Hello 40k fans! Chris Morgan, Chief Librarian of the Forge the Narrative Podcast, is here again with the next weekly segment of Tomes of the Librarius. Also, check the Tactics Corner for more great articles!
Just as a reminder, in this series we will explore facets of the history and legends of the Grimdark. This is meant to be an easy summary and introduction geared towards new players or people unfamiliar with the setting, but should still be an interesting read or fun refresher for those already familiar. There’s so much detail in this lore that a bare summary seems so inadequate, but for new people this should be the right portion to get a feel for the history of the universe we enjoy our games in.
After last week’s break, I thought we’d get down with one of the older races in the 40k lore. While since 6th and 7th edition they have been a hiss and a byword among gamers, they have been around for a lot longer than that and have a deep and rich history that we will dip our toes into here. We are talking about the Craftworld Aeldari, of course (or Eldar for us long-time gamers).
The Eldar (now known as Aeldari) are an ancient race of graceful humanoid aliens that once ruled over the galaxy. Created by the Old Ones to combat the rising threat of the Necron Empire, each Aeldari was born with strong psychic potential and incredible passions to fuel it. When killed, their souls would eventually be reborn in an almost eternal life-cycle. Some say that the Old Ones were too hasty in creating the Eldar, and in their haste they created a flaw that would eventually spell disaster for the race. Whether or not that is true, the Old Ones still died out – killed by the Necrons and their living-metal gods – but the Eldar inherited the war that killed their creators and the legacy of their technology.
The wars against the Necrons were long and vicious. After their titanic conflicts among the stars that saw the very fabric of reality sundered, slowly the Necrons began to disappear. Eventually with their nemesis unknowingly in slumber, the Eldar began in their newfound mastery of the cosmos. The Eldar rose to rule the galaxy in a vast, technologically-advanced empire among their powerful pantheon of capricious gods. Their powerful technology merged with their psychic mastery and the stars themselves bent to their will. With no more worthy enemies to fight, they turned their focus inwards and over time became obsessed with pushing their emotions and passions to the extreme. This was the flaw that would ultimately lead to their downfall.
Reveling in decadence, lasciviousness, and excess, the Eldar grew a taste for depravity. In the heart of their empire, no act was too heinous and no line went uncrossed in their search for new sensations in their boredom. Some among them saw the dangers of such an attitude, and the catastrophe it would bring. These were but a scant few, who took to their star-faring cities known as craftworlds to flee the central systems and escape the coming calamity. Others forsook their kin and much of their technology, living with saurian creatures on the remnant shrine worlds of their old empire. These are called the Exodites, and they are hostile even to intruders of their own kind.
When it came, their self-made apocalypse was devastating. From the collective psyche of the most savage excesses and deep emotions of the Aeldari, a dark god was born. Slaanesh’s birth ripped a hole in reality, and it’s power destroyed or fractured all the Eldar gods (save one), while it glutted itself on the souls of the Eldar race. Billions died to slate its desire for sustenance in the blink of an eye, and the heart of the Aeldari empire was swallowed into the nightmare realm of the warp.
Since then, the survivors of their race have felt the hunger of Slaanesh looming over them, and ancient doom that should any die they would be consumed and lost forever. The Craftworld Eldar took to wearing soulstones that would house their souls in the event of their death, protecting them from Slaanesh. These would be taken back to the craftworld and plugged into the infinity circuit, providing a haven from She Who Thirsts. These souls in limbo would sometimes be called back to war by inhabiting wraithbone constructs carrying powerful weaponry. As defense against the lure of their passions, they began a new lifestyle called ‘The Path’ where they would devote themselves to mastery of their craft whether it be war, art, worship and divination, or any other tasks needed by their society.
The remnants of the hedonistic Eldar hid in the webway, a pathway through the galaxy that existed between the warp and reality, establishing a dark city in its depths. These did not wear soulstones, but instead feed off of the souls of those who they torture and kill, keeping their souls topped off from Slaanesh’s slow drain through the pain they inflict on others. They maintain the worst traditions that once doomed their kind, ignoring the lessons of their fall in the pursuit of their passions which are now fueled by a desire for power and survival. None are safe from their predations.
With their power broken, the once-mighty Eldar became refugees scattered throughout the galaxy. When the Imperium of Mankind arose, they could do nothing except flee and watch as humanity began its slow descent into unending war. Capricious and unpredictable, the Eldar value their lives higher than any other in the universe, willingly throwing billions of ‘lesser’ lives in the way of anything that may threaten their existence. Known to lie and manipulate from the shadows, they use their Farseers foresight and technological mobility through the webway network to ambush and misdirect, all in the service of their survival.
A Murky Future
So it was for thousands of years, until just recently, when an ancient prophecy was fulfilled. The Farseer Eldrad of the Craftworld Ulthwe with the aid of the Eldar Harlequins, brought forth Ynnead, the new Eldar God of the Dead. Ynnead’s power saved his followers from the grasp of Slaanesh, and even now prophets of Ynnead travel the stars bringing followers of all Eldar ilks to the death god’s service. Seeking the ancient Croneswords of their lost empire, once all five are found, his prophets preach that Ynnead will truly rise and strike down Slaanesh (She-who-thirsts) from existence, and the hope is that the Eldar will be able to once again rise to power in the galaxy.
The Eldar are a long-time foe of mine. Next to the Tyranids (which were my brother’s army) it’s the army I have fought against the most because of my Dad. They are a distinct race in the 40k universe, and provide a great narrative role of the manipulators in many Black Library books.
While not sharing the abundance of Space Marine novels, they nevertheless have some books done from their perspective. If you’re a fan I’d definitely recommend checking all of these out!
Until Next Time
Well, thanks for getting this far! I barely scratched the surface of Eldar lore. Even so, expect more to come once we get some additional information about the enigmatic Harlequins. What are your favorite Eldar stories from the lore? Let me know in the comments and stay tuned for next week’s Tomes of the Librarius!
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