The Mal’akh were almost impossible to kill. Any organic object could be simply assimilated into the Mal'akh body and rendered harmless; upon contact with a Mal’akh, many non-organic objects would start to rust or fall apart after a few minutes. It was also very difficult to tell when they had actually died, so it was standard practice to bury them alive, leaving to mummify in the Earth. (PROSE: The Book of the War) They were, however, susceptible to shadow-weapons (AUDIO: Coming to Dust) and the screwdriver sonique. (PROSE: The Adventuress of Henrietta Street)
The Mal’akh were masters of illusion, inhabiting folkloric otherworlds where time ran differently to time in the known world. Those who encountered them and survived consistently told of losing years of their lives. Their alter-time realm was encountered in the Maltese incident (PROSE: The Book of the War) and briefly intersected London in 1782-83, when it was called the Kingdom of Beasts. (PROSE: The Adventuress of Henrietta Street)
Rather than food or water, the Mal’akh needed to eat the blood and flesh of the living in order to survive. Their own blood appeared like black bile. Furthermore, the Mal’akh were capable of changing their shape at will. According to the Liber Sanguisugarum, there were two types of Mal'akh, categorized by diet.
If a Mal'akh wanted to appear fair to human eyes, it needed to consume untainted and stable biomass (that is to say, human blood and flesh). The resultant rephaim were unnaturally beautiful, angelic creatures that could pass as humans (albeit exceptionally charismatic and magnetic ones). In the 18th century, they used this power to infiltrate the courts of the Turkish empire and Ali Pascha; the Ottoman army of Nicolopolis was known to be filled with Mal’akh in the 15th century. In legends of the Arabian and Middle Eastern peoples, they appeared as the Djinn and Peri, the spirits of the air and masters of desert storms.
The nephilim (metaphorical “giants of the Earth” mentioned in the Book of Genesis) were Mal'akh who, having stopped feeding on the blood of humans, turned upon themselves instead. Without the ingestion of a suitable, untainted biomass, the memetic field of the Mal'akh would be stretched too far, distorting their body and mind in unpredictable, animalistic ways. The resultant ape-like creatures were commonly known as grotesques or sometimes Babewyn. Their hideous shapes inspired many of the demonic images of Middle Eastern legend.
Richard Francis Burton encountered grotesques in his journey to the Mountains of the Moon, where he said that the more civilised Mal'akh would keep them as pets or force the change upon an enemy. His private accounts reference his companion's ravings about "crowds of devils, giants, lion-headed demons who avert wrenching with superhuman force..."
The legendary origins of the Mal’akh were recorded in the Biblical apocrypha, namely the Book of Noah and Book of Enoch, where the Anakim (“watchers”) are a highly advanced and civilised race with many members who would prefer to be involved in worldly affairs instead of simply watching. Led by Azazel (or Shemjaza in some versions), two hundred rebels descended from “the high place” to live among the people, spreading their knowledge and taking wives. However, their offspring, created by the intermarriage of humans and the spirit world, were unstoppable monsters with a terrible hunger for flesh and blood. The watchers fought and captured the rebels, and bound their leader headfirst over the abyss for all eternity, hanging by one leg.
As the Mal’akh’s alter-time structures suggested a connection to the Great Houses, many commentators speculated that Enoch tells a corrupted account of the war against the Yssgaroth and the flight from the Homeworld of those tainted by Yssgaroth biomass. Faction Paradox always claimed that their armour was created from the bones of such agents from an alternate timeline where the Houses lost their war, though Richard Francis Burton, the leading scholar on the Mal’akh, disputed this. He claimed that the Yssgaroth/Great House hybrids were actually an inevitable result of the fighting of the war: even without the Homeworld being overrun, the Great Houses’ biomass was infected with the Yssgaroth taint, though they refused to acknowledge it. Burton went on to speculate that, given the similarities between the Houses’ regeneration abilities and those of the Mal’akh, the ancient Houses deliberately infected themselves to give themselves a biological advantage. Their paranoid reaction to the Faction’s armor was not a fear of paradox but a fear of the truth.
In 1857, Burton and John Hanning Speke visited the heartland of the Mal’akh race in the Mountains of the Moon. There, they discovered the High Place, the first Mal'akh settlement on Earth. The settlement's proximity to the birthplace of mankind led scholars within Faction Paradox and the Star Chamber alike to speculate that the Mal'akh influenced the development of humanity.
The Mal'akh were deeply embedded in human mythology and legend. Burton found tales of the Mal'akh in the Arabian Nights fables as well as the Indian cycle Vikram and the Vampire; the Shelley Cabal's stories of the Mal'akh inspired the first vampire novels. (PROSE: The Book of the War)
Interactions with Humanity Edit
In the medieval period, multiple secret societies were founded to combat the Westward spread of the Mal'akh. These included the Society of St George, the Star Chamber, the Order of the Dragon, the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the Thule Society. The organizations were led by the Grand Families and likely influenced by the pre-War Great Houses. The societies' collective knowledge was storied in the Liber Sanguisugarum.
Based on the apparent Mal'akh infiltration of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, Vlad III led the Ottoman Purges from 1431 to 1447 on behalf of the Order of the Dragon. (PROSE: The Book of the War)
In 1782-83, "Babewyns" attacked . They were interpreted by contemporary analysts as representations of the lack of knowledge being pushed aside in favour of enlightenment and reason. The Eighth Doctor decapitated the Babewyn's leader, the King of Beasts, with his "screwdriver sonique", the device representing a new power that the creatures couldn't understand. (PROSE: The Adventuress of Henrietta Street)
By the nineteenth century, the Mal'akh were again a force to be reckoned with in the East. There were an increasing number of grotesque sightings in Africa and Britain's Indian territories, and Mal'akh influence was spreading to the courts of the Turkish empire and Ali Pascha. In response to this, the Star Chamber planned the Maltese incident in 1809 and Burton's trip to the Mountains of the Moon in 1857, though after the 1752 Gregorian Compact they mistakenly identified Faction Paradox as the leaders of the Mal'akh and wasted many of their resources on their 1834 attack on the Eleven-Day Empire.
In 1845 or 1846, a small group of young British army officers stationed in Karachi performed a tantric ritual that spiralled out of control, unleashing at least one full-blood Mal'akh. Richard Francis Burton, by then a member of Faction Paradox, helped the Faction Paradox capture the Mal'akh for study, and it was transported to the Stacks of the Eleven-Day Empire; it was kept there in the closed off 1995 platform of Mornington Crescent. (PROSE: The Adventuress of Henrietta Street)