Malleus Mallefiz (799-854 a.S.) was a 9th century Manthrian witchfinder, writer and polemicist. The premier witchfinder of his generation, Mallefiz accused hundreds, and indirectly thousands of Manthrians for the crimes of witchcraft, particularly the curse of the Evil Ear. His actions, to his detractors, were tantamount to mass murder. His proponents, on the other hand, view him as a hero of epic proportions who liberated towns across the countryside from the curses that were crippling them. He was wracked by scandal during his life about his widespread campaign of witchfinding and is remembered as an iconoclastic figure for good or for ill.
Mallefiz was often portrayed by his opponents as a scarily thin man whose
pretentiously coiffured greying hair and abnormally large hook nose was
accompanied by a monotone array of clothes as black as his heart. To his
supporters, he was the paragon of both masculinity and piousness towards the
Twelvern, whose grace was matched only by his intelligence. The truth about his
appearance, like most other facts about the man, probably lies somewhere in
He was almost certainly a tall man, standing at around two peds in height. He was also probably a lanky man, with his muscles trained almost solely by the gesticulations he makes during his speeches. Mallefiz's hair was also greying, and during the last years of his life, it was called by one reliable source, to be "as grey as a cloudy Lorehaven day".
Biography. 799 a.S. - Birth. Mallefiz was born to a wealthy Chrondran family, led by his father Kramer Mallefiz, in which he was the much anticipated firstborn son. Sadly, his mother died during childbirth, casting a shadow on Mallefiz from the earliest days.
799-812 - Childhood. Mallefiz had a happy, if lonely, childhood in Chondra. His father was sufficiently wealthy that he wanted for practically nothing, but also important enough that he was often distant from the home. Mallefiz had the finest tutors that the town had to offer, and he excelled in the various academic disciplines that he was taught, particularly religion.
812 - Fall from Grace. While in the running for a significant promotion to become an advisor to the methar of Chrondra (leader of the Sanctuary of the Twelve in Chondra, one of the most powerful offices in Santharia), Hanvin Mallefiz fell prey to a bizarre malady. During a major event of the Santhran, a bout of madness hit Hanvin, rendering him incoherent. At the nadir of the incident, he screamed at the mother of the Santhran to open her mouth to stop her mumbling. Later in life, Mallefiz attributed the incident to a witch who had afflicted his father with the Evil Ear, perhaps a jilted lover who had been abandoned by Hanvin’s upward movement through the clerical orders. Immediately, Hanvin lost his role in Chrondra and was expelled from the city, losing his house and all of his substantial wealth. Malleus Mallefiz was only thirteen years old at the time.
814-820 - Father and Son in Lorehaven. After exile from Chrondra, Hanvin Mallefiz set up his household along with his son in Lorehaven. There, he found a job with a friend of one of his uncles as a bookkeeper for a trading company. It was a substantial demotion in status, and the humiliation that his father had suffered dealt a deep blow to the young Malleus's psyche. Yet the emotional scarring that the son had suffered was much less than that of the father. Going from an upwardly mobile clerical advisor to a lowly clerk, and living without a mother for his child was a bitter thing to swallow. Hanvin Mallefiz, proud Avennorian, fell into the drink hard, practically abandoning his son; Malleus had already had to grow up without a mother, after 814 for all intents and purposes he had to grow up without a father.
820-823 - Time at the Lorehold. At the age of 21, Mallefiz enters the university at Lorehaven, the Lorehold. Mallefiz spends several unhappy years there, unable to enjoy the benefits of being a scion of a wealthy family, unlike most of his fellow students. Academically however, Mallefiz was an excellent scholar and wrote extensively on folk-culture in Manthria and elsewhere. During his time at the Lorehold, he became more and more conscious of the stain that had been cast on his name as a result of his father’s exile, and he grew angry at the witch that he believed had ruined his life. From then on, he resolved to rid the world of their crimes. He let his anger build up for years, until the death of his father. With his last tie to Lorehaven gone, he left to fight against witchcraft. His colleagues thought he was mad, setting off into the unknown to do something that had not really been tried before. He had nothing with him but a handful of coins, the knowledge gained from several years at the Lorehold, and a deep and abiding hatred for witchcraft.
823-835 - Witch-Finding through Manthria. After leaving the Lorehold with practically nothing in 823 by 835, Mallefiz was an influential local celebrity, who could boast the support of thousands of rural peasants. For that transformation, these years are some of the most interesting of his life. He conducted dozens of inquisitions by himself across Manthria, finding nearly one hundred “witches”. Naturally, the lands and possessions of the witches were split amongst the villagers, with a substantial cut for the successful witch hunter. From the proceeds, he became a wealthy man; yet the money came too late for his father who died during this period in squalor once his taste for drink became unsustainable.
Yet perhaps more important than the inquisitions that he conducted by himself were the hundreds of speeches that he made during this portion of his life. They ranged from “Of the nature of the concealment of witches” and “Of the murderous actions of the Seaside witch” and were the impetus for countless other witch inquisitions. These speeches transformed the perception of the Evil Ear and witchcraft more generally from a once quaint rural superstition into an emerging threat to civilized Santharian society. In his own words, he wrote later:
“They [witches] desire thee to mistake them, to laugh at them, to think them harmless fools. If their magicke was plain to understand, their machinations would soon be discovered, and our inquisitions unnecessary.“
835 - Publication of "Of the Listeners,
and of the Tribulations They Perpetrate, to the Warning of all Innocent and
Twelve-Fearing Folk". Mallefiz’s epic debut to the world of intellectual
work, “Of the Listeners” became the indispensable work about the
Evil Ear. Among its novel
ideas was the introduction of the female-dominated
witchcraft, a novel creation not found in
early superstitions. It opened the eyes of the chattering classes in
Port Cael to the growing rural movement of witch hunting for which Mallefiz
had been the ultimate promoter. While the book did not ingratiate himself
particularly with the scholarly, the lay people of
Manthria and beyond enthusiastically
adopted the ideas found in the work, conducting inquisitions greater in both
intensity and frequency. Critics denounced the work as full of prejudice and
incitements to violence.
838 - Hunt at Nathembly. Called in to assist with an ongoing inquisition about the fire that had destroyed most of the small village of Nathembly, Malleus Mallefiz began to realize the extent to which he himself was playing with fire. The inquisition started like most of the others with a local woman being accused and lynched for committing the crime of witchcraft. The web of accusations grew rapidly, and eventually one of the accused “witchlings” accused Mallefiz himself of witchcraft. He was confident of his anti-witch record, but the accuser mentioned how of course, a secret witch supporter would claim to be a witch hunter as it would be the perfect disguise. Despite his protests, a lynch-mob was formed, but Mallefiz managed to escape on a boat along the Mashdai before he could be caught. This was the first time that Mallefiz realized the extent to which the tool of mob justice could be used against him, as much as it could be used by the “righteous”. From then on, Mallefiz was less personally involved in the work of conducting inquisitions, preferring to write letters and speeches to encourage others to do the “good work” of witchfinding.
840 - Publication of "A Concise Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Rumours, and Slanders against Witches and other Honest Folk". Hildula Hauntwell published her magnum opus, a condemnation of the witchfinding phenomenon and a heartfelt defence of witches. This was well received among many intellectuals, but was despised as the ultimate attack by Mallefiz and his supporters. Mallefiz claimed that Hauntwell herself was a witch, and allegedly hired an assassin to murder her. Those claims have not been verified, but they are very much possible given the depth of his enmity towards her.
844 – “Death” of Hildula Hauntwell. Hildula Hauntwell, Mallefiz’s nemesis since the publication of her “Concise Encyclopaedia” was reported dead under suspicious circumstances. Unwisely, Mallefiz published a pamphlet, “Of the essential justice of Twelvern” which celebrated her death as an example of divine justice acting through a human to smite a sinner. Privately too Mallefiz celebrated with a reception at his home to “Honour the Lives of the Righteous and the Deaths of the Others.” Those celebrations only furthered the rumours that Mallefiz had had Hauntwell killed.
848 - Investigation of Assassination. In this year, Lorehaven authorities finally began an investigation of Mallefiz's rumoured role in the death of Hildula Hauntwell. As no body was found, the investigation ended promptly, but the experience gave Mallefiz a growing suspicion of a conspiracy against him among the Lorehaven authorities. He left shortly after, continuing to travel and write, never staying in one place for more than a few months.
853 - Publication of "Of the pervading mood of the towns, inasmuch as it differs from country-folk". One of the last substantial works published by Mallefiz during his lifetime, the work examines the relative criticism that Mallefiz and his fellow witchfinders received as they pursued their mission. In Mallefiz's view, there was an alliance between rural witches and urban meddlers, as they both fought his inquisitions. He viewed the rural peasants as the victims of the witches, and that the urban rich, in their avarice, wanted to maintain the poverty of the rural peasants. That puts the rural in a direct class conflict with urban. “Of the pervading mood” was the first work of Mallefiz’s into the why of witchcraft, not just the what. That reflects his suspicions of a massive conspiracy against him by Santharian authorities, both spiritual and temporal.
854 - Death. According to official reports, Mallefiz was killed at the age of 56 by bandits while travelling to meet with a local witchhunter in Kneef in Eastern Manthria. He was probably killed in Shady Grove, known locally as Banditwoods, as he was last seen leaving town from Marcogg a few weeks prior. His supporters decried the murder as a conspiracy against him and responded by initiating massive witch finding inquisitions to search for those witches responsible.
Importance. Witchcraft and attitudes towards it were never the same after the works of Malleus Mallefiz. He turned a dying rural distaste for witches into a full-blown moral panic that raged like a forest fire across the countryside. Many more fellow witchfinders jumped into the profession to finish the work that Mallefiz had started, acting as a multiplier factor to his work. Thousands were killed in the ensuing bloodshed, some of whom even his most die-hard supporters would admit were innocent. The proceeds gained from the inquisitions made Mallefiz one of the richest self-made men in Manthria, only possible through his seizure of witches’ supporters’ lands. Despite those facts, Mallefiz continues up to the current day to be seen as a protector of ordinary people from very bad people that want to do them harm.
Malleus Mallefiz was undoubtedly one of the most divisive figures of his time and place, and the intellectual conflict about his motives was and is intense. Some attributed his witchhunting as purely an act of greed, as the proceeds that he gained from the seizure of accused witches’ assets were extensive. Those critics, chiefly Hildula Hauntwell, pointed to the trail of blood that followed Mallefiz wherever he went, as the ultimate proof of his malfeasance and malevolence. They see him as an essentially evil character who left the world more brutal and violent than when he entered it. His fans saw Mallefiz as a pious crusader against evil wherever he saw it. They pointed to his success in ridding Manthria of hundreds of witches and of opening the people’s eyes to the threat lurking among their neighbours. They referred how he successfully fought governmental persecution and with the help of ordinary folk, protected them. Another position sees Mallefiz as an essentially tragic figure, one to be empathized with and not condemned. Those analyses emphasize the tragedies of his upbringing: the death of his mother, and the humiliation insanity and death of his father. That school of thought is promoted by authors like Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang, who condemn Mallefiz, while acknowledging the essential causes of his actions.
In all interpretations, Mallefiz is undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the history of the persecution of witchcraft. Memories of his inquisitions endure in the folktales of rural Manthria, and for many child the Inquisitor Mallefiz is the one who will eat them if they do not go to bed on time. Regardless, he is remembered by some as a hero, by others as a villain, but for all he is never forgotten.