This post continues my history of WFRP1, which started here.
In December 1985 the third Citadel Compendium introduced a new Warhammer cartoon strip: The Quest of Kaleb Daark. It was scripted by John Wagner and Alan Grant, and drawn by Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy, all of whom were well known for their work on 2000AD. It was clearly something of a coup to bring this team on board and the comic strip featured prominently in adverts for the Compendium.
Advertisement in White Dwarf 72 (December 1985)
The story describes the adventures of the Chaos warrior Kaleb Daark. Daark is a follower of the renegade Chaos god Malal, who works against the other gods of Chaos. When Praag comes under attack from hordes of Chaos, Daark is sent by his god to come to aid the defenders and turns the tide of battle in their favour. After the victory he is recognised by the Grand Wizard Walpurgis as a figure from a prophecy, which foretells that he will release the goddess Arianka from her crystal coffin and save Praag.
The Quest of Kaleb Daark, part one
The strip features a small map of the north east of the Old World. It reveals a Warhammer world still evolving. Alongside the established region of Norsca, we encounter for the first time the Sea of Claws, the River Lynsk and Praag in the same locations they would later occupy in WFRP1. The map also shows a region marked as “the Grand Duchy of Kislev”. The name makes it clear that this is an intermediate form between the Grand Duchy of WFB2 (see part XXIII) and Kislev in WFRP1. It is located further west than later Kislev, in a area that would later become the Empire’s province of Ostland. This seems to be consistent with WFB2‘s account of the Grand Duchy, which placed it to the north of the Empire, rather than to its east, as in the case of Kislev in WFRP1. However, I note the intrusion of art into the map creates the possibility that the map legend was simply dislocated because of a lack of space. Certainly the Grand Duchy of Kislev also extends considerably to the east, as Praag is said to lie on the “borders of Kislev” (in this occurrence “Grand Duchy” is notably omitted).
It is not clear from this language whether Praag is considered as lying within the borders of Kislev at this point or merely adjacent to them. Praag is described not as a city, but as a “kingdom”, with its own sovereign, King Zoltan. It is possible, therefore, that it was conceived as a separate nation. This view is perhaps supported by the map’s depiction of Praag as covering a much larger area than a city would occupy. The forces defending Praag also include the mountain people of Khez and the Stalgrad militia, which might refer to separate places within the kingdom.
On the other hand, these features can be interpreted in ways consistent with Praag being part of Kislev. Zoltan could owe allegiance to the ruler of Kislev. The large area on the map might include territory surrounding the city that was under its control. The people of Khez and Stalgrad could be allies of Praag. Overall, the evidence seems to me inconclusive as to Praag’s status at this time, though I believe the more natural interpretation is that it was a distinct realm.
Map in The Quest of Kaleb Daark, part one (left) and the corresponding map in WFRP1 (right)
The strip also features what I believe is the first occurrence of the chant “Blood for the Blood God”, uttered by a Chaos warrior of Khorne. The chant echoes the frequent promises made by Michael Moorcock’s Elric of “blood and souls” for his patron deity Arioch.
“Blood and souls for my lord Arioch!”
– Michael Moorcock, The Weird of the White Wolf (1977), book I, chapter 2
“Arioch! Aid me! Blood and souls for thine aid!”
– Michael Moorcock, Elric of Melniboné (1972), book I, chapter 4
After the first instalment in the Citadel Compendium, The Quest of Kaleb Daark continued in the third Citadel Journal (March 1986) with ‘The God-Slayer’. In this episode Kaleb Daark summons Malal and is instructed by his god to release the goddess Arianka.
The strip includes an attack on Arianka’s coffin by skaven. The involvement of the skaven is not explained, and seems to be no more than an attempt to showcase the race, which was unveiled in the same issue of the Citadel Journal (see part XXXIII). (It might tentatively be inferred that the skaven replaced a different, single foe from the fact that the episode was previewed with the title ‘The God-Slayer’, rather than ‘The God-Slayers’.)
The skaven’s appearance in the strip is the first occurrence of their distinctive speech patterns.
The Quest of Kaleb Daark, part two, ‘The God-Slayer’
Accompanying the cartoon was an article providing background and statistics for Kaleb Daark and his mount.
Extract from the third Citadel Journal (March 1986)
Malal and Arianka appeared briefly in other Warhammer material during this time. Text in an advert for Citadel’s C38 Ogres in WD79 (July 1986) described Skrag the Slaughterer as a follower of Malal.
From an early age, Skrag was recognised to be exceedingly bloodthirsty even for an ogre. Driven from his clan after stealing a rare starmetal axe, he wandered the fringes of the Chaos wastes for some years. It was there that the renegade Chaos god Malal came to him and offered him a pact. Malal guided the ogre to a Chaos Dwarf hold, where he forced the smiths to forge a great suit of plate armour. Once it was fitted, Skrag put all the dwarves to the axe, offering their souls to Malal and using their blood to consecrate his Chaos wargear. He now stalks the battlefields of the world, leaving a trail of carnage dedicated to his master, grafually becoming symbiotic with his armour. He is shadowed by a Chaos dwarf, the lone survivor of the massacre, who has sworn to deliver the ogre’s death-blow.
– White Dwarf 79
Advertisement in White Dwarf 79 (July 1986)
The WFRP1 rulebook (November 1986) included brief descriptions of Malal and Arianka.
Malal is a renegade Chaos God, who has turned against the others and is dedicated to their destruction. His followers, sometimes called the Doomed Ones, seek out and destroy the followers of other Chaos Gods wherever they may be found.
In the distant past, Arianka was defeated and imprisoned by an unnamed Chaos God, and it is said that she lies in a crystal coffin hidden somewhere in the Old World. Many places have claimed to have found her coffin over the centuries, the most recent, according to rumour, being Praag. It is also said that she can be freed from her coffin only by means of some crystal keys, whose location has never been found; it is not even known how many keys there are, and whether they are hidden together or separately.
– Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, first edition, p210
Malal in The Quest of Kaleb Daark and WFRP1
Shortly after WFRP1 was published, a third part of The Quest of Kaleb Daark, ‘Evil of the Warpstone’, appeared in the fourth Citadel Journal (January 1987). In this it is revealed that to release Arianka Daark must retrieve three crystal ikons, with the aid of a magical amulet which can detect them. He then battles with followers of Khorne sent by their god to avenge the death of the Chaos warrior Daark killed in the first instalment. Among Daark’s opponents are Helwud and Jaek, the Chaos Brothers, who are obviously based on the characters Elwood and Jake in The Blues Brothers (1980). At the end of the episode Daark invokes Malal, who manifests and causes an earthquake.
The Quest of Kaleb Daark, part three, ‘Evil of the Warpstone’
The strip was accompanied by another Warhammer article describing the Chaos Brothers. Curiously in the article skaven are associated with Khorne, rather than the Horned Rat: the Chaos Brothers were corrupted by a “Skaven Lord of Decay bent upon moulding malleable young souls to the will of Khorne!”.
Extract from the fourth Citadel Journal (January 1987)
In October 1987 Games Workshop published the Chaos Marauders board game, which included a card called “Claws of Malal”. This suggests that Malal may have remained part of the canonical Warhammer background at that point.
Card from Chaos Marauders (1987)
A fourth episode in The Quest of Kaleb Daark, ‘God Amok’, was promised, but never appeared. The reason for the series’ abrupt end has been commonly described as an intellectual property dispute over the ownership of the characters in the strip. The end of the Citadel Compendium and Journal in their contemporary format may also have been a factor.
Malal was invented for a comic strip without any reference to the actual Chaos gods – I think the comic strip author just wanted to set something up that wouldn’t muddy our background and which he could manipulate as he wanted. Whoever arranged the deal didn’t think to make it clear that the work would be a genre piece and hence GW property – and when it came down to it the author claimed ownership of the IP and GW had to abandon it. Clash of cultures really – in the games industry us poor games writers are used to this kind of thing – not so in the world of comics.
– Rick Priestley, Realm of Chaos 80s
There were, nonetheless, attempts to include Malal in Warhammer after this point, as uncovered by Orlygg (here and here). Unaware of the legal uncertainties, Graeme Davis tried to include Malal in the draft of Realm of Chaos. He selected greater and lesser demons of Malal from some pre-existing drawings by Tony Ackland.
Greater and lesser demons of Malal
I can confirm that I was the one responsible for linking the two demons in Tony’s illos to Malal. During my brief stint on Realm of Chaos, and ignorant of the legal problems with the comic strip, I tried to add Malal to RoC and in one draft I set up these two beasties (from pre-existing art) [as] greater and lesser daemons of Malal. I was quickly set right on the matter and of course Malal did not appear in the final product.
My thinking at the time (which turned out to be completely erroneous) was that the book (and it was only intended to be one book at that time) would benefit from having something new and surprising in it. I already mentioned the line in an early draft that raised the possibility of a great many Chaos Gods existing, and as a roleplayer first and foremost I leaped on it. I went through a huge pile of miscellaneous artwork with a view to grouping images together and creating new Chaos Gods as patrons for the sets I’d created. Of course, it was soon pointed out to me that minis didn’t exist for any of these images, and probably never would, and that creating a new Ruinous Power would commit the company to launching a whole new army with miniatures and a book and everything else – so would I please stop writing about new Chaos Gods!
Specifically about Malal, I thought this was a no-brainer because he had featured in the Kaleb Daark comic and I had not yet heard about the copyright issues. I found a few likely-looking images for a greater and lesser daemon, and started to write Malal up in the same format as the descriptions of the other Chaos Gods. It should be noted that this was before Mike Brunton took over and I was using a much more modest format!
– Graeme Davis, Oldhammer in the New World
Tony Ackland has also suggested designs were also made for Malal’s demonic beasts and steeds.
Demonic beast and steed of Malal
They were concept illustrations of lesser daemons that were not used. I think that the insectoid ones were for Malal. I think it was that one was the riding beastie, and the other one a kind of war dog. I don’t think that Malal himself was particularly insectoid though. This was probably me just trying to give vent to my inner entomologist when I started designing the daemons.
– Tony Ackland, Realm of Chaos 80s
The problem with Malal was that by the time Wagner and Grant has contributed their bit it was hard to pin down distinct characteristics. In comparison, the other Chaos Gods were very heavily planned. Bryan Ansell had the original ideas, John Blanche did some sketches, and then I developed them. I think that Ian Miller threw some ideas in too. Whereas Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories were the main source of inspiration for Bryan, I leaned more towards H P Lovecraft. Without knowing what discussions took place when Wagner and Grant took the job on, its impossible to know what the true origins of Malal were. I do recall that Bryan had thoughts about another Chaos god prior to the strip.
– Tony Ackland, Realm of Chaos 80s
Ken Rolston also included Malal in his draft of the WFRP1 adventure Something Rotten in Kislev (1988). Graeme Davis removed the references from the draft and introduced two new Chaos gods, Zuvassin and Necoho, in Malal’s place.
Acting on a line in an early RoC draft which said that there was an infinite number of Chaos Gods of varying power, I created a couple of new ones for the WFRP adventure Something Rotten in Kislev. Ken Rolston’s original draft called for Malal as the patron of a cult, and it had just become clear that we couldn’t use Malal. So I created Zuvassin the Undoer, who might be described as the patron deity of Murphy’s Law (his symbol was based on a wrench) and Necoho the Doubter, who (in a joke I considered sheer brilliance at the time) was essentially a Chaos God of atheists, opposed to religion in all its forms. So far as I’m aware, neither one appeared anywhere outside that one book.
– Graeme Davis, Oldhammer in the New World
The WFRP adventure Something Rotten in Kislev featured two new, lesser Chaos gods: Zuvassin the Undoer (a patron deity of Murphy’s Law, if you will), and Necoho the Doubter, who was the Chaos God of atheists. I remember thinking the latter was extremely funny at the time. Needless to say, these two never made it into the mainstream of the Warhammer mythos, and were never mentioned again as far as I know.
The cults of Zuvassin and Necoho, from Something Rotten in Kislev (pp97-98)
Malal has reappeared on a number of occasions. William King’s Warhammer short story ‘The Laughter of Dark Gods’, published in David Pringle (ed), Ignorant Armies (1989), mentions “the followers of the renegade god Malal”. I presume King took Malal from the WFRP1 rulebook, which had been given to writers of Warhammer fiction as a primer, and the editing process missed the reference.
In the scenario The Dying of the Light (1995), produced by Hogshead Publishing for WFRP1, a Chaos sorcerer of Tzeentch transfers his allegiance to Malal. It is not clear to me why GW permitted the inclusion of Malal in a Warhammer publication at this time.
Malal also saw a fleeting and surprising renaissance as late as 2009 when Fantasy Flight Games included the “Claws of Malal” card in its reissue of GW’s Chaos Marauders game.
Card from Chaos Marauders (2009)
The Quest of Kaleb Daark has long fascinated gamers. Lost deities of Law and Chaos are tantalising prospects. In reality, however, very little material was created, and what was produced was largely derivative. Kaleb Daark is a pastiche of Michael Moorcock’s Elric. Both are doomed antiheroes in pacts with gods of Chaos. Both sport similar armour and life-draining weapons. Arianka is a vacuous Snow White figure. Malal is the most original element, introducing the idea of renegade Chaos gods. Yet he was scantly described in published materials, and his role as an opponent of Chaos duplicates that of deities like Solkan and Sigmar.
The following chart summarises the chronology of this post relative to others in this section of ‘The WFRP Story’.
Title art by DHDarkHeretic. Internal art by Brett Ewins, Jim McCarthy, Tony Ackland, John Blanche and Christophe Madura. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.