Ulthanesh, also known as Ulthanash, is a folk hero of Aeldari Mythology, a key figure in the tale of Eldanesh, considered the greatest mortal hero of the Aeldari race. Originally a member of the House of Eldanesh, which was comprised of the first members of the Aeldari species created by their gods, Ulthanesh aided Eldanesh in the completion of the tasks that marked the key moments in the Aeldari's early mythic history.
The two heroes eventually had a falling out and became rivals, with Ulthanash gathering a band of followers to himself who founded the House of Ulthanesh. Descendants of Ulthanesh amongst the population of the Asuryani Craftworlds today are said to still belong to the House of Ulthanesh and are called "Ulthanar." They have a longstanding rivalry with those Aeldari who are descended from Eldanesh, the "Eldanar."
The Tragedy of Eldanesh and Ulthanesh is one of the longest and oldest tales amongst the Aeldari. Due to the complexity of the Aeldari Lexicon, and the extreme reluctance of the Aeldari to speak of their past (or even speak at all) to those they consider "lesser" races, it has never been fully translated into Imperial Gothic. The following text is but an interpretative synopsis of the tale.
Legends say that in the first days of the galaxy, the ruler of the Aeldari pantheon of gods, Asuryan, granted Eldanesh and the other Aeldari the gift of life. The mightiest of the Aeldari gods breathed life into the bodies of all future Aeldari, and was satisfied, but his creations were not. Eldanesh saw the emptiness of the void where only the Aeldari lived, and despaired. Seeing his sadness, the goddess of fertility, Isha, shed a tear for Eldanesh and let it drop upon the material world. It is said by the Aeldari that all other life in the galaxy sprang from Isha's tear, and that the Aeldari rejoiced, for they were no longer alone.
However, new life across the galaxy also meant new threats for the Aeldari race, and they were forced to fend for themselves. Eldanesh rallied his people around him, becoming the first Lord of the Aeldari, and faced the armies of beings known as the Hresh-selain in the Aeldari Lexicon. After many ferocious but inconclusive battles, Eldanesh allied with Ulthanesh, the second-greatest warrior of the Aeldari and the mighty lord of his own noble house, and together the two Aeldari heroes and their people were victorious over the Hresh-selain.
Later, the two collaborated again to fight off the living nightmares known as the Autochtinii. However, their mortal valour proved insufficient, and they only managed to prevail with the help of Kaela Mensha Khaine. It is unclear whether the Aeldari heroes beseeched the help of their God of War and Strife, or if Khaine readily came to the help of his brother Asuryan's creations, but his alliance with the mortal heroes would have terrible consequences.
By accepting the help of Khaela Mensha Khaine, Eldanesh and Ulthanesh had become the first of what would only much later be recognised by the Aeldari of the Craftworlds as Exarchs. Strife had become second nature to them, and soon, Eldanesh's relationship with Ulthanesh became strained. Ulthanesh's ambition and Eldanesh's will always were at odds, but they found themselves unable to reconcile, and Eldanesh ultimately banished his friend into the desert.
Meditating for a long time over the wrongs of the universe and the dishonour visited upon him by Eldanesh, Ulthanesh attempted to recentre his being and find in himself the strength to accept the situation. Yet Kaela Mensha Khaine would not be denied his spoils of conflict: cutting off one of his fingers, the God of War and Strife shaped it in the form of a scorpion and sent it to sting Ulthanesh, knowing that if Ulthanesh died during his exile, the Aeldari would soon know civil war.
Unexpectedly, Ulthanesh survived, and Khaine's plans were almost brought low. But the near-death experience made Ulthanesh realise that he did not need the help of Eldanesh, nor his protection. Returning to his people, he founded the separate House of Ulthanesh and to Khaine's great delight, heralded the age of division for the Aeldari.
Embittered by what he saw as his friend's betrayal, Eldanesh retreated into his role as protector of the Aeldari, and with Khaine still at his side, continued to vanquish their foes. Drunk on the power the mortal granted him through his many victories, Khaine met with Eldanesh in person and promised him not only many more great victories but lordship over all mortal life if only he would abandon the service of Asuryan and swear an oath of loyalty to the God of War and Strife.
Horrified by what he was becoming, and caring more for a peaceful future for his people than an eternity of slaughter, Eldanesh refused Khaine's offer. Enraged that his careful plan for total dominion was falling apart, Khaine struck Eldanesh down with Anaris, one of the divine Swords of Vaul forged by the Aeldari smith god, in a single, fell stroke. This direct intervention of a god in mortal affairs, in direct contradiction of Asuryan's edicts, started a terrible period for the Aeldari Gods known as the War in Heaven.
Ironically, the Houses of Eldanesh and Ulthanesh would unite once more to fight Khaine during this conflict, denying the God of War and Strife total dominion over the galaxy and the Aeldari people. The houses would remain united until the Fall of the Aeldari many Terran millennia later, when the ancient rivalry was sparked anew aboard the Craftworlds of the Asuryani.
As mentioned, this is but one of the interpretations of what Imperial savants managed to learn of the Aeldari's mythic past. However, the Aeldari Lexicon is so full of nuances and seeming contradictions that this interpretation is but one among many possible variants.
In other versions of the tale, for instance, it is told that Eldanesh challenged Khaine to win the freedom of Vaul, the God of Smiths, and that his death at the hands of Khaine ended the War in Heaven instead of starting it. The only event that occurs in all the known versions of the legend, and hence the only parcel taken at face value by Imperial savants, is Eldanesh's death at the hands of Khaine, and Asuryan's condemnation of that act, cursing Khaine's hand to forever more drip with the blood of his mortal victim as a constant reminder of his fell act. It is from that act that Khaine's full name is derived, for the Aeldari term-title Kaela Mensha is translated as "Red Handed" or "Bloody Handed" in Imperial Gothic.
- Warhammer 40,000: Compilation (1st Edition), pp. 36-38
- White Dwarf 127 (US), "Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader: Eldar," pp. 14-16
- Path of the Warrior (Novel) by Gav Thorpe, pp. 15, 101, 147, 229, 289