"What fool would plan to defeat their enemy by dying forever themselves?"
- – Asdrubael Vect
- – Slaanesh
Ynnead is the Eldar god of the dead and may or may not be the reincarnation of David Bowie (Ha! Bet you can't unsee that now!!!! (Cegorach pls)). He was previously more of a concept than an actual being, representative of what may be the last hope of the Eldar against their eternal enemy, Slaanesh - and possibly Chaos in its entirety.
When Slaanesh was born, she devoured most of the Eldar race, and their souls, and most of their gods, and basically caused a lot of things to get badly screwed up, making a terrible mess in the toilet afterwards that the Eldar were forced to mop up. The crap on the wall that won't scrub off was that the surviving Eldar found Slaanesh was constantly hungering for their souls, laying in wait for the moment when any member of their race died to completely consume them. In the past the Eldar believed that when they died, their soul would be reincarnated - with Slaanesh's coming, the Eldar's ability to reincarnate disappeared. To save themselves from this fate, the Craftworld Eldar use spiritstones to trap their souls upon death. The spiritstone is then used to intern the soul within the Infinity Circuit of a Craftworld, next to a carefully placed egg timer, where the soul is free to roam around and commingle with the other Eldar souls of the Craftworld.
As more souls over time have been added to the infinity circuits, the Eldar Farseers perceived something stirring from this collection of souls; this was Ynnead, a god formed from untainted Eldar souls and the power of Asuryan, the king of the Eldar gods, who passed on his power to the Farseers of the Eldar before he was devoured by Slaanesh. The Farseers believed that when the last Craftworld Eldar dies, Ynnead will be fully born and will rise up to cast down Slaanesh, destroying him/her/it forever. It's unknown whether this would have been feasible or not considering Slaanesh's immense power, but Ynnead represented the Eldar race's last, best hope for a better future, and so all their efforts went toward making him as strong as possible.
Worship of Ynnead was, and likely remains, pretty controversial among the Aeldari, as would be expected of xenos modeled on the "dying elder race" shtick. Death is literally his entire purpose and portfolio, and the species that alternately worships and reviles him is coming increasingly closer to extinction - about as permanent of a death as you can get in this universe. Their last and best hope is essentially a gamble involving the soul of every single Eldar, alive or dead, on the off chance that they might be rid of Slaanesh forever, and if that fails...
Those who accept Ynnead have the following point of view: Ynnead is the Eldar god of the dead. Or at least he will be, as he is currently being created. He is in godly limbo at the moment while the Eldar try to amass enough pure souls, or at least souls that have overcome petty desires, in the various Craftworlds' Infinity Circuits which are bonded together by the Eternal Matrix that links all the Infinity circuits and World Spirits together through the Webway, to give him enough mojo to become a proper god.
With the release of the Gathering Storm, it turns out that the Ynnead is anathema to the Chaos Gods and they are actually afraid of it. Slaanesh has already been put on a bus in Age of Sigmar (Never mind he's getting some new stuff already) and Ynnead is a pretty good way to put Slaanesh on a bus in 40k too.
Other Aeldari see the worshipers of Ynnead as a misguided heretical death cult who are risking the souls of the Aeldari race on a gamble. It also doesn’t help that the Yncarne bears more than a passing resemblance to Slaanesh.1
Basically, Ynnead is the Eldar's last hope against Slaanesh. Ynnead is the Eldar god of the dead and may or may not be the reincarnation of David Bowie. He's alive (for a given value) and active now, but this is new fluff and as always in WH40k the Eldars' plan did not survive contact with reality. As always, they didn’t take into account that the future is constantly changing and other factions and species have their own agendas.
Slaanesh was born out of unbridled hedonism, giving them the theme of extreme pleasure. Ynnead is born out of the dead post-fall Eldar who are vengeful but still optimistic stuck-ups, so Ynnead would theoretically be born out of the Eldar's vengeance and hopes for a better tomorrow. Assuming it follows the same process as Slaanesh; Ynnead probably won't go rogue and will follow the main purpose of its creation. Probably.
Could the Eldar have simply had a bunch of Farseers, Warlocks, and Exarchs of each Path commit ritual suicide to reincarnate as an Eldar-Emperor being like the ancient human shaman did in outdated fluff? Probably, but these are Eldar. Their whole schtick is being cowardly pussy-tards. They would probably be too afraid of failing and being eaten to take such a chance. Or worse, it succeeds inside Slaanesh, further strengthening the abomination. That sounds about right for 40K.
Something to consider: Ynnead is a very different god than any other active entity in the setting. All of the other gods are immortal beings of perpetual nature. They are always focused on the concept of being endless, be it stagnation, warfare, evolution or excess. Only The Emperor shares a base concept with Ynnead, which is the concept of finality. Ynnead is the god of Death, and death is by its very concept a mortal thing, making it impossible for the Chaos gods to comprehend. So few daemons are truly destroyed that the ruinous powers don’t actually view the concept beyond something mortals do in their spare time, and facing mortality would be such an alien concept that it would make them fear its existence. Ynnead was able to negate the passion of Slaanesh, the disease of nurgle, the sorceries of Tzeench and stop the senseless conflict of Khorne. Its very existence is the possibility of ending them, and so they fear what they cannot understand. Ynnead may be small now, but if it ever gains enough power the Chaos gods will have major problems. (Sounds just like the greater good philosophy of the tau that, if take galaxy wide root, would definitely destroy or turn the chaos gods into beneficial entities, considering that it advers everything they represent)
The Yncarne (Ha! Get it? Yncarne as in...Incarn AKA Incarnation?) is the Avatar of Ynnead. Yncarne was the first step to the Seventh Path, a method of awakening Ynnead without sacrificing the entire Eldar race. A lot like the Avatar of Khaine, except rather than a bajillion of them, there is only ONE Yncarne. This is due to the fact that Ynnead's birth was cut prematurely during Gathering Storm, so as of now, Ynnead is now in fetus-form in the persona of the Yncarne.
While not on the same humiliating scale as poor Khaine over there, the Yncarne did got his ass handed to him by Ahriman. But to be fair, the Yncarne wasn't fully formed so we don't really know his true power.
In battle, The Yncarne wields the Crone Sword Vilith-zhar.
Tabletop wise, this little Death God is 250 points, and what a character you get for that. With its Vilith-shar, the Sword of Souls, the Yncarne will be hitting targets with an Awesome weapon using one of two profiles: a piercing hit for walloping characters and vehicles (S+4 AP-4 D3+3 that ignores invuls), or a sweeping hit for wiping out big squads (SUser AP-4 D1 Ax2). It also has a magic flamer that auto-hits every unit within 6" (S7 AP-2 D1). The Yncarne is also pretty resilient, T7 with 12 Wounds, a 3+ armor and 4+ invuln and halved damage from Deathly Form.
But it's not just a beatstick. It confers ignore-Combat Attrition to all friendly Ynnari infantry within 12", it starts the game knowing all of the powers from the Revenant psychic discipline and can cast two of them each phase (with two deny's), it has Battle Focus and Strands of Fate, and it can fly over terrain and appear within 1" of a just-wiped unit whether you have it in-reserve or on the board (the caveat is it cannot appear within engagement range of an enemy nor can it charge or heroically intervene).
All of this means that the Yncarne is a ridiculously strong deathstar model and character assassin with a monstrously wide threat range. Pretty much any enemy squad dies within a round of this beast getting within arms' reach, and very few characters can come out on top in a fight with it.
The Gathering Storm
Surprise! Instead of sucking up all the dead Eldar souls, Ynnead is prematurely "born" during the 13th Black Crusade following the fall of Cadia. Eldrad Ulthran attempts to summon him early by stealing the fossilized bodies of all the dead Farseers from all the Craftworlds, and conducting an elaborate ritual on a crystal moon. It gets fucked up by the Deathwatch, and only a tiny fraction of Ynnead enters the Materium.
After searching through space, this fragment discovers Yvraine. Due to her history, she was considered the ultimate expression of being Eldar because apparently the true Eldar are supposed to travel all the paths of life, even the dark ones. With her is the Visarch, a former Exarch of the Dire Avengers who trained Yvraine and had his heart broken when she chose to leave rather than succeed him. He ended up sneaking into Comorragh, pretended to be an Incubus, and fought his way to Yvraine after she unlocked the power of The Sword of Sorrows, one of the severed fingers of Morai-Heg forged into a sword by Vaul. The Visarch would later get his own sweet croneblade, The Sword of Silence, when it was pulled from the heart of Craftworld Biel-Tan.
Together, Yvraine and the Visarch become the prophets of Ynnead, preaching that not ALL the Eldar have to die for Ynnead to be born. This ends up fracturing Eldar society at all levels, and Biel-Tan ends up tearing itself apart over whether or not this is actually Eldar heresy. The destruction of Biel-Tan causes all kinds of Warp holes to tear themselves into existence around the ruins, and Ynnead births an Avatar through them known as the Yncarne (get the pun?), the one-horned ghost-fire model that's been making the rounds in photos of the latest White Dwarf.
Yvraine, Visarch, and Yncarne are now gathering an army of all the branches of the Eldar race who believe they can fight Chaos without all having to hara-kiri, while those who don't believe in Ynnead are preparing to kill all the heretics for daring to alter the fate of the Eldar. Eldrad himself is imprisoned and placed on trial by the Eldar Inquisition, because he's not Eldar enough, and proposed, after his failure to birth Ynnead, allying with the Imperium of Man to defeat Chaos once and for all. Even if the other Eldar don't like the idea of becoming best buddies with the Imperium they still reluctantly agreed that they are still the best of a bad bunch, what with the other options being either the Orks or Tau both of who are either too "young" (translated as to naïve and inexperienced to face the forces of Chaos and lack the incredible power of any major faction) or simply too uncooperative and uncouth to be allied with (basically every alien that isn’t a devoted Imperial citizen ordered to cooperate), that didn't stop Yvraine from helping to resurrect Roboute Guilliman, so perhaps an actual alliance may be possible.
It may also be that Ynnead simply disagrees with the stupidity of not allying with the only faction which is willing, able, and actively doing something against chaos. It could also be possible that once Guilliman gets in charge the Imperium will stop killing everything that isn't human and start killing everything that is a daemon with them. And then realize they should have been rushing to wipe out the non-protectorate aliens as quickly as possible as the Imperium fights aliens for survival. Killing daemons while aliens assrape the Imperium is a bad idea and the xenos can be killed off far more quickly and easily, best to get that out of the way first.
The Ynnari still spend most of their efforts attempting to rally the disparate eldar factions to Ynnead's cause, but for the most part are still facing stiff resistance from most of the major Craftworlds. What remains of Biel-Tan and Ulthwe still staunchly oppose joining the Ynnari due to them being responsible for the Fracture and Eldrad stealing everyone's crystallized Farseers for his ritual to awaken Ynnead, respectively. Alaitoc, despite the massive insurgence of Chaos across the galaxy due to the Great Rift, still believe that the Necrons are the only real threat that matters and aren't interested in assisting the Ynnari while they remain. Saim-Hann remains highly skeptical of the Ynnari, with its various clans more or less deadlocked on whether or not to side with them or to keep to their own. Iyanden is the only major Craftworld to whole-heartedly ally with Yvraine and Ynnead, lead by Iyanna Arienal. Note that not joining the Ynnari is not the same as not allying with the Imperium and whether it’s Eldrad’s proposed permanent alliance or a temporary one varies regardless of Ynnari membership.
Iyanna, inspired by the death and subsequent resurrection of Prince Yriel, came up with the hypothesis that perhaps all eldar could escape Slannesh's grasp by killing themselves and empowering Ynnead (as the original prophecy stated), then once Slaanesh is defeated resurrect themselves using the same methods the Drukhari Haemonculi use for any Commorragh denizen able to afford their services (basically they create a clone body from any scraps of dead flesh and put the original soul in it). This theory has kind of caught on among the Ynnari recently, though there are a number of hurdles they need to be wary of if they want to successfully pull it off (like having sufficient Wraithguard on hand to protect the Craftworld Infinity Circuits else Slaanesh gorges on their souls instead of Ynnead).
In the meantime, Slaanesh has been sicking his/her daemons on the Ynnari in his/her attempt to abort Ynnead before it becomes a true threat. This has been proving moderately successful, as Helbane wracked up a significant body count while trying to assassinate Yvraine and the prison-vaults contained on Agrimathea unleashed a horde of Slaaneshi daemons that slew roughly a third of the entire Ynnari army before they could re-seal the vaults. With Yncarne’s nifty resurrection ability and absorbing souls thing, this isn’t clear.
The five Croneswords are legendary shapeshifting blades said to have been formed from the five broken fingers of the severed hand of Morai-Heg. According to legend, the five blades are imbued with a connection to Ynnead, and will reveal themselves when the unborn god begins to stir, where the blades will find their way into the right hands and lead to the eventual salvation of the Eldar race.
The blades are as follows:
- Kha-vir, the Sword of Sorrows - The first awakened blade, appeared to Yvraine while in the fighting pits of Commoragh
- Asu-var, the Sword of Silent Screams - Was pulled out of the Biel-Tan Infinity Circuit before the craftworld broke apart, is now held by the Visarch
- Vilith-zhar, the Sword of Souls - Currently wielded by the Yncarne, was recovered from Belial IV.
- The Spear of Twilight - Relic weapon of the Iyanden Craftworld, said to drain the life of its wielder. Had been wielded by Prince Yriel since the invasion of Hive Fleet Kraken, its power awakened after Yriel fell to Nurgle daemons and resurrected him.
- The fifth blade has since fallen into Slaanesh's possession, which he/she loves to dangle between the legs, daring Yvraine to try and claim it.
The Eternal Matrix and the Whisper of Ynnead
Before Slaanesh, when the Eldar were at the height of their power, each Eldar soul was connected to a system Eldrad referred to as the Eternal Matrix. Upon death, an Eldar's soul would be sent to the matrix to be later reborn anew, memories and experiences of prior lives preserved within the soul for the resurrected individual to build upon in their next life. As this safety net took away any lasting consequences for the Eldar, one could well and truly argue that it only encouraged the denizens of the progressively depraved Aeldari empire to delve deeper into the vices that led to Slaanesh's birth. Speaking of, Eldrad hypothesized that the psychic shock of Slaanesh's creation usurped the "natural" link the Eldar had with the Eternal Matrix, which is why all unprotected Eldar souls are dragged kicking and screaming into Slaanesh's wet holes upon death. Eldrad further conjectures that, in the millennia since the Fall as more and more Eldar (living and dead) began placing their faith in a new Eldar god borne from the death of their race bringing them salvation, Ynnead is a literal personification of the greatly atrophied Eternal Matrix. It's also heavily hinted that "the Whisper" all inducted members of the Ynnari hear is the original connection to the Eternal Matrix.
All Ynnari are psionically linked to Ynnead through a connection referred to as "the Whisper". The primary function of the Whisper is to guide any and all Ynnari who die to Ynnead's care, though it offers several additional benefits to all the aeldari connected to it. Craftworlders no longer require Soulstones (indeed, their link to said spirit stones is actually severed once they fully join the Ynnari) while Dark Eldar are freed from the Soul Thirst that plagues the denizens of Commorragh. Additionally, after spending enough time connected to the Whisper, the atrophied psychic potential in the Dark Eldar awakens somewhat, enabling them to communicate psionically and interact with equipment and vehicles in a manner very similar to their Craftworlder kin. The Whisper extends even to Ynnari technologies. Many Ynnari ships and other vehicles using the Whisper to create a complete psychic connection with the pilot in lieu of the many buffering interfaces (like Soul Stones or more basic control systems) their more traditional or psychically stunted kin use.
It's not all sunshine and roses for the Ynnari, however. The Whisper, as a psionic connection, can be suppressed by Null Zones or similar effects. Any Ynnari cut off from the Whisper are vulnerable to having their souls stolen by Slaanesh, as they remain trapped in their deceased bodies while under the effects of the psychic suppression (fortunately, for the Ynnari, they're at least not automatically gibbed by Slaanesh, they'd need to be dragged to the Warp or be pilfered by Daemons first). More recent Dark Eldar inductees also relapse a bit regarding their soul thirst.
|The Big Three:||Yvraine - Visarch - Yncarne|
|Ex-Craftworld:||Eldrad Ulthran - Jain Zar - Prince Yriel - Iyanna Arienal|
|Ex-Dark Eldar:||Lelith Hesperax|
|The Gods of the Eldar|
|Asuryan - Cegorach - Isha - Kurnous - Khaine - Lileath - Morai-Heg - Vaul - Ynnead|