DARK ELVES Q&A: ON THE BACKGROUND

Neves

Hi Gav!

When the new book was released I was first at the store at 10:01 am! I love how the background story feels, you really want to start hating the High Elves just because they always win by luck or some trick, not by military cunning like the Dark Elves.

What I always have been wondering is, could anyone (besides Morathi) replace Malekith? The Druchii have lots of high standing nobles, so there must be some that might get to the top should Malekith perish. *I didn’t read all the Q’s above so this might have been asked before*

Thanks for the great things you did in GW!

Bye!

I don’t think that the Dark Elf society could maintain itself in its current form without Malekith. Malekith retains his position as much by being a kingmaker and power broker as he does his individual sorcerous skills and physical abilities (aided by Morathi). Malekith is the only true heir to Aenarion and were he to be removed from the equation the Dark Elves would fall upon each other in the subsequent power vacuum. If the other noble families of Naggaroth decided to overthrow Naggarond, it would be possible to oust Malekith. However, those families would never agree upon a single successor to back and their self-interest destroys any chance of cooperation between them. Thus, Malekith does not have to stay more powerful than all of the other families combined, only more powerful than the strongest of the rest. As soon as one family starts getting too big for their boots, Malekith can apply the leverage he has to elevate another dynasty to a level of competition with them and both are then plunged into weakening rivalry with each other. As far as the Dark Elf nobility is concerned, if anyone is going to be in charge it has to be Malekith and not some other family  – “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”

jbtotor

Hi Gav, thanks for the new book. I’ll just ask you a single (background) question: who is Furion? His name appears in the new book as was the case in the previous one, but he remains mysterious. Could you tell us more about him, give us some precisions, even if, I guess, you might not have a precise idea of who he really is (just help us to imagine him in the way you imagined him). Many Dark Elf players are interested in Furion and invented him a story, a life (they made him a great immortal sorcerer who is one of Malekith’s closest advisers) and rules, what do you think about it?

Cheers.

I genuinely have as much information about Furion as everybody else. He was a narrator created by Tuomas Pirinen for parts of the early draft of the 6th edition book that I inherited from him – but there was no explanatory documentation that delved any deeper. I think the creations envisaged by the community gel with my own impressions of this enigmatic figure. Perhaps Furion will make some kind of cameo in the Sundering trilogy…

WarpGhost

Gav. Firstly, it’s great to have you hosting a Q+A session on the less rules side of the Games Devs’ jobs; I think these areas tend to get neglected in the rush to beat the snot out of the other guy.

I have 3 questions (please note that I haven’t been able to get the book yet due to recovering from an operation, so bear with me if I touch on stuff that is expanded over the last book):

1) What is the reasoning and rationalisation for the Dark Elves just turning away from Slaanesh (and being able to), and returning to Khaine? It’s not like anyone else has ever been able to turn their back on the Ruinous Powers, yet the DE achieved it and nothing is ever really made of this. Why was this background decision even taken? What benefit does Khaine give to writing up the race that Slaanesh worship wouldn’t? Conversely, what sort of opportunities does it close up?

2) Life outside the six cities. The wonderful maps of Naggaroth reveal a great many fascinating areas and terrains of this vast continent, yet everything focuses solely on six small and territorially insignificant locations. Is there life outside the city walls? Do Druchii exist in settlements all over the continent? What is life like outside the cities? I’ve always been interested in portraying a more ‘provincial’ Druchii than one ever gets to see. I’d love to know a bit more about the place, the whole place, that the Druchii inhabit

Good luck with your recuperation!

1.                  The subject of Slaanesh first came up when we were looking at the High Elves background and the Cult of Slaanesh. I had a long conversation with Rick Priestley and Alan Merrett, who expressed concerns that the worship of Slaanesh was not consistent with the rest of the Dark Elf approach to the gods. In a nutshell and without getting too metaphysical, it posed the question of why Dark Elves worship Slaanesh and at the same time also worship Khaine and not Khorne. There’s a never-ending debate about how the gods perceived by the Warhammer races are part of or separate from the Chaos Gods and this was encapsulated in the Khaine/ Khorne dichotomy. It seemed a far more plausible and characterful solution that while the Elves descended into debauchery and excess they would do so via their own pantheon of gods, just as Aenarion was a disciple of Khaine and not Khorne. This gave me the opportunity to explore the religious side of the Elves with more vigour, in particular expanding upon the classical Greek/ Roman approach to worship that the Elves beliefs are based upon. The idea that there are darker gods in the pantheon that all Elves accept, but only the Dark Elves pray to and give sacrifice to was a nice way to lead into the the idea of the ‘Dark’ Elves. This is something that is further explored in Malekith.

2.                  Most of Naggaroth lies under the influence of the Realm of Chaos, the so-called Shadowlands or Chaos Wastes. The new book explains in more detail how the cities of the Dark Elves were created, and the function they play in Dark Elf society. Each is a semi-independent state under the reign of the Witch King and would have its own subsidiary network of slave-worked farms, mines, port and so on. Bear in mind that at any given time, a large proportion of the Dark Elf populace has been at war and so off on the fleets or fighting on foreign shores, there is not much need for the traditional infrastructure of a nation in Naggaroth. I am sure there are small enclaves of Dark Elves in some of the more inhabitable regions of Naggaroth but these would be seen very much as the domain of yokels and the dispossessed. A good example are the Shades, who live in the mountains.

Irtehdar

Finally a background question. How does Druchii marriages work? Are they all planned as part of political scheming or do Druchii (occasionally) marry for love?

I don’t think love as we understand it exists for the Dark Elves. Clearly there are bonds between certain Dark Elves that go beyond simple duty or fear, but one must remember that the Dark Elves have become so pernicious and self-centred that no Dark Elf is going to trust another Dark Elf in the way that we would equate to a conventional marriage. Mutual self-interest may breed a certain degree of loyalty and respect over many centuries, and there is some small measure of familial affection between parents and children, but if it ever comes down to the final crunch, every Dark Elf is out for himself or herself and ‘loved ones’ are as quickly sacrificed as complete strangers in the interest of survival or power.

Lord Limenix

Greetings from Greece. I’m very excited about the new book and truly believe an awesome job has been done. My only disappointment was about city garrison not making it in the new army book. Anyway I’d like to ask why Dark Elves, although the world’s best beastmasters, haven’t managed to tame the big Star Dragons as the High elves did? I was really hoping for such a dragon even if only for Malekith (Khaine bless him!!!).

The Black Dragons of the Dark Elves are descended from eggs stolen from the Caledorian highlands by Malekith’s agents over the millenia, raised to be cruel and vengeful beasts, warped by dark magic and cowed by the lashes and barbs of the Beastmasters. The Star Dragons are immense, ancient monsters from before the Time of Aenarion and can only be found in Caledor. Even if the Dark Elves somehow caught such a beast, it would be impossible to break to their will – the Dragonmasters of Caledor didn’t tame the Star Dragons, or any Dragons for that matter, they allied with them.

Malorn

Hi Gav

I’m still a little new to Druchii, even though I have played them for seven years. It’s mostly the background where I lack the knowledge.

What significance did it have for Morathi’s image in the eyes of the Dark Elves, as well as Malekith himself, that she allied herself with a Chaos god, in disrespect of Khaine, and travelled down through Naggaroth with a large army of Chaos worshippers, whom the Dark Elves for centuries have fought to keep them away from Naggaroth?

My other question is concerning older campaigns. Let’s take the Albion campaign as an example. The Dark Elves, High Elves and Dwarfs fought the best and got the treasures. And we cheered. But with the new army books, we can tell, that the treasures were for a limited time only. I’m not saying we should get the stupid gauntlet back, but is a part of GW’s internal agenda to consider past campaign achievements? It would be great to have some credit in the edition, for claiming parts of Albion’s treasure. Even if it’s only background wise

I think Morathi would have been rightly lauded for her stroke of genius. In subduing the Chaos hordes threatening Naggaroth and diverting them onto Ulthuan, she demonstrated one of the underelying beliefs (delusions?) of the Dark Elves – that they can control the power of Chaos for their own ends. Since the very beginning, the Naggarothi have claimed that they have the strength to meddle with the darkest powers and come out on top.

With regards to Dark Shadows and other campaigns, the answer is twofold. As I mentioned in a previous answer the brief was that the campaigns were to be treated as self-contained in terms of background. That said, had I the space for an extra item or two in the Magic Items section I could have included them and made a vague reference to the fact that they were won from the temples upon the rain-shrouded isle of Albion. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the space and doing so wasn’t a priority for me when choosing the magic items I would include.

pete

If you were ever asked to bring the Dark Elf/High Elf saga to a conclusion what would you do? Would the Dark Elves succumb to their hubris or could they really master the Winds of Chaos and enslave the Chaos Gods (along with everybody else)?

Are there any plotlines that you considered following that you dismissed because they were too disruptive to the status quo?

I’d refuse to bring any kind of conclusion to the saga, and in truth I would never be asked to. The Warhammer world is a setting not an ongoing narrative. This means that the story is told up to a certain point and then things are left as they are as a backdrop for the players’ armies and battles. The Dark Elves do not exist in any kind of context other than ongoing conflict. Like all bad guys who want to ‘rule the world’ they cannot win without destroying that same world. If they were ever to reconquer Ulthuan then they would not be Dark Elves anymore, they would simply be nasty Elves, and quite frankly I don’t think they really would know what to do if they succeeded! In regard to the second part of the question, there wasn’t really any plot line like that for the reasons I’ve just explained. Throughout 6th edition I changed the presentation of the current Warhammer world from one where the ultimate battle for survival between the races wasn’t something that was going to happen, but was something that was occurring now – the End Times, the actual presence of Dark Elf armies on Ulthuan, Archaon’s attacks. This makes the wars more immediate and real, less of a theoretical struggle and more of a conflict that is going on right now. This was maintained, though somewhat toned down, with the current Dark Elves book.

Dju

Hi Gav (and hamster),

I’m not a native English speaker, so please forgive my mistakes. I used to work for Games Workshop France’s translation Studio (I am now translating BL novels, sadly, none of yours yet). I worked on the French version of the previous Dark Elves army book, and the thing that amazed me was the sheer violence of that society. Druchii, being Elves in the first place, are supposed to have a long life span, but how can they even reach the age of manhood (elfhood?), with all the wars (both internal and against the outer world), sacrifices, festivals of violence, celebrations of Khaine and so on ? With the “streets running red with blood” every two weeks? You can’t have so many slaves to play with, so how are they not all dead already?

Thanks a lot, Julien.

This is where the difference between setting and story comes into its own. The Dark Elves and their society are an image, created to convey a particular group of emotions and thoughts. As an image they are free from any logic, their nature sustained purely by the needs of narrative determinism and internal consistency. Consistency is not the same as logic, and if one explores the image in too much depth then it will fall apart, just as if one examines a painting one brush stroke at a time one misses the whole painting. Now, this creates a limit on the amount of detail and story that can be injected into any given race or army or event, other than within its own context. The Dark Elves society works (for want of a better term) because that is what the image requires. If one attempts to justify the exact mechanics of this process it threatens to obscure the image. If one explains away one part of the image, it simply invites further question and analysis that the image is not designed to sustain, so that the image is eventually rendered down into the mundane.

This is a tightrope that must be walked by all creators, so that the image still makes ‘sense’ enough to maintain a certain level of believability. Where such questions arise, it is often the case that the image is not strong enough on its own merits to ward away the inquiries. An image that maintains its purity and strength exists for itself and does not require further explanation.

 Is it truly possible for a society to exist in the state described for the Dark Elves? Probably not. Does it matter? Absolutely not. The fact is, it is unimportant whether or not Dark Elves really would need to be butchers and bakers and candlestick makers. What attracts us is the notion that they don’t have these things. This is often described as the Rule of Cool, usually in some kind of derogatory fashion. It is in fact nothing more or less than poetic or literary license to imagine what such a society might look like, rather than to work out the complex mechanics required for it to exist in reality. That is the beauty of fantasy!

Keith

Dear Gav:

Oddly enough, I just finished reading Reaper of Souls last night and was astounded by the mayhem released on Hag Graef during the course of the novel and the same question posed by Julien floated through my mind. In that I know or I suppose BL thinks about these things deeply and I assume they vet all new posed elements to their world way in advance has there been any discussion as to population control? Further, can you give us any hints as to revelations about the society of the dark elves in your new novel–Malekith? And, how does that work, anyway? Does a committee present you with elements to be revealed in the novel or do you come up with ideas and present them to a committee to be vetted?

Best Regards as always,

The majority of Black Library publications add depth rather than breadth to the Warhammer universes. That is, they focus upon a small part of the world and burrow into more detail, adding defined characters and events to the images as laid out by the rulebooks and supplements. In this regard, it is up to the individual authors and editors to continue the consistency established by the setting, but any notion of particular detail being ‘correct’ or incorporated is erroneous. Just as every person who collects an army, paints a model or plays a game creates their very own slice of the Warhammer world or 40K universe – like an infinite array of the multiverse with one universe consistent for every player – each author also has their own sandpit to play in. This is where fans often get very hung up on the idea of canon, and the fact that there isn’t any. No one exploration of this depth is definitive nor prescriptive to future realisations of the image, just as the fact that Karl Franz was killed by an Orc bolt thrower in your last game doesn’t mean players can’t use them in subsequent battles…

Where coordination, planning and review are required is if BL (or anyone else for that matter) broadens the setting. This means that an image isn’t merely being explored, but created by the authors. The Horus Heresy series is a case in point, as is Time of Legends, although there are a few one-off series and novels that require similar treatment – Angels of Darkness explored new ground in this way, before the HH series was up and running. In this regard new images and consistencies – rules for want of a better term – are being introduced. Though the details may again be subject to individual interpretation, the images, atmosphere and style of the setting is being expanded (or in the case of HH created pretty much from scratch). Future works (and writers) are held accountable to these images and ‘truths’, so they must be recognised and deliberately assimilated into the presentation of the setting. In these circumstances, the BL editors, the writers and certain people from the GW ‘hobby’ division must agree upon the ground rules being laid down, with the ultimate arbiter being the Intellectual Property Manager. In practice this usually takes the shape of an informal process of discussion documents, conversations and meetings until everyone is happy they have the information – and the decisions – required for everyone to proceed.

Published on August 12, 2008 at 2:58 pm  Comments (49)  

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  1. [...] The next instalment of the Dark Elves Q&A, on the background, can now be found here. Published [...]

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  2. Hello Gav

    I would like to ask, how is recent situation about Ghrond. In the former book it was stronghold of Khaine, and now it is near to the convent main centre.

    Gav – On researching the latest Dark Elves book I went back to the background as written in the first Armies book on the race. Ghrond was always used to study the Realms of Chaos and considering how other background elements had evolved it seemed natural to place the Convent of Sorceresses there.

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  3. Thanks for your answer. Excuse me but i have another question:
    I decided to make a female master on cold one. And i used a whip from charioteer. I will play this figure with the magic weapon “whip of agony” and i wrote a few short stories about this hero.

    I based it on the one daughter of druchii nobility who was sent to the wachtower garrison as a penalty for her violation of family tradition. She is a follower of Atharti. And now, what should happen, if she will meet with slaanesh followers? Both, Atharti and Slaanesh, contain a large similar lore and sphere. What should they think of about each other? I think that for this Druchii will be slaanesh only a barbarian god. And can i find anywhere any info about Atharti? She is described only in one or two sentences in our new book…

    Anyway, the new idea of elven pantheon is a very good. I dislike words “your elves worship chaos!”.

    Gav – Hi. I think I’ll write a short post soon concerning the development of the Elven gods as there seems to be some discussion and questions around this.

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    • I would really welcome such post, I was desperately searching for it many times since You mentioned it. As much as I love Malekith and Shadow King, I have to admitt these books make the whole stuff even more confusing, especially since You (at least in my opinion) seem to use more and more TOTAL retcons (especially when it comes to Slaanesh and Elves)

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      • On Slaanesh – Back when we were rewriting the High Elves and Dark Elves, there was much discussion with Rick Priestley and Alan Merrett regarding the relationship between elves and Slaanesh. The conclusion reached was that it seemed highly strange that the elves would worship one Chaos God in its ‘raw’ form (Slaanesh) whilst simultaneously worshipping another (Khorne) in a elfified version (Khaine). So it was decided that while a few of the highest-ranking cult members might know the true power bein worshipped (Morathi, and later Malekith and maybe a few others) it would be unpalatable to the vast majority of elves, hence the debasement of the cytherai into the Cults of Pleasure. It is part of the insidious corruption of Chaos that one can be the pawns of the gods without even knowing it!

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  4. Hi. I wish to thank you for an amazing job you´re doing.Army Book is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

    Unfortunately idiots from local post are not able to deliver me your book – Malekith, so I do not know, how are druchii gods desribed there.

    I do not like to rewrite my storie, cause I am terribly lazy. So I beg you to be little inspired by this story ( WARNING – baaad English ): http://sezax.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/holy-night/

    I just love the idea of Slaanesh seducing Ereth Khial.

    QUESTIONS:
    1. How is it with Morai Heg? Does she belong between the dark gods or not? Do some druchii worship her? What is her relationship to Ereth Khial?

    2. Which goddess is the Dark Mother mentioned in Darklade´s books?

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    • I see Morai Heg as sitting between the two ‘brands’ of gods. She is neither dark nor light, but can be seen as both depending on what you want from her. The High Elves would see Morai Heg as a divine prophetess, while the druchii would more likely entreat her to seal the doom of a hated adversary.

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  5. Dark Mother is a name taken from the Lloth (AdnD and DnD games). It is a shame for the author that he copied it without any thing from DE background (he wrote it before our new pantheon).

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  6. Hey Gav

    I have been playing Dark Elves for about a year now and have read the Darkblade series. After reading i came up with a brackground story for my army that revolves around a cult war between the Slannesh cultists and the disciples of Khaine. I wnted to ask what do you think would be the odds of such a war occuring if the cultists gained enough power?

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    • Hi there,

      I imagine there to be an ongoing power struggle between the various cults that sometimes escalates into open violence. Given the dominant nature of the Cult of Khaine, I would suggest that any other cult trying to usurp power would be doing so on a local level rather than across the whole of Naggaroth. Of course, if the cult decided to strike whilst Malekith was busy, or were to get his secret support, they could probably kick up quite a fuss before anyone does anything about it.

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  7. Are Morathi and Malekith the oldest and most powerful Elves alive?.

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    • Certainly the oldest, and probably the most powerful, though Arial of the Wood Elves is pretty special too (she cheats by being the incarnation of a goddess, though!).

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  8. As far as the lore is concerned if Malekith and Morathi ever got into a fight in which they were trying to kill eachother who would win? Morathi with her magical supremecy and countless daemonic pacts or Malekith with his balance between sorcerous mastery and martial prowess?

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    • Good question, one that is hinted at in Malekith but neither of them is really trying too hard in the confrontation in that novel. First off, I think that if one of them decided they really needed to do away with another, direct confrontation would be a last resort. If it did come down to a face-to-face duel to the death, my money would be on…

      Mutual (self-) destruction! And possibly large swathes of Naggaroth with them. Seriously, both would probably start opening doors that shouldn’t be opened in their attempts to destroy each other, unleashing all sorts of badness into the world, whihc would most lilely lead to both of them trying to draw on more dark magic than even they can control. Morathi would go too far with her daemonic allies and eventually slip up, while Malekith will probably end up getting sucked back into the Realm of Chaos by the Circlet of Iron…

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  9. What about a fight between Malekith and Malus Darkblade? I mean Malekith has some potent magic but Malus has survived plenty of sorcerers, besides having the Warpsword of Khaine and Tz’arkan as a backup plan.

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    • Malus is a pretty nasty piece of work, and Tz’Arkan is a powerful daemon, but if he brings along Spite that means Malekith gets his Black Dragon… The Witch King has survived everything that’s been thrown at him by mortals and gods, if not always wholly intact; it’d take more than Malus can offer to kill the Witch King; Tz’arkan might survive though!

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  10. Dear Gav
    This is concerning a possible error in the sundring series. After reading Malekith and Shadow King, I decided to try and draw a map of Anlec. I then discovered that in the first book it said that eighty high towers and many miles of walls surrounded the city. But in the second it said that it was twenty towers, each a small castle in its own rights. Is this merly an error or is there two walls, an inner and outer wall?

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    • Hi there. Anlec has two rings of defences. There is an outer system of towers protecting the approaches, and then the city wall itself which obviously has its own towers. Hope that clears up the matter.

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      • So, a ring of eighty towers before walls and twenty towers on the walls. Thanks. Just one last question. How large is the city?

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      • I think that’s right, without checking… :-$

        Anlec is large, for an elven city, though we’re not talking London or New York here. It was the first city built on Ulthuan and during the war against the daemons Anlec and Tor Caled (more of that in Caledor :) ) would have been the major population centres. After the war the population woul dhave dispersed, and would have been further diminished by the exodus during the colonisation period, so I expect large parts of Anlec would be empty. That said, Nagarythe must have been by far the most populous part of Ulthuan despite its barren areas in order for it to have lasted do long going up against the other kingdoms.

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  11. Hey Gav,

    First of all, you are a lovely writer, keep up the good work.
    There are a couple of questions that have been bugging me. I hope you or anyone else can answer them for me, since I’m still relatively new to Warhammer Fantasy.
    I know Malekith was burned quite terribly by hte Flames of Asuryan and had the Armor of Midnight fused to his skin. Here’s my first question. Does he still eat or anything? Can any part of his armor be removed? Because if he eats and drinks still he needs to excrete sometimes. I heard he removed his helmet in one Dark Elves Army book so can he remove any other pieces of armor?
    Another question I want to ask is does he or does he not possess something called the Hand of Khaine? IF so, what is that, and what does it look like?
    The final question was brought on but reading an interesting debate. Is Malekith really the son of Aenerion? They were saying that because his mother qorshipped pleasure gods and worshipping them involves sexual activity, that perhaps Malekith was conceived from a fellow cultist/victim. Thanks to anyone who can answer these questions for me!!!

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    • Malekith’s sustenance is touched upon in ‘Caledor’, but basically he is a being of sorcery now so has no need to eat or drink to sustain himself. In that book one will also get to see the forging of the Armour of Midnight and it becomes pretty clear that only his helmet comes off. In truth, he has very little reason to remove that either, as underneath he is a ravaged, burnt skeleton and not much more…

      The Hand of Khaine is more of a euphemism than an actual object. In came about because the previous model didn’t have the shield in Malekith’s original rules (I don’t know why, that was arranged before I took over the project) so I cam up with the Hand of Khaine concept to be something cool. I can imagine Malekith portraying himself as an incarnation of Khaine, using his magical powers to give himself The Bloody Hand.

      I like the idea that perhaps Aenarion did not sire Malekith, a nice little Chaos conspiracy theory. Only Morathi would truly know, and she’s not saying… She certainly made Malekith and everyone else believe that Aenarion was the legitimate father.

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      • Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions!!! I look forward to ‘Caledor’ coming out to finish off the Sundering series.

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  12. Greetings. I recently got into a discussion with a friend about the High elf / Druchii populations and we didnt arrive at any conclusions. It is said in army book that the High elf population is in a steady decline, however no such statement is made in any Druchii army book unless im mistaken. What is your take on this issue? Also what would be the rough estimate on both races Population ?

    P.s I hope this discussion isnt closed and that my quiestions will reach you
    Best Regards Cyr

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    • I really wouldn’t like to put a number on the population levels – from a writer’s point of view it has always been that there are enough for whatever purposes the story needs. It stands to reason that the Druchii numbers had to expand somehow, they started off as a single kingdom and are now a nation unto themselves. Having left behind a lot of the traditions and taboos of Elven society I would assume that there’s more breeding going on in Naggaroth than Ulthuan. Also, the Druchii are a it more dynamic in culture, outgoing (if only to go out on raids!) whereas the Asur have become insular, drawing on a dwindling genestock and bound up by generations of familial ties and traditions.

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  13. Hi Gav,

    This Q and A is really amazing. I’m glad I found it. I have listened to a couple of interviews you did with various Warhammer podcasts and really enjoyed them. There has been something that has been on my mind:

    I don’t quite understand how Dark Elf society works. If every member of their society is selfish and disloyal, how do they stick together?

    Even though they are kept together by fear/hatred/etc, it seems to me that things would eventually reach a boiling point and they would be torn apart by civil war and factionalism. This is quite a contrast of their image as elite, organized, and professional warriors (at least this has been my impression from the 4th and 6th edition books).

    It seems to me that their background has changed a bit from 6th edition. I got the impression that still saw themselves as the proud descendants of Nagarythe and rightful rulers of Ulthuan who had been terribly wronged by their kind. They see all of the bad things they do as justified by this betrayal and over the centuries all of their wickedness has corrupted their society. This made them somewhat sympathetic and interesting to play.

    In the 7th edition book, the Dark Elves are just evil. Cartoon evil. It makes them seem much less believable.

    Am I interpreting the background right? Is this change in tone simply a shift in perspective (first person in the 6th ed book and third person in the 7th)?

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    • I would, naturally, disagree with your assessment that the latest portayal of the Dark Elves pictures them as cartoon evil. To our eyes, the Dark Elves are utterly immoral and self-serving, capable of acts of violence and debauchery that are beyond anything we might contemplate, but that is not their only driving force. They value independence and strength, whether physical, magical or political, and in the harshest regime possible they support a meritocracy. Cunning and bravery are highly valued, as are martial expertise and political intelligence. Weakness is not tolerated, and so Dark Elf society is made up of, and dominated by, those individuals capable of excercising their will and achieving their ambitions. A good example are the corsairs, who risk life and limb on highly dangerous raids in order to gather physical wealth and politicl influence. One big haul can set up a dark elf for life, creating a new dynasty for future generations.

      Yet for all their individual efforts, the dark elves are also united as a society by their hatred of their high elf cousins, their disdain for all other creatures and their overwhelming desire to become the most powerful culture in the world. While loyalty may be temporary, resulting from expediency, the system is self-regulating to ensure that no one individual becomes too powerful – all under the watchful (and insane) gaze of Malekith.

      Were the spartans cartoon evil for having a heavily slave-dependent society dominated by a martial class and steered by mystical seers and prophets? The interplay of the cults, ruling dynasties and other institutions continue to keep dark elf society moving along rather than imploding, bound together my mutual self-interest.

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      • I have been thinking about this again recently and I think you make some great points. I particularly like you comparison with Sparta.

        To me, the High Elves borrow a lot of their image from ancient Athens. Like the Athenians they are poets, artists, scholars, philosophers, seafarers, and traders. They also have a king that’s elected by his peers (not quite like Athens, but at least there is some degree of consent about who rules)

        The Dark Elves borrow at least some of their image from ancient Sparta. Like the Spartans they are war-like, martial, disciplined. Their society is geared almost entirely towards military discipline. Also like the Spartans, they have a slave class (Helots) that support the society and they engage in ritual brutalization of the slaves in order to ensure that they remain docile.

        I particularly like this comparison because the Spartans and Athenians were bitter rivals, just like the Dark Elves and High Elves.

        You probably thought about all of this as you were creating the image for the army book.

        I guess my “cartoon evil” comment came about because I think that the Dark Elves lack subtlety.

        I like the image of the Dark Elves as fallen, bitter, and corrupted. They have always been proud and disciplined. After their leader was betrayed and they had to flee their homeland to settle in an hospitable land, they also became hateful and pragmatic.

        The Dark Elves want revenge for what happened to them and they will stoop to any level to get it. In that way they are a lot like many antiheroes.

        To me, the Dark Elves are like Batman or the Count of Monte Cristo.

        Some of the armybook background detracts from this somewhat by making them do evil things just for it’s own sake. For example there is a bit about Dark Elf merchants keeping enchanted bones of dead slaves in their bedchambers so that they can listen to them wail as they sleep. This is not only unnecessarily evil, but also probably quite distracting!

        To me, this lacks subtlety. It makes makes them seem less like the Count of Monte Cristo and more like Skeletor. It’s “cartoon evil.” Evil for it’s own sake.

        This was really long, but it’s my two cents.

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      • I can’t take all of the credit for the Sparta and Athens angle, as that was passed on to me by Rick Priestley.

        The problem, as I see it, is that the Dark Elves are not Batman or the Count of Monte Cristo, because they really have got little justification for their maliciousness. While they might once, at the outset, have had a genuine aggrievement about the throne passing from Aenarion’s son to Bel Shanaar, Malekith and the Druchii’s subsequent behaviour puts them beyond any kind of atonement or redemption. They are spiteful, hurtful beings, driven by a need to prove their superiority. They do not seek justice, or even revenge, they have come to a point where they simply want to inflict pain on other creatures as an amend to their own hurt. They are bullies and torturers, who not only commit heinous acts against each other and their foes, but take a great deal of pleasure from doing so.

        While I understand that many Dark Elves fans would like to see them with a more sympathetic edge, that’s just not what they’re about, or for that matter what Warhammer is about. They are evil. True evil is a knowing evil, and that’s what the dark elves are. They are bad to the bone and luxuriate in their depravity and infamy. The reason they can never be Batman or the Count of Monte Cristo is the nature of their elven heritage and personality. As elves, they experience the extremity of everything the world has to offer, so they cannot simply dislike their foes, they must hate them. They cannot be untrustworthy, they have to be treacherous and backstabbing. To render them any other way is to make them naughty people, bad by a human standard when they need to be bad by an elven standard.

        Whether that evil is cartoony or not comes down to portrayal and individual taste. A race of beings that work slaves to death in their mines and then enchants their bones to keep working after death is not cartoony, it is vicious and unrelentingly nasty. I once described the elves to games dev in the following way: High Elves are moral, Wood Elves are amoral, and Dark Elves are immoral. Whatever gripe they might have against the phoenix king and their cousins on Ulthuan, there can be no justification for enslaving a whole town and burning them to death on the altars of their vile gods; gods they chose to worship rather than abhor.

        All-in-all, we can each take of the background what we want, and develop the characters and stories we like best.

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      • Those are good points. From the very beginning the Dark Elves were portrayed as completely nasty and spiteful entirely for it’s own sake. I did like the bit in your 7th ed book about enchanting the bodies of slaves so that they can keep on mining after they die. It was vile and badass at the same time.

        I guess I want the Dark Elves to a sympathetic edge because I think that being relatable makes for a good villain. Most evil people, either fictional or real, have some great tragedy that makes them that way.

        There is a great quote by Wordsworth that goes: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”

        A good villain is at least somewhat sympathetic because I can see how he got to be the way he is. In my mind the Dark Elves are completely evil, they know their evil, and they enjoy torturing ‘lesser’ others, but they were not always that way. They started off being outraged that their leader wasn’t chosen to be the king and their hate simmered until they started a civil war. The Dark Elves wanted victory so badly that they slowly committed more and more atrocities until they blew up their own beloved land. Now they have to live in a cold crappy land where basic survival is a struggle. Through the centuries their initial outrage turned into a burning hate that permits them to take joy from the suffering of ‘lesser’ others to achieve their goals. However despite all of their gleeful wickedness they still see themselves as the proud inheritors of the Elven legacy and the true heirs of their old home. It’s this last bit that I really like because it’s a great contradiction.

        The way I read your reply (I could be wrong) is that the Dark Elves might have had a genuine gripe at one point, but now they are just evil and happy being evil for it’s own sake. They don’t necessarily see themselves as the “true elves” anymore. They just capture and torture people not because they want to repay the evil done to them a thousandfold, but because it’s fun.

        This sort of makes the Dark Elves out as sociopaths. A bit like H.H. Holmes and Carl Panzram, who from early childhood were wicked with no attributable external cause. Sociopaths are neuro-chemically broken and so are pretty hard to sympathize with. H.H. Holmes was an affable man that built a maze-like murder hotel with money he sweet talked out of a widow that he later killed. He is literally cartoonishly evil. Skeletor without the charm of constantly failing.

        I don’t believe a society of sociopaths can exist, since they would cajole, betray, and murder each other into swift ruin. That’s why I asked my original question. Is there more to the Dark Elves than “screw you, got mine” or “listening to wailing bones is lovely?” Do they see themselves as the tenuously united heirs of the Elven legacy and want desperately to avenge themselves?

        Anyways, I think I wrote way to much about my thoughts on the inner workings about an imaginary society from a game of plastic men. I feel a bit silly, but for some reason I was compelled to write it anyway.

        I thought our conversation was extremely interesting and I shared it on Druchii.net.

        http://druchii.net/viewtopic.php?t=69567

        Have a look if you’re interested.

        Thank you very much for taking the time to read and answer all of my inane questions. I really enjoyed being able to chat with the one of the creators of a game that I enjoy very much.

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  14. Is Malekith really insane? Is he actually the power behind the Naggaroth throne or is he mainly a puppet for Morathi to exert her control.
    I wonder what would have happened if he had killed his mother, would he have ever become the Phoenix King?

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  15. This is an awkward question, and I was reccomended to ask you. But uh, did Malekith ever have any liason with Elf maidens? I know Alith Anar did, and so did Tyrion and etc. I was just wondering if Malekith had also enjoyed the company of Elf maidens when he was young?

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    • I would expect that Malekith had his romantic moments during his earlier life, although he might have been careful not to leave any children to complicate matters.

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      • Thanks Gav!!!

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  16. It’s me again. But I trust your answers because you’re really good at Elven Lore and was hoping you could help me. I’m writing a story involving an Elven marriage and was wondering if you could impart any wisdom to me? Also did Malekith when he was younger ever plan to eventually marry? IF so, what would he have looked for in a potential wife?

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    • I’ve not thought about Elven marriage sin any detail, but for inspiration I’d suggest you move away form the very instituionalised monotheistoic marriage ceremonies and looke towards those used in older cultures and traditions. Also I suspect it would depend a lot on whether the couple are nobles or not.

      I think that any marriage that involved Malekith would have beeb more likely one of political convenience rather than love. He’s just not that giving type! Remember that all Phoenix Kings are ritually married to the Everqueen and provide her with an heir, but this does not stop either from having their own consort(s) – marriage is much more an arrangement between families – in Shadow King Alith is fortunate that his love is from another noble family, and that the bond between the Anars and Ashniel’s father is one that would be strenghtened by the tie.

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      • So no chance at all that Malekith could ever fall in love? And I remember the lore of the Phoenix Kings and their ritual marriage, which is just to justify their reign as they are part of the Line of Aenarion, as they are married to the Everqueen, who is from Aenarion’s line. Had Malekith become the Phoenix King, it would have been unnecessary. More than likely the greatest Elf heroes (beside Malekith at the time) would have been called upon to impregnate the Everqueen.)
        the reason I was asking because I was making a story about if Malekith married (the girls I choose in each are nobles from well known families) but he falls in love with both of them.

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      • In a ‘What if?’ scenario, Malekith could meet the right lady/ies and fall in love, but I think it woul dbe unlikely. This is a prince, the only (as far as he knows) son of the first and only Phoenix King, raised in a kingdom founded on war and bloodshed, by a father who was an incarnated symbol of death and revenge, and a mother who was, secretly, a sorceress dedicated to achieving power at any cost and securing it for her son. I don’t seealove factoring into that upbringing much if at all, and certainly Malekith’s tendency is to view relationships as something to be managed and exploited rather than something that would put him at a disadvantage.

        And on the flip side, while there may be elf maidens who would swoon at the dashing prince’s feet, and families that would love to be married into the line of Aenarion, there are going to be only a few who Morathi would judge worthy, and most of those would be of the Anar or Caledor lineage – nobody else really matches up.

        On a sidenote, if Yvraine had been willing to marry her half-brother, rather than it being used as a reason against Malekith’s coronation, I suspect both Morathi and Malekith would have been fine with the idea.

        Gav

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  17. Thank you for your response. I really value your opinion, and just wondered about your view.

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  18. First I wish to say, that I loved your books, especially Morathi was potrayed even better than I hoped. But I also hope I dont offend you if I say that there were lot of cliches, stereotypes and predictable events.

    This brings me to my question. Basically I wish to know more about Elven homosexuality in wahrammer and censorship in GW/BL. Most fans get furious when I suggest I imagine Elves as pagans with very different view on sexuality.

    I find it very curious that druchii who are often compared to Sparta and Rome, are according to most too ,,macho” pseudodarwinists to tolerate homosexuality, despite huge importance of homosexuality in both those warlike cultures. In case of extremelly hedonistic Druchii and sophisticated Asur this seems even more absurd.

    Fans get even more angry when I suggest I imagine Malekith (and perhaps all Elves) as being quite bisexuall. Its not just that Malekith the Great reminds me so much of Alexander the Great and Gaius Julius Caesar (both bisexuall), it also seems natural to me that a mortal with such a long lifespan would surely experience some homoerotic affairs.

    Am I wrong if I see GW as being similiar to Blizzard when it comes even to mere homoerotic references? On one hand GW is not afraid to sell completely naked harpies, witches in g-strings and daemonettes with six naked breasts as well as referencing to incestuous relationship between Malekith and Morathi and cross-breeding between different species, but is reluctant to make even slightest reference to existence of homosexuality.

    I am not some childish gay person who demands to have such themes in every piece of art, its just that in warhammer fiction this phenomenon really lowers the potential for depth and credibility. It is especially obvious when it comes to any lore associated with Slaanesh and your description of athartists. Trying to bring such a natural feature (with huge importance on peoples behavior and fates) out of existence is like creating a world without gravity.

    Otherwise I really like your work and I just hope I shall know thanks to you what to expect from GW in the years to come regarding this matter.

    Like

    • Sorry for taking so long to reply – I’ve been busy with travels and deadlines and didn’t want to rattle off something short and glib. You raise a very interesting point, and one that I’ve had to think about very carefully before replying.

      Are there gay elves?

      Yes, would be my overall reply, but though your examples from pagan cultures would make sense in the context of elven culture, I do not see their sexual society being as close to those you cite, simply from the few examples we have to look at. While the logic of what you say stands up, I simply don’t think this was what was intended when the early background of the elves was being written. The comparison with Athens and Sparta is a rough shorthand at best, particularly to highlight Nagarythe’s militarisation compared to a mainly citizen levy from other states; and also to present the political influence of Nagarythe and Caledor over the other, ostensibly independent, elven kingdoms. In other aspects – slavery most prominently – elven society is substantially different. There seems nothing to suggest that the distinction between adult, sexually active elven males and everything else – the basis for Greek sexuality at the basic level – exists within Ulthuan’s culture.

      The only real background we have regarding elf sexual politics comes via the Everqueen. We know that the Phoenix King is required to sire the next Everqueen, but after this their relationship is purely formal (Aenarion notwithstanding). The only other relationship we have to compare is Prince Tyrion as the Everqueen’s consort, which suggests a more high medieval, courtly love than the culture of classical pagans. With that said, I don’t imagine there to be any particular stigma attached to homosexuality within elven society, and it may well be prevalent as you say.

      A particular difficulty is that any special emphasis on homosexuality for Warhammer elves, as opposed to any other races, would feed into the juvenile view held by some that they wear dresses, are effeminate and, in a derogatory way, are gay. To include one homosexual elf in a story might smack of tokenism, while to explore it it more depth would be difficult within the scope of a Warhammer novel – just as exploring any other facets of sexual society is difficult given the guidelines for content that exist with Black Library. Creating the correct sort of context to explore these issues is tricky unless it is to be one of the main themes of a story, and cowardly though it may seem, it is not one I feel suitably skilled to present properly. Well, not until I’ve had a chance to think on it some more.

      I’ll end by saying that I don’t think Black Library has any policy against portrayal of homoesexuality any more than any other type of sexuality, but we all write from out own experiences and worldview and, as far as I know, as a bunch of straight authors we’ve simply stuck close to what we know.

      It’s been a long time since I’ve had to consider an answer to a question as involved as this, and it has made me think a lot about the assumptions I have made through my own writing. Thank you for that.

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      • Thank you very much for your interesting answer.

        Actually I always considered the case of the Everqueen as a clear proof, that all warhammer Elves are hedonistic pagans far different from medieval/christian/disney-like Elves of Tolkien. She is the avatar of elven virtues and moral purity among mortals, yet even she has a hedonistic court, from which she chooses her numerous lovers (she doesn´t ,,cheat” on the Phoenix King just with Tyrion according to canon sources). She is the opposite of Slaaneshi Queen Morathi, thus she should be as “prudish” as an Elf can get, so one can only imagine how the rest of the asur society acts.

        Well I am not straight, but considering that most readers are probably straight males, I would as an author probably at least mention some lesbian affair when it comes to Morathi, athartists or witches of Khaine since it should seem both logical and ATTRACTIVE to most readers.

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  19. Should I see the disappearing of my post as an answer ?

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  20. Hey Gav, I am not too sure if it is the place I should leave my question – I am not too familiar with this blog site but I shall try my chances.

    First of all, I truly love Prince Imrik from the Sundering series. I truly love him and as a roleplayer in many MMORPGs, he is my foremost inspiration. He is how I roleplay my character.

    Now I have a question, it was vaguely mentioned in a army-book that Prince Imrik drown himself as his ship was surrounded by Druchii ships. Is that correct? Is that how he die? Such saddening fate for one of most bravest and nobles of the elven race.

    And if he did die like this, can you please tell me how it happened in a detailed manner? Or perhaps there is a book about this that I failed to find?

    I just want to hear out how did this noble hero died, if he did.

    Regards.

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    • That is the basic version of what happens to Imrik, (as detailed in the High Elves Army Books for many years now) but I would like to one day write the story so that we can see in more detail why such a character would choose that fate for himself. I don’t know when I might get around to writing it…

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      • Hey Gav, thanks for the answer. It is really nice to have your favorite author (alongwith C.L Werner) answer your personal questions regarding the books. For that reason, and the quality of your pen, Warhammer fantasy books are the only books I read. Doesn’t have much sympathy for other fantasies save for WH, D&D and Lotr.( Truly hate Warcraft series, and how they stole most of their lore from Warhammer. Like The Sundering.)

        Back to the books, Imrik is truly an unique character – perhaps even more than Malekith. You should consider writing more about him, especially his death. It is too saddening to hear how he died – after pushing out Druchii from the kingdom with a broken army.

        By the way, are you working on anything new concerning Warhammer Fantasy?

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  21. Greetings! One could suggest it’s quite late to continue discussing elven question, and I apologize if it is, but I can’t help but ask one of most interesting questions regarding High Elves (and partially Dark Ones as well).

    Was it intentional to so closely make them look so medieval Chinese in army looking aspect? Long lamellar robes, medieval Chinese breastplates, helmets (not that accurate, as well as partially breastplates, but nevertheless), some weapons such as Chinese-style spears… Not to mention other aspects, such as symbols, hieroglyphs, ornaments, partially philosophy… Or is it all just a coincidence?

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    • I couldn’t say for sure, but I think it is more than coincidence, certainly on the visual side. The High Elves draw on a more european ancient classical image and culture, so It doesn’t surprise me that there’s a slightly different take for the Dark Elves. Certainly we discussed the Eastern themes in both of the armies back when I was in the studio.

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  22. Thanks for the reply! Perhaps, it is the coincidence. It happens sometimes. But visually they are really more Chinese-looking than European. Anyway, I’d be gracious If you could recall some of what you’d discussed back in the day, for it’s very interesting!

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