He was described as resembling "a sunken-eyed toad". He was bald, his face webbed in tattooing, minute, black, square-etched symbols hidden within an overall pattern covering skin like a wrinkled scroll", and he had no hands. Of his tattoos, it was said that "the boar's face [overlay] his own, the intricate maze of script-threaded, curled fur [wound] down his arms, covering his exposed thighs and shins, and […] detailed hooves [were] etched into the skin of his feet."
His tattoos were magical in nature, quickly healing his wounds. When active, they became thicker, blacker, and more detailed, depicting each of the boar's hairs. Over his heart he bore the sacred mark of Fener, and his missing right hand had once been tattooed with a key.
He walked with an odd, toad-like gait.
In Deadhouse Gates
Heboric's writings made him a victim of The Cull in Unta when they challenged the competency of Empress Laseen. Imperial Historian Duiker had defended him at trial to no avail and the ex-priest was placed on a slave ship bound for the Otataral mines in Seven Cities. Along the way, he fell in with fellow prisoners, Felisin Paran and Baudin.
The historian and his companions escaped the Skullcup camp when the native guards revolted as part of the Whirlwind uprising. Knowing Duiker had arranged transport, they traveled into the Otataral Desert in an effort to reach the coast. Along their journey, he came in contact with a "jade giant", one of many statues buried in the sands long ago. When he touched it, it burned the stump of his right wrist, which became saturated with the otataral-tinged other-worldly power of the jade.
Dying of hunger and thirst in the desert and desperate for aid, Baudin pushed the stump of the unconscious Heboric's hand against the seal tattoo on his chest. The "touch" of the poisoned hand opened the god's Warren and pushed Fener unwillingly into the mortal realm. Afterwards, Heboric possessed two ghostly hands, invisible to normal sight but capable of interacting with the world with great strength. To those with the sensitivity to see them, the left was outlined by the tattoos of Fener while the right was shot through with veins of red otataral and jade.
The trio were rescued from the coast by Kulp, Gesler, Stormy, and Truth. But their ship fell through the Warrens, and Heboric, Felisin, Baudin, and Kulp were dropped in the Holy Desert of Raraku. There, Heboric was blinded by a sandstorm, but gained a supernatural vision that gave him extraordinary knowledge and insight.
After the deaths of Baudin and Kulp at the hands of Gryllen, Heboric and Felisin stumbled upon the corpse of Sha'ik and her bodyguards, Leoman and Toblakai. Leoman brought them to the Whirlwind camp at the Raraku oasis where Felisin opened the Book of Dryjhna and took up the mantle of Sha'ik Reborn.
In Memories of Ice
While standing amidst the destruction of Capustan, Ganoes Paran had a vision of a green stone monolith towering above the desert sand. Without realizing it, he observed his sister Felisin, Baudin, and Heboric at the moment the historian touched the jade statue in Seven Cities. The result was a tear in the sky as Fener was dragged unwillingly into the mortal realm. Paran feared the god was as good as dead now that he was vulnerable to the same dangers as other mortals.
Anomander Rake claimed the object Heboric touched brought him into contact with the Warren of Chaos, and had possibly been forged there. Heboric's contact with the stump of his hand had sent an uncontrolled surge of power to where the hands were safely sealed away in Fener's realm. The hands had then pushed Fener out of his realm to his inevitable doom.
Further, Rake revealed that Heboric's punishment had been politically motivated and not an act of purest judgement as required by Fener's Reve. If not for the god's fall, Heboric would have retrieved his hands in death and then become a weapon of Fener's vengeance against those who had wronged him. The Son of Darkness warned that the Empress, the Claw, and the Malazan Empire would then have faced a dark storm.
In House of Chains
Living in the armed camp that was the Raraku Oasis, Heboric's sleep was unsettled by relentless dreams of a massive and alien face of jade. He came to the understanding that his hands had not been claimed by Fener, but by the giant buried in the desert. Heboric suspected the jade giant had come from another realm for a hidden purpose, and the historian drank Hen'bara tea given him by Sha'ik every night in an attempt to achieve oblivion.
The historian, now known as Heboric Ghost Hands or Ghost Hands, kept many secrets from Sha'ik Reborn in order to spare her grief. He was aware of the true identity of the newly revealed Master of the Deck, but chose to keep this knowledge from Felisin. Made aware of Bidithal's perverse designs on Felisin Younger, he kept the knowledge to himself as Sha'ik needed the High Mage as a check against the others who conspired against her. Instead, Heboric confronted Bidithal and warned him of the consequences of acting against's Sha'ik's adopted daughter. Heboric also shared secrets with L'oric regarding the jade giants and L'oric's true nature.
Sha'ik later admitted that the hen'bara tea she gave Heboric to quiet his dreams actually had the opposite effect. The giant of jade had the power to overcome and destroy otataral. As Sha'ik's Malazan enemies approached Raraku bearing an otataral sword that would neutralize the magic of her High Mages, Sha'ik desperately needed a counter. She entreated Heboric to use the tea to discover the answer.
Heboric begrudgingly complied, ingesting a high dose of the drug. The historian soon found himself amidst a sea of stars in The Abyss observing scores of the giants tumbling towards an enormous wound in space. He discovered that the giants were related to the fall of the Crippled God and had fallen through the wound in his wake.
When Heboric awoke, he discovered the otataral veins in his hands were gone, no longer obscuring that the new god of war, Treach, had claimed him as his Destriant. Heboric underwent a physical transformation at the revelation. No longer blind, his eyes became those of a cat. His tattoos became the barbs of a tiger. He found his hearing greatly increased and his nose able to follow scent trails. His aches and pains were replaced by a new physicality of feline grace and strength. His ghost hands grew talons.
The new Destriant soon discovered Bidithal's desecration of Felising Younger, but withheld his vengeance. He could not risk drawing the young god, Treach, into conflict with whatever power Bidithal served. Heboric chose to bide his time and remain a silent hunter.
When Korbolo Dom finally turned on Sha'ik, he sent his assassins to slay his rivals. Heboric rescued Scillara from two guards before nearly falling to Dom's killers himself. He was rescued by a trio of Bridgeburner ghosts. L'oric convinced Heboric to take Felisin Younger to safety, along with Scillara and L'oric's familiar, Greyfrog. They escaped the Raraku oasis just before Karsa came looking for vengeance against the hated historian and before Sha'ik Reborn's death. They soon found their way to Tesem and the company of Iskaral Pust and Cutter.
In The Bonehunters
Cutter, Scillara, Felisin Younger, and Greyfrog accompanied Heboric on a journey to return the former historian to Otataral Island. Referred to as Heboric Ghost Hands, the new Destriant saw ghosts wherever anyone fell in battle, something not in short supply in ancient Seven Cities. His taloned hands continually faded in and out of existence. The ghosts' silent, accusatory stares made him doubt his role as Destriant. His dreams were also beset by the whispers of the jade strangers, begging for him to return to their prison. Heboric was determined to reach Otataral Island and return their "cursed gift of jade".
The Destriant eventually came to reject the traditional role of his title and vowed he would never take another life to deliver "justice" in the god's name. He vowed he would find a way to send Fener back to his realm, whether Treach liked it or not, and both gods could share the Throne of War.
Before Heboric could make good on his promises, he was killed by The Unbound when the servants of the Crippled God ambushed the party to kidnap Felisin Younger. The T'lan Imass severed his arm and took special care to stab him over and over. When the surviving Cutter and Scillara recovered from their injuries, they disinterred Heboric's mummified corpse and noted that his hands now appeared as solid jade. Elsewhere, Fiddler noted that Treach's new card in the Deck of Dragons depicted a striped corpse with no hands laying at the god's feet.
Barathol Mekhar and Chaur joined Cutter's diminished group as it continued to the coast and began the journey across the Otataral Sea aboard the carrack, Sanal's Grief. As they crossed the water, the sky above lit up with the fire of a dozen suns plunging to the earth. A hail of firestones sank the carrack, sending Heboric's corpse into the depths. Realising the world was on the brink of annihilation, Ganoes Paran hastily attempted to summon Mael for aid, but instead found himself before Hood. Hood returned Heboric back to life and the Destriant immediately sensed the voices of the millions falling to their deaths. These same souls he had once encountered in the Abyss recognised him as their brother.
As Heboric reached toward them with his hands, he realised he was not a Destriant, but a Shield Anvil and accepted the pain of those imprisoned by the jade statues. Dozens of jade hands reached up from the glowing Otataral Island to stop the falling suns and save the world. Meanwhile, the jade glow of Heboric's body lit the sea well enough for Barathol to find and rescue Chaur before he drowned.
In Reaper's Gale
The Errant entered his walled-off and abandoned temple in the Old Palace of Letheras and discovered Fener taking refuge there. The god spoke of losing his place in the pantheon and referred to a mortal who might have been able to return him, along with other gifts. But that mortal had failed, as mortals were wont to do. Then Fener spoke of the coming of a final battle he knew would lead to his own death. After gaining the Errant's offer of sanctuary, Fener asked the god to block the cries of his followers who called on him still. They filled his skull and it was too much.
In Toll the Hounds
In Dust of Dreams
In The Crippled God
In Kellanved's Reach
Heboric, in the early days of the formation of the Malazan Empire, was a committed priest of Fener. Heboric had been endowed by Fener with a tattoo of a "rampaging boar" - which covered the priest's entire body. Perhaps to better display the entirety of this tattoo, Heboric wore only a simple loincloth. Heboric was, at this time, squat but powerfully built. He was described as having heavy lips with which he would give good-natured "frog-like lopsided" grins. Heboric had been a member of a temple devoted to Fener - whose priests, priestesses, and other faithful he had considered to be his adopted family.
However, Heboric began to notice disturbances among the Warrens. Strange manifestations were occurring due, apparently, to power from unknown sources. Because of this "peculiar restiveness among the pantheon" of the gods, Heboric left his home temple and began to travel widely to visit other cults and individuals looking for answers. For example, Heboric had not only met with devotees of such cults as the ones of the Queen of Dreams/Enchantress, of K'rul, and of Poliel; but had also met with hermits and ascetics who spoke for various "eldritch powers".
Heboric was in the process of travelling between a temple devoted to Poliel in Horan — eastward along the southern shore of Quon Tali — to the "Isle of the Cursed", aka Poliel's "Isle of the Blessed", when he was intercepted by a group of two priests and two priestesses of Fener from his home temple. The speakers for the group - mainly the eldest, Brother Eliac - who addressed him as "Heboric of Carasin" - and the youngest, a Napan priestess of Fener, told Heboric that they had been sent to urge him to return with them. Heboric refused, having his own agenda to which he felt "called". The four reluctantly accepted Heboric's decision and left Heboric with the words, "May the Great Boar watch over you".
Heboric had once been a cut-purse from the Mouse Quarter of Malaz City before becoming a priest and historian. His skill at his former profession had earned him the nickname Light Touch. In his scholarly writings he had criticized the works of Duiker as deliberate lies. In Cotillion's memory, Heboric had been only a minor historian of Unta.
At one point he seemed destined to take on the title of Fener's Destriant, but Heboric's name was stricken from the temple records, and his hands had been ritually severed as part of his excommunication. This meant that the tattoos he sported on his hand and chest as part of his priesthood could no longer be activated to open a Warren. The ritual should have been the expression of purest justice, but in this case, it was not. His hands had been sent to Fener's hooves to await his death and his elevation to a position of Fener's wrath. Because the ritual was flawed, however, his hands were as poison to the god and were sealed until his spirit could come and collect them.
Likely, the reason for the ritual punishment of Fener's Reve was to reduce the the influence of Fener within the Empire as well as punish Heboric's particular avenue of historical analysis. His investigation had concluded that Laseen had failed in her attempt to assassinate Kellanved and Dancer and that they had instead ascended. This was knowledge that was dangerous for the Empress and so she called for the ritual and had him sent to the Otataral mines.
- "Past Quon hegemonies never held;
occupations cannot quell unrest,
indeed, even benign ones foster it.
Must this lesson be learned every generation?
Sadly, some things never change."
- ―Historian Heboric
Notes and references
- Ten Very Big Books podcast As pronounced by Steven Erikson at 05:37
- Deadhouse Gates, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB p.17
- Deadhouse Gates, Prologue, US HC p.22-23
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 3, US HC p.84
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 7, US HC p.184-185/187
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.159
- The Bonehunters, Book 3, Epigraph
- Deadhouse Gates, Prologue
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 6
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 7, US HC p.183
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 7, US HC p.187-189
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 8, US HC p.205
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 12, US HC p.326-327
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 11
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 12
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 14, US HC p.385
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 18
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.578
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.631-632
- House of Chains, Chapter 7, US SFBC p.302-303
- House of Chains, Dramatis Personae
- House of Chains, Chapter 7, US SFBC p.280
- House of Chains, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.390
- House of Chains, Chapter 7, US SFBC p.287-295
- House of Chains, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.397-403
- House of Chains, Chapter 13, US SFBC p.483-484
- House of Chains, Chapter 13, US SFBC p.491-496
- House of Chains, Chapter 13, US SFBC p.495-496
- House of Chains, Chapter 13, US SFBC p.496
- House of Chains, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.605-607
- House of Chains, Chapter 21, US SFBC p.701
- House of Chains, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.614
- House of Chains, Chapter 21, US SFBC p.699-702
- House of Chains, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.765-766
- House of Chains, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.812
- House of Chains, Chapter 26, US SFBC p.819/828
- House of Chains, Chapter 26, US SFBC p.847-849
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.87-89
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 9, US SFBC p.402
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 11, US SFBC p.475
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 11, US SFBC p.451
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 11, US SFBC p.476-480
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 16, US SFBC p.642/645
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.722
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 19
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 20, US SFBC p.781-782/784-785
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 20, US SFBC p.785-787/790
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 9, US HC p.227-230
- Kellanved's Reach, Chapter 6, US TPB p.95
- Kellanved's Reach, Chapter 4, US TPB p.66
- Kellanved's Reach, Chapter 4, US TPB p.66-67
- Kellanved's Reach, Chapter 4, US TPB p.66-68
- Deadhouse Gates, Prologue, US HC p.26
- House of Chains, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.613
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 6, US HC p.145
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 3, US SFBC p.122
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 14, Epigraph, US SFBC p.448