The Night of Revelations is the name now given by the Aeldari to the night in 999.M41 when a sliver of the recently awakened consciousness of the Aeldari god of the dead Ynnead chose Yvraine, the Daughter of Shade, as his high priestess and prophet.
This event in the Drukhari Dark City of Commorragh is considered the moment of birth of the Ynnari faction and also marks the start of the great dysjunction that nearly destroyed Commorragh and destabilised it throughout the Era Indomitus.
The events that led to the Night of Revelations began in the Hidden Chamber of Ulthanash Shelwé, where High Farseer Eldrad Ulthran allowed his spirit to flow amongst the departed souls of his people that haunted his craftworld of Ulthwé's Infinity Circuit.
Under the susurration of countless billions of voices he heard a swelling pulse, like a deep and distant psychic heartbeat. It gave him hope and set in motion a chain of events that saw the Aeldari species shaken to its core.
At the same time, Kysaduras the Anchorite, sequestered in his wraithbone cell on Ulthwé, prophesised the awakening of Ynnead, the Aeldari god of the dead. His words were riddles and half-truths, and the Seer Council of Ulthwé debated their implications until a single thread of terrible potential was winnowed from the rest.
Only one amongst them had the nerve to follow it. Finding common cause with the Harlequins of the Masque of the Midnight Sorrow, Eldrad Ulthran enlisted the troupe of the Death Jester Inriam's Spectre into an ingenious and near-blasphemous series of heists.
Soon after, a new rendition of the events of the Fall of the Aeldari becomes fashionable amongst the performing Harlequins of the Laughing God and tours the Asuryani craftworlds one after another. It is unlike the traditional cycle, which ends with Slaanesh and Cegorach locked in a duel without end. This latest performance has an epilogue that hints at another being joining the cast and eventually overcoming She Who Thirsts.
These theatrical portrayals are not the only illusions brought to the Masque of the Midnight Sorrow's audiences. After the masque departs the day following the performance, one of the glinting statues from that craftworld's Dome of Crystal Seers is missing, though few are skilled enough to pierce the veil of illusion left in its place.
The reason for these blasphemous thefts would become clear on the Imperial planet of Port Demesnus, where the forces of Saim-Hann and Ulthwé struck from long-hidden valleys and subterranean arbours, bypassing the cordons that made the planet an Imperial Navy stronghold.
As the Aeldari fell upon the human population, the Imperium reinforced the planet's defenders a dozen times over.
Only the canny Watch Captain Artemis of the Deathwatch spotted the ruse for what it is -- a distraction to allow Eldrad Ulthran and his forces to make use of the planet's crystalline moon of Coheria for their own arcane purposes.
The white sands of the moon, glinting like snowdrifts in the stellar light, were formed of a mildly psychoactive crystal, shards of precious stone ground to powder by the erosion of the aeons. Though none alive knew it, Coheria had been on the edge of the ancient Aeldari Empire at the time of Slaanesh's birth, and was saturated in psychic residue.
Upon Coheria, the stolen crystal seers of the craftworlds were arranged in a ritual formation, each providing a hyperspatial link to the world-ship from which it was taken -- or rather to its Infinity Circuit.
With so many dead Aeldari souls flaring in such close proximity, the deity Ynnead was roused by their blazing beacon of ghostlight, and for a moment it seemed that the god of the dead might become a reality far before the prophesised time.
It was then that the Deathwatch under Captain Artemis attacked, slaying Inriam's Spectre and driving Eldrad Ulthran's ritual wild moments before its completion. The Aeldari were forced to abandon their work and flee with the ritual only partially completed.
But that sliver of true consciousness the Aeldari succeeded in waking from Ynnead burned across the void towards Commorragh, where a duel of champions was taking place. In the gladiatorial arena of the Crucibael, Yvraine was struck by the mote of Ynnead's consciousness that transformed her into the high priestess of a new Aeldari religion.
Approached by the mysterious Drukhari swordsman called the Visarch and agreeing to a temporary alliance, Yvraine and her Bloodbrides fled from the anarchy that engulfed the arena in the wake of her apotheosis to the mercenary quarter of Commorragh known as Sec Maegra.
There she found many of her old allies, from corsair princes to disfigured Wyches, and organised her escape from the Dark City with the aid of these first Ynnari. Boarding the Corsair starship Lanathrialle, which was operating out of Sec Maegra, Yvraine called in every favour she can to ensure her old Aeldari Corsair crews bought her time to flee.
Her flagship, though far too large to pass through the portal, rammed its prow -- bridge and all -- into the Webway gate. As the ship burned and the Kabalite craft picked it apart like bloodsharks attacking a stricken leviathan, Yvraine cut her way free of the prow on the other side of the portal and took her coterie of followers deep into the Webway's labyrinth dimension on foot.
Yvraine found herself under attack in the Webway. It was not Vect's agents that hunted her this time, but the pallid Slaaneshi daemonic horrors known as Daemonettes. The Herald of the Dark Prince known as the Masque of Slaanesh had been informed of Yvraine's rise and launched a hypnotic attack on the gathered Ynnari, forcing them to join a grisly dance with the Daemonettes and the corpses of those Drukhari hunters the had already killed.
The Ynnari were spellbound, and their doom looked certain until a strike force of Harlequins come to her aid -- the same troupe that had watched her fight in the arena.
As a Solitaire dueled the Masque, the Ynnari shook off the dire spell and renewed their attack. The daemons were banished and the voyage was renewed, eventually reaching Craftworld Biel-Tan just as that world-ship came under daemonic assault.
Ynnead Stirs to Wakefulness
Inexorable, unstoppable, the Time of Ending tightened its stranglehold upon the twilight years of the 41st Millennium. Amongst those caught in its grip were the Aeldari, known at this time as the Eldar, the species of psychically gifted humanoid aliens that once ruled the stars. Brought low by their own pride and blind hedonism, they now skirted the precipice of oblivion. Only through the most desperate ploys could they hope to survive.
Though the Aeldari long ago learned how to stave off the awful, soul-sucking attention of "She Who Thirsts" -- known as Slaanesh in the tongues of men -- they have not fully escaped the curse of the deity their hubris spawned.
The Asuryani or "Eldar" of the Craftworlds sought to avoid disaster through asceticism and self-control, using Spirit Stones and Infinity Circuits as a refuge from Slaanesh, whereas the Drukhari Commorrites, still given to the excesses that brought their people low, inﬂicted suffering upon others in order to escape their own fate.
The enigmatic Harlequins, having pledged their souls to the trickster god Cegorach, slip through Slaanesh's clawed grasp by always staying one step ahead. The Exodites, those puritans first to ﬂee the ancient Aeldari worlds, turned their backs on change, instead seeking harmony with the World Spirits of their verdant paradises.
No matter the methods they use to escape the notice of the Dark God that haunts them, all Aeldari sacrifice much in the process. None can claim to be the equal of their ancient forebears, they who married physical excellence with prodigious psychic ability, safe in the knowledge that upon their deaths they would rejoin the endless cycle and be reborn.
There are those amongst the Craftworld Eldar that seek a way back to those halcyon days. Their peers consider them dangerously deluded. To return to the glowing, incandescent existence of aeons past is to attract Slaanesh's gaze, and hence court the worst kind of disaster.
Some Eldar refuse to abandon the glorious dream of building the ancient stellar empire anew, or at least burning bright before the end. First amongst these ambitious few is Eldrad Ulthran, the High Farseer of Craftworld Ulthwé.
This arch-manipulator has been plucking at the strings of fate since before the dawn of the Imperium of Man. His prescience is like a diamond blade, sharpened by the intensity of his conviction. By weaving the tangled skeins of destiny, the Farseer guides his people to the most favourable of futures.
Eldrad had long perceived a nascent presence in the Infinity Circuits of the Craftworlds, a distant heartbeat that pulses slow and steady behind the thrum of lost energies. It was comprised not of one life sign, but hundreds of billions -- the sum total of every dead Eldar's soul across the galaxy.
Though individually these echoes were near-insignificant, together they formed something so strong that -- if it were brought to wakefulness -- it could prove potent enough to overcome the Eldar curse entirely.
This is Ynnead, the slumbering god of the dead. The prophecies of the fabled Seer Kysaduras told that when every Eldar had passed from mortal existence, Ynnead would rise up and defeat Slaanesh forever more.
It was Eldrad Ulthran who put into motion a plan to bring forth Ynnead without paying that terrible price, a ploy of such conceited ambition it could buckle the fabric of space and time. Enlisting the aid of the Harlequin Masque of the Midnight Sorrow, he stole away the fossilised crystal statues of long-dead Farseers from their Craftworlds and gathered them upon Coheria, a moon of the Imperial word of Port Demesnus covered in sands of potent psychoactive crystal.
With his "Crystal Council" acting as a hyperspatial link to each Craftworld, Eldrad channelled the spirits of the Infinity Circuits onto Coheria. This was to produce a ﬂare of psychic activity bright enough to wake even Ynnead, but the intervention of the xenos-hunting Astartes Deathwatch shattered Eldrad's plan at the last. Though Ynnead stirred in his slumber, he did not fully awaken -- not yet, at least.
In the Crucibael
"For the ancient Aeldari, life was a cycle of birth, the fulfillment of desire, and a comfortable death, safe in the knowledge the soul would live again. The birth of their nemesis, the Dark God Slaanesh, shattered that cycle forever. Now these once-great starfarers cower in the shadows, too afraid of their own lusts to embrace the full spectrum of sensation. It is a fate they justly deserve. In truth, there can be no escape from the doom they have brought upon themselves -- not this side of the grave. Fate is a cruel mistress, and not to be courted lightly."
Screams filled the air, some of agony, some of ecstasy. Within the confines of the Crucibael arena, the Dark City of Commorragh's elite had gathered in great number to witness the finest spectacle that the Wych Cult of Strife could muster.
The Commorrite attendees of the kilometre-wide arena had paid handsomely for the privilege of being allowed through its statue-framed portals. Some had ceded large portions of their territory to secure their seats; others had handed over thousands of slaves.
Still more had performed lethal errands on behalf of the arena's owners, or committed even darker atrocities to secure a few solar hours of precious attendance. It was worth every sacrifice, for they were there not merely to be entertained, but to feast.
The Drukhari or "Dark Eldar" take their sustenance from suffering. Their souls, long ago condemned by the coming of She Who Thirsts, are constantly drained away, ever so slowly but appreciably nonetheless.
Only by witnessing the psychic pain of others can they stave off the aching void that claims their spirits, and the older a Drukhari soul becomes, the more grievous the atrocities needed to sustain it.
Because of this unique blend of sadism and psychic parasitism, the arenas in Commorragh's heartlands combined the role of twisted circus and gluttonous feast. The spectacles mounted there are increasingly outlandish; a seemingly endless supply of enslaved warriors and champions of the "lesser races" are hacked to pieces each night for the edification of the thirsting crowd.
In the most prestigious arenas, the death toll rises ever higher as the Wych Cults strive to outdo each other in skill and imagination. Through such loathsome displays, the wealthiest Commorrites are reinvigorated -- for a time, at least.
The greatest of all Commorragh's arenas is the Crucibael, domain of the Wych Cult of Strife and sovereign territory of Her Excellence, Lelith Hesperax. This site has played host to countless legendary figures, even being treated to the consummate blade work of the Phoenix Lord Jain Zar, first of the Howling Banshees.
With a capacity of well over a million, the nightly spectaculars staged there are stunning in their magnitude and lucrative beyond measure. No small amount of this tithe is given unto Lelith herself, for the "Queen of Knives" has ruled here for longer than even the longest-lived of her Succubi rivals remember. She feeds on countless souls every night, and would do anything to preserve her beauty.
Since the Cult of Strife's realspace raid upon the world of Valedor, the Crucibael has cultivated some very highly prized battle-fodder indeed. Once known as Dûriel, the planet Valedor had been corrupted by the infestations of Imperial culture.
It was driven to the brink of disaster by not one, but two Tyranid Hive Fleets, and finally tipped into oblivion by an alliance of Asuryani and Drukhari using the doomsday device known as the Fireheart. Before Valedor met its fiery end, the Wych Cult of Strife had captured whole swarms of Tyranids, later interbreeding them to enliven their arenas.
It was that ravenous brood that Lelith Hesperax unleashed from her stasis prisons on what became known later as the "Night of Revelations." Even though the Tyranids were famous for being deadly in the extreme, utterly alien and all but impervious to pain, they were not the only attraction that had drawn so large a crowd that night.
There was one amongst the Succubi who had risen from the gutter to high favour under the patronage of the aristocratic Lady Malys. So far had this gladiatrix's fame spread that even a troupe of Harlequins had come to see her and her Bloodbrides fight.
Some had touted her as fit to challenge Lelith Hesperax in personal combat. This claim was usually a death sentence for even the most skilled warrior, for Hesperax was so immensely gifted in the art of combat that those who faced her usually died in seconds. Yet there was something special about this fashionable new challenger.
Known in Commorragh as the "Daughter of Shades," as Amharoc to the Eldar Corsairs that once called her mistress, and as Yvraine to the Craftworlders that once called her kin, this tall and regal Succubus was a favourite in certain wealthy Drukhari circles. She was not a true Commorrite, and hence was interestingly controversial, famed for her lightning transformations from stately elegance to a whirlwind of violence.
When roused to anger, she would shuck off her courtly regalia to slash open the throats of those who had earned her ire. This gory retribution had happened upon the bridge of the Corsair ﬂagship Lanathrialle, within the trophy galleries of the Archon Abrahak, and even on the Seer's Bridge of Biel-Tan. Yvraine's mercurial temperament had endeared her to those who respected decisive violence -- in essence, the vast majority of the Dark City's inhabitants.
The night Yvraine met Lelith in single combat, the Crucibael had already borne witness to several violent displays. An elite band of Sslyth, the serpentine mercenaries popular in the courts of Drukhari society, had shot, gouged and poisoned their way through a troop of Donorian Clawed Fiends amongst a constant barrage of whirring grav-blades. Only the gnarled patrician Sassarassen had survived the process.
Three Covens of Haemonculi had then showcased their latest creations, sending their blank-faced horrors against the most agile gladiatrixes in classic pairings of beauty versus beast. Next, a battered combat squad of Space Marines in full Power Armour had been released from their vex-prisons to fight amongst the carnage.
Though the Adeptus Astartes had been given only knives with which to fight, they survived a full three solar minutes, killing thirteen Wyches before the glaives of swooping Hellions cut them apart. By the evening's climactic finale, the arena was filled with the baying of a crowd that had started the evening feigning nonchalance.
The Tyranids had been released, an alchemical blend of specimens from Hive Fleet Kraken and Leviathan cloned at great cost in the laboratories of the Haemonculi. They darted from hidden tunnels to rampage across the bloody sands. The largest of their number, a blade-limbed Hive Tyrant, came straight for Yvraine with its guard-beasts at its ﬂank.
She cast her gossamer skirts aside to reveal a skin-tight Wychsuit as her Bloodbride acolytes fanned out around her. Darting in, Yvraine killed three of the creature's hulking escorts in as many seconds -- her Huskblade whipped in and out, driven with a fencer's precision under the exoskeletons of the creatures to turn them into explosions of scattering ash.
The Hive Tyrant stormed in, bladed cranium lowered and scything limbs stabbing. Yvraine bowed as if to a respected opponent before leaping, planting a foot upon one of the creature's sickle-limbs, and springing over its head in a somersault. She landed beyond it, ﬂicking up a fallen Wych's blade with her foot and hook-kicking it into the brain-like sac that protruded over the nape of the Tyranid's neck.
The creature shrieked an alien war cry, spinning with a speed that belied its immense size before storming forward once more. Yvraine ran to meet its charge, sliding underneath the beast at the last moment and stabbing her Huskblade up into its midsection.
The desiccating curse of the blade went to work, and the Hive Tyrant crumbled away from the groin upwards. Reduced to scattering beige dust, it blew in the wind to land with titillating foulness upon the tongues of the spectators. The roar of approval was so loud it brought the attention of a new foe.
Slashing, maiming and decapitating came Lady Hesperax, the doyenne of the arenas. She danced through the carnage towards Yvraine, a deadly nonchalance in every fresh kill. The crowd sat bolt upright in their seats, some craning forward, others standing with expressions of rapt glee. Yvraine was preoccupied, duelling with a whip-fast Lictor that had crept from a mound of mangled bodies. She was unable to disengage without risking entanglement in the creature's lashing hooks.
Lelith pirouetted between the two combatants, cutting the front half of the Lictor's distended face from its head in a spray of squirting tentacles even as she thrust a blow towards her would-be rival's heart. Yvraine parried the blow, but only just. She stepped back as she did so, putting some space between her and the whirling dervish that even now took the Tyranid's head with a series of slashing blows.
Lelith turned to Yvraine and sashayed forward, a contemptuous smile on her lips as she idly ﬂipped a dagger high. Yvraine waved her Bloodbrides back, springing forward before Lelith could catch the blade. She headed right into a riposte, and barely turned it aside.
Back and forth the darting combatants weaved, their blades moving with a precision and economy of effort that was enrapturing for the Drukhari -- even the Harlequins in the audience stood agog at the sight. Lelith fought with a cold and efficient detachment; she was the more skilled of the two, and both the duellists knew it. Conversely, Yvraine was fed by a focussed fury; her anger gave her blows surety and strength.
On went the fight, faster and faster, a blur of thrusts and parries, ﬂips and feints, pushes, dodges and kicks. Now and then an artful slap or jab into a nerve cluster showed that Lelith was playing with her opponent. Many felt their hearts sink as the close match they had hoped for was revealed as a sham -- and then Yvraine's knife slashed across Lelith's forearm.
The crowd screamed in approval, but as with much of Drukhari society, this too was duplicity. Lady Hesperax had purposefully left an opening and allowed her adversary's blade to land in order to draw the audience further in. Lelith was in no hurry to end the duel, for it would not do to disappoint her patron, Asdrubael Vect. The Supreme Overlord of Commorragh was watching from his pyramidal fortress ﬂoating high above, deigning to grace the arena with a portion of his attention.
The death shriek of a Tyranid giant echoed around the gladiatorial field. Reading her opponent's next blow, Lelith spared a proprietary glance to the wider battle. In a ﬂash, Yvraine reversed her thrust and landed a hard punch right in her adversary's stomach. Lelith took two involuntary steps back, her eyes wide and her superior smile souring into a grimace of anger.
The duel stepped up in speed and intensity once more, the chime of dagger upon Huskblade and Bladefan upon knife ringing loud. Yvraine soon found herself wrong-footed, and Lelith stamped hard on her instep, the humiliation of the strike bringing her anger to the boil. Lelith gave ground as Yvraine rained blows upon her, slowly drawing her adversary towards a pile of twitching Tyranid corpses. Nimble as a cat, Lelith danced from corpse to corpse to gain the high ground.
Yvraine climbed the corpse-pile, her anger burning away all caution. Then the fallen Lictor she had duelled earlier spasmed, throwing her off-balance. Lelith leapt, and punched a dagger through her foe's sternum.
Judging the irony of Yvraine's undoing a pleasing end to the dance, Lelith vaulted away in search of fresh prey. Yvraine stumbled but did not fall, hiding the deep wound in her chest with her opened Bladefan -- to show weakness would be to die.
It was her blood that betrayed her. Though she fought on, hacking a path through a stampede of Hormagaunts and leaving clouds of ﬂesh-dust in her wake, a slick of gore soon painted her abdomen and thighs. The sight of the blood, and the occasional falter in Yvraine's guard, drew a mob of opportunistic Hellions from above.
The gladiatrix had no intention of falling to such low-life scum. She picked up a fallen Splinter Pistol and sent three of the Hellions to an agonising death, driving the rest off in a chorus of shrieks. But the youthful predators were not the only enemies drawn by Yvraine's spilt life-blood.
Stalking towards Yvraine came a stick-thin, elegant warrior with long needles in her hands. Her cadaverous body was bound up in a complex net of black silk, the icon of the long-dead Crone Goddess Morai-Heg emblazoned on her forehead. With a jolt of shock and contempt, Yvraine realised she had seen that ceremonial garb before, in the statue gardens of her native Biel-Tan.
Her new challenger wore the raiment of a priestess from before the ancient Aeldari Empire had fallen. The needles of the crone-priestess darted out, and for a few seconds, Yvraine was forced onto the defensive. It was as if she were being assailed by the rapiers of two master fencers at once -- small wonder this warrior had earned a place in the arena.
On any other night, Yvraine could have outclassed the priestess without breaking a sweat. But she was sorely wounded. Dismay took hold within her as she felt her strength draining away, her every blow weaker than the last. One of the twin needles pierced Yvraine at the wrist, forcing her to drop her Bladefan. She stepped in and viciously backhanded the priestess, intending to force her back.
It was like striking marble. Her foe's other razored needle whipped in, slicing through Yvraine's other wrist entirely and sending her severed hand, still clutching her Huskblade, tumbling into the sands. In desperation, Yvraine lunged open-mouthed, and bit deep into the priestess' face.
Howls of derision and delight mingled in the arena as Yvraine struggled in close, teeth still in her enemy's ﬂesh. She wrapped her arms around the swordswoman's neck in a choke grip, and desperately struggled to suffocate her. Summoning the last of her strength, Yvraine squeezed. Her legs were numb, her wrists masses of hot pain, but as ever, anger and fear gave her strength.
The priestess shook and spasmed, but could not break free, her struggles ebbing as her breath abandoned her. Yvraine was on the cusp too; she saw spots of black dance across her eyes, which then grew to obscure her vision entirely. Locked in a mutual death grip, the two combatants shuddered, sighed, and passed the threshold of mortality.
Then, as bright as a captive sun, a tiny star burst upwards from the sands of the arena and consumed them both. Yvraine's eyes ﬂew open, milk-white and glowing. She screamed as she felt a new dimension of awareness blossom in her pain-addled mind, obliterating the petty concerns of her previous life.
Something vast had risen from below after the crone warrior's death, pressing into Yvraine's soul with the force of a tidal wave. It would not be denied.
In her mind's eye, Yvraine saw the god of the dead, Ynnead. He was a shooting star from a crystal moon, then a shimmering constellation, a trillion points of light that glowed in the outline of a solemn face. The god of the dead's immense eyes fell upon her, and even though the slitted orbs were all but closed, the thin sliver of awareness that he focussed upon her was excruciating.
His merest scrutiny bared her soul, and in that moment she was claimed utterly and forever as his own. This was a legend made real, the most remote of possibilities wrought in starlight. The apparition was so bright that it seared itself into Yvraine's consciousness forever, making her blind to anything other than his glory. Then the godly star-mirage breathed a single word -- a whisper, yet deafening in its intensity.
Bow waves of mystical energy exploded outward from Yvraine's body as she was raised up by an invisible hand. Off-white, they crackled like an electromagnetic pulse across the arena's western quadrant and into the stands of the aghast spectators.
Wherever they touched Aeldari ﬂesh, the energies took hold of the unfortunate individuals and withered them away, turning the audience into nothing more than a horde of blood-slicked skeletons. The largest Tyranids, slowed but not slain, stormed into the crowd in a series of bloody rampages. Trueborn marksmen opened fire with Dark Lances and Splinter Cannons as the violence escalated.
Some took shots at the calamitous Succubus that had laid low their masters, but every beam and projectile was deﬂected from Yvraine's cruciform body. She rose higher, aglow with an aura of unearthly power.
Her wounds, alight with white fire, healed over -- even her left hand, severed at the wrist, was restored, formed from blinding energy that coalesced into a stylised gauntlet of ancient design.
Bane of Commorragh
High above the carnage, Asdrubael Vect's gigantic viewing pyramid rose on a thrumming cushion of sound. The bass note of its grav-engines squirmed in the guts of all present as it headed towards the heart of the Corespur district.
The Tyrant of Commorragh had not ruled over his impossible domain for so long without developing a keen instinct for when to be elsewhere, and did not intend to linger.
Instead, he sent his proxies to restore order. Sleek knife-craft peeled away from the titanic fuselage of Vect's pyramid, veering silently towards the arena's heart.
Some sixth sense woke Yvraine from her deathly apotheosis. The ground quaked beneath her feet as she gathered her wits. Though she did not realise it, the metaphysical explosion centred around her had a far graver effect on the Dark City than merely destroying part of the Crucibael.
Her surviving Bloodbrides ran to join her as the crackling white energies of her transformation had dispersed. Nearby, armed warriors vaulted over the arena's bladed walls. They were heading directly for the reborn Succubus, guns and voices raised as they took their chance to pounce.
Instinct took over. Quick as a snake, Yvraine leaned out of the path of a volley of poison-tipped needles and cartwheeled one-handed over a searing dark lance beam.
She vaulted into the shadow of a lumbering Tyrannofex sending swarms of ﬂesh-eating beetle-creatures into the crowd; the immense creature's ironhard bulk provided a better defensive position than any of the arena's elegantly appointed balustrades. Eyes darting, she forced her thoughts into focus, and braved a glance past the beast at her attackers.
It did not look good. Her assailants were Kabalite Trueborn, by their insignia, and they had whole shrines of Incubi with them. Those Klaive-wielding artisans of murder preferred not to fight in the arena, seeing it as a distasteful display that could only expose their strengths and weaknesses in the long term. Tonight, they were evidently prepared to make an exception.
Yvraine was slowly becoming aware of the extreme danger she was in. Not only had she effectively slain hundreds of the Dark City's finest, she had become possessed by an eldritch force, and judging by the shuddering sands beneath her feet, shaken the entire district to its foundations. The Incubi would be the least of her worries when the Haemonculi moved in. No doubt they planned to dissect her in agonising, drawn-out detail.
Yvraine's Bloodbrides ran in zigzagging, bounding packs towards the oncoming Incubi, meeting the mercenaries' two-handed Klaives with Shardnets, Razorﬂails and Impalers. Blood ﬂew in graceful arcs as a hurricane of blades erupted. For a while, neither side seemed to be able to gain the upper hand.
The sculpted, dense metallo-fibres of the Incubi's armour protected them from the slashing blades of all but the nimblest Hekatarii, and the Incubi landed few blows in return, for the Bloodbrides moved with preternatural speed.
Then each shrine's Klaivex leader triggered his Bloodstone. Waves of pain wracked the Bloodbrides, sending them staggering backwards. The Incubi were close enough to capitalise, their movements so smooth it was obvious that they had practiced this manoeuvre a thousand times. A score of Bloodbrides died in just a few Terran seconds. With the Trueborn moving in to take their choice of kills, the stalemate became a slaughter.
Yvraine felt an intense pressure build up in her head, every fresh death intensifying the feeling. The incredible sensations swelling in her soul threatened to blind her, deafen her, or stun her into a coma. There was so much death, so many souls cut from their bodies, that she could not bear it. The ground itself swelled with power.
Yvraine spat out six words that had arrived unbidden to her lips. The lights of the arena, almost painfully bright so the spectators could see every nuance of the fights, dimmed to low twilight. The bright designs of the Wyches' ritual outfits were leached of all colour.
Even the splashes of blood that seemed to arc in slow motion through the air were rendered near-black by the sudden illusion of monochrome. Yvraine felt a great gale of pent-up energy escape her, a palpable force that left her feeling as clear-minded and eager as a youth at a rite of passage.
The gladiatrix vaulted from the cover of the Tyrannofex corpse, snatching up her Huskblade from its resting place on the sands. The sword, like Yvraine herself, had been transformed. The elegant blade resonated at her touch, and as she held it aloft in her newly-gauntleted hand, it was radiant with power. She whipped her head around to find the best route out, and saw a scene from a disturbing dream.
The corpses of several dozen Drukhari fanned out from her position, many of her Bloodbrides lying amongst scatterings of Incubi and Trueborn that had fallen dead without a single obvious wound. Yvraine felt her throat tighten at the sight, her eyes hurting with the intensity of the stark spectacle around her.
The fairings and balustrades of the arena were still embattled, knots of Tyranids hacking and slicing their way into the city beyond. Yvraine shouted a quick order to her surviving Bloodbrides and ran towards the thinnest area of the crowd, Huskblade glowing in her left hand as she retrieved her Bladefan with her right.
Slashing, jumping, and darting left and right, Yvraine -- and the two dozen Bloodbrides still by her side -- broke as fast as they could for the edge of the arena. A wall of Kabalites barred her path, but as a great shout of anger forced itself from her lips, many of them were ripped from their feet as if by invisible ghosts.
It was too much for their comrades. The morbid display had seemed too close to the psychic arts, strictly forbidden in Commorragh due to the likelihood of drawing the gaze of Slaanesh and hence dooming the entire city to a catastrophic Dysjunction.
Few amongst them realised that dire event was already unfolding, a full-blown daemonic invasion erupting beneath their feet.
As Yvraine ran, a Hellion in the gang colours of the Ghyrebats swooped in, desperate to make a name for himself by capturing or killing the focal point of the carnage. Stepping under the youth's outstretched glaive, Yvraine ﬂicked out her Huskblade and impaled him with its tip.
The young warrior fell from his Skyboard, which came to a smooth halt as its rider fell apart -- not into arid dust, as was usual for the Huskblade's touch, but in a cascade of tiny, glowing embers.
Somehow, Yvraine heard the howl of the Hellion's soul as it departed its body. Although it dwindled, the scream did not recede altogether.
The soul had not been drained, nor stolen away by the sucking pull of She Who Thirsts as with all other Drukhari. In an unlikely moment of contrition, Yvraine felt empathy with that dying soul. A heartbeat later, a new voice was in her head, mewling with fear.
Distracted as she was, only the sound of armoured footsteps on the sand saved Yvraine from a swift decapitation.
She leaned back, an Incubus' Klaive whistling less than a finger's breadth from her nose as another of the weapons came in low. With her own blade, she turned the second Klaive aside and upwards, ensuring it crashed into the first hard enough to buy her some space.
She levelled a solid kick to the midriff of one of the assailants and a hard elbow to the other, giving her time to recover. Yvraine snarled as she saw that six more Incubi were circling around her, and that her Bloodbrides were similarly beset.
The mercenary killers stepped in close, blades raised in ritualistic battle stances. They would attack as one, a pack of predators rather than a loose gathering of competitors like the Wych Cults. Against such disciplined strength, even a Succubus would find her life expectancy measured in Terran seconds. Yvraine raised her aberrant new Huskblade into a guard stance, and curled a finger to beckon them to their deaths -- or perhaps to hers.
She saw a ﬂash of crimson armour behind the Incubi, and two of their number were suddenly headless. Horned helms bounced away as another was halved at the waist. With a ﬂash of inspiration, Yvraine jumped sidelong and grabbed the Ghyrebat's hovering Skyboard, legs swinging out wide to kick the fourth Incubus in the head with neck-breaking force.
She swung onto the delicate machine as if born to it; though she had never so much as touched a Skyboard, she was suddenly familiar with every nuance. Triggering its splinter pod, she shot down a fifth Incubus just as the sixth was cut in half from neck to groin by the crimson fighter. The last two shrine-warriors backed away and ran.
Disquieted and angry, Yvraine leapt from the skyboard and pointed her blade towards the newcomer as his own fighters rallied to him. He was armed and armoured in the style of Bel-Anshoc, a genius artisan whose style Yvraine recognised from sculptures and paintings of the Eldar's long-lost past.
More than that, his guard stance was familiar. She had witnessed several of his looping blows in the fight, the very same moves she had used to great effect since her days as an Aspect Warrior. This mysterious swordsman was clearly not her enemy.
The newcomer saluted, offering his sword as a group of Incubi hurried to stand at his side. The mercenaries too made the sign of the proffered blade, their swords level with the horned helms of their battle armour.
"More sellswords," spat Yvraine. She shook her head dismissively, striding towards the grand arena's exit; if they were not here to kill her, at least they would not slow her down. The newcomer and his warriors kept pace, padding alongside her like wolves on the hunt. She glanced at their leader irritably as a group of Reavers -- Vect's pets, the Flesh Wraiths, by their colours -- zoomed in close.
"I do not need the protection of a male," snarled Yvraine, leaning backward to avoid a slashing bladevane before ﬂicking a stiletto from her Bladefan into the back of the rider's neck. He hit the crystalline sands hard, limbs twisted at odd angles.
Nearby, the crimson warrior lunged, lancing his blade's tip into an oncoming Reaver's chest. The Jetbike rider spiralled out of control before crashing into the arena's balustrade. The bladesman span on his heel, ducked, and thrust his greatsword upward through another Reaver as he made a pass overhead.
Yvraine frowned. "You have copied my sword-form well," she said.
"Quite the contrary, girl," said the stranger. His tone had the crisp inﬂection of a Drukhari noble house. Yvraine felt memory well up within her. Only one soul alive dared address her in that manner.
"You fight well, impostor," said Yvraine. "I may let you live. I will take your blade as tribute, in memory of the true Exarch Laarian."
"Although I have sought quite another since I strode Coheria's crystal sands, this mortal blade I shall not relinquish, not yet. Look to your own sword. It is Kha-vir, blessed by Ynnead. Just as you are blessed in turn, True Child of the Aeldari."
Gritting her teeth, Yvraine plunged the tip of her sword into a swerving Reaver, reducing the rider to embers. "Ynnead? So it truly was the Whispering God who appeared to me. Who are you, to have such knowledge? Was it Lady Malys that sent you?"
"I am simply called The Visarch, for I cast aside my name long ago," came the reply, "but it would be very familiar to you. Yvraine of the Biel-Tani, our paths join once more."
With their new allies close, Yvraine and her Bloodbrides emerged triumphant from the melee at the arena's heart. Like a ﬂowing river, the clique of warriors moved ﬂuidly to the nearest egress portal. They avoided the skirmishes between Tyranids and Drukhari and instead sought the streets of the Dark City proper. Yvraine headed for Sec Maegra, for that district of Commorragh was a teeming sub-metropolis famous for a dizzying variety of ne'er-do-wells -- sellswords of far lower repute than Incubi.
There, she would find many of her old allies, from Corsair princes to disfgured Wyches and other outcasts. Should she stay one step ahead of her pursuers as the Dark City reeled from the night's events, she would in theory be able to reach the docks -- and with luck, enlist the Corsairs of her former capital ship, Lanathrialle, to her cause.
Yvraine's possession by the macabre god Ynnead had shaken the very fabric of the Dark City. Far away, a miscarried ritual conducted by Eldrad Ulthran on the crystal moon of Coheria had twisted Yvraine's fate -- chosen by forces unknown, she had died at the exact moment of the god's ascension.
This conﬂuence of Empyrean energy and realspace ﬂesh was so severe it led to a hyperspatial quake known in Commorragh as a Dysjunction. Dozens of spires toppled and districts turned in on themselves, skyscraping statues and high towers shivered and fell apart. Millions died, but there were worse fates in store for those who still braved the streets.
Beneath Commorragh there is a sealed portal known as Khaine's Gate. This has existed for time immemorial, bound by arcane means against the daemon hosts on the other side. Desperate to break in, these hungry fiends have ever grown louder and more insistent, so much so that Asdrubael Vect himself had recently ceded this once-prized territory to his rivals.
As the Dysjunction shook the Dark City, the vaulted chambers around Khaine's Gate collapsed, killing the caged psychic Nulls that protected it from Warp breach.
The gate glowed white hot, and then, with a cracking boom, burst open. Thousands of daemons poured through, cackling with cruel glee as they sank blades, claws and fangs into any unfortunate enough to cross their paths.
Urgent spates of conﬂict ﬂowed into one another as Kabals, Wych Cults, and even the Covens of the Haemonculi found themselves attacked by daemons of every conceivable kind. Vect and his Kabal had already made haste for safe havens long prepared in the shadowy recesses of the Webway.
Commorragh was truly vast; it would survive even this. Knowing the daemons would bring disaster, he had left his rivals to suffer the brunt of the invasion. Once they had expended every resource in their struggle against the daemon invasion, Vect would return to the Dark City and bring it to heel once more.
Yvraine's ﬂight to Sec Maegra saw her fight through acquisitive Wracks, half-real Khymerae and even a bloodspattered cavalcade of Daemonettes, but eventually she reached the spinedock that held her allies' ship.
The blade-wielding Visarch and his mercenary escort had intervened a dozen times on Yvraine's behalf, and each time their intervention had tipped the balance in the gladiatrix's favour. She had no time to share more than a few words of thanks with the warrior; for now, she was content that they both fought on the same side.
Though she did not fully comprehend it, Yvraine's fate was the fulcrum upon which the fate of trillions had turned. She had been resurrected in a form far stranger and more powerful than even that of the Haemonculi who sought her.
The Daughter of Shades had been Reborn, her journey to demigodhood hastened by a profound bond forged with Ynnead upon the threshold of death. In the process, she had all but doomed the city of Commorragh to the long-feared daemonic invasion.
Escape from the Dark City
With Commorragh erupting into bedlam, Yvraine joined forces with the Eldar Corsairs that had once been hers to command. Their ship did not escape the spined ports unchallenged, however. None escaped the Supreme Overlord of the Dark City without paying a high cost.
As the Lanathrialle 's sails caught the solar winds of Commorragh's stolen suns, a ﬂotilla of Vect's shard-craft peeled away from the Corespur dictrict's dock-spars. They came alongside Yvraine's voidship as the Corsair ﬂeet of those captains she had sought in Sec Maegra shimmered on the false horizon. They were tantalizingly close, but not close enough to intervene.
A communiqué was sent, ordering the Corsairs to turn Yvraine over to the Kabal of the Black Heart. The choice was stark -- either try to escape and be shot to pieces in the skies above, or hand Yvraine over and risk a return to the growing chaos below.
The Corsairs sought another path. It appeared by their progress they were heading for the arterial Webway portal yawning wide over Commorragh, but that route was soon barred by Vect's nimble interceptors. Instead, as they came close to one of the minor portals through which only small frigates could pass, they steered at the harshest angle they could execute.
Though Vect's blockade destroyed many of the ﬂeet's ships with pinpoint fire, they could not halt the momentum of its massive capital ship. The Corsairs slammed the Lanathrialle 's prow -- bridge and all -- straight into the portal. The rest of the spacecraft would not even come close to fitting through, however, sticking out like a greatsword shoved into a scabbard made for a dagger.
A dozen blinding explosions burst into dazzling profusion across the neck of the great ﬂagship as it ground into the spined crescent of the Webway gate. The metaphysical forces unleashed by the collision were so powerful they ravaged the Lanathrialle inside and out.
Proud Corsairs were burned alive or sent ﬂailing from the torn sides of the ﬂagship, tumbling into the eternal night of the Dark City to be blasted to atoms by the disintegrator fire of Vect's hunters.
A moment later, the stricken corpse of the Lanathrialle was caught in the crossing beams of the Corespur's tractor pincers, slowly hauled from the burning Webway gate to be cored, scoured of life as a lesson to those who would defy Vect.
With the Supreme Overlord's city shaking in the grip of a Warp Dysjunction, Vect wanted nothing more than to punish the perpetrator of the carnage. He watched from the observation galleries of his ﬂoating fortress, but swallowed down a scream of rage and frustration as the prow of the vast voidship was drawn backward from the Webway portal.
It was all but intact, except for a perfectly circular hole cut in the vizier deck of the ship's elegantly tapering bridge. Vect did not need to wait for confirmation from his shadowy agents.
Yvraine and her vanguard were gone, already lost in the labyrinth dimension's tunnels -- as sure as the rest of the Corsair ﬂagship's crew would soon suffer an agonising death in Rakarth's hellish dungeons.
Dark Dance in the Webway
In the Webway, translucent passageways stretched before Yvraine as she and her Bloodbrides darted from one vista of impossible architecture to another. The crimson stranger was close behind, his Incubi in tow. With the daemon invasion ravaging much of Commorragh, Vect would likely have a hundred contingencies put in motion, but would still be sending his agents to retrieve them.
The sacrifice of the Corsair ﬂagship had bought them a few critical Terran hours, but that lead would be quickly eroded if their pursuers launched a mounted search party, or used esoteric means to cut them off. They had no option but to head deeper into the Webway.
The ribbed tunnels of the Labyrinth Dimension seemed to draw the trespassers onward, lambent pulses of light gliding alongside them with a hypnotic motion. Yvraine's vanguard, barely fifty strong, moved from wide arterial passageways to winding side passages and capillary tunnels that forced them to go in single file. The tunnels were dazzling and confusing to behold; every unnatural angle and rune-sealed door reminded the trespassers that they did not belong there.
All too often they felt eyes upon them, something staring intently at their intrusion, but the source they never found. The travellers were conscious that to stray from the relative safety of the arterial passageways into the long-abandoned capillary tunnels was to invite disaster. Donorian Fiends, emotion-eating Medusae, Khymerae predators and nests of Psychneuein infested those forgotten reaches.
When the strains of a bizarre, lilting song ﬂoated through the tunnels, its tone mocking and unnatural, Yvraine feared something even worse. Much of the Webway had been shattered by the Fall of the Eldar, blasted apart by the devastating Warp energies that had consumed the Aeldari Empire of old. Those broken spars had been largely destroyed by Commorrite cauterisation raids or sealed off by the rune-portals of the Craftworlders, for most led to the hellish dimension of the Warp.
In theory, the arterial passageways around Commorragh were safe, but since the Fall, the galactic labyrinth had been a ruined mockery of its former grandeur. Only the Laughing God Cegorach -- the only one of the original Aeldari pantheon of gods to truly survive the rise of Slaanesh -- knew which parts were whole, and which led to the domain of the Great Enemy.
Several of Yvraine's Bloodbrides had begun to age, complaining of the hunger gnawing inside them and testing their blades as they looked slyly at one another. Without the psychic sustenance of suffering, the Drukhari would slowly shrink into themselves until they became "Parched" -- ravening ghouls desperate to feast on emanations of negative emotion.
Even the most beautiful Wych would be reduced to a torrid hag over the course of a few empty solar nights. A voice in Yvraine's head laughed at their distress. It was that of a young male, quiet but cruel.
The gladiatrix wondered if she had somehow absorbed the soul of the Ghyrebat Hellion she had slain. If so, she had kept the warrior's essence safe from the all-consuming desire of Slaanesh. If she could somehow master that process -- or even teach it to others -- she would have made a miraculous stride forward in the long battle for her species' salvation.
It could allay the plight of the Drukhari and their endless soul-hunger, but also the predicament of the Asuryani, too -- should one individual be able to take the soul of another into themselves, he or she could act as a living refuge from She Who Thirsts.
The Eldar would no longer need Waystones, nor the limbo of the Infinity Circuits. The more she dwelt on the idea, the more animated she became. Here was possibility; hope, perhaps. She strode purposefully on, possessed of such conviction that her fractious vanguard kept their peace.
Further into the misty reaches of the Webway they went, the unsettling song haunting their steps. As the time slid by, the cold and sterile tunnels gave way to utter anarchy of form. Yvraine's ragtag group ventured along spiralling paths that wound around the inside of the tunnels, with the travellers walking on the walls, on ceilings, and on stairs as insubstantial as shadow yet capable of bearing their combined weight.
Twisting deltas of passageways opened and narrowed once more, some opaque and humid, others made of crystal so transparent that a cosmos of swirling clouds and distant stars could be seen stretching into the void. The truth of what lay out there, in the twilight between reality and the Warp, was so mindboggling even an Aeldari could not comprehend it.
In some places the mind's eye translated the scene into an analogue of the physical galaxy writ in a dizzying profusion of colours and lights. In others, the skyscape was a collage of laughing faces, all blending and ﬂowing one into another to form a grotesque tableau that could forever scar the memory. All the while that strange skirling song haunted their every step.
Yvraine had seen enough to know she was irrevocably lost. With no real destination in mind, she had bent her will to avoiding that which lay behind them, rather than that which was ahead. Her Bloodbrides were now openly quarrelling amongst themselves, their incendiary insults regarding each other's intimate practices giving way to spats of posturing and the rattling of blades.
Epherea Naptha launched a tirade of invective concerning Vyllia the Talon's ancestry; so imaginative and surreal were Vyllia's counter-claims that even Yvraine found herself wide-eyed with amused surprise. Still, they were running out of time. With the Drukhari desperate to feed, it would not be long before their vicious bickering boiled over into a minor massacre.
About them, the walls of the Webway glistened wetly, like the ﬂayed ﬂanks of some living thing. They had come to a dead end. A portal lay at the cul-de-sac's centre, the runes of warding upon its oval circumference smoking as if burned out no more than a matter of solar minutes ago. The skirling song sounded closer than ever, putting Yvraine's nerves on edge. There was no other way forward. She pushed through the shimmering quicksilver of the gate, her Bloodbrides at her heels.
A demented scene greeted her, an image from some insane artist's nightmare. A hundred Daemonettes were dancing and frolicking with the corpses of Drukhari in the colours of Vect's own Kabal. The handmaidens of She Who Thirsts waltzed and span as if at a grand ball, each holding a deceased Kabalite in a lover's embrace.
They were accompanied by a maddening ﬂautist's duet, the interweaving melodies played on the thigh bones of Aeldari from before the Fall. As they danced, the Daemonettes ﬂayed the ﬂesh from their victims with their razored claws, each gesture a languid caress that left the corpses dripping with gore.
At the heart of it all was an elegant dancer holding the masks of tragedy and comedy on a long haft -- the Masque of Slaanesh, told of Yvraine's ﬂight by her besotted Sslyth agent, the veteran Sassarassen.
Yvraine's stomach churned, the panicked screaming of the Hellion soul ringing loud in her mind. Outnumbered twice over, she was about to order the retreat when she saw a tall, stately Daemonette amongst the throng dancing ever swifter. Her spiralling pavane was somehow so entrancing Yvraine could not look away. She felt an unsettling peace settle over her, a suffocating blanket of apathy that made her eyelids droop.
Around her, Bloodbrides and Incubi were slumping, sitting cross-legged, and lying on the oddly pulsing tunnel ﬂoor as they were taken by the unnatural malaise of slumber that washed over them like a wave. Vyllia the Talon gave a small cry of despair, as plaintive as that of a dying swan, before lying down in a heap. Soon they would all become corpse-puppets at a daemonic revel.
Suddenly, with jubilant cries, troupe after troupe of Harlequin warrior-dancers vaulted down from the tunnel's ceiling, tumbling from clouds of glittering mist one after another in sprays of luminescent diamonds. Yvraine felt a jolt of pure energy wake her from her trance.
She had hoped that her vanguard's presence would pique the curiosity of Cegorach's warrior-dancers sooner or later, and their intervention could not have been better timed. She raised her Huskblade by way of greeting, then strode forward and took the head from the nearest Daemonette's neck.
The dancing doyenne at the heart of the Daemonette horde pirouetted faster, an expression of pure fury on her grotesque face. She sprang at unnatural speed towards the crimson Incubi nearby, her fellow daemons crooning and shrieking in her wake.
The mercenary bladesmen, the Bloodbrides, and even some of the Harlequins were caught in the grip of her deathly slumber-curse; even The Visarch had succumbed, holding his head as if in the grip of a raging migraine. Yvraine was already fghting hard against the hissing she-fiends. There was no way she could get past to aid her imperilled allies.
As the Masque of Slaanesh dashed over the slumped corpse of an Incubus in the livery of the Kabal of the Black Heart, she found her legs hooked out from under her by the fallen warrior's Klaive. The Incubus rose to his feet, laughing hollowly, his form shimmering as if caught in a heat mirage. He sloughed off the illusion altogether to leave a lithe, hooded Harlequin in his place. A Solitaire, walker of the Path of the Damned.
The Masque of Slaanesh gave a cry of disbelief and angst, spinning to slash a claw at the Solitaire's midriff. Her adversary was already moving, punching a monofilament wire into the Masque's neck before cartwheeling away, greatcoat billowing, to land in a sprinter's crouch.
A split second later, the Harlequin launched forward like a living missile into the ranks of the Daemonettes. The Solitaire shot from victim to victim so fast that it was impossible to trace him. The blur of his passage left explosions of purple ichor with every new kill.
Yvraine and her Bloodbrides, now free of the dancer's spellbinding curse, plunged into the ranks of the angered Daemonettes with blades ﬂashing. The fiendish handmaidens leered at the prospect of fresh meat, and charged to meet them. At first, the forces seemed evenly matched; blood was drawn on both sides.
Even Yvraine took a shallow cut across the throat -- it stung like fury, but did not cut deep enough to do real harm. She spoke words of power, and thin tendrils of grey mist seeped from the gladiatrix's wound. Their touch sapped the strength from the Daemonettes nearby and turned their unreal ﬂesh a lifeless grey.
Yvraine frowned in consternation, but seeing opportunity, pressed her assault. The fiendish handmaidens found their sadistic joy replaced by panic at the sight of Yvraine's soul magic. The fugitives and their Harlequin allies were now fighting every bit as fast as the lithe, whip-thin daemons -- if not faster. Blood ﬂew, throats were slashed, and slain Daemons dissipated in clouds of sickly pink mist.
On the left ﬂank, the Incubi were reaping bloody vengeance with their Klaives; on the right, the illusory glamours of a Harlequin Shadowseer turned Daemonettes upon one another instead of their intended foes. With the Drukhari counterassault on one side and the Harlequins' killing spree on the other, the Slaaneshi trap had been broken.
The Masque threw back her head and gave a horrendous scream. The sound was so loud it shattered a section of the Webway wall behind her. A gale of psychic emanations roared into the tunnels, swirling into a tornado that carried the Daemonettes and their queen away and out of sight in the space of a few terrifying moments.
The Aeldari fought to keep their footing, embedding their blades and fingernails in the psychoplastic crystal of the tunnel's walls. The Solitaire strode through the gale as if it were no more than a summer breeze, fingers outstretched to draw a complex rune of warding over the breach. With a sigh of relief, the troupe's Shadowseer turned the ebbing gale of energy into a harmless, sparkling mist.
Yvraine and her warriors regained their composure slowly, picking themselves up and regrouping. The entire altercation had taken no more than a Terran minute. They had lost several of their number in the fighting, but without the intervention of the Harlequins, they would almost certainly have died.
Yvraine scanned the thinning mist for movement, intending to thank her enigmatic saviours. Only one of them, the Solitaire, could she see. That lone warrior had sensed something potent beyond measure in Yvraine.
After a brief exchange with his fellows, he chose to remain as her guide. The others vanished into the depths of the Webway to meet with a living legend, a famed warrior matriarch whose part was yet to be played.
Dire Tidings for Biel-Tan
The Harlequins of the Masque of the Midnight Sorrow were already leagues distant from Yvraine's vanguard by the time the Solitaire led the travellers on into the labyrinth dimension.
Their intended destination was deep in the realm Mankind called the Ultima Segmentum, for there lay a jewel in the shattered crown of the Aeldari's legacy. They made for Biel-Tan, a world-ship that seeks to unite its disparate race in what others consider a lost cause.
Craftworld Biel-Tan, whose name translates as the "Rebirth of Ancient Days" in the Aeldari Lexicon known to the savants of the Imperium of Man, is the most militant and proud of all its kind. Violently xenophobic and mistrustful of the "lesser races," the vast world-ship protects its holdings with a vengeful fury.
Biel-Tan casts itself as the guardian of the Maiden Worlds, those primeval planets where the Aeldari Exodites live in harmony with their environments -- and upon their death, join with the World Spirit of the planet itself. The bellicose people of Biel-Tan believe the Exodite worlds will be the seeds that ﬂourish into a new order when the Eldar rise again to prominence.
Many of the other Craftworlds consider the Biel-Tani delusional -- the resources and manpower needed to successfully turn those paradise planets into an echo of the former Aeldari Empire were long ago consumed. Undeterred by these naysayers, the Biel-Tani cling to their convictions as a wounded warrior holds tightly onto his sword.
Though few in Commorragh realised it, Biel-Tan was the original home of the one the Drukhari called Daughter of Shades. Under the world-ship's glowing domes and elegant spires Yvraine was raised, nurtured, and taught the ways of the Asuryani craftworlds. At first she walked the Path of the Performer, her intricate acrobatics thrilling high society as well as her fellow wanderers of the craftworld's abandoned zones.
Her displays grew faster and more violent as she became more headstrong. When the Avatar of Khaine was roused within the craftworld's heart during the invasion of Gnosis Prime, she took the Path of the Warrior, becoming a Dire Avenger under the tutelage of the famously deadly Laarian Starspeaker, Exarch of the Silvered Blade Shrine.
Long Terran years slid past. The blood Yvraine shed as part of Biel-Tan's famous Swordwind armed forces should have been enough to sate even the most savage spirit, but it was not enough. Restless, she sought a deeper connection to the infinite.
For a time, the Path of the Warlock gave her the esoteric understanding she craved, honing her psychic skills whilst still giving her a chance to fight in Biel-Tan's armies.
Yet Biel-Tan had always had a place in her heart, and vice versa. With the Solitaire she had encountered in the Webway guiding her, the prodigal daughter's homecoming was close at hand.
Biel-Tan's struggling ambition was well known. In Yvraine, the Masque of the Midnight Sorrow believed they had found a way to make that ambition a reality. The gladiatrix bore a peculiar aura, and the Shadowseer had marked it well. Her use of deathly powers in the battle against the Daemonettes had confirmed an eventuality foreseen by the troupe's patron, Eldrad Ulthran.
The crux point of causality had been exactly where the High Farseer had said it would be, and Yvraine had manifested power from beyond the veil just as foreseen.
Her safe arrival to a sympathetic audience was paramount. As Eldrad had said, the Harlequins must untangle the strands of fate that stretched before her if they were to be weaved into a greater thread -- and ultimately, become a silken noose strong enough to destroy Slaanesh.
It was to Biel-Tan that the Ynnari came, just in time to save the ancient craftworld from destruction at the hands of the Archenemy.
- The Gathering Storm - Part Two - Fracture of Biel-Tan (7th Edition), pp. 4-101
- White Dwarf 33 (May 2019), "Index Xenos: The Ynnari", pp. 24-53