+ inload: Anatomy of the Enemy III: Eldar +

+ Anatomy of the enemy III: Eldar +


'Who seeks the Eldar, grasps at smoke.'
- Proverbs of Dontian -

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+ Abstract +

To speak of the 'Eldar' to xenoscholars is so broad a canvas as to be virtually meaningless , such is the breadth of an impossibly complex society of diverse natures and behaviours, united only by the common biology and the irredeemably corrupt and breathlessly arrogant nature of its members.

The records that the Inquisition holds of the species are simultaneously extensive, and oddly cursory; for the Eldar are an ancient and subtle species that is known to share only that which it desires of its aeons-old culture. What little sure knowledge we have of them has been wrested from the fey creatures through honest warfare, righteous torture and Inquisitorial subterfuge. Nevertheless, the diversity and elusiveness of the creatures, coupled with their rarity, means that this missive can deal with only the broadest strokes.

In reading of them, be aware that never is all as it seems. Their mythology and history are deeply intertwined; and arguably synonymous to an Eldar.

+ Eldar biology +

Typical eldar warrior, Iyanden designate
As a rule, eldar are slight, willowy and gracile, but otherwise similar in silhouette to humanity, with the species sharing peculiarly similar limb structure, right down to the number of fingers and toes, and facial layout. Indeed, a number of less anthropomorphic species – such as the Chi-soma and multi-limbed Semb – are recorded to have mistaken human emissaries for Eldar.

To a human, however, the differences are immediately obvious. There is an uncanny underlying 'otherness' to an encounter with the Eldar that cannot be accounted for by simple cultural difference, but is a result of their gossamer-subtle postural shifts that make up part of their physical communication, in combination with their heightened proprioception and reactions which gives them a superlatively graceful aspect.

Physically, almost all Eldar are relatively tall, though still within standard human variance. Lacking a subcutaneous fat analogue, they appear slender or even slightly avian. Gender dimorphism is not marked – male and female Eldar are distinguishable, but most are relatively androgynous. On an individual level, their sensory organs appear appealingly exaggerated: exhibiting large almond-shaped eyes, and elegantly structured ears and noses – they exude an aesthetic style which, on the surface, has an immediate appeal.

Group of eldar raiders, Eosshi designate [Model credit: Lord Blood the Hungry]
In groups, the impression is diminished. A permanent level of communion at the subconscious and psychic level means that groups of Eldar often react like a shoal or flock; mirroring each other's movements in an quite hypnotic cascade. The impression is that of a troupe of dancers or acrobats; poised and attuned, and it adds to their disconcerting presence. This is further heightened by their similarity.Beyond personal attire, clothing styles and body modification, Eldar exhibit little variety in their phenotype. Almost all are pale-skinned; and with faces that shriek of a shared heritage. Stripped of their equipment, it would be difficult to distinguish an Eldar from one culture to another.

+ Major cultural groups +

However physically similar at birth, the Eldar one may encounter during Inquisitorial duties – or that the forces of the twin Imperium may face – are not monocultural. Indeed, what they lack in phenotypical diversity is more than compensated for by the complexity of their preferred dress, equipment and behavioural mores.

Eldar fall into four main groups:

  • Nomadic world-ship dwellers – asuryani, or craftworld eldar
  • Those settled on feral worlds within the galaxy – asrai, or exodite eldar
  • The eldar of the worlds beyond the galactic rim – moirai, or halator eldar
  • Piratical and cabalistic raiders – drukhari, or corsair eldar
If the best-known of these, the nomads of the 'Craftworlds', is to be taken as typical, each of these broad group includes thousands of subcultures. This seems highly likely, as the diversity within the nomadic Eldar culture is vast, and they are known to be the most culturally intert; reactionary to any potential development and ritualised to the point of obsession.

Whisperprince of Ctho, one of the Eldar's worldships.
As discussed, all Eldar are physically similar, though many perform body modification – ranging from the application of ritual warpaint and tattoos, to full limb and organ replacement or addition – which may aid in identification. It is hard to make generalisations as to the reasons for such practises, but as a broad note, the nomadic Eldar seem to favour distinction through clothing and grooming (make-up and hairstyles, for example) and tend to restrict body modification to minor piercings. The pict-capture above shows a typical high-caste figure with a striking hairstyle, but no visible physical augmentation or alteration. Bionics are rare; usually temporary until a new limb can be grown and grafted. 

The dwindling inheritors – those claiming status as shards of their now-lost empire – are sometimes known as the halation or halator eldar, owing to their cosmographical restriction to the worlds beyond the galactic rim proper. Exhibiting little to no bodily modification, these scattered eldar are theorised to make a virtue of their physical form; seeming to regard themselves as sanctified vessels of their gods. 

The settled feral Eldar typically exhibit more variation than the nomadic and inheritor cultures. While some seem puritanical in their avoidance of body modification, others show more pronounced modifications, such as 'ear-webbing', tattoos and scarification. Their bionics and augmetics, while high-quality and gracile, are typically more obvious and more permanent than the nomadic Eldar.

Haemonculi of the Perfected Flesh cabal [Model credit: Lord Blood the Hungry]
The final major group is still more nebulous, its contact with the Imperium completely unformalised and usually highly hostile. Some appear similar to Craftworld eldar; but the group also includes the little-known drukhari sub-culture. It is unclear whether it is a small, isolated population of corsairs, similar to the infamous Eldritch Raiders, an extensive group similar or even larger in population than the nomadics, or something in between. 

Indeed, we are still unsure whether they are ship-based, settled or have some other form of permanent dwelling; and all attempts to divine their method of travel or settlement has proven impossible. Amongst the most abhorrent of this abominable species, they exhibit the most extreme body modification of all known Eldar. 

This can range from relatively banal tattooing and extensive piercing to organ replacement, induced adaptation of atavistic elements – the intentional development of the base of the Eldar's spine equivalent into a prehensile limb – or the the grafting of supernumerary limbs, as shown in the pict-capture here. This shows two haemonculi, a term that (typically for the eldar) has extensive nuance, but can bluntly be translated as 'pain-artist'.


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Eldar military equipment and technology +

Current intelligence indicates that the Eldar have degraded from a possible status as a post-scarcity civilisation during the Dark Age of Technology; and now require a limited range of raw materials – even where these may seem odd or worthless to an Imperial observer. Indeed, these theorised requirements are a possible reason for the nomadic wanderings of their 'Craftworlds', and apparent piratical nature.

It is documented that certain Eldar posses the wherewithal to manipulate the immaterium to produce durable 'psychoplastics' – that is, permanent physical objects created from the raw stuff of the warp – and this is likely where myths that their equipment is 'sung' into being have arisen. If this is possible on an industrial scale, it seems that it is not perfect; with recovered materials indicated that mundane (if exceptionally well-crafted) ceramics, metal ores, fabrics and other esoteric elements are routinely incorporated.

'Guardian' Auxiliary warriors; support militia of the nomadic craftworlds.
Scarcity or not, most Eldar encountered in the field are precociously well-equipped and supplied, with gleaming weaponry, field-dress and equipment. Favouring eye-catching ritualised wear that varies from group to group, an Eldar army is a panoply of colour and movement. Nomadic eldar favour shuriken weaponry, using it alongside las-weapons in roughly equal quantites.

In contrast, the moirai (Eldar of the Halo regions) wear richly-decorated armour styled after scale or chain mail, though constructed from advanced plastek-equivalents. Their Exigator and Protector troupes are often adorned with ritual warpaint – usually in earthy or pastel shades such as terracottas, or light blues. Unlike their Craftworld brethren, the field officers (Malefactors and Probati) wear similar markings and equipment, though usually more richly developed; as do their shrine-warriors such as the feared Striking Serpents and Crystal Dragons.

Their technology is also extended to the zhote auxiliaries which seem to make up as much as half of their military forces, though whether these are allies or slaves or is a matter of much debate amongst xenologicians.

Perfected Flesh clone-slaves [Model credit: Lord Blood the Hungry]
The clone-slaves of eldar pirates – vulgarly known as wracks to the men and women of Guardsman – use relatively crude weapons; though whether this is for ritualistic reasons, a lack of availability, or the warriors' general inability or unwillingness to use more sophisticated tools is unknown. As the central figure here shows, some specimens are clearly able to use ranged weaponry.

Line troops of the Exquisite Tear cabal [Model credit: Lord Blood the Hungry].
Many settled and piratical Eldar, such as those shown, wear enclosed armour and wield weaponry of high sophistication that is distinct in pattern, use, efficacy and even material from that typically used by the nomadic forms. The pictured warriors wield a variety of rifle-equivalent and support weapons that utilise a hybrid laser/crystal technology to deliver splinters of nerve agents and paralysing toxins.

Halator psyker. Unknown designation

Note must be made here of the Eldar's extensive psychic weaponry and wargear. All eldar are to an extent psychic, and their modus operandi reflects this. All groups of Eldar use psychic weaponry extensively, with the seeming exception of certain piratical raiders. The Eldar of the Halo region also exhibit restricted usage in comparison with other Eldar factions. Nevertheless, their Impressors and Void-Dreamers specialist in battlefield psychic support; shielding and shrouding their allies.

Eldar jetbike – [James Turner The Pig's Sty]
Where generalisations can be made, Eldar favour harrying hit-and-run attacks, or, when deployed on a larger scale,  a blitzkrieg style of warfare. Both approaches look to make the most of their relatively small numbers, and allows for rapid redeployment. Most Eldar vehicles are grav-based, allowing them excellent mobility and infamous 'pop-up' attacks from cover.

Jetbikes are a military technology becoming scarcer across the twin Imperium, following the destruction or secession of a number of principal Forge Worlds on both sides of the Nova Terran Interregnum, but are in evidence in the military forces of most Eldar groups, fitting the modus operandi of these xenos to a tee.

Eldar 'Wave Serpent' grav-tank; Eldritch Raiders [Model credit: Keith Stine]

Perhaps the most famous Eldar forces are the elites used by the craftworlds and halator, known as 'Aspect Warriors'. Seeming to embody particular religious and martial traits of the Eldar's lost empire, seventeen types or subtypes have been identified. Of these, only thirteen have been recorded in the Craftworld forces; the remainder exclusive to the halatar. In order of prominence, these are:
Possible Mist Blade Aspect Warrior
[model credit: James Turner The Pig's Sty]

  • Dire Avengers – adaptable generalists
  • Howling Banshees – shock-assault specialists
  • Avenging Warriors* – adaptable generalists
  • Striking Scorpions – close-assault specialists
  • Crystal Dragons – close-support specialists
  • Shadow Spectres – long-range fire-support specialists
  • Ebon Talons – long-range fire-support specialists
  • Striking Serpents* – close-support specialists
  • Dark Reapers – long-range fire-support specialists
  • Shining Spears – close-assault/support specialists
  • Warp Spiders – close-support specialists
  • Crimson Hunters – aerial specialists
  • Fire Dragons – close-support specialists
  • Night Striders* –  adaptable generalists
  • Mist Blades – void-assault specialists
  • Slicing Orbs† – close-support specialists
  • Cresting Steeds* – aquatic specialists
Entries marked with an * have been recorded only in forces of the Eldar of the galactic halo. Those marked with an † have been recorded only on unsubstantiated or secondary evidence.

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+ Principal Eldar military forces and domains+

This list is necessarily curtailed; and aims to encompasses only those factions of particular note or precocious activity during the Nova Terra Interregnum.


+ Asuryani (Nomadic Eldar) +

The most commonly-encountered (though this is a relative term) Eldar subtype, the nomadic Craftworlds are mobile, allowing their inhabitants to avoid or incite conflict.

  • Alaitoc – Perhaps the best-known Eldar Craftworld, the Alaitoc Craftworld has enjoyed a century-long – if occasionally uneasy – non-aggression pact with Ancient Terra, and has served alongside Imperial forces in two notable campaigns against the orks of Charadon, and Krell.
  • Zandros – Seemingly derelict, this Craftworld proved to be fully operational when targetted by Nova Terran forces. 
  • Ythranmir – Seemingly limited Aspect shrines; either a cultural artefact or population quirk. Instead deploys extensive Guardian militia forces.
  • Ctho – Unusual for their restricted deployment of Aspect Warriors, and preferring the use of the Fire Dragons shrine over the more common Crystal Dragons.
  • Biel Tan Hostile and dangerous, Biel Tan currently resides in the northern reaches of Segmentum Solar, launching continuous attacks on Imperial interests in the Fossax and Gloriam Sectors. Rarely deploying their 'Guardian' auxilia, their forces make extensive use of the thirteen identified specialist 'aspect warrior' shrines.
  • Siaob – Resurgent and mobile, the Eldar of Siaob treat freely with representatives of both the Ur-Council and High Lords in search of artefacts of Eldar antiquity. The high domes are home to hundreds of ranger, outcast and pirate bands.
  • Lugganath – Known to be recovering from Archenemy Legio III attack.
  • Dain Mir – Sustained heavy damage in conflict with the Red Templars in the First War of Trimundi, early in the Nova Terran Interregnum.
  • Iyanden – Believed to be the largest and most populous Craftworld, Iyanden specialises in conventional mass assault, spearheaded by Aspect Warriors. The Battle of Gnosos was notable for the first recorded deployment of all thirteen Aspects.

+ Asrai (Exodite Eldar) +

Isolated and protected by astrographical distance from ready warp routes, the Maiden Worlds of the Exodites are typically difficult to reach. Their inhabitants are also fierce and capable defenders, so they are, by and large, left alone by all but the most determined (or foolish) enemies.

  • Tost – Implicated by Chapter Master Mabaloso of the Novamarines in the Pale Wasting. Further records [REDACTED]
  • Firduos – Purported resting place of the long-lost folk hero 'Fuegan', not seen for several millennia.
  • Asiurmo 
  • Ys – Fell into conflict with the orks of Ghur.
  • Sien Ghou
  • Bhodran – Enjoyed limited trade with nearby Knight households indebted to Terra, until drawn into the broader Reaches War.
  • Lomoni
  • Orie Zi – A beautiful pink-tinged coral desert, the Eldar of the Orie Zi Maiden World inhabit the turquoise liminal areas of this paradise world. They engaged and defeated an invasion headed by the Sons of Medusa.

+ Moirai (Halator Eldar) +

Seemingly restricted to extra-galactic regions, these fading but still powerful forces 

  • Comh Aontu – The Titan Clans of this region were drawn into a protacted engagement with the Legio Comitant of Avignor, resulting in the decimation of the Nova Terran-aligned forces and Eldar alike. Reduction in activity may be an indication of the Eldar's inability to maintain such high-value conflict.
  • Sliabh-Caillt – Harried Ancient Imperial shipping until the League of Grendel engaged and destroyed a number of Outrider vessels.
  • Alai-Myan Alliance – 
  • At-Arradh – Involved in an ongoing war of mutual extermination with the Hrud of the region.
  • Demi-Nui – Defeated the extra-galactic Explorator fleets of the Adeptus Mechanicus Maior, at terrible cost to both Demi-Nui and the Forgeworld of Telerac. Magos Viljitch's full record of the conflict can be inloaded.
  • Fir Geach – Reduced to a handful of artefact worlds in the wake of Waa-Kurgoff.

+ Drukhari (Corsair Eldar) +

Void Watcher; Eldar psyker of the Eldritch Raiders
 [Model credit: Keith Stine]
In addition to those principal forces listed above are tens of thousands of recorded raids that match Eldar descriptions, with no identified attacker. It is likely that such Eldar raiders make up ninety per cent or more of the scant contact humanity has with this ancient and powerful enemy. Such is the scant evidence left by such raiders that information is near-impossible to come by. The following seem to be particular famous pirate raiders, though even this is far from certain. These groups may be as different from one another as any typical Imperial culture is from another, using different weapons, star-craft and with different cultural traditions and taboos.


  • Company of Kaele Lightprow – Attacks by this force are frequently preceded by sonic barrage and accompanied by psychically unsettling aural weaponry.
  • Cabal of the Black Heart 
  • Eldritch Raiders
  • Cabal of the Perfected Flesh – A shadowy figure known as Grigori seems to have command of this terrifying force.
  • Scarlet Command – A yellow hand bearing an all-seeing eye is that symbol of this force.
  • Void Watchers 
  • Eosshi Cabal
  • Crangor's Buccaneers – Unusual in that this is a human/squat military force that permanently employ Eldar; seemingly renegades from an Eldar civil war.

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+ Major Eldar conflicts during the Nova Terra Interregnum +

  • First War of Trimundi: Belligerent Eldar of Dain Mir attack Trimundi. They are met by forces of the Nova Terran Army and the Red Templars first company. The result is a bloody stalemate, and the Dain Mir eventually retreat.
  • War of Lost Sorrow
Kalamonan Guardsman confronts an Iybraesil Aspect Warrior [Credit: Stuart Benson]
  • Kalamonon War
  • Zandros Annexation: Expeditionary forces of Nova Terra attempt to board the Craftworld Zandros, goaded by the Magi of the Moirae Schismatics. They are met by stinging defences and forced to retreat. Zandros later launches an assault of Stygies in retaliation, wrecking supply lines for both Terra and Nova Terra.
  • War of Stein's Beard: The League of Mjolnir and the Eldar of Fir Geach begin a proxy war of escalation that badly depletes both sides allies until the belligerents meet on the fields of Tehu Principal.

Iyanden Eldar defend against Sarharduin forces on the beaches of Ombai.
  • Battle of Sim: Silver Guard Astartes are devastated on Sim when attacked by Eldar corsairs.
  • War of Stein's Beard: The League of Mjolnir and the Eldar of Fir Geach begin a proxy war of escalation that badly depletes both sides allies until the belligerents meet on the fields of Tehu Principal.
The Iyanden Craftworld clash on Gant with the inhabitants

  • Death on Gant: An escalating battle with independent humans forces in the Gant system leads more orks to flock to the banner of Morskul. The Iyanden Craftworld deploy in support, leading to the extermination of nearly fifty thousand orks, over seven thousand eldar and sixty thousand humans.



  • Crow's World purges: Attacks by feral orks on Imperial cities were curtailed after Eldar of the Exquisite Tear launched a brutal four-day campaign.

Eldar attacking Crow's World bypassed Imperial forces to engage with feral orks. [Model credit: Lord Blood the Hungry]

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+ Post Script +

The eldar are as elusive as they are complex; of that one can be certain. While they are a beautiful enigma, one must remember the truism: an open mind is like a fortress with its gates unbarred and undefended. 

I remain, at your service; Inquisitrix Barbari Kills.





4 comments:

  1. Great stuff. I enjoyed this take on a mysterious race that fans often simplify to a handful of codex entries. Just as the Imperial complexes show a (ever increasing) snapshot of the kind of arms and equipment, vehicles and factions at play in the dark future, so the Eldar should not be simplified to spiky, nonspiky, other.

    Your comments about Eldar post-post-scarcity intrigue me. In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, there is only war, and trade. Lots and lots of trade. There must be for Imperial hiveworlds to exist and for orks to value plunder- its not just honour everyone's always fighting for, all the time.

    That the Eldar craftworlds are not self sufficient and need to foray for soulstones, ores (and anything else that cannot be produced from a Bonesinger's greatest hits or a hydroponics dome) grants a little humility to this proud race. It also grants them motive to get off their psychoplastic couches and into the galaxy at large, providing hooks for campaigns and stories.

    I love the effort to gel the raiders with corsairs and druchi forces- the Imperium have very little idea of the difference still. The fact that they 'all look alike' makes me wonder if they have ever managed to commit grimdark identity theft to the lesser races, claiming to be allies from faction A while being opportunistic raiders from faction D?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers for the considered reply, RSF_Angel; and glad you enjoyed the article. I hope the period of the Alien Wars/NTI setting offers people a bit more old-fashioned freedom in their modelling, painting and background, by skirting the idea of 'canon'.

      Part of that is opening up the possibilities of the various xenos – the galaxy's a big place in M35, and as you say, there's no need for the Eldar (or orks, or squats, or...) to be simplified.

      Delete
  2. Excellent.


    You will of course divulge your sources, one way or another, before sentencing and rehabilitation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. [+SCRAPSHUNTERRORABORT+] THE RUBRICIST CANNOT BE CONTACTED RIGHT NOW. PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE. [+SCRAPSHUNTERRORABORT+]

      (:P Glad you liked it!)

      Delete

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