"Trust not in their appearance for the Eldar are as utterly alien to good, honest men as the vile Tyranids and savage Orks. They are capricious and fickle, attacking without cause or warning. There is no understanding them for there is nothing to understand -- they are a random force in the universe." —Imperial Commander Abriel Hum
The Eldar are a race of fey-like humanoids similar in appearance and culture to the sylvan elves of ancient Terran mythology and literature, and they are the most ancient and technologically advanced of all the intelligent races of the Milky Way Galaxy, with the exception of the Old Ones, and their ancient enemies the Necrons. Their armies usually have the advantages of great mobility, potent psychic abilities and technology that is more advanced than that deployed by the human Imperium. In the sense that Warhammer 40,000 races are generally derived from the earlier Warhammer Fantasy universe, the Eldar are derived from the High Elves of the Warhammer World, except for the Eldar faction known as the Exodites who are the equivalent of the Wood Elves.
Superficially, the Eldar appear very similar to humans in their anatomy, though they are generally taller, faster, thinner, more lithe of limb and slim of face with sharp features and pointed ears. The Eldar possess essentially the same appearance as the elves of classic high fantasy literature. The Eldar are quite long-lived by human standards, and most will live for more than a thousand standard years unless they die from accident or disease. As a species, the Eldar have a universally high level of psychic ability, which also serves as the foundation of their technology, though a side-effect of this neurological make-up is that an Eldar experiences emotion, both pleasant and painful, far more intensely than any human being. The Eldar that actively cultivate their psychic potential seem to exhibit a much-extended lifespan as well, one proportional to their prowess. In this way the leaders and Seers of the Eldar may live for several thousand standard years. One matter of note is that the Eldar have sometimes referred to humans as "mammals" typically with a derogatory label in the Eldar Lexicon like "the Mon-Keigh", implying that for their part, the Eldar evolved from something else, something more advanced than the primates that are the ancestors of Mankind. The Eldar's physical attributes and physiology indicate that they are descended from a wide range of potential ancestors that include aquatic organisms or avian creatures, although some type of reptile seems most likely (despite their current humanoid appearance, the Eldar's ancestors may not have had a head with two eyes, or an upright body with two arms and two legs at all considering they were genetically altered by the Old Ones!) However, given the Eldar's legendary arrogance, this may also simply be a way for them to put themselves above the other intelligent races of the galaxy, particularly the humans who are currently the most dominant intelligent species, much to the Eldar's disdain. The Eldar likely see themselves as completely separate from the normal classifications of animal groups. Indeed, they may not even have naturally evolved at all, as they are actually the genetic creations of the Old Ones, much like the Orks, created to defend the galaxy and the Old Ones' civilisation from the depredations of the Necrons and their C'tan masters.
All of the Eldar alive today are essentially a refugee population, the scattered remains of a formerly vast interstellar empire. Even in such straits, however, they are still a deadly and influential force in the galaxy. Once, over ten thousand years past, the Eldar were perhaps the most powerful race in existence, dominating a significant portion of the galaxy and secure in their prosperity. Although there were other intelligent races who possessed advanced technology and potent military power in the galaxy, none were in a position to seriously threaten the state of the Eldar empire. When it came, the disaster for the Eldar people was self-inflicted.
Because an Eldar spirit is reborn into a new body upon death, one individual was able to live countless lives. This, coupled with their already nigh-eternal lifespan and their ability to experience the highs and lows of emotions more powerful than that of any human, rendered the Eldar nearly immortal, consumed by arrogance and dedicated to the pursuit of their own pleasure. With no need to perform substantial work or labor, the Eldar began to pursue their curiosities and desires with all the dedication that only their species could muster. In the later days of Eldar civilization, cults devoted to exotic knowledge, physical pleasures, and ever-more outrageous forms of entertainment sprang up. It did not take long for many of the Eldar to pursue a darker path to achieve instant fulfillment as they came to revel in unbridled hedonism and violence.
Many of the Eldar grew uneasy with the actions of their comrades, and the wisest of the Seers warned that this path could lead only to evil and suffering for the entire species. Disgusted, some of the Eldar left the central worlds of their empire to settle in the outlying regions of the galaxy, where they built great starships of such tremendous size that they could be considered artificial planets and were called Craftworlds. Other Eldar stayed on the homeworlds to try and alter the path their race had taken.
The torture cults eroded the future of the Eldar as a viable galactic empire. While this debauchery would have been destructive within any society, it was even more damaging for the Eldar because of their powerful psychic abilities. Within the parallel dimensional realm of the Warp, the psychic emanations of these perverse activities began to gather, strengthened by the souls of departed Eldar hedonists and cultists. As the Eldar's vices grew, this dark mass of negative psychic energy did as well, producing the terrible Warp storms that defined humanity's Age of Strife and made all interstellar travel and communication impossible for the human colonies of this period. Eventually, this growing mass of negative psychic energy came into a life of its own and came to consciousness over ten thousand years ago at the end of the Age of Strife as the newborn Chaos God Slaanesh, the Devourer of Souls and the doom of the Eldar. The psychic scream of Slaanesh's birth tore the souls from all the Eldar within a thousand light years of it, sparing only those sheltered in the wraithbone hulls of the Craftworlds. The Prince of Pleasure's awakening was so forceful that it tore a hole between the physical realm and the Immaterium, plunging the Eldar homeworlds into a nightmare existence, trapped within the realm of Chaos. This region is now known as the Eye of Terror, and is the home of the forces of Chaos in the 41st millennium.
Since this time, which is known as The Fall, the Eldar have been a broken and scattered people, lacking both political cohesion and true purpose. Many of the outlying Eldar colony worlds, whose people are known as the Exodites, have slipped to a more primitive technological level similar to that of some feudal human worlds, while the survivors of the Eldar homeworlds drift through the stars in colossal nomad fleets and their Craftworlds, each independent of the others. All the Eldar have been greatly changed by The Fall and the rise of Slaanesh.
Unique Eldar Technology
- Shuriken Weapons - The standard weapon of the Eldar military forces are Shuriken guns, weapons that use gravitic forces to fire thin discs only a single molecule thick at the enemy.These discs are so thin that they are usually fired in bursts. The Eldar use these weapons in the form of pistols, cannons, and a light carbine known as a Shuriken Catapult.
- Spirit Stones - When the Eldar die, their souls are in danger of being devoured in the Warp by the Chaos God Slaanesh. To prevent this, the Eldar created special Spirit Stones, which capture and contain the psychic energy that comprises their souls at the moment of death. These stones are then collected and inserted into a Craftworld's "Infinity Circuit", where they may rest along with the spirits of their ancestors. In times of need, the soul stones of the Craftworld's strongest warriors may be taken from the Infinity Circuit and placed inside Wraithbone automatons such as the Wraithguard and Wraithlord, to once again fight in defense of the Craftworld.
- Webway - The Eldar cannot travel through Warpspace in the same way the starships of the Imperium do, because they lack the equivalent of Navigators, making the trip extremely dangerous for a journey of any more than a few light years at a time. Instead they rely on a system of transportation through the Warp known as the Webway. The Webway is best imagined as a vast and tangled network of doorways connected through the Warp between fixed points in real space, by which the Eldar can travel far more rapidly than most races.The Webway's technology is based on that of the Old Ones, who first developed a very similar system of transportation using Warp Gates and imparted the technology to the Eldar after their creation. However, if there is not a Warp Gate near an Eldar's destination, or the one present is not big enough to permit the necessary forces to pass through, they are at a disadvantage. Much of the Webway has fallen into obscurity and disrepair, with tunnels and doorways sealed or broken. This often forces the Eldar to make connecting stops on their way to their destination. Finally, it is said that the fabled Black Library a storehouse for all the accumulated knowledge of the Eldar about Chaos, resides somewhere within the Webway, though only the Harlequins know exactly where.
- Wraithbone is the main construction material of the Eldar, and the staple of their psycho-technic engineering. It is brought forth into the physical world from the Warp and shaped by Bonesingers through the use of their psychic power. It is used to create the Craftworlds of the Eldar, their tanks and other vehicles, constructs such as the Wraithguard and Wraithlords, as well as their weapons, tools and armor. Wraithbone is a psychically conductive material and so not only provides the structure for things built of it, but also can be used for power distribution and communications. Wraithbone is a highly resilient material, and capable of limited self-repair when exposed to psychic energy. It, and the other building materials of the Eldar, will grow and react more like organic tissue and plants than the inorganic building materials of other races.
- Blackstone Fortress - The Blackstone Fortresses were originally created by the Old Ones as weapons in the first war against the C'tan, and were known to the ancient Eldar as the Talismans of Vaul. To capitalise on the C'tan's vulnerability to psychic attacks using Warp energy, the Fortresses were equipped with a Warp-cannon that could create a devastating rip in physical space and an eruption of psychic energy out of the Immaterium. The fortresses have since fallen into the hands of the Imperium and the Chaos Space Marines, and have influenced two of the most recent major wars of the Imperium of Man, during the Gothic War and the 13th Black Crusade.
Forces of the Eldar
Held in high esteem by seer and soldier alike, the Autarchs are the supreme commanders of an Eldar Craftworld's warhost, possessing a consummate understanding of the art of war. They are followers of the Eldar Path of Command -- a burning obsession with mastering a wider vision of the battle and directing the Eldar warhost in the most lethal and efficient way to victory.
Farseers follow the most dangerous and convoluted Eldar Path of all, that of the Path of the Seer, also called the Path of the Witch. Those Eldar who are trapped on the Witch Path and progress too far along it to leave it behind when the time comes are Farseers. Farseers are masters of prediction, psychically exploring the myriad skeins of past and future to better guide their people to victory. They are also the eldest and most experienced of a Craftworld's advisors. Just as Farseers guide the fate of the Craftworlds, so they guide their armies in times of wars, using their innate abilities to uncover an enemy's intentions, calculate the likely effects of their clumsy attacks, and guide them to their doom.
Warlocks are those Seers who also once trod the Path of the Warrior for a time as an Eldar Aspect Warrior. They follow the most aggressive and warlike of all the Witch Paths, using their previous experience as warriors to harness their destructive psychic impulses in battle. When the Eldar go to war, their Warlocks accompany them, using their powerful psychic abilities to both protect the other Eldar Warriors and to bring havoc to their enemies.
Avatar of Khaine
An Avatar of Khaine is a manifestation of the Bloody-Handed God, Kaela Mensha Khaine himself -- a terrifying statue of immobile meteoric iron that lies enthroned, deep in the heart of every Craftworld. A fragment of the Eldar War God's essence slumbers within every Craftworld's Infinity Circuit, only awakening to possess the body of the Avatar when summoned to war.
A Phoenix Lord is one of the most ancient of the Eldar Exarchs, a demigod of battle whose legend spans the stars. The first Exarchs, the Asurya, founded the shrines of the Warrior Aspects as the Eldar know them today. Every Phoenix Lord is actually a disembodied soul that possesses the body of its most skilled Exarch when its prior host is inevitably slain in battle. As such, while a Phoenix Lord's appearance may change, they are able to draw on millennia of combat experience and skill.
- Asurmen - Asurmen is the first and the oldest of all the Phoenix Lords, and his name in the Eldar Lexicon means the "Hand of Asuryan", the father and ruler of all the lost Eldar Gods. Asurmen acts as Asuryan's immortal scion since that Eldar God was devoured by Slaanesh during the Fall. Asurmen led his people into exile, abandoning his homeworld in the Eldar empire to the horrors of the Eye of Terror's birth. He founded the first of the Aspect Warrior shrines.
- Karandras - Karandras, The Shadow Hunter, is the Eldar Phoenix Lord of the Striking Scorpions Aspect Warriors. Legends of Karandras the Shadow Hunter tell of one of the most mysterious of all the Phoenix Lords. Unlike his fellow Phoenix Lords, Karandras was not the first of the Exarchs of the Striking Scorpions. It is said that this singular honour belongs to the one that came before him, Arhra, the Father of Scorpions, whom turned to Chaos and became the Fallen Phoenix.
- Jain Zar - Jain Zar, The Storm of Silence, is the Phoenix Lord and founder of the Eldar's Howling Banshees Aspect Warriors. Jain Zar was the first warrior chosen to serve at the side of the first Phoenix Lord, Asurmen, and the first of her race to become an Exarch.
- Fuegan - Fuegan, the Burning Lance, is the Phoenix Lord of the Fire Dragons Aspect Warriors, who schooled the first of them in the art of war with fire and flame. He learned the arts of war in the Shrine of Asur, under the eyes of Asurmen in the distant time many millennia ago when the first Aspect Warriors of the Eldar were trained.
- Baharroth - Baharroth, the Cry of the Wind, is the Winged Phoenix, the oldest of the Swooping Hawks and the first Exarch of those winged Aspect Warriors. Baharroth is the founder of the Eldar Warrior Path that is represented today by the Swooping Hawks Aspect Shrines.
- Maugan Ra - Maugan Ra, the Harvester of Souls, is the founder and Phoenix Lord of the Eldar's Dark Reaper Aspect Warriors. He was the lone survivor of the once-lost Craftworld of Altansar, which was swallowed by the Eye of Terror five hundred Terran years after the Fall. During the 13th Black Crusade, Maugan Ra led a daring raid into the Eye and rescued the remnants of his long-lost home Craftworld, guiding them out of the Eye of Terror and denying Abaddon the Despoiler his ultimate victory over the Imperium of Man.
Guardian Jetbike Squadron
Support Weapon Battery
- Vibro Cannon
- Shadow Weaver
War Walker Squadron
The Eldar Nations
Following the Fall, the Eldar were socially and culturally divided into several broad groups. While there are divisions within each of these, they are the most obvious and clearly defined groups of the existing race (the Dark Eldar are obviously excluded here and are considered a separate species all together by most Eldar):
In the time leading up to the Great Fall, not all the Eldar that remained on their empire's homeworlds fell to the lure of perversity and hedonism that birthed Slaanesh. Many remained behind, struggling to turn their species from its doomed path. Unable to do so, many of the greatest Seers caught glimpses of the darkness to come, and undertook a titanic effort to save their people. For each Eldar homeworld of the empire a gigantic starship was created, sung from Wraithbone and so massive as to be nearly a planetoid in itself. The last uncorrupted individuals from each world were loaded onto these ships, along with works of art, plant life and animals, all that could be saved. In these Craftworlds (as they came be known) the final Eldar Exodus began, and only barely in time. The psychic shockwave of Slaanesh's birth in the 30th Millennium caught some of the Craftworlds and destroyed them, while others were pulled into orbit against their will around the Eye of Terror, to be forever assaulted by the Forces of Chaos until they are destroyed or corrupted. The rest drift through the galaxy, their exact number uncertain, as contact can be difficult and intermittent. There are several Craftworlds of particular fame known to the Imperium:
- Alaitoc - Far out on the frontiers of the galaxy, on the edge of explored space, lies the Alaitoc Craftworld. The Alaitoc Eldar are zealous in their vigilance against the touch of Slaanesh, even more so than other Eldar. For these two reasons many of its citizens will at one time or another decide to leave the strict confines of the vast starship and strike out on their own or in small groups. They will return in times of need, however, and so all Alaitoc armies will have a substantial force of scouts and Rangers. Whereas their kin have forgotten their people's duty to watch for the return of their ancient enemies the Necrons, the Eldar of Alaitoc have not. When the Necrons first began to awaken Alaitoc was quick to respond, sabotaging the systems of awakening Tomb Worlds, and lending aid to Exodites threatened by their reemerging enemies.
- Altansar - Altansar is a small Craftworld that had been on the edge of the shockwave that created the Eye of Terror at the time of the Fall. Altansar was long thought to have been lost in the birth of the Eye of Terror with the other homeworlds of the Eldar. However, there were reports of its sighting and even active involvement in the recently conducted campaign against the Eye of Terror, and doubt now exists as to its fate, though other Eldar will view any citizens of Altansar with suspicion, as no Eldar Craftworld has ever been known to exist within the Eye of Terror for so long without being corrupted by Chaos.
- Biel-tan - The most martial of the Craftworlds, the people of Biel-tan have decided to reforge the Eldar empire. Its armies contain the highest percentages of elite troops of all the Craftworlds, and few of the staple citizen-militia called Guardians that most Craftworlds call upon in times of war. Their highly-trained forces are known as the Swordwind, and they often come to the aid of Exodite worlds beset by Orks, Dark Eldar or other xenos dangers.
- Il-Kaithe - Il-Kaithe is one of the lesser known Eldar Craftworlds located with the Segmentum Obscurus. Being in close proximity to the Eye of Terror, the Eldar of this Crafworld are constantly at war with the Forces of Chaos. They are notable for having talented Bonesingers, whom are said to possess the innate ability to practice their psychic art even during the heat of battle.
- Iyanden - The Iyanden Craftworld was once one of the largest and most prosperous of all the remaining Craftworlds. Its path brought it into the way of the Tyranid invasion of Hive Fleet Kraken, however, and the Craftworld was nearly destroyed in the following battles. Today many of its sections are still in ruins and the population is spread thinly across its ruined sections. This forces Iyanden to often call upon the spirits of its fallen in its Infinity Circuit, raising more than the typical numbers of Wraithguard and Wraithlords to aid their dwindling warriors in battle.
- Iybraesil - Iybraesil is an Eldar Craftworld located within the Western Quadrant of the Segmentum Obscurus. Their society is comprised of a matriarchal system. They are notable for being followers of Morai-Heg, the Crone Goddess of Fate. Eldar of this Craftworld aspire to recover the long lost secrets of the Crone Worlds, the original homeworlds of the Eldar that were swallowed by the Eye of Terror after the Fall.
- Kaelor - Kaelor is a relatively obscure and extremely isolated Eldar Craftworld. Virtually nothing of its early history is known except that in the distant past this Craftworld made a Webway jump towards the fringes of the galaxy and has not ventured towards the galactic centre for several millennia since then. It is known that Craftworld Kaelor's migration route brings it through the Calixis Sector once every thousand Terran years. On such occasions, Imperial authorities have strict — and highly confidential — instructions from the Inquisition's Ordo Xenos to give it a wide birth. Kaelor is effectively cut off and has virtually no contact with the rest of the galaxy. Even the Harlequins barely remember its existence.
- Kher-Ys - The Eldar Craftworld of Kher-Ys drifted too close to the Eye of Terror and was destroyed through the guile and deceit of Ail'Slath'Sleresh, a Keeper of Secrets Greater Daemon, known also as the Heartslayer. Bewitching an Eldar maiden, the daughter of an Autarch of Kher-Ys, he stole the psychic key from the Autarch and was able to drop the psychic barriers that protected the Craftworld from the daemons of the Eye. In a great multitude, daemons descended upon the Craftworld and gorged themselves on the souls of the Eldar of Kher-Ys and Slaanesh claimed his prized jewel. This dead Craftworld now drifts among the outer eddies of the Eye of Terror empty and desolate, its corridors still ringing with the death cries of its people and the laughter of its daemonic slayers.
- Lugganath - The lesser known Craftworld of Lugganath is known to be active within the Western Quadrant of the Segmentum Obscurus. It is said that the citizens of Lugganath have strong ties with the Eldar Harlequins, for the Lugganath Eldar hope to abandon the galaxy, starting a new Eldar civilization within the Webway.
- Malan'tai - The smaller Craftworld of Malan'tai was turned into a lifeless, drifting derelict in 812.M41, by the assault of a uniquely adapted Tyranid Zoanthrope that could feed upon the psychic energy and souls of its victims, known as the Doom of Malan'tai. Only a few scattered survivors managed to escape the fate of their fallen kinsmen. The Craftworld's husk was later infected by the presence of a Slaaneshi Keeper of Secrets named N'Kari who began to devour the remaining souls within the Craftworld's Infinity Circuit and those within the Spirit Stones of the fallen, but was defeated by a force of Grey Knight Purifiers.
- Saim-Hann - Saim-Hann is one of the more barbaric and wild of the large Craftworlds. The warriors of Saim-Hann favour rapid attacks and moving battles. It regularly organizes its forces into ranks of skimmers and jetbikes known as the Wild Riders, and the forces of Saim-Hann are famed for the speed and ferocity of their attacks, even amongst the highly-mobile forces of the Eldar.
- Ulthwé - One of the largest Craftworlds, Ulthwé was caught in the pull of the Eye of Terror after it erupted into being, and now orbits it. As such it faces a constant danger of attack by Chaotic marauders and has served as a bastion against the Dark Powers for thousands of Terran years. The constant war and risk of attack has hardened the Craftworld's citizens, and it maintains a standing militia force known as the Black Guardians. Its proximity to the Eye has also given it an unusually large number of potent psychics, even for the Eldar.
- Yme-Loc - Yme-Loc is one of the lesser known Eldar Craftworlds, located in proximity to the Eye of Terror between 989.M39 and 341.M40. It is said that the Eldar of Yme-Loc are talented artisans, and that their armies are supported by powerful grav-tanks and Eldar Titans.
- Zahr-Tann - Zahr-Tann is a minor Eldar Craftworld, of which little is known in Imperial records.
The Craftworlds' populations probably compose the majority of the surviving Eldar race, although it is impossible to say just how many individuals this is. The Craftworlds are certainly the seat of the remaining Eldar industry, technology, and culture, as they contain the only vestiges of their original homeworlds' civilisation. Most of the Craftworlds contain special biodomes that house plants and wildlife from the original homeworld of the Craftworld's people, and these are carefully tended. Although each Craftworld is essentially independent in its actions and governance, they will generally offer and accept aid and advice from one another. Although not common, sometimes Craftworld disagreements will cause two to clash on the field of battle, though this is always a last resort.
Every Craftworld contains an Infinity Circuit, which is essentially the Wraithbone skeleton of the Craftworld itself. Within this crystalline matrix of solidified psychic power, the souls of all the Craftworld's dead reside in a form of group consciousness, providing both a well of potent psychic power that can be harnessed by the ship during times of distress and a massive ancestral mind to advise and guide the living. With the rise of Slaanesh, the Infinity Circuit is the closest thing that the Eldar have to an afterlife; if their souls are not caught and integrated into it, they will be lost into the Warp and devoured by the Great Enemy, whose resonant Chaotic energies draw Eldar souls into itself much as moths are drawn to a flame. For this reason the Eldar will defend their Craftworlds with a fury and tenacity almost unrivalled by other races; they risk losing not only their home but their very souls as well.
During The Fall, the degeneration of the Eldar did not proceed wholly without resistance. Some Eldar, the more far-sighted, began to openly criticize the laxity and perversity of their fellow citizens, and to warn against the effect of Chaos cults. These people were mostly ignored or else treated as narrow-minded fools and religious fanatics. Soon the general collapse of Eldar society convinced even the most resolute amongst them that there would be no end to the reign of death and depravity. Some decided to leave the Eldar homeworlds, and settle new planets free of the creeping corruption. They were the ones still untainted by the touch of Chaos, and by now they were few. These Eldar are known as the Exodites.
The Exodite worlds are generally considered backward and rustic compared to the rest of the space-roaming Eldar (and thus are commonly thought to be the equivalent of the Wood Elves instead of High Elves), although they still possess a good deal of the Eldar's advanced technology. One of the pieces of technology they have maintained is the Infinity Circuit, although on the Exodite worlds these are known as World Spirits and exist in the form of grids of stone menhirs, obelisks, and stone circles all crafted from psychoactive crystal. Despite the presence of some technology, these worlds are often agricultural, however, and it is not uncommon for groups of Exodites to exist in a primitive, nomadic state, living off roaming herds of pastoral animals and seasonal harvests. This is the most common image of the Exodite life among Craftworld Eldar. Many Craftworld Outcasts will find a refuge among these Eldar, who are generally more accepting.
Many Craftworld Eldar regard the Exodites a sort of rural, backwater group that is quaint at best. To others, the Exodites represent the foundation of a new Eldar empire on the edge of the galaxy, composed of the descendants of those far-sighted and strong-willed enough to escape the touch of Slaanesh. The Biel-tan Craftworld is one of the chief proponents of the Exodite potential, and will often mobilize its forces in defense of one of the scattered worlds.
Known Exodite militaries consist solely of the Exodite Dragon Knights. These Eldar ride various types of reptilian mounts into battle and are known as Exodite Knights and Lords. The Dragon Knights use a laser lance and wear carapace-style armor.
Harlequins are warrior troubadours whose carefully constructed masques and impressive displays of mime and acrobatics tell the many strange stories of Eldar Mythology. They wear exotic multicolored costumes, brightly patterned to represent figures from the Eldar myth cycles. The groups will wander through the Webway, visiting Craftworlds and other Eldar strongholds in order to re-enact stories from the ancient mythic cycles through song and dance. These strange performances are highly symbolic and are considered an important event for the Eldar. The Harlequins will also appear in times of need and fight alongside other Eldar, aiding them in the interest of some secret goal. They are highly skilled combatants who deal almost entirely in close-quarters melee combat.
Harlequins are the sworn enemies of Chaos. They guard the Black Library, the hidden Craftworld within the Webway where all the Eldar's knowledge of Chaos lies. The Harlequins are an enigmatic group even among the other Eldar, and they rarely communicate with anyone outside of their troupes at all.
Outcasts and Corsairs
Unlike the other groups of Eldar society, the Eldar Outcasts and Corsairs are not very clearly defined. Some Eldar pirates are actually just part of the long-ranging fleets of the Craftworlds, and others are groups of Harlequins or Dark Eldar that have been mistakenly identified. Some may even be an enduring fleet of surviving Eldar that fled from the Fall but lost or lacked a Craftworld to rally around, and have since forged a base on an asteroid or uninhabited world. Many Eldar will leave their regular lives following one of the Eldar Paths to become Outcasts and pirates for a time, enjoying the freedom and wealth of experience this offers them before they return to more ordered and structured lives.
There are also those Eldar that have been forced into piracy and exile, often as a result of their own actions and choices. Some Eldar refuse to obey the strict rules of the Craftworld or commit crimes among their people, and choose to flee rather than face judgment. One of the most famous pirates was Yriel of Craftworld Iyanden, a former fleet commander who was exiled for leaving his Craftworld under-defended whilst pursuing an attack on the Forces of Chaos within the Eye of Terror. He and his crew formed a band of pirates that worked between various human planets, often contracting their services out to the various human colony worlds. He eventually assembled a sizeable fleet, and later returned to save Iyanden from the assault of the Tyranids and redeem himself.
Many Eldar pirates are far less noble, however. There are many among them who have taken the same dark road as the Eldar of old, pursuing what many Eldar refer to as the Path of Damnation, and work as pirates in order to fill their bottomless thirst for thrill and combat. In general, all Eldar pirates are quick-tempered and unpredictable, traits in the Eldar that surface rapidly once they are outside the ordered societies they build for themselves to keep the temptations of Chaos at bay.
Neither pirates nor Outcasts are welcome aboard Craftworlds except briefly, for their minds are dangerously unbounded and attract daemonic predators from the psychic realms of the Warp. Daemons or other Warp entities can home in on the mind of an Outcast and lodge in the psycho-supportive environment of the Craftworld's Wraithbone core. Outcasts are also disruptive in another sense, for their presence can distract the young and inexperienced from the Eldar path by their romantic tales of travel and freedom from all constraint.
The Eldar Paths
The Eldar are forever wary of falling into the same trap which led them to the Fall. In order to avoid slipping into such debauchery and wanton disregard for life and law, most Eldar take an extremely focused view of life. Rather than dabbling in various skills and occupations, they will choose a single skill and dedicate themselves wholly, in body and soul, to mastering it. Their long lives mean that a single Eldar will often master several skills or Paths in the course of their life, pursuing each until they feel they have reached their potential and then choosing a new one. The nature of the Eldar makes it easy for them to become obsessed with their goal, however, and many Eldar become locked into their focus forever.
The Path of the Warrior
Eldar are known to pursue any task they set out to do with an intensity that makes human efforts pale in comparison. When an Eldar feels called to the Path of the Warrior, he or she will join an Aspect Shrine, a cult of Eldar warriors who train themselves to embody an aspect of the Eldar War God Khaine.
Each Aspect Shrine is led by an Exarch, an Eldar who has found him-or-herself unable to leave the Path of the Warrior. These Exarchs are powerful warriors, doomed to either die on the battlefield, or to eventually be chosen to become the Avatar of Khaine. The first member or founder of an entire Aspect Shrine is called the Phoenix Lord. When an Aspect warrior becomes an Exarch, forever forgoing the pursuit of another Path, they will don one of the ancient suits of armour that belong to that shrine, and according to legend this suit will bond to their flesh irreversibly. This means that the new warrior merges with all the previous Exarchs of the suit, like a tiny version of the Infinity Circuit.
Below are listed some of the most common Eldar Warrior Aspects. The list is by no means exhaustive, but these are Aspects whose shrines exist on more than just one or two Craftworlds.
- Dire Avengers - The Dire Avengers are the oldest and most numerous Aspect. They are armed with shuriken catapults, an effective if short ranged weapon, and perform as elite troops. The Dire Avenger Exarch can be equipped to improve his squads' close combat abilities. The Phoenix Lord of the Dire Avengers is Asurmen, the Hand of Asur. He was the first of the Phoenix Lords and the greatest, who instructed all the other founding Aspect Phoenix Lords in the skills of combat.
- Dark Reapers - The Dark Reapers represent the Eldar war god Khaine in his aspect as a destroyer, and specialize in long range firepower. Their standard weapon is a reaper launcher which is a powerful, long-ranged weapon that fires several small missiles at the target. The Dark Reaper Exarch can be equipped with more powerful weapons, such as a Missile Launcher or Shuriken Cannon. The Phoenix Lord of the Dark Reapers is Maugan Ra, the Harvester of Souls.
- Fire Dragons - The Fire Dragons specialize in long-range firepower and anti-tank warfare. They carry a fusion gun and melta bombs, both excellent weapons for dealing with vehicles. The fusion gun is also very effective against heavy infantry such as Space Marine Terminators, but is limited by its short range. The Fire Dragon Exarch can be given a fire pike, a stronger fusion gun with better range, and skills to make him an excellent tank destroyer, as well as highly dangerous in close combat. The Phoenix Lord of the Fire Dragons is Fuegan, the Burning Lance.
- Howling Banshees - The Howling Banshees are a close combat aspect made up primarily of female Eldar. The Howling Banshees are equipped with a shuriken pistol and power weapon. As the power weapon negates armor, the Banshees are very effective against well-armored opponents like Space Marines. They also wear a Banshee mask that allows them to strike first in the first round of combat. They can deliver a devastating first strike, but if they get stuck in combat, attrition will work against them. The Howling Banshee Exarch can be given an executioner which boosts her strength. The Phoenix Lord of the Howling Banshees is Jain Zar, the Storm of Silence.
- Shining Spears - The Shining Spears are a fast attack Aspect. They ride Eldar jetbikes and are armed with a laser lance, giving them high mobility and a strong charge. They are limited by small squad sizes. The Shining Spear Exarch can be given a bright lance, providing an accurate but very expensive anti-tank unit. As one of the newer Aspects, the Shining Spears have, as yet, no known Phoenix Lord.
- Striking Scorpions - The Striking Scorpions are another close combat Aspect. They are armed with Chainswords, Shuriken Pistols and Mandiblasters. They have better armor than other aspects, and are physically stronger. These characteristics allow them to work very well against large numbers of weaker opponents. They are also effective against stronger opponents, but their Eldar physical fragility works against them here. The Striking Scorpion Exarch can be armed with a biting blade which is effective against a few enemies, and a scorpion's claw, which combines a powerfist and a shuriken catapult. The Phoenix Lord of the Striking Scorpions is Karandras, the Shadow Hunter.
- Swooping Hawks - The Swooping Hawks are a highly mobile Aspect. Equipped with a jump pack with stylized wings, they can move rapidly across the battlefield, dropping grenades upon the enemy before swooping in for the kill. Their weapons are not that powerful, and they work best as a flanking unit. However, their Haywire grenades can wreak havoc on enemy vehicles and infantry. Also their lasblasters can fire quick (although weak) shots at the enemy. They do rely heavily on mobility and their ability to retreat quickly. The Swooping Hawk Exarch can be tooled up to be devastating in close combat. The Phoenix Lord of the Swooping Hawks is Baharroth, the Cry of the Wind.
- Warp Spiders - The Warp Spiders are another highly mobile Aspect, equipped with a Warp Spider jump generator which allows them to jump into and out of the Warp, avoiding any obstacles in their way. This is considered extremely dangerous, as it might attract the attention of daemons. Since they do not have to run all over the battlefield, Warp Spiders have stronger armor than most other aspects. They are armed with death spinners, which fire a net of monomolecular threads which slice into the flesh of the enemy as it entangles them. Warp Spiders often make use of a set of cybernetic arms to supplement their own in battle. The death spinner wepaon is extremely powerful although it cannot pierce power armor at all. The Warp Spider Exarch can be given the ability to withdraw from combat, enhancing the Warp Spiders' survivability. The Warp Spiders have no known Phoenix Lord.
The Path of the Seer
Where the Aspects are responsible for the defense of the Eldar, the Seers are responsible for leading them. Those that start down the Path of the Seer are known as Warlocks if they had previously ever followed the Path of the Warrior. Those Seers that become lost upon the path forever are known as the Farseers. A council of the most powerful Seers generally governs a Craftworld or other Eldar group.
Unsurprisingly, the role of the Seers is to look into the future using their psychic powers and try and discern the best path for the Eldar to take. This is done through the casting of Runestones, fragments of Wraithbone and other psychosensitive materials that react to the skeins of time. By reading the throw of these stones, the Seers can often determine what will be the most beneficial course of action, though it is rare that they can discern true results any great distance into the future. On occasion a powerful Seer will receive a portend of some calamitous event, and be able to steer the Eldar away from disaster and doom. With so few Eldar remaining, the Seers attempt to preserve every Eldar life they can, regardless of the cost to other intelligent races.
The Farseers lead the Eldar of the Craftworlds in times of war as well as peace. On the battlefield their powers of precognition allow them to foresee enemies' attacks and movements, and warn their comrades against imminent changes on the field of battle. While less capable of foreseeing events in such harried conditions, Warlocks will often serve as officers in battle, leading units of other Eldar and helping to coordinate the overall battle, as well as lend support through their destructive psychic attacks.
While the Seer and the Warrior are two of the most visible Paths of the Eldar, there are hundreds of others. Many Eldar will choose the study of an instrument or art form as their Path, while others might devote themselves to the development of a science or the refinement of some technology. These Paths, while equally important to the survival of the Eldar, tend to be far more varied and far less all-consuming than those of the Seer and the Warrior. Notable among the other Paths is that of the "Bonesinger"; the title given to those that maintain and repair the psycho-active Wraithbone components of the Eldar Craftworlds. Also notable is the Path of the Mariner, the Path followed by those who devote themselves to crewing spacecraft.
The Eldar Gods
The Pantheon of Eldar Gods is considered to have been destroyed by the creation of Slaanesh. While the Eldar still revere all the gods of the pantheon and preserve their stories within the mythic cycles, they do not call on them for aid or hope for their intervention any longer. There are many similarities between the mythology surrounding the Eldar pantheon and aspects of the ancient mythologies of the Greek and Norse cultures of Old Earth. It is assumed that the Warhammer 40,000 creators drew heavily on these existing sources of real world mythology when creating the Eldar race and the defining mythic stories of their culture.
Kaela Mensha Khaine, God of War
Kaela Mensha Khaine is one of the only two surviving Gods of the Eldar. In the old pantheon, he was second only to Asuryan himself in power, and was often shown as the enemy of Vaul. He is also the most violent and reckless of the gods. Asuryan was so appalled by his murder of Eldanesh, a mortal Eldar, that he cursed Khaine and made his hands drip eternally with the blood of Eldanesh so that everyone would remember what he had done. The Eldar say that when Slaanesh awoke, he/she (Slaanesh can appear as either gender at will) consumed each of the other Eldar gods in the Warp in turn. While his counterparts were all devoured, Khaine took up his great sword and did battle with Slaanesh instead. Khaine was not strong enough to destroy Slaanesh, but he was too powerful to be defeated. Instead his psychic signature in the Warp was broken, and scattered into pieces. These pieces were driven from the Warp where they had done battle and came to rest in the heart of the Infinity Circuit of each Craftworld. These pieces of the god became the Avatars of Kaela Mensha Khaine. In times of war the Eldar can awaken him to lead them into battle, though the price is the sacrifice of an Exarch's life, for the Avatar needs to possess a physical body to enter the material universe. The Avatars of Khaine are towering monsters with skin of iron and molten cores, hands permanently dripping with blood as Khaine's did.
Cegorach (The Laughing God), God of the Harlequins
The only other surviving god of the Eldar Pantheon, Cegorach the Laughing God was the trickster and artist of the Eldar Gods. When all the other Gods were destroyed, Cegorach fled before Slaanesh until Khaine rose to do battle with him. The Laughing God took this chance to escape into the realm of the Webway, as only he is said to know all the secrets of its passages. The master of the Harlequins, Cegorach is the only Eldar God that still remains in his original form.
Asuryan, King of the Eldar Gods
Sometimes known as the Phoenix King, Asuryan was the king of the pantheon of Eldar Gods. While the mythic cycles seem to indicate that he held sway over all the others, he was nevertheless consumed by Slaanesh in the Warp. He is often depicted in relation to fire and light, his chief symbols.
Isha, Goddess of the Harvest
The Great Mother of the Eldar race, Isha is a fertility goddess in many respects. She was imprisoned by Khaine for a period of time, until Vaul paid her ransom. She is often depicted crying, and her symbol is a teared eye, symbolic of her sorrow in being separated from her mortal children. Her tears are said to have solidified to form the Spirit Stones which keep the Eldar safe from Slaanesh after their death. It is rumoured that the Chaos God Nurgle coveted the Eldar fertility goddess, and rescued her from consumption by Slaanesh only to imprison her in his decaying mansion that lies within his foul realm in the Warp. Nurgle "cares" for Isha by feeding her the various diseases he concocts, only for her to whisper the cures for each one to mortals when his back is turned.
Vaul, God of the Forges
The artificer of the Eldar Gods, Vaul is one of the central gods of the Eldar Pantheon, and an enemy to Khaine. In order to purchase the freedom of Kurnous and Isha, Khaine demanded one hundred blades from the Smith God. Vaul was unable to finish the last blade in time, and so hid a mortal blade amid the others of immortal craftsmanship. This fooled Khaine long enough to get Isha and Kurnous to freedom, but when he realised he had been tricked, he cried out for vengeance. Vaul finished the final blade, Anaris the Dawnlight, and took it to do battle with Khaine. Though it was the greatest of swords, Khaine was the better warrior and crippled Vaul. The smith is often shown chained to his anvil, the punishment that Khaine set upon him.
Y'nnead, God of the Dead
Y'nnead is a dream, the embodiment of a possibility that has yet to be realized. Some Eldar Seers believe that when the last Eldar dies during the Rhana Dandra (the Final Battle with Chaos) Y'nnead will be born from the Warp with the strength of all the Eldar souls stored in the Infinity Circuits of the Craftworlds and the World Spirits of the Exodites. Y'nnead will then have the power to destroy Slaanesh forever in a final battle, thus correcting the mistakes which led the Fall of the Eldar and allowing the race to be reincarnated into a universe free of the taint of Chaos.
Other Eldar Gods
- Kurnous, God of the Hunt - Kurnous was the Father of the Eldar race and the companion and consort of Isha. He is often shown in conjunction with hounds, hawks, and other trappings of the hunt. Along with Isha, the goddess of the harvest, he too was imprisoned by Khaine.
- Gea - Gea was a female Eldar God that existed within the pantheon of the Eldar race. She is notable for being the consort of the twin deities Khaine the Bloody Handed God and Asuryan the Phoenix King.
- Hoec - Revered amongst the near-invisible assassins known as Eldar Pathfinders, the mysterious wandering Eldar divinity known as Hoec is said to be one with the Webway, and has walked the paths between planets since the stars themselves were young.
- Lileath (also known as Lilcarth), the Maiden - Lileath was the Goddess of Dreams.
- Morai-Heg, the Crone, Goddess of Fate and Souls - The Crone-Goddess Morai-Heg is the consort of Khaine and the third in a trinity of female Eldar Goddesses who appears as an ancient and withered creature who holds the fate of mortals inside a skin rune pouch. In Eldar myth she sought to partake of the wisdom contained in her divine blood. She manipulated Khaela Mensha Khaine to cut off her hand so that she might drink deep of her own vitae. With this deed Morai-Heg gained the knowledge that she sought, and in return, Khaine gained the aspect of the banshee. The original homeworlds of the Eldar that were lost to the Eye of Terror after the Fall became known as Crone Worlds, a reference to the Crone Goddess. The inhabitants of Craftworld Iybraesil are noted for being followers of Morai-Heg.
- Cobra-God - The Cobra-God is an animistic creature of destruction whom does not care whom is caught in his wake; he is venerated by the Exodites.
- Scorpion-God - The Scorpion-God is an animistic creature of creature of defence, brother of Cobra; he is venerated by the Exodites.
- Serpent-God - The Serpent-God is an animistic creature of secrets who knows all there is to know in the universe; he is venerated by the Exodites.
Relations With Other Races
As with most of the primary factions in the 41st Millennium, the Eldar have no particular love for any of the other major intelligent races in the universe. Though they abhor the Forces of Chaos more than any other since they have lost more than most civilisations to the predations of the Ruinous Powers, they do not particularly desire to share their knowledge or co-exist with their fellow space-faring species. They have been known to trade and have relations with the other Elder Races.
Relations between Mankind and the Eldar were not always sour, but perhaps the current state of warfare between the Eldar and the species they derogatorily refer to as the Mon-Keigh (literally "Mammals" in the Eldar Lexicon, though with a derogatory meaning closer to "monkeys" in Low Gothic) could be blamed on the events preceding the Horus Heresy -- most notably, the meeting between Fulgrim, Primarch of the Emperor's Children Legion of Space Marines and the Eldar Farseer Eldrad Ulthran upon the Eldar Maiden World Maiden World of Tarsus during the Great Crusade. Both leaders had come in peace to discuss the Imperial Compliance of the planet and Fulgrim's willingness to ignore Imperial doctrine on the matter and leave the Eldar's Maiden Worlds unconquered by the Imperium, but the main issue that Eldrad was attempting to pursue was that the Imperial Warmaster Horus had turned to Chaos, and sought to betray the Emperor of Mankind. However, Eldrad was unaware that Fulgrim had already been tainted by contact with the Slaaneshi daemonblade that he had recovered from the world of Laeran, and the supposedly peaceful meeting soon turned into a bloody battle when Ulthran sensed that the Emperor's Children had already been corrupted by She Who Thirsts. Being that Fulgrim was unaware of the existence of a Chaotic taint on himself and his Astartes, or even what Chaos was at the time of their meeting with the aliens, the Ulthwe Eldar's actions were seen as a betrayal and great insult to the offer of friendship and peace that Fulgrim had offered them with the Imperium of Man. Hence, Mankind and the Eldar have been at nearly open war since the days of the Horus Heresy.
Though they have had no love for the Imperium of Man, which they view as a brutish, repressive and extraordinarily arrogant government (though in truth no more arrogant than the Eldar themselves were before the Fall) the Eldar typically leave human settlements alone and have fought side-by-side with the Imperial Space Marines and troops of the Imperial Guard on multiple occasions, though they have been known to attack unprovoked for reasons of their own and have used other races as shields against certain threats such as the Orks. In campaigns like the Gothic War and the 13th Black Crusade, both races have been seen working together against their common foe of Chaos. In truth, though neither species will ever truly understand the other, and there are a great many differences between them, they both need the other to survive the terrible threats that face both races and they are both far more alike in their mutual arrogance and disdain for other species than either would be comfortable admitting.
As the most primitive intelligent starfaring race in the galaxy, the Eldar look down upon the Orks and all of their actions. Essentially a green wrecking ball hurling through space, the Orks destroy and loot every world in their path. This has put them at odds with the Eldar many times. However, due to their limited intelligence, the Orks have often made excellent pawns in Eldar schemes designed to save Eldar lives from another, even more potent threat from the Imperium or the Tyranids.
As the first race most predominantly affected by Chaos, the Eldar have devoted all of their resources to battling the forces of Chaos whenever possible. This has made them temporary allies of the Imperium on occasion though such partnerships rarely last beyond the span of a few battles.
The Tyranids are a seemingly unstoppable force in the universe, the origins of which are still unknown. The Eldar have dedicated much of their time and sacrificed many in the fight to stem the spread of the Tyranid Hive Fleets. Though only three major Tyranid incursions have actually occurred, the universe is forever under threat from further Hive Fleet invasions. Billions on all sides were sacrificed in the fight to stem the Tyranid flow, but the Eldar are not above sacrificing entire human worlds in favor of diverting the swarm away from their own Craftworlds.
Perhaps the most notable conflict between the Eldar and the Tyranids was the bloody battle between the Craftworld Iyanden and Hive Fleet Kraken, which reduced the massive Eldar cityship to mere remnants of its glory, and which was saved only through the timely intervention of the Pirate Prince Yriel and his Eldritch Raiders.
The Eldar have much experience with these dark, evil beings since they were originally created by the Old Ones to aid them in their ancient war with the Necrons. The Eldar have been searching for ways to rid the universe of the foul Necrons for thousands of years. As a relatively recent addition to Warhammer 40,000 lore, the Necrons are a threat to all life in the universe, putting the Eldar in alliance with the Imperium once more against this foe. As usual, such alliances are fleeting and do not last beyond major battles against the Necrons.
- "I have followed the myriad potential futures of the Tau with great interest. Though barely even striplings compared to us, I feel a strange protectiveness towards them. In time I believe they will exceed even our greatest feats and master the darkness within their souls."
- -- Farseer Eldrad Ulthran of Ulthwe
So far, there have been no reports of any major contact between the Eldar Craftworlds and the Tau Empire. However it can be assumed that one of three things would happen should the Eldar and the Tau have more contact: The Tau see the Eldar as a threat to their Empire and the Greater Good, the Eldar Craftworlds come to view Tau expansionism as a threat to their way of life or the Tau offer the Eldar a place in their Empire, which the Craftworlds would view with outright scorn. As the Eldar ultimately want to re-establish their own interstellar empire, they have no desire to bow to the effectively newborn interstellar civilisation of the Tau. As such, the Tau's hopes for the Eldar would be ill-founded. Finally, the Eldar and the Tau may come into conflict because the Eldar don't believe in the Tau's overriding philosophy of the Greater Good. The Eldar were sailing the stars long before Mankind, never mind the Tau, and have actually physically interacted with their own Gods in the past. The Tau's somewhat naive pseudo-religion of the Greater Good has little appeal to the far older, more experienced and more cynical Eldar.
Etymology and Inspiration
The name Eldar is drawn from J. R. R. Tolkien's work the Silmarillion, where the hunter Valar Oromë discovers Elves far from the Blessed Realm of Valinor, in Middle-earth. In their own language the Elves were given the name "Eldar" (Quenya for "Star People") by the Valar Oromë, presumably for the fact their birth came in a time before the sun and the moon existed and because the elves have a particular love for the stars. The history of the Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 mimics that of Tolkien's elves, to the point that they are a "dwindling race" in the game universe, as the elves were in Middle-earth's Third Age.
The inspiration for the Eldar is heavily drawn from Celtic culture, such as their largely Gaelic-influenced language (similar to the dominant Sindarin Elvish in Tolkien's works which was somewhat based on Welsh), the names of their Craftworlds, their iconography and even one of their units, which is called the Howling Banshees.
The different Eldar Aspect Warrior paths can be seen as reminiscent of the many different styles of Chinese martial arts (kung fu). The Eldar cultural arrogance is similar to the ethnocentrism displayed by the Chinese of the Ming and Qing Dynasties when they first encountered European cultures that they considered barbaric and inferior. The late nineteenth century Chinese Confucian scholar Gu Hongming, speaking to an Englishman, is quoted as saying "Why, when you lived in caves and clothed yourselves with skins, we were cultured people."
The Eldar may also be seen to borrow from Japanese culture to a lesser extent in the appearance of some of their wargear and the use of shuriken-like kinetic ammunition in their most common ranged weapons. The Eldar "Path of the Warrior" can be seen to be akin to the "Way of the Samurai", Bushido.
- 40kOnline - revamped successor site to Eldar Online
- Wargame Tactics for Eldar A Wiki site for Eldar army tactics.
- Codex: Craftworld Eldar (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition)