- "Embrace your hunger, your lust, your desire. The universe is ours for the taking!"
- — Sanctifer LeVay, Cult of the Sacred Union
Slaanesh, also known as the Dark Prince, the Prince of Pleasure, the Lord of Excess, the Perfect Prince, and even the Prince of Chaos in the Imperium of Man, is the Chaos God of pleasure, excess and decadence. Lust, pride and self-indulgence are the hallmarks of all who follow him. He is the youngest of the four major Chaos Gods, having come to full sentience within the Immaterium only during the 30th Millennium. While generally referred to as a "he" by humans and as a female by the Aeldari, Slaanesh is actually neither gender, combining characteristics of both and perfecting them.
Slaanesh typically appears in an androgynous form in which it is a woman on the right side and a man on the left with two sets of devilish horns growing from its head. Slaanesh can assume any form; male, female, hermaphrodite or no gender at all, but it prefers male bodies. Its sacred number is six and the colours associated with Slaanesh are purple, pink and black. The name Slaanesh is a corruption of the Aeldari term Slaaneth (Slaa meaning "ecstasy" or "pleasure" and Neth meaning "lord" or "prince" in the Aeldari Lexicon; hence, the Prince of Pleasure), though ironically, the Aeldari refer to this foul entity only as Sai'lanthresh in the Aeldari Lexicon, "She Who Thirsts."
Slaanesh is the Lord of Pleasure, the Dark God dedicated to the pursuit of earthly gratification and the overthrow of all decent behaviour, as well as hedonism and pleasure for its own sake. He is the God of Obsession, the Master of Excess in All Things, from gluttony to lust to megalomania. Wherever mortals are ruled by their own unquenchable desires, the Dark Prince of Chaos is there in the shadows, whispering, tempting, and feasting on a banquet of souls. But this is true in all things, not just carnal pleasures. Those who desire to indulge in the finest culinary delights, the most beautiful artworks, even the most sensual clothing, could all be amongst Slaanesh’s disciples. Just as importantly, Slaanesh is also the god of perfection. The singer striving for the most beautiful song or the warrior who seeks the perfect fighting techniques, both could be devotees of Slaanesh.
Slaanesh was given life by the immorality and hubris of the ancient Aeldari Empire. As their empire reached its zenith, the Aeldari became lost in their own decadence, for they experience sensation and emotion to a far greater degree than any other intelligent species of the galaxy. The capabilities of their highly advanced technology meant that the Aeldari did not need to labour or wage war. Instead, they were able to dedicate their lives to whatever idle pursuits took their fancy. Over several generations, this indolence came to rule and pervert their spirits. In the Immaterium, the collective psychic reflections of their indolence and hedonism caused a new Chaos Power to stir, beginning in the 25th Millennium of the Terran calendar. Created by one species' pure dedication to indulgence, the first motes of what would become Slaanesh began to coalesce.
The dormant Slaanesh fed upon the unchecked collective psyche of the Aeldari, drawing on their lusts and ambitions, their artistry and pursuit of excellence in all things. In turn, as Slaanesh grew, its nascent dreams trickled into the minds of the Aeldari and fuelled their desires, pushing them ever onwards towards their eventual doom. Eventually, the Aeldari civilisation devolved into little more than pleasure cults dedicated to every act of physical, mental and spiritual fulfillment. Blood stained the statuary of their plazas as crowds of drug-addled maniacs sated their violent desires in the streets of the Aeldari homeworlds. On one particularly depraved night, the debauchery reached a terrible crescendo that tore out the heart of the Aeldari Empire and left it ravaged beyond recovery.
The Fall of the Aeldari in the early 30th Millennium was signalled by the birth-scream of Slaanesh, a tsunami of emotion that heralded the Prince of Pleasure's arrival in the Realm of Chaos. The psychic implosion caused by Slaanesh's birth swallowed hundreds of worlds at the heart of the Aeldari Empire in what is now the Imperium of Man's Segmentum Obscurus, killing billions of Aeldari in a single instant and devouring a great section of the galaxy in the process. Such was its ferocity that it overwhelmed the barrier between the material and the immaterial, forming the massive, permanent Warp rift later named by men as the Eye of Terror.
Rampant and hungry, Slaanesh devoured the minds and souls of the Aeldari, and across the galaxy, that ancient race was almost wiped out. Slaanesh slew most of the Aeldari and their gods in the Immaterium, except for the Aeldari God of War Kaela Mensha Khaine, whose energy was dispersed into many separate pieces scattered across the various Infinity Circuits of the Aeldari Craftworlds, the Laughing God Cegorach, who fled into the Labyrinthine Dimension of the Webway, and while Isha was defeated, she was not destroyed outright and absorbed by Slaanesh like the rest of the Aeldari Pantheon after his birth during the Fall of the Aeldari.
Slaanesh vanquished her as he had all of the other Aeldari gods within the Warp, but only took her prisoner rather than absorbing her energies outright. What fell purpose Slaanesh had in keeping Isha alive, none amongst the Aeldari now know, but the Prince of Pleasure was ultimately denied his spoils: for some reason Nurgle, the Plague Lord, waged war against Slaanesh to "rescue" the Aeldari goddess.
Why Grandfather Nurgle intervened is unclear, although some Aeldari savants believe that the oldest of the major Chaos Gods wanted to give the youngest amongst them a good lesson about his proper place in the order of things. What is known is that Nurgle's daemonic forces proved victorious and he took the Aeldari goddess back to his domain in the Realm of Chaos. Only a relative few Aeldari survived Slaanesh's birth-feast. Other Aeldari survivors included the Harlequin, and those Craftworld Aeldari who were very far away from the Aeldari homeworlds when the Warp rift formed. Most of the survivors that remain have become sworn enemies of the Dark Prince, and yet a few of them have formed isolated cabals that still behave as their ancestors did, perversely following the downward spiral of excess.
That is how events are viewed from the chronology of the material universe. In the Warp, things are different, for the Immaterium is not bound by linear four-dimensional time, and events do not occur in a strict sequence of cause and effect. As his rival gods reckon it, Slaanesh has always existed in the Warp, and yet has never existed at all.
Some say that is it impossible for mortals to look upon the divine face of Slaanesh without losing their soul to him, for all who see it become willing slaves to the whims of the Dark Prince, embracing his ways with wild abandon. The mere knowledge of Slaanesh's existence can cause a world to topple into corruption and hidden depravity. Not even the agents of the Inquisition know for sure how far his influence spreads, for wherever the lust for power and temporal gain exists, the talons of Slaanesh dig deep. Despite their best efforts, it is almost certain that the Imperium is rotten to the core, just as the Aeldari Empire was before it. How long before it succumbs to a similar fate?
Birth of the Dark Prince
- "Find pleasure in every moment, indulge in every whim. Let lesser races feel the burden of their crude lives. We are beyond such concerns or worries. Every power is ours to use, every sensation ours to experience. We are truly masters of the galaxy, and all others exist only to satisfy our curiosities. We have earned our position of power. Let us forever taste the fruits of such achievement. Time itself is ours to command. We are eternal."
- — Translated Aeldari glyphs found amidst the ruins of the Shrine of Celestial Grandeur
If the legends are to be believed, there was one being born into the Warp from the depravity and corruption of an entire species. Over thousands and thousands of Terran years, the ancient Aeldari, a race with souls of limitless passion and nearly limitless psychic capabilities, allowed themselves to be consumed with decadence. Because of their powers, passions, and unique connections to the Warp, the disturbances their depravity touched off were singularly dangerous.
Even just this vague bit of knowledge is little more than rumour to most inhabitants of the galaxy. Still fewer are privy to the secrets hidden with the shrouded and nearly inaccessible vaults of the Black Library, the ancient repository of Aeldari knowledge located deep within the Webway. Within these sombre chambers, ancient manuscripts point to an unspeakable event that changed the galaxy forever. From the perverse thoughts, actions, and deeds of the Aeldari a new god was born, a very real god that was indeed a reflection of the species that unwittingly gave him life. His violent birth signalled the eventual death of the race.
The tomes of the Black Library say that Slaanesh was born from the uncontrolled and excessive need for sensation that had come to preoccupy every moment of every day for nearly every Aeldari. Through the incredibly advanced technology and psychic mastery that the species had developed over the Terran millennia, they passed the days living in unimaginable luxury. They had no need to concern themselves with matters such as daily survival, manual labour, or warding off external threats. Nor did they feel bound by social constraints. They had no need to think of how their actions would affect others, not even within their own families, since there would never be a time when they needed anything from them. Everything was at all times theirs.
The passions that burned deeply within their souls were unbound and freely explored to depths that other intelligent races could not fathom. A mind freed from all concerns of reciprocation or fear of reprisal is able to turn fully inward and wander into unknown places, seeking previously unconsidered diversions and sensations. When an entire race unshackled its minds in this way, unusually powerful psychic energy was cast into the Warp, and the unnatural essences that reside in the Warp responded.
The darkest moment of Aeldari history -- the Fall -- is chronicled as a cautionary tale, one that the keepers of the Black Library, known as the Black Council, study continually. Their hope is that some path toward a return to ascendance, or at least a way to avoid their ever-looming doom, can be found. The tale says that the vast majority of the members of the ancient Aeldari race, unprepared as they were for the god their unbridled passion and perversion had birthed, were consumed in an instant. Their minds, and worse their souls, were connected to Chaos in a way they could not have foreseen. They had become slaves to darkness, and when their new-born master hungered, the souls of the race were forfeit as his sustenance.
Allure of Slaanesh
For most of the remaining Aeldari, the birth of Slaanesh and the fall of their civilisation marked a profound change in the course they would take, not only through history, but also as a people. Retreating to their Craftworlds, they forged a new way of life, defined by discipline and a determination to fight back against their doom and survive. This resolve was bolstered by fear, which brought the overwhelming majority of those who resisted change in line. Slaanesh was not content with the souls he had harvested in the moment of his birth. He continued to seek out the remaining Aeldari, savouring the succulent taste of each soul he claimed. For a member of a race once so proud and seemingly eternal, the thought of being snuffed out forever to nourish a twisted god was terrifying. That it was a deity of their own creation only served to magnify the horror.
Yet some refused to change. Whether from pride, a sense of defiance, or the simple inability to change, some Aeldari continued down a path of excess and sensual indulgence and do so to this day. They live each moment knowing it could be their last, not only in mortal life, but in eternal existence. This heightened feeling of risk, of spending each moment on the edge of a knife, fuels them to indulge in even greater acts of depravity and to push the limits of sensation. They are not, however, the only ones who damn themselves this way.
The powers of Chaos hold sway over so many not because they represent some esoteric concept with rare appeal; no, they are so insidious because they are precisely the opposite. With Khorne, it is the inherent nature of conflict and struggle. For Nurgle, it is the inevitability of death and decay, and to these certainties unto the end. For Tzeentch, it is the ever-changing nature of the universe and the need to feel some measure of control. These are all base instincts, primal parts of the lives of every living thing.
Slaanesh is no different. His appeal is grounded in such seemingly innocent ideals -- every being's pursuit of happiness and the desire to improve. Very little, if anything, holds more sway over the heart of any mortal, no matter the species, than desire in all its forms. It is universal. All beings want more than they have. They are never content. Where an Imperial Guardsman seeks glory, he finds Slaanesh. Where a Rogue Trader seeks wealth, he finds Slaanesh. Wherever there are desires, at the end of the quest to sate those desires lies Slaanesh, and utter damnation.
Sensation Without Limitations
- "Well of course my people love me. Only the insane would consider otherwise! Accelerate work on the Grand Hall of Statuary, so all may adore me even when I am not with them."
- — Walash Prixetti, Planetary Governor of Prixetti VII
Slaanesh can see his hand at work across the galaxy in countless ways. The joy a parent feels when a child is born, the pride a commodore feels when his fleet executes a cunning battle plan, the stirring of a lover’s heart when in the embrace of a paramour, the heady rush of relief that reminds a soldier how good it feels to be alive after an unexpected skirmish—all of these sensations, on some small level, are pleasing to the Master of Delights. They are not enough. Though the decimation of the Aeldari and his pursuit of the remaining few of their race is a source of great joy to Slaanesh, he has much, much grander desires to fulfil.
Every breath is an opportunity to take in a new scent. Each glass raised is a chance to savour a new flavour. On every battlefield, each Chainsword blow can elicit a never before heard pain-filled scream. From his glittering palace, the Lord of Excess revels in each new sensation discovered. He guides and directs the inhabitants of the galaxy to push ever onwards towards new heights of sensation. A god experiences existence on a level far beyond that of which a mortal can ever dare to dream, but that does not mean Slaanesh is content to leave the galaxy to its own devices. He sees the stars, the planets, and indeed the very fabric of reality itself as his plaything, to be poked, prodded, ripped, and tightly bound to his will in order to squeeze out every last sensation there is to enjoy.
Those who choose to serve him emulate him as best as they can, limited as they are by mortal form and mortal imagination. In every corner of the galaxy, worshippers of Slaanesh spend their time inventing new delights and challenging themselves to craft experiences for themselves that no one has ever had before. This can be something as base as eliciting a new reaction to a carnal entwining, or as high minded as creating a master work of art so profound that it brings tears to all who behold it. The truly inspired, though, have much larger stages to play upon.
There are so few that have had the pleasure of seeing entire squads of Space Marines evaporate under the fire of a Subjugator Titan. Fewer still are those who have heard a million voices cry out in fear and then nothing but dripping stillness as nucleic-acid bombs dissolved away flesh. Most lack the vision to create scenarios where these delights can be experienced. It is likely not even possible for the greatest excesses to be achieved in the mortal realm. In the Realm of Chaos, however, all things are possible.
- "Mere killing should never be enough. How much more intense is the feeling of inhaling the mist created when you vibrate a foe's body until he vaporises? How much more completely have you explored all a person can offer you than when you breathe them into yourself, leaving only the memory of them still a part of this world?"
Many of the factions of the Adeptus Ministorum and Adeptus Terra embody restraint and denial of base enjoyments. Knowing that the easiest path to corruption for most Imperial citizens is freedom, they impose harsh rules and ultimately a harsher existence on their people within the Imperium. For the greater good and the defence of all the Emperor has created, they dictate that each moment of a citizen’s waking life be filled with labour, prayer, and punishment. They believe that a mind left to reflect on anything else is liable to wander toward selfish thoughts and desires. To guard against the influence of the Ruinous Powers, this cannot be allowed.
There is a risk in this approach to order, for from it Chaos is easily born. The merciless attentions of Adepts, the harsh laws of Planetary Governors, and other agents of Imperial laws have turned many who would otherwise never have embraced Slaanesh. A mind overwhelmed with hardship and unrelenting burden has no time for thoughts of sin, but when a moment does come, fleeting though it may be, it stands out against the darkness of life as a burning candle of possibility. For many who stray, sin is not an act undertaken for the sake of rebelliousness, but rather as a way to find relief—relief from constant struggle, relief from dogmatic rules, relief from restraint. It is this relief that Slaanesh offers in over-generous amounts.
It is not just the downtrodden people of the Imperium who feel the crush of hardship in a bleak and foreboding galaxy. War is a constant presence across the stars. Limitless numbers of beings compete for limited resources, creating conflict and strife everywhere. There are even men who exist on the fringes of Imperial rule for whom life is little better than if they were fully under its yoke. The harshness of life in the Imperial centre is overwhelming, but it does at least offer a modicum of safety compared to frontier existence. Life is hard and cruel everywhere in the galaxy, and any chance to feel some comfort is very difficult to resist, a fact the Dark Prince exploits to his advantage at every opportunity. A bit of kindness, a moment of joy, is often all it takes to set a soul on the path of damnation.
It is not just a reprieve from suffering that lures so many toward their doom in the wicked embrace of the Lord of Delights. Comfort is but one sensation in a myriad of possibilities. What of those who, like the Aeldari of old, have experienced what it means to live a life of luxury? Removed from the harshness of daily torment that so many others suffer with, people with the time and the means often find experimentation appealing. The finest foods, the most exotic incense, musical performances from ancient peoples long extinct—those with the wealth, time, or will to do so can procure all this and more.
Obsession is not the exclusive province of the wealthy or powerful. A mind and body with no access to luxury can take delight in things that more prosperous individuals would never even notice. Something as simple as the sound of wood crackling in a fire, or the sight of drool forming patterns as it soaks into cloth, or even the taste of freshly cut fingernails can be the focus of an obsession. All that is required is a desire for more and a willingness to put aside restraints and limits. Neighbouring homes are made from plenty of wood that can burn, and the people inside them have mouths filled with drool that can be coaxed out, and fingers that have plenty of nails to eat. It is a simple thing to indulge, especially once all attention is given over to the obsession and other regards are ignored.
Regardless of the craving, though, there are limits to how far a mortal can take his obsessions. There are actions and sensations that only a dark mind aided by powerful allies can experience. With the right mutations, fingers can become ethereal tentacles able to pass through the skull and absorb the pleasurable memories of others directly. Given the right ritual devices infused with Warp energy, a bold mortal can distil the fears of a tortured captive and create an exquisite libation not found in even the richest banquet hall. In exchange for as trifling a thing as a soul, a person can be given the power to be able to heal any wound instantly, allowing him to live over and over again through the experience of cutting out his own organs. All these sensations and so very many more are open to those with the desire to embrace obsession through service to the Master of Excess.
Pleasures of the Lord of Sensation
When the Dark Prince tore a hole in reality with his coming, his nascent form knew only hunger and cruelty. He consumed billions of Aeldari souls, revelling in their horror as they greeted eternal damnation deep within his form. Quickly he moved on to other torments, not only seeking ways to devour the rest of the race that had given him life, but taking delight in the task. The sensation of consuming those who had created him was a pleasure that few can comprehend. Ever since, he has pushed himself to find new joys to fill the gaps between his soul-meals.
He takes delight in suffering and pain, and basks in the adoration of those he punishes. One such as he is not a simple being, however, and these pleasures can only go so far in sating godly desires. Through his followers, Slaanesh continually experiments with sensation. All beings, both mortal and daemonic, feel pride, want more, seek improvement, or obsess on both material and immaterial longings. The Lord of Excess gives these beings the power to claim what they seek and in so doing allows them to experience the sensation of gratification.
The cruel trick the Lord of Excess plays upon all his followers is that along with power, he gives them cravings for more. He gives them addiction to sensation. As they sate themselves and in turn become insatiable, he binds himself to his followers and he feels what they feel. Each boltgun recoil that jars the shoulder of the Chaos Space Marine firing becomes a lover’s caress. Each drug-induced dream is shared as a sumptuous meal. Each vile urge of the Dark Prince is, to a tiny degree, passed back to his followers, rewarding them for their obsessive actions and inciting them to greater deeds.
Even the other Dark Gods of Chaos can satisfy the desires of Slaanesh, through the actions of their servants. A Berzerker who kills in the name of Khorne is proud of his achievement and takes satisfaction from his gory deed, and Slaanesh feels that pride and the drive for greater glories. A spy whose actions topple a regime is rewarded for his service to Tzeentch, and delights in his stealth; Slaanesh feels that spark and increases the mortal’s need to perfect his abilities. A diseased plague victim that draws strength from Nurgle to survive rests with comfort, and Slaanesh fuels his love of indolence and serenity. In these ways, the actions and sensations of all beings can serve to feed the lustful hungers of the Perfect Prince.
Champions of the God of Excess
Across the galaxy, billions of souls give themselves over to Slaanesh through corrupt acts of devotion. Men throw themselves upon the altars of degradation or wear the skins of their loved ones in the hope that their lord takes note. For most, this is a futile effort as most acts of depravity and sin are common in a vast galaxy populated with the insane and depraved. It takes much more to attract attention and be noticed by a god of insidious excess, and true artistic achievements of pain and pleasure. To be recognised as the most devoted of wicked souls requires dedication and effort far beyond what most mortals can achieve. Those who can push themselves ever closer to perfect depravity, who can reach the greatest levels of excess, may be recognised as champions within the ranks of the followers of the Lord of Delicious Torments. For the rest, there is no glory, no reward, only common death.
Such recognition comes with a price the chosen are glad to pay. Their souls are forfeit, but the lure of possible immortality makes this price a pittance. To stand at the grand stage with the Lord of Sensation, in a life forever onwards dominated with unquenchable desires, is the one desire fulfilled.
Cult of Slaanesh
- "Take care lest your protests become tiresome. I have asked for so little! Anyone would think that I had asked you to sacrifice yourselves and your sons! And yet, in Slaanesh's boundless and pleasing mercy, I have asked only for your daughters. Surely you would not deny me my small enjoyments?"
- — Tyrell, Renegade Lord of Arden IX
Slaanesh is the youngest of the Chaos Gods and alone of all the Ruinous Powers, the Prince of Chaos is divinely beautiful. He is as seductive as only an immortal can be, disarming in his innocence, utterly beguiling in his manner and irresistibly tempting with his words. Slaanesh can assume male, female or hermaphroditic form at will and it is impossible for a mortal to look upon him without losing his or her soul and becoming a slave to the Prince of Pleasure's slightest whim. Mortals that seek charisma and fellowship turn to Slaanesh, for his gifts can make one popular and inspiring.
Poets and artists are drawn into his gaze by the promise of inspiration and fame, while even the hardiest warriors might seek the adulation of the masses and the ironclad loyalty of their followers. Yet, as one continues in the service of Slaanesh, such pleasures soon grow stale and his servants are driven on to search for ever greater sensations and ever more self-fulfillment until only the most decadent and debased of acts can stir their emotions or provide the pleasure they have come to crave in the purest form of addiction.
Seductive in the way that only an immortal being can be, Slaanesh is the Chaos God of pleasure, passion, luxury, art and indulgence. He is the manifestation of all hidden vices, cruel passions, and secret temptations that men hide fearfully in their hearts. This abject lack of restraint, and pursuit of pleasures, lures many mortals to his side, often gathering in places of carnal pleasure to pay homage and praise to their depraved lord. A notable Slaaneshi cult is the Aeldari Cult of Pleasure which partly caused the Fall and also created the Aeldari's evil cousins, the Drukhari, though those foul beings fear the Prince of Pleasure will devour their souls as much as their more noble counterparts. Slaanesh's followers seek pleasure in every experience, and quickly become inured to more mundane things, including sounds and colours; thus they frequently wear garish, brightly coloured armour or clothing which is extravagantly decorated.
The followers of the Prince of Chaos pursue ever-greater heights of experience, seeking pleasure in increasingly extreme and outrageous fashion. Slaanesh's influence often reaches into the upper echelons of hierarchies where the greatest luxury and privilege resides, corrupting nobility and the wealthiest of Imperial families. It can be seen at its most insidious among those that strive for rectitude, as if the Prince of Chaos takes particular joy in corrupting those that dare to proclaim themselves as upright souls. Even the most pious pontiff of the Ecclesiarchy must rest sometime, and when he does the unconscious desires in his dreams betray him to the Master of Carnal Joys.
The more civilised a society becomes, the more frequently seeds of corruption planted by Slaanesh sprout within it. As leisure becomes widespread, the unconscious wants of the many are led down dark paths by the subtle influence of Slaanesh. His worshippers engage in great orgies involving every vice and perversity to praise the Lord of Pleasure, where the death of many through exhaustion and over-stimulation is taken to be a sign of the Prince's favour. His devotees say that any extremity of sensation or emotion can open communion with Slaanesh, for the echoes of his birth scream reside in every mortal soul. They pursue a rapturous, tortured, orgasmic drug-fuelled state of hyper-sensuality, their souls burning bright and hot like shooting stars as they plunge ever deeper into the psychic maelstrom that is Slaanesh.
Countless worlds have fallen into complete anarchy when Slaaneshi pleasure cults became so widespread that all order was lost in an insane frenzy of self-gratification. On many, the Fall of the Aeldari is reenacted in microcosm as society collapses and the howling winds of Chaos ravage the world through the minds of its psykers. The handful of gibbering survivors that are sometimes left behind are so changed by the experience that they can no longer be called in any sense mortal or sane. Certain Inquisitors of the Imperium have cultivated a particular loathing of the followers of Slaanesh for the corruption they spread so readily through the God-Emperor's mortal realm. Their efforts to suppress the pursuit of pleasure inevitably brings an ever-widening wide circle of recidivists, smugglers, criminals, and black marketers into contact with Slaanesh's mortal adherents.
Servants of Slaanesh, by their incantations, conjuration and accursed crafts, have seduced, depraved and corrupted both Man and Beast, bringing them low in the sight of others. Numberless are their enormities and horrid offences; heinous and wicked their every action. Revelling in perversity and debasement, twisted in mind and body, these insidious servitors of the Pleasure Lord take delight in all manner of abominable and unclean deeds. The denizens of Slaanesh spread the depravity of Chaos to the unwary and uncaring with heretical crimes that cry out against nature and the true order of the world.
Amassed on the field of battle, the electric colours of their contorted forms offend the eye as their diseased lewdness offends the mind. Half-bared torsos of pink and blue boast of unreined lust; others display limbs of glistening greens and yellows -- pale shades of corruption which belie the darkness they hide inside. They have abandoned the last vestiges of true decency and sacrificed their humanity to serve the Dark Power of the Master of Carnal Joys and spread his corruption amongst the innocent.
Worshippers of Slaanesh are known for their complete lack of fear, as they see even losing a battle or their own lives as a new experience to be enjoyed. While not interested in the dirty warfare of Khorne's narrow-minded berserkers, Slaanesh does enjoy combat of the artistic sort, taking pleasure in watching extremely talented gladiator battles, where the act of fighting is transformed from a means to an end into an art form all its own. Slaanesh bestows his favour upon any who act on an interest for an art, whether the art is that of combat, of painting, of poetry or of passion. The favour of Slaanesh will aid the artist in creating, amplifying everything created to immeasurable levels, while at the same time corrupting them indescribably, such that any mortals who look on them are at once both entranced and terrified.
The Mark of Slaanesh combines the conventional human symbology for male and female, although it is seldom worn openly by his followers. In its place they often wear items of jewellery bearing erotic motifs. Followers dress in robes which are often opened to leave the right side of the chest uncovered, a requirement of many of the rituals involved in his worship. Pastel and electric shades are the chief colours, although white is often used as well. These colours are also sometimes carried over into everyday wear, although they may be modified to fit in with current fashions. Regardless of any other considerations, all Slaaneshi followers wear garb of sensuously high quality. Slaanesh is served uniquely by the Chaos Space Marines of the Emperor's Children Traitor Legion, hedonistic psychopaths who wield unique sonic weaponry in battle.
While Khorne is a frightful and terrible warrior, Tzeentch's sorcery forces his form to defy mortal logic, and Nurgle is the ultimate embodiment of his own decaying creations, Slaanesh alone is divinely beautiful. In physical form, Slaanesh is perfection. A long-limbed, elegant, androgynous figure with a haunting, almost frightening beauty, Slaanesh's appearance depends more on the observer than the observed, changing eagerly to please and seduce the eye of the beholder. Depictions of Slaanesh show it as an androgynous or hermaphroditic being of unearthly, unnatural and disturbing beauty. Two pairs of slender horns rise from the god's flowing golden hair. Slaanesh is often depicted wearing luxuriantly lined, form-fitting armour and bearing a jade sceptre that is said to be his greatest treasure. Rumor amongst his cultists says that to look upon Slaanesh is to forfeit your very soul to his every whim.
Slaanesh is said to have little interest in the other Chaos Powers, being too caught up in his own pleasures to be interested in alliances or co-operation. However, the followers of Khorne with their boorish beliefs in bloodshed for its own sake are particular enemies. Cults dedicated to Khorne and Slaanesh clash frequently in the mortal realm just as their daemonic legions are believed to battle endlessly in the Realm of Chaos. This relationship has an effect upon the nature of the armies dedicated to either God. Slaanesh's comparative weakness in direct confrontations is balanced by his endless capacity for corruption, often even leading Khorne's faithful astray through their own battle lust.
A widespread and technologically advanced conflict is particularly vulnerable to Slaanesh's influence as a single well-placed convert can have the means to wreck a fleet or destroy an entire city. Wherever Khorne's followers become most strident those of Slaanesh can be found working subtly in the background to bring about their opponents' downfall. While he is the youngest of the major Chaos Gods, Slaanesh is still a crucial player in the incomprehensible Great Game that they play for dominance. Although he cannot yet hold his own against any one other major Chaos God, his support in an alliance is often enough to swing the balance, allowing Slaanesh considerably more influence than his absolute level of power would otherwise allow.
Of all the complexities of the Great Game, the most compelling is perhaps the relationship between Slaanesh and his brother gods. None can amplify Khorne's fury like the Lord of Excess, whose earthly luxuries and lusts defy the Blood God's desire for indiscriminate slaughter. The mere mention of Slaanesh or his schemes is enough to cause volcanoes to erupt across the Blood God's domain in the Realm of Chaos. Though Khorne is the only god openly hostile to the Dark Prince, Nurgle and Tzeentch are also ill at ease in his presence, despite the fact that the most typical hierarchy of power between the four Chaos Gods sees Slaanesh at the bottom. Even they feel the magnetic pull of his matchless charisma, and are both attracted and repelled by their younger brother.
This is due, in part, to the fact that all the Chaos Gods embody the excess for which Slaanesh is known: Khorne with his bloodlust, Tzeentch with his scheming, and Nurgle with his spreading of plague. Each is an obsession that the Dark Prince can turn to his will with merely a whispered promise. Lurking deep within the psyche of each of his brothers is the suspicion that the influence of the Dark Prince is rapidly growing, and that Slaanesh will perhaps one day eclipse them all in strength. With this thought in mind, any alliance of convenience with Slaanesh is especially short-lived; while this could be attributed to simple distrust of one who changes sides at a whim, there is an argument that the Dark Prince's rivals fear the secret power he holds over them.
Palace of Slaanesh
- "I prepared to enter his realm, expecting to encounter guardians who would seek to tear into me with talons and fangs. At the least I assumed I would find bastions to bar my progress. I found none. The land before me was open and pristine. Its fields shimmered like gold and its forests bore fruits of sapphires and emeralds. I took a step into this place and instantly knew I was lost just as surely as if I had been impaled on a debtor’s spike."
- — From the heretical tome The Confessions of Cardinal Wogalta
Slaanesh is unique among his brother-gods. He does not try to keep others out. He invites them in. Through a series of tests, he defends his gleaming palace against assault. Tales such as that of the Heretic Cardinal describe this Palace of Pleasure as sitting at the centre of the Pain Master’s empire, surrounded by six other domains arranged in concentric rings. Each ring holds different temptations for those who wander through it, imploring them to succumb to the pleasures it offers.
Temptation is a weapon just as powerful as a Chainsword or Bolter. Traps can be sprung to eliminate the weak and dim. The bodies of those who succumb to the myriad temptations of the Dark Prince's realm are consumed by the land itself, or turned into statues that beautify the view for others. The souls of these lost and damned unfortunates feed Slaanesh's insatiable hunger. He invites them in so that they might sustain him and his realm. Those who pass early tests may catch Slaanesh’s eye, giving him some amusement for a time as he watches them resist, only to inevitably lose themselves to one seduction or another. Those rare few who make it to the outer walls of the Palace of Pleasure may be graced by a visit from the Lord of Excess himself. None have ever made it into the Palace itself unless Slaanesh wished it, for all who have looked upon his perfection have fallen to their knees and given themselves over, mind, body, and soul, to his Dark Majesty.
Excess of Riches
The Ecclesiarchy use stories of wayward souls like the Heretic Cardinal to try to warn their servants of the dangers of temptation, drawing from the crazed descriptions of the Dark Prince’s domains and minions that are related in such tales. It matters not if these accounts have any basis in real experience or if they are purely mad ravings brought on by fever or drugs. Real or imagined, they are powerful tales for protecting the simpleminded from, among other things, dreams of wealth and the pleasures it can buy.
When day turns to night and the golden hues are replaced by soft blue, the sky shimmers ceaselessly. The heavens are filled with diamonds that seem as if they could be plucked from their place in the sky if one could but reach just a little further. Indeed, many try to do just that, forgetting themselves as they do, not paying attention to their surroundings. Higher and higher they reach, climbing trees made of pure gold, even leaping from the boughs, only to plummet back to the ground, fracturing skulls and rupturing organs when they crash. The end comes to them then, but it is a joyous one, for in their minds they see only handfuls of glittering jewels. It is a temporary joy, however. In exchange for a fleeting moment of false elation, they forfeit their immortal souls.
Scholars of the Ruinous Powers collate tales of the impossible realms of Pleasure and Pain, and often describe the first of Slaanesh's treacherous domains as confronting visitors with a spectacle of riches beyond the wildest dreams of even the most avaricious merchants. They tell of trees, grass, and other plants made from living gold. Gentle breezes cause the grass to shimmer like the waters of an ocean under a noon sun. As the wind passes over the blades of grass and through the branches and leaves of the trees, it takes on a voice that beckons all to take as much as they want and more. The mountains that rise up on the horizon reflect a glorious warm light, letting all who see them know that they too are formed from gold.
Pathways through the fields are paved with cobblestones not of granite or shale, but of ruby and emerald. At the edges of the paths, loose gemstones and gold nuggets sit, waiting for anyone to pick them up and slip them in a pouch. There is always room for one more glittering stone, one more pebble of gold. Wandering souls ensnared by this domain would do well to recall the legends that say that if those who lined their pockets with these treasures were able to take their eyes off the objects of their desire, they would note that not all they see was shining. Dull bits of bone and other remains are plentiful here as well. These are all that is left of those who filled their pockets, pouches, sleeves, and boots with so much gold that they collapsed under the weight of it. Unwilling or unable to let the riches go, they died where they fell, smiles on their faces despite their impending ends.
Excess of Sustenance
Mad ravings from those who claim to have seen into the beyond say that if an intruder is able to pass through the golden fields without succumbing to greed, he is next confronted with a lake so vast, its shorelines fades to nothing in the distance. The only other land to be seen is a smattering of pale islands, connected to each other by a network of bridges. The finest wine serves as water in this lake but no cups wait to be filled. The bouquet of the wine is strong, pleasant, and enticing. Words from fiery sermons begin to fade in the face of such serenity. Most visitors take very little time before they give up on the idea of cups and fall to their knees to drink directly from the lake. Heads swimming with delightful intoxication, many continue to drink until they slip into the waters and sink below the surface, never to be seen again.
Those who are able to lift their heads from the wine cast their gaze more closely on the islands and see them for what they are -- hunched giants holding aloft great tables heaped with extravagant feasts. Exotic fruits, rich breads, and meats of every kind are present. Swimming to these islands is perilous, and many whose senses have become wine-addled sink beneath the waves, joining the countless others who have slipped beneath the carmine liquid. For the ones that make it, the reward is astonishing.
Each bite is better than the finest meal they have ever experienced. Each morsel is a decadent delight for the tongue. Faster and faster the wayward consume the food. The voracious eater forces handful after handful down his throat. In his blind need to consume, he does not notice that some of the meat comes from carcasses with an all-too-familiar form. Even if he were to somehow stop forcing food into his own stomach long enough to recognise the fate that awaits him, he could not stop. Given completely over to gluttonous indulgence, the mortal only stops eating when his body fails and he finally collapses into the feast, awaiting the next hungry diner.
Excess of Bodily Delights
There is perhaps no easier way to corrupt a mortal than to appeal to his carnal instincts. Entire Imperial libraries are filled with tales of lurid corruption on one side and manuals with instructions for fighting it on the other. In his heart, a Preacher knows that his congregation is most likely to fall because of the indulgences of lascivious desire than from any other temptation. The Dark Prince surely knows this as well, and it is why the legends say he fills the third ring of his domain with visions, scents, and experiences that overload the mind and body of anyone who makes it this far.
Rich fields of pleasingly textured grasses fill this ring, lit with teasing, golden hues. Soft tents made of spun dream-threads reflect visions gleaned from the deep subconscious of those who gaze upon them, forming sinuous corridors so narrow that a traveller cannot help but brush up against them and feel their cloying embrace. From one vista to the next, visitors travel through a series of decadent tableaus, each more twisted and inviting than the one before it.
The crude flesh dens of the underhives or the elegant shadowed parlours of the spires cannot present anything close to what the Lord of Endless Delights offers. Daemon and mortal bodies entwine until they become one. Forms so beautiful they are difficult to look at lie couchant, beckoning. Resisting is all but impossible.
The sights and sounds of the offered pleasures are sufficient to enthrall most who see and hear them. The assault on the senses does not end with these things, though. The air hangs heavy with an intoxicating musk so rich and pervasive that it penetrates the flesh of all who pass through it, quickening the heart and opening the senses further than thought possible.
Thus stimulated, flesh becomes hyper sensitive to even the most gentle breath of air or tender caress. Scents waft from braziers in which smoulder the embers of an incense that triggers memories of amorous encounters of the past. A mortal in this state is easy prey for the purveyors of delights that surround them. Closing in on their now-willing victims, Daemonettes offer comforts with softly voluptuous flesh, kisses from razor-fanged mouths, and embraces from piercing claws.
Excess of Adoration
Within the ranks of the militaries of every race, talk of glory is common. Troops are motivated to achieve more than they believe they can by speeches from commanders who exhort the ranks onward to glorious victory. When battles are won, the returning heroes are held high and showered with praise and adoration. This effect on the hero can be profound. More is possible, he thinks. More can be achieved. More glory can be his. Insidiously, this can also lead to fears of letting it all slip away, of failure and derision. In these thoughts, a path to Slaanesh is laid at the feet of the hero.
This path is not restricted to the military. Leaders of government, churches, and cults all seek approval as well. Even fathers want their children to look up to them. The path described in the Heretic Cardinal’s confession is crowded with wayward souls—a path that leads to the fourth circle of The Dark Prince’s domain.
For each visitor here, the experience is unique, though there are commonalities for many. Massed throngs may greet a soldier, cheering his name and erecting statues in his honour. Planetary Governors may see themselves establishing such complete order that they gain control of an entire system. Whatever the scenario presented to him, the victim of these visions finds it incredibly difficult to pull himself out of the dream. Unlike the dreams experienced when a person sleeps, these illusions do nothing to seem impossible. A soldier has seen others elevated and has been trained for acts of glory. Histories are filled with tales of governors who have carved out greater realms among the stars. These and more offer solidity to the visions encountered, drawing the dreamer farther and farther into illusionary depths.
Only self-doubt gnaws at some, and these are the ones who break free. When they do, the dream shatters, revealing, if only for an instant, a vast plain of black soot. Upon it heaps of bones are buried beneath the bodies of millions of others, standing and lying in the burned ashes, still trapped in their individual delusions. The unsettling image flashes by in an instant and the traveller is confronted by the traps of the next circle.
Excess of Achievement
When the Corpse-god of the Imperium created the Space Marines, legend has that he faced the difficult task of engineering a warrior that was eager to serve him through great deeds of heroism and by achieving the impossible in his name. At the same time, these soldiers needed to be humble enough to realise that victory earned in the name of the Emperor is not personal, that they are simply weapons to be wielded in his hands, unquestioning and obedient. As is known to those who have studied those ancient times, he failed. Legions rebelled, led by prideful Primarchs who questioned the Emperor’s plans and thought they could do better. All the while, the Honey-Tongued Master whispered encouragement in their ears, as he does to all visitors to the fifth domain, if the blasphemous tales are to be believed.
What appears to be a grand forest, with dense clusters of majestic trees that house secluded glades is, of course, a trap. The sound baffling effect of the trees puts the mind in an introspective position. The long walk gives it time to wander. The glades are inviting and serene. In the centre of each glade is a perfectly still pool that invites the traveller to sit and reflect upon his thoughts. As he stares into the pool, he recalls his accomplishments and dwells on what more he could achieve. Sitting there lost in thought, the undergrowth of the glade begins to creep in on him. Thorny branches reach toward him. Strangling vines descend from the trees and gently coil around his neck.
As he closes his eyes and imagines himself striking down legendary foes, conquering galaxy-spanning civilisations, or negotiating heavily favourable Warrants of Trade, the waters of the pool rise up and take the shape of whatever represents defeat for the dreamer. Sensing something is amiss, the ensnared visitor opens his eyes and is confronted by a vision of shame and defeat just before the branches and vines rip at his flesh and choke the air from his lungs. The sound of his final scream, stifled by a lack of air, is a delight to the Prince of Painful Raptures.
An incredibly small number of travellers resist the temptation to dream and are spared the torment of confronting their failings. They rise, exhausted by their trials, and pass into the sixth and final realm that stands between them and the Palace of Pleasure.
Excess of Repose
Life in the 41st Millennium is hard, short, and brutal. For many, each day is a struggle to simply survive to the end of the day. Even races that do not suffer the oppressive yoke of Imperial rule are not without burdens. The Aeldari, for example, must ensure that their Craftworlds are supplied and ready to repel invaders, all the while haunted by the knowledge of the terrible fate that can await them should their souls fall to the Lord of Pain. Still, bodies need rest. Surely any wanderer who has made it to the last of Slaanesh’s defensive rings must be weary, and especially deserving of repose, even if only for a moment.
Upon emerging from the delightful torments of the previous five domains, anyone who could resist the seduction placed before them at this point would surely become legend. Awaiting the beleaguered traveller, say the whispers of those depraved wretches languishing in perfumed palaces and pleasure dens, is a vision of sublime peace. All struggle is surely a thing of the past. All torment a distant memory. Here is a beach of softest sand, warmed by the rays of a golden sun. Gentle breezes push scattered clouds through a perfect azure sky.
Music is carried on those same breezes, soothing the spirit. The ground itself rises up and caresses the body of the weary wanderer. Cherubs begin to remove armour plates and burdensome belongings. Coalescing from the salted mists of the waves that break upon the shore, figures with placid features and soothing hands approach and rub tired muscles. The memories of an arduous journey fade into nothingness. Peace is the wanderer’s at last.
It is peace eternal if the will is not strong enough to snap consciousness back to reality. Determination sends the placid apparitions screaming back to the seas. Resolve collects displaced armour and other possessions. Herculean effort forces the few strongest invaders to rise up and approach the final destination. The Palace of Pleasure lies ahead, and surely any who could pass through the six trials is prepared for what awaits.
Palace of Pleasure
A determined warrior, Daemon or mortal, who survived the predations of the six circles and their inhabitants would naturally assume that the Palace of Pleasure, Slaanesh's residence and seat of power, would be defended with legions of Daemonettes and Fiends. Surely his Keepers of Secrets would confront any invader that made it to the Dark Prince’s abode. Thick walls must surround the grounds and towers of his demesne.
Slaanesh has no need of such defences, however. Any invading force, from a lone Space Marine, to legions of Bloodletters, would find that the only guardians present would be statues of the finest alabaster and perfectly shaped trees. Confused as these warriors might be, nothing could prepare them for the presence of the master of the realm. As the invaders contemplate what they perceive as a lack of defence, the air stills.
Unseen choirs sing, and ears weep at the unholy harmonies. A god emerges from his palace. Striding confidently toward the awestruck invaders, the Dark Prince smiles. It is enough to completely disarm any who stand in his presence. They are lost, and they care little of the fact. This, the tales say, is why there are no defensive walls or Daemonic hordes. There is simply no need. Resistance in the face of perfection is not a possibility.
What becomes of those thus ensnared is beyond speculation and more the subject of fevered dreams. Not one soul has trod upon the grounds of the Palace of Pleasure and returned to tell the tale. Scholars of the obscene and decadent debate not only the fate of those who get this far, but even the very structure of the grounds and the palace itself. There being no firsthand accounts, who can say for sure what form the citadel takes? Some say the palace is a single humble dwelling, making the appearance of the Lord of Obsession even more grand in comparison. Other say it is the most opulent structure ever conceived, stretching for kilometres in every direction, including upward.
Most agree that it must be magnificent. A god of excess and perfection must have a domicile to match. If this is correct, then the spires of gold and marble surely ring an inner courtyard wherein statues of exquisite realism are placed. These statues might be the final form of those who succumbed to the disarming allure of Slaanesh. If so, then their faces would bear a countenance of absolute joy. These statues would capture forever the perfect moment of grace that one would surely feel in the presence of perfection.
It may be that the only inhabitant of the Palace of Pleasure is Slaanesh himself. Perhaps no Daemons of any kind are required to embellish his inner sanctum. Or it may be that the palace is filled with life, a den of iniquity where decadence unrivalled is played out eternally. Regardless, it is the seat of power for the Lord of Pleasure, the Master of Painful Delights, the God of Obsession. It is home to Slaanesh.
Slaanesh and the AeldariThe birth of Slaanesh at the end of the period that Imperial historians call the Age of Strife in the early 30th Millennium marked the downfall of the Aeldari, who refer to Slaanesh in the feminine form as "She Who Thirsts," an epitaph that refers to Slaanesh's constant hunger for their souls.
The Aeldari's most populous homeworlds were destroyed by the realspace shock wave of the Prince of Pleasure's birth during what they call The Fall, along with many of the Craftworlds created by the most forward-seeing among them to escape this cataclysm of their own making. But the destruction of their homes and the death of their brethren was not the only disaster for the Aeldari. Slaanesh proceeded to combat the very gods of the Aeldari in the Warp, slaying all but three: Khaine, Cegorach, and Isha, who is held captive in the decaying Garden of Nurgle.
Born from the dark side of the very essence of Aeldari being, Slaanesh has fed on that race ever since. When most Aeldari die, if no Soulstone is present to receive their soul, it is consumed by Slaanesh in the Warp. The Aeldari have taken many steps to defend themselves against the attacks of Slaanesh, including a strict code of "Paths" or ways of studying a particular aspect of life or occupation to avoid unbridled seeking of pleasure or knowledge, and Spirit Stones that shield the souls of the fallen against the predations of Slaanesh.
The enigmatic sect of Aeldari called the Harlequins go through what is known only as "The Ritual" to free themselves from this fate, and it is believed they are then under the protection of Cegorach or "The Laughing God" or "The Great Harlequin" (also a title used for a high ranking leader of the Harlequins). The even rarer beings known as the Solitaire, who are alone in their ability to play Slaanesh in the most rare of the Harlequins' dances, are said to already belong to Slaanesh. For this they are considered cursed, although it is also said that when a Solitaire dies, Cegorach will emerge from the Webway to fight Slaanesh for his or her soul.
The sadistic Drukhari do not protect themselves against Slaanesh, and their souls are devoured by Chaos even while they live. Unlike the Craftworld Aeldari, they continued the hedonistic and sadistic acts in the Aeldari domains of the Webway that brought about the creation of Slaanesh, and so the Dark Prince can draw upon their life forces in the Warp even while they are alive.
To slow the drain of their souls by the Prince of Chaos and embrace immortality as the only defence against the predations of She Who Thirsts, the Drukhari drink the souls of others, thus prolonging their lives and requiring their constant slave raids across the galaxy.
- "Can we play with him, master? He seems so unhappy. Let us help him smile. Please? Or at least let us carve one on his face when he stops screaming."
- — Azeila, Alluress of Slaanesh
Being by far the youngest of the Dark Gods, the daemon host of Slaanesh still pales in comparison to those of the other Ruinous Powers. However, the numbers of Slaaneshi daemons grow with every passing moment and they are not to be taken lightly. The daemons of Slaanesh possess some elements of the perverse and unnatural beauty of their master, a beauty that provokes loathing and desire in equal measure. Their very presence evokes a tide of sensuality strong enough to drown a living soul, while their seductive promises can enslave even the stoutest heart. Their physical forms are both beguiling and monstrous, fairness and foulness intermingling to blast the soul of the viewer with their monstrous dichotomy:
- Daemonettes - Known as the Maidens of Ecstasy, these feminine-looking Lesser Daemons' seductive bodies are a startling contrast to their grotesque claws. They are lightning quick, and fearful foes in hand-to-hand combat. They serve as courtiers and courtesans in the Palace of Pleasure, created to fulfill Slaanesh's every passing whim. They fill Slaanesh's throne room, lounging upon silken cushions, gossiping endlessly as they scheme to earn greater favour from their willful master. They also serve as their master's warriors and messengers beyond his realm.
- Seekers of Slaanesh - Seekers of Slaanesh form the vanguard of the Dark Prince's legions, Daemonettes who ride ahead on the disturbingly graceful daemonic mounts known as Steeds of Slaanesh.
- Steeds of Slaanesh - The Steeds of Slaanesh are lithe, bipedal, smooth-skinned creatures with prehensile tongues, vaguely resembling seahorses. Their heads have long tubular snouts that contain their long, poisonous tongue. Steeds of Slaanesh represent the favoured means of transportation for Slaanesh's mortal chosen.
- Fiends of Slaanesh - A Fiend of Slaanesh is a bizarre daemon, appearing as an unholy mixture of creatures, chimerical beings from Warp-induced nightmares given physical shape. These hybrid creatures combine reptilian, insectoid and anthropomorphic characteristics. It has a segmented body, a tail covered in fine scales, and two pairs of humanoid legs that end in cloven hooves. Each Fiend also has a pair of claw-tipped, gangly arms that it commonly uses as front legs. A Fiend does not have the necessary intelligence to apply these arms as grasping appendages, although it can employ them as weapons to deadly effect.
- Lady of the Voids - Schools of daemons always probe an Imperial Warp-traveling voidship's Gellar Field, hoping to find a weak spot, but a Lady of the Voids has the dreaded power of worming its way directly into an Astropath's mind -- using the latter as a conduit which enables this daemon to manifest itself within the ship, emerging as a conglomerate of crustacean arms and feminine bodies, thus raining madness down upon the unsuspecting crew.
- Keepers of Secrets - These are the mighty Greater Daemons of Slaanesh, huge and indescribable creatures whose very presence is capable of bringing the bravest warrior to his knees in anguish and ecstasy. They are the closest companions and servants of the Lord of Excess. They typically have four arms -- two which end with human-like hands, and two tipped with large crab-like claws decorated with brightly coloured lacquers. A Keeper of Secrets is a very powerful foe in close combat.
- Ruination of Imperfect Beauty - Vaguely humanoid daemons that hide their bloated body and arthropodal claws behind a seductive illusion. They feed on the emotions felt by men and women who strive to achieve perfection, and uses its cruel cunning to push them on the brink of success before manifesting itself and slaughtering its victims.
- The Masque of Slaanesh - The Masque of Slaanesh was once the most favoured of the Daemonettes, serving as the Dark Prince's chief handmaiden. Yet for all of Slaanesh's indulgence, the Masque was to become the most despised of all the Prince of Pleasure's servants. Due to an unfortunate series of events, the Masque was cast aside by her master, condemned as a traitor and cursed forevermore. It was in this very moment that her life was to change as she was cursed to forever dance, unable to rest her weary limbs.
The Legions of Excess
Slaanesh's Legions of Excess strike with a sinuous grace, hitting the foe in a whirling blur of lithe and bladed limbs. As they do so they are at once horrific and alluring, mesmerising and loathsome. Slaanesh's daemonic legions vary in composition and purpose, but all desire to spread their lord's corruption.
Slaanesh uses temptation and the promise of pleasures to seduce mortals and daemons alike, and thus are many brought into submission by the Dark Prince. These insidious tactics take time, however, and often a less subtle approach is required to fulfil Slaanesh's whims. When the souls of mortals need to be forcibly cut from their bodies rather than given willingly, or a territory within the Immaterium must be fought over, Slaanesh calls upon his daemonic armies -- the Legions of Excess. Although Slaanesh's forces cannot match the raw power of Khorne's cohorts, the resiliency of Nurgle's Tallybands, or the eldritch might of Tzeentch's hosts, they are possessed of a speed and lethality that is unequalled in the Immaterium and realspace both.
A god of whims and bizarre fancies, the Dark Prince encourages such personal fulfilment in his generals, the Keepers of Secrets -- the dark heart of a Legion of Excess. There are also noted instances of Legions of Excess being led by Daemon Princes, for Slaanesh lauds the greatest of his once-mortal champions perhaps more so than any of his brothers. While some of the Dark Prince's generals are obsessive in commanding a single type of daemonic legion, the majority will change formations as mood or need suits them.
Each type of Legion of Excess varies greatly in both composition and the tactics they employ. The Flayer Legions are given over to wanton destruction, and their many Daemonettes take great pleasure in the act. The Hunter Legions are masters of the quick kill, and are built primarily around fast-moving cavalry and chariots; they are ideal for tracking down specific quarry, for Slaanesh always collects his due. The flamboyant Glamiatrix Legions are the most sorcerous, relying heavily upon psychic powers and mesmerism. The Terror Legions are a shock force, specialising in elaborate, gory displays of combat; they are infamous for unleashing a barrage upon the senses that can overwhelm weak-willed enemies. The Legions of Eternal Punishments have no speciality, but rather call upon all the damnations of Slaanesh, intermixing facets of magics and temptation alongside their finely honed battle-craft.
Perhaps strangest of all the Legions of Excess, however, are the Courante Legions. To them, battle is but a dance; their garish daemons whirl about one another as they slay the foe in bizarrely choreographed manoeuvres. While they lack the speed and pursuit of the other types of Legion of Excess, the elegance and creativity with which each kill is carried out often capture the favour of their divine master in a way that more practical assaults could never hope to emulate.
Beneath the Keepers of Secrets in hierarchy are the Heralds of Slaanesh or Daemon Princes that each lead one of the legion's subunits, known as "cavalcades." Of these formations there are six in total in each legion, for that is the sacred number most often associated with Slaanesh. The main body of troops in most cavalcades are the Lesser Daemons known as Daemonettes, the handmaidens of the Lord of Pleasure. The cavalcades of those legions with a predilection for speed or hitting power, such as Hunter or Terror Legions, will often include a large number of Seeker cavalry, Seeker Chariots and Hellflayers in support of Daemonette packs. Any of the legion types can include the beasts known as Fiends, but they appear in greatest numbers in Glamiatrix and Terror Legions, and are infrequent in Courante Legions.
Those corrupted by Slaanesh at first experience every sensation and new situation with an unbridled sense of wonder and flush of pleasure, feeling every aspect of life as if through new eyes tinted with wonder. But as time goes on, it requires ever more extremes of sensation to feel the same bursts of pleasure, soon leading to a need to be constantly surrounded by extremes of sound or garish colour, particularly bright pinks and purples.
In time, moral degeneration sets in as an individual corrupted by the Prince of Chaos engages in only the most extreme behaviours, such as sadistic murder or highly degrading sexual practices in order to feel the enhanced pleasure offered by Slaanesh. By this point, an individual is usually so beholden to the Chaos God that he or she will begin to be granted mutational "gifts" by the Dark Prince intended to enhance their pleasure or physical "perfection."
Groups that have been knowingly or unwittingly corrupted by Slaanesh often engage in radical body modifications using makeup or clothing or even begin to surgically alter themselves if the technology is available, intending to increase their "perfection" or ability to experience pleasure with every sensation. Ultimately, even death itself becomes an experience of immense pleasure, both dealing it out to others and in the end, undergoing it oneself, a final moment of orgasmic pleasure before the soul is absorbed by Slaanesh in the Immaterium.
The enhanced pleasures and sensations experienced by every soul corrupted by Slaanesh, and all the corrupt things they do to service this need for pleasure, strengthen the Dark Prince in the Warp, where the psychic emanations of such deeds feed the young Chaos God's power.
- Black Crusade: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 11, 15-17, 24-25, 31-32, 82, 85-86, 217-218, 299-300, 322-323, 336, 339, 353, 356, 359, 371, 373
- Black Crusade: Tome of Excess (RPG), pp. 6-12, 19-20
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (8th Edition), pp. 22-25, 65
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (6th Edition), pp. 6-17, 53
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (4th Edition), pp. 26, 29
- Codex: Grey Knights (5th Edition), pg. 14
- Codex: Tyranids (5th Edition), pg. 58
- Dark Heresy: Creatures Anathema (RPG), pp. 123-124
- Dark Heresy: Daemon Hunter (RPG), pg. 20
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pp. 79-80
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos, pp. 104-105
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions
- Imperial Armour - Apocalypse, pg. 97
- Imperial Armour - Update (2006)
- Index Astartes I, "Children of the Emperor - The Emperor's Children Space Marine Legion"
- Liber Chaotica: Slaanesh
- Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness, pp. 16, 30-34
- Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned, pp. 80, 176-177
- The Art of Warhammer 40,000
- Warhammer 40,000: Battle Missions, pg. 17
- White Dwarf 368 (UK), "New Release," "The Armour of Contempt," "Daemonic Reinforcements," "The Power of the Warp," "Chaos Daemons," pp. 5, 9, 18, 27, 31, 36-37
- White Dwarf 341, "Scions of the Dark Gods," pp. 14-29
- White Dwarf 274 (UK), "Index Malleus: Infernal Threat -- An Investigation into the Foul Daemons of the Warp", by Phil Kelly & Graham McNeill, pp. 88-93
- White Dwarf 291 (US), "Innocence Lost: John Thompson's Emperor's Children"
- White Dwarf 255 (US), "Index Astartes First Founding: Children of the Emperor"
- White Dwarf 150 (US), "'Eavy Metal: Epic Daemons - Fulgrim: Primarch of Slaanesh", pp. 68-69
- Fulgrim (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- The Primarchs (Anthology), ""The Reflection Crack'd" by Graham McNeill
- Angel Exterminatus (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- What Price Victory? (Anthology), "The Beguiling" by Sandy Mitchell
- Forgeworld - Keeper of Secrets, Greater Daemon of Slaanesh
- Warhammer Community - Grim Dark Corners: The Fall of the Aeldari and the Birth of Slaanesh
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