Monday, 17 February 2020

GREAT CANON: Teclis - Part 6: A New Origin (2008-2011)

Welcome to the sixth instalment of Great Canon: Teclis. This time Teclis and Tyrion receive a new origin story predating their original rise to prominence ahead of the Battle of Finuval Plain from a unlikely source... Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos.

Best remembered for its unforgivable power levels driving the game's other armies to redundancy, Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos, released in May 2008, for the 7th edition of the game was the first of its kind, and a strange sort of beast. Daemons had spent most of their former existence in both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 as part of a larger spread of Chaos troops, and while the option to field entire armies of them had existed sporadically, few players had done so, largely owing to the lack of variety in daemon models and units, especially when accounting for most folks' unwillingness to include daemons aligned to different Chaos Gods. Warhammer Armies Daemons of Chaos, and 40k's Codex: Chaos Daemons, released at the same time, did a heel turn on all that, bringing armies of polytheistic daemons to the fore, with no option to field them alongside anything else in conventional games.

In Warhammer's previous background daemons would only show up outside of the Chaos Wastes in significant numbers if things were starting to look undesirably think, like bordering on the apocalypse undesirably thin. Matt Ward, the book's author does a great job with its background, presumably having been instructed with finding a way to work the new party line on daemons into Warhammer's then fairly watertight history, solidly peppers the setting's 8,000 year timeline with significant daemonic incursions, many building on previously existing events, characters and locations; giving examples of entire armies of daemons aplenty, but ensuring that their presence in the mortal world is a big deal, and not something that's always sort of around the corner like orcs or beastmen.

One of the new timeline events chronicled in detail, is N'kari's Revenge, in which N'kari, the Keeper of Secrets defeated by Aenarion early on during the Great Chaos Incursion, and future recurring foe of Teclis and Tyrion would claw its way back into reality 10 years into Finubar the Seafarer's reign in IC 2173, over a century before the Great War Against Chaos, to wreak vengeance on Aenarion's heirs, Teclis and Tyrion included. Bill King had, in their vaunted and oft reprinted introduction in White Dwarf 156, referred to the twins 'youths' at the time of the Great War Against Chaos and here they're described as 'scarcely beyond childhood by the exacting standards of Elves'. King has since stated that it was his original intention for the twins to have been very young and untested heroes at the Battle of Finuval plain, but hey, shared authorship and who knows how elves age.

Opening as a great black storm wracks Ulthuan, and as elves are slain by fallen masonry and lightning bolts, the great waystone atop Mount Antorec, with a cloud of Chaos Furies, followed by N'kari himself clawing their way out of the wound rent in reality. N'kari siphons the magical essence of the Storm to both gorge himself on, and summon a host of daemons to do his bidding. His first target is the nearby provincial holding of Tor Annan, Bloodletters and Bloodcrushers making a quick mess of the defenders, and all but Eanith, the local lord and his household guard not fleeing in disarray. N'kari easily snaps the elf lord's sword and devours the Eanith's still beating heart before his dying eyes as the town is left a bloody ruin.

From there N'kari and his army use the tides of magical energy present on Ulthuan to cross the continent, laying siege to Tor Yvresse, with the fortresses defenders able to hold the daemons at bay with aid from neighbouring Cothique and Hoeth, N'kari withdrawing his forces at the battle's height and retreating to the Annulii Mountians. Over the next month, N'kari develops a pattern of attacking outposts across Ulthuan in Averlon, the Dragonspine Mountains and beyond, suddenly abandoning each battle almost at random, often when about to achieve a crushing victory. Finubar orders his seers to meditate on the greater daemon's motivation, eventually realising it to be the same Keeper of Secrets who had lead Ulthuan's invasion 6,000 years prior, believing it to be reborn a being of pure vengeance, consumed by the need to enact terrible revenge on the descendants of Aenarion; the seemingly random nature of his attacks actually being precision strikes against members of Aenarion's bloodline, allowing his targets to be spirited away to be eternally tormented by Slaanesh while the towns and fortresses of their residence are under attack.

Many of Aenarion's line have fallen from status over the years, allowing the true nature of N'kari's attacks to have gone unnoticed, for what's one vanished and otherwise unremarkable elf on a battlefield of hundreds slain? Finubar's seers determine that the majority of Aenarion's known descendants are accounted for, either having already fallen victim to N'kari, or not currently on Ulthuan. The only two heirs remaining on the island continent are a very young Tyrion and Teclis, described as twin princes, respectively a warrior born, and weak of body but adept at magic. Mentioned for the first time here is the twins hailing from the woodlands of Cothique, a quotidian outer kingdom in northern Ulthuan (it ain't exactly Chrace or Saphery), made reference to in many of their subsequent appearances.

A significant unmentioned oversight here is the presence or lack thereof of the Everqueen, who also carries the blood of Aenarion, being descended from an unbroken line of firstborn daughters, dating back to Yvraine, child of Aenarion and the first Everqueen Astarille. While she can easily be No Prized as having been overseas at the time, the Everqueen seems like too significant a descendant of Aenarion not to get at least a passing mention.

Teclis and Tyrion are hurriedly summoned from Cothique and taken to the Shrine of Asuryan, where an army of Ulthuan's finest is waiting to protect them. Quite why the normally fractious High Elves would go to such lengths to protect two (then) relatively inconsequential juvenile nobles isn't made clear. Within a day of Shadow Warriors initial reports of daemons within the Eataine mountains, N'kari is in sight of the Shrine, sending intoxicating visions to the elven defenders, causing many to throw themselves from the battlements, or march blindly forward to be torn apart by waiting daemons.

Lords of Change under N'kari (implying this is a pretty impressive daemonic horde) throw spells around, as Furies and Nurglings do... whatever Furies and Nurglings do, and Daemonettes and Plaguebearers battle against valiant Phoenix Guard and Swordmasters of Hoeth in hand to hand. As hard as the elves fight, the Shrine's gate is eventually breached by a Beast of Nurgle, that proceeds to tie up the Captain of the Phoenix Guard in combat as Bloodletters burst through. Within the shrine, elves desperately fight back to back, as the cleansing power of Asuryn's flame weakens and banishes many daemons. N'kari however, isn't phased, and climbs the Stair of Eternity to the Shrine's inner sanctum.

At the centre of the Shrine, only a thin line of Phoenix Guard stand between N'kari and the twins, quickly dismembered and incinerated by the greater daemon's claws and spells. Watching the last Phoenix Guard fall, Tyrion realises it's up to him, mouths a quick prayer to Asuryan and charges in. Despite Tyrion being faster, it's a one sided fight, with N'kari parrying every blow against him with ease, and revelling in taunting Tyrion. Fully engaged with Tyrion, N'kari fails to notice Teclis summoning a bolt of 'all the sorcerous fire he could muster' which blasts the greater daemon off its feet. Tumbling an catching an arm in the Flame of Asuryan itself, N'kari's entire body to blackens and crackles, giving Tyrion the opportunity he needed to wail on the Keeper, his sword taking up Asuryan's flame, and each new cut opening up fresh wounds.

Overwhelmed by agony, there's little N'kari can do but scream a lot and stagger back from Tyrion, eventually being driven through the Shrine's great arch overlooking the Sea of Dreams, and plummeting into the ocean thousands of feet bellow. N'kari's strength no longer holding them together, the daemonic army's hold on reality quickly dissipates in the presence of the holy energies of the Asuryan. As the elves celebrate their victory and mourn their losses, Teclis and Tyrion are silent, knowing that their destiny has been forever altered, and that one day they will both have to face N'kari again.

Given N'kari's prominence in not only the army book, but also Warhammer and 40k's histories (he boarded the Vengeful Spirit and fought the Emperor with Horus, read all about it here), it stands out that he didn't receive rules as a special character in Daemons of Chaos' original army book and Codex - especially when Slaanesh was the only Chaos God to not receive a greater daemon special character in those books. Maybe he wasn't deemed significantly different enough from the baseline version in the way Skarbrand or Kairos Fateweaver are, but by contrast is Teclis really anything more than a much more powerful High Elf mage with a fancy backstory? Every subsequent daemon or Slaanesh release N'kari fails to be a part of feels like a missed opportunity, and I'd love see what he was getting up to under Slaanesh's absence during AoS; but hey, we got Shalaxi Helbane I guess. Give it up for Shalaxi Helbane everybody!

Late 2009 would mark the release of a third edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, licensed by Games Workshop to Fantasy Flight Games. Universally reviled by fans of the two previous editions for its seemingly dumbed down card based mechanics, and feeling too heroic for a system who's previously most popular class had been a Rat Catcher, WFRP 3rd ed nonetheless contained some fairly solid background. Tome of Mysteries, one of the four rulebooks included in the game's Core Set at launch focused on magic from an Imperial perspective, and frequently made use of the term 'Teclisian' when describing laws, theory and technique taught to humanity by Teclis; as well as including several extracts on the various lores of magic from an in universe book written by Teclis titled The Founding of the Eight Orders.

Not pictured: Twister™ mat included with book

Warhammer's 8th edition came out in September 2010, and despite the High Elves facing off against Skaven perhaps the strangest starter box matchup ever put out, GW were content to keep the release of the edition's army books slow, with High Elves not seeing a new one for two and a bit years. Summer 2011 saw Warhammer: Storm of Magic, a supplement for with additional rules for fighting special battles in borderline apocalyptic conditions as the Winds of Magic wracked the battlefield. Failing to make much of an impact, Storm of Magic was dismissed by background aficionados as an outlandish cashgrab inconsistent with what had come before, and largely ignored by the playerbase due to the host of new options introduced being restricted to use in fixed 'Storm of Magic' games. These included special arcane scenery, bound monsters, cataclysm spells, and the option to form 'Sorcerous Pacts' allowing for an allied contingent of undead or daemons to be included in any army fighting in a Storm of Magic game. Which would lead to...

...this; featured in an article in White Dwarf 380 highlighting players' ability to do exactly that. While a baffling choice, Teclis teamed up with a Bloodthirster is obviously intended as an example of what players could do writing army lists for Storm of Magic games, and probably shouldn't be taken as canon by anyone's standards, but I thought it was a funny enough footnote to include. A snapshot of what most people would look back on as Warhammer and Games Workshop's 'Dark Age', the issue also featured another example of a Sorcerous Pact where Tancred of Quenelles (the Bretonnian character with a mad-on for undead) had allied with the Red Duke, and a battle report where Balthasar Gelt a had summoned a small contingent of Khorne and Tzeentch daemons to help the Empire fight Vampire Counts on the Sylvannian border.

I hope you've enjoyed this instalment of Great Canon: Teclis. If Teclis throwing his lot in with the servants of Khorne seems bleak (if only for the purpose of an article on army lists), then fear not, as Part 7 sees Bill King's triumphant return to the character, with Blood of Aenarion, the first in a trilogy of novels centred on Teclis and Tyrion's adventures leading up to the Battle of Finuval Plain.

If you've got any feedback, feel I made any mistakes, or think I was just too plain harsh on Storm of Magic, feel free to get in touch. Until next time, thanks for reading!

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