+ inload: Alien Wars – Anatomy of the enemy IV: Saharduin +

+ Anatomy of the enemy IV: Saharduin +

As the great Warmaster Chronos had it: "Some aliens it is my solemn duty to fight; while waging war on others is little more than an irritant. The best aliens of all, however, are a pleasure to purge from the God-Emperor's worlds." 

Extract from All Human History – Inquisitrix Barbari Kills, Ordo Xenos


+ First contact +

The Epistles of Lieutenant-General Tosh, fragments of which were written during the Great Crusade, and which formed the seed for the Ecclesiarchy's Bibliothekon Illicitus, contains the following entry for the little-known species known variously as the saharduin, zcualo, eeligators, dussumers, pisceans and veermaads, depending on where in the Ultima segmentum you encounter them. Since the term Saharduin has most currency in Segmentum Solar, we use it here to refer to the whole species.
The Saharduin control several worlds in the Ultima Segmentum. They are both hostile and powerful, and have technology roughly equivalent to that of the Imperium. A typical Piscean Warrior is armed with a boltgun-analogue and a power sword. The Imperium has fought a long war against the saharduin, but were unable to eradicate them. The menace could only be contained. To this day, no known human has ever set foot upon one of the planets of Saharduin; they remain dark and unexplored.
As with much of this Imperial hero's romanticised reportage, while the broad strokes are true – the Imperium has fought a number of campaigns against the saharduin, and their surmised home systems remain in native hands – much of the rest is fanciful. Imperial records show successful extermination campaigns against saharduin colonists on Bolar and the world of Shim-Jil; and records – admittedly patchy – remain of the saharduin's inner worlds from an attempted xenocidal campaign by the VIth Legion during the Great Crusade.

In any case, the saharduin have been in conflict with mankind since prior to the Great Crusade – as indicated by the names given to them by a number of previously-unconnected human species, all of whom suffered depredations of saharduin shoal-fleets during pre-Imperial times. The unofficial names given to them by Imperial Guard forces that have faced them are equally varied: reds, shimmers, darters, and the wonderfully earthy name the Catachan regiments favour: 'sea-bastards'.

+ Saharduin biology +

Saharduin often wear photo-chromaric lenses to
protect against light damage.
As technologically advanced apex predators on – and beyond – their mist-shrouded worlds, the saharduin number in their billions. Standing a good eight foot at the shoulder; ten from toe to tip of the snout, they are an intimidating foe for a human to face despite their slender appearance. Their skin is tough and rubbery, and while not to the extent that it protects the saharduin from gunfire, it will resist even heavy clubbing blows. The creatures' flexible musculature and semi-pliant bone-structure further protects them from impact damage. Fortunately, bladed weapons are extremely effective, carving through their skin easily to reveal the easily-shredded meat beneath.

Saharduin flesh is usually a red-brown colour, but the skin colours vary wildly, even within a single group. Almost any colour, or combination of colours is possible, and a number of specimens have demonstrated the ability to alter their hue to a greater or lesser extent – surmised to be a relic of some camouflaging talent, or perhaps a trait created by sexual selection. As with much of this species, little can be determined with certainty.

They live relatively short lives of approximately thirty years or so. Properly-nourished saharduin mature to their full physical size within two years or so, but are not believed to reproduce until later in life – though the mechanics of this species' reproduction is too complex to explain in the limited summary here. Interested parties are guided to the seminal treatise of Magos Hebron Xio, Inside the Piscean; a biological examination, from which the following salient extract is drawn.
[...]Saharduin have at least eight distinct 'genders' – though the term is only loosely applicable to this most peculiar species, and I have considered using 'generative quales' as a more appropriate term – that I have been able to identify, plus upwards of forty gender roles that I have been able to witness. Given the complexity of interaction and my specimens' frustrating and wilful refusal to procreate anywhere except in private, it is possible that there are many more.
Saharduin brooding usually produces three kinds of individual – pandoran, heran and promethean. Of these, the pandoran are genetically identical to the brooding adult; effectively clones (and perfectly capable of later reproduction of their own). The herans, who are the closest to a traditional female in that they provide a portion of genetic material to their offspring, grow to full size and await a 'male'. The males appear as part of a secondary generation born only to the 'male-progenitor gender', the prometheans. Prometheans themselves bear saharduin secondary male characteristics, but are born without gentialia; instead brooding upwards of three pygmies inside him/it. These dwarf males, who grow to less than half the size of other saharduin, are birthed via regurgitation, and form the fourth gender. All pygmies are genetically diverse – far more so than the other primary genders; drawing as they do a mix of gene-equivalents from, effectively, two generations: their promethean 'parent 'and their heran and pygmy 'grandparents'.
To further complicate the picture, it appears that certain stressors can bypass this system, causing both herans and pygmies to spontaneously produce promethean-equivalents themselves – creating sub-populations of genetically identical (or at least dwindling in diversity) beings. If isolated, these groups seem self-sustaining (though obviously more vulnerable to toxin, disease and other dangers); but are more usually a temporary measure until the population meets other Saharduin, at which point the sub-population is re-absorbed.
Of the remaining 'genders/life-roles', I have identified three distinguishable groups, which I have dubbed the Chalybs, Telkines and Dacts, though I confess these intermittently-produced beings do not fit neatly into any organisation I can conceive. Unlike the other genders, these genders are not part of the viviparous system, instead being born as semi-mobile 'larvae'. Telkines and Dacts eventually develop into, respectively, mock- or pseudo-herans and pandorans, which don't seem to be capable of reproduction, and are frequently malformed. Chalybs, meanwhile, are the most confusing of all; as while they show all other signs of life, they seem to remain in a larval state permanently. All is most fascinating; and I await our next safari with great urgency and excitement.

Saharduin tower over humans.
Saharduin require oxygenated fluid to breathe comfortably, but can naturally also metabolise manganese gasses, though this leaves them sluggish. Their skeletons are not rigid, which means they tire relatively quickly on land without support. Most dangerous in aquatic or other fluid environments, Saharduin are nevertheless swift, strong and cunning.


+ Saharduin technology +

Saharduin capital-class voidcraft are oblate spheroids, appearing like two dished placed face sides together. They are made of pale, textural alloys; almost ceramic in appearance. Weaponry – mass drivers, particle projectors or laser tech – is usually clustered around the apex of the curve, while the rim houses mobile force field projectors.

The warren-like interior of clustered tunnels that connect control nodes is filled with a rich oxygenated gel that acts as a defensive life support: under impact, the gel temporarily becomes more rigid, helping to minimise damage, and also making boarding actions considerably more complex for most other species. The gel will also act as a temporary plug for minor hull breaches

The combat-breathing apparatus is clearly visible on these two Janissaries
Saharduin Janissaries are most commonly encountered by Imperial forces on land; which means that the common image of the creatures is with their land-suits; tough bionically-enhanced pressurised coverings for their limbs that compensate for their difficulty out of the water, and enhance their strength in a similar manner to power armour, though to a lesser extent. To guardsmen, Saharduin are most familiar with their combat-breathing apparatus in place. These backpacks use tubes implanted into the gill analogues to deposit aerosolised fluid directly onto the membranes. This allows the Saharduin to breathe comfortably on land, and the packs also dispense combat drugs to increase the bearer's aggression, reactions and pain threshold.

Janissary bearing a projector gun
Native Saharduin projectile weaponry is based on mass-driver technology. Their compact and short-ranged projector guns are reliable and sturdy. Created to serve in fluids, they are brutally effective in gaseous atmospheres – their low-velocity rounds cause raggedly explosive effects that have a superficial similarity to bolt wounds; which is likely the source of Lieutenant-General Tosh's comments [see above].

Janissary bearing looted las-pistol and saharduin vibro-blade.

Well-suited to close-in fighting, Saharduin use vibration technology to enhance their close combat weaponry. Their armour-piercing vibro-blades emit an audible hum that escalates to a terrifying shriek when operated, and is well capable of penetrating carapace armour – or even astartes plate.

Saharduin are adaptable and aggressive, and frequently scavenge enemy weaponry to use – often finding it better suited to the alien atmospheres in which they are fighting. This often has a deleterious effect on enemy morale, particularly human forces.


+ Saharduin domains +

Saharduin Enclaves are confined to the Ultima Segementum, where they border a number of densely-populated worlds. This has brought them into frequent contact with a number of species, and they defend their borders hyper-aggressively. The murky, aquatic worlds of the Primary enclaves are so densely defended and protected that attacks are all but suicidal – the regions have long been quarantined by Imperial edict. 

The species seems to have developed and then lost or forbidden their warp-jump capability, with the secondary enclaves isolated from the primary enclaves. While no Saharduin worlds officially interact with other species, individuals from the newly-established Secondary Enclaves are sometimes found as mercenaries in the employ of Rogue Traders, ork and squat warlords and the like. Small expeditionary forces of Saharduin occasionally launch attacks beyond the Enclaves, but rely on capturing warp-capable ships from other species.

+ The Nova Terra Interregnum +

Isolated within the Ultima Segementum, the Saharduin were largely unaffected by the early events of the Nova Terra Interregnum. Within a few decades, however, withdrawing Imperial patrols and pickets meant that many more traders, explorers and adventure-seekers were able to slip past into the quarantine zone and make contact with the Saharduin. Few escaped alive; and the Saharduin found themselves provided with many small warp-capable ships.

This prompted an explosive expansion into the worlds that would become the Secondary Enclaves, and launched a cataclysmic series of cascading invasions on nearby systems. As a world was overwhelmed, more warp-capable craft were captured and the attacks began again on the next system. In this way, the Saharduin conquered vast tracts of space over the course of a century; and were only stopped by the intervention of Waa-Ghrast, a greenskin counter-invasion on the paradise world of Tummus. This campaign escalated in a bloody stalemate which drew reinforcements from the surrounding areas and allowed Imperial forces to establish a burnt-earth policy on the surrounding region, starving the Saharduin of warp-capable ships.

+ The Saharduin during the Alien Wars +

+ Battle of Berabbadon +

Imperial Guardsmen attempt to hold the line against Saharduin assault.
Saharduin invaders burn the moons of Berabbadon before descending on the populous world. A hastily-assembled Imperial Guard regiment supported by Ghast and Tamarin mercenaries hold the line briefly, but are wiped out over the course of four weeks. The Crimson Lions Titan Legion arrives in-system a fortnight later, and after four God-Engines are lost in an abortive landing effort, the Martian Suprematists that command the Legion order its withdrawal


+ Annexation of Jenna +
Forces of the Marauders Chapter scramble to intercept a Saharduin fleet-caravan from attacking an independent fiefdom, and succeed in destroying a quarter of the hotch-potch armada before planetfall is achieved.

The aliens disappear into the rich oceans, forcing a decade-long purging campaign that ends with the major conurbations of the world ruined, and the defeated Marauders forced to move out-system after an overwhelmingly large Ecclesiarchy fleet of Frateris Templars demands the Astartes withdraw their aegis from the independent humans of Jenna.


+ Waa-Ghrast +

This explosive conflict saw the literal destruction of the world of Xin, when an ork Space Hulk crash-landed onto the small planet. Drawing in millions of fighters from both sides, as well as over dozen other alien species, the orks were eventually successful in defeating the Saharduin. This event is grudgingly regarded as having saved substantial proportions of the Ultima Segmentum from the depredations of the Saharduin, catastrophically reducing the species' fleet numbers and ability to expand. 

Despite the collateral damage sustained by allies in the region – the Squat League of Drummond lost forty per cent of its holdings, and two Forgeworlds were lost – the result is seen as a net positive for the Imperium, whose reserves descended on the bloodied remnants of Ghrak's forces and decimated them over the plains of Zomm.


+ Post Script +

The enemy of my enemy is an excellent weapon.

I remain, at your service; Inquisitrix Barbari Kills.


  1. Replies
    1. Cheers – very enjoyable to have a framework around which to hang lots of unrelated models that I've wanted to paint.

  2. 40k has a lack of filthy xenos. All of the bipedal humanoids are very human in someway. Eldar are just tall gymnasts with obsessions, Ork are bestial but basically human in outlook- they have jobs, drink beer in their downtime and enjoy bloodsports. The Ork biology is alien but not repellant, their societal structure straightforward and easy to understand. Tau aren't nearly as weird as they could be.

    The Tyranid come close but they are less individuals, more a force of nature.

    I applaud your disturbing and monstrous alien pisceans. The quote at the start summarizes my rising disgust for these spineless colour shifting seawyrms and their disgusting physiology. That I cannot even beat one to death with my fists as my righteous fury demands only heightens my rage.

    1. I have a lot of affection for the 'Star Trek' style humanoid aliens of 40k, but I agree that some weirdness and a sense of genuine otherness would really help bring more to the setting. The 'Xenology' book has some really fun ideas like the Umbra and Thyrrus, which I'd love to see someone tackle.

  3. Love this report. Makes me wish I had more than two Saharduin figures.


+ submission exloadform: inload [comments] herein +