- "Realspace is a spoiled banquet, turned rotten by the passage of aeons. Still, delectable sweetmeats remain there for the taking if one knows where to find them..."
- — Vynquiliac Xorl, Marquise of the Fabled Few
The Haemonculi, the Lords of Pain, are horrific and insane Dark Eldar flesh-sculptors who have lived within the depths of Commorragh for many Terran centuries, if not millennia. They are master torturers, the Dark Eldar's greatest connoisseurs of pain and terror. To pass the long centuries they compose loving symphonies of agony from those unfortunate enough to be held captive in their dungeons. Even other Dark Eldar secretly fear the Haemonculi, for they can reshape not just the body but also the soul. The Haemonculi are organised into units called covens that are integral to Commorrite society since they are the true masters of the Dark Eldar's necessary regenerative processes as well as of torture, but they remain the embodiments of terror and paranoia even for others of their species. All know that to anger one of the Lords of Pain is to end up as the subject of one of their horrific tapestries of agony. Haemonculi specialise in body modification and flesh-sculpting and they love to work with a new "canvas" of flesh. If their client wants barbed quills added to his shoulders, the scaled face of an alien reptile, or the eyes of a Viridian Wraithspider, no request is too difficult or bizarre for a Haemonculus to fulfill.
How a Dark Eldar becomes a Haemonculus is unknown. They are all of an ancient age, even for the long-lived Eldar, and their withered and horrific appearances speaks of Dark Eldar so old they have passed beyond the ability to regenerate a youthful appearance no matter how much of others' torment and agony they immerse themselves in. It is possible that the oldest of the Haemonculi, known as the Haemonculi Ancients, contain among their numbers those individuals who inaugurated the very first Eldar cults of pleasure and pain before the Fall, but this also remains unknown, as all Haemonculi physically alter themselves to the point that they barely even resemble other members of the species they mockingly still call their own.
While the physical modifications will differ from Haemonculus to Haemonculus, representing their personal tastes and particular brand of insanity, they are always attenuated and twisted in form. Their wan, pale-skinned frames do not have a spare ounce of flesh upon them, and their waists are devoid of internal organs to better present what they view as a fashionably disturbing facade. Some Haemonculi place their intestines, lungs and heart within a powerfully-muscled piece of additional tissue that sprouts from their shoulders and serves as a repository for stimulants and other alchemical mixtures as well as boasting secondary limbs of mechanical or biological origin. Others replace their blood so that searing ichor or even a potent molecular acid now runs through their modified veins. Their spines have been elongated so that from the lower back, their vertebrae meld into prehensile bone-tails that can lash out at their victims. From their backs emerge horn-like protrusions of bone that frame the Haemonculus' head like an organic rack. These racks are hung with special syringes that channel their noxious concoctions directly into their spinal sump.
As they are for all purposes functionally immortal, the Haemonculi do not pursue the hurried, frenetic pace of the younger Dark Eldar. They move with an unlovely grace, often held aloft by powerful anti-gravitic suspensor crystals. Others can slither along the ground like nightmarish serpents using their bone-tails. Patient fiends, they know that the manufacture of a truly perfect death takes time. As the millennia pass, many Haemonculi become ever more deranged and obsessive. One Haemonculus might only dine upon the left hands of his victims, while another may only drink from a fluted glass filled with the tears of children. Having long since transcended notions of wealth held by even other Dark Eldar, Haemonculi particularly prize the acquisition of unusual alchemical ingredients, such as the heart of a Judge of the Adeptus Arbites or the distilled physical essence of a once-proud Imperial Planetary Governor. The former may elicit the stout flavour of pure resolve; the latter the foolish thrill of vain-glory.
In battle, the Haemonculi see combat as yet another canvas upon which to exercise the skills of the true artist of pain. They use extreme wargear that often takes the form of an unusual biological or chemical weapon, such as a compound that allows them to cause uncontrollable tissue growth with a single touch or to remove all water from their foes' bodies in an instant, causing their dried, dessicated corpses to drop to the ground before they are even aware of what is happening to them. A Haemonculus usually drifts across the field of battle using his suspensor crystals with a magnificent if macabre elegance, providing the gift of a gloriously agonising death to one combatant after another. In the rare instance that a Haemonculus himself should die, he will go quite willingly into the void with a hideous smile etched upon his gaunt features. Every Haemonculus knows that he will soon return to seek a fascinating and vicious revenge. After all, for these foul beings, death is just the beginning...
The Chronicle of Endless Woe
Over the aeons, the Haemonculi and their ilk have committed a billion atrocities, each one fouler and more inventive than the last. At first, they did so out of malignance twinned with curiosity, then later to stave off the crippling ennui that curses all those who flirt with immortality. Now, they sew their tapestry of terror as a matter of survival. Though they maintain the facade that they are above such mundane concerns as nourishment, in truth their parasitic relationship with realspace is the only thing that sustains their existence.
The Age of Dark Genesis
- Rulers of the Stars (ca. M15-M20) - Those Eldar who would become the first Haemonculi are the masters of the ancient Eldar Empire. Powerful beyond the dreams of mortals, they hold dominion over the stars themselves. Worlds live or die at their whim, and suns are born and quenched under their command.
- Shadows in the Twilight (ca. M18) - With the other races of the galaxy posing little threat, currents of complacency begin to flow throughout Eldar society. A new paradigm of self-indulgence begins to rise. The Eldar turn to ever more capricious acts in order to fill their lifespans with excitement. Many become addicted to the finest sensations their empire can provide. As the centuries slide past, cults of decadence thrive in lawless port-cities of the Labyrinthine Dimension of the Webway -- Commorragh foremost amongst them.
- Faith Bled Dry (ca. M19-M24) - The worship of the Eldar Gods fades as the Eldar indulge their obsessions at all costs. Obeisance is instead paid to the Dark Muses, figures synonymous with unrepentant vice. New depths of depravity are plumbed inside the Webway and without. Those who will become the Haemonculi are central to each new orgy of experience. These shadowy figures grow daily in power and influence, feasting on ever more esoteric banquets of sin. The worst of their number begin to change, body and soul, though for now their corruption is hidden behind fine words and ethereal beauty.
- Devils in the Darkness (ca. M25-M30) - The core of Eldar society becomes infected by the spiritual malaise. Some have mixed feelings about the direction their society has taken, whilst others -- the forefathers of the Haemonculus Covens amongst them -- are utterly unrepentant. As the lines between unbridled experience and outright evil are blurred, the rich Eldar emotions seeping into the Warp begin to coalesce. The more puritanical of the Eldar, horrified by the degeneration of their society, flee their ancient homeworlds in an attempt to escape the imminent catastrophe.
- The Fall of the Eldar (ca. M30-M31) - The tempest the Eldar are unwittingly stirring in the Warp reaches a stormy climax, and a new Chaos God is born. With a soul-shattering scream of triumph, She Who Thirsts rips her way into existence. The heart of the Eldar Empire is torn out by Slaanesh's birth, annihilating almost all of the Eldar race and leaving a sector-wide wound in reality in its place. Only those Eldar who had fled to the fringes of the galaxy survive. Even those hidden in the port-cities of the Webway pay a terrible price.
- The Rise of Commorragh (ca. M31-M32) - Despite the aching void that now blights their souls, the Eldar controlling the sovereign realms of the Webway amass ever more power. One city in particular, the mighty Commorragh, grows strong upon the carrion of the old empire. As the multi-dimensional metropolis becomes ever more influential, it subsumes many lesser port-cities until its preeminence is beyond doubt. The Dark City grows at an exponential rate, and countless factions and dynasties build ever more impressive monuments to their own prowess. The true architects of the city-realm's supremacy, hidden from sight by the vaunting ambition of those who claim to rule, withdraw to haunt its lowest levels. The underspires of Commorragh grow like stalactites beneath its impossible reaches, and within them the Haemonculus Covens are born.
The Age of Pain
- The Slave King Rises (ca. M35) - A low-born wastrel by the name of Asdrubael Vect engineers his rise to power in Commorragh. It culminates in a great coup that sees the Dark Eldar aristocracy of old replaced by the deadly meritocracy of the Kabals. Throughout the seismic upheaval that emerges from the Imperial invasion Vect lures into the city and the resultant counterattack, the Haemonculi of the underspires remain neutral. They watch with detached interest as the squabbles of their younger counterparts play out. The Covens allow Vect to take overall power, for in the arts of treachery the Haemonculi excel, and the Dark City's blades must remain sharp if it is to rule over the Labyrinthine Dimension forever more.
- The Ghost Planet (156.M35) - The far-flung Hive World of Auxilion makes a deal with Eldar mercenaries, though after one diplomatic gaffe too many the alliance turns sour. Led by the Haemonculus Kresthekia, a Carnival of Pain descends upon the planet. Five standard years later, Imperial authorities visit Auxilion investigating its failure to pay tithes. They find the world deserted, and not a single spot of blood or spent bullet casing which might explain the phenomenon.
- A Murder of Ravens (522.M36) - The Haemonculi and the Raven Guard Space Marine Chapter have crossed blades many times, for just as the Dark Eldar will always prey upon humanity, so the Space Marines will always defend it. Upon the rural Imperial world of Parocheus the two factions would clash once more, each force vying to control the shadows they both counted as their ally. When the Haemonculi of the Altered last visited the Imperial Mining World of Parocheus in 018.M36, the Raven Guard Chapter lay waiting in ambush. They launched a blisteringly effective attack that saw the Covenites maimed, disfigured, or -- in the case of their lord -- Viscount Syndriq -- blasted into messy chunks by a volley of Heavy Bolter shells. Though the surviving Haemonculi had fled to the nearest Webway portal and escaped back to Commorragh, and enough of Syndriq's latest fleshform was scraped together to effect his regeneration, the damage to the Coven's pride had already been done. Viscount Syndriq in particular took the defeat hard. His rage was so great that he discharged himself from his regeneration sarcophagus long before his regrowth was complete. So it was that when the Altered returned to the planet of Parocheus in 522.M36, Syndriq was still a pale and hairless fiend, his knife-sharp teeth bared in a permanent rictus grin that was unsettling in the extreme. During the subsequent fighting upon Parocheus, Syndriq was killed again during the height of battle by missile fire from a Stormraven gunship. It is unknown if there was enough of his remains to recover after the battle for another regeneration. Despite this temporary setback, the aristocratic Haemonculus known as Faerughast devised a far more inventive revenge against the Space Marines. The Altered managed to steal away into the darkness over a score of the Raven Guard's number by the very foe they had come to slay. Two solar days later, a Space Marine strike force blasted its way into the Webway tunnels that fringed Parocheus. After a brief skirmish with the Covenites in the otherworldly tunnels beyond, the missing Raven Guard were recovered to a man, their memories clouded but their bodies intact. A hundred standard years and a day after the clash upon Parocheus, the sudden mutation of Raven Guard gene-seed saw dozens of their finest warriors hatch into grotesque monsters, and an entire generation of new recruits had to be put down. In the end, the vengeance of the Haemonculi had been wrought by the hands of those who sought to defy them.
- The Plague of Glass (926.M36) - The Covenites of the Hex contain and harness the Glass Plague released by the sculptor-fraud Jalaxlar. Vitrifying weapons are soon in evidence whenever the Coven mounts its realspace raids. The Hex soon becomes famous for their weaponisation of esoteric curses. Their ornate rifles still fetch a high price in the barters and trades of the undercity of Commorragh.
- The Breaching (ca. M37) - Asdrubael Vect consolidates his power by forcing open the portals to the last few port-cities that claim autonomy from Commorragh. Over the next few millennia, he relegates all but the province of Shaa-dom to the status of satellites of the greater whole. The Covens of the undercity remain neutral throughout, though they profit handsomely from the rising demand for regrowth and rebirth during the resultant civil wars.
- The Vengeance of the Scars (993.M37) - The Chaos Renegade Fabius Bile, having studied the Haemonculi's craft under the Coven of the Thirteen Scars, betrays the trust of his Commorrite mentors. By teaching the secrets he has been entrusted with to the Emperor's Children in his employ, Bile dilutes the art of the fleshcrafter to an unforgivable degree. The Thirteen Scars have long watched for just such an infraction. Using energy pillars linked to the Ilmaean suns, they animate their living fortress for war -- a towering pillar of flesh fashioned from the bodies of those who have defied them in the past. The fortress breaches a long-sealed Webway node on Belial IV, and lumbers into the Eldar palace that the Emperor’s Children were using as a base of operations. Bile's heavily mutated Noise Marine allies turn their Sonic Weaponry upon the hordes of Covenites that pour out from the Tower of Flesh's yawning maws, rupturing and splitting countless monstrosities as they sally forth. Their charge hits home nonetheless. The violence that erupts from the close-quarters battle is as intense as it is invigorating, Chaos Space Marine and Wrack alike screaming in glee as they are physically torn apart. The Tower of Flesh itself duels with the corrupted god-machines in Bile's employ, smashing them aside with its flailing appendages. As their minions fight tooth and nail outside the shattered palace, the Primogenitor Bile is paid a visit in his throne by the Coven lords of the Thirteen Scars. After the Renegade's private army of horrors experiences a dozen esoteric types of murder at the hands of the Haemonculi, an understanding is reached. Bile's augmented Emperor's Children are granted death by masochistic ecstasy, and the Haemonculi depart after surgically ensuring that the Renegade cannot speak of his learnings to any other living creature.
- Pitch Dark (198.M39) - A piratical warband of Traitor Space Marines from the Night Lords Legion ambushes a Dark Eldar fleet and breaches the hull of its flagship. Several Haemonculi from the Altered are sent spinning out into the cold void of space, though their desiccated corpses are eventually recovered by specially-made Engines of Pain. The Haemonculi are once more regrown, but the insult done to them is not forgotten. Before the solar year is out, the Night Lords warband -- whilst plunging the Imperial planet of Wystengradt into a violence-haunted twilight -- encounter the Dark Eldar once more. The Night Lords have robbed the planet of power using high-yield static bombs, ensuring that its cities are gloom-shrouded playgrounds for their terror tactics, though the horrors wreaked by the Traitor Legionaries are mild in comparison to what is to befall the planet next. The Altered, having enlisted the aid of several thousand Aelindrachi elders and deployed an ancient antiphoton engine from their deepest oubliettes, shroud the world of Wystengradt in an unnatural darkness. War unfolds as Mandrakes and Wracks engage in a deadly running battle with the Night Lords. The dearth of light is so supernaturally intense that even the acute vision of the Chaos Space Marines is rendered all but useless. The Traitor Marines' doctrine of psychological warfare is slowly and painfully turned against them, and the spark of paranoia that nestles in each Night Lord’s breast is fanned to an inferno. Mandrake attacks come from impossible quarters as new scenes of stomach-churning vileness are uncovered with every hour. The Night Lords seek out the Dark Eldar antiphoton engine with the intent to destroy it and wage the war anew on their own terms. The ancient machine is finally blown apart by Melta charges, but when visibility is restored to Wystengradt, the Haemonculi are gone. Only a lingering fear of the darkness is left in their wake.
- A Hideous Beauty (569.M39) - The Haemonculus Covens prey on the "lesser races" as a matter of course, though their malefic attentions are by no means isolated to the denizens of realspace. When the Cadian Shock Troop battalions of the metal-skinned Imperial planet Refusal fell under the gaze of the Prophets of Flesh, it was not only the world's garrison that felt the Coven's dire touch. Croniarch Sekh is a Haemonculus of the Haemonculi Coven the Prophets of Flesh. He became bitter and wrathful with the Succubus Yctria Ghularis, known as the Flayer Queen, and ruler of the Cult of the Red Grief, after she killed his favoured gladiator-queen Kariasche. The Haemonculus conspired against her with Yctria's second-in-command, Idyliane. In the resulting Battle of Refusal, Sekh's malevolent plan came to fruition. He was instrumental in the horrible mutation of Yctria, who was very vain about her appearance, into a hideous beast that would be forced to fight in Commorragh's gladiatorial arenas. When his Coven next visited the sands of the gladiatorial arena of the Red Grief, they watched with quiet smiles from under their shadowed balcony as they drank in the sight of the Red Grief's new queen as Kariasche, made whole once more, strode into the arena. Led by a bone chain in Kariasche's wake came a lumpen beast of impressive size. Its anguish was plain as it moaned and drooled from a dozen wound-like mouths. Clapping hesitantly at first, but rising to a crescendo as the truth of the spectacle sank in, the Dark Eldar in the arena got to their feet until the entire arena was united in a standing ovation. There was nothing so gratifying for the citizens of Commorragh than witnessing another's pain, after all, and Yctria's new incarnation had enough of that to last a thousand years. Subtly, but unforgettably, the Prophets of Flesh had reminded the denizens of the Dark City that to cross the Haemonculi was to invite a far darker destiny than mere death.
- The Bone Curse (232.M40) - The Haemonculi of the Hex learn of the aberrant Cursed Founding of the Adeptus Astartes, and are taken by one Chapter in particular -- the Black Dragons, whose corrupted gene-seed forces sharp protrusions of bone to grow out from its warriors' skeletons. Striking a bargain with the piratical Duke Sliscus, the Hex attack the Chapter as it is purging the Donorian System of the monsters that have spilled into Imperial space. A vicious hit-and-run war erupts across the space lanes, fought within the Adeptus Astartes warships and without. Though the resultant war costs Sliscus several of his prized starships, the Covenites that board the cavernous Imperial flagship capture a dozen of the most mutated Black Dragons in the Chapter and bear them back to Commorragh. Over the course of an agonising three-standard-year period -- during which no fewer than eight breakout attempts are thwarted -- the Hex's Haemonculi take it in turns to experiment upon the slab-bound Space Marines. Soon enough they have isolated and synthesised the genetic curse lurking in the Bone Dragons' gene patterns. The resultant osseovirus is distilled, weaponised and -- in one particularly memorable experiment -- reintroduced to its host in a concentrated form. The twisted bone "dragon" that hatched from the unlucky donor's flesh is hung above the Coven's Chamber of Whispers.
- The Harvest of Chogros (543.M41) - The Kabal of the Broken Sigil begins a series of raids on the planet Chogros, capturing the Ogryn natives for the arenas. When Astra Militarum regiments arrive to intervene, the conflict escalates into a planet-wide engagement. Though they fight hard, the men of the Imperium are eventually defeated. The Crucibael is thronged for many nights to come as the captured Imperial Guardsmen are forced to fight the very Ogryns that they were sent to save.
- A Maddening Gift (703.M41) - Seething after an imperfect regrowth that he judges to be a deliberate slight, the disfigured Acothyst Mydilian gifts his masters in the Coven of Twelve with a flock of Aelindrachi shaderavens. The avian terrors are well received, for though it is rumoured their caw slowly drives those who hear it insane, it would be seen as an act of cowardice to refuse them. Given the inherent strangeness of the Haemonculi, few notice that the Coven of Twelve are becoming ever more eccentric. A standard year to the day after Mydilian's gift, several of the Coven's senior Haemonculi depart into a shattered spar of the Webway without warning. Their clarity of thought long gone, they plunge through a forbidden gate onto a long-lost Crone World, rubbing their clammy hands in anticipation of having daemonic "specimens" to experiment upon. Upon a plain of burning bones the Covenites find more in the way of Daemons than they bargained for. The horizon is scarlet from end to end with the footsoldiers of the dreaded Blood God. A never-ending cycle of battle begins as the souls of the Haemonculi are claimed as playthings by Khorne himself, denying them any chance of regeneration in their Commorrite lairs. They are condemned to an endless grind of unimaginative but extremely gory deaths, whilst Mydilian and three of his peers enjoy a sudden promotion.
- Beauty As A Blade (718.M41) - Acts of inventive self-disfigurement suddenly become high fashion in Commorragh, and then fall out of favour just as swiftly, allowing the Haemonculus Covens to capitalise upon both sides of the trend. The Time of Reparations sees every Commorrite noble who bought into the fad restored to his or her former grandeur. A pattern emerges over the next few years of realspace raids: those who betray the Haemonculi in lieu of their own agendas find their beautiful new faces melting from their skulls.
- High Art (983.M41) - The senior Acothyst Ymodrian, having spent four hundred Terran years in gruelling servitude to Drecht of the Altered without reward, steals a Hexrifle from his master's vaults and leads a host of his fellow Wracks into realspace. Emerging from a costly sojourn through the Webway onto the Tyranid-infested waste planet of Hope's End, the Acothyst hunts down the largest and most dangerous Tyranid he can find. Whilst his fellow Wracks battle the swarms around him, Ymodrian makes a thousand-to-one shot that turns a rampaging Trygon to glass, yet leaves the Commissar it has recently swallowed trapped like a fly in amber inside the towering thing's gullet. The Acothyst waves his Raiders in low, his fellows binding the strange statue with chains and bearing it back through the Webway to be presented as tribute. Within a single Ilmaean cycle, the artwork is displayed in pride of place inside Drecht's sanctum. Ymodrian is rewarded copiously, undergoing the alchemical rituals that see him join the lower ranks of the Haemonculi.
- The War of Dark Revelations (990.M41) - Tau forces defending Vigos against the onrushing might of Hive Fleet Kraken make the fatal decision to ally themselves with Urien Rakarth. Despite initial victories alongside their twisted allies, the Tau soon become alarmed by Rakarth's demands that they engage in ever more costly "cultural exchanges." They finally resolve to strike back when he transforms Tau warriors into monstrous Grotesques, and begins demanding a tribute of their sacred Ethereals. The Tau muster their reserves from the world of Rubikon, yet when their blow falls they find Rakarth's fleet already gone, leaving only holograms and sensor-ghosts in its wake. Panicked distress calls begin to issue from the defenceless Rubikon mere solar hours later. These garbled reports tell of twisted, pale-fleshed invaders calling themselves the Prophets of Flesh. Yet it is far too late for the woefully outmanoeuvred Tau forces to respond, and they can only listen in anguish to the death-cries of their world.
- The Plundered Flesh of Pech (991.M41) - After capturing not only countless Tau upon Vigos but also the mercenaries with which they bolster their cadres, the Prophets of Flesh find out that the Kroot are able to learn and even evolve purely by selectively devouring the fallen. To appropriate such an ability would be seen as a coup even amongst the Haemonculi. Before long, the Prophets of Flesh have opened up a Webway gate upon the Kroot homeworld: the humid jungle planet of Pech. Hovering through the mists upon Raiders lined with barbed rails, the Haemonculi begin a lengthy scouring of the planet's tribal centres. The Kroot respond in force, loosing packs of Kroot Hounds that leap from bough and bole to bear Covenites into the leafy mulch below. Krootox-borne gunners blast apart Venoms and Ravagers in the gloom, though in truth the skimmers in the jungle canopy are little more than distractions. The true prize is seized by the Pain Engines of the Haemonculi, each Corpsethief Claw rendering down as many Kroot Shapers as they can catch. The Tau, fiercely defensive of their empire's mercenary allies, counter-invade in force by mobilising twelve Hunter Cadres to scour the jungle clean. The unfolding battle ends abruptly when the Prophets of Flesh withdraw, their Raiders straining to the point of collapse under the weight of the Kroot corpses they have stolen. Though the Tau propaganda machine celebrates a great victory, the Dark Eldar have what they came for. They leave a message behind, spelt out in the bloody corpses of their victims. It is loosely translated by the Water Caste as the phrase "Welcome to the Feast."
The Age of Plenty
- The Larder Well-Stocked (999.M41) - The winds of change electrify the stale air of Commorragh, and an insistent pounding comes from the other side of Khaine's Gate in the depths of the Warp. There is a sharp rise in realspace raids mounted by the Haemonculus Covens, the largest of which are led by Urien Rakarth himself. Entire subrealms of stasis caskets and rune-sealed exception vaults are populated with sentient creatures stolen from across the length and breadth of the galaxy. Rakarth appears in person to discuss the future with Asdrubael Vect, and an accord is reached. In the pocket dimensions created by the Dark City's forefathers, an unimaginably vast storehouse of raw material is amassed; fodder for the Commorrites to prey upon in safety should a cataclysm occur.
- The Dragons Entwined (999.M41) - The world of Dûriel burns. It is finally tipped over the brink of destruction by an Eldar countermeasure that prevents Hive Fleet Kraken, glutted upon the gene-stuff of Craftworld Iyanden, mingling with the bio-ships of Hive Fleet Leviathan. The Dark Eldar, despite having supplied the ancient doomsday device that triggered the world's destruction, ensure they recover specimens from both Hive Fleets during the roiling battles around the planet's highest peak. Runic hexcages full of Tyranid weapon-beasts are taken back to Commorragh, though they are quickly expended.
- The Theft of Lethidia (999.M41) - The Haemonculi of the Commorrite undercity are fascinated by the Tyranid race's ability to hyperadapt, and the bio-fleet's incredible ability to tailor its attack-beasts to their prey's destruction within a matter of solar hours. Reasoning the Hive Fleets represent an unprecedented glut of test subjects, the Covens muster under the leadership of Urien Rakarth and take to the Southern Fringe of the galaxy en masse. Over the course of the war for the planet Lethidia, the Dark Eldar use forbidden technologies to abduct the entire planet whilst it is still infested with Tyranids. Using Webway breachers and a captive black hole, the planet and its inhabitants are transported to Commorragh's orbit for the Covens to analyse and dissect at their leisure.
- The Gateway Ajar (999.M41) - Beneath Commorragh, the occult phenomena haunting Khaine's Gate intensify to a daunting degree. As the thunderous pounding on the other side of the portal increases in frequency and volume, the elders of the Dark City prepare for a Dysjunction of dimension-shattering magnitude and the invasion of Commorragh by a vast daemonic force. Each Coven looks to the future in its own way, enacting ancient failsafes and putting long-honed plans into action. Rumours of Neocommorragh, an exclusive sub-realm that Vect has created as a shelter against the coming cataclysm, are whispered in boudoirs and bordellos across the Dark City. The future of the Dark Eldar looks uncertain indeed, though the Haemonculi Covens are excited by the sheer levels of misery and suffering to come.
- "I've never grafted limbs this massive onto one of your kind before. I wonder if your spine can support the weight of the additional musculature? I have my doubts, but we shall soon find out conclusively. Feel free to express your discomfort as loudly as you find necessary."
- —Haemonculus Anasta Skaiene
How the Haemonculi came into existence is uncertain. They are all of incredibly advanced age, and their withered and nightmarish appearance speaks of those Dark Eldar who have passed well beyond the ability to recapture a youthful physique. It is possible that amongst the elder Haemonculi's number are those who initiated the very first Eldar cults of pleasure and pain. Yet each Haemonculus has altered himself so drastically that he no longer resembles those he mockingly calls his people, and his secrets are his own to keep.
Haemonculi are physically twisted and repulsive. Their sparse alabaster frames have not an ounce of fat upon them, quite unlike those of their wilder creations, and their waspish waists are devoid of internal organs, the better to present a fashionably disturbing appearance. Some Haemonculi harbour their viscera, lungs and heart in a muscled hunk of meat that sprouts from their shoulders -- a rich repository for stimulants and elixirs that often boasts secondary limbs of its own. Others replace their blood so that searing ichor or even acid flows through their modified veins. Their backs sprout antler-like protrusions of bony matter that are often hung with syringes and drug dispensers that channel directly into their spinal sumps. All of this monstrous self-mutilation leaves many Haemonculi unable or unwilling to engage in physically demanding tasks. Indeed, most Haemonculi consider themselves somehow polluted if they are ever forced into a state of exertion. Instead, these megalomaniacal Coven-lords surround themselves with supplicants and minions, the greatest of which are the Engines of Pain. The Engines of Pain are amongst the most terrifying creations of the Haemonculi. Drifting into battle on thrumming gravitic emitters, these malevolent machines are flesh fused with metal through dark alchemy to create something monstrous indeed. Superlative terror weapons, the spectacle of an Engine of Pain at its bloody work is often so shocking that foes turn tail and flee rather than face a visceral unmaking at the construct's bladed hands.
The Haemonculi are masters of torture, flesh distortion and poisonous malice. They are true connoisseurs of pain, utterly dedicated to their craft. As masters of regenerative techniques, they hold the power of life and death over their Commorrite kin, handing out a sham immortality to those who court their favour. The strange science of the Haemonculi allows them to regenerate a fallen "client" from even the most ruined remains, essentially bringing him back to life in exchange for a portion of his soul. The Coven lords are just as happy to dabble in the cosmetic as well as the metaphysical. A Dark Eldar who seeks their expertise will be slowly and agonisingly reshaped with new appendages or sinister bodily enhancements. Many Haemonculi also brew deadly philtres and poisons for their Commorrite brethren, usually distilled to a truly extreme concentration. The specific request is not always adhered to, for the Lords of Pain believe they always know best, whether within the Dark City or without.
The majority of Haemonculi do not exist in isolation, but instead form into like-minded bands known as Covens. Each horror-aesthete revels in expanding his Coven's knowledge of pain by perfecting nefarious sciences and mastering the visceral arts. Covens can vary in size, from small, elitist coteries of Haemonculi to huge torture-conclaves that boast several thousand minions at the least. Every Haemonculus considers himself akin to a god, and hence surrounds himself with a retinue of freakish acolytes that obey his every whim without hesitation. Many do not care to debase themselves by touching the ground, let alone sully themselves with physical labour. To this end, they are assisted at all times by esoteric technologies and an entourage of abominations. Megalomaniacs all, their egos require the constant obeisance of subservient beings, most of whom they have fashioned themselves. These servants ensure the Coven's captives are hauled about, flayed or dissected according to their master's will.
It is amid the stalactite-like citadels deep under Commorragh that the Haemonculi make their lairs. The Covens themselves are nigh impossible for the unwelcome to locate, and each is laced from end to end with deadly traps and sanity-blasting sights. In the heart of each Coven's underspire, pitch-black oubliettes and vaulted flesh laboratories jostle together in great number. Racks of alchemical vials are held up by webworks of sinew, the vessels upon them shimmering translucent in the gloom or wobbling as their contents shift within. Sinister apparatus loops down upon barbed chains, waiting to activate at its creator's command. At the fringes of these Covenite underspires are the glistening breeding walls where, inside row upon row of amniotic tubes, new Dark Eldar are incubated and messily birthed. The Eldar gestation cycle is much longer than that of many of the "lesser races" of the galaxy, and conventionally-born children are rare symbols of status. Artificially grown Dark Eldar are far more commonplace. Once fertilised, an egg can be implanted into one of the amniotic tubes that honeycomb the breeding-walls of the Haemonculi. Using a repulsive, insectile science developed many millennia ago, an embryo's growth can be hyperaccelerated within these tubes, each newgrown specimen wriggling from its chrysalis-sac in a drizzle of unclean fluids before being taken away by Wrack attendants. These "half-born" are viewed with contempt by Trueborn Dark Eldar, who believe them inherently inferior. Yet the real triumph of the Haemonculi's science is not the ability to create new life but to deny death. It is this that affords them such power within Commorrite society.
Just as the Haemonculi oversee the birth of most Dark Eldar, they also cater for them after death. The key to this terrible process is, of course, pain. The Dark Eldar are rejuvenated by witnessing agony, and if saturated with enough of it, they can heal from almost any wound. As such the mortal remains of those delivered to the dubious care of the Haemonculi are installed into crystal-fronted pods arrayed above the pain racks and torture tables. These sarcophagi are arrayed in concentric circles that rise up into the darkness, each holding a semi-cocooned Dark Eldar warrior in a regenerative state. The patients literally drink in the dark energy of the torturer’s craft as the Haemonculus works upon his victim below, ably assisted by his Wrack servants and the semi-sentient Engines of Pain. As a cacophony of shrieks rises around the chamber, those installed in the cocoons slowly feast upon the negative psychic energies, ever so gradually growing back their bodies -- skeleton first, then muscle and sinew, then alabaster skin until they are whole once more. During times of war, it is common for every one of an oubliette's regeneration pods to be filled with leering, red-raw fiends that shiver and rattle with every fresh scream.
Over the millennia, the most ancient Haemonculi have become exceptionally obscure in their perversions. They seek ever more bizarre and exotic ways to draw out the agonies of their victims, for as the aeons slide by, their hunger for anguish becomes increasingly difficult to quench. Some of the most diabolical factions, such as the Altered, may depopulate entire human colonies in order to produce a toxin of the right consistency. Others, like the Hex, treat their realspace raids as monstrous art exhibitions, thriving on flamboyant displays of carnage. The Haemonculi are always seeking new ways to inflict horror upon the denizens of realspace. Certain Covens, such as the Children of Bone, specialise in developing skeletally thin Grotesques to aid them upon the battlefield, while the Coven of the Ebon Sting are famed for their especially venomous Engines of Pain. It is these hideous horrors and monstrous constructs that do the majority of the killing when the Coven mounts a raid. Having lived for thousands of Terran years, the Lords of Pain look upon the quotidian, planet-wrecking wars of the lesser races with a snickering amusement. Yet as humanity's 41st Millennium draws to a tumultuous close, the Covens of the Haemonculi launch larger raiding parties than ever, revelling in -- and gleefully adding to -- the confusion and carnage of this dark age.
The Theatre of Horrors
Though they forsook realspace many millennia ago, all Haemonculi see the material dimension as theirs to do with as they wish. The realms of Man, Ork, Tau and Necron are treated as little more than a combination of playground, banqueting hall and exhibition space. No Covenite truly believes the empires of the lesser realms to be a threat. Even on those occasions when brutish Orks or foul-smelling Space Marines have crashed through the dimensional veil to invade the Dark City, the Haemonculi have watched with little more than detached interest, idly chatting amongst themselves about the finer points of their uninvited guests' anatomies. In truth, the Haemonculi and their minions are slain by the heroes, monsters and even common soldiers more often than they would like to admit. The sheer variety of deaths the species of the galaxy are able to visit upon their foes is part of their appeal to the Dark Eldar, for though Commorragh has mastered a million types of murder, it always hungers for more. For a lowly Kabalite Warrior, to be killed in realspace is a calamity. For the elder Covenites of that realm, however, it is a diverting pastime. Unless that Haemonculus' enemies directly conspire to prevent his resurrection, he will be back soon enough to wreak an inventive revenge. In the late 41st Millennium, the Haemonculi are raiding realspace with increasing frequency. They not only seek to line their nests with as many victims as they can catch, but also to paint their own bloody designs across the canvas of the stars.
When a Haemonculus Coven gathers its might and descends upon the worlds of realspace, it brings with it all the horrors of the dark realms beneath Commorragh. Terrible creations burst out from shimmering Webway portals to slaughter and pillage, claiming their screaming bounty before disappearing as suddenly as they came. Dark Eldar society is built upon the suffering of others. The survival of this ancient and murderous species requires a regular influx of luckless, screaming captives. Thankfully for the Commorrites, the galaxy has such unwilling prisoners in plentiful supply. It is for this reason that the Dark Eldar make regular ventures into realspace. Yet it is rare for each Commorrite faction to have the same agenda. The Archons of the Kabals make bold, swift strikes in order to capture vast hosts of slaves and further their power base within Commorragh. The Wych Cults of the arenas launch raids to bring back the elite warriors of the lesser races -- worthy playthings for their nightly bloodsports. But when the Covens of the Haemonculi burst out of the Webway, they do so with more monstrous and esoteric goals.
The most common objective of the Coven raids is to obtain specimens for the purposes of experimentation and nourishment within the Haemonculi's dungeon-lairs. By ensuring that their slabs are never empty, the Coven lords not only fulfil their own strange needs, but also supply pain enough to restore their clients in their sarcophagi. Some Haemonculi will be incredibly discerning about what specimens they bring back, selecting their victims based on bizarre criteria such as age, eye colour, pitch of voice, cruelty of spirit, or a myriad other incomprehensible peccadilloes. Others will simply depopulate entire settlements, or even continents, harvesting raw materials to be sorted and categorised properly upon return to their lairs. Perhaps the infected lungs of a Forge World’s defenders are a pleasing colour when rendered down, or the gizzards of Greenskins from an ice planet are of the perfect tensile strength for tendon-webbing. The Haemonculus Croniarch Sekh is much envied by his rivals for his artisanal workbenches, which are crafted from the colossal oesophagi of the now-extinct Vengoliath race. Indeed, none can fathom the twisted motives of these ancient deviants, for their whims are beyond the grasp of sane minds.
Raids are not always focussed on acts of theft or abduction. Certain Haemonculi, such as the Prophets of Flesh, revel in the creation of meaningful and intricate patterns of corpses to be admired from the depths of space. Excursions from Commorragh may also allow the opportunity for a long-standing grudge to be transformed into a poetic punishment. When Archon Vanxil once made a disparaging comment about the quality of the poisons purchased from Kariok of the Everspiral Coven, the Haemonculus offered to enhance the potency of Vanxil's Splinter Weaponry seven times over by way of recompense. He lived up to his promise. When Vanxil's Kabalites raided the Imperial planet of Fool's Hope, their Splinter Weapons fired toxins so potent they became airborne and turned not only the Imperial defenders to primordial sludge, but Vanxil and his Kabalite raiders too. In comparison to other Dark Eldar, the Haemonculi take an almost languid approach to waging their campaigns of terror. These dark fiends are unearthly creatures, some a dozen millennia old, and time is of little relevance to them. Masters of aeon-spanning ambition, the Haemonculi plan their realspace raids with the precision of a master surgeon. Specifically equipped Engines of Pain may need to be created for the final denouement, or certain allegiances formed with other factions of the Dark City in order to overcome a planet's specific defences. As the time draws near to step onto the stage of war, there is an air of excited competition within the Coven, each of its perverse lords making ready to bring his own dark performance to life.
Through hidden Webway portals these ancient beings and their sinewy horrors make their entrance. A planet's boneyards, eerie forests or long-abandoned manufactoria are favoured locales from which to begin their operations. As patient as spiders, the Haemonculi may bid their abominations whittle away at a planet’s defenders little by little, spending solar days or weeks spreading terror and confusion before the main assault. Alternatively, they may make an outrageous spectacle of their arrival, glorying in the bizarre and hideous sight they present to their victims. It is the Wracks and Grotesques that bring the full force of their master’s flair for bloodshed to the front lines. With monstrous surgical implements, these masked horrors rip open torsos and tear through bone or armour, their Liquifier Guns burning through enemy squads with gouts of hyper-distilled vitriol. Engines of Pain hover across the battlefield, sent into the ranks of the foe by the dismissive gestures of their creators. The weapons of these constructs are myriad, from lances of searing energy and webs of barbed chains to boiling ichor, flickering needles and monstrous siphons that drain the life-force from their victims. The spoils of agony they reap are then shared with their depraved creators, who steal the lives of their foes with a gourmet delicacy that is unsettling in itself.
Most Haemonculi take great pride in their discernment when it comes to their selection of victims. When they are not gifting an excruciating demise to those who stray into their path, these diabolical figures can be seen prodding the skin of captives or probing the stress points of skulls. Some will taste a dribble of a victim's blood upon the tips of their fingers, working it upon their tongues like true connoisseurs. Others view such direct interaction as sullying themselves, and have their monstrous bodyguards open up innards for scrutiny according to their every whim. Once the battlefield bacchanal has reached its end, the Haemonculi will return to Commorragh with a fresh collection of captives. Even the most nonchalant Haemonculus will be privately exhilarated by the potential of his haul. There is no guessing what the grim gourmands will actually do to their unfortunate trophies. Living victims are forced into the dungeon-lairs, where a new life of anguish will begin. Lesser specimens may be disassembled and, perhaps whilst still breathing, melded as decoration into the walls of a Coven's stronghold. Captives may be released through labyrinths so that their hope of freedom spawns more appetizing endorphins, only to be hunted down once more by sinister horror-engines. All captives are seen as mere fodder, be they the mightiest Space Marine or the lowliest Gretchin. After all, there are always more victims to be taken from realspace, more specimens to be examined upon the slab. As long as life abounds in realspace, these dark displays will never cease.
Disciplines of the Haemonculi
- "The most glorious of illuminations are found in the deepest darkness."
- — Nothraq Gnull, Nadirist of the Ebon Sting
Haemonculi are not immune to the fashions and fads of the Dark City. Where one Covenite might specialise in fleshcrafting, another might become an expert in cultivating fear, and yet another might strive to master death itself. Despite their differences, there exist informal schools of thought that have thrived amongst them for Terran millennia. The dark pursuits of the Haemonculi help them stave off the ennui that haunts all those free of time's grip. Sometimes known as disciplines, these practices allow the Covenites to focus their capricious attention on a body of study long enough to become its master. The concept is not dissimilar to that of the Eldar Paths, though where the Craftworlders follow a single strand of experience through fear of falling prey to the call of excess, the Haemonculi do so in order to better secure their power over the mortal realm. To them, rules and restrictions are for cowardly children; the Haemonculi would never admit that they are bound to their fields of expertise any more than they would concede that they may have chosen the wrong course during the Fall of the Eldar. Should a Haemonculus tire of a certain body of work, or become known by his peers as unfashionably predictable, he will switch focus without hesitation. It does not do to belittle the scope of a Coven lord's studies, for such an incautious soul risks experiencing the full extent of that Haemonculus' diverse talents.
Despite the diversity of a Coven's chosen studies, certain pursuits recur across the ages. It is common enough for these to aggregate into similar schools of thought. Their adherents are as likely to collaborate in ever more elaborate realspace "exhibitions" as they are to strive to outdo each other on the battlefield. However, not all of these disciplines are compatible –- their conflicting agendas can lead to ever more complex rivalries and acts of sabotage, both within Commorragh and without. Over the Terran millennia, these loose allegiances have become tacitly recognised, if not strictly codified. A Coven that includes specialists in different fields enjoys a greater degree of symbiosis with the Dark City at large. If the Coven is visited by a Commorrite that wishes to become a Scourge, he will be directed to a Master of Apotheosis without delay. If the supplicant wishes instead to take a great toll upon the lowly empires of Mankind or Ork, he finds himself advised by a Penumbral Voyeur. In this way the Haemonculi serve their collective needs to the best of their ability, preening their egos with grandiose titles whilst largely remaining out of each other's way. All Haemonculi like to think themselves eternal, but in truth they are as capricious as the rest of their kind. One standard century may see a resurgence of Apparitians -- those Haemonculi that make their lairs in mirrors and delight in the capture of the vain. Another may see the arrogant Vilethi, named for the Dark Muse Vileth, deign to accompany realspace raids purely to demonstrate their own superiority. Repugnomancers, despite their lethal surprises being seen as somewhat gauche by the eldest of the Haemonculi, are enjoying a resurgence as the 41st Millennium draws to a close. With the constant twists of fate that typify Covenite society, only one thing can be counted as fact –- whatever disciplines the Haemonculi are perfecting, it bodes ill for the rest of the galaxy. Below are listed several of the most common disciplines practiced by the Haemonculi of the Dark City in the late 41st Millennium:
|Nemesines||Amongst the most deadly of disciplines practised in the dark hearts of the Covens are those of the Nemesines -- Haemonculi who seek the best ways to kill every creature in the material universe and beyond. The Nemesines strive to uncover the death-secrets of every sentient being, from the tiniest Tyranid eater-organism to the most titanic Void Whale, and even the daemons of the Warp. If a life can be ended, a Nemesine Coven lord in the depths of the Dark City will know how to achieve the deed in the most efficacious fashion possible. Their warhosts include a great many Engines of Pain and arcane artefacts, the better to visit murderous and efficient violence upon the foe. Some Nemesines, such as the Haemonculi of the Altered, broaden their chosen remit even further. They raid realspace extensively, systematically exterminating entire species purely for the challenge. Others seek to bring an end to more abstract phenomena than simple life. These self-styled Ilynneadhs, or "Ever-Nemesines," work to kill off ephemeral concepts such as hope or joy across entire Imperial sectors, erase progressive knowledge or enlightenment from the galaxy, or slay visionaries and great leaders in order to stifle inconvenient ideas before they occur.|
|Black Cornucopians||The discipline of the Black Cornucopian revolves around the concept that all of reality is there for the taking by these Haemonculi. The most acquisitive of all their kind, these expert plunderers are often the architects of the large-scale Dark Eldar raids that marked the final years of the 41st Millennium. Sending out cells of Talos organ-thieves on a constant rota of abduction, they have lately imitated the master Haemonculus Urien Rakarth by stocking their pocket dimensions with enough victims to see them through long Terran centuries of isolation.|
|Nadirists||The Nadirists embrace sin and corruption wholeheartedly, more so than even their brother Covens. For them, depravity is an aim in and of itself. Unlike their rivals, the Masters of Apotheosis, they seek to attain godhood not by the creation of malefic angels, but by passing through the nadir of experience to become the embodiment of evil. Should they bleed enough darkness into the fabric of reality, they believe they will transcend the mortal plane altogether and become something far more sinister. Many modern Nadirists begin their journey upon the downward spiral by following in the footsteps of the Dark Muses, the folkloric anti-heroes that populate Commorragh's myths. The eldest of the Nadirists have become little more than withered geist-things that must spend their lives immersed in atrocity lest they fade away altogether, and are usually accompanied by active Cronos Parasite Engines at all times. They look down upon even other Haemonculi as faint-hearted cowards, and have a bottomless hatred of the ascetic Craftworld Eldar.|
|Phoenex||The Phoenex are a hidden offshoot of the Ever-Nemesines. They seek to forge the Eldar race anew by the means of actively exterminating their own kind, be they Commorrite, Craftworlder, Harlequin, Corsair or Exodite. They believe that should the Eldar become extinct, Ynnead, the god of death, will be awakened and the spiritual malaise of the Eldar lifted forever. The Phoenex is the most secret of all brotherhoods, for their eagerness to see their brethren slain could easily see them undone. It is whispered that their morbid philosophy is not limited to Commorragh. Some say that entire troupes of maverick Harlequins -- and even the spiritual leaders of more than one Craftworld -- share the Phoenex's goals. When the Eldar are ready to be reborn, the practitioners of this philosophy intend to be the ones in control, guiding their race's destiny from guttering spark to glorious inferno once more.|
|Scarlet Epicureans||The Scarlet Epicureans are perhaps the closest spiritual descendants of those Eldar whose hedonism led to the birth of Slaanesh. These Covenites and their devoted Wrack minions revel in every iota of sensation that they can wring from the universe. Some of these maniacal orgiasts attack the military forces of realspace in order to invite unusual varieties of death, savouring the sublime moment when their lives are snuffed out. After drinking in their own last moments like a vintage draught, they will be regrown in the depths of Commorragh, ready to seek out an even more unusual and fascinating demise.|
Notable Haemonculi Covens
Beneath the Dark City lurk the Covens of the Haemonculi, a twisted brotherhood of ancient torturer-alchemists. These fiends are so steeped in evil that sustaining their existence requires the infliction of near continuous atrocities. Universally feared, these twisted beings are crucial to the continued survival of the Dark Eldar race, for their unnatural sciences give them power over life and death. Yet those who deal with the Haemonculi should be wary, as there is always a price to pay. The most infamous of the Covens are listed here, though there are a great many more less powerful or newly-established Covens whose names remain unknown to current Imperial intelligence:
|The Altered||The Altered are well known for never wearing the same anatomy on consecutive occasions. However, their true expertise is in poisons, toxins and phages. They are the premiere suppliers of lethal elixirs in the Dark City -- if an artisan were to take a Splinter Weapon from any Kabal or Cult and break down its constituent venoms, they would find several that hailed from the laboratories of the Altered. Many of their number are Nemesists, dark scientists who collude with the Shaimesh-worshipping toxmaidens of Lhilitu. Though it may take millennia of experimentation, their single-minded quest is to unlock the death-secrets of every sentient creature in the galaxy. When raiding realspace, the Coven will capture as many victims as they can, regardless of quality -- they think nothing of rendering down entire populations or even entire species into a single poison of unparalleled potency. To reap the raw materials they need for their deadly distillations, the Altered employ a standing army of Corpsethief Claws, each Talos equipped with stinger pods and ichor injectors that bubble with the most lethal liquids imaginable.|
|The Black Descent||The Haemonculi of the Black Descent love to lay traps and sit back to enjoy their lethal denouement. These range from the feigned flights and baited ambushes of their realspace raids to thousand-year intrigues that see their rivals fully humbled. To cross the Black Descent is to invite a punishment darkly twisted to fit the crime. One who uses brute force against them may later find himself stung by an insect-sized Wrack, the hyperdrenaline introduced into his bloodstream forcing him into a frenzy so severe he literally tears himself apart. One who delays payment for the Black Descent's poisons may awake one morning trapped in a Sslyth venom-nest. Even unintended offense can yield retribution -- when an ambassador from the Kabal of the Baleful Gaze wrinkled his nose at the stench of the Coven's dungeons, he soon found himself coughing on transmutative gas. Later that night he sprouted the quivering nostrils of an Ur-Ghul, his eyes sealing over so he could better appreciate the fine bouquet of rot. The Haemonculi of the Black Descent have constructed a pyramidal labyrinth of glass that hangs inverted beneath the Dark City. Promising captives are thrown into the labyrinth's sensory deprivation chambers whilst the Covenites leer outside. The only way out is to negotiate the maze's trap-strewn confines through touch and instinct. Almost all of those that undertake this journey are killed, caught in Paradox Cubes or falling eternally into Moebius pits as they try to avoid the labyrinth's bladed convolutions. Those that pass through safely are rewarded with a new life as a Wrack, becoming a part of the Coven forever more.|
|The Coven of the Crawling Dark||A notorious conclave of Haemonculi of the Dark City of Commorragh. There is little information on this coven in official Imperial records beyond the fact of its existence.|
|The Coven of Twelve||The Coven of Twelve is a conclave of several Haemonculi, each of whom considers himself the foremost practitioner of the dark arts. Membership of the Coven is restricted to just eleven individuals at any time -- the twelfth spot is left open for Urien Rakarth, should he ever deign to accept the Coven’s invitation. Since Haemonculi have a habit of overcoming death, the only way that a new aspirant can ascend to join the Twelve is to dispose of a current incumbent in a manner so thorough that even a master Haemonculus cannot undo it. Shegmeth Kro was pushed into a mirror dimension the size of a coffin too small for his frame. Khaebrys Xulfur was posed an impossible riddle that, with each wrong answer, turned more of his body into bone until finally he was nothing more than an osseous statue. Zakrodevia was rendered into a sentient soup using acids from captured Tyranids and then imbibed by his peers at a banquet. A warped arms race consumes the Coven of Twelve. Their quest to stay one step ahead of each other ensures these Haemonculi bear the deadliest devices their arcane science can yield. These tools of atrocity feature strongly in the arsenals of the Coven during their realspace raids -- flesh gauntlets, electrocorrosive whips, null batons, Mindphase Gauntlets and even stranger weapons abound. Many of the Coven’s members are Scarlet Epicureans, their tastes for inventive fatalities so all-consuming they seek to experience them in person. Many of the Wracks in the service of the Twelve are flayed of their skin, their nerves left raw so they can better appreciate the full spectrum of sensation.|
|The Coven of the Thirteen Scars||No image for this Coven exists in Imperial records.||A notorious conclave of Haemonculi, the Thirteen Scars are notable for having created the stronghold known as the Tower of Flesh in 796.M37 -- a living, breathing fortress, made of the bodies of those who defied them. The Renegade Chaos Space Marine fleshcrafter, Fabius Bile, of the Emperor's Children Traitor Legion, is tutored in the dark arts within its blood-slicked halls. Bile is accompanied to the Dark City by Lucius the Eternal, who is declared by his "hosts" -- the Wych Cult of the Wrath Unbound -- to be endlessly entertaining both on and off the arena floor. Nearly two Terran centuries later, in 993.M37, Bile betrayed the trust of his Commorrite mentors. By teaching the secrets he had been entrusted with to the Emperor's Children in his employ, Bile diluted the art of the fleshcrafter to an unforgivable degree. The Thirteen Scars had long watched for just such an infraction. The vengeful Haemonculi coven were able to breach a long-sealed Webway node on the world of Belial IV, and their animated living fortress lumbered into the ancient Eldar palace that the Emperor's Children were using as a base of operations. Furious battle erupted between the coven's flesh-crafted army and Primogenitor Bile's private army of horrors. Confronted by the Coven lords of the Thirteen Scars, an understanding is eventually reached. Bile's augmented Emperor's Children were granted death by masochistic ecstasy, and the Haemonculi departed after surgically ensuring that the Renegade cannot speak of his learnings to any other living creature.|
|The Dark Creed||Specialising in the arts of terror, the Haemonculi of the Dark Creed have a deep reverence for the indirect kill. They love nothing more than seeing their victims debase themselves in fear, and will drive their captives to madness or suicide purely to show they are above such primitive notions as physical intervention. Having long grown bored of traditional murder techniques, the Dark Creed believe it is the height of sophistication to end a victim's life without making a direct attack. An abstract death, perhaps caused purely through heart-stopping emotion, is considered the finest victory. Aside from any aesthetic considerations, such a demise has the practical benefit of being difficult to trace. Even their Wracks prefer the esoteric kill; each cell boasts at least one Liquifier Gun, Ossefactor or Hexrifle with which to slay their targets from a distance, where their death throes can be enjoyed by all. It is because of their preference for unusual deaths that the Coven has a great many Cronos Parasite Engines in its number. Strung with blooded chains and grisly trophies, these constructs generate so much negative energy that they can kill without striking a single physical blow. Likewise, the Dark Creed's forces are often joined in battle by the night-clad denizens of Aelindrach, for that realm too thrives on the weaponisation of fear. During their realspace raids, the Coven is often accompanied by packs of Mandrakes that hurl soul-blistering balefire to terrorize their victims, before the Haemonculi close in for an elaborate kill.|
|The Ebon Sting||The Ebon Sting is renowned for its exceptionally well-made Talos. Innovation is key to this Coven's artisans, and their respect is given only to those who can combine art with efficacy to create the ultimate war machine. From the revolting Black Jester, with its forest of macrosteroidal syringes, to the many-bladed Iron Dervish, the Engines of the Ebon Sting are true abominations. Yet it is for their forcibly administered poisons that the Coven is truly feared. The weapons of their Talos are coated in the Ebon Sting's signature elixir -- a black toxin derived from the rendered flesh of the worm-like nichtovermid. The moment it is introduced to the victim’s body, the toxin begins to replicate, manifesting dark and leprous blotches. Eyes harden into sightless orbs, and skin stiffens into black chitin. Soon, the victim has swollen and solidified into a shuddering chrysalis. This is taken back with the utmost care to adorn the Coven's galleries. Inside the agonised host, a new clutch of nichtovermids grows, chewing through flesh and bone to finally burst out in a geyser of stinking liquid that draws a ripple of polite applause from its audience.|
|The Everspiral||The Haemonculi of the Everspiral consider even the lords of the other Covens to be rank amateurs. They are the most committed of all to the headlong plunge into depravity, believing themselves evil gods born to prey on the cusp of the mortal realm. Treading the downward spiral into the blackest depths of immorality is an unholy crusade for these monsters, and they do everything in their power to ensure each day is a little viler than the last. Because of their wholehearted dedication to the arts of evil, their ranks boast a great many Nadirists -- those who seek to become deified not by ascending into the heavens, but by descending into the abyss. The Haemonculi of the Everspiral require even more anguish to survive than their fellow Covenites, and utilise Cronos Parasite Engines to better supply the soul-stuff that they require for nourishment. Amongst their number are those so ancient, so inured to the spectacle of suffering, that without the constant feedback loop of dark psychic energy provided by a syphoning Cronos they would wither away to dust.|
|The Hex||The Haemonculi of the Hex consider themselves to be the pre-eminent artists of flesh, with the entirety of realspace as their canvas. To construct truly impressive works they employ large cells of Wracks and Grotesques, mind-bound in much the same manner as hive organisms so they can be better suited to enact their master's artistic vision. Ever since their creation in the dark days that followed the Fall of the Eldar, the Coven has specialised in the fabrication of curses. Most of these are the product of baleful technologies, the effects of which have been refined to the point where -- in the eyes of the primitive races -- they are indistinguishable from magic. However, some of the Coven's favourite curses truly border on the supernatural. It was the Hex that harnessed the Plague of Glass in 926.M36, their discoveries leading to the invention of the Hexrifle that bears their name to this day. It was the Haemonculi of the Hex that refined the macrosteroidal effects of a stolen bone virus to create the Ossefactor -- a weapon favoured by the Acothysts of their employ. They were even responsible for the creation of the fabled Orbs of Despair -- heavy black spheres so saturated with raw negative psychic energy from tortured souls that they can reduce a grown man to a gibbering wreck in a heartbeat. The glee with which the Hex unleash their carefully-cultivated curses upon an unsuspecting universe is palpable in its intensity, and the Haemonculi's thin lips curl back over their sharpened teeth as they drink in each fresh nightmare. However, the unbridled use of curses leaves its mark on the wielder as well as the victim. Those that deal with the Coven's most arcane weapons are often pale to the point of albinism, covered with inkblot discolouration, or possessed of a slight greenish pallor. Regardless of form, the servants of the Hex are always unsettling, their leers somehow obvious even behind their masks.|
|The Prophets of Flesh||The Prophets of Flesh enjoy the favour of Urien Rakarth himself. So many aspirants seek their employ that each of the Prophets presides over thousands of Wracks. Upon induction into the Coven, each Wrack's limbs will be extensively branded, tattooed or altered according to his new master's whim. Should he impress his superiors with especially inventive acts of sadism, the Wrack will have one of his marked appendages cut off and replaced with a bare limb taken from the Prophets' flesh libraries. Those favoured few who make it to the lesser ranks of these Haemonculi will be entirely free of blemish. Though they become convinced of their own purity, the opposite is true, for in climbing the heights of status, the aspirant will have stained his soul. Many of the Prophets of Flesh dabble in soothsaying, despite the prohibition of psychic activity that pervades Commorragh. They seek to learn the truths of the universe not through the shaman's technique of reading entrails, but by interpreting the effects of the atrocities they wreak.|
- Urien Rakarth - The being known as Urien Rakarth, the Sculptor of Torments, is twisted beyond measure, possessing such a mastery over the arts of the flesh that he has died and been resurrected back to life time and time again. Several thousand standard years old, he has been slain by nearly every known form of weapon and has suffered more grisly fates besides. A depraved genius in the fields of bodily manipulation and anatomical sculpture, Rakarth's skill as a fleshcrafter is legendary. Though he once enjoyed a senior position in the intrigues that bind Commorragh, he has transcended squabbles over power and prestige entirely. Now Rakarth exists only to revel in depravity. Ancient beyond the recollection of even the eldest Archon of the Dark City, Rakarth has been reborn from death so many times that even he can no longer keep count. So profoundly have these constant regenerations affected Urien's metabolism that his artificially-toughened flesh is able to reknit and heal at an incredible rate -- Rakarth welcomes all forms of injury, especially upon the battlefield, for they force him to improvise. He carries a variety of strange weapons to war, including a horrific tool with which he can inject his own foul ichor into his unfortunate victims, bestowing upon them a hideous and agonising death. Nonetheless, this demented fiend is most rightly feared for the repugnant creations that shamble from his flesh-pens. His menagerie of horrors strains the sanity of all who behold it, and is made available by Rakarth to the highest Commorrite bidder.
- Bellathonis - A master Haemonculus who has studied in the Haemonculi Coven known as the Black Descent, as well as the ancient arts of the infamous Haemonculus Vlokarion, said to be second only to Urien Rakarth in his dark accomplishments. Bellathonis conspired with Archon Nyos Yllithian of the Kabal of the White Flames to resurrect the infamous Archon El'uriaq in order to usurp the tyrannical overlord of Commorragh, Asdrubael Vect. Following the teachings of Vlokarion, Bellathonis was able to utilise the tortured screams of a pure Exodite Worldsinger to draw the long-dead Archon's lingering spirit from the destroyed outer-realm of Shaa-Dom. However, despite maintaining his personality and charisma, the resurrected Archon was also unknowingly possessed by a powerful Daemon. The unstable El'uriaq destroyed the body of Bellathonis for a small slight, which forced the Master Haemonculus to spend many solar weeks in a regeneration chamber attended by his Wracks. When he finally emerged, partially healed, he did so in order to warn Yllithian that the reborn El'uriaq's body was, in fact, possessed and entirely controlled by one of the Neverborn of Chaos.
- Croniarch Sekh - Croniarch is a Haemonculus of the Haemonculi Coven the Prophets of Flesh. He became bitter and wrathful with the Succubus Yctria Ghularis, known as the Flayer Queen, and ruler of the Cult of the Red Grief, after she killed his favoured gladiator-queen Kariasche. The Haemonculus conspired against her with Yctria's second-in-command, Idyliane. In the resulting Battle of Refusal, Sekh instrumented the mutation of Yctria, who was very vain about her appearance, into a hideous beast that would be forced to fight in Commorragh's gladiatorial arenas. The Dark Eldar in attendance got to their feet until the entire arena was united in a standing ovation, gratified to witness another's pain. Subtly, but unforgettably, the Prophets of Flesh had reminded the denizens of the Dark City that to cross the Haemonculi was to invite a far darker destiny than mere death.
- Drecarus - The Arch-Agonist of T'saevoym, Drecarus is an ancient master Haemonculus of the Haemonculi Coven known as the Sutured Helix. Following his bickering with the Archons and the Haemonculi of the Dark City, Drecarus and his Coven took an exile into the Webway. Eventually, the Coven stumbled upon a group of Rak'Gol marauders while traveling the Koronus Expanse. Their damaged vesel was saved by Archon Zaergarn Kul of the Kabal of the Splintered Talon. Eager to add a Haemonculi Coven to his Dominion, the Nexus of Shadows, Zaergarn offered the crippled vessel an offer it could not refuse, and Drecarus grudgingly assented to become Zaergarn's ally and advisor.
- Faerughast - A Haemonculus of the Haemonculi Coven known as the Altered, he took part in a realspace raid upon the Imperial Mining World of Parocheus sometime during the 36th Millennium, in retaliation against the Raven Guard Space Marine Chapter for the mortal wounding of their lord Viscount Syndriq. Although enough of Syndriq's latest fleshform was scraped together to effect his regeneration, the damage to the Coven's pride had already been done. During the second battle upon Parocheus, Syndriq was killed during the height of battle. Despite this temporary setback, the aristocratic Faerughast devised a far more inventive revenge against the Space Marines. The Altered managed to steal away into the darkness over a score of the Raven Guard's number by the very foe they had come to slay. Two solar days later, a Space Marine strike force blasted its way into the Webway tunnels that fringed Parocheus. After a brief skirmish with the Covenites in the otherworldly tunnels beyond, the missing Raven Guard were recovered to a man, their memories clouded but their bodies intact. A hundred standard years and a day after the clash upon Parocheus, the sudden mutation of Raven Guard gene-seed saw dozens of their finest warriors hatch into grotesque monsters. An entire generation of new recruits had to be put down. In the end, the vengeance of the Haemonculi had been wrought by the hands of those who sought to defy them.
- Gruemeneal - Gruemeneal is a depraved Haemonculus who works in the service of the Kabal of the Black Heart. Journeying with Archon Tahril to the Kaurava System, Gruemeneal sought to capture a multitude of slaves for his own means, to torture and inflict upon them a symphony of pain.
- Iridivyst - Iridivyst is a Haemonculus of the Haemonculi Coven, the Prophets of Flesh, and a contemporary of the Haemonculus Croniarch Sekh. Iridivyst was notable for having committed the faux pas of experiencing the same death twice, and his subsequent resurrection had taken an impractically long time. When his contemporary Sekh became bitter and wrathful against the Succubus Yctria Ghularis, ruler of the Cult of the Red Grief, after she killed his favoured gladiator-queen Kariasche the Marred, Iridivyst helped to conspire against the Wych Cult. The Prophets of Flesh agreed to take part in a realspace raid upon the Imperial Fortress World of Refusal against regiments of the Astra Militarum's Cadian Shock Troops, where their twisted plan of vengeance against the upstart Succubus took dreadful shape.
- Kresthekia - Kresthekia was a notable Haemonculus who led a Carnival of Pain in 156.M35 upon the far-flung Hive World of Auxilion after he made a deal with Eldar mercenaries, which eventually fell through due to a diplomatic gaffe, turning their alliance sour. Five standard years later, when Imperial authorities visited Auxilion to investigate its failure to pay its tithes, they find the world deserted, and not a single spot of blood or spent bullet casing which might explain the phenomenon.
- Maestru Thrylemnis - A Haemonculus of the Haemonculi Coven, the Prophets of Flesh, Thrylemnis was known as a dark artisan of fleshcraft in the creation of his Engines of Pain. When his contemporary Croniarch Sekh conspired against an upstart Succubus named Yctria Ghularis, he willingly took part in the realspace raid upon the Imperial world of Refusal, leading his Engines of Pain against the woefully unprepared human Imperial Guard troopers and their Ogryn support units.
- Quvelich - A Haemonculus of the Haemonculi Coven, the Prophets of Flesh, Quvelich was scarecrow-thin, even for one of his wretched kind. Quvelich took part in the realspace raid upon the Imperial world of Refusal alongside his fellow Haemonculi, where his coven helped enact their vengeance against the upstart Succubus Yctria Ghularis and her Wych Cult.
- Quvelich - Quvelich the Emaciator, is a reed-thin Haemonculus of the Haemonculi Coven known as the Altered. He took part in a realspace raid upon the Imperial Mining World of Parocheus sometime during the 36th Millennium, in retaliation against the Raven Guard Space Marine Chapter for the mortal wounding of their lord Viscount Syndriq. Quvelich was known to have been an ally of Syndriq for millennia. During the height of the battle Quvelich was decapitated by the Raven Guard Captain Yaroslan Medexus, but his decapitated head was recovered by a Wrack and taken back to the Coven where it was most likely regenerated.
- Viscount Syndriq - The senior master Haemonculus of the Haemonculi Coven, the Altered, he took part in a realspace raid upon the Imperial Mining World of Parocheus in 018.M36. Unfortunately, the Raven Guard Space Marine Chapter lay waiting in ambush. They launched a blisteringly effective attack that had seen the Covenites maimed, disfigured, or -- in the case of Viscount Syndriq -- blasted into messy chunks by a volley of Heavy Bolter shells. Though the surviving Haemonculi had fled to the nearest Webway portal and escaped back to Commorragh, and enough of Syndriq's latest fleshform was scraped together to effect his regeneration, the damage to the Coven's pride had already been done. Viscount Syndriq in particular took the defeat hard. His rage was so great that he discharged himself from his regeneration sarcophagus long before his regrowth was complete. So it was that when the Altered returned to the planet of Parocheus in 522.M36, Syndriq was still a pale and hairless fiend, his knife-sharp teeth bared in a permanent rictus grin that was unsettling in the extreme. During the subsequent fighting upon Parocheus, Syndriq was killed again during the height of battle by missile fire from a Stormraven gunship. It is unknown if there was enough of his remains to recover after the battle for another regeneration.
- Vakillar U'riss - Vakillar U'riss, called "the Excrutiatress" across a dozen and more Imperial sectors along the Eastern Fringe, is a notorious Haemonculus of whom bloody folktales have been told for several thousand standard years. U'riss takes great delight in her work, which she undertakes for any Kabal willing and able to pay her unearthly price. Frequently, that price is yet more flesh for her infernal theatre of pain, wherein she creates the most spectacular tableau vivants ever witnessed in the Dark City. Despite her unspeakable obsession with crafting such theatrical excess, U'riss is known by the inner circle of the Dead Cabal to be a member of the Conclave of Tears. Exactly what the Haemonculus seeks to attain by association with this mysterious group is not known, but certainly it must offer her some advantage or prize she could not otherwise attain for herself. The Dark Eldar are, after all, the most selfish of all species, known for their limitless self-interest, and so it seems unlikely in the extreme that she is acting out of altruism. While it might seem unusual that a Dark Eldar should become embroiled in the activities of the Conclave of Tears at all, it makes a certain sense that should such a thing come about, it would be a Haemonculus that represents the denizens of the Dark City in this ancient coalition. U'riss and her peers generally exist outside of the eternal and lethal power struggles of the Kabals, selling their services to those most willing to meet their exorbitant prices. The Haemonculus move in circles other Dark Eldar would flounder in, having the ear of the very highest-ranked of nobles, some even of Asdrubael Vect, the Supreme Overlord of Commorragh. Though U'riss would think twice before attempting to manipulate Vect, there are a great many lesser Dark Eldar nobles willing to act upon whatever shreds of counsel she might offer. The Excrutiatress is therefore able to wield great influence, and at her word overwhelming raids into realspace can be launched and thousands upon thousands of bloodthirsty murderers unleashed upon the galaxy. It is not only large realspace raids that are undertaken upon the Excrutiatress' command, for most of her activities are far smaller and more subtle, in keeping with the modus operandi of the Conclave of Tears. Accompanied by a small force of Wracks and Grotesques, U'riss has trod numerous forbidden places in the Outer Reach.
- Ylgasuil Vharc - The Haemonculus who goes by the name of Ylgasuil Vharc has worn a thousand forms over his long existence, each an excellent example of the fleshcrafter's art. When making his forays into realspace, his limbs are typically worn at least six at a time, each armed with its own diabolical tool of death. Vharc has in the past shown great variety in the appendages he chooses before each battle. However, much like his brother Haemonculi, he has certain weapons and extremities that he prefers to use when visiting pain upon the lesser races of the universe.
- Vlokarion - Second only to Urien Rakarth in his twisted accomplishments, Vlokarion was an infamous Haemonculus of Commorragh of some renown. The twisted Haemonculus was fascinated with the Eldar Exodites, the members of the Eldar race that rejected the slow degeneration of their ancient civilisation before the Fall of the Eldar and exiled themselves from the core homeworlds of the star-spanning Eldar Empire for the newly-terraformed colony planets called Maiden Worlds. Vlokarion believed that during The Fall, the racial soul of the Eldar was divided -- with each portion embracing a specific aspect of the Eldar nature. The Haemonculus theorised that the Exodites embraced the purity of the Eldar Goddess Isha, and therefore, the dark energies extracted from their torments would be far more potent than those harvested from their Craftworld cousins or the lesser races of the galaxy such as the Mon-keigh (humans). He believed that by harnessing these captured energies one could potentially resurrect a mortal after he or she had been dead for millennia.
- Xeryndtuil - A Haemonculus of the Haemonculi Coven, the Prophets of Flesh, Xeryndtuil took part in the realspace raid upon the Imperial world of Refusal alongside his fellow Haemonculi. He led a unit of flesh-crafted Grotesques against the human Imperial Guard forces arrayed against them.
- Maeloch Xholl - A powerful ancient within the Coven known as the Prophets of Flesh, Xholl regenerates the fallen warriors of the Kabal of the Flayed Skull. Some believe that he now owns more of those Kabalites' souls than they do themselves.
The Covenite Coterie Detachment
- Grotesquerie - Many Haemonculi believe the creation of fleshy horrors to be the pinnacle of their esoteric craft. They maintain that to take an uninspiring form and transform it into a work of dark magnificence is to prove oneself superior to the idiot biology of nature. These master fleshcrafters constantly try to outdo each other by crafting ever more violent and outlandish Grotesques. Some of their creations are seething hulks of muscle and hypersteroid, others living weapon platforms that boast a variety of large-scale torture implements. These musclebound horrors are gathered together into loose cells and led into battle by their creator, their destructive capabilities thoroughly field-tested upon their master’s chosen victims. Once their killing fury abates, they are gathered up and returned to the slab for further "modifications." This headquarters unit is comprised of a Haemonculus and two units of Grotesques.
- Scarlet Epicureans - Where their craven Craftworld cousins shy away from tasting the fruits of the galaxy, many Haemonculi love to dive into the surreal extremes of sensation-seeking within the relative safety of their lairs. Having long ago grown bored of such home-brewed thrills, the Scarlet Epicureans take esoteric pleasures from the wider realms of realspace, each rapacious experience enhanced by the spirit syphon of a nearby Cronos. They may seek to taste the cerebral fluids of a visionary strategist, to feel the electric kiss of psychic lightning, to smell the pheromonal stink of mass panic, or to indulge in a thousand stranger quests besides. Eager to give the gifts of experience as well as to receive, these Haemonculi flay the skin from their Wrack attendants so they can better feel the hot kiss of uninhibited sensation. This headquarters unit is comprised of one Haemonculus, one Cronos Pain Engine and two units of Wracks.
- Scalpel Squadron - Haemonculi find it most irritating to be killed before they have had a chance to fulfil their dire agenda. Where a sniper shot or rifle volley can be confounded, a megatonne explosion is not so easily dodged. In answer to the indiscriminate firepower of Man and Ork, the Haemonculi devised Scalpel Squadrons -- Venom-borne cells of Wracks that soar ahead of their main advance to excise the offending organ from the military body that opposes them. These forces cut across the battlefield at unseemly speed, debarking from their skimmers to slice into gun crews and weapons teams. Though they are usually killed by the resultant counterattack, those Wracks that did their duty to the Coven are later reconstituted -- and perhaps even raised to another circle of subservience as a reward for their selflessness. This elite unit is comprised of two units of Wracks and two Venoms.
- Corpsethief Claw - The undercity of Commorragh goes through a great deal of raw materials. Though the influx of experimental subjects is maintained at a constant pace, there are times when very particular specimens are required. On these occasions the Covens’ Talos' are released from their duty as guard-creatures and sent forth to strip out specific biological components from their unfortunate targets. Realspace raids represent unparalleled opportunities for such a grisly harvest. These "corpsethieves" are fitted with extra flasks and plundervials, gathered together and set upon the enemy battle line with instructions to bring back a variety of quivering organs and bubbling distillations. To the parasitic Haemonculi, the carnage their Pain Engines leave behind is a feast in itself. This elite unit is comprised of one unit of Talos Pain Engines.
- Dark Artisan - The Haemonculi known as Dark Artisans consider themselves masters of sculpting not only the physical, but also the metaphysical. Creators of living miracles, it is they who specialise in the strange birth of the Talos, the Cronos, and a dozen other Engines of Pain besides. They are accompanied at all times by the finest of their creations, true works of dark genius that escort their masters with an air of silent menace. These sculptors of the esoteric walk a tightrope between pride and anxiety. Though a Dark Artisan desperately wants to show off the superiority of his beloved children in as dramatic a theatre as possible, he cares for them like a proud father, and will wreak a terrible vengeance on any who so much as dents their perfection. This elite unit is comprised of one Haemonculus, one Talos and one Cronos Pain Engine.
- Covenite Fleshcorps - When pillaging realspace, each Coven, regardless of its goals, will ensure that it is accompanied by a great many Wracks. Some Haemonculi prefer to foster the proper air of terror by sending their minions into battle on foot, each cell advancing towards the foe in a slow but implacable coterie of killers that cannot be stopped by anything short of total annihilation. When such theatrics are impractical, the Coven lords will instead bid their Fleshcorps ride anti-gravity skimmers adorned with the remains of their previous conquests. Striking from hidden Webway portals like spiders bursting from burrows to pounce on their prey, the Covenites dive into the enemy battle line, maim or kill the choicest foes, and seize the rest to suffer a far darker fate. This elite unit is comprised of one Haemonculus, three units of Wracks and three Raiders.
- "Rejoice, vermin, for we come to rescue you from your insignificance! You are blessed indeed, for your lives will be forged anew in pain! The Carnival is here!"
- — Vodzhe Maelian, Prophet of Flesh
- Carnival of Pain - Only events of great import will see a Coven gather its cells, cliques and coteries into a Carnival of Pain. Named for the riotous assembly of freaks that make up its number, the Carnival boasts anatomies from the rake-thin to the colossal. Bursting from the Labyrinthine Dimension of the Webway in an explosion of dagger-sharp craft, the Coven lords hover over the battlefield, savouring every nuance of the bone-freezing terror they inspire. Their finest creations fall upon their prey like a madman’s worst fears thrust into the waking world. The massacre that follows is considered high art by the Dark Eldar, and even the most jaded Archon will pay handsomely to witness it. This unique formation is comprised of a Grotesquerie, Scarlet Epicureans, a Scalpel Squadron, a Corpsethief Claw, a Dark Artisan and a Covenite Fleshcorps.
Warform of the Haemonculus
- 1. The blades used by Haemonculi during their realspace raids are razor-sharp without exception, and frequently envenomed.
- 2. The vital organs of the Haemonculi are invariably moved to a location easier to protect -- usually placed within a fleshy sump at the top of the spine.
- 3. The toxins borne to war by the Haemonculi are distilled to such concentrated lethality that even their scent can paralyse a foe. Some Coven lords will even replace their own blood with such fluids.
- 4. A Haemonculus's waist is waspish and thin, not only because of their relocated organs, but also likely because of some proto-fashion of the ancient Eldar that never faded.
- 5. The core form of a Haemonculus rarely, if ever, touches the ground. Instead, the Coven lords prefer to slither on elongated spines, hover upon anti-gravitic suspensor crystals, or even be borne aloft by writhing nests of blood-sucking haemovores.
Arcane wargear is extremely rare. Used only by the Haemonculi and their twisted minions, such devices are so strange in function that to a lesser mortal they seem like the tools of a magus or sorcerer:
- Archangel of Pain - The Archangel of Pain is an ornate casket that contains the essence of a captured daemon, driven insane by the runes of binding that hold it within. Upon the daemon's release it appears as a winged, blinding figure before returning to the Warp, its triumphant screams incapacitating even the bravest foe.
- Animus Vitae - The Animus Vitae is a special close-combat weapon. This detestable creation resembles a tightly-packed sphere of sentient barbed wire that can be made to explode outwards, capturing its prey and then contracting quickly to cut apart its victim. The psychic by-product is highly invigorating to those Dark Eldar with the strength of will to consume it.
- Casket of Flensing - When the Casket of Flensing is opened and the activation words spoken, invisible spirits fly outwards towards the bearer's prey. Before long the Haemonculus' foes find themselves covered in dozens of circular bites that manifest in flesh and armour alike. If enough of the bearer's ethereal imps find their mark, they will strip their prey's head clean of flesh, pull the skull free from the spine, and carry their grisly trophy back to their Haemonculus master whilst the brain inside writhes in abject terror.
- Crucible of Malediction - The Crucible of Malediction is referred by Haemonculi as "the kin-gift," for this extraordinary weapon is especially dangerous to their Craftworld cousins. Each Crucible contains the essence of psykers captured and tortured until death. When released, their unquiet spirits hurtle across the battlefield, shrieking and crying in a cacophony that drives nearby psykers insane.
- Dark Gate - A Dark Gate is a runic tetrahedron that opens a portal to one of the forbidden zones of the Webway. Many impossible entities make their lairs in these sealed-off fragments, and an open portal is an irresistible lure. Shortly after the dark gate is cast into the fray, a grasping tentacle or flickering pseudopod lashes out from the gate and crushes anyone it can catch in its clammy grasp.
- Flesh Gauntlet - A Flesh Gauntlet is a claw-glove crammed with syringe-like protrusions and vials which can inject potent electrosteroids that force rapid and unnatural growth. Its victim will literally outgrow their own skin, bursting apart in a welter of steaming, heaving matter.
- Hexrifle - The long-barrelled Hexrifle fires crystal cylinders that each contain a tiny amount of the Glass Plague that assailed the Dark City of Commorragh in the 36th Millennium. On contact with bare flesh, the Hexrifle's arcane payload spreads quickly, turning its victim into a transparent statue with an expression of shock etched upon its visage forevermore.
- Liquifier Gun - The Liquefier Gun fires a spray of incredibly potent acid that eats through anything it touches. Wracks, Grotesques and other minions of the Haemonculi Covens often have Liquifier Guns built into their bodies so that they can fire out great gouts of their own acidic blood. The amount of devastation wreaked by this fearsome weapon depends on how much of its vitriolic ammunition splashes over its target.
- Orb of Despair - An Orb of Despair is a heavy black sphere that has sat within the oubliettes of the Haemonculi for millennia, absorbing the pain and horror of the damned souls trapped within. When hurled at the ground, it sends out shockwaves of negative emotional energy that plunge those around into the darkest reaches of anguish.
- Scissorhand - The Scissorhand is a close-combat weapon that looks a little like a pair of surgical shears bearing expensive toxins so that its wielder can better incapacitate those whose limbs it amputates.
- Shattershard - The legendary Shattershards were originally a part of a complex transdimensional portal called the Mirror of Planes. Since the portal's destruction, each shard has been painstakingly tracked down and weaponised by the demented genius Vorsch. By catching the enemy's reflections in the Shattershard and then breaking it to pieces, those reflected will find themselves shattered into pieces too.
- Stinger Pistol - A Stinger Pistol is a lightweight sidearm characterised by a long, syringe-like barrel and a venom reservoir that holds searingly potent toxins. When fired, it ejects a long sliver of hollow glass that can pierce a foe's skin and introduces the toxins straight into the bloodstream, invariably with horrific results.
Artefacts of the Coven
The vaults and weapon-museums of the Haemonculus Covens hold many weapons and tools so far beyond the comprehension of humanity that they appear as more witchcraft or sorcery than technology. These items are as precious as they are terrible, and those who spend their powers too freely or too recklessly often learn the secret lessons of pain hoarded by the Coven’s masters, in a way they would rather have avoided. Still, it is a rare occasion when a Haemonculus takes to the open field without such a device. Each artefact is carefully selected for best use in the upcoming battle from among countless mechanisms of torment. Note that only Haemonculi truly know the secrets of their wargear, and merely handling them untrained can result in insanity, death, or fates even more gruesome still.
These diabolical playthings are unique and incredibly powerful artefacts of the Haemonculus Covens that have served the twisted masters of the Commorrite underworld for many millennia. These relics are so rare that there are only one of each of these items in the entire galaxy:
- Syndriq's Sump - Viscount Syndriq was a toweringly arrogant fiend whose thirst for vengeance was his undoing. Since suffering not one but two violent deaths at the hands of the Astartes of the Raven Guard, Syndriq has not been regenerated, but instead has experienced new life as a fashionable augmentation for his peers. When threatened, a Haemonculus wearing Syndriq's Sump can rely on the finest of augmentative potions being dumped into his bloodstream, for the fleshy remnant will do anything it can to preserve its miserable existence in the hope it can one day be regrown.
- The Vexator Mask - Sutured to the withered visage of an elder Haemonculus, the Vexator Mask can play horrifying tricks on the mind. The legends say that the mask was fashioned from the flayed face of a Shadowseer. Those who approach the wearer with intent to harm find themselves staring into the face of their most beloved leader, a cherished parent, or even their lover. The moment of hesitation this affords the wearer is enough -- the Haemonculus plunges a surgical blade into the gawping viewer's heart as the illusory face twists from grateful recognition to hateful spite.
- The Orbs of Despair - As black and pitted as the souls of those who wield them, the Orbs of Despair are fist-sized spheres of Wraithbone carved with Eldar runes of hopelessness. Each is left on a plinth in the owning Coven's deepest dungeon to soak up a measure of the boundless negative psychic energy that pools there, sometimes for millennia. The Haemonculi only take up these artefacts once they are replete with the black energies swilling through their lairs. When hurled to the ground, the Orbs of Despair send out all the pain they have absorbed in a blast of pure trauma that can still the heart of any sentient organism in a single agonising moment.
- The Khaïdesi Haemovores - The cartilaginous worm-things that writhe beneath the most fastidious Haemonculi are repulsive to look upon, though they play a valued role in the culture of the Covens. Haemovores feed on the messy by-products of the Coven's craft, guzzling down morsels of forgotten flesh and sucking up blood wherever it is spilt until not so much as a stain is left. The Khaïdesi Haemovores, grown strong on the vile tides of the River Khaïdes, are the largest of their kind. They dart out from beneath their master to drain blood and devour flesh whenever it comes too close, allowing him to remain fashionably spotless.
- The Panacea Perverted - The Panacea Perverted is a triumph of dark alchemy. The Panacea -- an ancient STC designer drug that healed human diseases and genetic flaws -- was stolen from the world of Verdigris IX by Lady Aurelia Malys. The master Haemonculus Trelexis was inspired to create a far more powerful version for his own use. One who is invested with this fluid is practically invulnerable to poison and toxin alike, his flesh healing at an astonishing rate.
- The Nightmare Doll - When a drop of blood is passed from the owner’s withered finger into the Nightmare Doll's red slash of a mouth, the creature forms a sympathetic link with its parent Haemonculus. Should the owner be harmed in battle, his injuries are absorbed by the Nightmare Doll. If its owner is riddled with bullets, tiny holes appear in the thing's writhing body whilst its master remains whole. Should the Haemonculus be hit by a decapitating strike, the foe's blade will pass through his gnarled neck without leaving so much as a scratch. The doll's mewling, disembodied head will require restitching; an interesting challenge in itself.
- Codex: Dark Eldar (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 15, 43, 71-84, 92-93, 114, 150-154, 169, 223
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition), pp. 37, 54, 60-61
- Deathwatch: The Outer Reach (RPG) pg. 60-61
- Haemonculus Covens - A Codex: Dark Eldar Supplement (7th Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 206-209
- Only War: Enemies of the Imperium (RPG), pp. 86-87
- Path of the Archon (Novel) by Neil Roberts
- Path of the Renegade (Novel) by Andy Chambers
- Rogue Trader: The Soul Reaver (RPG) pg. 120
- Dawn of War: Soulstorm (PC Game)