Sunday, 31 May 2020

GREAT CANON: Teclis - Part 7: The Return of the King (2011-2012)

After a significant hiatus Great Canon: Teclis is back, just in time to see the Lumineth Realm Lords to go on preorder. This instalment is mostly devoted to Blood of Aenarion, the first in the trilogy of novels by original Teclis and Tyrion writer Bill King exploring the twins' origins and early adventures building up to their fateful confrontation with Malekith on Finuval Plain.

Now available in handy omnibus form
Blood of Aenarion is for the most part a largely expanded version of the events of the events described in Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos covered in Part 6 of this series. King notes on his blog that the events from Daemons of Chaos taking place 129 years prior to the Battle of Finuval Plain had thrown something of a curveball at his original plans for the series, with his intention writing Teclis and Tyrion's original background in White Dwarf 156 for the twins to have been young and untested prior to Malekith's invasion of Ulthuan, and that while pushing a century and a half is probably still youngish for an elf, it's not quite how he'd originally envisioned the pair at inception.

Undaunted, King chooses to seamlessly add to and enrich the existing Daemons of Chaos plot, using it as a foundation for a sweeping novel, showcasing his visions of Teclis, Tyrion, N'kari and Ulthuan. As an aside, it's a little odd as a long time Warhammer reader to see King adapt the work of a later background writer in Matt Ward; a little like if Arthur Conan Doyle wrote tie-in fiction for one of the innumerable subsequent movies or tv shows staring Sherlock Holmes.

Any excuse to get this Karl Kopinski piece
out again really
Blood of Aenarion's opens with a prologue staring Aenarion during his fateful confrontation with the quartet of greater daemons on the isle of the dead. What's interesting here is that this is the fist time the Keeper of Secrets he faces on the Isle of the Dead is identified as N'kari, who until now was only typically assumed to be the Keeper fought at the end of the war, when Aenarion was only stated to have fought and banished him years before he had ever drawn the Sword of Khaine, or even courted the Everqueen; with the four greater daemons he defeated at the end of the war remaining nameless until now. The original Warhammer Armies: High Elves text even describes Aenarion as having 'banished the daemon from the mortal plain for centuries' after N'kari's original defeat, and his battle on the Isle of the Dead having taken place way under 100 years later, but that's easily handwaved in an effort to tell an even cooler story.

While his brother greater daemons are conventionally murdered back into the Realm of Chaos, N'kari finds himself vastly weakened and cast into the newly born Great Vortex itself, where he remains trapped for thousands of years, sustaining himself on dreams of inflicting sensuous vengeance on Aenarion and his prodigy. As a passing note, the Lord of Change present is revealed as Kairos Fateweaver (he of automatic priority fame), for reasons only apparent to Tzeentch I'm sure.

The story proper begins in idyllic rural Cothique, where Teclis and Tyrion, age 16 (King wanted them as young as he could for Finuval Plain I guess) in relative isolation in a threadbare manor, with their father Arathion, and a skeleton staff of servants and retainers, including their doting housekeeper Thornberry. The twins' mother Alysia perished in childbirth, and is described for the first time as having been the scion of House Emeraldsea, a prominent family of merchant princes from Lothern, Ulthuan's costal trade capital. Arathion is presented as a destitute and obsessive mage, his life consumed with unlocking the secrets of  and restoring the Dragon Armour of Aenarion, created for his vaunted ancestor by Caledor (a potential manifestation of his bloodline's ever vague curse), and his romance with Alysia having earned no small amount of scorn on her wealthy family's part.

It's explained that elven twins are incredibly uncommon, with only 315 pairs in recorded High Elf history (something that raises more questions than it answers about the twin courtesans in Giantslayer...), and that Teclis and Tyrion share a loose mental link, sensing each other's emotions when apart, and sharing dreams. Tyrion's introduced as having buoyantly raised himself on tales of great battles and treatises on strategy, able, and carried along by an easy charm, eager to find his place in the world; Teclis is very sick indeed, first shown bedridden, and entirely dependent on potions made my Arathion to survive, with Tyrion genuinely fearful for his prolonged life expectancy. Somehow Teclis is Arathion's favourite, the twins' father possessing a shared interest in magic (though not letting Teclis practice it), and not really knowing what to make of or do with Tyrion.

Growing up in Tyrion's shadow has left Teclis embittered towards well... everyone who isn't Tyrion, backtalking and critiquing every elf and thing he comes into contact with, though with the most ire reserved for himself, who he describes as 'ugly and a cripple'. Physically Teclis is described as distinctly unattractive by the standards of his own race (I'm sure he'd be a hard human 10), and having pale skin and dark hair (probably diametric the the Asur idea if Tyrion's blond tan is anything to go by). Following the trend set by the twins physical and social disparities is the pagetime given to each, with the majority of the novel's plots and perspective awarded to Tyrion, who's characteristics and personality lend themselves a lot better to being a protagonist, while Teclis spends and awful lot of the book practicing magic and/or in bed.

Scene set, the twins have just turned 16, and this means that as descendants of Aenarion they're to be shipped off to Lothern to be presented before Finubar the Seafarer, the then recently crowned Phoenix King. This being a thing has completely slipped Arathion's mind, and he's a little surprised when a troop of House Emeraldsea knights lead by Lady Malene, the twins' aunt, trained mage and right hand of the family firm, and Korhain Ironglaive, the White Lion captain who first showed up, to quickly die at the hands of Malekith's favourite commander Urian Poisonblade in King's original White Dwarf 156 story, reprinted in every subsequent High Elf army book.

Korhain is an old comrade of Arathion's, becomes fast friends with Tyrion, who he begins to mentor, showing him how to use a sword and sharing an appreciation of chess with. Teclis on the other hand is far less impressed with Lady Malene, indeed the whole venture

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