space Marine accessory specialists, and even the years they spent flogging super heavy vehicles and titans, they were once a fledgling branch of Games Workshop exclusively producing Imperial Guard tank turrets and, collectors busts and oversized display models of Warhammer and 40k characters. Their version of Teclis was sculpted by Simon Egan, and you can find out more about it and view better photos over on Limited Edition Warhammer Models.


Released in 2002, the third Warhammer Armies: High Elves, is easily the most elegant publication Ulthuan's ever headlined, with, owing to 6th ed's trademark combination of style and substance, with beautiful new art seamlessly merging with the layout, and background written from an in universe perspective. Benefiting its new direction, 6th ed would pioneer a lot of bold changes, many of which would become staples, while others would be less well received and dialled back or forgotten about in subsequent editions - most of the work done with the High Elves falling into the latter category. Thankfully I'm not here to talk about Intrigue at Court, and Eltharion's the planned subject of my next Great Canon - beyond a new model and some novel rules, not a whole bunch changed about Teclis, who once again saw his and Tyrion's introductory story from White Dwarf 156 reproduced within the army book's pages.


Like many returning characters in 6th edition, Teclis was treated to a new look and miniature, courtesy of Gary Morley, and would also grace the cover of the army book in his redesigned duds, in a piece by Geoff Taylor. Gary Morley's a sculptor who picks up a lot of slack, largely owing to some of the earliest Undead sculpts he did for Games workshop in the mid 90s, and the seemingly at random gulfs of quality between the models he put out; in my opinion he gets a bad rap, and he's probably my personal overall favourite Games Workshop sculptor of all time (I mean he sculpted the entire 3rd edition Blood Bowl range!). Teclis' 2002 mini is a very competent sculpt, but is might as well be George Lazenby when put up against the iconic impact of the original that preceded it.


The vibe of 6th ed's High Elf rules can be summed up as quirky by no demand, and (after a quick blub putting him on par with Nagash) Teclis' were no exception - with his dependence on potions (made redundant by his use of the staff of Lileath, according to his White Dwarf 156 backstory, reprinted a few pages prior...), and Elric influence brought to the fore, with the first and last named appearances of Sariour and Charoi, a pair of medicinal libations, which on swigging would respectively focus Teclis towards magic or melee. As well as the above inspirations, being able to switch up Teclis' battlefield role could also have been a result of the changes made to wizards' profiles in 6th edition; in 4th and 5th lord level wizards came with pretty meaty combat profiles (though nowhere near that of a melee lord), but in 6th most of them were curbed to the stats of a rank and file trooper with a couple of extra wounds (and a point of toughness if they were lucky) - perhaps the two potions offered a solution to allow Teclis to maintain his previous melee prowess when combined with his powerful sword, but also be kept in line with other wizards at the time?

Teclis' (and Tyrion's) rules also gave us the first insight into the effects of the indeterminate Curse of Aenarion, in a special rule of the same name that... bestowed a 2+ ward against their last wound suffered - damn, the elf gods dole it out harsh! The four magic items from previous editions carried over, their rules working differently than previous in line with 6th's revised mechanics, but all doing more or less the same thing, and combined with Teclis' High Loremaster and Channeller special rules, solidified him as hands down the best wizard in the game (at least until Lord Kroak turned up).

In Lileath news, Lileath, according to the description of the Moon Staff, is also apparently the goddess of the moon, which makes perfect sense given the regalia adorning both Teclis and the staff.


Tangential, but too way too good not to pass up reproducing here, the 6th ed High Elf book also included this Karl Kopinski piece of Aenarion facing down the Keeper of Secrets from his fated battle to secure the creation of the Great Vortex (later named as having been N'kari), which as well as being maybe one of the best artworks GW have ever put out, is also hows us what N'kari looks like (if retroactively), which is neat.


April 2003 would see Teclis make his first appearance in a Black Library novel in a supporting role in Giantslayer, Bill King's final Gotrek and Felix book. In future instalments of Great Canon, I'm not likely to give too much coverage to characters' Black Library appearances, as they are intended to be supplementary to the established background, as presented in mainline GW publications, and often unintentionally contradict it; but as Giantslayer and Teclis' subsequent trilogy of staring novels (shared with Tyrion), are authored not only by not only his original creator, but also the definitive and, in my opinion greatest all time Warhammer writer, they're A-canon in my eyes.

King's most illustrious (and most commonly associated with him) creations, Gotrek and Felix first showed up in 1989 in Geheimnisnacht, a pre Black Library short story the anthology Ignorant Armies, and from there would  go on to star in fiction featured in anthologies, White Dwarf, and army books under King, and eventually headlining their own series of novels when the Black Library launched in 1999, beginning with Trollslayer. For reasons unknown, Giantslayer, the seventh novel in the series would be King's last, and his penultimate work staring the characters. King's departure felt pretty abrupt, and Giantslayer didn't read remotely like a climax to the stories he'd developed around the pair, just another rambunctious and very absorbing adventure. King's Gotrek and Felix novels take place some time between Imperial Calendar 2502 and 2505, in what at the time of the duo's first appearance was Warhammer's 'present day', placing them roughly 200 years after Teclis and Tyrion's rise to prominence during the Great War Against Chaos.

Giantslayer is a very good novel, though is perhaps ignominiously best remembered for its opening scene, in which Teclis wakes up from a prophetic nightmare in the bedroom of his mansion, in the arms of a pair of twin elf courtesans, one of whom on disturbing he proceeds to magically roofy. In Teclis' dream, after witnessing a scene of Ulthuan sinking into the sea, he's warned by the spirit of Caledor Dragontamer that something called the Paths of the Old Ones have opened, and that Caledor and his fellow vortex-trapped mages are struggling to hold back the ensuring waves of magic weakening the barrier between reality and the Realm of Chaos. Caledor tells Teclis to seek out the Oracle of the Truthsayers, the drudaic leaders of the human tribes of Albion, an infrequently featured island off the coast of the Old World roughly analogous to Celtic Britain, and close the ancient pathways before they can further imperil the world.

Named as such and greatly expand upon in Giantslayer, the Paths of the Old Ones, are the network of  smaller interdimensional gates introduced by King in the 4th ed High Elf army book, that Caledor's creation of the Great Vortex was intended to shut down. Here they offer 'safe' pathways through the Realm of Chaos, allowing for near instantiations travel from one side of the Warhammer World to another, operating in a manner conveniently similar to Warhammer 40,000's Webway; and though more likely through accident than design, feeling like the foundation for Age of Sigmar's Realmgates, a connection I'd be eager explore in a future blog post.

Teclis muses on the growing tide of Chaos and anarchy in the world, including the recent siege of Prague featured in preceding Gotrek and Felix books, and worries at the weakening of the magical waystones keeping Ulthuan afloat, tracing this to a growing concentration of Chaos energy in the far north, brought about by the weakening of the Great Vortex, and capable bringing about the apocalypse narrowly avoided under Caledor and Aenarion. After a quick exchange with Tyrion, shown here as effortlessly suave, capable and everything Teclis isn't - provoking the smallest hint of jealousy; Teclis then takes an uncomfortable griffon flight across Ulthuan, where he muses on his feeling of separation from other elves, and even going on to ask himself if they should be superseded by the younger races.

Eventually landing at a remote site in the mountains, Teclis is confronted by stone gates forbidding any elf to enter on pain of death, which he immediately proceeds to ignore, easily dispelling the wards and heading inside. Finding himself in a chamber of seemingly Lustrian design, where after mediating his way through more defensive wards, Teclis ends up on the Paths of the Old Ones, where on encountering and proceeding to battle his way through his way through a warband of Chaos Warriors and beastmen, apparently marching towards Albion, he eventually chances upon Gotrek and Felix, who have unwittingly stumbled down a similar entrance to the Paths of The Old Ones while on a misadventure in Sylvannia; and helps the duo battle a gigantic Chaos Spawn. It's fun seeing Teclis's take on Gotrek and Felix and vice-versa, with Teclis analytically fascinated by Gotrek and his axe, Gotrek bombastically distrustful and with a lot of scorn, and Felix taken aback on meeting what to him is a historical figure from the Empire's reunification 200 years prior.

Truthsayers of Albion by Dave Gallagher

From there, Teclis takes a considerably more backseat role, steering Gotrek and Felix on a whirlwind tour of Albion, giving the most expansive window into the out of the way island since the appropriately irreverent 1986 scenario pack The Tragedy of McDeath. Along the way they encounter and befriend several of Albion's natives, including the aged Truthsayer Murdo Mac Baldoch, who agrees to take them to the Oracle. On our heroes and a small band of Murdo's tribespeople eventually reaching and rescuing from orcs the Oracle of the Truthsayers, revealed to be an elderly blind woman, it is revealed that Kelmain Blackstaff and Lhoigor Goldenrod, powerful twin Tzeentchian sorcerers and recurring Gotrek and Felix villains, last seen masterminding the siege of Prague, have sized control of the Paths of the Old Ones' central nexus, and are using them to launch flash invasions all over the globe, unwittingly threatening the stability of the entire planet in the process.

Journeying to the ancient temple-city in which the nexus is housed, Felix observes Teclis having struck up a potentially romantic relationship with Siobhain, captain of the Oracle's maiden-guard (no relation to Alarielle's), and catching looks from a lot of the tribeswomen travelling with them. This is a nice touch, inverting the almost obligatory female attention typically handed out to Felix and other King's other protagonists; showing that even an apparently unexceptionally handsome elf is the opposite to humans; and giving an interesting window into Teclis' character and sympathetic fascination with humans - why did Teclis choose to spend 20 years in Altdorf, and why did he take so much persuading to stay in Ulthuan on his return...?

Getting to the temple-city Teclis, Gotrek, Felix and their native companions find themselves caught in a battle between Kelmain and Lhoigor's Chaos Warriors and beastmen, and a massive horde of orcs and goblins, sneaking their way to the central chamber with the aid of Teclis' magic, though not without a few fights along the way. During these skirmishes Teclis is shown enjoying combat with a bloodlust he speculates originates from the blood of Aenarion; and to be as graceful as any elf in battle, the effects of his various potions (and not the staff of Lileath?) rendering him with only a barely noticeable limp on his left side. He's also no slouch in hand to hand combat either, apparently dropping roughly a quarter as many foes as Gotrek (in line with the heroic 4th and 5th edition statlines King may have been more familiar with from his time at the design studio, or even his 6th ed stats under Charoi).

Confronting Lhoigor and Kelmain, Gotrek gets his title drop in, felling a colossal giant the pair have mutated and bound to their will, while Teclis finds himself surprised to be deadlocked in a magical dual with the Tzeentchian twins, observing a bond between them similar to his own with Tyrion, only much stronger. This is eventually brought to a halt when Gotrek minces Lhoigor, allowing Teclis to make short work of Kelmain. Realising the temple, and Paths of the Old Ones are about to collapse, Teclis sends Gotrek, Felix, Murdo and the surviving tribespeople down the Paths, and begins a ritual to seal off the nexus, cauterising the flow of corrupted energy into the world.

On being told by the spirits of the nexus's mummified Slann guardians that he must give up his life and spirit to do so, Teclis unhesitatingly agrees, only for Murdo to conveniently reappear, having guided the others to safety through the Paths of the Old Ones, and to volunteer himself up in Teclis place, arguing he knows a lot more about the Paths of the Old Ones, and has a lot less years of life left in him. Teclis performs a particularly gory ritual (in keeping with everything we know about Slann) involving cutting out Murdo's heart (how he would have done this to himself I don't know), which he finds secretly satisfying, coming from a culture where blood sacrifice is alien and looked down upon. There's a pause for dramatic effect, and the day is saved, though with Teclis having imparted from the Slann spirits that this has likely only bought the world 20 years or so of dormancy.

Looking for a safe spot to recover his powers and plot his journey back to Ulthuan, Teclis speculates on what future the events that have just taken place may precede, imagining he's likely to return to Albion in 20 years time with an army and a host of mages. This may be a nod to Dark Shadows, a global narrative campaign from a couple of years prior in 2001, which had seen (a then unnamed) Be'lakor escape his incorporeal madness and attempt to corrupt Albion's magical network, that the High Elves performed rather well in (with no mention of Teclis mind) set in IC 2520 (Warhammer's 'present' had rolled on a few years with the launch of 6th edition), though it was never directly followed up.


Talking about global campaigns usually begets something, and in the same month as Giantslayer's release, Teclis would join the plot build up to the Storm of Chaos, Games Workshop's most ambitious and best remembered player driven narrative, which I've covered in full in Part 4. Please let me know if you feel I've made any errors here, or if you have any feedback for the series so far!

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