"Only when you have soared through the morning skies on wings of flame can you understand the Hawk. Only when you have fallen screaming upon those who know they are already dead can you understand the Banshee. Only when you have annihilated those who would oppose you can you truly understand the power of the Dragon. And only one who has travelled but ultimately turned away from each of these paths can understand the Autarch."
- — Anthrillien Morningchild, Autarch of Yme-Loc
An Autarch is one of those few members of the Craftworld Eldar who have mastered many of the Asuryani Paths over the centuries, including one or more facets of the Path of the Warrior. They possess a consummate understanding of the art of war and serve as the supreme commanders of an Eldar Craftworld's warhost.
This Asuryani Path, known as the Path of Command or Path of the Leader, is pursued by highly skilled individuals who believe martial excellence can be achieved by gaining a wider perspective of battle that allows the Eldar warhost to achieve victory in the most efficient and lethal way possible.
Autarchs do not limit themselves to the single-minded specifications required of a single Path like most Eldar. The Autarch possesses an unparalleled strategic ability which far outshines an Exarch's obsession with only a singular facet of war. This enables an Autarch to lead a warhost that operates in perfect unison, with each component of the Eldar war machine functioning in perfect synchronicity.
It is not only at the aspect of command that an Autarch excels, for they are consummate warriors as well, and often spearhead assaults, fighting an enemy army's leader in personal combat or contemptuously destroying war machines with ease. Autarchs are considered integral parts of Eldar culture due to their versatility and ability to lead the Eldar on the myriad paths of life and death.
Compared to humans, the Eldar are incredibly long-lived. In the ancient past, this xenos race learned the dangers of unfettered indulgence, much to their loss, and so their society is now rigidly structured around the concept of the Paths of Life. Over the course of their long lives, Eldar choose many different Paths, not moving on to another until they have mastered their current choice. The Paths most familiar to Imperial scholars are the Paths of the Warrior and the Paths of the Seer. Following the Path of the Warrior, an Eldar chooses one Warrior Aspect of their war god, Kaela Mensha Khaine, and pursues it to total mastery. Most of these warriors then put aside their armour and weapons and pursue a new Path, completely unrelated to warfare and violence. Rarely, an Aspect Warrior becomes lost on the Path, forever trapped within the pursuit of martial superiority; these warriors become the dreaded Exarchs, the leaders and high priests of the Warrior Temples.
When an Eldar leaves an Aspect Shrine, he abandons its teachings and disciplines, forsakes its weapons and wargear, and absolutely disassociates himself from it in the pursuit of a completely new Path. Not so the Autarch, whose duty it is to learn about each Aspect in turn so that he might better guide them in defence of the Craftworld. To this end, the Autarch will join each of his Craftworld's most prevalent shrines for a time, learning all that he can of the rituals, skills and battle doctrines of that Aspect. Once he has taken the teachings of that shrine into himself, he will leave, though he will first participate in a ceremony with the shrine's Exarch known as the Rhaan Lona, or the Convenant of Wargift. In this secretive rite, a selection of weapons, armour and wargear of the shrine are laid out before the Autarch, from which he chooses a single item to take with him on his ritual journey. The Autarch retains this wargear throughout his life, using it -- and the knowledge that it represents -- for the betterment of his Craftworld.
Those selected to walk the Path of the Leader must be the most capable of their kind, for they carry the weight of their race's survival on their shoulders. They must be willing to devote themselves to a long and arduous task above all else. After a time, every Autarch comes to learn that the road to true martial excellence lies not in the heat of melee, but rather in gaining a wider vision of the battle and directing the Eldar warhost along the most efficient path to victory.
For an Aspect Warrior, success is to embody a specific element of Khaine's warlike nature, becoming one with their ritual weapons so that they might slay the foe with preternatural grace and ease. For an Autarch, success is to harness every aspect of Khaine's might at once -- to achieve victory without weakening the Craftworld, and prove the supremacy of the Eldar race in the process.
An Autarch's insight into each element of the Eldar warhost gives him an unparalleled strategic ability that an Exarch, obsessed with one facet of Khaine's bloody craft, could never hope to achieve. When an Eldar army is led by an Autarch and guided by his Farseer advisors, it functions as a well-honed machine, each component acting in perfect concert with the others to form an irresistible force. However, it is not purely as a commander that the Autarch excels. When the war-lust is on him, he will call upon the skills he honed amongst the Aspect shrines to spearhead assaults, duel with the leaders of the foe and destroy their war machines with contemptuous ease. Many Autarchs lead their warhost from the front, plunging into the fray to change the course of the conflict with each well-placed kill.
- Athanwe Illunivar - Athanwe Illunivar, also known as the Scourger of Serator Prime is fearsome in his defence of the Eldar, their ancient sites, and their artefacts, and has brought many an inquisitive Rogue Trader to ruin. In recent history, Illunivar appears to have become a major guardian of sites and locations sacred to the Eldar, in particular throughout Winterscale’s Realm in the Koronus Expanse. Illunivar’s complete destruction of the Rogue Trader Pietro Ironarm’s flotilla in orbit around Valcetti’s Salvation marked the intensifying of Eldar aggression in the region. Ironarm’s flotilla had followed years of research that indicated the hidden location of an ancient xenos crash site on Salvation. Soon after the first survey craft had landed, however, a wave of Eldar assault ships attacked, destroying all of the ships in orbit. The Rogue Trader’s forces still on the ground were annihilated by an overwhelming force of Aspect Warriors, led by Illunivar himself, his Swooping Hawk wings allowing him to descend upon Ironarm as he fled into the desert.
- Nyathuren Kith-menras, the Wandering Scholar - Most often alone, Nyathuren travels from planet to planet compiling a collection of all knowledge concerning ancient battles. All of her research revolves around mankind’s earliest wars within the region, and she has amassed vast amounts of knowledge from that period, but she does not part with her wisdom lightly. To beg for her assistance is often more dangerous than to meet her in open combat. A Rogue Trader desperate enough to brave the Scholar’s wrath, however, many seek out Kith-menras when all other options have been exhausted, but most come to regret the decision. After years of fruitless searching for any news regarding his father’s lost fleet, Rogue Trader Josef Sendaarin sought the guidance of Kith-menras. Though she proved almost as elusive as the information he originally hunted, Sendaarin finally tracked down the Eldar war-sage on the battlefield world of Zayth. None know the price she exacted from this desperate scion of a once-noble family, but he returned to Port Wander a broken man and has not spoken of his father since.
- Surinthiel Mihrendelas, the Collector - From Port Wander to the Rifts of Hecaton, from the Frozen Sisters to Aubray’s Anvil, Mihrendelas can be found, tracking down rumours and legends of ancient xenos artefacts. Ruthless in the extreme, no price is too high and no sacrifice too great in the pursuit of these artefacts. Several Rogue Traders have been utterly ruined through the acts of Mihrendelas, their only crime being in his way. Renowned Rogue Trader Bradfreid Craven was rendered all but destitute when he was stranded on Solace Encarmine, his ship destroyed in orbit when Mihrendelas created a new asteroid field from the planet’s third moon in search of a legendary artefact. No one knows if the xenos was successful or not.
- Heavy Aspect Armour - Incorporating thick armoured plates but retaining great flexibility, this armour is amongst the best in the known galaxy.
- Shuriken Pistol
- Haywire and Plasma Grenades
- Forceshield - These contain a powerful shield projector that can deflect any attack.
The more complex an Eldar rune, the more meaning it can carry, as with the rune of the Autarch, which denotes both the aggression of the warrior and the insight of the leader in perfect union.
- Codex: Eldar Craftworlds (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pg. 50
- Codex: Eldar (6th Edition), pp. 27, 65-66
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition), pg. 29
- Rogue Trader: The Koronus Bestiary (RPG), pp. 58-59