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.
The Galaxy is old, and many civilizations have risen and fallen in the years since existence came into being. Few except the Eldar remember many of the older races, but as they say, the past catches up with you. So it is with the galaxy and the Necrons, as the tomb-worlds reawaken and legions of unliving, metal aliens stride across the galaxy they claim as theirs.
A Most Ancient History
In the beginning (about 60 million Terran years ago) the Necrons once existed as the “Necrontyr.” The Necrontyr lived on a planet that orbited a star that had a particularly harsh radiation, and the evolution of their forms (a shape now long forgotten) left them with short, painful lifespans. Despite this, the Necrontyr were gifted when it came to advancing themselves through technology. They were able to spread far and wide across the stars, creating ever more diverse and individualistic dynasties that soon warred among each other. When they began to encounter other races, they envied the kind stars that birthed them. This envy was particularly violent towards a race called the “Old Ones.” The Old Ones, true to their namesake, were already old when the Necrontyr arrived on the galactic scene. Advanced and powerful, they created beautiful paradises and engineered the creation of many species, and were tireless enemies of Chaos. The Necrontyr wanted what the Old Ones had, namely immortality, and began a war against them fueled by their spite, jealousy, and anger at the whims of a cruel universe. This war also served to unite the Necrontyr against a common foe.
Despite their technological achievements, the war was going badly for the Necrontyr. The Old Ones were powerful beyond what the Necrontyr had surmised, and after a time they could only see one conclusion – their total defeat. With much of their empire crumbled and destroyed by the Old Ones’ onslaught, they began to fight again among themselves. That was when they found (or were found by, depending on who you ask) the C’tan.
The Coming of the Star Gods
Here is where the tales vary. The old stories say that the C’tan were, for lack of a better term, incorporeal star-parasites. Latching onto a star, they feed off of its energies, altering their output and presumably the life-cycle of the star itself. It goes without saying that a creature that can feed off of a star is immensely powerful, so when a C’tan was discovered one on their own star, the Necrontyr immediately tried to find a way to use this being’s power to their advantage. They were too desperate for a way to win their war that they didn’t consider that it was likely the C’tan that had caused the change in their star that made them suffer so much. To their surprise, the C’tan was sentient and they were able to communicate with it. Soon, they found more.The C’tan wanted corporeal forms, and promised the Necrontyr great power in exchange for supplying them with bodies to walk the universe with.
The Necrontyr used their technological might to craft bodies for the C’tan made of living metal, and when the star gods fused with their hosts they were terrible to behold. They took names for themselves, such as “Dragon,” “Nightbringer,” and of course the “Deceiver.” Promising the Necrontyr great power, the C’tan known as the Deceiver devised a plan that would free them from their cursed, short-lived forms. It promised immortality in a perfect body to each Necrontyr, and that they would serve the Silent King (the leader of the Necrontyr) forever. The Silent King was allured by the Deceiver’s promises, and soon too were the rest. Combining the great power of the C’tan and the technology of the Necrontyr, each member of the species went through a facility meant to administer their ascension to immortal beauty. It was, of course, a well-dressed lie.
Only at the end, as the last one to walk through, did the Silent King understand. His people had been duped. While their bodies were indeed transformed, it came at the cost of their life force. Perfect metal replaced imperfect flesh, but they lost all individuality and spirit. Only a few retained any sense of self, the higher ranked Lords and Scientists were programmed with the echo of their old personalities, but all were subservient to the Silent King and could not act or think for themselves. They were the few necessary to execute the will of the Silent King to an entire race now reduced to mindless automata. He realized his error too late, and could do nothing to reverse what had been done. The C’tan had feasted on the life force of his entire race, and were drunk with even greater power than before. He still needed them to kill the Old Ones for him, but he would not forget the great fraud wrought upon his race. They were the Necrontyr no more, now they had become what we now know as the Necrons.
The War of the Ancients Renewed
The C’tan’s power was godlike, and they turned its use against the Old Ones – whom they also claimed an ancient grudge against from wars in ages past – and almost instantly the war changed in favor of the Necrons. The C’tan were nigh-unstoppable. The galaxy was re-arranged and bent to their will as they waged war across space and alternate dimensions, and they feasted on the life-energy of their foes. The Necrons expanded in the wake of the C’tan’s passing, their remorseless and implacable legions of warriors crushing all resistance under their metallic feet. They were claiming the galaxy, but there were none left to rejoice in their victories save the Silent King in triumphant mourning for his lost people.
The Old Ones were caught completely unprepared. They desperately sought a way to fight off the relentless doom, and it is said that in their haste and desperation to fight off the threat they created many races to act as their warriors. Among these were the Eldar, and some have speculated that the Orks and the Humans could have also been seeds of this effort, but it was all for nought. They knew they were doomed to die before their nascent creations could save them. As the Eldar Star rose, the C’tan and the Necrons chased the Old Ones into extinction. As far as is known, not a single one survived. The C’tan had fulfilled their bargain, such as it was, and had made themselves the Gods of the galaxy. Their age of dominion had begun, but it was not to last.
The Great Sleep
As they basked in their power and victory, the Silent King struck in vengeance for the lost souls of his people. As the Necrons were slaved to his will, they ambushed the C’tan across the Galaxy. They were too powerful to be killed, but they were instead broken into many pieces and each piece was sealed in a separate vault that acted as both prison and siphon for the C’tan’s power. The Eldar were on the rise, and they were successfully pushing against the Necrons in many theatres of war. The Silent King looked at them, the hastily created offspring of his foes, and saw their doom. Rather than waste his race in a prolonged war, he devised a plan to send them all into a sleep cycle that would last millennia. Worlds were carved hollow and the Necrons were arrayed asleep inside them, hidden away from the Eldar by their most advanced technologies under the Silent King’s supervision; awaiting the signal to awaken and take the galaxy back long after the Eldar were defeated by themselves.
After the last world was sealed, the Silent King freed his people from his will, but left them with a quest: to find a way to restore them to living being again with bodies of flesh and wills of their own. He left them all with the knowledge of what had happened, and his own role in it. The Lords would awaken to their own will and power over their own dynasties. This was not enough to assuage the Silent King’s sense of guilt, however. Taking his personal guard aboard his ship, he departed from the edge of the Galaxy in a self-imposed exile.
Eons passed, and the Necrons slept, overseen and maintained by legions of robotic servants tasked with their upkeep. Empires rose and fell, and some tomb worlds were destroyed as the shape of the galaxy changed through the wars and conflicts of the ages. The appointed time to awaken was still long off when the Silent King made a discovery out in the void between galaxies – the Tyranid Swarms.
Nothing had prepared him for the scope of this threat. The Necrons would never be able to find host bodies if all life was consumed by the ravening hunger of the hive mind by the time they had woken. He sent the activation signal out and set his course back to the galaxy he had left behind, hoping to rally the Necrons against this threat to their future. So the Necrons began to stir from their tombs as the galaxy was in the midst of perhaps its greatest age of war and strife. Sleep had not been kind to the Necrons, and many Lords had gone mad or lost huge swathes of their memories. Old rivalries from ages past barred their unification, but in one thing they all agreed:
Ancient (Future?) Records
Necron books are not as common as some others, but here are a couple you might be interested in finding and checking out, especially if you want to see Ultramarines lose:
You can blame this articles lateness on the thematic element of me sleeping in a bit… You may also notice that some of the lore concepts in here conflict a tad with the newer Necron books, but that is deliberate. Hopefully some of the ‘old lore’ helps show some of the dynamic but changeable side of this ancient foe. Keep your eyes peeled for the next Tomes of the Librarius, and let me know what faction you think I should do next, and be sure to tell me your favorite Necron stories in the comments!
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!