"An Aeldari vessel you say, lieutenant? I think you will find that particular species is an enemy that does not plague these stars. Now, kindly check your instruments, appease the war spirits, repeat your scan and report back to me when you have decided to discharge your duty in a manner suiting the uniform you wear. Dismissed."
The Jericho Reach is a region largely devoid of the presence of the xenos species known as the Aeldari. Though there exist a few small, scattered bands of Aeldari Corsairs, no craftworld is known to operate within several thousand light years, save the scout-soldiers of Craftworld Alaitoc who safeguard the world of Mackensee, and no extant Maiden Worlds have been conclusively identified.
Even the cruel Drukhari rarely set foot within the region, not even to plunder its numerous worlds for slaves and other prey. There are plenty within the upper echelons of the Achilus Crusade who regard this fact as a rare blessing in a war that already involves three of the Imperium's bitterest foes.
There are those within the Inquisition's Dead Cabal, however, who fear that it portends something very dire indeed. The Aeldari were once masters of a stellar empire that stood for countless aeons and faded traces of their former glory are to be found the length and breadth of the galaxy.
Why then, do they apparently shun the Jericho Reach? This issue is one that has long been a grave concern for certain members of the Dead Cabal, for it seems to connect with so many other dread fears to be found in the war-torn Jericho Reach and beyond.
For generations, individual Inquisitors, as well as certain Deathwatch battle-brothers, have maintained a close watch for any clue as to why the region is so anathema to the Aeldari and all their kin. Certainly, there are slumbering horrors deep beneath the worlds of the outer Jericho Reach that any sane species would avoid, and the depths of interstellar space are host to all manner of puissant terrors.
But the same could be said for numerous other regions in the galaxy where the Aeldari are known to be active, from the cursed systems bordering the Eye of Terror to the haunted marches of the Ghoul Stars.
Over the years, these hidden masters of the Dead Cabal have come to detect the presence of a very small number of Aeldari operating in a coordinated fashion in the Jericho Reach, but not in any manner that pernicious species is normally associated with.
Ordinarily, Aeldari craftworlds dispatch war hosts far and wide to challenge or punish the impudent transgressions of what they regard as the "lesser races," while the outcast Corsair fleets strike without apparent rhyme or reason wherever they may.
The Drukhari launch their terrible realspace raids according to their own dark drives, while the enigmatic Harlequins are known to focus their efforts upon those that serve the Ruinous Powers. In the Jericho Reach, none of these truths appear to hold, the Aeldari making their presence known in an entirely different manner.
Instead of massing their forces according to their conventional martial traditions and values, those Aeldari operating in the Jericho Reach do so in very small numbers indeed. They appear to operate in small bands, sometimes consisting of several different strands of Aeldari culture.
They do not pursue their typical objectives, military or otherwise, but instead follow a nigh-impenetrable strategy that, to some within the Dead Cabal, can only be related to the phenomenon known as the Dark Pattern.
As unseen events converge and the stars move ponderously towards some as-yet undreamed-of alignment, the Dead Cabal is starting to glimpse something of the Aeldari's activities within the Jericho Reach. They have caught but a fleeting impression of a group that traces its roots to the end of the War in Heaven -- the so-called Conclave of Tears.
The Hidden Hand
The Dead Cabal believes the Conclave of Tears to represent a convergence of several different factions within the Aeldari, including, so far as they can ascertain, representatives of at least one craftworld, a Corsair fleet and even a Drukhari Kabal.
Though no direct evidence has been found to solidly confirm it, the Prognosticator Rennin Tri'el holds that the elusive Harlequins are actively allied with the Conclave of Tears. Perhaps unsurprisingly, no evidence of the reclusive Exodites having any part to play in the Conclave's activities has been found, and it is not anticipated that any will be.
As war rages across the three salients of the Jericho Reach, the Conclave of Tears appears to concentrate its efforts upon the scattered systems of the region's Outer Reach, though it has on occasion operated elsewhere.
By a tireless cataloging of those of the Conclave's activities they have detected, various members of the Dead Cabal have formulated a number of possible explanations as to their agenda.
Collating the reports of Kill-teams returned from missions into the Outer Reach with those of certain precogs, savants, and seers in the Dead Cabal's service, a vague picture has started to emerge, and one that portends ever more doom and bloodshed for the forces of the Imperium as they forge deeper into the benighted depths of the Jericho Reach.
The Crooked Path
The Dead Cabal has also long known of the presence of an Aeldari outcast known as Syndilian the Traveller in the Jericho Reach, though beyond this title and his connection to the Reach they have very few details about his identity.
A number of seers in the service of the Dead Cabal have attempted to trace the deeds of this individual, believing at first that he must surely be an agent of the Conclave of Tears.
Some reached the conclusion that the Traveller was attempting to close the Jericho-Maw Warp Gate, or at least working towards a distant time when this objective might be achieved.
Others have come to the belief that the Traveller's aims are somehow at odds with those of the Conclave of Tears, raising the intriguing possibility that the two factions are either opposed, or simply unaware of the full extent of the other's activities.
Activities in the Outer Reach
The Conclave of Tears appears not to be focusing its efforts on the main war-zones of the Jericho Reach, although its deeds in these regions are obviously far easier to detect than in those beyond the Imperium's control.
The Dead Cabal has now amassed a significant body of evidence that points to the Conclave of Tears being every bit as active out amongst the dead stars of the Outer Reach, and potentially more so.
The targets of these activities can only be guessed at, although they must surely include the resurgent Necrons. The effects of these actions are far harder to perceive or predict, for they rarely involve the forces of the Imperium directly.
None of the Dead Cabal can easily say what effect the Conclave of Tears destabilising the orbit of the third moon of a nameless body in an unlisted system might have, for example, nor why they would go to the drastic lengths of diverting a lava stream ten kilometres wide to flow down an ancient ravine on a Dead World on the borders of the Slinnar Drift.
On one occasion, the Conclave's agents are believed to have brought about the premature emergence from aeons-long hibernation of a nigh mythical creature known as a void-ray, which proceeded to feed ravenously upon a primordial world spinward of Polyphemnos.
Regardless of the observable effects of these and more deeds, one thing is certain in the minds of the Dead Cabal's masters. The Conclave of Tears has been growing ever more active in recent years, as if working towards some end result which is rapidly approaching its culmination.
What this end result might be none can tell, but none believe it can be anything beneficial to the Imperium, whose forces so often suffer from these machinations of the pernicious Aeldari.
The Dead Cabal has passed on much of its more solid intelligence to the Deathwatch and the Ordo Xenos and, therefore, those that stand the Long Watch in the Jericho Reach are aware of the ongoing threat these xenos present.
It is not uncommon for Deathwatch Kill-teams operating in the depths of the Outer Reach to be briefed on suspected Conclave of Tears activities, though in most cases even the information they received is little more than conjecture.
In some regions, members of the Deathwatch are deployed under the standing order that any Aeldari encountered should be engaged as a matter of priority, though more often these sentries never encounter any of the enigmatic xenos.
Far more often, Deathwatch vessels passing through the dark systems of the Outer Reach report back that it is they who are being observed or tracked, though it is rare for the Aeldari to launch attacks of opportunity.
The masters of the Dead Cabal have reached the consensus that the Conclave of Tears only ever launches deliberate attacks against the Deathwatch when they have been long-planned and serve some grand strategy. Clearly, the Aeldari's numbers are too few and their agents too valuable to risk unnecessary attrition fighting the champions of Mankind.
There have been many instances of the Deathwatch engaging in battle with small groups of Aeldari in the Outer Reach, but it is rare for the enemy to be conclusively identified by the masters of the Dead Cabal as members or agents of the Conclave of Tears.
The Aeldari are regarded as amongst the most pernicious and wicked of alien species and they are all but impossible to catch unawares. Therefore, it must be concluded that each contact has some defined objective that the Aeldari are working towards.
Even though the Deathwatch and the Aeldari of the Jericho Reach have shed one another's blood on plenty of occasions, the two parties have occasionally worked towards a common goal.
In most instances, the cooperation has been spontaneous and unplanned, on the Space Marines' part at least, and little in the way of actual communication has passed between the two. More often, the Aeldari have appeared during a battle that is already raging, or at some key point during a mission, and performed some action that benefited both parties.
Though few even within the organisation know it, the Aeldari have established a covert means of communicating with the masters of the Dead Cabal, though only at the very highest of levels and when faced with the most extreme of circumstances.
None within the Dead Cabal, the Deathwatch, or Ordo Xenos at large are under any illusion that the Aeldari are pursuing anything other than their own interests, however, and they treat all contact and communication with extreme caution.
A fact known only to the innermost echelons of the Dead Cabal is that over the years, a handful of Aeldari believed to be in the service of the Conclave of Tears have been captured and brought back alive to Watch Fortress Erioch.
These have been subject to the most thorough of excoriations, the tender mercies of the Inquisition's most accomplished masters of interrogation lavished upon their frames.
To date, none have rendered up any useful information whatsoever, and so almost all of the Dead Cabal's intelligence on the Conclave of Tears remains uncertain at best.
- Ailill Nuada, Harlequin Shadowseer
- Ebahn Lauma, Asuryani Corsair
- Erandel Voidsinger, Asuryani Farseer of Craftworld Kaelor
- Vakillar U'riss, Drukhari Haemonculus and Mistress of the Theatre of Pain
- Deathwatch: The Outer Reach (RPG), pp. 57-58