In the wake of the Battle of Biel-Tan and the birth of the Yncarne, the Avatar of Ynnead, the Seers of Ulthwé opened a portal from their Dome of Crystal Seers to its equivalent upon Biel-Tan, destroying the precious and irreplaceable souls of several deceased Farseers within the Ulthwé Infinity Circuit to do so.
The sacrifice was deemed necessary to ensure the Ynnari were rescued from becalmed Biel-Tan before the strife they had sown saw the craftworld consumed in the fires of civil war between those who accepted Ynnead's message and those enraged by the damage the Ynnari had done to their home by calling forth the Yncarne.
The Ynnari were called to account by Ulthwé's Seer Council, as was Eldrad Ulthran, for his arrogance in co-opting the psyches of generations of dead Aeldari was beyond countenance. Emissaries from Craftworld Altansar spoke in the Ynnari's defence, revealing that Ynnead's nascent consciousness had a hand in allowing them to survive their craftworld's millennia-long ordeal in the Eye of Terror.
The trial became ever more heated as courtly negotiations turned to veiled threats, then to open hostility and even psychic attack. Only the intervention of no less a Seer than Kysaduras the Anchorite, unseen for generations, prevented the council from kinstrife of the worst kind.
The Ynnari and their new Ulthwéan allies, accompanied by the Altansari, were allowed to leave on the proviso that they ventured into the Eye of Terror, never to return.
Following a rumour regarding the location of the last Croneswords needed to complete the Seventh Path ritual that will fully awaken Ynnead to consciousness in the Warp, the Ynnari took their crusade through the perils of the Eye of Terror to the Crone World of Belial IV.
Its once-luxurious Aeldari cities had long been toppled by the powers of Chaos, for the world was at the heart of the Aeldari Empire at the time of the Fall of the Aeldari. To venture there was to risk the worst doom of all under the claws of Slaanesh, but Yvraine believed it was worth the potential cost -- legend stated that should all five Croneswords be united, Ynnead's power would be bolstered beyond measure and the destruction of She Who Thirsts might be at hand.
Though many of Yvraine's Reborn were slain en route to the world through the Webway, and then, after planetfall, still more at the hands of the daemons that prowled that ruined hellscape, it was the Drukhari covenite forces of the Haemonculi that saw her quest grind to a halt.
Sent by Asdrubael Vect and his allies in Commorragh to eke out a terrible revenge upon Yvraine for the daemonic dysjunction that befell the Dark City after the Night of Revelations, they used all manner of vile technologies to attack the Ynnari.
The carnage drew a Slaaneshi Soul Hunt to their location. A three-way battle broke out in which Yvraine and her faithful throng were trapped and suffering -- but the key to their victory was close at hand, for one of the fabled Croneswords was indeed buried nearby.
When the Yncarne manifested from the deathly energies of the battle, it rose from the tortured ground holding that deadly blade, Vilith-zhar, the Sword of Souls, and turned the tide against the daemons and the Drukhari alike.
However, unknown to the Ynnari the fifth and final Cronesword was no longer on Belial IV. Slaanesh freed its Keeper of Secrets Shalaxi Hellbane from the Palace of Punishments in the Realm of Chaos and ordered it to prevent the awakening of Ynnead and foil the plans of the Ynnari. The daemon travelled to Belial IV and stole the fifth Cronesword before the Ynnari could claim it, placing it far from the reach of the servants of Ynnead in the Palace of Slaanesh.
A Wraithknight-led delegation from Craftworld Iyanden reinforced the Ynnari before the Slaaneshi horde could once more close the noose on the Ynnari. The Iyanden had read the runes of fate, divining that a critical moment of galactic history would occur upon Belial IV.
Well-versed in the hidden ways of the Crone Worlds from their Spirit Stone harvests within the Eye of Terror, the Iyanden force led the Ynnari through a hidden Webway portal to the battle-scarred world-ship of Iyanden.
At the same the Ynnari had arrived at the craftworld, the forces of Chaos attacked from the newborn Great Rift all across the galaxy, and Craftworld Iyanden was no exception to their assault. Even as Yvraine was held as an "honoured guest" -- in effect a prisoner -- by the rightfully cautious leaders of Iyanden, the craftworld was assailed by a Nurglite Plague Fleet.
From her sumptuous cell, Yvraine sent a psychic summons to a nearby Aeldari Corsair fleet that she had once commanded, and within a matter of solar days it joined the battle. Together with the Royal Armada of Iyanden and the Eldritch Raiders Corsairs under the command of Prince Yriel, the fleet prevented the Nurglite ships from reaching the craftworld.
The famous Corsair-turned-Autarch led a boarding action into the depths of the Nurglite flagship, a Daemon Engine of colossal size known to the Aeldari as the Spawn of Oghanothir. He plunged the Spear of Twilight into the heart of that rotting hulk, killing the daemonic creature within it that empowered the horrid vessel, but paid for it with his life, smashed to ruin by a blow from the Daemon Prince Gara'gugul'gor.
Prince Yriel's body was recovered and brought back to Iyanden, there to be lain in state. However, the corpse was infested with a virulent daemonic disease that could potentially lie low the entire population of the craftworld.
Fortunately, the Spiritseer Iyanna Arienal allowed Yvraine into Yriel's mausoleum. There, she burned out the arcane plague with the psychic energies of death before claiming Yriel's Spear of Twilight -- in actuality the fourth of the Croneswords she sought -- and resurrecting the prince with the power of Ynnead's rebirth.
Iyanden's course through history was altered forever by this fell time. In the wake of the craftworld's salvation, its Farseers cast their runes, but now the dwindling threads of potential that had seemed to throttle their future unravelled into a dozen different futures and more.
A council of Aeldari elders gathered in the aftermath of Yriel's resurrection. Together they discussed the new doom that faced the galaxy.
After long debate they came to the conclusion that only by giving the teeming masses of Humanity a fighting chance to hurl back the forces of the ascendant Ruinous Powers could they avert a doom that would see the Aeldari species suffer and die.
The Ynnari, now bolstered by a large contingent from Iyanden, braved the shattered spars of the Webway once more, and prepared to face the next trial in their great quest.
Arrival on Ulthwé
The members of the Seer Council of Craftworld Ulthwé were the most skilled of all their kind. In the wake of the Battle of Biel-Tan, they saw clearly the revelation that Yvraine had engineered upon that craftworld.
The most senior of their number, Eldrad Ulthran, demanded that Yvraine and her Reborn kin be brought to Ulthwé as swiftly as possible. In public, the rest of the Seer Council agreed his reasoning was sound. In private, when the High Farseer was deep in his meditations, they made subtle inferences that Eldrad had overstepped his bounds, and their agendas were no longer the same.
The elders of Ulthwé conducted a great runic ritual at Eldrad's behest, using the spiritual link between the crystal Seers that populated the great Dome of Crystal Seers and those of Biel-Tan's recently devastated equivalent. The ritual was a gamble, despite the fact the hyperspatial link through the Warp was strong between the two craftworlds.
Though the Warp Storms that raged near Ulthwé and Biel-Tan could theoretically be psychically channelled into a tunnel leading through the Warp from one craftworld to the other, the process might well consume the souls of the travellers that walked it -- and those that had conducted the ritual too.
To use the crystal Seers as conduits for psychic energy instead of revering them as honoured ancestors was a gross breach of craftworld culture. It was considered even worse than taking a spirit into a Waystone and transferring it to a wraith construct.
The Farseers that had undergone their kind's peculiar transformation into psychocrystal, before later joining with their craftworld's Infinity Circuit, had earned their long rest a dozen times over.
To break the departed Seers from that connection, and to use them as mere tools for sorcery, was a heinous crime indeed -- but one Eldrad Ulthran had already committed, through his Harlequin proxies, on every craftworld across the galaxy during the Battle of Port Demesnus. Such was the urgency of the hour that the Farseer showed no compunction in doing so again.
The Seers gambled much, if the ritual went awry -- in theory, a single lapse of concentration could see the portal open a tunnel into the Empyrean itself, allowing a daemonic incursion to spill into Ulthwé just as it had into Biel-Tan.
If the Seers of Ulthwé had not been confident in their psychic supremacy, and had the mental might to back that confidence up, they may well have capsized the entire world-ship into the Warp. As it was, their skills proved equal to the task.
The Seer Council had gathered in Ulthwé's fabled dome, answering Eldrad's summons. Their rune-emblazoned robes waved gently in the same warm zephyrs that caressed the branches of wraithbone trees in the distance.
One of the undisputed wonders of the craftworlds, the Dome of Crystal Seers was dotted with staircases of spiralling wraithbone that stretched up to nowhere.
All bar the highest steps harboured the fossilised remnants of an ancient Seer. Atop these staircases stood the luminaries of the craftworld, their voices joined in the Song of Ulthanash.
Abruptly, the song ended. "Here we stand," spoke Eldrad from his position atop the tallest staircase, "ready to usher in a new age for Ulthwé and the Aeldari race."
"Aeldari?" said Yemshon Il'foire. "That name has no place this side of the Fall."
"Until now," said Eldrad. "Our guests-to-be resurrect it with good reason." Several of the Seers raised eyebrows by a fraction of an inch, but did not speak out. "We summon the bridge of stars," continued Eldrad, his fabled staff describing the Rune of the Infinite Stride. "This night we have need of it, no matter the cost."
"As you say," said Aralie Coppermane, a strange edge to her voice, "we have no choice."
The Farseers and Warlocks assembled atop the dome's stairways chanted once more, casting runes of star-striding and storm-walking into the air. The psychic runes rose, glowing, to describe a wide circle in the casters' midst. Glittering motes of light span around the symbols, faster and faster, as the dome's gentle breeze became a gale, then a hurricane.
The periphery of the Warp Storm raging outside the craftworld curdled into the funnel of a tornado in space-time, the tip both remaining still and stretching untold light years into the aether.
By the time the ritual was complete, three of Ulthwé's finest Farseers had turned to psychoreactive crystal from head to toe. In their midst, a portal shone -- within it, destiny made ﬂesh.
With Eldrad Ulthran leading the runic rite, an unstable Warp portal opened up under Ulthwé's Dome of Crystal Seers. Uncounted light years away, Yvraine walked as if in a daze to the shattered equivalent upon Biel-Tan.
What she found in that dome was all but invisible to the naked eye, but the Yncarne was drawn towards it as driftwood is drawn to a whirlpool. The Reborn -- the Ynnari -- for that was the name Yvraine's followers had adopted for themselves, passed through the Warp portal and vanished from Biel-Tan altogether.
The howling, screaming vortex through which the Reborn passed was the embodiment of utter Chaos. So fierce and baleful was this passageway it would have robbed the sanity of a lesser being in a matter of moments. Yet the Reborn found themselves ﬂoating through a tunnel cut in the Warp unhindered, as if borne by an underwater current.
At their fore was the Yncarne, a revenant creature so inimical to Chaos that the psychic stuff of the Empyrean could not slow it. Even the Gods of Chaos did not look upon the creature directly; the incarnation of Ynnead's essence was so anathema to them they could not truly perceive it, even had they known where to look.
The ripples of the Avatar's passage ﬂowed outward nonetheless. Causing a great ruction in the Warp, the bow wave of its translocation cast Imperial voidships aside hundreds of light years away, ripping open Gellar Fields and distorting the light of the Astronomican.
Thousands of human lives were lost with every solar second of the Reborn's passage. It was a price the Eldar would gladly pay a million times over if it gave them even the slightest chance of turning the tables upon their nemesis, Slaanesh.
The tunnel through reality known as the Bridge of Stars yawned, spasmed and pulsed. Through that secret aperture came the Ynnari, the favoured of Ynnead, drawn from Biel-Tan across light years of space and time to Craftworld Ulthwé.
The combination of the Seer Council of Ulthwé's runic powers and the powerful psyche of the Yncarne had brought the Reborn safely to the crystal havens of Ulthwé, one step closer to securing the two lost Croneswords that Yvraine sought from the husk of the lost Aeldari Empire.
Though the manner of their coming had cost the lives of several Farseers and driven some of the Ynnari half-mad with fear, the stillness that descended upon Ulthwé's Dome of Crystal Seers after their safe passage was a balm to the soul.
First to emerge was the Yncarne, hissing and whispering in the voices of the dead. The Ulthwéan Council felt the cold mantle of terror upon them at the sight. The creature came forward like a ghost, slow and ethereal, the energies of the otherworld swirling around it.
It was slender and androgynous, yet far larger and more fearsome than any Asuryani warrior save perhaps the Avatar of the Bloody-Handed God. But where the living statue of Khaela Mensha Khaine was a creature of fire, iron and blood, the Yncarne manifested a shuddering chill that was both invigorating and shocking, like a deluge of ice water.
In the revenant's wake came Yvraine and the Visarch, leading the Reborn to gather beneath crystal stairways. The crested helms of the Ulthwé Seers turned to look down at the newcomers with the unwavering gaze of raptors.
There was an electrifying tension, a sense of history in the making. To the relief of all those nearby, the Yncarne drifted from the dome's heart and circulated around the periphery, staring at each of the crystal Seers in turn as if hunting for something.
It was Yvraine who spoke first, formally thanking the Seers of Craftworld Ulthwé for their aid. To cross the galaxy in a matter of solar hours was a feat worthy of the Aeldari at the apex of their power. It was a status they could achieve once more, now that Ynnead had shown them the Seventh Way, the path between darkness and light.
First, though, they had to ensure the physical conduits of the god of the dead were brought together. The Croneswords, when united, could act as a focal point for Ynnead's ascension, thereby restoring the broken cycle of life and death.
The Visarch claimed that two of these blades were buried in the heart of the Aeldari's former empire. They were somewhere upon the Crone World known as Belial IV, caught between realspace and the Warp in the Eye of Terror. With Ulthwé having kept vigil over that vast tempest for so long, they were the logical choice of allies.
Eldrad Ulthran nodded quietly in satisfaction as the Openers of the Seventh Way made their case.
"You ask the impossible," sneered Yemshon Il'foire of the Seer Council, shaking his head before putting on his Ghosthelm. "Pray be still, Daughter of Shades, and keep your people in silence. Your presence is desired, of course, but we have matters of the past to attend to before we consider the future."
"There is no matter of more import than this," said Eldrad Ulthran, his tone grave. "I have foreseen it."
"You have foreseen much," answered one of his peers, Aralie Coppermane, donning her own helm with ceremonial formality. "And yet ultimately, it seems you are blind."
"I see further than all others, and act accordingly," said Eldrad indignantly, "which is why our kindred now stand here, on the threshold of a lasting victory over She Who Thirsts."
"An impressive claim," said Yemshon, inclining his helmed head. "But a victory at what cost? The destruction of Craftworld Biel-Tan? The loss of thousands of Eldar ancestors? The dissolution of harmony itself?"
"There will always be those whose vision is clouded by fear," said Eldrad. "Now we proceed. Muster the Black Guardians."
"No," said Aralie. The word resounded through the Dome of Crystal Seers like a dropped tombstone.
"Eldrad Ulthran," said Hijeroc the Blind from the crystal stairs opposite, "We, the Seer Council of Ulthanesh Shelwé, accuse you of misappropriation of our mutual destiny. In conjunction with the Midnight Sorrow, who exist outside our cultural jurisdiction, you engaged in the theft of the crystal seers."
At this, Hijeroc motioned towards a stairway step where the lack of a fossilised Farseer was like a missing tile in a sacred mosaic. "After taking the remains of these long-serving heroes, you formed a hyperspatial link with the crystal sands of Coheria, thereby endangering every departed Eldar soul in every Craftworld."
"The death blow to Slaanesh was levelled, and near dealt," protested Eldrad. "Were it not for the intervention of the crass warriors of Humanity..."
"And yet they did intervene, and your ritual fell apart like Khaine's castle of bone," said Yemshon, "risking billions of souls, and all but handing She Who Thirsts the chance to consume every Craftworlder who has died since the Fall."
"In seeking to keep the Rhana Dandra at bay," said Hijeroc the Blind, "you may well have hastened its onset."
"Your behaviour is intolerable," said Aralie. "It is not for you to decide the fate of our race by yourself, nor to dabble in the affairs of gods. You are no god, Eldrad Ulthran. You are barely even an Eldar, for you should have joined the ranks of your crystal brethren long ago. Your time is long past. It is the will of the Seer Council that you be exiled to the void."
At this, Eldrad stumbled as if he had been struck.
"Act once more on the behalf of the Eldar race," said Yemshon, "and you will be put to death."
The judgement of the Seer Council saw Eldrad slump to the ﬂoor, his grandeur evaporated in the heat of their ire. Every one of his ten thousand Terran years and more weighed heavy upon him, and his bones -- already half-crystal -- felt like jagged knives within his sparse frame.
To have his inﬂuence over the fate of his people eradicated was worse than death to the ancient Farseer, for he had striven for nothing else since the Fall.
Yvraine spoke eloquently in Eldrad's defence, only to find herself verbally attacked in turn. Who was she to demand the Seer Council lend her aid, and to request they follow her lead into the stronghold of the Great Enemy? By her direct action, Ulthwé's martial ally, the ancient and proud Craftworld Biel-Tan, had been reduced to a skeletal shadow upon the brink of extinction.
What was to prevent the same fate from happening to Ulthwé? Was it not enough that they stood sentinel over the Eye of Terror, thwarting the Chaos-tainted armies that emerged from within it and sending their citizen soldiers against the worst terrors in the universe?
Many of Yvraine's Biel-Tani followers reacted strongly to the hostility of Ulthwé's seers. They held forth with great passion, saying that though their Craftworld had indeed suffered after the apotheosis of Yncarne -- and though they could never truly forgive her -- they truly believed the damage could be healed. More importantly, there was a greater battle being fought, worth more than life itself.
With a way to escape Slaanesh's curse, there was a slim chance that Biel-Tan might succeed in its quest to restore the former glory of the Aeldari. It was a crusade once seen as futile by many of the Biel-Tani present, but admitted to by none amongst them, for to do so was unthinkable stigma within their militant culture.
Now there was a real hope of success. Their argument was persuasive, but many elder Seers remained unconvinced. When asked by the Ulthwé Farseers if they spoke on behalf of their Craftworld, or as a rogue splinter faction, the Biel-Tani Reborn had no answer. That in itself was telling enough.
On and on the debate raged, the usual allusions to well-trodden Eldar myths and social mores giving way to veiled insults and outright displays of anger. The Ulthwé Seer Council believed that Eldrad, Yvraine and their fellow revolutionaries represented the worst of all disruptive inﬂuences.
Though they had reknitted the skein of possible futures, they had done so at so great a cost, and in so reckless a manner, they could not be trusted.
It was during this scathing assessment that Yemshon Il'foire suddenly paused mid-rhetoric, the heat of his anger still radiating as he glanced sharply at his fellow elders. A psychic impulse passed through the ranks of the Seer Council in that moment, the urgency of the missive bringing the debate to a pause.
Word had arrived of yet more visitors to Ulthwé; via the great Webway gate at the world-ship's rear, a delegation from another craftworld had arrived. A diplomatic corps was already inbound, making for the Dome of Crystal Seers with all haste.
When the tall-helmed warriors made their way into the dome and approached the impromptu war council that raged there, a smile came once more to Eldrad Ulthran's features. These mysterious warriors were clad in the colours of the fabled Craftworld Altansar.
Within craftworld society, the Eldar of Altansar have long dwelt in the twilight of mistrust. Much speculation surrounds them. They speak only in whispers, and never remove their helmets, no matter the situation.
During the calamitous times of the Fall, Altansar was on the periphery of the Eye of Terror, the cosmic wound resulting from Slaanesh's birth. At first, the populace believed themselves safe, but the gravitic pull of that immense Warp Storm gradually drew the craftworld and its attendant voidships into its reaches over the course of five hundred Terran years.
The only Eldar to escape Altansar's doom was the Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra, first of the Dark Reapers. Towards the end of the 41st Millennium of the Imperial Calendar, that legendary warrior sought his Craftworld in the depths of the Eye.
After a gruelling series of trials he managed to locate Altansar and guide it through the insanity of that aetheric tempest. It re-emerged through the Cadian Gate, bringing the Altansari into the material dimension once more after their impossibly long incarceration.
Since that day, the Altansar Eldar have used the symbol of the Broken Chain to represent their craftworld. Set free from their eternal bondage, they have fought tirelessly against the forces of She Who Thirsts.
Yet despite their proven loyalty to the Eldar cause, the matter of how the Altansari survived their millennial imprisonment in the dark heart of Chaos has proved persistent.
The Altansari are unwelcome on many craftworlds, even forbidden, amid fears they are not as closely aligned to Asuryani culture as they claim and secretly serve Slaanesh, despite the evidence to the contrary.
The question is asked time and again -- have they not been tainted by their ordeal, changed by the Ruinous Powers that roam the Eye at will?
Usually such questions are put aside, but with the appearance of an Altansar delegation at this critical time upon Ulthwé, they arose in greater measure than ever before.
A furor broke out almost immediately. To add fuel to the fires of controversy, the Altansari were moving to side with Yvraine.
It was the Warlock Guentilian Onyxblade who stepped forward to represent Altansar. Her low whisper was unheard at first amongst the raised voices of the Ulthwé Seers, but when she reached up and unclasped her helm with a dual puff of escaping air, the dome's interior fell silent once more.
Only the Yncarne could be heard, its unnerving hiss turning from the sibilance of a questing serpent to something like a sigh of relief.
Tall even for an Eldar, Guentilian was a striking sight. Her skin was so pale and waxen it was as if she had died long ago. Many of those gathered could not shake the notion they were looking upon a well-preserved corpse.
The Warlock held her long black Witchblade as if it were a rod of office, proof that though she was one of a forgotten kindred, she still walked the Asuryani Path. At her side was one of the rare feline creatures known as gyrinxes, those psychic familiars that bolstered the mental and spiritual power of those they took as masters.
The dome's atmosphere grew thick as the Warlock climbed atop a nearby spiral of crystal stairs to speak.
"Autarch Orensae extended you welcome after all, then," said Yemshon, nodding in greeting. "The gates of Asuryan's halls open, and cleanse those who enter."
"There are those who call Ulthwé damned," interjected Zuar'lias the Wise, addressing his fellow council member, "purely for our proximity to the Eye. We would be the worst kinds of hypocrites if we were to refuse those of Altansar for the same reasons."
"And we thank you for it," said Guentilian. Disturbingly, her soft whisper was echoed by every one of her kindred.
"You came to speak in defence of Eldrad Ulthran and the Ynnari," said Yemshon. "Have you a vested interest in this matter?"
"We must return to the Eye," said the Altansar Warlock, her gyrinx prowling around her legs. "The blade that the Daughter of Shades speaks of must be reclaimed from our enemies, if our race is to transcend. I know in which city it lies. We failed once, and only escaped She Who Thirsts thanks to the shroud Ynnead cast over us. We cannot fail again." At her words, many of the Altansari shifted uncomfortably, looking through the translucent dome walls to the Eye of Terror's purple bruise amongst the stars.
"I cannot ask my people to return to the Eye," said Guentilian, "but neither can I stand idle. So I give my soul to Yvraine, and to Ynnead himself." Raising her sword, she slashed her own throat wide open. Black blood spurted outward as she gasped her last.
Yvraine darted forward, grabbing Guentilian's body. The Ynnari priestess seemed to inhale deeply even as the Warlock's body slumped, lifeless and pale. A moment later the gyrinx, purring in recognition, rubbed itself against Yvraine's legs.
"And so we must act," said Yvraine, staring unfocussed into the middle distance. "We must leave now to retrieve the Croneswords of Belial IV, lest the handmaidens of Slaanesh reach it first."
"Surely the risk of snuffing out this ﬂicker of hope is too great," replied Yemshon. He twitched a finger, and a trio of Ulthwé Warlocks drew their own Witchblades. "We cannot allow you to take the fate of so many into your hands. The wise do not pin their hopes upon a life unborn. Would this journey not be better made by the warriors of Craftworld Il-Kaithe? They profess to know the Crone Worlds better than any other."
"None know the Eye as well as the Altansari," said Yvraine. "They have navigated its tides for thousands of cycles, avoiding the claws of the daemon with each new day. Guentilian's sacrifice will not be in vain." There were whispers of assent from the Altansari behind her, building to a hissing chorus.
"No," said Yemshon. He raised his arms, and ethereal winds raced around the dome, knocking several of the Altansari Eldar from their feet. "You and your followers will stay until the Seer Councils decide your fate." The psychic hurricane blew harder still, and the craftworld erupted into utter bedlam.
Courtly negotiations turned to veiled threats, then to open hostility as the Ulthwé psykers threw up barriers of psychic force and sent strength-sapping curses into the ranks of the Ynnari.
The Visarch fought through the psychic tempest, his blade raised as he made for Yemshon. The Yncarne loomed from the shadows, a storm of glittering spirits whirling around it as it bore down on the chanting Seers.
Then a clarion shout rang out. The Harlequins of the Masque of the Midnight Sorrow stepped out one by one from behind the darkest of the crystal statues, each striking a pose as if parrying a blow.
With them was an elderly Farseer clad in a simple black robe. The Seer Council looked on in wonder; the newcomer was Kysaduras the Anchorite, wisest of all Ulthwé's visionaries. He had emerged from his self-imposed imprisonment to speak to his people.
The psychic hurricane that raged around the dome ebbed away, becalmed in an instant as Kysaduras raised his staff above his head. He spoke in a croaking baritone, a voice that had clearly not been used for solar decades, but yet carried immense weight.
They stood at the crux point of fate, he said. Whether the Seers wished it so or not, the Ynnari had to leave -- or else another craftworld would die, never to be reborn.
As one, the Seer Council turned away. The Ynnari -- their ranks now bolstered not only by the Biel-Tani, but also by a few bold Altansari, the Harlequins of the Midnight Sorrow, and a swathe of Ulthwé sympathisers -- made for the dome's primary gates.
With them went the Yncarne, the ground crackling with hoarfrost at its passage. Eldrad Ulthran followed the creature, bent under the weight of his peers' censure. Kysaduras, using his staff as a support, went with him.
Before the Craftworld's diurnal cycle ended, the Ynnari had left for the Eye of Terror. They embarked upon a journey of supreme peril, for their journey was to Slaanesh's own birthplace. Not one of them looked back.
Into the Eye of Terror
The journey into the depths of the Eye of Terror was fraught. The purplish swirl of that vast Warp Storm had the presence of a living, predatory thing. The weight and saturation of its evil pulled at the soul as a black hole devours light.
Without the thought of Ynnead's ascension to inspire an icy determination in the Ulthwé pilots carrying the Ynnari into the Eye, those at the helm would likely have turned back a dozen times over. On they went, each soul resolved to live as boldly and fully as the ancient Aeldari rather than to look away or hide in the manner of their present-day kin.
The graceful starships moved under the cover of gigantic Holo-Fields, bypassing the embattled Imperial war zones of the Cadian Gate and venturing into the unstable overlap between realspace and the Warp. The Eldar expedition evaded fang-toothed space-time tornadoes, ﬂed from hungry ghost suns, rode out hailstorms of bloody skulls and negotiated crashing tsunamis of raw Warp energy. They did not falter.
Whenever the resolve of the Ynnari began to waver in the face of these trials, Yvraine was there to inspire them and lead them on. It was this bravery that came to typify the Ynnari over the Terran months to come, securing their reputation as a force for change from one side of the galaxy to the other.
Already the shock waves the Ynnari had sent throughout the Aeldari civilisations were causing ripples of causality in their turn. The transformation of Yvraine in the Crucibael had triggered the invasion and Dysjunction of Commorragh, and Asdrubael Vect himself had abandoned the Dark City as a result.
Though the damage to his reign had been cataclysmic, the Supreme Overlord had already set in motion hundreds of plots and schemes that would reaffirm his stranglehold upon Drukhari society. It was the metaphysical danger of the Ynnari's rise that concerned Vect most of all.
The harrowing odyssey of Yvraine and the Reborn had been the subject of much interest in the Kabal of the Black Heart. The Supreme Overlord Asdrubael Vect now had far more pressing matters to attend to, for Commorragh was wracked by the most severe of Dysjunctions and his aeons-old power base was literally falling apart.
Yet he could not shake the desire for vengeance upon the upstart gladiatrix that had triggered this turbulent uprising that night in the Crucibael arena, and causing division amongst the Commorrites -- a sentiment shared by a great many of the Haemonculi who had long considered themselves the true masters of Drukhari society.
The Dysjunction of Commorragh was an eventuality Vect had long planned for. He was a past master at ensuring that when misfortune befell the Drukhari, his rivals suffered the worst; often it transpired that it was Vect's hidden hand behind the disaster in the first place.
Though he implied to his servants that he had deliberately triggered the cataclysm to relieve his immortal ennui, Vect was secretly livid that his personal fiefdom had been defiled, and his contingency plans forced into sudden reality.
Whilst his rivals scrambled to salvage the remnants of their once-glorious holdings amidst the spreading Warp quake, Vect was already well-established elsewhere, populating the ruins of ancient port cities and turning them into sprawling fortresses.
He offered safe haven to those who sought his protection -- at a price, of course -- and prepared for his long campaign of counterattack.
Meanwhile, the cataclysm of the Dark City occurred in a series of chain reactions. The underground River Khaïdes burst its banks as a slough of Nurgle daemons ﬂopped into its acrid reaches, surging into the streets above to trigger waves of necrotising plague.
With the midspires largely unguarded, Tzeentchian sky-sharks and the fiery chariots of daemon sorcerers roared into the skies, ﬂame spiralling as they clashed with the murder-packs that populate Commorragh's starscrapers.
When the daemons of Khorne poured through empty streets to invade the sprawl of Sec Maegra, the most nefarious, hardened mercenaries and pirates of the galaxy united as a single army in the face of swarming Bloodletters and rampaging Greater Daemons. The hordes of Slaanesh, beside themselves with ecstasy, sated themselves with orgies of violence unbound as they massacred Commorrite Kabals spire by spire.
That immense and complex Drukhari metropolis had power enough to swallow even a major daemon incursion and cauterise the areas deemed irretrievable, but it was far too fractious a domain for a unified defence.
Many of the Dark City's Archons tried to slay their rivals under the pretence of fighting back the daemon hordes, their actions adding to the mayhem. Skirmishes and gang wars broke out in the streets in escalating measure, for this time there was no Kabal of the Black Heart to bring the hyperdimensional city to bloody order.
Like a palace made of dominoes given a single push, Commorragh suffered a chain reaction of disasters. Around the Crucibael, the escaped Tyranids that would once have been put down with relative ease carved a red path through the domains of the Wych Cults.
Archon Sythrac, counterattacked after a vicious but costly coup staged against the Lords of the Iron Thorn, was beheaded by Kheradruakh the Decapitator, one of the living shadows known as Mandrakes.
With this singular and grisly kill, the Decapitator finally claimed the last "perfect" skull he needed for his dark work. Flaying it and licking his trophy clean, he used it to complete the underground ritual he had been obsessively fashioning from the stolen heads of his prey over the last eight Terran millennia.
The gaze of a thousand perfect skulls met in the middle of his lair and bored a hole in the wall between worlds, opening a gateway to the midnight dimension of the Mandrakes. A morass of shadowy assassins and tenebrous monsters spilled like an inky ﬂood through the streets, and slew every soul within a dozen Terran miles.
In the space of a single night, that region of Commorragh became the shadow kingdom of the Decapitator, long-lost monarch of the Mandrakes. His was a new reign of terror, his throne set within a sea of living shadow that consumed even the daemon invaders that strayed within its grasp.
On the third night that shadow army combined its strength with the ﬂeshy hordes of the Haemonculi Covens. Endless menageries of twisted ﬂesh-things and shadow daemons surged up from the Dark City's underworld, and the mayhem of the daemon incursion begin to lose momentum.
The Kabals and Wych Cults regrouped somewhat, using their knowledge of the Dark City to fight back against the Warp-born invaders. As the stolen dark suns burned overhead, Commorragh's fate hung in the balance.
In Vect's presence, the topic of the Dysjunction's cause was already taboo. The Supreme Overlord had already claimed he had Yvraine in his power, and that he and his Haemonculus allies were painstakingly extracting every ounce of the power she had shown in the Crucibael. Though there had been no proof of it, none were foolish enough to call him a liar to his face.
Vect had publicly tortured the steersmen and Corsair warriors Yvraine had abandoned in her ﬂight from the city during the Night of Revelations, but of the gladiatrix herself, there was no sign.
Rumours were circulating that Vect's claim was hollow, and his rivals -- his former paramour, Lady Malys of the Kabal of the Poisoned Tongue, foremost amongst them -- were doing everything in their power to ensure that Vect's authority and dominance was undermined.
In secret, Vect was sparing no expense in the search for Yvraine, and the Haemonculi Ancient Urien Rakarth's Prophets of Flesh Coven were pulling every string they could in order to track down the Ynnari. Without the aid of their Harlequin allies, the Ynnari would likely already be captured, but for now they had slipped the net.
To Rakarth, the rumours of soul magic were both intoxicating and horrifying. They hinted at a prize worth any cost to the nigh-immortal Coven-lords, whilst also representing a manner of death that even a Haemonculus Ancient would not be able to escape.
Almost as soon as Yvraine had escaped the Dark City, wheels had been put in motion that had seen a host of Vect's Haemonculi allies depart for the most dangerous reaches of the Webway -- and from there to the same daemon-haunted planet sought by the Reborn. In many ways it was a dark homecoming. Amongst the Haemonculi Covens' founders were the self-same Aeldari whose wanton indulgence had led to the Fall.
Elsewhere, after a series of maddening and surreal trials, the Ynnari expedition reached its destination with most of their number still alive. There were those that maintained it was the spirit of the Altansari Warlock Guentilian guiding the Ynnari through the Eye of Terror's hellish reaches that allowed them to reach their destination all but intact.
Others said it was the presence of the Yncarne. It may even have been Ynnead himself that held back the infernal tides; certainly that was what Yvraine had claimed since they had passed the Cadian Gate.
Though many of the Reborn were slain during daemonic attacks or driven irrevocably insane en route, the core of the Ynnari's expedition was still intact when the convoy of Eldar starships came into orbit around the giant, milk-white orb of Belial IV.
When an Ulthwé warhost's grav-tanks bore the Ynnari low into the Crone World's atmosphere, and from there to the surface of the planet, there was not a soul to be seen. Dunes of off-white dust had accumulated everywhere, the residue of a once-mighty civilisation mingled with the remains of its people.
The planet's ruin-dotted surface had the stale and unwelcoming atmosphere of a place that had not felt the footfall of a living creature for hundreds of Terran years. Just occasionally, however, the Ynnari saw ﬂickers of movement in their peripheral vision, as if something half-real was watching.
As the Ulthwéan contingent split off in a spiralling search pattern, the Harlequins of the Midnight Sorrow too fanned out, making exaggerated gestures of stealth. So swift was their progress than many Ynnari asked themselves if they had visited these ill-fated lands before.
It was their Shadowseer that brought their suspicions to Yvraine first, drawing a thin and shimmering veil of darkness behind her as she came. They were not alone amongst the ruins. The creatures that pursued them were not ghosts, nor daemons, but creatures that were very much ﬂesh and blood.
No sooner had the Shadowseer confided in Yvraine than a howling menagerie of abhorrent terrors charged headlong from the ruins ahead. They were coming straight for the Ynnari, hungry and focussed on their prey despite the Harlequin psyker's illusory veils. At their fore were eyeless Ur-Ghuls, multiple nostrils twitching as they bounded on all fours towards their prey.
Behind the creatures came all manner of twisted anatomies, from musclebound hulks whose spines bristled with steroid injectors to whip-limbed hunchbacks who scuttled on bare feet with the speed of hunting spiders. Floating amongst them were the Haemonculi sent on a mission of murder by the ﬂeshmaster Urien Rakarth, most feared of the Dark City's Haemonucli.
Eyes wide, the Haemonculi grinned like ﬂayed skulls as they came, many licking their lips in anticipation of the gruesome experiments they would enact upon the Ynnari. It was as if the vilest elements of the ancient Aeldari society had been resurrected amongst their shattered holdings, and given forms that better mirrored their inner personas -- not those of elegant and athletic paragons, but of ravening monsters, whose surpassing ugliness revealed the parasitic souls beneath.
The Ynnari were under attack from the hidden architects of the Fall, an echo of the torrid past come to rip away the brightest hope for the future.
As a silver moon glimmered upon the parched surface of Belial IV, the echoes of Aeldari long dead ﬂitted and moaned amongst the ruins, crying out as the darkest incarnation of their ancient society fell upon their would-be saviours.
Even the Bloodbrides and Incubi amongst the Ynnari ranks were under no illusions as to what their Commorrite brethren intended for them, and so dived into the fray alongside the Black Guardians of Ulthwé and the Harlequins of the Midnight Sorrow.
The razored blades of mercenary and gladiatrix cut away heavily thewed limbs, bisected leaping Ur-Ghuls and decapitated masked monstrosities wherever they came forward. Incredibly, many of the Haemonculi's minions kept fghting even after sustaining grievous wounds, limb-stumps spraying nameless ﬂuids as they thrashed and ﬂailed. Their violence was indiscriminate, but the unnatural strength behind it made it dangerous. Many an Ynnari was hurled broken across the wasteland to skid like a rag doll into the drifts of bluish-white dust.
In the centre of it all, a clutch of Talos Pain Engines drifted towards Yvraine, claws and tentacles twitching. The Shuriken Catapults of the Biel-Tani Dire Avengers slashed a hundred wounds in the ﬂeshy war machines, black liquid ﬂying from their ironhard carapaces. The pulsing energies of nearby Cronos Parasite Engines spurred them on regardless.
The spirit constructs fought with courage and strength, but the Pain Engines were true masterpieces of the ﬂeshcrafter's art -- one by one the Wraithblades were caught by clacking claws and wrenched apart.
Suddenly the Visarch was there, stepping nimbly around the Pain Engines as he ducked, slashed and moved away once more, avoiding whirring chain-ﬂails and jabbing ichor injectors with impressive grace. Soon, all that was left were hovering carapaces that drizzled foul blood.
The eldest of the Haemonculi, his mouth twisted in a moue of irritation at the sight of his pets being dismembered, brought forth a rune-engraved box from his robes and opened it. Sickly light ﬂooded out as captive djinn-spirits shrieked towards the Visarch.
His long blade whirled and slashed, but no physical foes were these, and they could not be cut. They lifted him bodily into the air and stretched his limbs taut; grinding and snapping sounds were clearly audible as the Ynnari warrior was slowly stretched to breaking point.
A moment before the Visarch came apart, the Yncarne burst from the morass of dead Pain Engines with a deafening roar of triumph. With nothing more than its bare hands, the Avatar ripped the djinn-spirits to dissipating wisps of ectoplasm.
It ﬂexed a slender claw, and the djinn's Haemonculus master withered away to a puff of dust. In far Commorragh, those samples of the Coven-lord's anatomy that were kept for regrowth turned to dust at the same instant. There could be no proof nor safeguard against the death brought by the Yncarne, for it was the god of the dead given physical form.
Seeing their comrade's demise, and fearing that he had died a true death at the hands of a daemon, the rest of the Haemonculi withdrew.
No prize was valuable enough to risk their carefully maintained and treasured immortality. Within solar minutes they were gone entirely, their fleshwarped servants vanishing with them.
The Ynnari had barely regrouped amongst the ruins when a ululating shriek pierced the air.
The Soul Hunt of Belial IV
The screams in the middle distance were painful to hear. These were not shrieks of agony, but of savage joy, the cries of lunatic killers on the hunt. They were not of mortals, nor even the playthings of the Haemonculi, but of entities borne from the Warp and attracted to the psychic spoor of carnage.
Every one of the Ynnari that heard them felt trepidation; these were the daemons of Slaanesh, birthed from the catastrophe that had laid this wretched place low.
To fall into their clutches here was to know an eternity of torment, and to be consumed utterly by She Who Thirsts. They told themselves that their souls would be saved from that direst of fates by Yvraine and their fellow Ynnari, but ancestral fear still clutched at their hearts.
Darting up to elevated positions, Yvraine's Bloodbride handmaidens peered into the gloom. Through the ivory mists came whole armies of blade-wheeled chariots, striking sparks from the tumbled ruins as they came. In their wake was a tide of sprinting Daemonettes.
Realisation broke across the Aeldari like a cold wind -- this was a hunt, and they were the quarry. Yvraine cursed loud and long. The souls she kept safe within her had aided her in finding signs of the ancient Croneswords she sought; one of the artefacts was near, but not likely near enough.
Shortly before the Haemonculus ambush was sprung, Yvraine had found a trail of dead Waystones -- the psychocrystal gems known as Isha's Tears. Highly prized as havens from Slaanesh's unquenchable thirst for Aeldari souls, they were formed by the shearing of realspace and the Warp during the Fall.
The particular Waystones Yvraine had found did not glitter with psychic potential, like those typically sought out by the Rangers and Wraithknights of the Craftworlds. Instead they exuded a leaden absence of life.
Yvraine had followed the trail of dead stones to find it converging with another, then another. It was a sign, a hint that one of the morbid artefacts she sought was close -- though with the daemons of Slaanesh hunting her, there was no time to investigate.
It occurred to her that might be precisely why the daemons had chosen this time to strike, though it was just as likely they had waited for the Haemonculi and the Ynnari to bleed each other white before attacking the survivors.
With her inherited gyrinx growling at her heels, Yvraine took up her own Cronesword once more and made for the charging daemon host. She was unsurprised to see the Visarch leading the Ynnari from the front, darting through the densest ruins so the chariots of the Slaaneshi could not attack him without dashing themselves to pieces.
Their Ulthwé allies were no more than a few Terran kilometres distant -- though they had split off from Yvraine's vanguard in a search pattern in order to find the Cronesword they sought, Eldrad Ulthran had insisted there be a strike force close to the Ynnari at all times in case of ambush.
As she saw the daemonic chariots racing pellmell around their ﬂanks, Yvraine's hope that they could reach their Ulthwé allies ebbed away. The Slaaneshi were moving along what had once been the widest boulevards of the Crone World's capital city, bouncing and skidding at breakneck pace as they encircled their prey entirely.
With them came Daemonettes riding long-necked, bipedal Steeds of Slaanesh, and freakish, scorpion-tailed Fiends of Slaanesh whose pincers clacked a percussive accompaniment to the chorus of delighted screams.
Within solar minutes, the Ynnari were trapped. They had been expertly driven into a dead end, a sinkhole pit before them and Slaaneshi daemons on all sides. Yvraine and her vanguard exchanged doleful glances, preparing for a last stand. As they drew close, they saw the sinkhole before them was no natural well at all, but a vast gullet that pulsed and growled in hunger.
The hordes of Daemonettes came within range of the Ynnari's Shuriken Weaponry, and a blizzard of razored discs hurtled out. Their slicing kiss only served to drive the Slaaneshi hunters further into an ecstatic frenzy. On the lithe daemons came, hissing and hungry. Bounding lightly through the ruins came the Harlequins of the Masque of the Midnight Sorrow, diving and somersaulting to intercept.
They joined in battle with the daemons with such grace and speed the skirmish seemed as if it were choreographed -- the clash between daemon and Harlequin had long been a subject of their dances.
Where the Eldar fell in greatest number, there was Yvraine, drawing the souls of the lost into herself even as their bodies died. The ghosts were made visible by the eerie halfreality of the Eye of Terror; to those around her it seemed that Yvraine was physically breathing them in.
With each release of deathly energies, the Ynnari around her found themselves inexplicably invigorated. They pressed the attack with such quicksilver speed even the Daemonettes looked sluggish by comparison.
As the battle reached a crescendo, a moan of longing came from the throat of every Daemonette, Steed and Fiend of Slaanesh. From the gullet-pit blocking the Eldar's path emerged a vast claw-tipped tongue as large as a human hive city transmotive. Many Ynnari screamed at the sight, fearing She Who Thirsts herself was emerging to gorge upon them, and perhaps they were right.
Riding upon this grotesque appendage, their claws hooked into cairn-sized taste buds, were three Greater Daemons of Slaanesh. The largest of them, the incarnation of dark bliss known as the Queen of Suffering, howled with ecstasy as the titanic tongue slashed down, crushing hundreds of Aeldari to death.
Flanked by two of its disturbingly alluring kin, the Keeper of Secrets swept a jewel-studded claw through the air, backhanding two leaping Harlequins into the scissoring pincers of its fellows. Their end was swift, at least. Blood glittered like ruby rain as they came bodily apart.
From nowhere the Yncarne loomed upward through the mist, its hissing whisper growing to a waterfall's roar. It darted towards the Greater Daemons with blurring swiftness, and grabbed the Queen of Suffering by the throat. The she-Daemon gave a strangled cry of surprise as the Yncarne ripped open her neck in a welter of blood.
But in coming within arm's reach, the Avatar of Ynnead had risked much. A jagged pincer caught the Yncarne by the ankle -- then another, and another as the Queen's courtiers closed in. The Yncarne was yanked down and dashed to the ﬂoor. A moment later it was stamped into the saliva-sodden earth by a ﬂurry of cloven hooves.
Yvraine gave a cry of anguish. She summoned the energies of her god, a storm of whispers hissing out to consume the Daemonettes around her. They turned to cold grey statues, then fell apart, but there were more to take their place. Nearby, Eldrad Ulthran and Kysaduras were striking at the ﬂanks of one of the Keepers of Secrets, their Witch Weapons ﬂaring as they tore it one grievous wound after another.
Harlequins vaulted around them, ﬂip belts keeping them one step ahead. The spectacle was so rich in splendour, so steeped in ancestral hatred, it was all the Harlequins could do not to fall into their ritual roles and reenact their famed performance of the Fall of the Aeldari in reality.
Even as she fought for her life, Yvraine had a strong feeling that she had seen this all before. At first, she could not place where; the rescued souls within her did not number any Harlequins, for the Laughing God took them unto himself instead. Then it came to her -- this dance of Harlequin and Slaaneshi daemon was an echo of the Final Act, as portrayed by the Masque of the Midnight Sorrow in the theatres of Commorragh.
Inspiration struck Yvraine. She knew this performance well, as she had danced a similar waltz in her youth. She dived, rolled and span, for by recalling the dance forms that had fascinated her as a child, she found she could predict the Harlequin's battle dance all but perfectly -- and therefore that of the Daemonettes that faced them.
On she danced, vaulting and somersaulting, following the scatterings of dead Waystones to a nexus of the crystal ovals only a few dozen feet from the Greater Daemons of Slaanesh rampaging through the Ynnari lines.
Underfoot, she could feel the pulsing energy of one of the Croneswords they had come to claim, a reservoir of deathly psychic power so strong it had stolen even the potential life from the Waystones nearby. Smiling grimly, she placed both hands upon the ground and cried out.
A heartbeat later the Yncarne burst like a phoenix from the ground beneath the Queen of Suffering, reborn in a fountain of ice-blue energies. It held a long and shining Cronesword in both hands, and as it soared into the sky, it cut the daemon queen in half from groin to neck. The deathly energies around it lent it speed; in a blur of purple-white motion, it hacked and slashed at the Greater Daemons until they had discorporated altogether.
The weapon wielded by the Avatar of Ynnead was Vilith-zhar, the Sword of Souls, largest and most powerful of the Croneswords. After millennia of slumber, its edge was hungry for the blood of the Aeldari's persecutors. Like a bladed whirlwind, the Yncarne plunged into the Slaaneshi horde. Its every breath was a killing mist, its every thrust the final death of a shrieking daemon.
The Yncarne slashed at the giant claw-tongue grasping for it, and the hideous appendage withdrew back into its sinkhole lair as if stung by the great Murekh Wasp itself.
Inspired by the Final Act made real, the Harlequins renewed their attack, and within solar minutes, the encircling daemonic horde was in utter disarray. Better still, through the ruins could be seen the colours of Ulthwé. With the trap broken, salvation was at hand.
"The Reborn are the only hope left to our people. They seek to unite the Aeldari entire -- to bring together not only the Craftworlds, but every scattered shard of our race, be they Outcast, Exodite, or soul-hungry Drukhari. With the Whispering God's net gathering us together away from the sight of evil, we shall be reforged. We shall be a people that look forwards in hope, not backwards in despair. Follow them, cast aside your Waystone and the crippling fear it represents, and we shall soar on the winds of fate once more.""
- —Lathriel, High Farseer of Biel-Tan
With the Ynnari and their Ulthwé allies fighting together as one, the Aeldari tore apart the tightening noose the Slaaneshi daemons had cast around them. Their strike forces ﬂowed like fast-running streams through the ruins and dust dunes of the shattered Aeldari city, capitalising on their gains before the daemonic hosts could cut them off.
Yvraine led the charge, her regalia billowing behind her in the etherial winds as she sprinted through shattered arches and under statues of fallen heroes. Towards the giant Memorial Hall of Atransis she ran, a vast museum-like structure where the works of the pre-Fall Aeldari were once displayed as the foremost treasures of the universe.
With Ulthwé's close assault specialists forming a wall of blades on either ﬂank, the Ynnari vanguard plunged inside the enormous hall, seeking a defensible position from which they could repel the Slaaneshi soul hunt from a narrow frontage. Within those walls, they were to find far more than simple tactical advantage.
As the Reborn took up positions on the sweeping ramps and daises of the hall's interior, the building was gradually ﬂooded with golden yellow light. Two immense structures at the back of the hallway shook dust from their slab-like facias as they opened, unfurling jerkily like the wings of a butterﬂy fresh from its chrysalis.
A glowing yellow rune-portal was revealed within, immense yet visible only to the dead -- or those that bore their blessing. Massive as the secret portal was, the figure that emerged from within was so tall it still had to stoop to fit through.
A rune-emblazoned Wraithknight in proud yellow and blue heraldry glided out from the ancient portal, two more of the immense Ghost Warriors in its wake. Long-barrelled Suncannons thrummed loudly in the stillness. A shout of triumph rose up from the Ynnari as the giants opened fre, blast after blast of intense plasma energy shooting from the entranceway of the hall.
Wherever they struck, the daemons tumbling through the hall's entrance to capture the escaping Eldar were annihilated. Everywhere a new hunting pack of Slaaneshi creatures appeared, a killing volley of energy scoured them from existence. When a knot of Seeker Chariots of Slaanesh careened through the ranks of the Ulthwé Eldar, blood ﬂying from bladed wheels, one of the Wraithknights stepped forward and smashed them to scattering shrapnel with a sweeping blow from its massive blade.
Yvraine was the first to notice the smaller figures at the giants' feet. The fabled constructs of Craftworld Iyanden had arrived, already spreading out to form a protective wall around the Ynnari. Amongst them was none other than Iyanna Arienal, the Angel of Iyanden.
At the Spiritseer's instruction, the Ghost Warriors formed a loose circle that spread out through their living comrades, then locked in tight. The wraithbone bulwark allowed every living Eldar through without resistance, yet hurled back their daemon pursuers with volleys of firepower and methodical bladework.
Many of the faceless warriors gave their lives to ensure their living kin could escape. Iyanna beckoned the Ynnari into the golden portal. Realising that to stay was to die, Yvraine ordered the retreat. Group by group the Reborn dashed into the secret spar of the Webway beyond.
Perilous indeed were the hidden paths that the Iyandeni used to reach the Crone Worlds and gather their Waystone bounty. The Ynnari were led by not only the most gifted Spiritseer of her generation, however, but also the Masque of the Midnight Sorrow.
Though it took long solar weeks of arduous travel, they found the second of the golden portals without serious incident -- a gateway that led them to a hidden Webway portal of Craftworld Iyanden within its Vaidh Wayport.
Iyanna Arienal presented the Bonesinger's seal of her dynasty to a dozen runic locks, sang in a lilting soprano the lineage of Eldanesh, and projected her psyche into the spirit reservoirs beyond each gate until they opened soundlessly one by one.
The expedition passed through into the chilly, mist-wreathed catacombs of the Craftworld's Ghost Halls. Each alcove, once occupied by the inert shell of an inactive Ghost Warrior, was empty. There were sounds of distant thunder high above -- the Visarch cocked his head, and loosened his great blade in its knotted scabbard. These were not the sounds of a tempest, but the din of ongoing battle.
Yvraine felt hope and despair in equal measure. They had found safety, just as it looked like they would be overwhelmed completely, and better yet, their rescuers were numbered amongst those Craftworlders they sought to bring to Ynnead's cause. In dying and being Reborn within the domain of the ancient Aeldari, the Yncarne had claimed the shape-changing Sword of Souls from within the soil of Belial IV.
Yet the Ynnari had found only one of the two blades of power they sought from Belial IV before they had been forced to ﬂee. Without all five of the Croneswords, Ynnead's power would be significantly lessened. Worse still, the fifth and final sword Yvraine had expected to find upon Iyanden was missing, its psychic spoor nowhere to be found.
This was because, unknown to the Ynnari, the last Cronesword was no longer on Belial IV. Slaanesh had freed its Keeper of Secrets Shalaxi Hellbane from the Palace of Punishments in the Realm of Chaos and ordered it to prevent the awakening of Ynnead and foil the plans of the Ynnari.
The daemon travelled to Belial IV and stole the fifth Cronesword before the Ynnari could claim it, placing it far from the reach of the servants of Ynnead in the Palace of Slaanesh. Unknown to Ynnead's high priestess, the Seventh Way already seemed an impossible quest to complete.
The Angel of Iyanden, the Spiritseer Iyanna, had a series of impassioned exchanges with Yvraine as they gained the winding steps to the Craftworld's well-lit interior. The world-ship was under siege once more. As it had passed through the Endregan Sector, a Warp Storm that had seemed distant one night was alarmingly close the next.
From within that empyric tempest had come a pair of vast rotten Space Hulks, each a cadaverous mass of metal and rock so pitted with age it had not a single straight line nor smooth contour upon it. The runic divinations of the Farseers had shown the immense composite ships to be infested with daemonic life-forms, just as a bloated corpse is infested with maggots.
Vast swarms of Rot Flies, each led by a pinioned Daemon Prince, had ﬂown from the repulsive space detritus towards Iyanden upon membranous wings. With the Warp Storm propelling them, and with no need to breathe, they had descended upon Iyanden in their thousands.
Yvraine had a hollow feeling it was no accident that Iyanden was assailed by daemon invaders just as she and her Ynnari had sought safe haven there, but she kept her peace on the matter.
To a craftworld that counted the dead as the most numerous of its defenders, the message of Ynnead's awakening was a delicate enough matter already.
"Our fate is that of Omethrian, it seems," said Iyanna Arienal, as she and Yvaine strode across the Bridge of Endless Night. "To be torn apart anew by carrion crows each time our wounds begin to heal." Overhead, just visible through the thin crystal of the Aldanari Dome, the explosions of fleet warfare lit the void.
"Did Omethrian not wish to die under the Red Moon," said Yvraine, "thereby ending his torment, and being reborn anew?"
"If you seek to extinguish what is left of Iyanden's ﬂame, you will find your welcome short indeed," said Iyanna. "I have sung the songs of Ynnead myself, for many long years. Truly I believe all our destinies are held within his net. But first we will take a grievous toll upon those who wish to hound us to our deaths. That does not involve succumbing to some horrid infestation, nor wasting away in apathy and despair."
"Well said," murmured the Visarch as he walked behind them. Yvraine started in surprise at her companion breaking his silence, but said nothing. As the Eldar reached the end of the bridge and made for the war council beyond, a dozen Wraithguard blocked their path, a robed Farseer in their midst.
"Dhentiln Firesight," Iyanna whispered. "He will not risk the Ghost Halls coming to our side, not now." She turned to Yvraine, eyes alight. "Whatever happens, we shall make Ynnead proud to call us his daughters." Yvraine nodded, emotions thick in her throat.
"I bid you welcome," called out Dhentiln, "but sadly your timing is more that of crippled Vaul than deft Asuryan. With the armada fully engaged, Iyanden cannot afford distraction, lest we inadvertently open our gates to the enemy once more. You and your followers have travelled far -- even Faolchú the Messenger folded its wings at day's end. You must rest."
At this he gestured at a distant quarter of the great dome, ill-lit and still. "We will escort you and your fellow Commorrites to a guarded haven, to ensure minimum disruption. Those of your host that wear craftworld colours, or the motley of Cegorach, will be dispersed to fight upon the front line. We dearly need their blades."
"That measure is not necessary,’ said Yvraine, her tone ice cold. "My people will stay and fight as one."
"But I insist," said the Farseer. Behind him, the Wraithguard lifted their weapons. In the middle distance, bipedal war walkers emerged from behind the curving architecture of the War Council's chambers, their guns reinforcing the deadly message.
"Very well," said Yvraine. "We will not raise our blades against you on this dark day. If you wish to snuff out the ﬂame your people once held so dear, we shall be there to light it once more."
The Wraithguard closed around the Ynnari commanders, and led them away into the gloom. High above, the thunder of war rumbled ever louder like the laughter of distant gods.
Within solar minutes of leaving the Bridge of Endless Night, Yvraine, the Visarch, the core of the Ynnari, and Iyanna Arienal were involuntary guests in Iyanden's most sumptuous halls. Their every need was catered for, white-robed Eldar adolescents on the Path of the Servant offering refreshment and even cleaning their war gear of the Crone World's dust.
Still the truth was obvious to all. The Reborn, those who believed Ynnead to be the saviour the Aeldari so desperately needed, had been incarcerated against their will. Battle in the stars high above still raged between Iyanden's armada and the daemon-infested Space Hulks that drifted, slow but unstoppable, towards them.
Yvraine felt a slow-burning rage build within her breast, but she tamped it down. The way of Khaine would not release her from this; neither the Ynnari nor the Iyandeni could afford a civil war.
Instead, she had to reach inside herself, deeper than ever before, and let the conduit between all living things channel her soul. Outward she cast her essence, ever outward, her mind's eye reaching towards one star after another.
That which she sought was not there.
On the outer surface of Iyanden, elephantine Rot Flies buzzed and swarmed, their pot-bellied plague riders smearing filth upon crystal domes that had felt only the kiss of solar winds. A trio of Nurgle Daemon Princes alighted nearby, talons screeching gouges in the transparent domes. With rusted maces and wrought-iron blades they hammered the crystal over and over until they had forced open an entrance.
The thin bubbles of atmosphere that surrounded the dome-like nodes, fashioned to prevent the insides of the world-ships being sucked out into space in the event of a meteor swarm or other cosmic accident, gave the daemons the shelter they needed to wriggle and crawl within.
Through these apertures the winged Plague Drones of Nurgle gained entry into the craftworld, descending upon the elegant forests and sculpture gardens in a hideous greenish-brown cloud. They were swiftly intercepted by several shrines of Swooping Hawks that ﬂitted, lasers blasting, just out of reach. The winged Aspect Warriors were swiftly joined by squadrons of Crimson Hunters, streaks of deep red scarring the air as they hunted the fat-bellied Daemon Princes that befouled their home.
The Bright Lances of their Nightwing Interceptors struck over and over, each unerringly accurate shot blasting streams of viscera from the chests and abdomens of the ﬂeshy intruders. Garulgor the Virulent plummeted lifeless from the skies, but both Duke Oglorr and Maleathrus of the Foetid Claw descended towards the Eldar homelands below as if unconcerned by their injuries, chortling with glee as their innards drizzled filth across the lands below.
The Crimson Hunters performed tight loop the loops and came in again, this time aiming for the heads of their prey. With the Swooping Hawks thickening their fire, even the daemon lords could not shrug off the intensity of their punishment. Oglorr and Maleathrus fell like stones to explode in showers of filth upon the alabaster ﬂagstones below.
The daemon riders assailing Iyanden's forests did not get far, for they were contained and quarantined by unliving hosts of Ghost Warriors. Yet the invasion was really only just beginning. In the firmament high above, the twin Space Hulks that had emerged from the Warp Storm drifted ever closer.
Though the daemons embattled upon Iyanden's surface were outmatched ten times over, the same could be said of Iyanden's armada. Each of the Space Hulks that faced them was truly immense, a composite monstrosity formed of abandoned spaceships, space debris and asteroids the size of small moons.
Many of the voidcraft that jutted from the Space Hulks' ﬂanks had active gun batteries that sent punishing broadsides towards the Eldar craft that harassed them from afar. The spacecraft of the armada were nimble enough to simply evade any solid munitions, but not every weapon used by the Hulks was so conventional.
When thousands of winged drones ﬂew silently across the dark reaches of space to latch on to the solar sails of the Eldar ships, gnawing away at them like moths devouring silken finery, the Eldar vessels found themselves slowing to a crawl.
Again the hulks opened fire, this time to full effect. So widespread and devastating were their volleys that they caught several Iyanden voidcraft amidships and destroyed them completely.
Sequestered in her guest quarters, Yvraine reached out once more with her psychic powers. She could feel the deathly energies of the Iyanden armada's demise even in her confinement. This time she was rewarded.
Beyond it was a thin ﬂare of intent, a soul-sign coming from the allies she had sent ahead when Ynnead frst arose. It was the psyspoor of Thraelle Longblade, Captain of the Mansbane. She peered through the crystal skylights of her quarters, hoping to see a glint in the stars, and gave the psychic signal.
Pulsar Lance batteries, Keel Torpedoes, Phantom Lances and Leech Engines took their toll on the nearby Hulk. Under sustained barrage, the engine bay Plasma Reactors at the Hulk's rear detonated with spectacular force. As a new star burned in the firmament, Yvraine allowed herself a tight smile.
The Fated Prince
As Yvraine's old comrades took their toll, Iyanden's own Corsair allies joined the fight. With the smaller of the two Nurgle-infested Space Hulks destroyed by Amharoc's Corsairs, both the armada of Iyanden and the warships of the Eldritch Raiders concentrated their firepower upon the larger vessel -- codified by Prince Yriel himself as the Spawn of Oghanothir.
Like nimble star-sharks tearing chunks from a void whale, the Corsair ships closed in, levelled their devastating attacks, and slipped away. The crater-pitted behemoth's main defence was not guns, however, but its sheer bulk. It could be hammered by the guns of the Eldar for solar days and still have enough mass to destroy Iyanden should it collide.
The hulk had drifted long in the haunted tides of the Warp, even passing through the sickly green-grey skies of Nurgle's Garden in the Realm of Chaos for a time. The daemon infestation that had claimed it riddled its labyrinthine innards right to the core, and thousands of winged daemons wound from every new crater like ribbons of smoke.
The truth was becoming clear. If the hulk's exterior was inviolable, it would have to be destroyed from the inside out by a strike force of Eldar -- who would be risking the most hideous deaths imaginable.
Prince Yriel, as ever, was quick to answer the call to action. In collusion with his fellow Corsair princes in Yvraine's ﬂeet, he organised a three-stage assault on the Spawn of Oghanothir. The plan was ambitious in the extreme, but necessarily so, for to approach the hulk in a boarding craft would be to become swamped by daemonic Rot Flies before ever reaching its sides.
The gamble was so daring that it appealed to Yriel's fellow captains' sense of pride and bravado, and within a matter of solar hours, it was well underway.
Virtually unnoticed by the combatants at large, Yriel and his captains left their starships aboard sleek Attack Craft and made for the Webway portal at the rear of Craftworld Iyanden. En route, Yriel used his rank as the Craftworld's High Admiral to convince the world-ship's steersmen to adopt a specific course.
Slowly, the beleaguered Craftworld came about upon the designated coordinates. Prince Yriel's insertion craft were nimble and swift enough to bypass the daemon invaders that harassed Iyanden's exterior, and they passed through the stern Webway portal with acceptable losses.
Using Yriel's uncanny hunter's instincts in conjunction with ancient Ulthanashi maps of the nearspace Webway labyrinth, they located the spar of that insane dimension that corresponded to the Spawn of Oghanothir’s course. It was a heading Yriel had all but dictated by offering Iyanden as the bait.
As the Spawn drifted through space towards the Craftworld, intent on ramming its prey, Yriel and his captains activated their personal Webway portal devices and walked through the shimmering discs, crossing from the labyrinthine dimension into the foetid heart of the enemy Space Hulk.
The Eldar strike force stepped cautiously from the emerald portals they had opened into the cavernous interior of the infested enemy ﬂagship. It was near pitch black inside, and a drizzle of foul ﬂuids spotted down from a vaulted ceiling high above.
The Corsairs, anxious to avoid the patter of stinking liquids, darted to the cover of the nearest corridors and gingerly made their way further in. The faint sound of engines, pulsing regular as a heartbeat, could be heard in the distance.
Having come this far, the Corsairs were not keen to turn back without completing their mission, even if the slime-slicked innards they were forced to navigate were more like the winding insides of a diseased sea monster than the ordered corridors of a spacecraft.
Yriel and his fellow captains took comfort from the fact they wore sophisticated air reservoirs and hermetically sealed armour, the finest that Terran centuries of reaving could afford.
It was well they did. Puffy balls of fungus, each formerly the head of an earlier trespasser, wheezed spores in billowing streams. For the intruders to breathe even a single lungful of that blighted air would have resulted in a truly disgusting death.
Though the Corsair princes had to cut their way through thickets of grasping, tentacle-like cilia and leap over bubbling pools of acidic slime, they proved dextrous enough to penetrate to the thrumming heart of the foul ship's enginarium.
Thus far they had encountered little fiercer a foe than the giggling daemon mites known as Nurglings, for their vector of attack had bypassed the daemon hordes on the warpath at the outer edge of the hulk.
When they reached the engines, however, they found a more daunting sight -- the slime-slicked cocoons of sulking Beasts of Nurgle that had sought a warm place in which to make their vile metamorphoses.
Perhaps the Corsairs would have swiftly disabled the hulk's mighty plasma engines and escaped without hindrance had the swamp-like inner chamber not also been home to a squatting, sedentary terror. Gurgling at the chamber's heart was the vastly obese Daemon Prince Gara'gugul'gor, whose name can only be pronounced correctly with a throat full of phlegm.
Though the monstrosity's tentacle-like arms were whip-thin and dextrous, his abdomen was so engorged that it was impossible for him to move further than a few Terran feet. Still, he laughed with good reason -- for this day the prey had come to him.
Whipping tendrils lashed out as Yriel jumped nimbly from one island of solid ground to another, the fabled Spear of Twilight blazing in his hand. One of them brushed the impeccably dressed Corsair Prince Lumino on the heel and immediately hauled him screaming into the air, dangling him within biting range.
A gristly snap, and the Eldar pirate was halved at the waist; his severed legs kicked spasmodically as Gara'gugul'gor finished his snack. Yriel grimaced as he leapt closer still, polearm blade slashing at the tentacles whipping towards him to force them back.
The damage was already done. Lumino's death scream had disturbed the pupae all around the room, and now many were beginning to shiver and shake, glistening wings and questing proboscises pushing from the foetid sacs.
One by one, a swarm of ﬂuid-drizzling Rot Flies emerged prematurely from their transformations, hissing and half-formed as they stirred from their slumber to malevolent wakefulness.
Another Corsair prince cried out as something grabbed his ankle. Spurred into action, the Rot Flies took wing as best they could, buzzing angrily as they lurched through the air towards the intruders.
The horrifed Eldar abandoned all attempts at stealth, opening fire in all directions. With that, the vaulted Space Hulk engine room erupted into violence from end to end.
The battle that followed saw some of the most inspired displays of swordsmanship, agile footwork and acrobatic poise outside of the troupes of Cegorach's favoured Harlequins. The Corsair princes unleashed every weapon they could bring to bear.
Jokaero Digital Weapons, Aeldari Soulknives, Commorrite Slasherprisms and contraband elixirs that tripled the imbiber's physical reaction speed were all employed to ensure the daemonic denizens could not lay a single talon upon the intruders. And for a while, they were enough.
At the heart of the battle Yriel fought hardest of all, his spear glittering with killing energies as it slashed, whirled and stabbed at anything foolish enough to come within reach. Running up the wall opposite Gara'gugul'gor, Yriel pushed backwards and away over a grasping tentacle, backﬂipping to spring once more off a gantry with High Admiral's greatcoat billowing.
His spear was raised for a killing thrust. Gara'gugul'gor heaved a spray of stringy vomit from the gills in his wattled throat, and though Yriel twisted and arched his spine to avoid it, he turned his back on the black pseudopods that reached out to pluck him from the air.
In an instant, Yriel was caught like a ﬂy in a spider's web, sticky tentacles wrapping around him to bind his arms to his sides. The Daemon Prince brought Yriel close, his jaws yawning wide.
Suddenly the chamber was lit by a stark white brilliance. Yriel's ocular implant, the Eye of Twilight, ﬂared bright as it released a storm of killing electricity. The energies were so fierce they burned away the daemon's tentacles -- the Corsair prince was free once more.
Down came the deadly Spear of Twilight that had claimed so much of Yriel's life, its blade gouging deep -- not into the Daemon Prince, but into the beating heart of the enginarium itself.
A hideous shriek was wrenched from the daemon overlord's throat as the unearthly energies of that baleful artefact went to work. Black veins spread out across the hulk's core machinery, necrotising once-living metal into shuddering black rust wherever they spread.
Though it had taken every iota of his skill and ingenuity, Yriel had achieved his goal. He smiled momentarily as the spear's deathly energies slew its true target -- the heart of the spacefaring juggernaut itself.
A whipping tentacle came around, a broken girder in its grip. Yriel was too exhausted to dodge. The heavy iron bar smashed the life from the Eldar prince with a single blow.
Gara'gugul'gor, once he had finished killing the last of the interlopers in as gruesome a fashion as he could devise, slurped and shufﬂed his way to Prince Yriel's cooling corpse. Before his death, the Autarch of Iyanden had effectively becalmed the hulk's only intact enginarium with a single stabbing blow of his eldritch weapon.
Without the ability to correct the behemoth's course, the Space Hulk was reliant on momentum alone, and could likely be avoided by the Eldar craftworld. How could a mere mortal defy the will of Nurgle?
Gara'gugul'gor was still high in the favour of Grandfather Nurgle, for he had diligently spread disease for countless standard centuries, and his particularly inventive brand of gallows humour was most amusing to the Plague God.
But with his plan to break the necromantic Eldar of Iyanden in tatters, the Daemon Prince would have to find another way to rise in his patron's estimation.
Stirring a pool of blood-laced slime with one of his tentacles and reciting the Seven Sickening Psalms, the daemon lord reached out with his psychic abilities into the depths of the Warp. There he had an epiphany.
If his theory held true, and this warrior's blade was that which it appeared to be, there was still a chance to help Nurgle's power wax high -- not of its own slow but steady accord, but because one of his chief rivals in the Great Game of Chaos would suddenly find his own star waning fast.
At the very least, Gara'gugul'gor could deliver a little gift to the Eldar world-ship, one that would reduce it to ruin as surely as a direct collision from a Space Hulk.
The Daemon Prince frowned once more at Prince Yriel's spear, clutched in its owner's death grip and still glowing gently with baleful energies. Then, as shuddering waves of mirth wobbled Gara'gugul'gor's seven great chins, his consternation turned into a belly laugh that shook rust from the rafters high above.
It was not long after Iyanden had left the grotesque Space Hulk behind that Prince Yriel's body, frozen in a strange milky resin with the Spear of Twilight laid across his chest, was found ﬂoating in space.
The entombed corpse was recovered by a team of Hemlock Wraithfighters that had sensed its presence in the stars; by using a remote wraith-construct Familiar on a silver tether, they were able to retrieve the corpse and take it back in safety to the craftworld itself.
A great sadness rippled throughout the world-ship at the news, for Yriel was their brightest star, a once-wayward genius who had proven to be Iyanden's saviour more than once.
His loss was so profound that many Eldar were seen weeping openly in the Craftworld's streets. What must Iyanden do, they wailed, to escape the cursed fate that haunted its every turn?
Yvraine had called upon old debts from her former life as the Corsair Amharoc, and in doing so aided Iyanden. With that, the Reborn were vindicated in the eyes of the Craftworld's Seers, and were allowed to fight as one against the creatures invading the world-ship.
The Ynnari banished not only swathes of plague daemons, but also the infections they spread. All forms of life are hastened to their end when Ynnead's ire is raised -- even microbes.
Prince Yriel's body was quarantined after its recovery -- after the grisly fate of the Seers of Craftworld Lugganath, who unwisely projected their souls into Nurgle's Garden -- all Eldar have feared the Plague God's gifts.
The resinous shell that contained Yriel was broken open by wraith constructs in the Barren Chamber, a sealed oval room isolated from the wider Infinity Circuit by the Spiritseer's art.
That caution was well exercised. The prince's corpse yielded a cloud of plague spores that would have turned living, breathing Eldar to walking hotbeds of contagion.
News of the corpse's infection was psychically conveyed to a Spiritseer, and from there to Iyanna Arienal. Yvraine was soon escorted to the antechamber outside Yriel's resting place. She called out to the Ghost Warriors inside, bidding them retreat into the airlock-style vestibule on the far side of the chamber, and then drew her blade.
Holding it aloft, she summoned forth the spirit magic in her soul and, by moulding the necromantic energies with her psyche, sent waves of lethal energy into the chamber beyond. Though they had no effect on Yriel -- by this point he was beyond harm -- they killed every single spore and microorganism that Gara'gugul'gor's filthy curse had unleashed upon the craftworld.
It was then that a true miracle took place. Yvraine ran three fingers down the length of the Barren Chamber's doors, and they opened soundlessly before her.
Two of her Iyanden Wraithblade escort crossed their curving blades to bar her passage to the sacred space, but Iyanna Arienal waved them aside.
Yvraine sketched a curtsey to her ally before striding inside with a contented smile on her features. She took up the Spear of Twilight, reversed it in her grip, and plunged it into Yriel's chest.
With a great heaving exhalation, the Corsair Prince of Iyanden suddenly sat bolt upright. His pallid ﬂesh was restored to a vigour it had not seen since before he took up his fabled spear. The blade, having returned the stolen life force it had siphoned from its wielder over the cycles, turned to quicksilver in Yvraine's grip.
It took a new shape, revealing its true form as one of the Croneswords. She passed it back to Yriel, and in his grip, it became a spear once more.
The pirate prince stood unsteadily, then straightened to his full height, a new power glowing from his eyes. Prince Yriel of Iyanden had been Reborn. Soon, he would be far from alone.
The Hall of Truths was so massive that mist gathered under its vast dome. The voices of Iyanden's greatest heroes, living and dead, echoed from the frozen waterfalls of wraithbone that stretched from ﬂoor to ceiling.
Some of those present were still mortals, their lifespan measured in mere Terran centuries. Others had served the Craftworld for standard millennia, their statuesque war-forms towering over the Eldar that gave them a reason to fight on beyond the gates of mortality.
"Take heed, children of Asuryan," said Farseer Dhentiln, "for this is a day of fates." There was a murmur amongst the assemblage. With the initiation phrase spoken, the audience would have to begin, despite Yvraine and Iyanna still absent.
"We must act," said Eldrad Ulthran. "We must find a way to change the fate of the galaxy." Silence stretched out until Dhentiln gestured to continue. "The red moon rises, for the Great Enemy is ascendant," continued Eldrad. "The veil is torn in a thousand new places each night. We cannot prevail alone."
"Then who would you use as sword and shield alike?" said Sylandri Veilwalker, one of the high-ranking Harlequins in attendance. "The T'au are still too young, the Orks too unpredictable and the Tyranids out of the question. Humans are too easily corrupted, this we know. They walk the same path we once followed, blindly walking into the abyss."
"Not with faith," said Dhentiln, nodding. "With faith, they still have power."
"And who can give that to them?" asked the looming presence of the Wraithknight Soulseeker, piloted by Aethon Sunstrider. "Not their corpse-god. His time is over."
There was a slamming impact as the doors at the end of the hall were ﬂung open. "No," said Yvraine as she strode in, Iyanna Arienal at her side and a shadowed figure in their wake. "They must have a new leader. Only then will they serve our interests."
"Impossible," said the Corsair Lord Aracleo. "They are entrenched."
"They worship their past," said Iyanna. "If we raise a hero that reminds them of it, they will follow him. Do we not also cling to our myths, finding comfort in the glories of yesteryear?"
"She is right," said Eldrad, "and I have already found a way through the skein to that end, and a leader the humans will follow like sheep. The fulcrum of destiny is the moon of Klaisus, that we once called Ulthanash's Rest."
"You do not steer our course, Ulthwéan," said Dhentiln. "We need not the guidance of the Damned, but the counsel of our own kin." The uncomfortable silence was broken by Prince Yriel, stepping from the shadows to the incredulity of all present. As one, the wraith constructs knelt, the ground shivering beneath.
"We shall give the Humans a demigod," said Yriel, his tone as chill as if coming from the other side of the grave. "A king reborn, with a deathly blade. And the hosts of Iyanden shall go with us."
But deep within the Webway, at the heart of the Dark City of Commorragh, word had already reached the master ﬂeshcrafters of the Avatar of Ynnead that had fought the coven sent to Belial IV.
Upon their return to Commorragh, the Haemonculi had ascertained that their worst fears were true; their slain fellows had been entirely reduced to dust by the powerful revenant magic of the Yncarne.
Every vat-clone, phylactery-hidden remnant and secret skin sample of the lost Haemonculi in the Dark City had been desiccated to nothingness. Somewhere out there was the power to wield both inescapable death, and life eternal.
And they wanted to claim it like nothing before.
- The Gathering Storm - Part Two - Fracture of Biel-Tan (7th Edition), pp. 4-101
- Psychic Awakening: Phoenix Rising (8th Edition), pp. 10-11