"Blood Runs...Anger Rises...Death Wakes, War Calls!"
- — Aeldari Battle-Chant to Khaine the Bloody-Handed God
Kaela Mensha Khaine is the Aeldari God of War in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and the Elven God of War in the Warhammer Fantasy universe. In Warhammer Fantasy, his name is spelt Khaela Mensha Khaine.
Khaine is one of only three surviving gods of the Aeldari. In the old Aeldari pantheon, he was second only to the Phoenix King Asuryan himself in power, and was often shown as the enemy of the God of Smiths and Crafting, Vaul.
He is also the most violent and reckless of the gods. Asuryan was so appalled by Khaine's murder of Eldanesh, a mortal Aeldari, that he cursed Khaine and made his hands drip eternally with the blood of Eldanesh so that all Aeldari would remember his crime.
Khaine is the god of the Aeldari associated with battle, war and conflict. Many Imperial scholars believe him to be a manifestation of the Aeldari's racial passion as manifested in battle and warfare. "Kaela Mensha" is not technically part of Khaine's name, but is actually a title he bears. It roughly translates from the Aeldari Lexicon as "Bloody-Handed," a reference to the blood which eternally drips from his hands as a reminder of his murder of the ancient Aeldari hero Eldanesh.
During the War in Heaven between the Old Ones and the Necrons millions of Terran years ago, Khaine fought and defeated the C'tan known as the Nightbringer, shattering his Necrodermis, although the resulting metal shards pierced his flesh, tainting his form with "the aspect of the Reaper." It is also said that this event precipitated the eventual fall of the Aeldari: The Nightbringer planted the fear of death within all mortal creatures except the Orks, which enhanced the Aeldari's deep desire for self-preservation as a species.
In the depths of the Warp, the beings of pure psychic energy created within the Immaterium during the turmoil of the War in Heaven would feast on these feelings and grow to sentience, setting into motion a chain of events that would close the Path of Rebirth for Aeldari souls forever.
Khaine is one of the three surviving gods of the Aeldari. Sometime after Slaanesh's awakening in the 30th Millennium of the Imperial Calendar following the Fall of the Aeldari, the newly-formed Chaos God assaulted Khaine as he had all of the other Aeldari gods. Though their battle was vicious, Slaanesh had already absorbed the power of many billions of fallen Aeldari souls, and ultimately struck Khaine down. But before the Prince of Chaos could absorb the Aeldari god, Khorne, the Chaos God of War and Murder, battled Slaanesh for the power of Khaine, claiming the Aeldari deity as his property by right since they represented the same metaphysical forces.
During the struggle between the Chaos Gods, Khaine was driven into the material world, where his psychic core shattered into a thousand pieces. Each piece came to rest at the heart of an Aeldari Craftworld, where it hibernated within the Craftworld's Infinity Circuit, but could be animated again to possess a metallic construct body and go to war when needed by the Craftworld.
By sacrificing an Exarch to Khaine on the eve of battle, this newborn Avatar of Khaine becomes a fiery, animated manifestation of the God, including the blood dripping from his hands, and the Avatar leads the Aeldari army of that Craftworld into battle.
Khaine's precise nature in the Aeldari cosmology is not defined, although due to his interaction with the Chaos Gods, he appears to be an entity of the Warp, although as a servant of Order rather than Chaos. Recent information acquired by the Imperium implies that Khaine and the rest of the Aeldari gods may have been members of the first sentient species in the galaxy known to the Aeldari as "the Ancients" and to the Imperium as the Old Ones, who were the creators of the Aeldari and many of the other intelligent species of the galaxy.
Some Imperial savants believe that the Aeldari gods' mythological roles were then assigned to them in later eras by the Aeldari as an expression of that species' culture and psychological needs. But the Aeldari themselves insist that their gods were real and are not simply mythological expressions of the role played by their ancient creators.
War in Heaven
In Aeldari Mythology, it was Isha who had inspired the creation of Asuryan's barrier between mortals and their gods, as she had wept over the destruction that Khaine, as the God of War and Murder, was causing amongst her children. It is also said that the first Spirit Stones were crafted from her tears so that the gods and mortals would be able to communicate with each other once more through the barrier erected between the Immaterium and the Materium.
One of these stones was given to Isha and the rest were handed over to the Aeldari so that their prayers might be heard. When Asuryan learned that his directive that the gods were to have no further contact with mortals had been violated, he gave Isha and her husband, Kurnous, to Khaine to do with as he wished. Khaine tortured the two of them in a burning pit until Vaul, the Aeldari God of Crafting who was Isha and Kurnous' uncle and was moved by their plight, struck a bargain with the War God to craft 100 enchanted swords, the Blades of Vaul, for him in one year's time. In exchange, Khaine promised to release his fellow gods from their prison in his realm.
The Smith God worked long and hard at this task, and managed to forge all of the blades by the deadline except for the last one, which lay unfinished on his anvil. In order to trick Khaine, Vaul substituted the last blade with a mortal one which he delivered to the War God, who released his two captives. The three gods quickly departed.
But Khaine was quick to discover the subterfuge and cried out in rage. He called the Smith God a cheat and vowed revenge. He immediately set off to track Vaul down and make him pay. The conflict that followed, known as the War in Heaven, polarised the gods, as Khaine's faction and Vaul's faction engaged in bloody warfare for an eternity.
Gods changed sides, great deeds of heroism and of terrible evil were performed by both factions, and the war was mirrored in an internecine struggle between the Aeldari in the mortal realm. Asuryan himself never took a side, watching the carnage impassively, slowly coming to regret his impetuosity in sentencing Isha and Kurnous to Khaine's tender mercies.
Vaul reforged the final sword, the one that he had failed to finish for Khaine, the greatest of all, and called it Anaris. Armed with this weapon, Vaul strode forth to do battle with Khaine. It was a long, hard-fought struggle, but even with Anaris, Vaul was no match for the War God. Khaine cast down Vaul, maiming the smith, and bound Vaul to his own anvil.
However, the falcon, Faolchú, consort of the Great Hawk, who had fought for Vaul, took the sword Anaris and delivered it to Eldanesh, the greatest warrior and leader of the mortal Aeldari. With Anaris in hand, Eldanesh of the Red Moon took up the fight and faced Khaine in single combat. Eldanesh fought well, but in the end he too was defeated by Khaine, his body crushed by the God of War.
As Khaine slew Eldanesh, his hands began to drip with red blood. Forever after he was to become known as Khaela Mensha Khaine, which means "Khaine the Bloody-Handed" in the Aeldari Lexicon. By this time, Asuryan, the greatest of the Aeldari Gods, had seen enough of the slaughter and proclaimed the War in Heaven over. Khaine had gained his vengeance and left the field satisfied.
Avatar of Khaine
The Avatar of Khaine is the living embodiment of war and awakens in times of conflict to aid the armies of the Aeldari against their foes. Filled with the spirit of the Bloody-Handed God, the Aeldari's fearsome god of battle, the Avatar towers over the battlefield; a fiery juggernaut of death standing three times the height of a man and clad in molten armour of baroque and eldritch design.
In one hand it clutches a flaming blade inlaid with potent runes of death while the other constantly drips blood from a clawed fist, a grim reminder of Khaine's own unquenchable thirst for carnage and bloodshed. The most terrible aspect of the Avatar are its eyes, burning pits of rage which embody the very soul of destruction and fill all those which gaze upon them with an inescapable terror and despair. To see the Avatar striding across the battlefield leaving a trail of flaming footsteps in its wake is to look upon the face of death and feel the ancient alien anger of the Aeldari made manifest.
In battle, the Avatar of Khaine is usually only encountered at the head of a large host, leading scores of warrior Aeldari and Aspect Warriors into the foe, using its size and strength to punch holes in the enemies' lines or smash their fortifications to pieces. Such is the power of the Avatar that its blade can cleave main battle tanks in two or hack apart even fortress gates, leaving only scraps of molten metal in its path. Its flaming aura is equally deadly and those that stray too close to the Avatar feel the heat rolling off its ancient armour, hot enough to burn flesh and set hair and cloth aflame if its passes too near.
Between the plates of armour, the skin of the Avatar appears as magma, deep reds and glowing blacks which move with the ponderous motion of lava as they ebb and flow across its body. Understandably, the Avatar suffers little from fiery weapons; their heat and destructive power wash across it like water might slide off human skin. Those who witness it and live have seen a true God of War.
The Avatar only awakens in times of need, and dwells for most of its existence as little more than a hollow shell, devoid of life or purpose in the heart of an Aeldari Craftworld. Each Craftworld has its own Avatar, cold and lifeless, seeming merely a charred suit of ancient armour kept within a sacred chamber deep beneath the wraithbone spires and domes. It is a tradition as old as the Aeldari themselves that awakens the Avatar and brings vengeful life into its form so that it might march to war against the Aeldari' foes.
When war approaches, the Aeldari choose a bold warrior from among their Exarchs, a member of their race with the will and courage to embody the Aeldari's own skill at arms and thirst for victory. Known as the "Young King," this chosen warrior is taken to the deep chambers where the Avatar's shell resides and in a secretive and complex ritual is given over, mind, body, and soul to Khaine, so that his essence might fill the Avatar with life and give it the rage and power to go to war.
At the completion of the ritual, the Young King is completely consumed by the Avatar and ceases to exist as he once was, his essence instead mingled with that of the Bloody-Handed God and funnelled into the Avatar, giving it the strength and will to move and fight. Almost at once, the Avatar's armour begins to smoke and heat while the runes on its flesh and weapons begin to glow. Finally, the Avatar's eyes burst into flame and it rises from its tomb to answer the Aeldari's summons and lead their warriors against the enemies of the Craftworld.
Once its task is complete, the Avatar returns to the Craftworld, its armour cooling and the fire fading from its eyes to sleep once more. Of the Young King there is no sign, his spirit extinguished by the ordeal, perhaps to sit at the side of Khaine himself like so many Young Kings before him or perhaps lost forever on the tides of the Immaterium, another soul spent in the Aeldari's slow and inevitable decline toward extinction.
It is rare for humans to encounter the Avatar of Khaine, unless they go to war against the Aeldari or accompany those who do. To its lament, the Imperium of Man has faced the Aeldari many times during the long and bloody history of the two species, and records of the Avatar and the carnage it has wrought against humanity can be found by canny Rogue Traders among the accounts of the Administratum and the sacred writings of the Adeptus Ministorum.
There are as many interpretations of the Avatar as there are accounts, however. Those who seek to learn more are likely to find that many of these explanations conflict, some likening the Avatar to a mechanical engine of war while others claim it is a daemon of battle given the form of a giant Aeldari warrior. What they all can more or less agree upon is the effect the Avatar has upon those Aeldari which march beside it, boosting their courage and filling the normally fragile aliens with a deep and violent lust for war.
It is also agreed that the creature seems to be the very essence of fire itself, its blood like magma and its flesh hewn of burning rock. While there are rare instances where it has been felled in battle, the flame vanishing from its flesh and the light going out of its blade, it always seems to return, rising again like the anger of the Aeldari themselves to once more stride into battle.
Within the Warhammer Fantasy universe Khaine is worshipped primarily by the Dark Elves and the High Elves. However, in this instance his full title is Khaela Mensha Khaine, with an "h" that is not present in the Aeldari rendering of his name; the meaning of "Khaela Mensha" remains the same.
The High Elves worship Khaine as a god of battle, similar to his Aeldari incarnation. He is primarily worshiped during times of war, as he is seen to be a bloodthirsty deity and worship of him during peacetime is not considered appropriate. Khaine had a strong influence on the formative period of the High Elven kingdom, as the first Phoenix King, Aenarion, drew Khaine's sword to save the High Elves during their first war with Chaos. By drawing the sword, Aenarion became a living avatar of the God of War and brought down a great curse upon himself and his family. This curse still affects the current heirs of Aenarion's legacy, the twins Tyrion and Teclis.
Khaine as he is worshiped by the Dark Elves is described as a god of murder. This suits the harsh society of Dark Elves, who view any sign of weakness as a fatal flaw. Holidays dedicated to Khaine, such as the Harvest of Souls and Death Night, invariably involve killing. Fueled by the social Darwinism of Dark Elf culture, devotees of Khaine elevate killing to an art form and will gladly kill anyone -- friend or foe -- who displays vulnerability.
The primary Temple of Khaine resides in the fortress city of Har Ganeth in Naggaroth. It is a seat of great power, as the worship of Khaine is the official Dark Elf state religion. Morathi (the Queen Mother) and Crone Hellebron (the High Priestess of the temple) both claim supreme dominance of the temple, which often leads to conflicts. This power struggle is kept in check by Malekith, the Witch King of the Dark Elves.
It has been implied that Khaine is the Chaos God Khorne by another name, or possibly a minor aspect of Khorne who has gained his own consciousness. This is vehemently disputed by both the Dark Elves, who see Khorne as a crude brute in comparison to the refinement and subtlety that defines their god of murder, and most human worshipers of Khaine, who consider their god to be an independent being.
Among the humans of the Old World, Khaine is seen as the younger brother of Morr, the God of the Dead, and he is worshiped as the Lord of Murder by assassins and other professional killers. It is said that Khaine is jealous of Morr's rulership over the dead, and thus also over death.
Therefore he tries to steal as many souls as possible to fill out his own underworld. It is from this realm of death that some human necromancers call forth the souls that they enslave. Khaine can only steal souls that that have been directly sacrificed to him or have not received proper burial rites and are thus unprotected by Morr.
Khaine's precise nature in the Warhammer 40,000 cosmology remains undefined and contradictory, although due to his interaction with the Chaos Gods, he appears to be an entity of the Warp, although not one in nature like the Ruinous Powers.
Some sources published by Games Workshop such as the background book Xenology by Simon Spurrier, imply that Khaine and the rest of the Aeldari gods are in fact members of the first sentient species known as "the Ancients," which would be equated with the Old Ones, which were the creators of the Aeldari and many other intelligent species of the Warhammer 40,000 universe like the Orks and even Mankind itself.
Other Games Workshop sources suggest that the psychically potent Aeldari were themselves created by the Old Ones so that they would produce living manifestations of their racial collective unconscious in the Warp who could then be used as potent weapons against the Necrontyr's C'tan masters during the original War in Heaven. After the Old Ones were defeated by the undying Necrons, the Aeldari then came to worship their own psychic creations as gods.
- Codex: Eldar (6th Edition), pp. 7-8, 26
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition), pp. 6, 9, 11, 24-25
- Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition), pg. 8, 17
- Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition), pp. 4, 7, 15, 22, 33, 56, 72, 85
- Liber Chaotica (2nd Edition)
- Rogue Trader: The Koronus Bestiary (RPG), pg. 62
- Warhammer 40,000: Compilation, "The Eldar Path"
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (2nd Edition) (RPG), pp. 171-183
- Xenology (Background Book)
- Fulgrim (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Aurelian (Novella) by Aaron Demski-Bowden