Grand Alliance Order
"Marge. Kids. Everything's gonna be just fine. Now go upstairs and pack your bags. We're gonna start a new life... under the sea."
- – Homer Simpson - "Homer Badman".
"I got no soul, but I am a soldier"
- – The Killers - "All These Things That I've Done". Well, that's how we remember it going.
"We have been hiding long enough. The time has come for Atlantis to rise again."
- – Prince Orm of Aquaman fame
- – Willem Dafoe- "The Lighthouse".
The Idoneth Deepkin are a faction introduced in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, composed of soulless marine aelves and assorted sea fauna.
Age of Myth
After Teclis, Tyrion, Malerion, and Morathi made Slaanesh start shitting out elf souls, Teclis took the devout of Mathlann (the deceased elf god of the ocean) and made a new home for them in Hysh called Leiriu, a luminescent city also known as the Bright Haven or City of Reflection. There, Teclis taught these newborn aelves, the "Cythai", about the old world and their gods hoping to re-create the High Elves.
However, they weren't exactly model elves: they were withdrawn, resentful and traumatized by their time within Slaanesh. Upon learning this, Teclis wasn't thrilled with them. He tried to find what went wrong, but the Cythai weren't cooperative ; Teclis' methods made some fall into madness, so they weren't exactly without reason. Afraid for their lives and unable or unwilling to cope with Teclis' methods, they fled into the oceans of the Mortal Realms. Along the way they stole the Ocarian Lantern, an artifact of Teclis that he'd used to draw souls from Slannesh and that the Idoneth believed could be used to track them down. Teclis, being a dick and probably sore about the theft of the lantern, tried to exterminate them for good measure, but his brother Tyrion convinced him to be merciful so he let them go.
The wayward elves used their magic to live in the most secluded place they could think of; under the sea. The magic they learned from Teclis was adapted so they could live underwater, even at the most crushing of depths. They grew attuned to their new surroundings, learning to trust vibrations and changes in pressure more than sight or sound. Some of them even became adept in the art of seeing the flaring soul-stuff that animates the living. Over time, each of the Cythai's enclaves developed differently, but all were affected by their new environs and self-imposed isolation. Since the elves super-PTSD still haunts them, they welcome the way in which the depths numb their senses. If everything is cold and you can't see without the aid of magic and glimmerfish, that's less sensations and emotions, which means less power to their most ancient nemesis.
The elves, now calling themselves ‘Idoneth’, didn't learn that Tyrion had made Teclis cool down and stayed in hiding. Having rejected Teclis they called out to Mathlann, but he was dead so they reached out to other gods, who either didn't hear them, were also dead or didn't care. Eventually they gave up and tried to re-create Mathlann and society as best they could.
After making their new societies, they calmed down and took stock of their situation. Accepting the possibility that their time in Slaanesh had contaminated them, the Idoneth did some research to see if there were any side-effects and found two. The first they called mallachi, when an Idoneth went into a state of raging madness that ended in savage debauchery, but this only happened to a few. The second was far worse, as when they started having babies only one in a hundred Idoneth babies survived past infancy. The Idoneth soon figured out this was caused by most of their progeny being born with souls that swiftly withered.
Desperate and without divine aid, they turned to magic to fix the problem... without success. Between the extremely high infant mortality rate, wars and the dangers of the ocean, Idoneth numbers rapidly dwindled. Things only changed when they found out after experimentation if you kill something with a soul and put that soul into an Idoneth elf, they won't die prematurely. They first tried this on animals, but animal souls only brought them days, so they decided to go to the surface and start taking the souls of other people. Though other souls, such as those of human, duardin, orruks and even sylvaneth worked equally well for the Idoneth's purpose, it often took more than a few souls to empower an elf to live even a third of their normal lifespan.
At first it was only for survival, since the withering of souls continued unabated and has so far proven incurable, but later they did it for the expansion of their newly found enclaves. Of the original Idoneth made by Teclis, their numbers dwindled until only one was left - Volturnos. At first it was only one in Hysh, but after the discovery of the Whirlways, whirlpools that work as underwater Realmgates, they started to get into the rest of the realms. Due to differences among the Cytharai and a growing population, they expanded to all Mortal Realms save Azyr and founded several enclaves in all of them. They developed a pattern of swift raids and a strict "leave no witnesses" policy, surrounding themselves with memory-altering magic so anyone who encountered them would forget it soon after if the Idoneth didn't kill or capture them first (and the rare few who managed to escape with this knowledge were written off as lunatics or deluded).
But there were other powers out there so the secret could only last for so long. Sigmar long suspected that something dangerous was in the oceans, but had other concerns so he didn't go looking. It was Alarielle and the Sylvaneth who first pierced the veil of secrecy. In Ghyran, an Idoneth attack on some coastal Sylvaneth drew the attention of Alarielle, who entered the fray and personally defeated them in battle. Since Alarielle is a goddess, she's immune to their memory-altering magic and her word is all the Sylvaneth need to be on guard against the Idoneth.
The Idoneth became quite the hikkikomori: betrayed by their creator, forced into bad habits for survival and hated by many.
Age of Chaos
While the Sylvaneth kept the secret, the Idoneth dialed back their attacks and kept a low profile in Ghyran. On the Chaos side, the Keeper of Secrets Sslish the Depraved followed the spoor of strange magic and eventually found an Idoneth army, attacking them with a daemonic army until an Eidolon destroyed them. Archaon had long suspected there were more aelves than would seem, but wasn't able to confirm this until his Gaunt Summoners found the same magic and scried, finding and binding Sslish before Archaon tortured the daemon into spilling the beans.
But the Idoneth thought that they didn't need the surface world and limited themselves to the oceans, leaving only for raiding souls. During the Age of Chaos this started to change. They fought the forces of Chaos wherever they found them, either leaving Chaos' other opponents alone or killing them and taking their souls too. High King Volturnos realized that they'd have to ally with others to fight off Chaos though most other Idoneth didn't approve of this. First, he reached out to Alarielle for peace talks but, wary of trickery and aware of the Idoneth's past actions, Alarielle turned them down. They also encountered some Stormcast Eternals, and after a battle where the Idoneth learned they're unable to capture Stormcast souls due to Sigmar's blessing, they found new allies in the Sigmarines.
They also have kind of a big issue with Nagash. You see, Nagash knew about the disappeared souls from the get-go and is kind of territorial in regards to the dead. So, because they're stealing souls to save themselves, he's not happy with them (read: really hates these guys). At first he had no idea who was taking the souls or where, despite extensive searching on his part. After the accidental drainage of a sea in Shyish (How the hell do you drain a sea "accidentally"?!) by the Skaven (...oh, THAT's how. Even better, everyone's favorite Grey Seer was responsible.), Nagash caught on to their existence and location. Now he’s emptying more seas in Shyish and sending waves of undead after them in all the realms to stamp them out because he’s the only guy who believes himself to be allowed to have dead souls. In their desperation, the Idoneth of Shyish changed their foreign policy and allied with the Forces of Order. Some Idoneth got so desperate they somewhat reconciled with their estranged creator-god Teclis.
In Broken Realms: Morathi, the titular character sent a force into the Idoneth's temple to steal the Ocarian Lantern they'd stolen from Teclis. Despite her success, only two of the sixty warriors Morathi sent survived, one of them because they were captured by the Idoneth. The Idoneth interrogated the captured Khainite, and learned of Morathi's plans. The Idoneth flipped out and had a council of monarchs, fearing that if an enemy got their hands on it, they could use it to find all their Enclaves and thus wipe out their race. Volturnos declared war on the Daughters of Khaine. He gathered forces from every Enclave and attacked Hagg Nar with a massive army.
Despite fierce resistance from the Daughters of Khaine and their Scourge and Freeguild pirate allies, Volturnos and his elite guard reached the ritual chamber but were too late to prevent Morathi reaching godhood, though Volturnos helped damage the Mathcoir. The newly ascended Morathi-Khaine defeated Volturnos' forces, pinned him to the floor and offered an alliance, giving back the Lantern as well as a lot of lost Cythai souls as a peace offering. Volturnos, wary despite his joy at being reunited with his fellow Cythai, allied with Morathi and withdrew his forces. Together, the Idoneth Deepkin assisted in Morathi's conquest of Anvilguard, but neither trusts the other, so it's not a question of "if" their alliance will break, but "when".
The Idoneth society is divided in three clear castes. First we have the Namarti, composed of those 90% of Idoneth who were born with incomplete souls, extremely pale skin, short lifespan (for an aelf anyway, they may still live more than us puny humans) and without eyes that are the majority of the population and are the workforce. Then we have the lucky 10% dudes that were born with complete souls (aka, average aelves): the Akhelians, the warrior caste and those who ride the sweet-looking eels, sharks, Deepmares and Leviadons; and the Isharann, that are the magic users and priests. However, the first ones among all of them were the Cytharai which due to accidents, wars or other shenanigans all of them have died out save the exception of the High King of the Deep Volturnos, who is still alive after millennia and a fighter who leads from the front.
One of the more weird phenomena that happens around these guys on land is the so-called Ethersea. This is a manifestation of their marine magic, taking the form of a mist that enables them to use their superior sea-faring abilities and allow their sea beasts to survive where there's no water in miles and move as if they were in water. The Ethersea also have the secondary effect that it manipulates the land and makes it gain deep-sea characteristics spontaneously, like shipwhrecks, coral, fish shoals to start running freely, bubble breath...
A possible bit of continuity errors already creeping in; whilst the armybook describes the Namarti caste as inherently eyeless, an Idoneth-focused short story in the anthology "Myths and Revenants" declares that the Namarti are actually born with eyes, but their ensouled counterparts ceremonially cut their eyes out when they reach puberty for undisclosed reasons.
Idoneth, the AoS Drukhari?
For many people a comparison between Drukhari and the Idoneth comes naturally. But beyond having something to do with souls there is nothing to this.
The Drukhari murderraped a god into existence, before they were technically called Drukhari. They seek every pleasure, every emotion and sensation, pleasure and pain alike. They need the pain of others topping off their souls to even stay alive, and as the Harlequins and Craftworlders show they don't have to do this... but the Drukhari would rather be sadistic parasites than change their ways. Idoneth are complete opposites of this. They went down in the ocean not just to hide from Teclis, but to numb their senses, to limit their perception of touch, warmth and sight. They didn't want to feed on others souls, but now they have no choice, and they fear feeding Slaanesh and refuse to make the pact with the devil.
Instead the Idoneth seek to solve the fault in their souls on their own. They developed the Soulbonding, using other races souls as fuel for their Namarti as a stopgap measure, while their Isharann still look for a way to find a permanent solution. For all the Idoneth, save for the Fuethan, the raids are a means to an end to buy as much time as the Isharann need - and for the Fuethan, it's also impulsive aggression not sadism. All the while the Drukhari indulge in the same debauchery that they have since their inception, never seeking to solve the underlying issue of their demise.
In their quest to save and fix the vast majority of their race, the Idoneth soldiers were forced to resort to large scale violence. As it stands, Idoneth are not grimdark Dark Eldar, they are cold, nobledark Elves of the sea.
The "factions" of the Deepkin are the Enclaves, city-states founded under the seas of the realms connected by underwater realm gates called Whirlways. Whilst there are, as expected with such a large setting, countless Enclaves, there are six main ones that have been fleshed out.
- Ionrach: The posterboys, who have their armour painted a shiny blue and also have a venerable leader from a forgotten age. The Ionrach are one of the first enclaves that ran from the rays of Teclis into the seas of Hysh, though they have since emigrated to Ghyran. Notably the most "friendly" of the enclaves, to the point where they will actually co-operate with the other forces of Order. They, under High King Volturnos, call most often for the assembrals, large scale meetings of the Idoneth.
- Dhom-Hain: The polar opposites of the Ionrach, being the first to part ways with their fellow Deepkin to settle in the literal hellscape that are the seas of Ghur. Seriously, imagine every lethal predator in our seas but 10x larger and there's ridiculous amounts of them. They settled in a deep chasm, where lots of the Fangmora Eels lurked. This meant that they use more Akhelians than other enclaves. Once went to Ghyran and fought some Sylvaneth until Alarielle kicked their asses over it. Said battle cost them a valuable ancestral heirloom, which several Dhom-Hain nobles have tried and failed to retrieve. For centuries they have not attended the assembrals, only having come back very recently to discuss a matter which they believed to threaten their entire kind.
- Fuethan: Living in the seas of Aqshy means that these Deepkin are especially aggressive, and they're very mean spirited when collecting souls. Whilst enclaves like the Ionrach would spare the soul of say, a child, the Fuethan would do no such thing. In fact, they take such glee in raiding that they are found still hacking away at bodies even when they're long dead. The Fuethan have also been responsible for more Idoneth infighting than any other enclave. They contributed the most soldiers alongside the Ionarch to retrieve the Ocarian Lantern.
- Mor'Phann: Dour and pale, the Mor'Phann inhabit the dark seas in Shyish. They use lots of mist and pale tentacled creatures,many were hit especially hard by the Necroquake to the point where they had to ally with the Stormcast to not die.
- Briomdar: These guys used to be a part of the Ionrach, before declaring independence and settling in the middle of an undersea kelp forest in Ghyran. Experts at navigating terrain and ambushes - even by Idoneth standards - they camouflage themselves in kelp to leap out at unsuspecting passerbys. As an Ionrach off-shoot, they're the second most willing to ally with non-Idoneth.
- Nautilar: An enclave that literally lives on the shell of a giant crusteacean called the Giant Scaphodon. Recently they took quite a beating from some Skaven that tunnelled underwater. Also used to be a part of the Ionrach.
- High King Volturnos: High King of the Ionrach Enclave and the only guy with the clout to unify the Enclaves to a common purpose. He's the last of the Cythai, the first generation of Idoneth created by Teclis himself. Recently entered into an alliance with Morathi in exchange for being given the souls of the other Cythai. His name comes from Volturnus the real-life Roman god associated with the river Tiber.
- Lotann, Warden of the Soul Ledgers: The Soul Ledgers are a sect of Isharann who are in charge of keeping a tally of the souls collected in raids. Lotann is the only one of these guys who is dedicated enough to actually join the battlefield to better observe the souls taken on raids. Lacking combat abilities as you'd expect from a bureaucrat, he mostly relies on his octopus familiar to defend himself.
- Sythus Nemmetar: An Akhelian King who is Volturnos' right hand man. Got his steed killed by Morathi and his face mutilated Two-Face style by a Hag Queen during the siege of Hagg Nar. This has reasonably made him very sour on being ordered to ally with the Daughters of Khaine, especially since he was assigned to work with that same Hag Queen, who now trolls him about his damaged face.
- Lurien: Protagonist of the Court of the Blind King novel, and a colossal dick. The heir to the throne of the Briomdar Enclave, he spends the wake of his mother's funeral planning how he'll enjoy becoming king. He instead gets his ass kicked in a duel for the kingship and locked up. A Namarti maidservant frees Lurien on the condition that he make her his consort if he succeeds, and he goes on an adventure to gather support from other Idoneth cities in order to launch his own counter-coup. Over the course of the story he develops from a spoiled, entitled douchebag into someone who is still a pretty big douchebag but at least one who understands that if he wants to gain power he needs to be able to compromise with other people.
According to Age of Sigmar Roleplay, becoming a Soulbound is a terrifying yet tempting idea for Idoneth Deepkin. On the one hand, they're incredibly isolationist, and they have a racial grudge against their creator-god Teclis for trying to kill all of them. On the other hand, undergoing the rite of Binding strengthens a Deepkin's soul to a degree that they can't achieve on their own, freeing them forever from both the fear of losing their souls and from the phantom pain that haunts their entire race, whilst simultaneously giving them permission to reap souls aplenty from foes and fallen allies alike. Those Idoneth who do agree to make the pledge (usually specifying that they will never directly serve Teclis first) are essentially forever exiled from their people, although the most foresighted Idoneth Kings and Queens, such as those descended from Ionrach, have realized that, in this changing age, Idoneth Soulbound can make useful ambassadors for their race, perhaps by making the lord of a land be conveniently too busy to help a nowhere fishing village when the next raid comes.
The Champions of Order splatbook opens the following enclaves for your Idoneth hero to hail from:
- Ionrach: As the first of the Idoneth, they are the forefront of their ideals and often the representatives of their race. Also helping is that they are comparatively diplomatic compared to others of their kind. Indeed, this means that many Idoneth Soulbound hail from this enclave, with a majority of them being Isharann who boast better casting. Heroes from the Ionrach can always tell if others are amenable to their plans and have advantage on opposed tests in such cases. They also have the Tactician and A Good Plan archetypes available to all archetypes regardless of any prerequisites.
- Dhom-hain: Equally as large as the Ionrach, but very insular as opposed to being friendly. Stationed in the realm of Ghur, they believe that they are stronger in their constant battles with the beasts of the depths and scorn any attempts to befriend. Indeed, this means that few of this enclave become Soulbound. Those that do are either very open-minded or incredibly daring, pitting themselves against the terrors of the surface world. Heroes from Dhom-hain add an extra number of dice equal to their training in Athletics when they charge.
- Fuethán: The most outright cruel of the enclaves. As they hail from the realm of fire, their tempers are equally vicious and uncontrolled and their beasts are equally as temperamental. They view the other forces of Order less as allies ad they are a giant plate of souls to feast upon. Because of this, there are few Soulbound hailing from this enclave, and those who do are either disenfranchised (like the majority of the Isharann caste) or working out some intense aggression. Heroes from Fuethán are particularly aggressive; if they or their mount attacks an enemy that suffered damage on this turn, they improve their Melee by one step.
- Mor'phann: Hailing from the depths of Shyish, they are a particularly bleak and morose lot. Though they say little, they know that their stakes are as dire as their kinds, especially since they have been subject to not only the Necroquake but also countless incursions by the Skaven. Heroes from Mor'phann emanate a chilling aura that forces foes nearby to make a Soul (Determination) check or else be frightened for the turn.
- Nautilar: Once a colony of the Ionrach, they seceded after a great war between them and Dhon-hain at the dawn of the Age of Chaos. In some ways, they act as a bridge between the two bitter rivals, aiding Dhom-hain's wars against the Orruks while also attending the assembrals of the Ionrach. Their capital is upon a massive beast, and from they they have learned the virtues of symbiotic codependence as well as defensive warfare. This has only deepened after their capital was besieged by the Skaven and rescued by the Stormcast, and they are now more open to flush out any mutual threats. Heroes from Nautilar increase their Defense by one step against enemies who attack them from outside their zone. On top of this, their armor is improved by +1 thanks to being reinforced.
- Briomdar: Another offshoot of the Ionrach, though they have settled for Ghyran, hiding within the labyrinthine expanses of the Green Gulch. Adapting to their particular surroundings, they have mastered the art of camouflage and are capable of seeking out their enemies with an unmatched keenness. Heroes from Briomdar and thus suffer no issues moving through difficult terrain and can swim, climb, squeeze, and crawl at their normal speeds. If an enemy seeks to impede their path, they have advantage on any tests to avoid them.
Idoneth Soulbound have access to the Akhelian Emissary, Isharann Soulscryer and Isharann Tidecaster archetypes in the corebook. The Champions of Order splatbook opens the Isharann Soulrender archetype.
Musical Accompaniment to playing these Sea Elves
- Jaws theme, mandatory if you have any Allopexes in your army.
- King Orm's theme, Aquaman (2018). Pretty good "vengeance from the sea"- type music, and for the madman who will undoubtedly paint an Akhelian King as Orm.
- Aquaman soundtrack; He Commands The Sea, also from Aquaman (2018). Good if you want a more heroic feel, and for the madman who will undoubtedly paint an Akhelian King as Aquaman.
- Leviathan by Mastodon. Nautical-themed sludge/prog metal, all about fighting Moby Dick and spilling blood on the high seas. For maximum effect, play "Aqua Dementia" on the charge, "Blood and Thunder" during High Tide, and "Iron Tusk" when your Leviadon wades in and starts ruining shit.
An Interesting Note
Mantic Games had been producing their own Trident Realm range several years before the Idoneth were conceived. They're categorically not elves (Kings of War has elf factions, the Trident Realm isn't one of them), and mostly naiads and thuul with a number of other underwater-themed species. Whether someone at GW saw this and thought “damn, we could make a killing out of this” or not is unknown.
|Playable Factions in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar|
|Idoneth Deepkin Units|
|Akhelian:||Akhelian King - Akhelian Guard - Allopex - Leviadon|
|Isharann:||Tidecaster - Soulscryer - Soulrender|
|Namarti:||Namarti Thralls - Namarti Reavers|