"War is my master. Death is my mistress!"
- —Dire Avengers Battle Cry
The Dire Avengers were the first amongst the Aspect Warriors of the Aeldari. They represent the Aeldari War God Khaela Mensha Khaine in his aspect as the noblest and yet most merciless of warriors. The Dire Avengers show no mercy to their foes and are unwavering in their devotion to their people.
These warriors are the least specialised and the most tactically flexible of all the Warrior Aspects, as they serve Aeldari armies as elite ranged infantry. The Dire Avengers are also the most common of the Warrior Aspects amongst the Aeldari, and their shrines are the largest to be found on all the Craftworlds.
The Dire Avengers Warrior Aspect can trace their origins to Asurmen, the first of the Phoenix Lords, those master warriors who lead the Aeldari Aspect Warriors and who are each absolute masters of their Aspect's form of combat.
Following the Fall of the Aeldari, Asurmen was the Aeldari who led the Craftworlds away from the ancient Aeldari homeworlds at the time of the Fall and it was he who founded the first of the Aspect Shrines, the Dire Avengers, who are the most numerous of the Aeldari Aspect Warriors.
As a species on the brink of extinction, beset on all sides by hostile forces, many Aeldari eventually walk the Path of the Warrior and take on the mantle of an Aspect Warrior. Whereas most Aeldari who take up arms do so in times of great crisis as the militia known as Guardians, those who walk the Path of the Warrior embrace the art of war fully, devoting their every breath to the pursuit of military perfection.
Those who attend the shrine of the Dire Avengers are the manifestation of the noble warrior, showing no mercy to their foes and tirelessly devoting themselves to their people. When not at war or embarked upon missions, the Dire Avengers spend much of their time at their Aspect Shrine, meditating upon battle, studying the tactics and strategies of their ancestors, and practicing their skills at arms.
The ritual masks and armour that Aspect Warriors wear set them apart as the elite soldiers of their race. Although they are rarely encountered beyond their Craftworld, the Dire Avengers are nonetheless the most commonly encountered Aeldari Aspect Warriors, for they are skilled and adaptable troops deployed to deal with any external threats.
It is to the Dire Avengers that the Farseers turn for the most important missions. When an ancient Aeldari relic needs to be recovered or an abandoned Webway portal needs to be defended, Dire Avengers are often sent to carry out the task. When a human or Ork colony is discovered upon a Maiden World, Dire Avengers are sent to clear the trespassers. On those occasions when a Farseer has need to meet with agents of the Imperium of Man, it is the Dire Avengers who accompany him as an honour guard.
Dire Avengers are patient and methodical warriors, as furious in attack as they are intractable in defence. They possess an uncanny ability to read the ebb and flow of a battle, in much the same way as a sailor might read the sea, riding its waves and harnessing its power to overwhelm a foe. One moment they might unleash a hail of fire before plunging forwards into the enemy lines, Power Weapons drawn, whilst the next they might be falling back, luring their foe into a carefully prepared ambush.
Dire Avengers take to the field armed with Avenger Shuriken Catapults. These elegant weapons are even more advanced than the Shuriken Catapults used by the Craftworld Guardians. Their lethal volleys echo the Death of a Thousand Blades, the punishment that Khaine metes out upon traitors and cheats who are unworthy of a clean kill.
Each silent fusillade of incredibly sharp monomolecular discs is levelled with such pin-point accuracy that they slice through armour, bone and flesh with sickening ease. They have an uncanny knack of knowing when to follow this onslaught with a lightning-fast assault and when to carefully draw the enemy forward onto their blades. It is rare to find an Aeldari force without a squad of these graceful warriors at its heart.
Dire Avengers operate in combat in squads of five to ten warriors, which sometimes is led by a Dire Avengers Exarch. These squads will at times ride to war within a Wave Serpent transport. These patient, methodical warriors are equally well-suited for both offensive and defensive operations. Their training gives them the uncanny ability to read the ebb and flow of battle, knowing when to press the attack or feign retreat and fall back, luring their foes into a carefully prepared ambush.
Dire Avengers are also trained in hand-to-hand combat techniques, though with the exception of their Exarchs who can become specialists in close combat techniques, this is not the primary focus of their training, which is bent towards generalised elite ranged infantry skills. When forced to engage in close combat, Dire Avengers carry deadly ceremonial knives as a weapon of last resort. Because of their adaptability, Dire Avengers are also the most common Aspect Warriors used to conduct special operations missions beyond the bounds of normal combat requirements. These missions can range from the necessity of aiding Exodites from an incursion by Greenskins to protecting a Farseer engaged in diplomatic negotiations with the arrogant Mon-keigh Inquisition.
Notable Dire Avengers Shrines
- Argent Crest Shrine - Aspect Warriors of the Argent Crest bear colours and iconography unique to their shrine and independent of their craftworld.
- The Falling Moon Shrine - Aspect Warriors of the Falling Moon wear a distinctive red colour crest on their helms.
- The Knights Azure Shrine - The Knights Azure Aspect Warriors bear the colours of their individual craftworld on their right arm. The Knights Azure are known to pursue sightings of Asurmen.
- The Sable Helm Shrine - As befits the name of their shrine, warriors of the Sable Helm are instantly recognisable by their black helmets.
- The Silvered Blade Shrine - Dire Avengers of the Silvered Blade Shrine wear distinctive helm crests of alternating black and yellow.
- The Sun Blade Shrine - Aspect Warriors of the Sun Blade shrine are known for their fierce counter-charges.
Dire Avengers Exarchs
Every Aspect Shrine of the Aeldari is led by an Exarch, an Aeldari who has been called permanently to the Path of the Warrior. An Exarch has travelled so far down that Path that he or she can no longer leave it and so dedicates him or herself fully as a high priest of Khaine in service to the Aspect of the War God that he or she represents.
Exarchs wear more elaborate and ornate versions of Aspect Armour which incorporates the spirits of their past wearers, granting an Exarch not only wisdom and knowledge stretching across the millennia but a raw pool of potent psychic energy that can be used in combat.
This permanent acceptance of the Aeldari's "war mask" provides Exarchs with enhanced skill and dedication to their craft and entitles them to access their Shrine's oldest and most advanced wargear. As befitting their Shrine's focus, the Dire Avenger Exarchs are tactically flexible warriors able to serve in multiple tactical roles. Rather than just one Shuriken Catapult, some Exarchs will carry two of these weapons into battle, wielding one in each hand with exceptional deadliness.
Other Exarch will instead choose to leave behind the ranged combat skills that defined their early days upon the Path of the Warrior and focus on their hand-to-hand combat techniques, choosing to wield a combination of either Shuriken Pistol and Diresword or Power Weapon and Shimmershield if the Exarch prefers to concentrate exclusively on his or her melee role.
Their secret knowledge and supernatural abilities also allow Exarchs to enhance the abilities of the Dire Avengers squads they lead. Under the guidance of their Exarch, a Dire Avengers squad can empty their weapons more rapidly than normal in an action known as a Bladestorm, creating a hurricane of deadly shuriken shards without loss of accuracy, though their weapons' depleted ammunition cores will require reloading. The Exarch can also lead the squad through a series of defensive moves designed to deny attacks of opportunity from opponents engaging them in close combat.
The Phoenix Lord of the Dire Avengers is Asurmen, the "Hand of Asuryan." He was the first of the Phoenix Lords; it was Asurmen who founded the first of the Aspect Shrines, the Shrine of Asur, and trained the other Exarchs who would become the first of the other Aspects' Phoenix Lords. In the Aeldari mythic cycles Asuryan, the Phoenix King, is the chief and greatest of all the Aeldari Gods and the king of the Aeldari pantheon.
Asurmen was the penultimate warrior of all the Aeldari, for his extraordinary powers placed him at the Pinnacle of Might. Prior to the Fall of the Aeldari, Asurmen was the Aeldari who led the Craftworlds away from the ancient Aeldari homeworlds of their now lost interstellar empire and it was he who founded the first of the Aspect Warrior Shrines, the Shrine of Asur, upon a barren world of the same name his people initially settled.
Asurmen found that he could not give up the Path of the Warrior to follow a different Eldar Path, for he desired to use his skills to protect what remained of his species after the birth of the Chaos God Slaanesh, "She Who Thirsts." From the Shrine of Asur sprang the first Aspect Warriors, and the Path of the Warrior was opened for the very first time to all Aeldari.
Asurmen then travelled amongst more of the different Craftworlds than any other member of his race, teaching those Aeldari who wanted to learn the Dire Avengers' suite of combat skills. Those Aeldari learned at the feet of their master, and in turn they assumed the mantle of Exarchs before spreading throughout the galaxy.
The first Exarchs, the Asurya, the children of Asurmen, were the greatest of his students and went on to become the Phoenix Lords of the other Aspect Shrines, the first masters of the other specialised Aeldari combat disciplines. It was then that the different Warrior Aspects were formalised within the culture of the Aeldari Craftworlds, taking as their model the skills and teachings of their founders.
Dire Avengers Wargear
- Aspect Armour - Like other Aeldari Aspects, Dire Avengers wear lightweight synthetic bodysuits, reinforced with plates of psycho-sensitive bioplastics that will instantly harden to resist impacts. As well as absorbing impacts, those plates can morph their shape in accordance with the wearer's movements, meaning the armour does not encumber the wearer in the slightest, affording good protection with excellent mobility. The reinforced breastplate of the Aspect Warrior's armour bears his Spirit Stone, a precious item for all Aeldari. This psycho-receptive gem is attuned to the individual so that at the moment of death, when the Aeldari's psychic spirit is released, it is captured instead within the stone. Otherwise it is believed by the Aeldari that the spirit would be released into the Warp, where the Chaos God Slaanesh, "She Who Thirsts," awaits to consume it. Contrary to popular belief, the small domes and blisters on the Dire Avengers Aspect Armour are not extra gems, but small compartments that contain the suit's technical systems. A tabard is a common addition to the Dire Avengers Aspect Armour. Its runic inscriptions name the shrine for which the Aspect Warrior is fighting and identifies the shrine's allegiance to its particular Craftworld. Regardless of a shrine's location the Aspect's colour scheme is always blue and white.
- Aspect Helmet - Each warrior Aspect has its own distinctive helmet, and within each shrine the helmet may vary in form slightly, with correspondingly more elaborate versions for the shrine's Exarchs. As a standard Dire Avenger, the helmet is distinctively tall with a long top crest of exotic animal hair, often dyed to match the parent Craftworld's colours. By custom, it is this helmet that marks the Aspect Warriors as the protectors and avengers of their Craftworld. It bears the Dire Avengers Aspect's rune, the Mark of Asurmen, traced upon its forehead.
- Avenger Pattern Shuriken Catpult - The Dire Avengers are regarded as the supreme masters of the Shuriken Catapult, a ranged weapon that has become synonymous with the Aeldari race. Many variants of the standard weapon have been encountered but the longer version, designated as the Avenger Pattern by the Imperium, is unique to the Dire Avengers' Aspect Shrines. It has a greater effective range and more sophisticated targeting systems, as befits high status troops like Aspect Warriors. Like most Aeldari technology, the weapon is psychically activated, its resonant Wraithbone construction being sensitive to the Aeldari's innately psychic mind. A Dire Avenger's Shuriken Catapult is linked to its targeter via its handle.
- Targeter/Rangefinder - In battle, each Dire Avenger is assisted by an advanced, computerised targeting device. Worn over the shoulder and plugged into the warrior's ranged weapon via his or her armoured suit, this pan-spectral targeter operates independently of the user, finding and tracking multiple targets and feeding target information directly to the Aspect Armour's helmet display. It is likely that it can also differentiate between enemy and ally. Other functions are unknown.
- Diresword - A Diresword is a specialised Power Weapon wielded by Dire Avenger Exarchs. These weapons incorporate an Aeldari Spirit Stone in the hilt that can sear the mind of a target.
- Shimmershield - A Shimmershield is an advanced force-field produced by an emitter incorporated into Dire Avenger Exarch Armour that protects the Exarch and all members of his squad when they engage in close combat.
- Other Equipment - In general, Aspect Warriors carry no extra equipment beyond what they need to fulfill their tactical role. Sometimes Dire Avengers will carry a ceremonial knife from their Aspect Shrine. Whilst no doubt employed as a hand-to-hand combat weapon of last resort, its primary purpose is for use during the shrine's pre-and-post-battle ceremonies. Although not a part of their primary tactical function, hand-to-hand fighting techniques are studied by the Dire Avengers, but only by accepting their calling to become an Exarch can such skills become the warrior's true focus.
- Codex: Eldar Craftworlds (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 77-79, 192-199
- Codex: Eldar (6th Edition), pg. 31
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition), pp. 30, 64
- Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition), pg. 12
- Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition), pp. 8-9
- Dark Heresy: Creatures Anathema (RPG), pp. 78-79
- Imperial Armour Volumen Eleven - Doom of Mymeara, pp. 32-33
- Rogue Trader: The Koronus Bestiary (RPG), pp. 60-61
- Warhammer Rulebook (5th Edition), pg. 156
- White Dwarf 172 (US), "The Eldar: The Path of the Warrior - Dire Avengers", pp. 5-16
- White Dwarf 138 (US), "Alaitoc Craftworld Eldar Army - Dire Avenger Exarch", pp. 20-29
- White Dwarf 127 (US), "Eldar" by Rick Priestley, Jes Goodwin, William King and Lindsey D. Le Doux Paton, pp. 13-52
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