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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 part of the Crapsack World where dark elves rule fortress cities under a mighty Witch King.
The series consists of five books, as well as a prelude 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 Villain Protagonist: Through the series, nearly everyone Darkblade meets will eventually be betrayed by him... though, admittedly, with the dark elves known as druchii, often it's a race to see who betrays whom first. Even his own family. Especially his 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 never gives up, even well after there is no plausible path to success.
The series uses the following tropes:
- Abusive Parents: Malus's father tortures him for weeks in the hopes that he will beg for death.
- 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 subordinated, giving awesome motivational speeches and even sacrificing 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 the cast full of bloodthirsty sadistic monsters and insane killers (which includes the main protagonist) his snarky, impertinent yet loyal and surprisingly likable persona is quite a relief. The mercenaries in the fifth book, petty crooks and cutthroats each, are also a lot of fun.
- Ax Crazy: Followers of Kaine in general and Uriel in particular. And the servants of Chaos, naturally. And Malus, when under influence of the Warpsword.
- Awesome McCoolname: Subverted. "Darkblade" may sound cool, but for the druchii it is a derogatory allias, meaning "a flawed thing", and Malus hates it (more than other things, that is).
- Back From the Dead: In Lord of Ruin, Lhunara comes back leading the Chaos Army. Malus is quite surprised.
- Black Magic: The magic Dark Elves use is highly destructive, uses rather gruesome reagents and oh boy, does it corrupt.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Malus and pretty much every one of his brothers and sisters has intentions toward/is having an affair with one of their siblings. They're only Malus's half-siblings; not that it makes it much more appetizing.
- Cruel Mercy: To get some information out of a wounded Kainite, Malus threatens to leave him alive. Mind it, Malus only wounded him in the first place, because the Kainite attacked Malus after he saved him from being killed, which he considered a grave insult. Yep, Kainites are that crazy.
- Deadly Decadent Court: All druchii cities are ruled by one of these. They even have rules for how far 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. Malus remains free-willed through most of the series. Later played straight after Malus uses the demon's power a few too many times...
- There are several other instances of demons taking over mortal bodies, and it's never pleasant for the mortal.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Malus and, essentially, almost every druchii in the entire series. He makes and betrays alliances whenever it's convenient, necessary, or profitable.
- 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: Malus retrieves and wields 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.
- The Dark Side: Malus's main trump card is that he can ask T'zarkan for power, which usually takes the form of supernatural healing, strength, and speed (though sometimes T'zarkan is a Literal Genie and answers his requests in the most disturbing way possible). The problem is that, every time Malus does this, the daemon gains more control of his soul and body.
- Defector From Decadence: Averted. Malus is as or more depraved than everyone else. He kills his retainers, family, and associates constantly, commits incest and rape, participates in bloody orgies glorifying an evil god, and even blackmails the evil drachau lord of his city effectively.
- Determinator: Malus is fond of saying, "Through hate, all things are possible;" indeed, after most would have given up or surrendered, pure spite and unwillingness to let someone else have success will keep him fighting.
- Even Evil Has Standards: When Malus encounters a tribe of forest-dwelling druchiis and sees how they mutilate their slaves (cut off their ears, pluck out their eyes and cut out their tounges), he's disgusted. 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 artefact, Malus reveals that one of them was his father. Cue T'zarkan's stunned disbelief upon finding out. "Even so...sometimes, Malus Darkblade, you scare even me. And I'm a demon..".
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: As much as he's capable of loving anyone at all.
- A mercenary in the fifth book briefly mourns the loss of his mother's keepsake.
- Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: The Dark Elf race as a whole finds torture and murder highly entertaining, fitting into Type 2. One reason Hauclir is such a popular character is that his (dark, deadpan) 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."
- Debatable whether this is part of Malus' sense of humour or something he picked up from Hauclir. It seems to become more prominent the more time Darkblade spends around him.
- "I'm fine," snarled Malus. "These jagged rocks managed to break my fall."
- 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.
- I'm Having Soul Pains: It gradually gets worse the more Malus asks from T'zarkan.
- In the Blood: Malus's family is chalk full of bastards, heretics, and murderers... which practically makes them model citizens of dark elf society.
- Karma Houdini: Averted. While Malus (usually) survives his adventures, the prices he pays are staggering; he loses his status, riches, and authority; even his very soul comes into question. At one point he notices that he doesn't have a heartbeat anymore. 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.
- Kill the Ones You Love: In Lord of Ruin, Malus ends up killing Lhunara (again); her last words are, "I loved you." He responds with, "I know."
- Literal Genie: Malus, at one point, wishes he had a sword. T'zarkan offers him a sword, but Malus declines because he knows that T'zarkan embodies this trope and would make a bone sword grow out of his wrist or something.
T'zarkan: "It wouldn't have to grow out of your wrist..."
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Malus means "evil" or "wicked" in Latin. Overlaps with Meaningful Name.
- Pet the Dog: Despite being a truly awful person, Malus has quite a bit of affection for his giant lizard mount, Spite.
- 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.
- Super-Powered Evil Side: A couple of times, T'zarkan does 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...
- Uriah Gambit: There are a number of these, particularly in Bloodstorm; see Chronic Backstabbing Disorder above. Given that Warhammer stories often include the massed battles their parent game is famous for, there are usually numerous opportunities for unwanted collaborators or minions to meet unpleasant fates.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Related to Genre Savvy above, Malus, for some reason, doesn't realize that he's the warrior protagonist of a fantasy series; numerous times he runs into situations where one of the magic items he's collected on his quest would have protected him from harm or allowed him to kill an otherwise unstoppable enemy, but he left them back at his base for one reason or another.
- Villain Protagonist: Malus 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 as bad or worse.
- Xanatos Gambit: Both T'zarkan and Malus's mother, Eldire, are Chessmasters of nigh impossible skill, playing a Scry vs. Scry game centuries or even millenia in the making. Any and every event that takes place is considered and used to the maximum advantage.