"We had their leader for sure. Our ambush was perfect. But even as our sniper was lining up the shot, that thing let up an awful howl and raced towards us. Maybe it heard us. Maybe it smelled us. It doesn't matter now. It was on us before we could react. The leader didn't even bother to follow it. Just sat back and laughed as it tore us apart."
- —Field Report from Sergeant Gerlaf Slerne of the Desoleum Oathsworn 433rd
The Ur-Ghul is a lanky, carnivorous, humanoid xenos that is a superlative tracker and hunter. They are native to the labyrinthine ziggurats of the Drukhari city of Shaa-Dom, a satellite realm of the Dark City of Commorragh in the Webway. Their savage nature makes them a popular addition to the courts of many Dark Eldar Archons, and Ur-Ghuls are considered the most hideous of the creatures who will respond to an Archon's call, usually to hunt down and slay one of the Archon's foes -- or allies.
Ur-Ghul migrations have been purged by members of the Ordo Xenos' Deathwatch before they could become a danger to Imperial worlds. Among the most famous of these encounters was that of the Deathwatch Dreadnought Xenomortis, who led an Ur-Ghul migration purge of his brethren within the mirror palace of the world of Plenitia. He slew all of the carnivorous aliens himself over the course of many solar months following the death of the rest of his Kill-team at their hands. They are also present in the Koronus Expanse adjacent to the Calixis Sector, where they operate in conjunction with the Dark Eldar who have taken up residence in that frontier region.
Anatomy and Physiology
The musculature and basic physiognomy of the creature definitely points towards the blessed form of humanity, but that is where the similarities end. The xenos' skin is incredibly resistant to damage, almost as hard as iron. Its hands and feet carry wicked claws, which it uses to rapidly grab onto and incapacitate its prey. Reports indicate that it has an astounding dexterity, able to move with an almost unnatural grace and quickness. Several Calixian Beast House records even contain rumours that the Ur-Ghul has the ability to escape bonds and cells by twisting and contorting its body in unwholesome ways. These abilities, when added together, make the xenos a terrifying creature when it comes to combat. The beast's head, however, contains the secrets of what makes it such a superb predator.
The face of an Ur-Ghul is something that few could forget. The somewhat flat visage is deeply cut by a wide, thin mouth filled with needle-like teeth. The thick, muscular tongue is long, and can be extended far beyond the thin lips. It is also particularly sensitive, able to sense another creature many metres away simply by tasting the prey's sweat and breath in the air. Above the mouth sits a series of cavernous sense pits instead of a single nose or eyes. These pits extend far into the skull creating large sensory regions. Accordingly, the nostrils are extraordinarily acute and can pick up not only airborne scents, but also detect heat emanations, air vibrations, and some say even Warp disturbances.
An Ur-Ghul is a very efficient hunter despite its lack of any discernible vision senses, able to track its quarry for kilometres using an easy looping gait that covers long distances with low effort. It can keep such a pace for long durations, waiting for the right time to finish off its prey. Once it is ready, the Ur-Ghul's speed is unnatural. It rapidly becomes a fury of claws and teeth as it tears its prey into gobbets of flesh, and often begins to feed while its victim is still alive.
Once in this state of frenzied feeding, this viciousness makes it a very hard creature to stop. A few who have survived such encounters claim they had to pry the jaws of a dead Ur-Ghul off its still-struggling victim, as the ferocious mandibles would not go slack even in death. Such is the terrible essence of the Ur-Ghul, for nothing can stay its unrelenting nature, not even death.
Evolved to Hunt
"Once those things have your scent, it is over."
- — Savant Francis Evanent, 4th Mercantile Fleet of House Killian
The Ur-Ghul appears to be an omnivorous humanoid with pack tendencies, certainly suitable to fill an ecological niche on many a planet. It has been sighted multiple times throughout the Ragged Worlds, suggesting an origin somewhere amongst this isolated region. It has also been firmly documented to exist on no less than five other planets from other regions in the Koronus Expanse, however. While the theory of parallel evolution is somewhat accepted by most branches of the Adeptus Mechanicus' Magi Biologis, to have such a creature evolve on so many differing planets with different climes and ecologies seems to suggest transportation rather than evolution. Who or what is behind such transportation is basis for much speculation, especially as to what possible motivations could be directing such efforts.
A few radical xenos savants have even suggested that Dark Eldar raiders have some powerful and secret link to the Ur-Ghul now found on several worlds in the Expanse. One ancient dissertation found in the depths of Hive Sibellus in the Calixis Sector makes mention that the Ur-Ghul's original homeworld is called Shaa-dom, but does not mention what system or even sector of the galaxy this world occupies. Several more adventurous Explorators and xenographers have searched for this planet, but as of yet it has not been located. More disturbingly, few of these missions have returned at all. If this is due to erroneous data concerning the world's location or whatever was awaiting those questing after the Ur-Ghul is yet another mystery concerning this species for the Imperium.
Taproom tales at Port Wander tell that these things have been seen in close approximation to Dark Eldar pirates and raiding parties, used as some kind of tracking hound. Those who have survived some of these xenos raids have even spoken of seeing creatures whose features resemble the Ur-Ghul taking part in the attack. They had been used to hunt down those who sought to escape the raiders, fleeing away in frantic attempts to reach safety or hiding places where they could wait until the xenos departed. The attempts were doomed to failure. The Ur-Ghuls were loosed to roam the area, and soon caught the exhilarating scents of desperation and fear left in the air. In each report, none escaped the beasts, and their prey were dragged weeping and screaming back to the xenos raiders to meet their terrible fates.
One unverified but popularly recounted account relates that a particularly high-ranking member of this enigmatic xenos race personally commanded one such beast, using it as part of vile blood-sport raids and other foul practices. The story says the xenos employed the beast to track down a human the Dark Eldar believed had wronged him in some unfathomable way. It managed to track down the unfortunate prey across the varied surface of Janto III deep within the Unbeholden Reaches, a world known for its bleak rocky plains and pestilent marshland. The hunt went on for solar weeks, ranging far across broad swaths of a remote and scantly inhabited continent, but finally the Ur-Ghul caught up with its victim, who did not long survive the debt he had to pay. The cruel xenos directing the beast seemed to delight as much with the hunt as it did with the method of payment.
Such thoughts are likely just so much fancy, mere void travellers' stories to enliven spire parties or to put fear in their trading associates' dreams. Some xenos savants worry though that beings able to command such terrible beasts are perhaps even more puissant than previously believed. It is definite that, as mindless hunters, the Ur-Ghul are certainly dangerous enough; if actually under the direction of sentient xenos races as sadistic and intelligent as the Dark Eldar, their threat level can only increase.
- Only War: Enemies of the Imperium (RPG), pg. 81
- Rogue Trader: Koronus Bestiary (RPG), pp. 34-35
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition), pg. 35
- Codex: Deathwatch (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), "The Vigil of Aeons"
- Blackstone Fortress (Novel) by Darius Hinks, Ch. 10
- Warhammer Quest - Blackstone Fortress Datasheets (Specialty Game), pg. 16