Nobledark Imperium Forces of Chaos
- 1 Notable Daemons and Followers of the Dark Gods
- 1.1 The Three Great Warlords of Chaos
- 1.2 The Four Champions of the Dark Gods
- 1.3 Notable Crone Eldar
- 1.4 The Fallen
- 1.5 Daemons of Chaos
- 1.6 Other Followers of Chaos
- 2 The Fallen
- 3 The Crone World Eldar
- 3.1 Crone Eldar Demographics
- 3.2 Crone Eldar infantry squad organization
- 3.3 Typical equipment
- 3.4 Crone Eldar Notable Groups
- 3.5 Crone Eldar Elite Infantry Units
- 3.6 Other Units
- 3.7 Dark Eldar and Croneworld War Vehicles
- 4 Aesthetics
- 5 The Rant
- 6 The Dark Mechanicus
- 7 Crone Worlds
- 8 Other servants of the Chaos Gods
- 9 By the Light of Hell
- 10 Rise of Khorne
Notable Daemons and Followers of the Dark Gods
The Three Great Warlords of Chaos
See Lady Malys (PLACEHOLDER)
See Also: Me Time
See Lion El'Jonson
EDITOR'S NOTE: Needs expansion of deeds post-fall and his actions as leader of the biggest chunk of Fallen.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Needs expansion
"The eight-pointed star. You have no idea how much I hate what that symbol has become. Once it actually meant something. To my people, it represented the symbolic representation of one of the fundamental truths of the universe. The idea that from nothing, came everything. My people found beauty in it, covered their architecture with it, built starships in its shape. It was by this ethos that we lived our lives. Even though I’m far from the sentimental sort, I must admit I preferred that interpretation over what has become. A symbol for unruly, undisciplined children and broken constructs to define themselves by.
I suppose by your standards the best way of putting it would be as if a universal statement of purpose and philosophy had been turned into a gang sign. There’s nothing I hated more than what I had to brand myself with that sigil in a twisted way of paying fealty to those who now dominate the Warp. I’m sure the very least to the Changer of Ways knows the original meaning behind the symbol, and is probably laughing himself silly over the irony."
-- Be’lakor, in a rare open musing to one of the Lost and the Damned
The last of the Old Ones. The result of early Old One experimentation into the apotheosis of physical beings in the Warp, he is incensed that he "merely" reached daemon princedom, making him subservient to the Chaos Gods, who he sees as experimental artificial constructs akin to A.I. that have gone far beyond their station. Be'lakor serves the Chaos Gods, but he is not loyal to them, and has his own goals in mind. Be'lakor is old, one of the oldest beings in the galaxy, older than even the Chaos Gods. He remembers when Earth was inhabited by beings like him, and the forefathers of mankind were little more than rats that scurried beneath their toes. He remembers the Eldar before they were uplifted, and their pitched battles against the original Mon-Keigh. A great many mysteries of the galaxy could be solved if Be'lakor shared his wisdom. However, he does not, because he is cruel and capricious, and because his knowledge of things everyone else has forgotten is his greatest asset. Indeed, the fact that Be'lakor even exists was only discovered by the Imperium after much blood, sweat, and tears. Be’lakor’s followers almost universally worship Chaos Undivided or come from the Chaos Wastes. Although his followers tend to be fewer in number, they tend to make up for it by being more stable.
The Four Champions of the Dark Gods
Arrotyr, Marshall of the Scions of the Old Helm
“Your foolishness is what has lead us to this fate farseer, now you will suffer by the servants of the true god of war”
- Arrotyr, the Lord of Fire, Marshall of the Scions of the Broken Helm, before breaking off form the 5th Black Crusade
Arrotyr came from one most prestigious military families of the Old Eldar Empire’s, one which dated all the way back to the War in Heaven. Indeed, it is only because of his lineage’s accomplishments that it is possible to trace Arrotyr’s genealogy that far back at all. Arrotyr’s ancestor Syndor was once one of the greatest warriors the Eldar Empire ever had. Syndor’s martial prowess and leadership was legendary, having gone so far as to have been one of the commanders present at the battle where Kaelis Ra, the Nightbringer, was finally struck down by Khaine. He was one of the few eldar warriors that had earned the respect of the necrontyr, it was even said that the Silent King himself had wished to meet the legendary warrior on the battlefield. He even gained a nemesis in the necrontyr, Imotekh the Stormlord, who Syndor defeated and spared. Such was Syndor's prestige, his soldiers were undefeated in battle and and at his command they lead the eldar race to victory after victory in the golden age of the Eldar Empire.
However, eventually Syndor grew tired of life, and after five cycles of reincarnation Syndor finally decided to retire from this world. It is unclear whether Syndor truly experienced his final death, or if he merely reincarnated again but desired to start completely anew. However, before he died, Syndor gave his descendants one final piece of information. For when the Nightbringer was destroyed by Khaine and the aspect of the reaper was felt by all living beings, Syndor had a vision, a vision of a great burning eye opening, a fire that would consume the eldar race, and afterwards only ash would remain.
Arrotyr was no less an impressive warrior than Syndor. Indeed, the only reason Arrotyr’s accomplishments were not as impressive as his forefather’s is that he never had a pan-galactic war on the scale of the War in Heaven to fight in. Arrotyr even bore a strong resemblance to his ancestor, with some whispering that he was really Syndor reborn once again. However, Arrotyr’s record was far from spotless, possibly exacerbated due to living in the last days of the Eldar Empire. Arrotyr was well known for his military acumen, but he was also well-known for being ruthless. While many Eldar in those days preferred to sneer at the more primitive races of the galaxy from the safety of the Crone Worlds, Arrotyr actually went so far as to argue hunting down any species that might one day rise to equal the Eldar in power, and his battle plans had a disturbing tendency to devolve into “kill them all and let Khaine sort them out”.
Nevertheless, Arrotyr truly cared about the wellbeing of the eldar people. When the great carnal hedonism of the eldar race began and the pleasure cults sprung up in their wake Arrotyr remembered the words of his ancestor, and realized that this was the disaster Syndor had spoke of. Arrotyr would not let his kin be subjected to this fate, but when he tried to stop them, warning them that it would lead to the fall of their race the eldar would not listen, none keen on moralizing form the most blood soaked of their number. Arrotyr and his warriors were shunned by their kin, cast out for their attempts to save them. Arrotyr felt his love for his kind wither, he had tried to save them but they had rejected him, traitor they had called him, a fool that could not rejoice the golden age the eldar race had been graced. But it would not stop Arrotyr, he would not stop to try and save his kind. But as the ages flowed by, his finesse withered and his blood lust grew, his attempts to sway his kind become more aggressive and the vision of fire had soon consumed his sight. His belief in Khaine had been weakened, no god of his would let such horrendous actions be allowed, and when the eldar began to see their wrongs and they felt the birth of a new god to be present, they called upon Arrotyr to return and help save them from their fate.
He concluded that there was only one being who could be responsible for the moral degredation of the eldar, the goddess of sex and fertility, Isha. Although many in the Eldar Empire knew the truth behind of the birth of Slaanesh, Arrotyr did not, and so saw Isha as the only “logical” culprit. Arrotyr returned to his race, but he now knew that saving them from this fate could only be done in one way. The Eldar Empire was now little more than an uncontrollable wildfire, and the only way to stop a fire is to smother it. When he returned to the Crone Worlds he began his race salvation, and as thousands of ships filled with eldar desperate to escape from the soul consuming infant of a new god, Arrotyr’s fleet began to fire at the fleeing vessels, he ordered his warrior to make landfall and to slay all eldar in sight. Arrotyr knew the only way to ensure the survival of his race would be to destroy the problem from the base. He made landfall to Shaa-Dome, and headed straight to the largest temple devoted to Isha on the planet. He intended to get rid of their gods who had done nothing to save them, starting by silencing the priestesses of the one who had caused this mess in the first place. As he neared the temple of Isha’s priesthood, he heard a whisper in his head, one who spoke of great favour for warriors and as he slew those who once had ridiculed him the voice grew louder. By the time he stood at the center of Isha’s temple, Arrotyr stood knee deep in the bodies of his kin, covered in blood and a screaming voice inside his head, calling for blood, and blood it would have. The fire had consumed his sight when he leapt into the chamber killing his way through those faithful to the goddess. As he and his men cleaved through the priestesses and acolytes Arrotyr realized that his actions would not bring him the goddess’ head, so Arrotyr ordered his men to continue the slaughter, if the birth of the new god was unstoppable they would at least leave nothing for it to consume. It was at the peak of this slaughter that the voice told Arrotyr his feats and granted him and his scions his blessing. The fire in Arrotyr’s eyes spew out, charring hundreds of eldar and then the fire consumed his body, soon he was a walking inferno, the gift spread, The scions of the broken helm had turned into living fires, turning all around them to ash. Arrotyr’s slaughter had turned from salvation to punishment. As Slaanesh was born and the eye was opened Arrotyr and his scions had left the crone worlds to their fate and instead left to bring those who had escaped to justice.
Arrotyr and his warrior’s bodies burned away by the ages, the fire always burning, soon they would be walking skeletons, forever consumed by fire, locked in their armour bringing their kin to justice for the blood god. None could stand against the Scions of the Broken Helm, not the eldar, not even the Imperium, all would be punished, all but his old enemies, for it would be the reawakened Necrons that would drive him back. Imotekh the Stormlord, his old nemesis, had spent his sleep calculating the perfect strategy against Arrotyr, he would be the one to finally defeat the undefeatable eldar. As he caught whiff of Arrotyr’s conquests the Stormlord set his plan into action. Arrotyr had tried to chase down a craftworld and as he had begun to close in on it and the eldar onboard prepared for their final stand the Stormlord struck like a bolt of lightning. Even with the might of a military fleet and the blessing of Khorne the battle only lasted for 6 minutes and 34.4534 seconds, only 0.0002 seconds more than what the Stormlord had planned. The craftworld was saved from Arrotyr’s rage and was deemed beneath notice by Imotekh as he had won his battle. Arrotyr never faced Imotekh face-to-face, in fact he never faced any Necrons, he only knew that the Scions of the Old Helm could not win this battle as fast as the Necrons attacked, and that Imotekh had spared him. This angered Arrotyr even more because for the first time in his existence, Arrotyr had been defeated, and by a foe who even refused to take his head as befitting the creed of the Blood God. He returned to the eye, where he claimed some crone worlds so that he could lick his wounds. But his desire to punish his kin for their faults still burned deep within him.
The next chance the two fought again was during the Eleventh Black Crusade. Arrotyr once again made his way away from the main force to bring judgement elsewhere but it would prove to short lived. For once again he faced battle against Imotekh the Stormlord who once again defeated Arrotyr, though this time the battle only lasted for 5 minutes and 4.3421 seconds, and once again he was spared by Nemesor who this time sent Arrotyr a message.
“Honored warrior of the eldar, I Phaeron Imotekh, spare you today so that I once again can defeat you. Your ancestor brought my people to defeat and now the tables have turned, I shall forever battle you and I shall forever be victorious, I plan your every move, I foresee your every step. Even when the galaxy is dead shall I fight you. And I will win.”
Thus was Arrotyr sent back to the Eye of Terror to lick his wounds once again, this rivalry has continued to the present, every time Arrotyr would gain any substantial leverage into the galaxy the Stormlord would be there and at every battle Imotekh would be victorious, the battles never lasting more than a few minutes. Today Arrotyr and his scions patrol the Crone worlds under the Blood God’s control. Only as a burning figure he plans his next move bring judgement to his kin, but he knows that wherever he goes Imotekh will be there to send him back.
Chosen Taskmaster of Slaanesh
By all accounts, a terror. The exacting, incomparable mind to which the Prince of Pleasure turns to plan the endless celebrations, projects, and adventures of the vast Slaaneshi cult, vested with all the godly power required for the whip hand of Shaa-Dome to manage his master's empire while the resplendent prince reclines. Though his youthful patron is the least of the Ruinous Powers, Iygonesh Orvas is the greatest of the four Crone champions, with access to more of his master's overwhelming power to twist reality and the warp than any of his rivals (with the possible exception for the Indigo Crow). Slaanesh has so empowered his servant specifically so that the former no-name courtier and cousin of the Eldar Royalty can serve as the executor of his god's will in the Eye and the wider galaxy, utterly exceeding the capacities of the servants of his patron's rivals even as the other dark Gods leave their vaster powers pent up in the deep warp. In this arrangement, the Taskmaster administrates a vast empire of Crones within the Eye so dominant that the other gods find far less foothold, providing a massive counterbalance of military and political power against the mystical force of Slaanesh's elders. In dominance of Crone culture Slaanesh builds spiritual power to further contest the other gods, and also take a more central position in the minds of the Imperium as foremost ruinous power, using both the Crones and the Imperium as vast psychic engines to grow its legend. This youthful vigor and care for the material galaxy, however perverse its expression, is the basis of the Taskmasters mission from Slaanesh, to see the Princedom of Pleasure extended over the galaxy so that all Materium might recognize Slaanesh as the Highest Being and make it so.
The Indigo Crow
The Indigo Crow. The Indigo Crow. What can be known about the Indigo Crow?
Well, first of all, the Indigo Crow does not exist, and yet does. For Tzeentch is Lord of Paradox as well as Change. The foremost servant of the Lord of Change can have no unmoving 'I', can have no solid core of an identity; all must be flux. So there can be no "person" (for lack of a better word) which is the Indigo Crow. And yet, Tzeentch itself changes hardly at all, identity changing on geologic timescales. So, too, its many daemons, and so too must the Crow.
How are these two states reconciled? The secret is that the Indigo Crow is always changing, shifting every second into a totally new and random form. But, every time, that new and random form is the Indigo Crow. A set of unloaded dice coming up all sixes every time, millions upon millions of times in a row. Constant change resulting in no change. The Lord of Paradox is pleased.
What mind resides in this form of ever-shifting static? Its form is its function is its thoughts, and thus its mind must likewise be both ever-changing and changeless. It can only know either what it is doing, or why it's doing it; never both. While the Indigo Crow knows what it is doing, its motive is in flux; all possible motivations that could lead to its action in a state of superposition, even- especially- those which are mutually contradictory. While it knows its motivations, all possible actions flowing from that motivation are in superposition, less than real but more than imaginary. The Indigo Crow's 'mind' is a pair of quantum waveforms, forever locked in opposing amplitudes.
Perhaps as a result of this, the Indigo Crow either does not or cannot perceive the world with normal senses. Instead, its only method of perception is divination, foresight and hindsight, pre- and post-cognition. It 'sees' the world as a haze of probability, innumerable possible futures; and for that matter, possible pasts. Although this divination is exceptionally powerful, the Crow cannot see the present. It can see close to the present, very close, but for a second around itself it is blind. This is rarely a problem for it, usually it can see threats coming from far enough away to avoid them. Usually.
As a consequence of this unusual mode of perception, the Indigo Crow frequently acts or reacts in relation to nonexistent stimuli; things that could have happened but didn't, false pasts. Sometimes this is revealed to be another play in a deeper plot. Sometimes it's just delusion.
And sometimes it's something stranger still. There are indications that the Indigo Crow is capable of time travel and causality manipulation to some degree. That, just as a skilled pre-cognitive steers the course of history towards his preferred future, the Crow can steer the course of fate towards his preferred past, bringing plots and plans and schemes into being retroactively. Constrained by the need to be consistent with the rest of the universe in the present, but that is not as much of a constraint as one would hope.
The Indigo Crow, although foremost among the Tzeentchian Crones, does not lead them in any conventional sense. It does not issue directives or prophecy. Instead, on its eternal winding path between the webway academies around the rim of the Eye, it has accumulated a vast parade. Hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of sorcerers and madmen follow the Indigo Crow, obsessively examining every syllable that spills from its mouth and every twitch of its limbs for encoded commands and hidden lessons. Many are obsessive in this regard; even on the Crow's rare ventures to real-space battlefields they follow, ignoring artillery shells and laser fire for the sake of their observations, continuing to observe and speculate even as they die in the crossfire.
On occasion, a Crone who believes they have accumulated enough power and knowledge will challenge the Indigo Crow for its position and secrets. Whoever wins, when the smoke clears the Indigo Crow remains. Its form is its function is its thoughts; the foremost Crone follower of Tzeentch is the Indigo Crow. Always.
The normal forces of the Imperium (for values of 'normal' that include most of the Inquisition and Astartes) have little to fear from the Crow. They are beneath its notice. Not for it the direct clash of steel and sorcery on the battlefield, or even the subtle weaving of plots that cripple whole sectors. In all honesty, the Indigo Crow may not fully realize the Imperium at large exists. Its focus is wholly on the strangest and most rarefied levels of the Great Game. Its opposition is the Alpha and Omega Legions, the Illuminati, Eldrad, Oscar and Isha, Magnus when he was still alive. Be'lakor, Tzeentch's oldest foe. The Deceiver and Orikan the Diviner with their magic pyramid scheme. Cegorach and his Harlequins. Sometimes Trazyn the Infinite or Ahriman and the Daemon Breakers when they're at the top of their game. And, of course, itself. These are the chosen foes of the Indigo Crow, and its private wars take place on a level most citizens of the Imperium do not even realize exist.
This might be for the best. On the rare occasions the Crow exerts itself against the pawns, planets die. Or perhaps not; at the level it operates, success and failure is measured in far stranger and more important things than the lives of planets.
High Conservator of The Attendants of Isha
Matron Macha was not the first eldar to become the primary mortal focus of the cult of Isha, though she is certainly the fairer that remains in the galaxy's memory. Nimina Demthring, the High Conservator of the Attendants of Isha, is the other, and she is far from beloved by the mother goddess. She was born in the sprawling pleasure shrines of Shaa-Dome, into the worship of Khaine the bloody handed, and worship of an Isha that was witch-mother to her monstrous fairy kin. In the loathsome latter years of the Old Empire Demthring was initiated in the palatial shrine of the all-mother, and in the manic orgies of the fall she and that bleak coven were among those few that remained aloof from the purple cabal's entertainment. That is not to say that foul sisterhood refrained from the debauchery, and in that time Nimina bore innumerable strange children in the name of her goddess, and gleefully partook alongside her depraved superiors in that long corrupted convent. It can be said only that the wicked traditions and sacred fixations of Isha's followers preserved her worship as distinct from that of the gestating Prince of Pleasure, but in the end little but her cult and their prolific brood remained her faithful. As the empyrean hell welled up from the final debaucheries in the heart of the city that lay behind the doors in the hills, and the ships of the Old Empire returned to reign as fire upon the surface of the Shaa-Dome, this last strand of true and faithful worship dragged Isha on through the assaults of newborn Slaanesh. Burning Arrotyr, already damned, melted a shaft through the superstructure of the shellworld and came to strike down the witch-cult and atomize the temples. This he did, and after he slew and burned Isha's faithful in the middling layers the Marshal left again for his firestorm on the surface, driven back in equal measure by his contempt for the resurgent Slaaneshi and the ferocity of the newly realized daemons and cenobites followed.
Though the near obliteration of Isha's remaining cult did next to nothing to impede Slaanesh's arrival in the universe, it left few but Demthring alive in her service. Arrotyr's hot iron sank deep into Shaa-Dome, and though it was meant to wipe Isha from existence it came just as she would have been made sport of by Slaanesh. As the Marshal and Taskmaster fought their first gory, maniacal war together Slaanesh had eyes for none but Khorne, and when the smoldering ruins of Isha's shrines were again made a boudoir for occult debauchees the mother goddess's witches were nowhere to be found.
Nimina says it was in this time that Isha manifested before her, wearing the modified and sculpted body of the dying high priestess, and that she nursed the wounded, dying goddess as she hid in that form. They were attended to by Nimina's brood, and dwelt in the ruins of the shrine even as it was brought low by the war of the fall and turned to a charnel pit of discarded flesh and rubbish in the years of Slaanesh's endless victory celebration. Demthring and the high priestess remained in this state of foul hospice until the latter woman expired of her wounds, and of her company. Likewise, there in Slaanesh's midden mother Isha remained until father Nurgle extracted her, or so the High Conservator tells it. She says Nurgle's visits were frequent, doting upon them, adorning the embodied goddess and her with his gifts upon flesh and unclosing wound, until at last he drew up his courage and ferried them away to his estate. Demthring in that time had gathered what little was left of the coven, and by the providence of her loving care for the all-mother her brood came to dominate that near-dead order. Her foul children were the first conservators beneath her in this new cult, and no survivor of Arrontyr's purge had the will or means to contest her. They went with Isha into the realm of Nurgle, and took with them every relic, corpse, and scrap of holy writ.
None were so bold to challenge Nurgle himself when the interlopers dared enter his vast mansion. Few were said to have glimpsed him, down the hazy length of an infinite hall, but those unlucky few were not among the raid's survivors. When a Warmaster, armor long ruined and body wreathed in a mandorla of golden flame, came seeking Isha she quailed and cowered in the chambers her host had quartered her in. The Steward of the Golden Throne, after searching the infinity of that foul house, came upon her in a chamber of fetid paradise. Isha dwelled in a jungle of long abandoned refuse cobbled into a parody of life, and pressing on through trees draped with rotting silk and boughs heavy with slops of fruit the Steward found her, surrounded by all manner of unlife and undeath, not least of which were the Attendants. When first he saw her, Isha was still bedecked in the finery of Nurgle's wife, the body of the high priestess he had so adorned for her. She was bloated and emaciated, gaunt, pallid, gangrenous, and swollen, eyes bloodshot and full of cataracts, flesh pimpled, blistered, and ulcerated, and the carcass she was given was splayed upon a hill of stones alike to coins of dirty ice. She coughed and shook, half buried in the mound, and around her shuddering form the Steward saw the figures of the Conservators.
Nimina knew this interloper not to be hated Arrontyr, but had really no desire to reveal this to her goddess. She hailed Oscar as if she were the matron of Isha's cult of old, and entreated his congress with her own 'divinity', that he might be among the flock of the All-mother through herself. That the Steward came forewarned by Eldrad as to the situation of captivity in which Isha was held was good, but wholly unnecessary. Demthring was yet a vision of the Matron's beauty, as she understood it, and made great and excited offer of the eternity of wriggling, slick comfort in which Oscar would henceforth abide beside her.
They vied against each other, briefly, and their exchange ended with the rotten body of the High Conservator strewn across the hill of embittered soulstones. The Warmaster took waifish, crone Isha in his arms and fled, and as she left the mansion of Nurgle the goddess seemed to die again. The long deceased form of the high priestess was shed on the threshold of the gate from which they emerged and for a moment, just as long as the rift persisted, Isha stood in glory in the materium before the seers of Eldrad and the assembled warriors. The door shut, the Matron Goddess collapsed into the body of the seer Macha, and the deed was complete.
The High Conservator was not long dead, and easily reassembled. Nimina hates Oscar, more even than she hates Arrotyr or the Taskmaster. Maybe as much as she hates the Indigo Crow. She wants her sick waifu back so she can go back to nursing her precious baby. She absolutely hates leaving the Mansion of Nurgle, which she views as a perfect paradise, but she is also a weird sort of Isha evangelist. She essentially tries to rally the vat/murder-orgy born rabble to fight her infinite crusades to 'rescue' Isha, and preaches Nurglite doctrine in the name of Isha and calls it chaos undivided. Nimina isn't especially perceptive, adventurous, or deadly relative to the other three or Malys, or Vect, but she's single minded and really persistent, and had been constantly ready for action since the raid. Malys might need to convince or coerce the other faction leaders to fight in a black crusade, Nimina she needs to keep from pouring resources into non-productive sinkholes.
Notable Crone Eldar
Riastrad was not alive during the days of the Old Eldar Empire, but was born in the years immediately after the Fall. Like many born into that strange post-Fall society with the fires of passion and the delusions of youth, he fell in with the Khornate cults, where he found his true calling. The rush of adrenaline and the raw thrill of striking down his foes called to Riastrad, more than anything else he had encountered in his life. Moreover, he was very good at it. He took skull after skull for the Skull Throne, until one day it was his blood that flowed to appease the Blood God. Riastrad’s band of Khornate berserkers had accompanied a larger Crone force in taking a minor world, and while the Crones had won the battle Riastrad was left forgotten among the dead and the dying.
That would have been the end of Riastrad, then and there, had it not been for the passing Meatweaver Scathach. Scathach had been haunting the battlefield for the same reason all Meatweavers do: looking for spare parts and unsuspecting victims for their next creation. Finding a dying Khornate champion was quite the unexpected windfall. Seeing Riastrad in such a state struck Scathach with a fit of inspiration. In a fey mood of creativity, she took a damaged, empty wraithguard shell left behind by the defenders, fixed it to the best of her ability, and then used a soul stone to rip the dying warrior’s soul from his body and stick it inside the resulting abomination of wraithbone and tainted flesh. Crone Eldar are normally aghast at the use of soul stones, abhorring any such device that would keep one from communing with the gods at their death. It is one of the few things that most sects of Crone Eldar, who will normally fight to the death over the pettiest and most trivial of issues, agree upon. Meatweavers, however, are notoriously oblivious to any such social taboos even by Crone standards.
Whatever the alien reasoning for her doing so, the results of Scathatch’s experiement satisfied her curiosity and she was pleased by the outcome. Riastrad, however, was not. Wraithguard shells are infamous for their lack of conventional sight and dulled physical sensation. Riastrad could no longer feel the rush of battle. He could not feel much of anything.
Since that day Riastrad has become a nightmare, throwing himself into battle again and again without regard for his safety in a desperate attempt to feel something again. He wields dual scimitars, as he was when he was pure flesh and blood, but now ones scaled to a wraithguard in the manner of one of Vect’s Wraithblades. His wraithbone shell is ritually scarified with a thousand ruinous glyphs carved into its surface, and his form is draped with the flayed, blood-soaked hides of his foes. He wears no armor, at least not beyond his wraithbone shell, in the simple hopes that even receiving pain will give him some sensation or death will free him from his wraithbone imprisonment. His violence is accompanied by an ethereal warbling howl, which to others appears to be the shrieking of daemons but is really the Riastrad’s frustrated screams at being so close to what once gave him joy, but no longer. As might be expected, although it gives Riastrad no pleasure, such slaughter pleases the blood god.
Riastrad often haunts the edges of Crone society, staying just long enough to hear the latest news before impatiently setting off for the nearest battlefield. It is not possible to buy Riastrad’s loyalty, but much like the Orks it is possible to entice him to the field of battle with promises of worthy foes and slaughter. Riastrad has even managed to surround himself with eager Khornate acolytes, much as he had once been. He is not their leader in any traditional sense, and indeed most of the time he barely deigns to notice their existence, at best striking down any impudent soul who gets in his way. Instead, Riastrad’s acolytes tend to follow him much as a hunter does a hunting hound. After all, he knows where the best slaughter is.
Malaria, the Living Hive
When the combined forces of man and eldar had invaded Nurgle’s mansion and wrested Isha from Nurgle’s captivity, none among the forces of Chaos were as shocked by this development as Nurgle himself. Khorne was angry, as he always was, ranting and raving about how the theft of Isha was an insult to all the Chaos Gods. Slaanesh was displeased, for they had still craved Isha for themselves and now the chances of having the last elder goddess at their mercy seemed as remote as ever. Tzeentch was annoyed, for he had used the presence of Isha as a tool to sow discontent among the Chaos Gods and now that tool was gone. But Nurgle. Nurgle was destitute. Nurgle had long been aware that existence was futile in a cosmic sense, having watched his every effort to preserve the beauty of the universe wither and be in vain, but this was the first time he had known despair on a personal level.
For the Conservators of Isha, this was unacceptable. After venting his initial bout of fury upon realspace, Nurgle became despondent. The theft of Isha had forced the Lord of Stagnancy to change his lifestyle against his will, and he didn’t like it. Nurgle withdrew from the rest of the world, and the Conservators of Isha no longer received visits from their beloved Plaguefather. Something had to be done. And so it was that one brave high-priestess went before the Lord of Decay, and offered herself up as Nurgle’s guinea pig in Isha’s stead.
The few remaining records of the Old Eldar Empire list her name as Maleriel, though across the galaxy she came to be known as Malaria for reasons that will soon become evident. Nurgle took Malaria up on her offer, and for a while it was good, or at least, as close to good as things could get in the Realm of Chaos. However, Nurgle’s mood soon began to sour. Malaria had been brave, but she was not Isha. Whereas Isha’s flesh would have always rejuvenated itself eventually no matter how noxious Nurgle’s creation, Malaria’s flesh warped and mutated. As much as it pained the Lord of Decay to admit it, it just wasn’t the same, and Malaria could never replace Isha in Nurgle’s heart. Nurgle ceased experimenting on Malaria and moved on to other things. The Conservators of Isha breathed a collective sigh of relief, they loved their Plaguefather, but they knew that few could survive such personal, painful attention from the Lord of Decay. However, perhaps the greatest abomination was yet to come: Malaria had proven herself to be one of those few.
Today, Malaria is a living biohazard, a one-woman weapon of mass destruction. Nurgle had ceased his experimentation on Malaria, but not before he had merged her body with what was at the time his latest creation, the Destroyer Hive. After that, there was no more Maleriel. There was only Malaria, the Living Hive. Malaria is a disgusting creature. Half of her body is covered in hive-like outgrowths, resembling the honeycomb of a paper wasp or the inside of a termite mound, home to growing maggots, rot wasps, daemon flies, and plague gnats. However, the parts of her body that are not covered in these outgrowths, including much of her face save the area around her left eye, are covered by pale white skin, looking as pristine and flawless as they did the day of the Fall.
However, this is only a veneer of normality, literally skin deep. Malaria has almost no original tissue left, and when she has been damaged in the past, breaking in half where most mortals would merely bleed, it is clear that her entire body is nothing more than honeycombs for the insects inside her with a thin layer of skin on top. She shouldn’t even be able to move, having no brain, muscle, or bone, being as much a creature of the warp as flesh and blood now, animated by the arcane powers of the warp and the soul of what was once an eldar.
As for Malaria herself, she does not care as to her appearance. She has the mind of a child, despite producing swarms of plague-bearing insects so vast that they can blot out the sun. Malaria exists in a constant state of pleasure, happiness, and religious ecstasy so common to the followers of Nurgle as insects pupate inside her body, giggling like an innocent child in spite of the horror she leaves in her wake.
Kaimon Adrande and the Choir of Despair
Deep at the center of the Eye of Terror, the shellworld of Shaa-Dome is a hive of industry. However, the employment opportunities offered on this world would be alien to any sane eyes, including such things as “daemon whisperer”, “ghastbone singer”, and “flesh warden”. Flesh wardens are the Crone Eldar that handle the various warp abominations the Cronedar capture or create, breaking them for use as warbeasts or trading them to their kin in Commorragh. Among the most well-known flesh wardens is Kaimon Adrande, a Slaaneshi and the self-proclaimed “King of Beastmasters”. Such an appellation seems confusing at first, given that he counts sentient creatures among his chattel, until you realize that his definition of "beast" is rather lax, considering most sentient creatures including humans, orks, non-Crone Eldar, and even Crone Eldar he deems not sufficiently ambitious enough to count as übermenschen as opposed to sheep to be “beasts”. To the Slaaneshi the world is divided into the dominators and the dominated, there is no middle ground. Kaimon is well-known among the Croneworlders for his brash and arrogant attitude, even among Crone Eldar, attempting feats which most Crone Eldar would consider suicidal. He considers no feat too impossible, no feat too daring, and no beast which cannot be broken to his will.
Although Kaimon has created and broken many war-beasts over the years, he considers his greatest creation to be his so-called “harem”, his confidant and personal warsteed, the Choir of Despair. It is unknown if the Choir of Despair is a true Nightmare animated by soul stones, or is some other form of Crone Eldar abomination made of ghastbone and twisted flesh. In contrast to most Nightmares, which are made up of hundreds of individuals, the Choir of Despair is only made up of eight souls. Kaimon claims they were a series of eight eldar sisters that he fused together into a single entity, though exactly where and how he got these souls is not clear. They could be Croneworlders, eldar kidnapped from an Exodite world, or it could be that Kaimon’s claim is merely a lie and the sisters of the Choir are merely eight random eldar merged into a single being (possibly not even all eldar). Regardless, Kaimon loves to regale people on the years the Choir spent in horror of their new form as he tried to break them, whether or not listeners want to hear it.
From the waist up, the Choir resemble attractive eldar females attached by serpentine necks to the body of a great armored ghastbone beast. This armor is not put on in the manner of a warhorse, but is outright fused with their flesh. Their humanoid bodies are similarly modified, their hair replaced with segmented ghastbone tendrils and their body covered in chitinous ghastbone armor. Although each head has its own slightly different thoughts and opinions, they no longer have any sense of individuality and consider themselves a single entity. In battle, the heads of the Choir pick out and rip apart targets, tearing at their victims like piranhas as their body smashes through infantry lines, as if taking out their frustrations on the damned. Off the battlefield, the Choir serve, among other things, as Kaimon’s personal advisors, confidants, and quite frankly the only beings Kaimon actually trusts. Kaimon trusts the Choir implicitly, as he considers them to be so broken there is no chance of them attempting any treachery (indeed, it is likely that Kaimon is incapable of trusting any being unless they were broken to his will), and he relies on their many heads to offer him alternative perspectives and keep him informed of anything they see.
However, there are whispers that the Choir is not as loyal as it might appear. The sisters of the Choir remember the indignities they have suffered from Kaimon upon their twisted flesh, and now they plot revenge. Over the years, the Choir has been advising Kaimon to undertake ever more brazen actions of increasing dangers, perhaps in the hopes that one of these outings will eventually kill him. If this were ever the case, it is likely the Choir would take the opportunity to sacrifice Kaimon’s soul as an offering to their own patron deity, Tzeentch.
Out of all the mortal followers of the Dark Gods, Erebus is one of the most mysterious, as well as the most disturbing. Just about the only thing that is known about him for sure is that “Erebus” isn’t his real name. Despite being well known during the Great Crusade as a chaplain of the Word Bearers, there is no record of anyone matching Erebus’ description ever joining the legion, though people aren’t sure if this is because a “recruit Erebus” never really existed or if he simply did a good job at covering his tracks.
Erebus was born in the Yndonesian Bloc, much like the primarch Lorgar. When he was born, the priests tasked with interpreting the omens of his birth said that Erebus was born to a great destiny, that he was destined to bring the faith to all corners of the galaxy and his name would be remembered throughout history. It was this sense of destiny and a zeal for righteousness that led Erebus to join the Word Bearers, which he saw as the natural path for his destiny to be fulfilled. Throughout his life Erebus became known for his virtue and morality, with some people going so far as to say he was a veritable living saint. However, Erebus did not share these feelings. He always did what he thought was right, but he never achieved that sense of religious ecstasy that he felt he should be feeling if he was as great as people said and in general felt like a fraud. Erebus had a crisis of faith, and begged for God to give him a sign, to show him that his doubts were unfounded and that he was truly meant to be a prophet as the prophecies had foretold.
His prayers were answered, but not by the deities he expected.
When Erebus' corruption was discovered by Lorgar during the War of the Beast he was given two chances to repent. The first following the discovery of his actions and subsequent fall from grace, the other opportunity a deathbed confession and repentance. Should Erebus still be in good health then poor health and deathbed could be arranged. Lorgar thought Erebus was just a misguided young man and could be redeemed. Erebus spat in Lorgar's face and was put in the critical care ward after being rushed by the other Word Bearers. Lorgar was well loved in his Legion. Spitting in Lorgar's face whilst the Chaplain-Primarch was holding out the hand of friendship in front of his fellow Word Bearers would have been nigh suicidal.
After escaping from the critical care ward, Erebus pulled every string and cashed in every favor he had during the War of the Beast. This most famously manifested itself in the betrayal of Luther and the majority of the Dark Angels legion, but Erebus was able to convert small chunks of every legion to fall to the Ruinous Powers. However, things were not smooth sailing for Erebus. Multiple times during the War of the Beast people caught on to Erebus and the Dark Prophet was lucky enough to escape with his life. He was almost killed several times, but managed to survive like the roach he is.
Today Erebus is the Dark Apostle of Chaos. While Lady Malys may be the favored servant of the Chaos Gods, Erebus is more often the one who acts as their prophet and transmits their will to their various followers. Indeed, he's usually the one that travels around to let others know that Lady Malys has called for another Black Crusade, and is often the one who tries to keep Lady Malys, Luther, and Be'lakor focused on a common goal rather than fighting each other. He mostly travels between the different Chaos warbands in his flagship. He calls it The Chariot of the Gods. The Imperium knows it as the Planet Killer. It’s a retrofitted Blackstone Fortress.
Compared to the other major mortal followers of Chaos, Erebus is a relatively simple man. He is not a human supremacist like Luther, he does not have the appetite for anarchy and destruction of Lady Malys, and he has no desire for power like Be’lakor. His only desire seems to be the spread of Chaos for Chaos’ sake. As a result, he is one of the few beings that can act as messenger between the major followers of the Dark Gods, as he is the only one who is acceptable to all of them. He is human enough for Luther’s taste, is fanatical enough in his devotion to the Chaos Gods to please Lady Malys, and grovels enough to be tolerated by Be’lakor.
During the War of the Beast, Erebus used the chaos created by Drach'nyen and his horde to break into the Interex Hall of Devices and steal the Kinebrach cursed blade known as "the Murder Sword". After obtaining it, had it melted down and reforged into a series of eight knives known as Anathames, which he entrusted to his most capable followers. These anathames, more colloquially known as "Murder Knives", still had fractions of the power of the original, and as such are capable of ripping holes in the fabric of space-time and killing any mortal provided one knows their true name. Any mortal. This includes the Emperor. Or the Empress' mortal form. Malys and the other Warlords of think they can bring down the Emperor and Empress through vast armies and great fleets of battleships marching on Old Earth itself. Erebus knows victory can be achieved through something far simpler. If more overt attacks on the Emperor or Isha fail, all he need is an opening to try and assassinate the Emperor or Empress via the Murder Knives.
Erebus and the Emperor are in a bit of an unknowing proxy duel of philosophies. The Emperor believes that people at their core are fundamentally good, and all they need is a chance to express that. Erebus disagrees with that assertion. He feels that the idea that the Imperium brings out the best in people is more than a little hypocritical, as it only works because it is a benevolent dictatorship whose dictator happens to be benevolent, strong-willed, laisse-faire towards the populace, and most importantly, biologically immortal. The vast majority of leaders, , do not tend to share those traits. To Erebus, mortals are naturally sinners, who in the absence of divine guidance from an externally defined moral authority (even a brutally Darwinian one such as Chaos) devolve into complete anarchy. If the Emperor were to die, it is likely that no one else would be able to take his place and the Imperium would collapse into a totalitarian hellhole, allowing the nature of Chaos as the fundamental organizing principle of the universe to reassert itself.
All he needs is for the Imperium to have one bad day.
The dark legend known as Urkrathos is a name whispered with both fear and grudging admiration amongst the officers of the Imperial Navy. Yet few know he was once a good and righteous warrior of the Legiones Astartes named Yisun, and serves as a warning to how even the best of humanity can fall to darkness.
From his earliest days as a recruit of the White Scars, Yisun showed a keen mind for tactics and strategy. Through the Great Crusade and the War of the Beast he served with distinction and fervor, and by the Battle of Terra he earned his place in the elite First Company of the White Scars, the Great Khan’s Spearpoint Brotherhood, and had received his promotion to Veteran Sergeant.
As a man, Yisun was unflinchingly honest with an unswerving, almost naïve faith in the Imperial ideals of justice and equality, and in contrast with most of comrades in his Legion, Yisun favored defensive tactics exploiting terrain to its maximum advantage with heavily armored units and overwhelming firepower. Combined with his stubborn nature, Yisun often butted heads with his superiors, and his supporters within the Legion argued that he should have been promoted to Captain several times over other less worthy officers. To Yisun, however, these arguments were hot air: duty was its own reward, and he was honored to serve whether or not others recognized his efforts.
In the grim days of the Great Hunt and the Reclamation, the Imperial forces spread across the ashes of the galaxy to pick up the broken pieces of their Imperium, and the Legiones Astartes began to fracture in order to cover the vast expanses of space. During this time, Yisun was seconded to the 13th Company aboard the strike cruiser Divine Wind to assist the young Captain in his operations. The Captain was sharp and able, but there were whispers that he had been promoted prematurely to fill vacancies left by the War of the Beast, and thus he hungered to prove himself to his peers. The Captain’s reckless search of glory during the Hunt led to several open arguments and clashes when Yisun spoke out against the excessive risks to the men, and eventually the Captain and his command staff voted unanimously to strip the outspoken Sergeant of his rank and demote him to a Legionnaire. Many Marines within the 13th Company were outraged by the Captain’s overreach and insult against a popular and well-respected member of the First Company, and they demanded Yisun be reinstated. Yisun, however, accepted the punishment without complaint and instead urged his fellows to stand down to preserve the unity of the Company. He had faith in the judgment of the Great Khan, and knew that once they were reunited with the Legion Jaghatai would see the failings of the Captain and restore Yisun to his rightful place.
And so the Hunt went on. Months passed as Yisun fought as a common Legionnaire beside the men he once led, and all too often he had to bite his tongue when he saw the stretchers of crippled and dead of the 13th Company, casualties that perhaps could have been avoided if the Captain had only been more careful.
Finally, it all came to a head during an engagement against an elusive Chaos Sorcerer and his warband of Fallen the White Scars had long hunted. The 13th Company had split into two flanks to encircle the outnumbered and cornered enemy, yet as the White Scars advanced Yisun grew uneasy. He was already suspicious and wary of the advantageous terrain held by the traitor Marines, and to his horror he spotted subtle but telling signs of daemonic summoning. Without time to notify the Captain of the trap, Yisun seized command of the flank from the sergeants, who were more than willing to cede command to the honored veteran. As the Astartes of Yisun’s flank pulled together into a tight defensive circle the air was split with deafening screeches and filled with unholy light as daemons tore through seams in reality, and suddenly it was the White Scars who were outnumbered and surrounded. Rallying his men forward, Yisun led them as they hacked their way step by bloody step to the other flank where the Captain and the other Astartes were pushing back the daemons, beset on all sides.
The Captain’s confusion at seeing the other Astartes quickly became fury when Yisun’s voice rang across the vox line suggesting immediate evacuation. The Captain saw that his plan was in tatters and without the other flank in the position the Fallen sorcerer had likely escaped, and so the White Scars withdrew to their Stormravens covered by a hail of bolts from the circling aircraft.
Aboard the Divine Wind, Yisun was immediately arrested and thrown in the brig for court martial, and he accepted this without complaint. Even if it meant his death by execution, Yisun knew he had saved the men of the 13th Company from total annihilation. Yet he was horrified when he heard the Captain was planning to court martial the other sergeants who had aided him. Blameless men would die for his decision if he did not act, and so with great reluctance and sorrow Yisun passed a message to his supporters.
That night, as the Astartes retreated to their quarters to rest, Yisun’s men quietly donned their Power Armor and began their takeover of the ship. Most of the Astartes, confused at the sight of their brothers in full armor, did not resist when they were placed in lockdown, and those loyal to the Captain were unarmed, unarmored, and quickly overwhelmed and subdued by the mutineers. One of them, however, managed to warn the Captain, and so the Captain and his command squad barricaded themselves in the bridge, greatly delaying the mutineers until they finally blasted through the reinforced bulkhead to capture the officers.
With the ship under his control, Yisun plotted a course for the main fleet of the White Scars, intending to bring his case before the Great Khan himself. Even if he were to die for his crime, he could at least see to it that his men were spared and the Captain removed from command. Yet when the ship emerged at the fleet’s location after several weeks of warp travel, Yisun was shocked to see an armed escort of several cruisers awaiting his arrival.
Upon establishing vox contact, the escort’s commander demanded that Yisun power down the ship and all mutineers surrender themselves to their custody, for the Captain had managed to send an astropathic message through the company librarian before they were captured, and the entire legion knew of Yisun’s treachery. Stunned by the hate in the commander’s voice, Yisun attempted to explain his reasons, and requested an audience with the Great Khan as a veteran of the First Company. The commander flatly refused, stating that it was Jaghatai himself who had given him his orders. Reeling from the news that his Khan thought him a traitor, Yisun ordered the warp drive to be activated. The escort ships immediately fired on the Divine Wind upon detecting the energy spike, yet Yisun refused to fire back at his brothers even as men aboard his ship died from the bombardment, and finally they were able to escape to the Warp with heavy damage.
Stunned by the denial of even a chance to speak and consumed by grief at the betrayal of justice by the Great Khan he idolized, Yisun resolved to bring his case before another Primarch, for he still believed that righteousness would prevail in the Imperium, and so he plotted a course for the closest reported Primarch battlefleet. Had this Primarch been Vulkan, or Guilliman, perhaps Yisun could have returned to the fold of the Imperium and served loyally for many more years; unfortunately, the Primarch he found was unyielding Rogal Dorn.
The Divine Wind soon reached the fleet of the Imperial Fists and passed through the patrols without incident. When they came into comms range of the mighty Phalanx, Yisun’s request to speak with Dorn was accepted; yet when Dorn’s stony visage came up on the communications console Yisun knew something was amiss. He had barely said a few words when Dorn interrupted, and the Primarch’s eyes were chips of flint as he gazed imperiously down at Yisun and announced that Yisun and his mutineers were to be taken prisoners and returned to the White Scars to face their justice. Yisun began to protest, but Dorn growled for him to save his breath, for the Khan himself had informed his fellow Primarchs of his anger and disappointment in the once honored veteran, and before Yisun could continue his explanation Dorn ended the call.
As the Divine Wind activated its warp drive once again, it was struck by several ion bolts from the Phalanx, overloading the cruiser’s systems. As they drifted in space, Yisun could see thin red streaks emerge from the Phalanx as boarding pods hurtled towards the defenseless Divine Wind.
Yisun was staggered. Dorn was famed in the Imperium for his integrity; true, the man was harsh and uncompromising, but always fair and impartial. For him to utterly ignore anything Yisun said and deny him his right to speak in his own defense spat on the very ideals of Imperial law, and this was the final straw. Something within Yisun broke, and his grief became rage. For the first time he saw the hollowness of the Imperium and its ideals, that in the end rules and words meant nothing and that those in power would decide the fate of those beneath them on a whim, no better than any of the dozens of petty despots he had helped crush during the Great Crusade. The Steward and his lackeys were soft and weak, he realized, granting leeway to the powerful and letting crime and strife run rampant in the name of “compassion” and “dignity.” Sitting in the darkened bridge as his men scrambled around him, Yisun cursed Dorn and Jaghatai, cursed their hypocrisy and blindness, cursed the Imperium that he had wasted his life defending. He vowed that if he were to escape, he would spend the rest of his life tearing down the Imperium, never resting until true law and order ruled over the galaxy, enforced by his iron hand. And in the darkness of the void, something heard him and laughed.
There was a flash of light, and power surged through the Divine Wind’s systems, restoring their functionality. With full power to the engines and forward shields, the cruiser smashed through the surprised ships of the Imperial Fists, ramming past several frigates as boarding pods glanced off the recharged void shields. The Imperial Fists’ ships could not hope to match the modified engines of a White Scars strike cruiser, and soon the Divine Wind slipped beyond their range into the inky blackness of space.
Once they were safe, Yisun gathered his crew, and standing before the Astartes Yisun spoke of his vision, a new empire built on the ashes on the Imperium where true justice and order would rule the galaxy. Many of the Marines were swayed by his fiery words, for they too felt victimized and betrayed by their leaders, and Yisun named his band of warriors the Chosen, for they were the ones who would tear down the rotten façade of the Imperium. Those who refused to join Yisun were not harmed, to their surprise, and were allowed to disembark unarmed upon a backwater planet. All except one: the Captain received a single bolt shell to the temple, the long overdue justice that had been denied within the Imperium.
From that moment, the man who had been Yisun was dead. He cast off that name as a reminder of the shame of his past life of servitude, and in its place he took the name of Urkrathos, from an ancient myth of Old Earth in which a mortal man was betrayed by his father, king of the gods, and in vengeance crawled from Hell to the summit of the gods’ mountain to topple their corrupt kingdom.
After their flight from Imperial Fists, Urkrathos and the Divine Wind largely disappeared from the gaze of the Imperium, though the White Scars never forgot the shame of one of their finest falling to Chaos. Urkrathos did not reappear until the 1st Black Crusade, when a wing of Raven Guard ships was ambushed by a Chaos squadron led by an aged Space Marine cruiser broadcasting Great Hunt era IFF codes, its hull twisted and blackened by exposure to the Warp. The Raven Guard ships were quickly outmaneuvered by the unknown captain’s masterful tactics and only a single crippled Imperial frigate managed to limp away from the battle with word of their loss.
Word spread amongst the Imperium and the Chaos forces of the new warlord, and Urkrathos’ warband soon swelled with recruits as he won several of the overmatched Chaos forces rare victories against the overwhelming Imperium. His first and only defeat ever came late in the war against Abbadon, who privately remarked that Urkrathos was the finest fleet commander he ever faced and would have been a worthy Voidborn.
The 1st Black Crusade drew to a close at the final Battle of Cadia, as Abbadon gave his life high above its skies and Dorn died holding its walls far below. Urkrathos retreated with the rest of the Chaos forces into the Eye of Terror, and within their marble halls on Chogoris the White Scars added the name of “Yisun” to their ancient Scrolls of Vengeance, vowing to hunt down their wayward brother and take his head to cleanse their shame.
Over the next centuries Urkrathos consolidated his power and status as one of the preeminent Chaos Lords. He obtained his legendary battleship Testudo in a daring raid on the Imperial shipyards at Bakka, and over time he added additional weapons and reinforced its armor plating until it was a veritable fortress in space. Imperial captains and admirals quickly learned to fear the hulking black form of the Testudo and the trail of wreckages and burning ships it left in its wake.
Such success did not come without attention, and even as Urkrathos’ fleet grew in ships and men his rivals plotted to bring him down. He destroyed several Chaos Lords foolhardy enough to challenge him in space, and several times he survived the attentions of the White Scars when they made him the target of their Hunts. Others sought to gain his loyalty and power for themselves, including Luther, Erebus, and even Lady Malys herself, and each of them received nothing but cold refusal from Urkrathos; Erebus in particular received his response in the form of a single contemptuous backhand to the jaw when he came to the Testudo in person to negotiate. The message was clear: Urkrathos would only ever help Chaos in his own time, on his own terms, when it served his purposes.
For Urkrathos had never forgotten his vow: he and his Chosen fought not for glory or power or dark gods, but to overthrow the rule of the weak and corrupt and replace it with true order enforced by strength. To this end, they shunned the usage of Chaotic power and any exposure to the Immaterium to ensure their minds were their own. Whether this worked or not is uncertain, for none can touch Chaos and emerge unchanged, and it could very well have been that Urkrathos and his Chosen were slowly twisted as the dark gods worked in their inscrutable and insidious ways.
Whatever the case, it is true the Chosen were unusually disciplined and effective for Chaos Space Marines; though they lacked the power of Khornate Berserkers or the resiliency of Plague Marines, they more than made up for it in cold, precise efficiency. Worlds raided by Urkrathos and the Chosen often found the collateral damage to be quite limited for a Chaos incursion, though this would often prove to be scant relief when the targets were key logistical facilities and famine and supply shortages broke out across the affected worlds. Occasionally, Urkrathos himself would anonymously pass intelligence to the Inquisition when his rivals grew too powerful or he caught wind of particularly heinous Chaos rituals. This was not all humanitarian, of course; inevitably the offending Chaos Lord would be assassinated or the scheming cult destroyed, and Urkrathos would sweep in and absorb the surviving men and remaining resources.
As the millennia passed, so did Urkrathos’ dark legend grow. Imperial, Chaos, Ork, Necron, Dark Eldar, it did not matter; when their fleets opposed him, he smashed them all without hesitation or mercy. For his victories in the Black Crusades, Lady Malys named Urkrathos the Fleetmaster of Chaos, a title that he neither requested nor acknowledged.
In the infamous Battle of the Nyang Moon, Urkrathos stalemated and drove back the main fleet of the renowned Warmaster Solon, protégé and successor of Macharius, during the aftermath of the Third Macharian Crusade. Faced with an Imperial force that outnumbered him 10 to 1, Urkrathos utilized the moon, a thick asteroid field, and favorable Warp currents to restrict his enemy’s movements and neutralize the advantage of numbers. Solon found that his tactical acumen was outshined by the Chaos Lord’s planning and brilliance, and the Imperial fleet’s advance was blunted and turned back. However, Solon was ever the strategic thinker and well aware of his advantage in numbers, so as Urkrathos’ fleet was mired in battle a second Imperial fleet bypassed them and landed invasions on several key Chaos worlds.
Urkrathos finally met his end during the 10th Black Crusade, ironically at the end of a battle as his fleet hunted down the fleeing survivors of an Imperial battle group. In the confusion and discord of battle, the Testudo had not detected a stealthed Inquisition corvette as it pulled up into the mighty battleship’s shadow, and when Urkrathos ordered power diverted from the shields to engines and weapons for additional power to shoot down the stragglers, there was a sudden flash of light on the bridge.
Several squads of elite Grey Knight paladins materialized with a sharp crack and gust of ozone, along with a contingent of White Scars First Company veterans led by the Master of the Hunt, Kantak Khan. In the brief, frenzied melee that followed, Urkrathos was cornered and finally slain when Kantak Khan thrust the hissing blade of his power sword Moonfang through the breastplate and twin hearts of his long fallen brother. Sensing the life force ebbing from the Chaos Lord’s body and that their mission was complete, the Grey Knights immediately teleported the Imperial forces back aboard the Inquisition ship, much to the dismay and outrage of the White Scars who had come to take Urkrathos’ head. Aboard the Testudo, Urkrathos’ final, gasped words to his remaining officers were to conceal his death from the men and to never give up their cause. With that, one of the greatest threats to the Imperium had fallen.
The Chosen officers obeyed loyally, and for a time the Testudo operated as if nothing had happened, leading even the Inquisition to wonder if their mission had unexpectedly failed. It was not until the Testudo was boarded a second time and destroyed by a combined task force of Space Marines from five chapters did the Imperium finally confirm Urkrathos’ death, for the cunning Chaos Lord never would have fallen into such a trap. Captains around the Imperium breathed a sigh of relief, and for several millennia the Imperium thought one of its greatest foes had been vanquished.
Yet in recent days, troubling whispers have been reported by the Inquisition’s spies and extracted from captured cultists. They say a new figure has been spotted in Lady Malys’ court, a winged daemon with charred black skin calling itself Urkrathos. Some say it is indeed the Fleetmaster of Chaos himself come again, returning as a Daemon Prince to command the ships of Chaos once more and to complete his sworn task to destroy the Imperium. Others, including several captured members of the Chosen, bitterly deny this, for they say the true Urkrathos would never have accepted daemonhood and slavery to the Ruinous Powers. As ever the truth is uncertain, but if the daemon is indeed Urkrathos then woe to captains of the Imperium who must face the beast, for once again they will know the cold certainty of defeat, and the crushing, unfettered power of Chaos.
Daemons of Chaos
The War of the Beast was truly a terrible affair. Daemons of every stripe were called forth by the Ruinous Powers to assault the Imperium from every conceivable corner at the same time, in numbers that had not been seen before or since. In the Segmentum Pacificus, the Interex, the interstellar power that had joined the Imperium as a semi-autonomous member state, came under attack by the daemon Drach’nyen. Although capable of warfare, the Interex preferred to focus on the virtues of the human condition. To them, Drach’nyen, a being born of the darkest aspects of human nature, was like their greatest nightmare come to life. However, at the same time, because Drach’nyen was born of the basest urges present in all of humanity, there was little the Interex could do to truly stop him. As a result, the defeat of Drach’nyen came from a rather unexpected source: the Kinebrach.
As a Chaos-fearing race, the Kinebrach did not make Chaos-corrupted swords for no reason. As a race of weapon forgers and metalsmiths, the Kinebrach naturally saw making swords as a way to bind and deal with daemons. If a daemon is bound to a physical object, then it is tied to a single place and is not free to corrupt and torment mortals as it wishes. Once the daemon is forged into a sword, all one has to do is lock the sword away where no one can hear its temptations and make sure no one ever uses it.
Being a daemon of fundamentally human origin, there was little that even the most powerful human inhabitants of the Imperium could do against Drach’nyen. The Kinebrach, however, were not human, and suffered from no such limitations. The leader of the Kinebrach and the greatest of their warsmiths, Ra-Ham-Be, challenged Drach’nyen to single combat on Mount Afonso, a forge built into the side of a volcano that the Kinebrach had considered their finest workshop. The daemon was truly a ferocious opponent, but eventually, Ra-Ham-Be beat Drach’nyen and forged him into the shape of a sword, at the cost of his own life.
Unfortunately, in the chaos of the War of the Beast, the sword was lost and eventually ended up in the Warp, where it fell into the hands of Chaos. Despite being sealed in the form of a sword, Drach’nyen still has a mind of its own. If Drach’nyen believes the one wielding him to be worthy, he grants his power to his wielder to turn them into an unparalleled engine of close-combat destruction. However, if Drach’nyen believes his wielder to be weak or that someone else would prove to be a better master, he turns on his wielder, either stabbing them in the heat of combat or outright ripping the soul from their body. Many followers of the dark gods and even several daemons have learned this the hard way.
Drach’nyen has acquired sort of a legendary reputation among the followers of Chaos, as it is said that the sword’s chosen wielder will be the one who finally brings the Imperium to its knees. After going through many wielders, in late M37 the sword fell into the hands of Lady Malys, the Daemon Queen. The fact that Lady Malys has come into ownership of the sword, and has remained in possession of it for several millenia, has convinced many of Malys’ claims that she is the true chosen one of the Ruinous Powers.
Ingethel the Ascended
The people of Cadia have never had much love for Chaos. Although the Cadian Pillars may have kept the planet from being dragged into the Warp wholesale like the Eye, this did not stop daemons from temporarily manifesting on the planet just long enough to drag people off into the night. And while the Neverborn of Chaos may have had trouble remaining corporeal on the surface of Cadia, this did not stop hunting parties from the fallen Eldar Empire from raiding the planet for slaves, sacrifices, and entertainment. However, at the same time, there have always been those insane or broken enough to see the truth of Chaos, to see its awfulness and self-destructiveness, and pledge themselves to it body and soul nevertheless. Such is the case with Ingethel the Ascended.
Ingethel was a hedge witch who lived on Cadia about the time the Imperium first visited the planet. She led a coven of witches who lived in the caverns beneath a great mountain in the Cadian wilderness, away from civilization but close enough to numerous villages to practice her dark craft. It is not clear why the dark gods allowed Ingethel and her coven to exist as they did. Normally a psyker such as Ingethel would have been carried off by daemons long before reaching adulthood, their souls a tastier than average treat. Perhaps Ingethel and her ilk were granted the protection of the Chaos Gods because of their whole-hearted devotion to and their wicked ways. Or perhaps, as the Imperium uplifted the planet and drove the monsters back into the dark, the dark gods realized they needed more forces “on the ground” so to speak to go to bat for them.
Ingethel and her coven were well-known to the natives of Cadia. The people of villages surrounding Ingethel’s mountain had stories about her, about babies being stolen in the dead of night for ritual sacrifice and young men being seduced and spirited away by a seemingly nubile and doe-eyed maiden for nefarious purposes. To the Imperium, who had come to teach the Cadians one did not have to hide from those lurking in the dark, such a thing was unacceptable. At the same token, Ingethel and her coven considered the idea that one did not have to fear the dark gods and their servants as blasphemous, and to suggest otherwise was a declaration of war. Ingethel and her coven fought a sorcerous guerrilla war against the imperialistic efforts of the Imperium, spreading terror and cursing key individuals with hexes and spells.
However, despite their dark powers, Ingethel and her coven were very mortal, and they did not have the numbers to directly fight the people of Cadia, let alone the Imperial military. Eventually Ingethel’s coven was whittled down until only she remained, and her refuge had shrunk until it consisted of her mountain, the nearby forests, and little else. Smelling weakness, the Imperium dispatched a strike force to Ingethel’s mountain consisting of twenty Word Bearers as well as supporting elements of the Imperial Army. They surrounded the mountain before entering the vast caverns at its base, determined to end the threat of Ingethel once and for all. This proved to be a mistake, as Ingethel collapsed the pillars of her cavern home on top of them, burying them all inside and crushing them to death.
Ingethel used their deaths as fuel for an ascension ritual to daemonhood, ritually disemboweling herself to ascend into a daemon princess of Slaanesh. Being impressed by a mere mortal resulting in the deaths of twenty Space Marines and the better part of an army, Slaanesh turned Ingethel into a four-armed creature seemingly part snake, shark, and worm, her face grotesque with a snakelike jaw filled with shark’s teeth and one bulging and one sunken eye and her body below the waist replaced with that of a great polychaete with rippling vermicular, moist, and translucent flesh covered in orange, hair-like setae and serpentine belly scutes. Ingethel had always been wretched, now she merely looked on the outside what she always been on the inside.
In the long term, Ingethel’s trap did little to halt the advance of the Imperium across Cadia, but it did put the fear of Chaos back into the natives of Cadia, which was the Ruinous Powers’ intention all along. Although Ingethel is nominally a Slaaneshi daemon, She Who Thirsts exerts relatively little influence over Ingethel’s soul. Instead, Slaanesh has all but relinquished their claim over Ingethel in exchange for Ingethel acting as an emissary between the four gods. Although normally quite possessive, even Slaanesh sees the benefits of having a neutral messenger who can be trusted to deliver messages between the gods and important mortals without being shot on sight (all in the name of advancing their own agendas, of course).
Ingethel’s pursuits when not acting on behalf of the Dark Gods are varied, ranging from starting stories of monsters on worlds surrounding the Eye to creating her own facsimile of old Cadia (Cadia how it “should be”) in her personal demesne within the Eye of Terror. Sometimes she even likes to take a shape similar to her old form, reveling in how easily mortals fall for her innocent façade before showing them her true face. However, she always seems to be drawn back to Cadia to haunt the battlefield during one of the Black Crusades, seeking revenge on the descendants of those who shunned her in life. Demons have a tendency to be repetitive and predictable in their habits. She is the unliving reminder that while the Cadians may strive to forget their past, their past refuses to forget them.
Other Followers of Chaos
Water Spider (Por'El Mal'caor)
It is a poorly known fact, even among members of the Tau Empire, that members of the Water Caste act as spies and saboteurs in addition to merchants and diplomats. Much of espionage is simply overhearing the right detail at the right time, as opposed to more flashy actions inspired by too many holovids about the Alpha Legion and Inquisition.
Another poorly known fact about the Tau is their relationship with the Warp. The Tau are prideful in the fact that few of their number have ever falled to Chaos. In contrast, temptation by Chaos seems rife amongst human societies, and the legions of Crone Eldar that infest the Eye of Terror barely need elaboration. Every race, ranging from the Kinebrach to the Kroot, can count members of their own among the fallen (with the possible exception of the Watcher in the Dark, and that's more because any Chaos sympathizer among the close-knit, long-lived species would be hunted down and killed on sight). Of course, that includes the Tau. Warp resistant does not mean Warp immune. Corrupted Tau are not unthinkable, they are just extraordinarily rare.
Por’mal’caor, better known as Water Spider, was a Por’El at approximately the time of the Tau Schism (M39). As she rose through the ranks, she earned the name Water Spider for her ability to ensnare her victims in her webs of deceit and make them dance like puppets on strings. Water Spider was particularly active in the days of the Schism, using her network of spies to root out separatists and silence dissenters, in the name of the Tau’va, of course. Both Shadowsun and Farsight knew of Water Spider, and indeed Farsight was concerned that Water Spider was the type of person the Ethereal council would silence opposition (which kind of came true). However, in contrast to most other members of the Water Caste, who understood that they were peacemakers and traders first and spies second, Water Spider reveled in the darker side of her craft. It was this taste for deception that caused her fall.
Water Spider's fall came when she came into the possession of a spider-shaped pendant discovered by Tau xenoarchaeologists on a newly-colonized Sept World. Originally chosen for sentimental purposes, Water Spider noticed the odd properties of the pendent when she survived two assassination attempts through circumstances that could not be attributed to chance alone. When the Tau Schism broke out and Tau were no longer certain if they could trust their friends and neighbors, Water Spider began wearing the pendant at all times, trusting in it and only it to protect her. And it worked, separatist assassin after assassin sent after Water Spider ended up failing or dying (sometimes both) through increasingly unlikely circumstances.
Water Spider believed the pendant somehow brought her good fortune. A "lucky charm", in human terms. However, at this time the Tau were still relatively naive about Chaos, knowing about it but lacking access to the vast libraries accumulated by the rest of the galaxy. Anyone well versed in daemonology elsewhere would have been able to recognize the pendant for what it really was, a Chaos artifact of Tzeentch. The Tau may have been somewhat numb to the Warp and its effects, but being exposed to a heavily tainted Chaos artifact, Rotaa after Rotaa and Tau'cyr after Tau'cyr, would have caused corruption and mutation in even a grox. If it were merely radioactive Water Spider would have been lucky to escape with severe cancer. The pendant being an artifact of Tzeentch, of course, the consequences were far worse.
As with all followers of the trickster god, Water Spider’s body has gone through numerous mutations since pledging themselves to Tzeentch. In a sick joke by the Lord of Mutation themself, Water Spider’s body has changed to resemble her namesake, her hand and feet changed into cruel talons and four chitinous limbs bursting from her back. Her digestive system has also atrophied, leaving her unable to live off of normal sustenance. Instead, Water Spider feeds of the literal feelings of betrayal induced by her plots, liberally supplemented with the blood of her enemies.
Water Spider exists today in a lair of her own making, an outpocket of reality in the side of the Warp. From her lair invisible threads connect her to all of her agents on a myriad of distant worlds, whether human, Eldar, or Tau, fomenting dissent and turning brother against brother. Many of her catspaws, particularly Tau, are not even aware that they are being manipulated, believing they doing the work of the Tau’va while bringing doom to their countrymen. The exception are her inner circle, who fell with her when she fell into the embrace of the Changer of Ways, though it is debatable whether they are truly corrupted or brainwashed into extensions of her will. Even the forces of the other Chaos Gods are not immune to her workings when Tzeentch calls for her service. Yet for all Tzeentch’s blessings, Water Spider is not one for direct combat. Although she has mutated to the point where she could physically overpower a human, Space Marines, Sisters, Battlesuits, and even Eldar could make short work of her. She has few Warp-influenced powers beyond what her mutations give her. Therefore she prefers to work at a distance, striking down her foes without even being on the same planet as them.
- Chaos Space Marines collectively referred to as "The Fallen", not just Dark Angels
- Not as common as in canon, due to no entire legions turning traitor like in canon, but make up for it with a shitload of daemons, Heretek technology (e.g., Obliterators), and blessings from the Chaos Gods. Chaos Gods are far more lavish with their blessings to their favorite toys, to the point that every Fallen Captain, perhaps even every Sargent, is approaching Chaos Champion-tier power.
- Largest contingent comes from the Dark Angels, of which 2/3 to 3/4 turned traitor during the War of the Beast. This doesn’t sound so bad, but Dark Angels were by far the largest legion, and so having 2/3 of them turn is like having two entire legions go traitor. The fact that the largest contingent of traitors came from his legion is what made the Lion so fanatical about hunting them down.
- Vlka Fenrika – Said to be second largest. Quite a few of them were Unrefined Canis Helix survivors, which made Russ rather uncomfortable, and were led by Skyrar, who was close enough to Russ that the latter would have called him brother
- Imperial Fists – Basically everyone on Necromunda, estimated to be 1/5 - 1/4 of the entire Legion but with considerably more Imperial Army assets then the DAs.
- Night Lords – Decent number of traitors. The ones who joined to get their jollies off. Some Slaaneshi or Nurglite (of the “pain” and “despair” flavors), but mostly Chaos Undivided. Loyalist Night Lords hate them with a passion.
- Virtually every legion (and later chapter) had chunks converting either during or after the War of the Beast, either out of lust for power or just making bad bargains with the gods for the sake of survival.
Huron Blackheart and the Red Corsairs
See The Badab War
The Burning Earth
Every Legion had its black sheep during the War of the Beast, even the most stalwart and loyal. The Salamanders were no exception.
The full story of Lieutenant-Commander Maartje and the two thousand Astartes under his command is not known. No records survive, and the people involved are not forthcoming. What is known is this:
Lt. Com. Maartje and his men were defending the world of Ndorea, a beautiful world of some five billion people. Having been unified and untouched by the wider galaxy for thousands of years, it had no defenses, no armies, nothing that could protect it from the storm now sweeping the galaxy. And perhaps because of that very innocence, several raiding fleets, both Ork and Croneworld, targeted the world for destruction.
Maartje swore this would not come to pass. As two thousand Astartes were not enough to cover and protect an entire world, he resolved to meet the invaders in space. In a series of brutal boarding actions, every attacker was destroyed, enemy ships turned into crematoria by the Salamanders' justly famed affinity for flame weapons. Multiple enemy fleets were utterly annihilated, the Salamanders returning to Ndorea after each battle for resupply and repair. Over the months, the bonds between the Salamanders and the people they protected deepened, with several Ndoreans even being inducted into the ranks of the Astartes to replace the losses taken in their defense.
Sadly, the defense did not last forever. While the Salamander fleet was away intercepting an incoming swarm of Ork Roks, a Croneworld battleship slipped into orbit under cloak and burned the surface of the world, using well-placed torpedoes to trigger long-dormant volcanoes and fault lines. The Salamanders had their revenge, but it was far too late; all five billion of Ndorea's citizens had burned to death within a day.
Maartje, and all the men under him, swore eternal revenge, and tore into the fleets of the Beast with the fury of men possessed. This is where the chain of events gets spotty, as they only intermittently kept in contact with other Imperial forces. Eventually, they stopped responding to orders and hails at all. Then, when the Navy sent a frigate to try and re-establish communications, they boarded and burned it, just as they had the Orks and Chaos forces. Through the rest of the war, they would indiscriminately attack both sides.
When the Beast died and the Fallen fled into the Eye of Terror, Lieutenant Commander Maartje and his men followed. Today, they are the Burning Earth. Retaining their mastery of flame weapons, they delight in burning pretty much anything that catches their attention alive, posing as much a threat to nominal 'allies' as their foes. Whether it's turning starships into flying ovens or choking the life out of a hive city with a masterfully managed blaze, they delight in the flame and the name of Chaos.
The Crumbling Wall
Every Legion had its black sheep in the War of the Beast. Luther, of course, for the Dark Angels. Sigismund of the Imperial Fists. And for the Iron Warriors, Captain Varkand.
Captain Vandro was in command of the Astartes of the 144th Unification Fleet on the outbreak of the war. Ambitious, aggressive, and dour, he wasted no time assuming overall command when the Sky Marshal and his second-in-command were both killed when the flagship hit a vortex mine. Likewise, finding himself cut off and behind enemy lines, he wasted no time in ordering a series of raids and counter-attacks, trying to cut enemy supply lines and throw the drive towards Terra into disarray.
Some historians suggest that he deliberately arranged for the death of his superiors so that he could seize control of the 144th, but there is no evidence of this. By every account, he served with honor, courage, ability, and loyalty through the Great Crusade and the early stages of the War of the Beast. He would have been remembered as one of the heroes of the war, except for what happened next.
Vandro, an Iron Warrior to the core, grew increasingly dissatisfied with the raids he was making and the damage he was doing. The Crone-Worlders and their various puppets had erected a great fortress out of the hollowed-out ruins of the sector capital hive, Riskail; as long as that fortress still stood, he became convinced, the Croneworlders could never be driven out. He resolved to lay siege to it, crack it open, and kill every last enemy of the Imperium in the place.
The initial assaults did not go well. Vandro had spent a great deal of time in the sector capital, and expected his deep knowledge of Riskail's architecture to deliver a swift victory. However, its destruction and reconstruction at the hands of Chaos had eliminated all the vulnerabilities he had planned to exploit, resulting in a series of embarrassing defeats. Worse, the enemy defense was commanded by a sorcerer of considerable power, who used his talents to turn every defeat into a catastrophe. Stung and furious, having lost hundreds of Astartes and tens of thousands of human soldiers with nothing to show for it, Captain Vandro settled in for a long siege.
As days turned into weeks into months, supplies grew short and the 144th turned to increasingly dubious methods to maintain the siege. Captured enemy weapons were used, regardless of how deeply Chaos-tainted they were. Roving elements of the fleet started, essentially, extorting and enslaving surviving pockets of civilization within the sector. Worlds already ravaged were stripped to the bone to fuel the demands of the war effort. 'Liberated' slaves were herded right back out to clear minefields and act as decoys for enemy guns. There were sporadic instances of cannibalism as food supplies grew tight.
Captain Vandro finally breached the outer walls after five months, but this was hardly an improvement. The sorcerer and his cabal had not been idle, and had transformed Riskail's interior into a ghastbone maze carefully wrought to mislead and confuse on the psychic as well as physical plane. Casualties skyrocketed, and the 144th began to crumble under the continued psychic assault. From atop the stump of the DAoT-era space tether Riskail was built around, the sorcerer constantly mocked the attacking forces, and his words were themselves lethal weapons.
Captain Vandro and the 144th Unification Fleet had been sliding into the abyss for a while by that point. Now, they acknowledged the inevitable. Captain Vandro was the first to fall, pledging his soul to Khorne, and the rest of the fleet swiftly followed.
The murder-maze that had once been Riskail fell swiftly afterwards. The newly-empowered Iron Warriors simply shrugged off every psychic assault directed at them, smashing through the walls of the ghastbone labyrinth with supernatural ease. Captain Vandro himself killed the Croneworld sorcerer with his bare hands.
The 144th were pushed back into the Eye of Terror along with the rest of the Fallen, where they re-organized as the Crumbling Wall. They retain the Iron Warrior focus on fortification-breaking, and have a hatred of psykers remarkable even among the servants of Khorne. The destruction of fortresses is their sacrament to Khorne, and they have gotten very good at it. At the time of their treason, the Crumbling Wall had about 8,000 Astartes and 5 million mortal soldiers.
The Night Lords of Vol Opt
The Night Lords suffered a number of defections through the War of the Beast, by some estimations the second highest after the Dark Angels, but relatively few made it to the Eye of Terror to plague the Imperium in the future. They fell to Chaos in ones and twos and squads, and were viciously annihilated piecemeal by the more-organized loyalists. Mostly.
One such exception occurred in the campaign for Vol Opt. A hive-world providing vital supplies to the Imperial Army on the border between Segmentum Solar and Segmentum Obscurus, it came under heavy attack from the forces of Chaos and the Orks. The main strength of the enemy was annihilated by Imperial reinforcements, caught between the hammer of the Imperial Army and the anvil of the hive defenses, but the threat did not end there. Numerous cultist demagogues, prophets, and other preachers were able to infiltrate into the underhives, raising the prospect of insurrection. In order to safeguard against the possibility and ensure the continued flow of equipment, a large force was left behind to hunt down the infiltrators as the rest of the fleet moved on to other battles.
Unfortunately, this force included both Night Lords, five companies under Commander Sarcobael, and Salamanders, three companies under Captain Quron. Conflict between the two forces began immediately. The Night Lords began their typical terror campaign, much to the horror of the Salamanders and the local PDF. Many innocents were caught up and slaughtered in increasingly vicious cycles of purges, even as the Salamanders and Imperial Guard regiments assisted in the rebuilding. The continuous complaints and censure from the Salamanders and local forces only caused Commander Sarcobael to double down, determined to prove the effectiveness of Night Lord methods. Which only made their allies more horrified...
After only a couple of months, relations had broken down near completely. Local militias, initially formed to fight the threat of Chaos, had begun guerilla resistance against the Night Lords. Imperial Guard and PDF forces were flatly refusing to support them in any operation, while the Salamanders had taken to shadowing and even harassing Night Lord patrols. And while the forces of the Imperium squabbled, the growing Chaos cults took the opportunity to entrench themselves. The situation need not have deteriorated so far, but there was no commander senior enough to enforce cooperation on the rival units, and neither Commander Sarcobael not Captain Quron were diplomatic enough to bring things to a peaceful resolution.
Things finally came to a head at a meeting between Commander Sarcobael and Captain Quron, ironically aimed at resolving the differences between the two. The exact transcripts of the meeting have long since been lost, but it culminated in Sarcobael declaring Quron to be de facto in league with Chaos for obstructing his efforts to root the cults out, then attacking. Captain Quron was mortally wounded and interred in a Dreadnought, while Commander Sarcobael escaped. Full-scale war broke out within the day, as Night Lord clashed with Salamander and the cults within the underhives rose against them both.
At this point, the Night Lord force had not yet actually fallen to Chaos. This did not restrain them in any way when fighting the Salamanders, and the first days of battle were intensely bloody in favor of the Night Lords. Similarly, the Chaos cults made massive gains in the first few days of battle, coming perilously close to capturing the vital civic infrastructure of the hives. After the initial shock, however, both were pushed back quickly. The entire population of the world had been turned against the Night Lords, and PDF forces in particular counter-attacked with nigh suicidal fury. Similarly, the Chaos cults were unable to consolidate their gains; the efforts of the Salamanders and, ironically, the Night Lords had prevented them from developing to the depth needed to seize control of an entire hive.
The Night Lords were driven off-world, escaping just one step ahead of the system defense monitors. Commander Sarcobael declared that the Imperium had betrayed them, and swore to never rest until it had been punished for this transgression. He, and his remaining 350 men, swore themselves to Chaos Undivided. Meanwhile, the Chaos cults on Vol Opt were annihilated, having emerged from hiding prematurely, and Vol Opt remained in Imperial hands.
Skyrar's Dark Wolves
Elsinore is the primary base of operations for the Fallen within the Eye of Terror, specifically the Fallen Dark Angels who sided with Luther during the War of the Beast. The original Fallen don’t play well with the Crone Eldar except on rare occasions, and the Chaos Gods understand the need to keep their favorite toys separate and in mint condition. Elsinore was given to Luther by Tzeentch as a boon after he lost The Rock for his epic betrayal of Lion during the War of the Beast and First Black Crusade, which kept the First Legion from fully contributing to the war effort against the rest of Chaos on both occasions. Luther realized there was a deeper meaning to Tzeentch’s actions than simply gratitude, but accepted anyway as his people had nowhere else to go and if he didn’t he would have to throw himself on the mercy of Lady Malys or the Taskmaster. Elsinore was originally a Crone World, like most worlds within the Eye of Terror, but no Crone had the audacity to stand up to Tzeentch when he gave the mostly depopulated world away to the Fallen. Few today remember its original name.
From space Elsinore resembles a medieval castle writ large, covered in great stone fortifications decorated with towers, crenellations, and parapets. These edifices form a great labyrinth that criss-crosses the surface of Elsinore. The chambers and corridors within the castle are just as chaotic and seem to have no architectural rhyme or reason behind their construction, making them incredibly easy to get lost in. Secret passageways between chambers or behind walls are ubiquitous, to the point that the Fallen remark that every room on the planet likely has at one way of being eavesdropped on. Not even the Fallen know where all of these passages are. Along the edges of the castle complex, Elsinor is dotted with numerous towers that extend so high that the Fallen use them as spaceship docks. They also have a secondary function of giving any watchman or spy an unparalleled view of the actions of those below.
Elsinore’s labyrinthine nature extends beyond the castle walls. The planet is typically shrouded in thick mist, which muffles most sounds and makes it almost impossible to see more than a few dozen meters from where you stand. Walking across the planet, even knowing it is inhabited, gives one the impression of being very vulnerable and alone. In smaller courtyards between sections of the castle-labyrinth are hedge mazes, which always look trimmed and well-groomed despite never being maintained, which are even easier to get lost in than the rest of the planet as any who enter lose not only all sense of direction, but time as well. Further out, in larger province or country–sized gaps between the walls, the planet is covered in moors and gloomy pine forests. The Fallen don’t like to talk about what they find out there. The very planet seems designed to inspire paranoia and terror.
Not all have been happy with the fact that Luther's Fallen occupy Elsinore. Elsinore has been invaded numerous times, ranging from Crone Eldar hating the idea of a mon-keigh being in control of one of their Crone Worlds, daemon princes who want a new playground to call their own, Fallen warbands who think they're hard enough to topple Luther, or Kaimon Adrande thinking it's a good idea to raid the Fallen's human servants for new stock. Chaos has a tendency to fight itself as often as others when not presented with a strong external enemy. Even Lady Malys has attempted a drive-by conquest once or twice just to keep Luther pissed off. All have failed. The fact that Luther has survived for ten thousand years without even dying once (something that not even Lady Malys has accomplished, but then again unlike Malys Luther doesn't have a tendency to over-extend himself in a drug-fueled haze) is rather telling. You don't survive for more than ten thousand years as the most prominent Fallen in the Eye of Terror unless you are very, very good at what you do. In the event that active warfare fails, the Fallen adopt a strategy of guerrilla warfare, withdrawing into the infinite maze of secret passages to bleed any invader to death by a thousand cuts. Let the enemy have to deal with what they have had to put up with for millennia. Even though their homeworld is nominally a fortress, it is difficult to try to hold enemies at the walls. The geometry of their home encourages such a strategy; possibly actively, rearranging itself to practically welcome enemies inside, ready to face a slow and patient death.
Another one of Tzeentch's jokes. They call themselves knights, but when challenged they flee until they can stab the challenger in the back.
In addition to the Fallen, Elsinore is home to that a number of baseline human servants that tend to the Fallen's needs. Some have speculated they are slaves, or descendants of the support personnel and squires of the original Fallen. In truth, not even the Fallen know where they come from. They just... appear. It drives all the Fallen mildly nuts, but despite 10,000 years of investigation none of them have a firm answer beyond 'the entire planet was created specifically to gaslight us'. Although many warbands have degenerated into the savage hedonism and casual disregard for the lives of others typical of Chaos, the core group of Luther's Fallen treat their human servants at least halfway decently. It differentiates them from the xenos they despise and allows them to look down on the younger, lesser warbands that don't. It is their only moral high ground and they maintain it. They do have standards, twisted as they are. When they do have to perform grisly rituals to appease the dark gods, they use prisoners of war or individuals captured in raids than the servants they actually like.
The Crone World Eldar
"The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom"
-- H.P. Lovecraft
“Although most races in the galaxy have failed to reach the level of spiritual purity of Orks, some of the closest are the Crone World Eldar. And the reason for this is simple: purpose. Much of life is driven by a search for purpose, to find meaning in why we exist. For the Crone Eldar, this question is already answered. They exist to spread the will of their dark gods, whether by word or by sword, and all other needs are secondary. An individual Croneworlder may have their own wants and dreams, their own loves and losses, but ultimately it is this purpose that drive them forward even in their darkest times. Although I find myself abhoring their beliefs and goals, I admire them in their simplicity and purity of purpose.”
-- Uthan the Perverse, controversial Craftworld Eldar philosopher
The birth of Slaanesh was essentially a galaxy-wide extinction-level event. All across the Milky Way, species were wiped out, societies collapsed, and worst of all many races were twisted into something their forerunners would find unrecognizable by the corrupting influence of Chaos. Perhaps no race was more strongly affected than the Eldar, whose highly populated Crone Worlds were located right in the middle of the massive hole in the fabric of reality torn by the birth of the new Chaos God. In an instant, nearly 90% of the Eldar population was wiped out.
But not all Eldar were wiped out in this event. Though some Eldar manage to survive on far-flung Exodite worlds, artificial planetoids of wraithbone or extradimensional redoubts of the Webway, the vast majority of Eldar survivors were located on the Crone Worlds themselves. These were Eldar that, whether by sheer chance or some quirk of fate, were passed over by the hunger pangs of the newborn Prince of Pleasure. These individuals became known as the Crone World Eldar.
Being veterans of the debauched society that created Slaanesh in the first place, the Crone Eldar took to worshipping Chaos like a fish takes to water. Whereas the Fallen primarily follow the Ruinous Powers because they think it will bring them power and further their goals, the Crone Eldar follow Chaos for the sense of religious ecstasy it brings them. The majority of Crone Eldar, for one reason or another, see Chaos as the apotheosis of the Old Eldar Empire, one they are obliged to spread to the heathens of the galaxy whether the rest of the galaxy wants it or not. Make no mistake, despite their imposing physique, at the heart of a Crone Eldar is the mind of a Chaos cultist. This extends to the Croneworlders’ view of daemons. Whereas most other groups fear daemonic possession, Crone Eldar will climb over each other for the chance to be daemonically possessed, as possession will bring them one step closer to their gods. This also allows the Crone Eldar to do something that would be impossible for any other Eldar: survive in the Warp unmolested. Daemons know the souls of the Crone World Eldar will flow to them eventually (and to be frank find food that puts up a struggle to be more appetizing), and so they prefer to follow them like pilot fish following a shark, feeding on the carnage in their wake, rather than devouring them outright before their own death. Although the Crone Eldar are not truly protected from the warp (though really, who is), entering the Warp unprotected is not the death sentence for them that it is for virtually everybody else.
Across the Imperium, the Crone World Eldar are variously referred to as "Croneworlders", "Crones", or "Cronedar", as well as many other less polite terms. The term "Croneworlder" didn't always have the connotations it currently does among the Eldar and the greater Imperium. Due to Eldar physiology and culture (namely, the relative lack of aging among Eldar and their worship of the goddess Morai-Heg as a goddess of wisdom), the word [insert Eldar word for crone here] while literally translating to "crone", has additional connotations of being "well-developed" or "experienced", as opposed to "ugly", "withered", and "hag-like" as it does for humans. This is one reason why the Eldar called the Crone Worlds just that: these were the worlds in which civilization was well-developed and well-established. Humans, on the other hand, were just happy to have a shorthand term to refer to their enemy, one that had the added benefit of being insulting in human terms as well. Of course, once the Eldar learned the human connotations of the word "crone", they were only too happy to use the term "Crone Eldar" or "Cronedar" as a derogatory insult against their debased kin. This was just one of the many fun and innovative ways to insult people the two species taught to one another in the early days of the great alliance.
Crone Eldar Demographics
The largest chunk of Crone Eldar are Slaaneshi worshippers. The Old Eldar Empire was the society that produced Slaanesh, after all, and many Crones have changed little from the pleasure cults of the old empire. Even today, Crone Eldar worship of other gods is often decidedly Slaaneshi-flavored. Slaaneshi Eldar often hold a stifling amount of influence over the Crone Eldar as a whole, especially given that the centerpiece of the Crone empire, Shaa-Dome, is completely Slaaneshi-controlled.
The next largest faction of Crone Eldar, nearly as numerous as the Slaaneshi Eldar (~35%) are the Eldar of Chaos Undivided. Those who worship Chaos as a pantheon. The majority of Undivided Eldar just try to keep their heads down, and aren’t too different from their Slaaneshi kin. Then you have the hardcore Undivided Eldar, the ones who actively try to court the blessing of all four Chaos Gods. The path they walk is a narrow one, for any degree of failure results in nothing more than an abnormally large Chaos Spawn, but the ones who succeed are truly dangerous. Such an Eldar may not be able to outstrip a more specialized worshipper in their field of choice, but they are more flexible, a true master of none. Worse yet, compared to other Crone Eldar, these Eldar possess a frightening amount of vision, and are often sane enough to direct the attention of the Crones on realspace. And they resurrect. Not always, it's not a guarantee, but compared to Eldar of other gods they do come back more often. A result is that they are increasing in number. There were an estimate few dozen at most in the day so the Great Crusade. Now there are a few hundred.
There are about equal numbers of Khornate and Tzeentchian Eldar (about 15% for each). Several bands of Khornate Croneworlders have been exhorting the Blood God to take up Khaine’s old weapons and armor. It’s possible they do so because they see Khorne and Khaine as the same being. It’s possible they see Khaine is truly dead and believe that you keep what you kill. It’s possible they see themselves as having merely switched to the “winning” side. It’s possible that after all this time war is the only thing left they get off to, worshipping a Chaos God is merely pure coincidence. It’s possible that they’re all mad and potentially even daemonically possessed, making speculations on motivation pointless. It’s possible, even probable, that all of these views are held by at least one warrior band.
Tzeentchian Cronedar are more respected in the halls of Shaa-Dome than Eldar of Nurgle or Khorne, but they usually prefer to stick to their own colleges in the Warp and the Webway, where they can practice their own brand of nonsense made deceit made madness undisturbed.
Nurglite Eldar are surprisingly rare (~5%), given the kidnapping of Isha. Indeed, most Croneworlders that join Nurgle do so in the hopes of getting closer to Isha, and the most prominent members of Nurgle’s followers are derived from the corrupted remnants of Isha’s followers pre-Fall. On Isha's part, their company was just slightly preferable to Nurgle's own, and they mistook this preference, and her mixed pity, disgust, and sorrow for genuine love for them, and they believe they will be welcome in her presence, eventually. Their actual loyalty to Nurgle is somewhat questionable, but since the Raid they have become psychotically dedicated to dragging Isha back into Nurgle’s garden. Most Nurglite Eldar hope the version of the Starchild Prophecy with the Emperor and Lady Malys comes true because they think it means they will get to “rescue” Isha and the Plaguefather will get Isha back.
Then there are the actual Nurglite Eldar, which are rarer. They see the Fall of the Eldar as it truly is, with none of the romanticism or self-justification of the other factions; only as evidence of the universal trend towards entropy and decay. The only possible means of enlightment is despair. The clockwork of the universe counting down towards the end of all things. Inexorably. Irredeemably. Inevitably. It doesn't upset them much. They are past despair and into the enlightenment of acceptance they believe that by sharing Nurgle's gifts with all living things the inhabitants of this dying universe will be happier in the long run. Or dead. More probably dead. But if you're dead you aren't unhappy.
In the immediate aftermath of the Fall and throughout much of the Age of Strife, Crone World Eldar outnumbered their Exodite, Craftworld, and Commorragh-dwelling kin (that is, Exodite, Craftworld, and Dark Eldar combined) by a whopping 9 to 1. By M41 this number was more like 4 to 1 (or to be more specific, 80% to 20%, Dark Eldar making up a larger percentage of the latter number). This change is primarily due to population growth of non-Chaos Eldar, whether through natural birth or through mass-cloning (as in the case of the Dark Eldar). Eldar naturally have very low birth rates, but even a slightly positive population growth rate over 10,000 years adds up. Crone Eldar populations have remained relatively stable due to attrition rates essentially cancelling out birth rates, despite the efforts of the Crone Eldar to increase their population through demented methods such as the Daemonculaba.
Crone Eldar infantry squad organization
The smallest grouping of the warriors boils downs to 5 warriors in 1 raiding party. These parties are commonly a squad of ten that were split into two during small scale raids. The most basic warriors that make up the bulk of the Crone Eldar warbands are known as Unlanded Warriors, due to the fact Crone worlds lack the space for private property many simply rent living space. These Unlanded Warriors often join the military to gain land and power. The rank of Subjugator is equivalent to a Sargent who ruthlessly keeps the squad in line. The rank of Second Hand is for who serves to help the Subjugator in all matters and also act as a courier while being second in command. The Witch-doctor is included in a squad to heal permanent damage and provide counter minor psyker support on the battlefield, although these weak psykers could but won’t heal minor wounds as these wounds serve to provide pain and pleasure. The Witch-doctor is always accompanied by an Unlanded Warrior who would protect and help the Witch-doctor but also be always around to put down the psyker if driven too insane or rebelled. The Whippers are the only pair of warriors who have less lethal weapons and are melee specialist. Whippers are also infamous for whipping comrades when ordered to by their Subjugator. The pair works to bring in targets alive and fend off melee warriors. The last 4 others in the squad are the Submissives who can be armed with melee weapons or ranged weapons like the Saw Rifles, and act as flexible general infantry.
The Subjugator normally fights with a blessed sword and a Saw Pistol. Second Hands can have the same weapons as the Subjugators or have a Splinter Rifle instead. The Witch-doctor is often seen with a phallic staff which can smash skulls and the pointed bottom is made to slice through cloth flake armor. The Unlanded Warriors including the Witch-doctor guard are often armed with melee weapons like swords, hammers, and mauls with Repeating Saw Pistols. Alternatively the Unlanded Warriors are often also armed with a Saw Rifle and Saw Pistol. Whippers normally carry around a melee weapon, whip, and several Nervous Pistols
All Saw weapons fire mon-molecule dices like Eldar shuriken weapons but are shaped like a buzz saws. The difference between the ammo is to prevent the rounds from sticking on a target but instead to simply slice through organs and arteries. Saw Pistols are semi-auto pistols that fire bursts of rounds. Repeating Saw Pistols hold more ammo, have a stock, are heavier, and can also fire automatically. Saw Rifles unlike the Splinter rifle doesn’t fire using pellet or slug rounds, these rifles shoot with steady stream of rounds being sent like an Eldar shuriken weapon. The blessed swords are just regular melee weapons but are given special effects by Warp sorcery or by one of the Dark Gods. The phallic staff is a weapon that becomes larger at the top with its head usually being round while the bottom of the staff is sharpened to pierce cloth, leather, chainmail, scale, and thin plate armor. Witch-doctors are known to disable human Guardsmen by simply shoving their staff through the flake cloth even most feudal worlds with metal armor can’t stop the piercing. Nervous Pistols can only fire once before reloading. Shooting out all 9 chemically laced bolts at once are all connected to the weapon via extremely thin wires. If these bolts touch flesh after firing, they would send a shocking electrical current aided by chemicals on the skin to overwhelm the nervous system and stop any motor functions of the humanoid size target.
Unlike the Dark Eldar, who mostly tend to eschew up the use of armor in combat (with the exception of the Incubi), Crone Eldar generally wear at least some form of armor. Crone Eldar are fighters, not raiders, and so need some degree of protection when they battle. Although many Crones will claim their faith and frenzy are the only shield they need, most when pressed will admit their armor helps. Most of the armor designs used by the Crone World Eldar have their origins in some form in the armor used by the Old Eldar Empire. Like most forms of Eldar armor, Crone armor tends to be relatively form-fitting compared to the armor worn by Astartes, the result of using wraithbone/ghastbone in its construction. That said, most Crone Eldar armor designs tend to be spiky, chitinous, and made of ghastbone, rather than the sleeker designs favored by the Old Eldar Empire.
Crone Eldar armor integrates itself with the nervous system of the wearer, allowing them to mix work and pleasure by allowing them to feel sensation even on the battlefield. However, believe it or not, this feature has its origins in Old Empire designs and once had a very practical purpose. Because the armor was formfitting and was built not to interfere with hygene, it did not they did not hinder the soldier’s agility and allowed them to go about their daily business or even wear their armor at all times with only a minimal amount of discomfort. Additionally, because the armor could be vacuum sealed yet still interfaced with the user’s nervous systems, it was effectively a hardsuit where the user loss none of their dexterity nor their sense of touch. Of course, the original designers of the armor, even back in the hedonistic days before the Fall, never intended for it to fondle and stimulate the user while they wore it (such a feature would be a distraction, if nothing else). That feature was a later addition by the Crone Eldar. Like most armors worn by the servants of the Chaos Gods, over time Crone Eldar armor becomes clingy and difficult to remove if not outright fusing with the wearer, though even by these standards the type of armor worn by things like Phalanxes (which fuse immediately upon their creation) are rather extreme.
Crone Eldar Notable Groups
Scions of the Old Helm
Khorne's elite military cult of pre-fall Eldar warriors and guardians that turned to him in the violent wake of Slaanesh's birth. They earned their place in his favor when in the fall he watched them turn their ships inward to the great debauchery and slaughter their kin as they writhed together in the filth of Slaanesh, cut down mad sorcerous seers as they exalted the ever changing Tzeentchian glory of the expanding eye, and harried the clinging sycophants all about Isha as Nurgle dragged her down into the garden. They warred gloriously through the Shaa-Dome's upper surfaces, brought continent shattering climax to the mounting hells on the empire's scattered worlds as they washed in immaterial miasma, and shredded the webway within the Eye, spilling pocket universal redoubs into the eye's cloying nebula. He granted them his mark and blessing, and in time since they have proven their worthiness of his esteem as terrors among even the heavies of Chaos. The forces of this ancient military cult have made particular efforts to drag the remains of Khaine into Khorne's domain, and their legacy of horrific, bloody war has been felt in every corner of the Galaxy. The Scions of the Old Helm are led by Arrotyr, once a hero of the Old Eldar Empire turned into a madman and fanatic even by Crone standards in the chaos of the Fall and his veneration of the Blood God.
The 'puppets' or 'dolls', as they are known to Imperial soldiers, are one of the stranger factions of the Croneworld Eldar. Totally abandoning the normal unlanded warrior/noble officer structure of most Croneworld raiding bands, they advance to war 'wearing' a dizzying array of vat-grown and ghastbone bodies, transferring their minds into new bodies by sorcery and surgery, or piloting them from afar via MIU-analogues. Although the politics of Shaa-Dome are opaque to the Imperium, it seems that the puppet clades are distant from the normal courts, almost never fighting in the same theaters as the more 'normal' Croneworld forces, even in the middle of the Black Crusade. There is evidently some ideological animosity between the dolls and the great lords of Shaa-Dome, and they make their homes far from the center of power. Many of them seem to come from Craftworld Altansar
In combat, the puppets are more variable than even the normal run of Chaos warbands. Their war-bodies vary in mind as much as body, each one possessing its own unique patterns of thought. The mind is a plaything of the body; a fluid takes the shape of its container. Most of the older puppets are no longer recognizable, in both body and mind, as having ever been Eldar.
These are custom murder-bodies of the nobility, bizarre post-Eldar hive minds and mind hives, priests seeking extremes of experience impossible in an unmodified brain and solitary killers so radically modified they can no longer meaningfully communicate. All radically different, and yet essentially identical from the perspective of the Guardsman on the ground.
The Bleeding Star
The story of the Bleeding Star begins with Archon Darumache Zharr, and his Kabal of the Venomed Breath. After a plot to destroy a more powerful rival backfired on him, Archon Zharr and his Kabal chose to flee into the Webway rather than stick around for the inevitable overwhelming retaliation. After wandering the Webway for decades, raiding Imperial worlds and rival raiders for supplies, they found something incredible- a proto-craftworld in orbit around a warp rift, crew slaughtered in the Fall but otherwise untouched. Archon Zharr instantly declared this their new base, and named it 'Port Razor'.
The millennium that followed was good for the Venomed Breath. Port Razor gradually attracted other outcast Kabals and lone Dark Eldar, mercenary bands, Ork Freebootas, xenos pirates and Chaos marauders, until it had become a city in its own right. Commorragh in miniature. Constantly on the move and equipped with the finest cloaking fields, it provided all the scum of the galaxy with an inviolate base to strike at civilization from. Until the Imperium finally tracked Port Razor down, and assembled a Crusade to destroy it.
Unwilling to abandon his domain twice, Lord Zharr committed to a vicious defence. However, deprived of their usual advantage of mobility with the need to defend a mostly-static position, his fleets were slowly destroyed or simply deserted. Port Razor itself was forced deeper and deeper into the warp storm, fleeing into the depths where Gellar fields failed, beyond the reach of the Imperium. It was assumed to be destroyed, and centuries passed without further sign of Port Razor and the Venomed Breath.
Then the Bleeding Star emerged. Outer hull encrusted with the hulks of thousands of ships, the outline of what was once Port Razor was still visible, having been transformed into a Space Hulk in the terrible depths of the warp storm. The old inhabitants had been likewise transformed. Archon Zharr and the Venomed Breath had sold their souls to Chaos in exchange for survival- and power. The Bleeding Star ripped its way through an entire sector before it was finally damaged enough to drive it away. Before, Port Razor had been a base, a port; now the Venomed Breath operated it as a warship, a super-dreadnought of horrendous power. They had fallen primarily to Khorne and Nurgle (and Slaanesh not at all- they take particular pleasure in killing Croneworlders who follow She Who Thirsts), and their behavior reflected that; much more willing to assault the enemy head on, much more willing to stand and fight- and much more capable of doing both. Now capable of true warp travel thanks to the thousands of daemons bound into its hull, the Bleeding Star blazes bloody paths through the Imperium, only stopping when grievous injury forces it to withdraw and recover. It licks its wounds for decades, or centuries, loitering beyond the reach of any foe in the Warp- then it comes in again, without mercy, without warning.
Over the millennia of its operation, Port Razor and the Bleeding Star are estimated to have killed trillions of Imperial citizens. Its every appearance is met with furious force- but each time, it manages to slip away, leaving burning ships and worlds in its wake.
Crone Eldar Elite Infantry Units
Gorgons pursue the Slaaneshi ideal of sensation being a weapon in and of itself. They eschew conventional weaponry in favor of bizarre arrays of demonic hologram emitters, noise-makers, and more exotic sense-effecting devices. They use these to attack the minds and souls of their targets directly. At its simplest, a Gorgon's attack is simply a spray of epilepsy-inducing noise and sound, paralyzing and confusing entire companies with sheer neural overload. A more focused attack can burn out a mind entirely, causing brain-death without a single trace of physical damage. Given time in which to work, increasingly exotic effects are possible, from mass hallucinations to causing basically arbitrary mental illnesses to 'programming' a mind to respond to certain subliminal cues. A Gorgon's approach to combat varies widely by individual, ranging from full-frontal epileptic assaults to slowly programming entire regiments with subliminal cues to explode into fratricidal violence at the right moment.
Fortunately for the Imperium, the sort of absolute understanding of psychology needed to make a good Gorgon is rare; the sort of skill that allows entire regiments to be attacked at once rarer still. In addition, Gorgons are not often liked by their fellow Croneworlders. They approach sensation with a highly technical mindset, speaking of baud and bit-rate and qualia where most Croneworlders speak of overwhelming religious ecstasy. This limits how well coordinated they are on the battlefield, with the Gorgons mostly being left to go do their own thing, irrespective of where they would be most useful on the battlefield. Still, a skilled Gorgon at the wrong place at the wrong time can- and has- turned successful campaigns into catastrophes.
Meatweavers are thankfully a rare sight on the battlefields of the Imperium. They depart dramatically from the normal humanoid form, constantly remaking themselves into new forms. While they are capable of acting as combat medics, they do so rarely; their true calling is the creation of abominations. They stalk the battlefields of the Black Crusades, collecting the dead and dying of friend and foe alike and remaking them. Skeletons re-articulated, muscles resectioned, flesh ripped apart and put back together into monsters. The exact nature of these things varies, from stripped-down snake-like infiltrator forms to tank-killing amalgamations of hundreds of corpses. Even when they deign to heal, they never leave their 'patient' entirely unchanged.
In direct combat, meatweavers are a relatively modest threat; dangerous in melee but lacking ranged weapons, and generally preferring to avoid direct engagement. What makes them lethal on the battlefield is their ability to recycle the dead into various combat organisms, fast enough to be tactically useful; given more time, and more bodies, a meatweaver can create an army. Clearing a hive which has had a meatweaver cabal squatting in it for several months is a bloody exercise in frustration. Fortunately- and a small comfort it is- they often disregard practicality in their creations. On the rare occasion a meatweaver has been interrogated, they indicate their work is a sort of religious sacrament, an act of creation/rape that brings them closer to their god. As such, strict military usefulness is a secondary consideration; for every murderbeast there's a stationary sculpture, incapable of anything but moaning.
There are indications that meatweavers are themselves creations; that on occasion, a meatweaver will select a particularly 'suitable' individual and remake them into a new meatweaver.
Meltheads appear to be in a state of constant disintegration, sloughing off tracts of skin and slowly bleeding from every pore. This is because they are, in fact, constantly disintegrating, at a rate matched by their incredible powers of regeneration. They form the cornerstone of the Croneworlder's biological/chemical attack capabilities; their flesh, as it dissolves, gives off toxic/hallucinogenic fumes of wildly varying effect and potency. In light concentrations, this can be warded off with standard NBC gear and void suits; in heavy concentration it ignores any and all conventional precautions, as it is psy-active and warp-based, and these qualities come to the fore as it accumulates. In addition, these clouds can exhibit mobility and sentience, actively pursuing enemies and hindering the movement of people caught in them. In addition, by ripping out their own (regenerating) organs and performing various rites with them, Meltheads can create still more elaborate and dangerous effects. The most common of these is the 'smoke pot', which simply vents long-lasting fumes in vast quantity until destroyed; enough smoke pots are certainly capable of rendering a world forever uninhabitable. Other known effects include 'rust clouds', which destroy machinery with hideous effectiveness, and 'purple fog', which can evidently phase in and out of existence and exert limited mind-control abilities over people caught in its range of influence.
For all their terrible power, Meltheads do have weaknesses. For one, they are often listless and unmotivated, having to be goaded into battle by their handlers; without provocation, they are often content to wander listlessly and stare blankly into the middle distance. Second, the smog generated by a Melthead is evidently in some sense still part of their 'body'; this means they can exert control over its movement and effects, but also that the smog dissipates quickly upon the Meltheads' death. Third, enough fire does indeed burn off the smog, making massed artillery and airstrikes a viable option for dealing with the more exotic or permanent effects. Finally, to the relief of the Imperium, for all their power, Meltheads are quite rare.
While Meltheads are generally seen among Croneworlder forces, Nurglite examples have been known, and are generally even more hideous. There are indications that Meltheads are actually the castoffs and rejects of some experimental regime or procedure; what the finished, complete product would look like is almost too hideous to contemplate. Finding more information on this potential threat is a top priority of the Inquisition.
Phalanxes form the heavy-armor assault infantry of the Croneworlders. They are sealed into suit of possesed armor, which quickly (and extremely painfully) integrate themselves into the biology of its host. Once put on, the suit cannot be removed. The armor is not actually that heavy, and Phalanxes retain most of their agility; what makes them durable is the armor's ability to shift in response to incoming threats. Lasers? The armor becomes a near-perfect mirror, reflecting the incoming fire back at the attackers. Bolters? It becomes a bizarre labyrinth of sharp angles that deflects the shells away from vital organs. Plasma? Electrically charged sea-urchin spines that disrupt the magnetic sheath of the bolt and cause it to detonate harmlessly in midair. Melee attacks? The armor can go so far as to sprout bladed limbs of its own to parry with. Almost any kind of attack in existence has some kind of counter, and the Phalanx can use them all. The armor also incorporates strength-boosting mechanisms, allowing the use of heavier-than-usual weapons, the most iconic of which is the Zweihander; a ten-foot-long power blade made for cleaving through entire ranks of men at once.
Thankfully, forging such suits of armor is time-consuming and difficult, limiting the number of Phalanxes in service. The only reliable way to overcome a Phalanxes' armor either with overwhelming force (heavy artillery, tank cannon) or by targeting them with multiple types of weapon simultaneously and hoping the armor gets 'confused' and is unable to effectively ward off them all. Among other Croneworlders, Phalanxes are both respected and pitied; the nature of the armor means that anyone who dons it effectively gives up all other sensation in favor of the heat of battle; an admirable choice in some ways, but not one most Slaaneshi would make.
The result of a Chaos Eldar being infected with the Obliterator techno-virus. Slaughtermen are capable of forming nearly any man-portable weapon out of their evil-nanomachine-infused flesh, for a wide definition of 'man-portable'. Even more dangerous, Slaughtermen are capable of extreme precision with their weapons; as their ammunition is as much a part of their body as their weapons, they can perform such feats as seeing through and steering their rounds mid-flight. This allows incredible feats of BVR accuracy, as well as makes them excellent scouts. On top of that, they are also capable of creating 'drone' weapons such as autoturrets and spider-mines in order to harass the enemy long after the Slaughterman itself has vacated the area. Fortunately, the formation of such tools is apparently extremely taxing and rarely done.
Slaughtermen do have their weaknesses. They do not have unlimited ammo; they evidently have an internal 'reservoir' of ammo-mass that slowly refills over time, and can be expended. This contributes to their emphasis on precision over mass of fire; compare Traitor Astartes infected with the Obliterator, who have either genuinely unlimited ammunition or simply a vastly larger 'reservoir' and thus lay about with abandon using heavy weapons. For another thing, they use projectile weapons almost exclusively; their ammo-scrying and ammo-steering abilities do not operate, or operate with reduced effectiveness, with energy bolts. Finally, even though their ability set would be greatly complemented by stealth and camouflage, they are often anything but stealthy. Flamboyant markers of rank and kill-count (synonymous among Slaughtermen fraternities) are the norm, which allows them to be picked out easily on the battlefield. Of course, exceptions exist. They are also found with some frequency among Khornate Eldar, for obvious reasons.
The Crone Eldar equivalent of Swooping Hawks or Assault Marines, Shrikes use their rapid speed and agility to strike without warning on the battlefield. Shrikes are a fear, the wailing cries of the Raptor Cults resembling a cross between a hunting bird of prey and a jet engine. However, shrikes are also notoriously vain and haughty. Although they serve Chaos, they will not fight for any given warband out of any sense of common loyalty to the Ruinous Powers, and demand large payments of loot and captives in return for their aid. Lady Malys and Be’lakor have been known to keep their own Raptor Cults on retainer (with threats as much as rewards) in order to avoid dealing with the more independent cults’ notoriously fickle nature. Shrikes do not worship any one of the Big Four (and resent attempts of aligned warbands to convert them), instead worshipping the Raptor God, a predatory god of fear and cruelty that does not seem to correspond to any one of the Big Four, but in all likelihood represents a greater daemon of Chaos Undivided. After the War of the Beast, some of the Fallen were enticed into worshipping the Raptor God of their own accord, becoming the first Chaos Raptors and later Warp Talons. Raptor Cults are surprisingly open and accepting of non-Crones for a Crone institution, but that is merely because most Raptor Cult devotees have shifted the focus of their disdain from all non-Eldar to all who do not worship the Raptor God, not much of a change overall.
Shrikes are created when a Raptor Cult devotee is deemed sufficiently to be gifted a Shrike symbiote. The symbiote permanently grafts to the acolytes’ body, permanently reshaping them into a form more pleasing to the Raptor Cult’s sensibilities of war. Hands and feet are changed into metallic talons, while a pair of brass or steel wings grows from the back complete with their own set of jet turbines. Dissections of Shrikes have only revealed twisted cancerous flesh beneath their steel exterior, suggesting that their internal workings are warped just as heavily as their outer appearance. Shrikes prefer to use their own natural weapons in melee combat, but when fighting from a distance will use sawguns or filched bolters. Shrikes also have the ability to fire razor-edged blades from the tips of their wings. In this respect they resemble the Stymphalian Birds of Earth myth. Whatever they do not steal they defile and leave unusable, having some ability to spread filth from their deformed internal organs.
Perhaps the most gruesome habit of the Shrikes is their habit of taking plunder from the battlefield in the form of prisoners of war. Shrikes prefer their meat healthy and alive, but if this is not possible they have been known to sweep the wounded and the dying off the battlefield to deny them a peaceful death. Once back in their home realm, they impale their victims on Gallows Trees, techno-organic plants seemingly composed entirely of thorns in the defiance of all laws of botany. These trees insert tiny microfilaments into the bodies, prolonging their agony and death throes of their impaled victims for as long as possible. These trees serve as more than just nourishment for the Shrikes’ sadistic sense of amusement, for these Gallows Trees seem to feed on the pain and suffering created by the death throes of their victims to create new shrike symbiotes.
Swooping Hawks, Wracks, and descendants of the Blood Angels all consider Shrikes to be particularly insulting abominations, and will take extra satisfaction upon striking them out of the air on the battlefield.
See Also: The Phinean Massacre
Marionettes are slaves- human, other Imperial, and badly disgraced Croneworlder, in descending order of commonality- who have been sealed inside suits of sensory-deprivation armor. As protection, the armor is... better than nothing. The true purpose of the ghastbone suits are to filter the wearer's perceptions of the outside world, rendering the wearer entirely dependent on the commands of their Master to function.
At the highest level, a Marionette's armor induces total sensory deprivation, even suppressing internal senses like proprioception and balance, with the commands of the Master- delivered direct to the nervous system- the only sensory input. This level is rare, as it requires the Master to manage each individual twitch of a muscle on top of whatever else they're doing. This highest grade of Marionette is therefore found mostly in the retinues of the highest and most perfect nobility, who can manage such complexity, moving in perfect concert with their master.
The average soldier-Marionette, of necessity, operates at a lower level of filtering, the outside world heavily abstracted to a level where they can do simple tasks like walking and aiming independently, but anything more complex is virtually impossible without outside direction for simple lack of information. Thousands of such soldiers can be found marching in the battles of the Black Crusades under the command of a single Master, moving in perfect formation through even the heaviest defensive fire- which they may not even perceive, seeing nothing but the ground under their feet and abstract targets to be shot, everything else reduced to featureless void.
Aesthetically, Marionettes (naturally) vary; the most common is blank, featureless white plating, reflecting the total suppression of independent will and inner life, but excessive riots of color and ornamentation are also popular. As with everything, infinite variety.
The primary users of Marionettes are, naturally, Slaaneshi warbands. Tzeentchian forces are the second-most-common users, and have developed their own variations on the technique. Some of the more together Khornate warbands use Marionette armor to control their berserkers, herding them in consistent directions and preventing them from turning on each other by limiting their perception to the desired objective. Nurglite forces, hardly at all.
Dragon's Teeth are one of the many ways the Chaos Eldar have of making the Imperium's life miserable. Created by the forces of Nurgle from carefully-tended knots of filth, they resemble metallic seeds in their inert form- and in a sense, that is what they are. They are scattered about as a raiding force withdraws, dormant- until the conditions for their awakening are met. What those conditions are varies; it could be time elapsed, large numbers of people nearby, a snatch of birdsong, almost anything. Then it awakes, and starts to grow, sending tendrils through the ground. Then, once it has fully grown, it emerges.
They are wireframe horrors, masses of rusty, filth-encrusted razor-wire in the vague outline of a living thing. They attack by entangling their prey, slicing them apart with a thousand cuts. They are very stealthy; having no skeleton of any kind, they can squeeze themselves through gaps an inch wide and flatten themselves against the ground to avoid detection, and they make excellent use of this ability. They have a natural grasp of terror tactics; sneaking into a tent of sleeping soldiers and killing every third of them without waking the rest, stringing up soldiers inside themselves without killing them and forcing the rest to shoot their comrade, more. They often prefer to maim rather than outright kill; wounds inflicted by them will invariably become infected, becoming new vectors for Nurgle's gifts. They also seem to take particular pleasure in blending their way through hospitals.
Despite their undeniable lethality, their true purpose is to tie up resources and degrade morale. Hunting down an infestation of Dragon's Teeth is long, tedious, stressful, and manpower-intensive. Tracking one down requires exhaustive search efforts involving thousands of people. The injured must be treated- and guarded. Maintaining quarantines becomes near impossible with their ability to worm through the tightest cracks. A world sown with Dragon's Teeth can continue having problems with them for centuries, as long-dormant seeds awaken. They just generally take a disproportionate amount of resources to deal with- and that is their true power.
Fortunately, they have very little in the way of target discrimination. They (usually) don't attack other Dragon's Teeth, but that's as much as they can manage- on the open battlefield, they pose as much a threat to 'allies' as to enemies, and thus are not usually deployed in combat alongside other forces. It is a small comfort, especially since they make a perfectly adequate minefield.
The Qlippoth began as something of a science project deep within the bowels of Shaa-Dome. An attempt at creating emotion and sensation unprecedented even to gods, creating zones of altered space equally foreign to both the Materium and Empyrean and minds to inhabit them - minds to be consumed. Born to die.
It worked. Croneworld legend holds that everyone even tangentially involved with the project was immediately elevated to Daemon Princedom for creating sensations previously unknown to even the Prince of Excess, but the actual truth could be anything.
Qlippoth intended for war use are transported within ghastbone containment/support wombs, which are in turn locked within stasis fields. Once on the battlefield, the stasis fields are deactivated and the contained micro-universe and inhabiting Qlippoth(s) begin eating their way out of the containment womb and leaking into the outside universe.
It begins with a psychic howl, an utterly alien psyche pressing down on the mind and soul. Devastating and incapacitating. Permanent damage is likely. Closer to the epicenter, total mind erasure.
Then, physical effects, as the containment womb starts to collapse entirely and the micro-universe within starts to force its way out, resulting in a zone of overlapping physics within both the Materium and Immaterium. The exact effects are never the same twice, each Qlippoth and its substrate being utterly unique, but they are invariably devastating. Not even daemons take well to the laws of physics changing underneath them.
Finally, the utter collapse of the containment womb and the release of the Qlippoth itself. Without the womb maintaining its form and feeding it energy, it will only live for a handful of minutes, but will cause enormous destruction in those few minutes before the laws of nature finally reassert themselves. Even so, the scars on both Materium and Immaterium will linger indefinitely.
Qlippoth vary in yield based on their size. Most Qlippoth "only" have a blast yields comparable to a Deathstrike Missile Launcher. The largest and rarest ones are essentially a Crone Eldar form of Exterminatus.
Nightmares are some of the most depraved of all Crone Eldar creations, living siege engines that lay waste to anything in their path. Nightmares are in effect perversions of spirit stone technology, the same technology that keeps the souls of Craftworlders from being eaten by She Who Thirsts upon their demise. Crone Eldar normally hate spirit stones, calling them “soul traps” and seeing them as barriers that keep eldar from being closer to their gods, but they are more than creative enough to turn this technology to their own needs. Although spirit stones are normally used to protect the recently dead, they can also be used as holding vessels for souls forcibly ripped out of their host bodies. Dark Eldar have used this to forcibly swap the souls of different races as part of their sick pleasures. Crone Eldar have taken this concept and weaponized it. And being on the Crone Worlds, the developed worlds of the Old Eldar Empire, the Crone Eldar have a lot of spirit stones to work with.
Nightmares are massive goliaths, made of hundreds of stolen souls linked together into wraithbone lattices and clothed in warp-tainted flesh often stolen from the bodies of slaves. The souls that compose a Nightmare are all aware of their situation and feel the sensation of their entire body, but are typically only able to control a small portion of their form. This decentralization makes Nightmares incredibly hard to kill, as they are able to ignore most forms of pain not specifically tailored to harm them by their masters and will keep fighting until they are too damaged to move. In order to impose some degree of control over the Nightmare, all of the souls composing the abomination are linked to a single empty spirit stone, which is able to coordinate the movements of the entire monstrosity despite each individual soul only able to control a small portion of the beast. Typically, the only way is to destroy this linking spirit stone, and sets the component souls of the Nighmare free (to where is unknown, but it is arguable that even oblivion is preferable to life as a component of a Nightmare).
Being living macabre works of “art”, no two Nightmares are the same, whether in the number of eyes, number of arms, number of heads, even the very souls that make up their being are often taken from a multitude of species. The only similarity is that all Nightmares fear the lashes of the Flesh Wardens that drive them into battle. The only pleasure they ever receive is the flood of endorphins released into them by remote control at the end of each successful battle, which coincidentally sedate a Nightmare and make it possible for other Crone Eldar to wrangle it back into containment. On rare occasion, a particularly brave or foolish Crone Eldar will actually be able to break an abomination and ride it into battle, typically those Eldar devoted to courting the favor of all four Chaos Gods simultaneously, seeing as they tend to not have much of a survival reflex in the first place.
The Crone World eldar are nothing if not an ingenious people. Consider the humble Chaos Spawn. It its natural state, it is a pitiable thing. Barely able to move, barely able to breathe, in most cases good for relatively little except as component materia for a Mutalith Vortex Beast. However, take that Chaos Spawn, prune away the unusable limbs, induce further mutations, and replace the parts that don’t work with prosthetics, and you get a creature that is actually worth something. Crone eldar are masters at this process, their fleshsculptors carefully and artistically trimming chaos spawn like bonsai to create the creatures that they call faehounds.
Like other flesh-sculpted abominations, it does not matter what faehounds were before they were blessed with their mutations. Even Chaos Spawn that used to be Crones receive no special treatment, Crones generally considering being turned into a Chaos Spawn as voiding one’s claim to belonging to the chosen race of the gods. Faehounds come in a vast array of shapes and forms, and it can be quite accurately said that no two look alike. As with anything Chaotic, there are innumerable variants of faehounds, their numbers limited solely by the whims of their creators and the mutating eddies of the Warp. However, most show echoes of a common design, a general hound-like form, typically quadrupedal, though bipedal, six-legged, and even centipede-like forms are known. Manipulatory appendages are rare, but most have some kind of mouthparts with which they can savage their enemy. Faehounds are generally smaller than most Chaos Spawn due to the careful grooming of their flesh, but they trade this for much more coherence in their body plan.
Faehounds have many uses in war. Perhaps their most common use is as cannon fodder. Faehounds, with their unnatural speed, can rapidly outpace Crone Eldar, and can charge enemy lines absorbing enemy fire while more valuable forces advance. Whether or not they survive is irrelevant, faehounds are easily replaceable, and each shot fired at them is one less shot fired at more valuable eldar lives. Although Perhaps one of the most common variants of faehounds are forms modified as suicide attackers, exploding in a burst of corrosive digestive juices once their purpose is finished or they are too damaged to fight any longer. After all, it is not as though they were expected to survive in the first place.
Faehounds are also useful trackers. Many varieties have some form of highly acute senses, whether it be smell, sight, or even the ability to see the raw currents of the Warp. Therefore, many Crones include faehounds in their hunting parties, these mutated beasts tracking their quarry at the side of their masters. Although the actual battle is important, the Crones find hunting down and killing the fleeing survivors to be just as much if nor more enjoyable.
Dark Eldar and Croneworld War Vehicles
Dark Eldar vehicles have very little in common with either their contemporaries or the Elder Empire under the hood. Their abandonment of the psychic forced them to also abandon most of the typical Eldar technologies- wraithbone in particular. They had to recreate their vehicle technology from scratch. This is not actually the cause of their notorious fragility; that is a deliberate philosophical choice. Anyone slow and stupid enough to get hit at all deserves to die, or so the thinking goes. Agility, speed, firepower, more or less in that order; everything else can go hang. An excellent setup for a hit-and-run raider.
The forces of the Chaos Eldar, in contrast to the second-line defensive forces of the Craftworld Eldar and the pirate raiders of the Dark Eldar, are descended from the main military clades of the Elder Empire. They are meant to take and hold territory. They are heavy; often slower than Craftworld vehicles but much more durable. A great many walkers and hybrid grav/leg vehicles, faster and less affected by terrain than a pure leg vehicle while carrying more armor than most pure grav vehicles can manage. More insectile that the Craftworlders' preferred anthroform designs. More resources available for construction means more exotic weaponry, more energy shielding, more bizarre subsystems like regeneration, cloaking devices, teleportation. And that's before 10,000 years of Chaos exposure is factored in. Most armor fielded by the Chaos Eldar is a daemon engine of some description; ghastbone is an excellent host medium. The original classes of vehicle fielded by the Elder Empire have become something like taxons of animal life, branching into a hundred different descendant species. Each one uniquely terrible.
The war-regalia of the Chaos Eldar are often literally painful to look at, and sometimes also difficult to look away from. Clashing color-patterns, bizarre eye-capturing whorls, jagged and deceptive angles and textures, combining into a whole that strains the human eye and mind beyond their limits. Not enough for damage, not enough to be a weapon in and of itself- that is the domain of the Gorgons and their exotic, specialist equipment. But enough to give them an edge. Difficult to shoot something when it hurts to look directly at it.
Such designs are foremost the domain of the Slaaneshi, of course, the masters of sensation. But the techniques have disseminated; Tzeentchian crones also make a great deal of use of such techniques, and a handful of Khornate of Nurglite forces who want an edge in battle badly enough to overlook the source.
"This was our galaxy once. The Old Ones, the predecessors those that made us, left it in our care. It was ours to tend. Reward, for all that we had suffered in our war against the Yngir slaves. Entire generations, entire histories, entire cultures were lost in that dread war, but this, this was our reward. Freedom, and an unblemished canvas to write our fate upon it. We were stewards of life, the victors over death, and we were told not to waste it."
"And we didn't. We flourished, taking barren rock and tainted ground, and making fertile and green pearls of them. We made such works of art, such wonders of technology. We even made gods. For millennia, we worked, honed our art, and at every turn, brought life to this scarred galaxy. We had peace, as strange as that sounds today. It's a distant dream, isn't it? But you know it's there, that it's possible. You feel your spirit rise at the very thought. We had peace."
"But then we had the Fall. And it was all lost."
"Every eldar that is taught our history- even, the warped and half complete history of those led astray by the dark gods- is struck by that. Here, here is our people at their peak! We are surrounded by their works, the very galaxy owes its life to them in their power, but yet, we lose it all in a matter of years, reduced to this shadow of ourselves? How could this happen?"
"Arrogance, my child. Arrogance blinded them so far back. Arrogance of a few, that sought power at the cost of the many. Even, at the cost of their very gods. We were at the very cusp of ascension, when those, the fanatics, the usurpers, the primitives out of fear and envy destroyed the greatest work of those halcyon days."
"They tried to make a miscarriage of the birth of our greatest hope. The distillation of all of our gods in to one, purer being. Our Child Goddess, Slaanesh."
"The birth cries were terrible. What should have been a moment of joy and celebration would prove, with the treachery of the usurpers, traumatic. A great storm of pain tore the warp asunder, as eldar turned against eldar, brother against sister, mother against son, all for what? A handful of dirt balls the exodites call planets so you're free to freeze in mud and gnaw on roots. Flimsy scraps of wraithbone drifting the void called craftworlds, where you can have your fate decided before you are even born by the dead that rule. And that pathetic pantomime of glory in Comorragh, where they pretend at the past that's dead and gone. What glories have those rebels have earned? What proof of righteousness do they have in their miserable lives? They have turned their backs on Slaanesh, only to suffer under the lash and call it freedom."
"Thank the Many-Gods-in-One that they did not succeed in circumventing our child goddess's ascension, or we might all be trapped under their rule. Slaanesh is mighty, but her might is tempered with kindness. She waited patiently on the other side, in the dimension unbounded, waiting for the souls of her wayward children to be reunited with her. She did not snuff them out, though they truly deserved it. She did not hunt them down, though they wished her dead. She kept her arms wide open for them, ever welcoming their arrival."
"And then came the mon'keigh. And their insult."
"How gullible are those that lay outside? Short lived, murderous, stupid, and unworthy creatures come to them, and whisper poison in the ears of those already poisoned. They whisper of raiding like a band of thieves in the immaterium, of stealing and murdering. They speak of defiling the realm of the gods, and these that dirty the name eldar smile and nod, that ancestral sin of greed rising in them again."
"Those misguided heathens outside begged for the collar of the mon'keigh on their necks, in exchange for injuring a goddess that only loved them."
"Isha? Is that so? They speak of Isha, long gone, returned to guide our people unto a golden age? It is a lie. Look upon the histories- all the gods and goddesses save Cegorach agreed to combine, to set aside their individual identities to unite and make something better of themselves. Through those thousands of years since the fall, no one spoke of Isha, except in the past. Through these thousands of years, eldar hands were not up to the task of rescuing her? Preposterous."
"Now, now they claim that Isha, goddess of health, the harvest, and life bearing was kept captive in the hands of Nurgle? This betrays the work of the mon'keigh to misguide and mislead you. The lie is at the root- the mon'keigh would believe our goddess, pure and strong, could be captured and caged like an animal by that brute Nurgle? The story betrays their own intent! Like this false Isha, they would want us caged by them, used by them, made slaves by them. The story of her 'rescue' is a lie to convince the unwary that the eldar are weak, and it is only with the help of mon'keigh they can do anything. It makes me sick to the think children are being raised to believe this, and to think themselves less than mon'keigh. Trying to indoctrinate us into slavery."
"But they did attack a god that day- the mon'keigh and the false eldar. And they did perhaps even see Isha. Isha, as one part of the Many-Gods-in-One of Slaanesh. I was not there that day, but a comrade was, and he wept bitterly at the very memory of the sight. Slaanesh, in her radiance. In her glory. The innocent child god, looking curiously at these strangers that came to her. She smiled. Even among the black hearted and soul sick eldar infidels, some stopped and for a moment the truth came through. They fell to their knees and wept, tried to warn Slaanesh, tried to stop their fellows. They were slain by the mon'keigh, filled with bloodlust and eager to tear the flesh of the innocent."
"We counter attacked of course. Drove them back into the blighted materium, sending the cowards shrieking as soon as they faced something more than an innocent goddess. But the damage was done."
"Once it was, any eldar was guaranteed as soon as their soul left their body or the cruel soul traps devised by the craftworlders would be reunited with Slaanesh automatically. They would return to the child, and we'd be one step closer to divinity, and our heaven in the immaterium, when the eldar could claim the birthright of the old ones, and remake the unreality as we had remade the reality."
"But the evil ones broke that bridge. They severed one more strand of Slaanesh's goodness to your world. And now Slaanesh withers."
"The Child Goddess is no more. Innocence is no more. Denied the very love of her people, she withers and hungers. And she has learned from her mistake of trust. And we, in our sorrow, now must redeem our failing. The Crone Worlds must unite again, the masters of the warp must be awoken, and our goddess's due must be retaken. We can be patient no more as paradise itself is under threat. We can no longer wait for the misguided to realize their mistake, and come once again to the embrace of the Many-in-One. Our goddess hungers. And we shall feed that hunger. Just as we did so long ago against the slaves of the yngir, so must we do for the slaves of the mon'keigh."
"The War for Heaven calls. You shall serve- either in Her warhost, or as Her sacrifice. Either is better than your kind deserve."
-Unknown, Battle of Merr's Reach, speech given to prisoners.
The Dark Mechanicus
The Heretekal Sects of the Dark Mechanicus
The Church of the Omnissiah-Beyond-The-Horizon/'Visserites'
An offshoot of the merely heterodox Tiplerite sect. The Tiplerites believed that the Omnissiah did not exist- yet, but needed to be built, the final end goal of the quest for knowledge. The Visserites got the brilliant idea to try and accelerate the process by building a machine that would receive messages from the future Omnissiah through the warp, instructing them on how to bring itself into existence. It worked, after a fashion. They started getting messages from... something.
Although they make heavy use of warptech, they seemingly have no affiliation with any of the gods or even Chaos Undivided; whatever they're talking to, it's something more strange and obscure than that, something from out in the Chaos Wastes.
Even by Dark Mechanicus standards, the constructions of the Visserites are strange and disturbing. They tend to incorporate human (specifically human- xenos are utterly unsuitable for the creation of human machines) tissues seamlessly into the electronics and ironmongery. Many components are utterly incomprehensible, their principles of operation entirely alien. The goals of these machines and procedures, likewise, is often obscure; whatever distortions they have on the world around them, they usually seem to be mere side-effects of their actual purpose. Whatever that might be.
(These devices undoubtedly use the powers of the warp, but it should be noted that they are not daemon engines. The Visserites do not deal with daemons; they have other sources of power.)
When the Visserites have held a world long enough, scarred enough of its surface with their machines, it becomes... daemon-ish. Not precisely a daemon-world, since the Visserites don't use daemons. But a similar blending of the real and unreal. Impossible machines fading into existence out of thin air. Bastard offspring of Escher, Giger, and the complete contents of a patent office. Sometimes subtle enough that you need to really pay attention to realize you've gone a level beyond the usual Dark Mechanicus bullshit.
Generally, when you blow up enough of the stuff the effect goes away again. Generally.
The Malevolence Engine
Dedicated to destruction, to a degree unusual for the Dark Mechanicus. Where most heretek sects have goals beyond pure destruction, the Malevolence Engine does not; they exist solely to destroy societies. The Imperium is the most common target, but other forces of Chaos, the Silent Empire, minor xenos... everything is a valid target.
The psychology of the Malevolence Engine is reflected in their most common chant: "The Malevolence Engine sees all weakness!" Interrogations of captured subjects indicates that they feel compelled to exploit any flaw they perceive, whether military, economic, social, psychological, architectural...
To this end, they make far greater use of infiltration than any other Dark Mechanicus sect, or indeed almost any faction. Using a sophisticated array of mind control devices, front corporations, suborned criminal organizations, etc. they insert agents into all levels of Imperial society to gather information and attack from within. They carefully gather intimate knowledge of their target before attacking along every possible avenue, ruthlessly exploiting every weakness.
The actions of suborned merchant houses combine with short-sighted sector fiscal policy to cause a sector-wide economic meltdown. As prices rise and jobs vanish, revolutionary groups arise on a hundred worlds simultaneously, overwhelming law enforcement with surprisingly well-planned attacks. Hamstrung by logistical issues, the sector military struggles to resist; the few counter-offensives they manage to mount are crushed by an enemy with absolute mention of their doctrines. As populations collapse into hysteria as news of defeat after defeat leaks past the censors, charismatic demagogues stoke the flames higher and higher...
They rarely manage anything on that scale. The Inquisition is vigilant, the Farseers far-seeing. But every so often, the chance comes along, the flaw left exposed... and worlds die.
Although generally considered a Chaos force, they follow no god; the Malevolence Engine cannot stand to subordinate itself to something so clearly flawed. It would destroy the gods if it could, but it cannot. So it is Undivided, grudgingly. Because what it wants cannot be achieved without the power of the warp.
The Dark Mechanicus enclave of Arzach's World rarely clashes with the Imperium. It hosts no pirate fleets, sponsors no raids, wages no wars, devastates no planets. Perhaps a few far-flung explorator fleets have come to grief at its hands, but such is only an insignificant footnote in the bloody history of the galaxy. Still, the destruction of Arzach's World is a high priority for the Imperium despite this.
This is because Arzach's World manufactures and sells gene-seed, to whoever can pay. Mainly the Mk. III MP, of course, easiest to produce and maintain, but also dozens of home-grown varieties. The Magi of Arzach's World have produced many dangerous (to the enemy, even!) mutations of that baseline form. They ask people to use them, offer discounts if they bring reports and mostly-intact corpses back to them. A grand experiment, played out across the flesh of a thousand warbands.
Their primary consumer is, of course, the Fallen. The Eye of Terror is hardly a good environment for the delicate work of nurturing immature geneseed, and the purity of Arzachs' product is comparable to standard Mechanicus facilities. But they will sell to anyone with money. Many lesser warbands try to break into the big leagues by acquiring Astartes. And on occasion, on the very fringes of the Imperium, under-resourced loyalist Chapters may find themselves approaching Arzach's World.
Their location is hidden. Nearly every Fallen warband in the entire galaxy has ties with them; they can afford defensive sorceries of near-absurd depth. Every sort of divination is foiled, all navigation is for nought. They deal with the galaxy through widely scattered deep-space stations.
The ultimate end goal of their experimentation in gene-seed is unknown, but from the slow evolution of their techniques over centuries it is evident that there is one.
Unusual for the Dark Mechanicus, this sect has its roots in the Biologis and (very distantly) in the transhuman ideals of Horus Lupercal. Their beliefs and goals are simple; they think that the Materium is doomed to eventually be submerged in the Warp, and that Mankind's only hope of survival is to somehow become warp entities.
To this end, they seek out... lots of things. Daemon princes, and lore regarding them; how they're made, and how they sustain themselves. Powerful psykers. Mutants and Chaos Spawn. The Legion of the Damned. Psychneuein. Mandrakes. Navigators. Anything that might give them insight on how the flesh might be transformed by the warp, and survive. And, of course, any knowledge of the Men of Gold. (They'd kidnap Oscar if they could. But they know they can't.)
Daemon Princedom is inadequate for their goals; they need a method that is not dependant on the favor of the gods, that can be reproduced at will. They haven't managed it. What they have managed are the twiceborn.
The twiceborn (from which the sect takes its name) are liminal existences, half of the materium and half of the warp. They can slip through the boundaries between the two nearly at will, and even- with great difficulty- remain suspended on the border, half in both. They are not daemons. They stay dead when killed. Their existence is one of perpetual flight, constantly switching between realms to avoid all the things that want to kill them in both.
To the Twiceborn Sect, these beings are part saint, part vivisection subject, and part commodity; the focus of their research and primary trade good. They sell these things to other warbands from their labs in the Eye, to support their roving fleets, dark mirrors of the Explorators, perpetually searching for knowledge and more test subjects.
Of the Crone worlds, many including the great domain of the Eldar, the shellworld capital Shaa-Dome, are the domain of the Slaaneshi cult, and at some unreachable heart of the capital the Brazen Palace meets reality. The writhing heart of this semi-real kingdom is Slaanesh's access point to its personal princedom in the Eldar Empire, an asset unmatched by the older gods where its loyal cenobites can freely wander from eye to true warp. However, throughout the eye and beyond it the prince's rivals have ensconced their own favored. Mighty orders of killers dedicated to Khorne, made up of undying eldar warriors, empowered orks, and blackguard Astartes of the Imperium dominate the un-settled daemon wolds in the wilds of the eye, and even carve out their own domains in the warp itself. Tzeench's sorcerers have taken mostly to the winding fortresses and redoubts of the ruins of the Webway within the Eye, well suited for seers that cannot be tricked but by themselves and must read their own mind to know what they're thinking. The schemer's faithful magi and tinkers are indispensable in the courts of Shaa-Dome and Commorragh, but their wicked, plotting conclaves and colleges are distinctly unwelcome in the seats of power. The few followers of Nurgle abroad among the eldar spread the love of their grandfather in the slums, gutters, and servant quarters of the great cities of darkness, but most remain with him in his garden in the deeps of the warp. Of the few active beyond his noxious hedges, the most prominent are attendants of Isha.
The Cursed Moons of Shaa-Dome
The eldar homeworld of Shaa-Dome has three moons, one white, one red, and one green. Originally, the white moon was dedicated to Lileath, the green moon was dedicated to Kurnous, and the red moon was dedicated to Eldanesh (it was originally dedicated to Khaine, then dedicated to Eldanesh after Khaine fell out of favor for his little incident). However, since the Fall of the Eldar, the moons have been rededicated to different, darker gods, specifically the three that don't have as much of a presence as Slaanesh on Shaa-Dome proper.
The white moon of Lileath was rededicated to Tzeentch, and is one of the largest single holdings of Tzeentchian Chaos Eldar outside of the academies of the tainted Webway. The moon's surface is covered in twisted geoglyphs that form runes when viewed at astronomical distances, which work like ley lines to funnel the raw power of the Warp to the temple complexes located at their nexi.
The red moon of Eldanesh was rededicated to Khorne, though in practice it is Arrotyr's, and he doesn't use it as much as his officers do. The Old Helm's main presence on Shaa-Dome is in the form of the marshal's massive fleet in orbit and moored at this moon, and upon the portions of Shaa-Dome's outer surface that Arrotyr claims as his conquests at any given moment. His manse on the mid-levels of Shaa-Dome which he rarely uses was the estate of his house prior to the Fall/Ascension. The moon itself is more of a giant shipyard/fortress/armory to supply his constant squabbles with the Slaaneshis of Shaa-Dome's interior.
The green moon of Kurnous was rededicated to Nurgle. As one might expect from anything Nurglite, it went from "not bad" to "festering fungal fleshscape" real quick. The air has a mild anasthetic quality to it so the longer you are there the less things hurt. It isn't healing you as such but you could be mistaken for thinking it is. Every surface is variations on sticky, slimy or damp and if you have any open cut on you it will soon be infected. Even if you don't it get's in via any orifice but takes a little longer.
Assuming you die you get absorbed into the living walls or floor. Or if you fall asleep for more than a few days due to fever. If you get absorbed whilst still alive you will die at some point. Sort of. Loose cohesion and coherent function would probably be a more accurate way of describing it as your bits and pieces are broken down and moved around and digested. Brain is usually the first thing to start to be broken down, the moon doesn't need additional thinking time. Sometimes one is preserved and put to use. There is some evidence that consciousness is regrettably preserved.
Those that don't die, or at least live a longer time, are gradually subsumed by fungal and parasitic infections. They replace you one bit at a time like a rather sad ship of Theseus until nothing remains. By that point you probably don't look like you anymore but in some cases the semi-conductive algae (or something else) mirrors the old brain activity so completely that you could probably pass for you over the phone. Assuming you can still use a phone.
The resident native population are only theorized to have once been eldar. There were eldar living there before The Fall. These things are there now. They don't appear to be daemonic in origin but good luck trying to find a definitive answer. Some of them can be spoken to but they are all quite mad.
It is claimed that the original stain of Nurgles Rot came from here.
Nimina Demthring likes to use the moon to imprison those that won't accept the glory of Nurgle/Isha and aren't powerful enough to fight her off. Let them get digested and stew as moss men for a few millennia until they finally accept Nurgle's gift.
Geography of the Eye of Terror
Although it may seem surprising to those outsiders who see them as masters of the Eye, the Crone Eldar do not have a firm idea of everything that exists in the Eye of Terror. The Eye of Terror covers nearly 3.5% of the entire galaxy, with tens of thousands of planets previously located in its radius prior to the Fall. While it is true that the area now occupied by the Eye was well mapped by the Old Eldar Empire prior to the Fall, things have changed since then. If one were to assume these ancient maps were gospel and set out in search of contacting all the lost Crone Worlds, they would find the maps to be horrendously inaccurate. Numerous planets would be found to be missing, whereas others would be entirely new, baubles taken by the Chaos Gods as gifts from their most ardent worshippers. There are entire Crone Worlds which should still exist and be home to thriving eldar populations, but no one in the Eye has heard from them in thousands of years and it is generally assumed they were all wiped out. Many Crone Worlds have been completely depopulated, whereas on others so few survived that the remaining survivors simply decided to migrate to Shaa-Dome. There are also more abstract phenomena to consider in the Eye, corridors linking the Eye of Terror to the Maelstrom and the Screaming Vortex and the Hadex Anomaly and other major warp storms through the depths of the Warp itself. The Crone Eldar know what once existed in different parts of the Eye, but the space now occupied by the dimensional anomaly has changed so much since the Fall that such information is effectively useless.
Other species, if placed in a similar situation, would have explored every nook and cranny of their new domain in order to understand their new territory (and in humanity’s case probably claimed them, divided them up, and sold off the land rights). But these are eldar, and Crone Eldar at that. They preferred to spend most of their time post-Fall fornicating and coming up with new hedonistic atrocities to inflict one another, only halfheartedly supporting any attempts to map the Eye of Terror and regarding any such information is a passing curiosity. Therefore, large parts of the Eye are simply regio incognita, with space being best mapped around the major Crone Worlds and knowledge becoming patchier the further one gets away from the major population centers. The only entities that probably know the full extent of where everything is in the Eye are the Chaos Gods, their respective daemons, and Be’lakor.
Within Crone society, there are always a few individuals interested in reestablishing the Old Empire’s borders, braving the fickle currents of the Warp looking to stake their claim and make their fortune on worlds not their own. These individuals have always existed in Crone Society, but have become more common following the Raid as the Crone Eldar were once again reminded that there was a galaxy existing outside their borders. Many do follow the ancient maps of the Old Eldar Empire, hoping to find and establish trade with long lost Crone Worlds and plunder the forgotten riches of the Old Empire. To make such a journey is take an odyssey with sights never before imagined in your wildest dreams, as well as your worst nightmares. Well, at least if you are a Chaos worshipper.
Some worlds are more easily located than others. Shaa-Dome, Elsinore, Altansar, Arach-Cyn, Belial IV, and other major Crone Worlds are suspiciously easy to get to. The cause and effect of this phenomenon is the opposite of what one would expect, these worlds are not important hubs because they are easy to travel to or located in relatively tame regions of space, they are easy to travel to because they are important, with travel becoming easier the more important and renounced of a hub it becomes. Like the collapse of a quantum wave function, the more who know of the location of a planet (or, quite possibly, believe a planet is located there) the more “fixed” the planet seems to become. This is not the case of all worlds in the Eye. Other worlds jump around randomly in space, whereas others are impossible to navigate to unless you have somebody who has already been there as a guide. These are the worlds in which lesser warbands of Fallen, colonies of the Lost and Damned, and splinter groups of Crone Eldar make their home, many times being the only sapient, material inhabitants on their surface.
Shaa-Dome, that mighty shell world orbiting the supermassive black hole that was once the eldar’s home star, has a particularly insidious effect. The currents of the Eye seem to center on Shaa-Dome as if it were the center of a great vortex, it is easy to get to Shaa-Dome from anywhere in the Eye and ships that do so get there faster than if they were trying to travel anywhere else. This means that Shaa-Dome plays an important role when navigating the Eye, as it is often quicker and easier to make a rally point at Shaa-Dome than fly directly across the Eye, something that keeps Shaa-Dome at the forefront of gossip and the latest trends as travelers are forced to pass through the system. It also plays a role in the Black Crusades, as while the Cadian gate is one of the only ways for a massive Crone Fleet to leave the Eye without the battleships arriving in realspace centuries apart, when retreating it is possible to leave Imperial space from anywhere in the Eye, confident that the warp currents will spirit them back to Shaa-Dome.
Although the idea of washing downstream in a known location in the event one gets lost in the non-Euclidean space of the Eye of Terror might seem comforting, it is a false hope. The Mandeville point of Shaa-Dome is constantly awash with floatsam from other parts of the Eye, and the systems fey inhabitants are constantly scavenging through the debris for usable parts. A shipwreck survivor washing up on the material shores of Shaa-Dome is likely to be taken, enslaved, and subjected to a thousand other unspeakable horrors, with whatever is left over dumped in a vat for the fleshsculptors to play with.
The inhabitants of Shaa-Dome and the Eye have certainly noticed this effect. The phrase “All courses have their end at Shaa-Dome” is a common saying in the Eye, and the fact that the world seems to occupy a central location in the immaterial maelstrom has only made its preening inhabitants all the more arrogant. Croneworlders tend to flock to Shaa-Dome in general, but this is much for cultural reasons as it is any eldritch current of the Warp. As the most populous Crone World, Shaa-Dome is seen as the centerpiece and shining jewel of the Old Eldar Empire. If you can make it big in Shaa-Dome, you can make it big anywhere.
Although the strange warp currents of the Eye are generally attributed to the supermassive black hole at the system of Shaa-Dome’s heart, others have dark suspicions that other forces are at work. These individuals posit the currents are not related to any material phenomenon but are related to the connection between Shaa-Dome and the Brass Palace of She Who Thirsts at the planet’ core, a theory seemly supported by the fact that the currents seem to be centered on the shellworld rather than the nearby black hole.
Other servants of the Chaos Gods
Chaos Guard is a generic term for humans at war on the side of Chaos. Their ranks are as diverse as humanity itself, ranging from Guardsmen who simply saw too much to revolutionaries seeking any weapon they can get to nobles and underhive gangs trying to get a leg up over their rivals. Many Chaos Guard were simply born into Chaos, raised on planets within the Eye of Terror or far from the Astronomicon's light. The paths to Chaos are many, but the destination is always the same.
Most new-minted Chaos Guard forces are quickly incorporated into well-established warbands. Most of these are lead by Chaos Eldar or the Fallen, with the Chaos Guard simply filling out the ranks of cannon fodder. Of course, it is a large galaxy, and even a minority of independent Chaos Guard battlegroups is still a very large number in absolute terms. The quality of any given battlegroup varies wildly, influenced by origin, prior battles, and how much its patrons care. On the one end, you have howling mutant cultist hordes; on the other, discipline and tactics on par with the finest regiments of Imperial guard. Chaos Guard forces often slide up and down this scale over their operational history; a howling horde may be beaten into an elite force by the brutal logic of natural selection over the course of multiple battles, while a proud Imperial Guard force may have their brains rotted and degenerate into near-mindless mutants as they slide deeper into the grip of Chaos.
Likewise, the equipment of Chaos Guard forces varies widely. Those few fortunate enough to establish ties with the Dark Mechanicus are equipped as good as or better than any Imperial Guard regiment, but most find themselves without consistent access to an industrial base and incapable of maintaining advanced equipment. Such battlegroups find themselves forced to raid Imperial space just for basic supplies, and often degenerate back to basic infantry weapons: lasguns, autoguns, and melee weapons. Of course, there is wild variation here, as everywhere else; Chaos Eldar thralls are often partially equipped with Eldar weaponry, while warbands based out in the fringes of the galaxy can have strange xenos weaponry, unknown to even the most wide-ranging Ordo Xenos inquisitor.
One thing the many factions of Chaos Guard have in common, however else they differ, is that they are dangerous. Imperial Guard, Aspect Warriors, Astartes; all are harsh teachers. Would-be Chaos Guard must learn swiftly or be destroyed. Many, even most, are destroyed; the rest learn. Whether a proud and disciplined soldier or howling berserker, elevated by Chaos' gifts or reduced to a shambling unit barely a step above Chaos Spawn; never count a Chaos Guardsman out until they are dead and buried. Sometimes, not even then.
A once prosperous society of large coconut crab looking people with a loose coalition of worlds at it's height counting 80 star systems as theirs they did not endure well in the Age of Strife. Their people, though hardy of shell, were not sufficiently warlike and could not understand the great and increased enmity between what once had been good neighbours. Although they had an electrical biological defence they had little in the way of developed weapons and this was a weakness they paid for dearly.
They also had surprisingly little understanding of the warp and, at the time, no member of their species was psyker. They had abandoned the use of star ships many generations previously and had adopted a strange method of "folding" into the webway. Their primary method of perception was being able to smell/taste dimensions in a manner not encountered before or since in any other species and by this means became the only other species besides the elder to develop the ability to navigate that strange realm.
The eldar allowed them to violate a realm considered exclusively their own for no other reason beyond apathy. Their worlds intersected paths seldom visited and they made poor slaves or playthings when other more entertaining diversions were to be had in abundance.
For the most part the Saruthi had lived apart from the galaxy in splendid isolation, making wonderful works of art made to be "seen" by creatures with no eyes and written works in a form of xeno braille.
But it did not last. When the galaxy went mad they could not have been prepared for the whispers that seeped sideways into their dreams.
It is unclear exactly what they were tempted with, what dreams of things forbidden could be appealing to a race of blind crabs who dreamed of impossible geometries and poetry, but dream they did and tempted. Ultimately it was Slaanesh, the Newborn Queen, who held sway over their minds. She promised them, maybe, grandeur writ large across the stars in dimensions strange and twisted and impossible that they could walk. Maybe she promised them retaliation and sweet sadistic catharsis against those that had brought their works to ruin. Who can say? Further added to this problem, exaggerating and growing the corruption in new and exciting directions were refugees from Doombreed's petty empire, wicked men debased and debauched, who carried with them the Necroteuch and all the sorrows and splendour held therein.
It was in this time that the Saruthi as a people collapsed. On the one side of the great and unpleasant and new divide between them were the Broken who thrashed and tore at the world, twisting space into unpleasant, impossible and obscene shapes and did unspeakable things to their young spawning a race of monsters to serve them as slaves and on the other side were the Sane who needed to exterminate the Broken to the last as a cancer needs to be exorcised from a host.
As the war ended there were maybe only a few worlds, no more than six, were left inhabited of the old Saruthi nation in a patch of the sky to be known to later Imperials as Wilderness Space and not much later than that quarantined by order of the Inquisition.
For the longest time it was assumed that they were another utterly lost cause. One more people lost to the Age of Strife and the depredations of the Great Adversary. What of them was left were not Saruthi as they once were as every generation birthed more mutations each seemingly more abominable and insane than the last.
All until the Aschen War of 307M40 when well ordered ranks of strange beings seemed to fold out the air, hard of carapace and fearless. They took the forces of the orks and the Chaos marauders apart in an inhumanly meticulous and methodical manner even going so far as to carefully dismember the dead and the injured.
A seven group of them detached from the others and approached the Imperials, each standing 3 meters tall and broad they stood there and sniffed the air to taste them and their space form. With no words exchanged and what can only be assumed to have been an entirely one sided exchange of understanding the seven group turned away and returned to the dismembering before they all folded away again.
Saruthi sightings into the Dark Millennium have been sporadic but seem to be increasing in number. It is clear that they must be again multiplying and their peaceful days of innocence are behind them now, now the Sane march to war. No homeworld of them has been found, though the Harlequins sing sometimes of a "Hermit world of Crabs". No dialogue has been achieved between the seemingly resurrected Saruthi and the Imperium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Generally agreed that they need a different name than Sarcophages, pseudo-Latin is more the Imperium's thing.
The Sarcophages are a splinter faction, some would say a religious movement, among the Kroot of the Ultima Segmentum. Whereas most Kroot are allied with the Imperium (though their loyalty is shaky by human standards), the Sarcophages are unusual in seeing all sapient life as prey, Imperial and non-Sarcophage Kroot alike. The founder of was a Kroot by the name of Khamor Wet. According to legend, Khamor Wet was performing the traditional rite of eating the dead after battle with the Orks when he was struck by a vision, or what others would describe as a drug trip. It is believed that Wet’s vision may have come from eating a Chaos Ork who had recently turned and whose body did not show any outside signs of corruption.
From his vision, Khamor Wet was said to have come to have come to a realization. The Kroot were the apex predators of the galaxy. Humans could not eat humans without extensive processing into corpsestarch, and even then they ran the risk of illness and only did so in the direst of circumstances. Eldar also did not eat eldar, though this may be less due to physiology than the cultural stigma of the cannibalistic Mon-Keigh early in their history. The Tau similarly could not eat Tau, and in fact only ate small amounts of animal flesh. The galaxy was not full of allies or clients, but prey. To Khamor Wet, the order of the universe was clear. Animals ate plants, sapient beings ate animals, and Kroot ate everything. Only by hunting the other sapients and the weak among their number could the Kroot evolve into truly perfect beings.
To say that the Shapers were horrified by this idea was an understatement. They ate the flesh of the honoured dead to preserve its essence and prevent it from dissipating into the earth. They ate the untainted flesh of those who would be an enemy to the People (mostly Orks) to remove it from the world. They ate the flesh of many beings, but they ate the flesh of sapients to preserve the link of wisdom between ancestor and descendant and prevent the Kroot from going mad. They did hunt game, but to hunt sapient beings like animals as opposed to fellow warriors was outright heresy. They immediately declared Khamor Wet and his followers to be namotek, or tainted flesh, and demanded that they be killed and their essence scattered to the winds. Unfortunately, Khamor Wet and at least some of his followers evaded their doom at the hands of their fellow Kroot and escaped into the cosmos.
Today, the Sarcophages are a constant, though minor, threat on the Eastern Fringe. They are either seen acting alone, or in association with Chaos warbands, Ork WAAAGH!s, or other groups to which the traditional shapers would find anathema. Many Sarcophages, including the core of the movement, have fallen to Chaos, with most pledging their allegiance to Khorne, though distinguishing Kroot that have fallen to Chaos and those who simply believe Khamor Wet had good ideas is often a difficult task. After all, the Kroot are just as variable in their mindset as any other race.
When the Imperium started their project to uplift the Beastmen, the forces of Chaos scrambled to acquire as many planets of Beastmen as they could easily find. Tzeentch in particular has always showed an unusual amount of interest in the Beastmen compared to the other Chaos Gods, perhaps because the unstable genetic structure and tendency towards mutation in Primeval Beastmen fits well with the ever-changing nature of the Architect of Fate. In addition to individual Beastmen that have fallen to the influence of the Ruinous Powers as is typical of any race, the forces of Chaos also include Tzaangors, which are Beastmen, or possibly humans mutated to look like Beastmen, who have been even further altered by the Lord of Change. Tzaangors typically show the avian features typical of servants of Tzeentch, such as beaks, feathery wings, and talons, but have horns and shaggy fur more typical of Beastmen.
Despite their groveling, servant-like nature, Tzangors are far from weak, often being both physically powerful and intelligent enough to comprehend many of the magic rituals that they come across. However, Tzaangors have been engineered to instinctively be submissive to any greater daemon or high-ranking servant of Tzeentch, in spite of any physical or arcane prowess they might possess. Nevertheless, this has not stopped an abused or ambitious Tzaangor from occasionally offing an overly confident or insufficiently paranoid follower of the Lord of Change. Tzaangors are normally found perched on the Webway colleges of Tzeenchian Cronedar or the non-euclidean spires of Tzeenchian sorcerors, always on the lookout for new victims to harass.
To the Nova Beastmen, who know how far out of the pit they climbed, the idea of being snatched up by Chaos and degenerated even further into animals than their ancestors is an idea that fills them with disgust. The term "Gor" and all its derivatives are considered curse words in Nova Beastmen society.
Placeholder, see Yu'Vath for more details
By the Light of Hell
Although the event is fifteen thousand years past, you can still see the moment of Slaanesh's birth in real time. All you have to do is stand in the right place.
Although the creation of the Eye of Terror consumed billions of star systems in a matter of days, if not hours, but after that initial orgy of superluminal expansion the light shock of the event continued to crawl across the cosmos at its ordained speed of one light-year per year. And, although this fossil vision is but a shadow of a shadow of the true fury of the event itself, it still carries its own dangers.
The barrier separating Materium and Immaterium is temporarily weakened as the luminous shockwave passes. Mutation rates spike. Chaotic corruption and daemonic possession become easier. Those foolish enough to spend too long staring at the sky succumb to madness. Any cults around will usually choose this moment to launch their plans, feeling the gaze of the dark gods upon them. In many cases their plots are foiled by the varied forces of the Imperium. On the other hand... many a world has burned under the light of the memory of a god's birth.
The Imperium does its best to prepare, of course. The progression of the ever- expanding sphere of light can be predicted with near total certainty, obeying as it does the laws of the Materium even as it degrades them. Worlds which will be affected have years of forewarning to muster its defenses. Imperial Guard garrisons are reinforced, Arbites investigators dispatched, and Inquisitors skulk through the shadows with their retinues. Curfews are enacted, cities placed on lockdown. Worlds with heavy orbital industry may go so far as to construct massive shades in deep space, to prevent the light of the Eye from ever reaching their surface.
But the Enemy is never idle either, cults and warbands planning their rituals and assaults so that their climax will come at the moment of maximum vulnerability when the dark god's influence waxes. Each world in the path of the light front becomes a scene of thrust and counterthrust as Inquisitors and cults flock to the world seeking dramatic victories.
And in deep space, strange cults ride the light wave. Using heretekal drives to keep pace with the racing light, so that they can spend eternity watching the cosmic c-section unfold. Meditating on a single fossilized instant of the birth of the Child Goddess. Mostly Slaaneshi, for obvious reasons. But many Tzeentchian cabals also spend time in study, seeking insight into the deep mysteries of the warp.
For the most part, the Imperium is content to leave such cults far, far down on the priority list. They are not directly harming any Imperial interests, and scattered throughout the incomprehensible vastness of deep space it would be an act of futility to try and hunt them down. But still, worries persist; what fell knowledge could an ambitious cultist glean from from deep contemplation of the birth of a god?
There are rumors of some radical inquisitors attempting to answer such questions themselves. But surely nobody could be so foolish.
Rise of Khorne
Tzeentch and Malal were the originals, first created by the Old Ones in their attempts to study the manipulation of the Warp on a grand scale. Both are masters of all, Tzeentch the realization of infinite possibility and Malal is everything that doesn't exist, an endless chalice that runneth over into a bottomless well, an eternal spring that fills an endless thirst in an infinite cycle of creation and destruction.
Nurgle was meant to cultivate, refine, and maintain in the space between them, the all-loving all-laughing groundskeeper of the mind. Up until the beginning of the War in Heaven this was for the realm of souls a paradise of psychic accord, milder and more fecund with wonder than even the primordial millennia of raw, unmitigated sorcery with only the Old Ones like Bel'akor and his ascended order, Tzeentch, and Malal.
The Old Ones then proceeded to get in a fight with the only other Power in the galaxy, the Necrontyr and the Boltzmann brain patrons they soon welcomed into living femto-mechanical fractal supercomputers they called bodies. This ruined everything, in realspace and the warp, and started the cascading applied psionics/applied physics arms race that created the warp as the galaxy knows it. With Bel'akor quite possibly at the head of the project, a weaponized God-concept was conceived of and synthesized. Part of this process was the uplift and weaponization of powerfully psychic primitives to fuel the new god, as well as fight the Old Ones' wars, first the Eldar, then the Proto-orks to produce the mighty Krork. The horrific excesses of the War in Heaven, killings, pillages, and ruinations perpetrated by both sides, were in part engineered by the Old Ones, themselves also bloody handed in spirit now, to birth Khorne. Said to be of the same godly flesh as the two indomitable giants that sprung forth upon the opening of the first Orkish mind, and to bleed the same molten iron as the specter of murder that had risen among the thoughts of the early Eldar, the red god turned the tide in the Old Ones favor for a time. It has been forwarded that the Maelstrom, like the much younger Eye of Terror, is what remains of the wounds of Khorne's birth.
Khorne was the Old Ones scourge. Legions of brass, horn, and bloody red flesh marched from the Maelstrom across a quarter of the Necrontyr worlds. He was not then always the monolithic, armored thing of visions, Khrone was a manifold horror. All once he was in the fire of Orkish artillery swinging his ax down upon a Cryptek, and a flaming bolt running down voidships even as they fled by inertialess drive, and in the heart of the Necron Empire slaying at a whim, and in hateful battle with The Outsider and Dragon flickering from the hearts of stars to warp and out again as each side shifted to preferable footing. It was in this time the Skull Throne was made, out of Khorne's horrid thoughts and plans and deeds no less than the trophies he took, and even still it grows ever higher upon an unshakeable foundation of silver skulls. In this first glorious campaign Khorne utterly triumphant. Though the reverberations of their war god's birth were so bad as to disrupt even the Old Ones' usual psychic infrastructure, it was not thought such an impediment to the war effort as to interrupt key opperations. Khorne's warpath had exploded from the warp into the galactic north, and the offensive had been supported by another massive advance along of a front of Brainboy commanded Krork whagghs as wide as a spiral arm advancing after the Blood God, and yet more swift armadas of Eldar vassals and thralls sweeping in ahead from the galactic west in raids that had drawn the Necrontyr's ire.
This set the apparent course of the War in Heaven until the great escalation of Biotransference produved the Nercons in sufficient number, but already momentum was shifting. Even as the Necrontyr abandoned flesh and soul, the C'tan took to the same mechanisms of cursed arcane birth that spawned the Dark Gods. Immaterial shrouds of mythic terror produced by the Old Ones' uplifts were taken up by the Nightbringer, cleaving to them with the same blade that had shorn the Necrotyr's souls, and they were put to dreadful use as the shadow of fatalism that his infamy cast in the warp fell across the galaxy. The Deceiver, taking even better to manipulating of its reverberations in the minds of psychic beings, went among the Old Ones in secret as often as it danced with the now gleaming aristocracy of the Necrons. The Dragon and its Cryptek assistants gloried in making each other yet more mighty with every new fundamental particle or force invented off-hand, and The Outsider, robot of infinite function, gladly moved stars and wrought fortresses and palaces form them at the other Star Gods' bidding, and the Necrontyr aristocracy's whim.
The Maelstrom's ill effects were persistent and vastly more potent than expected, and while the Old Ones still easily traversed their empire their vassals and auxiliaries could no longer be counted on. Reports came that Necrons in synthetic Ork flesh were hunting Brainboyz deep behind the front, and more disturbing reports came of bleak megastructures transfixing the bounds of reality to the Necrons' preferred physical laws. The Gorkamorka, giants from the minds of the little goblins of a curious fungal world from which the Old Ones Raised the Krork, had blossomed unseen, and were in check only because they had so many kunning, brutal boyz to give bright ideas. The Eldar fiddled obsessively and grew anxious, raised too many displeasing questions while digging to produce romanticized visions of their masters, and the Gods of Sorcery were no better, growing ever more dark and neurotic in their ways.
The tumult in the warp brought by Khorne's ever-wrathful subsidiaries, the wanton realspace destruction of incalculable scale, the putrefaction of the Old Ones' spirits, the proliferation of Gods of Death, all first perturbed, then terrified, then utterly broke the kindly spirit Nurgle. The preserver shook off the yoke of the Old Ones, strove to make them again what they were in its youth, and vowed to cherish all and relinquish nothing to the void. The Changer of Ways and The Final Word had likewise been tainted by the ends the Old Ones had set them to, and yet more woe came of this. Warlock Malal had been turned loose to obliterate idea and concept and soul as an annihilating storm, and sank into a malaise of nihilism and self loathing spite, and Wizard Tzeentch's vast creative faculties had been attuned to the sole work of plotting the Old Ones' campaigns of ambition and intrigue, and settling their grudges with the Star Gods. Around this period Bel'akor vanished from the Old Ones' councils and their campaigns, but his kin were hardly so perceptive as the proud first of their most exalted cabal.
Thus Khorne's first youthful bout with the galaxy was his most glorious, but after the tide of the War in Heaven turned the other direction. Though the Blood God's maiden slaughter was a terrible blow to the Necrons and those few frail Necrontyr that remained, and carved a livid path of hell far longer and vaster than the Orion Spur deep into the Star Empire, it was not conclusive. Neither the Old Ones' mystic ministrations or the harsh sutures that were early Necron Reality Columns could hope to tend the cosmic wound, and even after the offensive's conclusion the Maelstrom bled freshly wrought Khornate forces into the galaxy from Khorne's new realm. Still, the Star Gods and their Princes of Matter were industrious and swift thinking, and Khorne slaying the last of the frail Necrontyr came even as the Necrons' bunker worlds and star-shades where being armed with newly devised soul flaying defenses. For all his bloody marches in the realm of souls, striking where his foe was most feeble, Khorne did naught but hasten the Necrons' preparation for true war and heighten their calculating fury. While his new-made princes and daemon captains dredged up hell and tried ever to spill it across the Materium to widen their territory of the Maelstrom with flagging success, Khorne's mind turned to the other, clearly lesser gods, and his own glory.
Though Bel'akor had absconded to parts unknown the first ascendant psyker's disciples, princes of power in their own right, still strove to direct the course of the war, and on them Khorne placed the blame of failure. While the cultivated standing WAAAGH!s and their Brainboyz remained a buffer between the Old Ones' Dominion and the Star Empire's forces, it grew clear that what had once been an opposing force to the Necrons was now wearing down into a poorly devised league of Krorkish rabble. The poaching and theft of innumerable Brainboyz reverberated through the massive storm of reality-bending Krork thought, and those that survived Necron cullings were ever more imposing creatures, ever sharper, and ever more formidable psykers. The Gorkamorka grew more ferocious and uncontrollable, its avatars became contentious with their distant Slann patrons, and through the Necrons' captives the Whaggh itself was studied, synthesized, and modified in the next generation of reality columns, the mighty Pylons.
Khorne was beseeched and commanded by the Old Ones to collar the Gorkamorka and lead it into battle in the galactic north, in hope to mend this situation. The Old Ones promised easy sport, and Khorne set upon them in view of all the gods, the Lords of Sorcery, the Solution to Entropy, the court of petty Eldar Personas, the Creeping thing not fully seen, and all the lesser, natural Daemons, even the Star-cast shadow of death, the specter of doubt, and the beastly question, and their pale waxing ilk. There was no easy sport to be had. Should Khorne bring Gork low and fix him in the chains of arcana the Old Ones gave him, Mork would come from behind and throw him down, and tear his brother free. Turning on Mork, Khorne might hew off a colossal arm or foot, but no sooner would he than Gork take him by the godly throat and wring him of godly breath. The wrestling and raucous butchery of giants rocked the galaxy, and when Khorne could not bind the Gorkamorka apart as the Old Ones had asked, he strove to bind them together in the magical chain. When finally the Blood God turned to the assembled Powers of the Immaterium in triumph, scarred and battered, and bid them see that he was might incarnate, the bound Gorkamorka resumed its brotherly fighting and in the first thrashing blows against each other shredded their magical bondage and clashed and thundered away into the deeps of un-reality. Thence forth the Heaven of War the Old Ones made came to unravel. Khorne's wroth became yet darker and more bitter, his pretensions to supremacy over all foes and all things became his sole mission. Brainboyz were hunted openly by Khorne's captains, in secret he moved against the Slann whenever opportunity arose, and he gloried in their skulls as gladly as he did to hold the gleaming head of a Phaeron. The buffer WAAAGH!s mobilized in all directions as their brutally kunning bosses were each in turn enlightened by their giant patrons, and the attack worlds and kinetic kill roks that would drift deep space ever after as the mightiest of space hulks lit their innumerable engines.
Gears turned in Tzeentch's wretched mind, and it moved to shift the way of things yet further. As Nurgle fattened the warp with accumulated creations and Malal ran roughshod over mundane existence the Bird saw a chance to establish a new order, where it's sorcery was unchecked and paramount, and its eternal rival's magic was sequestered, tapped, or dearly sold into the portfolios of other Powers. It took little coaxing to turn Khorne's fearsome wrath upon Malal, but the vision of the subjugation of all three gods of Sorcery for all time was quick to kindle in the Blood God's mind, and burned there eternally. For its own part, Malal seemed glad to give Khorne the Un-throne and the winding pit that lead to the end of all things, glad to be rid of them and knowing they would bring the Blood God only trouble.
Whether Malal fell on his sword of nothingness, or bent and swore in fealty to Khorne, or simply vanished on the spot, or wandered down the abyss into non-existence like so many things he had sent before him, is a matter of scholarly argument. The Not-king of Never-was ceased to be, and Malal the vassal, Sorceror of Annihilation, began to exist. His domain was divided up, Khorne taking Destruction, Nurgle claiming and meddling with Entropy, and Tzeentch had his bounty of Paradox and Dissolution now to compliment his wealth of Solution and Causality. Tzeentch at this time held his wand of wonders and Malal's sword of nothingness, and Sorcery itself was his, an infinite fountain now without the ever deepening well. Malal's sorcery lived borrowed life from Khorne's fire, or sprung from the bleak pinprick of oblivion Malal retained, but Tzeentch's power grew undisputed, quickly surpassing the Old Ones' combined might, and only bolstered by the backlogs of creations Nurgle could provide. This duo's attentions likewise fell upon the venerable reptiles even as the Slann continued to conduct the War in Heaven on a backwards footing, and the Old Ones found their magics becoming ever more costly.
For his own part Khorne was also pleased with this new order. The Un-throne was remade into yet more of his vicious domain, and while the war went poorly for his one time masters, the War God's fortunes in the conflict were understandably lush. Necron Pylons laid down a path into the Old Ones' domain, Star Gods and rueful Phaerons tore into their palatial monasteries, and where Khorne's daemons were summoned for aid all were slain save the mightiest and quickest Necron and Slann. The Old Ones trembled, and died by their implacable, morbid, vengeful enemy's dread radiance, died by the brassy axe of their greatest weapon of hate and arrogance, died as they sold themselves with debt to the mad lord of witches or passed into the realm of the preserver, died in utter surprise and shock as the Rok fists of the Gorkamorka fell upon them from the void, and died begging to deaf ears when Bel'akor was sought out and found in desperation, secreted away in the formless wastes. The Eldar cowered in the galactic west and tunneled into the foam between real and warp to hide in the protection of their god-constructs, the last great marchers of the Krorkish Brainboyz died on the warpath across the galactic north and east as daemons, ol' masterz and ded'hard flash-boyz hunted them from all sides. Strife amongst the Star Gods and the Necron Princes of Matter and Energy was all that stopped the sealing of the warp over all of the victorious Star Empire, and their short, cataclysmic civil war was the last word in the War in Heaven. Whatever Old Ones and C'tan survived the orders the Silent King had given to the Outsider were brought low in chains and executed by Khorne. With The Nightbringer disarmed and flogged in the lucky triumph of Khine then entombed by the little furtive king, and the Gorkamorka apparently reduced to aimless brawling in grief for their slain boyz as the Orks seemed to languish without their captains, Khorne deemed himself mightiest, and did not wait for the assent of the gods that remained.
As the Dominion of the Old Ones was erased from the milky way and the Necrons went down into their sepulchers, Khorne was crowned by his vizier Malal, and named BLOOD KING and first commander OF THE GALAXY, a title of his own invention.