The main character of a series of Warhammer books written by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee. It was initially a comic strip released by Black Library which follows the same general plot but differs in a few areas. The books are mostly set in the distant land of Naggaroth, where the dark elves rule city-states under the fearsome Witch-King.The series consists of five books, as well as a prequel short story Blood Price included in the Malus Darkblade Chronicles: Volume 1, Omnibus Edition.
The Daemon's Curse (May 2005)
Bloodstorm (December 2005)
Reaper of Souls (July 2006)
Warpsword (February 2007)
Lord of Ruin (September 2007)
The plot of the series seems at first to be a standard fantasy cliche: the protagonist must collect five Plot Coupons to save his own soul from a powerful demon that uses the name T'zarkan. The monster is inhabiting his body, but has made a deal with Malus: Collect the five relics needed to loose T'zarkan on the world, and Malus will be free.It's clear early on, however, that their relationship isn't that simple, and Malus is no standard fantasy hero. For one, he's not actually a hero at all, but a ruthless Villain Protagonist: Throughout the series, nearly everyone Darkblade meets will eventually be betrayed by him. Though, admittedly, among the dark elves known as druchii, often it's a race to see who betrays whom first. Even his own family. Especiallyhis own family.Malus Darkblade is not the strongest, smartest, or most skilled of his race, or even of his siblings - but what he is is the most hateful SOB this side of the Chaos Wastes, and he almost never gives up, even when there's no plausible path to success.
A Father to His Men : Surprisingly enough, Malus develops certain qualities of this kind near the end of his journey; taking genuine concern for the needs of his subordinates, giving awesome motivational speeches and even risking his own agendas to avoid excessive casualties.
Affably Evil : Hauclir is more or less the only druchii in the series it is possible to identify with. In a cast full of bloodthirsty madmen and unrepentant sadists (which includes the main protagonist), his snarky, impertinent yet loyal and surprisingly likable persona is quite a relief. His mercenaries in the fifth book, petty crooks and cutthroats each, are also a lot of fun.
Anti-Antichrist : Malus himself. T'Zarkan's manipulations makes him the cornerstone figure of an apocalyptic prophecy of the Temple of Khaine: He's supposed to become the Scourge of Khaine and the Lord of Ruin, wield the Warpsword of Khaine, consort with the Bride of Khaine and usher in the Time of Blood - a genocidal global conquest that will bring about The End of the World as We Know It. Aside from the Warpsword, Malus has zero interest in his Bride (his now-batshit-crazy sister Yasmir) and has more urgent things to do, namely save his hide and soul, than to usher in any sort of apocalypse.
Anti-Magic : The Octagram of Praan, one of the artifacts needed to free T'zarkan, absorbs magic and protects the wearer from spells.
Bigger Bad : T'zarkan is the overall driving villain of the series, possessing Malus and forcing him to recover the keys needed to unseal his Can. He becomes the end-all Big Bad in Lord of Ruin.
Bittersweet Ending : In Reaper of Souls, Nagaira's scheme is thwarted and the Dagger of Torxus is now in Malus' possession, leaving only two artifacts to collect. However, Hag Graef is in ruins, and Malus is now an outlaw for killing Vaulkhar Lurhan and leading the campaign against his city; losing his wealth, his power and his subordinates as a result.
Brother-Sister Incest : Malus and pretty much every one of his half-brothers and sisters has intentions toward/is having an affair with one of their siblings.
Burglir and Yasmir.
Urial is also infatuated with Yasmir, though unfortunately she considers him to be an Abhorrent Admirer.
After Yasmir loses her mind over the course of Bloodstorm, it is revealed that she is destined to become the bride of the Scourge; the prophesied wielder of the Warpsword of Khaine. Urial, who hopes to fulfill the prophecy himself, is naturally delighted. Unfortunately for him, it turns out the prophecy is actually about Malus Darkblade. He doesn't seem terribly invested in the arrangement, though.
Nagaira has evidently had intimate relations with Malus before, though the sorceries she weaves into her body sometimes make it a less-than-pleasurable experience...
Create Your Own Villain : When he is first possessed by T'zarkan, Malus murders all of the retainers he brought with him on the expedition to the temple, including Lhunara. Unfortunately, Lhunara's sheer fury at the betrayal allows her to posthumously make a pact with the Chaos Gods, coming back to life as a Revenant Zombie.
Cruel Mercy : The reason Ahashara chooses to leave Malus alone at the end of Reaper of Souls.
Ahashara: "From this point forward you walk alone, Malus of Hag Graef. I see know how much has been taken from you. You have lost your name and your honor. Your dreams lie in the dust. There is nothing left for you in this life but loneliness, fear and pain."
Malus: "So you will not kill me after all?"
Ahashara: "No. You deserve no such mercy."
To get some information out of a wounded Khaine worshipper, Malus threatens to... leave him alive and treat his wounds. The Khainite is horrified that a fellow druchii would sink that low. Malus only wounded him in the first place because the Khainite attacked Malus after he saved him from being killed, which he considered a grave insult.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder : Almost every druchii in the entire series, including Malus. They make and betray alliances whenever it's convenient, necessary, or profitable.
The entire second book is essentially the build-up to a massive Unfriendly Fire climax where Malus, three of his siblings, and a couple Wild Cards are all just waiting for the right moment to kill nearly everyone else.
Combat Pragmatist : Malus fights dirty, he uses the scenery when necessary, and will sacrifice his own soldiers' lives if it means potentially getting the upper hand.
Cool Sword : The Warpsword of Khaine, one of the relics T'zarkan requires. Not only is it a powerful weapon, it allows Malus to resist the daemon's influence while wielding it.
Deadpan Snarker : One reason Hauclir is such a popular character is that his dry sense of humour is one readers can identify with. Though to be fair, this sort of humour does seem to be a Dark Elf thing, so maybe it's not all bad.
"I'm fine," snarled Malus. "These jagged rocks managed to break my fall."
Deadly Decadent Court : All druchii cities are ruled by one of these. They even have rules for how close you're allowed to stand to someone else, measured in swordlengths, because the highborn nobles are so prone to killing each other.
Daemonic Possession : T'zarkan is gradually turning Malus into a daemonhost in the hopes of using his body to fulfill prophesies he wrote himself millenia before. Subverted in that the demon T'zarkan is using Malus's body to try and escape a crystal prison, but he is limited in that Malus has to ask for demonic power for him to spread his influence in a bid to take over his body entirely. As a result, Malus remains mostly free-willed through most of the series.
A mercenary in the fifth book briefly mourns the loss of his mother's keepsake.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones : Malus' half-brother Urial is deeply infatuated with their sister, Yasmir (though this probably has more to do with the prophecy he hopes to fulfill).
Yasmir herself is in a relationship with her brother Burglir, who is in turn loved by his second-in-command, Tanithra.
Lhunara had fallen in love with Malus while she was alive, but never told him before he suddenly betrayed and killed her. As a Revenant Zombie, her single-minded obsession with killing him stems from this.
Even Evil Has Standards : For all his depravity, some displays of cruelty disturb even Malus; such as the way the forest-dwelling autarii mutilate their druchii slaves (cut off their ears, pluck out their eyes and cut out their tongues). Don't get him wrong, torturing people horribly is fun, but you're supposed to kill them afterwards, damn it, not force them to drag out such wretched existence!
Played with in the comic. After murdering a whole party of dark elves in cold blood for an artifact, Malus reveals that one of them was his father. Cue T'zarkan's mocking disbelief upon finding out: "...Sometimes, Malus Darkblade, you scare even me. And I'm a demon.".
Evil Cripple : Malus' half-brother Urial, who was born weak and malformed. Because of this, he was going to be sacrificed to Khaine, but the cauldron of boiling blood he was to die in mysteriously broke apart, and the child survived. Taking it as an omen, the Temple of Khaine took Urial in and trained him as an acolyte.
Evil Is Visceral : All over the place. Torture and violence is the druchii way of life, and they can be very creative with it.
The state religion of Naggaroth is the worship of Khaela Menshia Khaine; the bloody-handed god of war and murder. The centre of this religion, Har Ganeth, is often called The City of Executioners.
Genre Savvy : In his quest, Malus collects five extremely powerful relics, including two terrible magic weapons and amulets that protect one from all harm... and he almost never uses them because he knows that he ends up getting captured or knocked out several times per book; nearly every person he meets would rob him blind if they knew what he possessed. He usually keeps them in a saddlebag on his mount, Spite, under the belief that nobody wants to risk getting their arm bitten off by a surly giant lizard.
Genuine Human Hide : Or dwarven; or elven; all perfectly legitimate materials for tailoring.
Horny Vikings : The Chaos-worshipping marauders who raid Naggaroth from island strongholds on its northern sea. So horrifyingly brutal that even the druchii think they're crazy - which, if you know anything about dark elves in general, means quite a bit. Worst among these raiders are the Skinriders: Followers of the plague-god Nurgle who skin their victims and wear the hides as clothing.
In the Blood : Malus's family is chalk full of bastards, heretics, and murderers... which practically makes them model citizens of dark elf society.
It's All About Me: For the most part of the narrative Malus Darkblade doesn't give a shit about anything not called Malus Darkblade. He slightly grows out of it by the very end, when he reasons that if his life and soul are most likely forfeight anyway, he could at least hold to his honor.
"The loss in ships and men did not concern Malus. He would've gladly ground continents into dust if that meant bringing him closer to his goal."
Karma Houdini : Averted. While Malus generally survives his adventures, the prices he pays are staggering: He loses his status, riches, and authority; even his very soul is at risk. Any time it looks like he's going to get away with something unforgivable, it's only so that he can play a role in somebody else's scheme.
Literal Genie : Malus, at one point, wishes he had a sword. T'zarkan offers to create a sword for him, but Malus declines because he knows that T'zarkan loves this trope and would probably make a bone sword growout of his wrist or something.
T'zarkan: "It wouldn't have to grow out of your wrist..."
Must Make Amends : In the last book, Lord of Ruin, Malus realizes that his ex-retainer Hauclir, the closest thing he's had to a real friend in a year, is going to die. Malus is home free as long as he keeps the Warpsword of Khaine close, as it prevents T'zarkan from controlling his actions, but his blood has healing properties when T'zarkan is in control. He puts down the sword and bleeds on Hauclir's wounds; he saves Hauclir's life, but loses control of his body, allowing T'zarkan to proceed with his endgame.
Smug Snake: That "not the strongest, smartest, or most skilled of his race, or even of his siblings" part? Malus spends quite some time aknowledging it, during which he reguralry makes some rather stupid and costly mistakes. For instance, he challenges the Beastman shaman to a duell for possession of the Anti-Magic amulet he's already wearing and doesn't bother to stipulate the rule against using magic, because, hey, he's immune to it! It doesn't occur to Malus that the shaman might use magic to buff himself, which he does, nearly killing the druchii.
Superpowered Evil Side : T'zarkan is effectively this to Malus, practically turning him into a demon right there so he can use nasty claws and supernatural strength and speed to fight his way out of a tough situation. He can barely control himself when he's like this. Of course, since Malus was evil in the first place, there might not be a lot of difference...
The Power of Hate : Druchii culture as a whole seems to run on this concept. Malus himself provides the page quote:
The Unfavorite : Malus, for being the bastard offspring of Vaulkhar Lurhan and Eldire the sorceress. It really says something when even your physically-deformed step-brother is regarded more highly than you.
In the prequel short story Blood Price, Lurhan bribes the captain responsible for Malus' hakseer-cruise in an attempt to ensure the young highborn never survives his first raiding mission.
Villain Protagonist : Malus Darkblade is a deeply unpleasant man, but he's the protagonist and it's even possible to root for him simply because all the other characters are just as bad or worse than he is.
Wrong Genre Savvy : Related to Genre Savvy above. Numerous times, Malus runs into situations where one of the artifacts he's collected on his quest would have protected him from harm or allowed him to fight an otherwise unstoppable enemy, but he left it back with his mount to keep it safe.
Because he miraculously survived being dropped into a cauldron of boiling blood as an infant, Urial believes he is The Chosen One destined to wield the Warpsword of Khaine and bring about The End of the World as We Know It. He isn't. The Warpsword he takes from the Temple of Khaine is actually a replica, and the original artifact is later found by the real chosen one - Malus Darkblade.
Yank the Dog's Chain: Malus is allowed to gather and keep the artifacts he needs to release T'Zarkan. Everything else that goes even slightly in his favor is promptly taken away or otherwise nullified.
Your Days Are Numbered : Malus is given one year to find all of T'zarkan's artifacts, or else he loses his soul forever.
You Have Failed Me : For her failure to defeat the armies of Naggaroth in the name of the Chaos Gods, Nagaira's sorcerous powers turn against her, destroying her completely.