Guardians of Ulthwé: Forestalling Doom

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Craftworld Ulthwé drifts defiantly along the outskirts of what was once the heart of the mighty Eldar Empire. Consumed by the birth of Sai’lanthresh, the eldar core worlds were dragged into the warp through a rift known to humans as the Eye of Terror. Ever since escaping the doom of their race, the eldar of Ulthwé have lived within sight of this great wound in realspace.

As he had done thousands of times before, Farseer Aramel gazed through the infinite void at the great lesion. Even for the most powerful eldar seers, looking directly into the raw warp can prove dangerous. At this great distance, however, the swirling mass of unreality had no power but to remind Aramel of how far his people had fallen. Perhaps this is why the Seer Council of Ulthwé had decided to remain so close to the epicenter of the Fall. Even one glance at the vast warp-rift, is enough to convince the eldar mind of the need to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Aramel considered how the people of his craftworld stood apart from other eldar. They were not clannish as their brethren of Saim-Hann, they were not obsessed with rebuilding the Old Empire, as were the xenophobic eldar of Biel-Tan. Neither were they fanatically devoted to Asurmen’s path as are the Alaitoci, nor consumed by death as their unfortunate brethren of Craftworld Iyanden. Many of these far-flung brethren look upon Ulthwé with distaste and suspicion. They cannot imagine how Aramel’s people can find success in battle, again and again, whilst wearing no war mask. Surely they must be consumed by Khaine’s rage and hunger, or be utterly damned.

But the truth is that the eldar of Ulthwé do not look solely to the bloody handed god when battle is joined. Rather, they choose to tread along a lighter path. Isha, goddess of life, subjected herself to eternal imprisonment, that her children may survive the Fall. From her example, the eldar that join the ranks of Ulthwé’s Black Guardians realize that, in defeating the great enemy, no sacrifice is too great. They understand the value of all living beings, and dispense death only when need demands it, to tip the scales in the war against the dark powers. Over the millennia since the Fall, the manipulations of Ulthwé’s seers, enforced by the Black Guardian host, have saved untold billions.

The dome of Crystal Seers where Aramel now stood was soothingly quiet, though he was far from alone. Farseers Erethentil and Ithiniael were nearby, wrapped in their own thoughts. The dome was filled with psychoreactive flora and fauna, that behaved in concert with the moods of passing eldar. None of the Farseers had been summoned by the Council, as such, but each of them had seen through the skein and found that they must be here, in this place, at this moment.

When the time came, the three seers slowly walked towards the inner-most dome. As they did, they passed hundreds of crystal statues. To the unknowing observer, these would appear as immaculate crystal statues of Ulthwé Farseers. In truth, they are the mortal remains of farseers that have long since joined the Craftworld’s crystal spirit matrix. Though not truly dead, they had joined the spirits of Ulthwé’s fallen, with all of their memories and sense of self intact. It is the fate of all farseers that do not perish in combat. One that only Eldrad Ulthran has managed to evade.

When the three seers reached the Council chambers, they were greeted by a gathering of the most revered Eldar to walk their path. The legendary Farseer’s form was also there, but Eldrad’s mind was deep within the warp, hunting for answers. “We have a task for you” said Farseer Dariel. “A strike force has been readied aboard the warship Asredil. You must lead it to the Sorathian System. A maiden world lies in peril and an ancient temple of the Phoenix may come to ruin” she continued. “There is also a darker threat, though we do not yet know its purpose.” The words were a formality. Each already knew the perils of which Farseer Dariel spoke. But ritual demanded that all expeditions be sanctioned by the Council in person. Meeting on the material plane served to ground Seers, lest they risk confusing reality with a loose thread, glimpsed within the skeins of fate. Aramel, Erethentil and Ithiniael inclined their heads in understanding, and went forth to perform their task.

Il-Kaithe: Vigilance

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Amidst the void sailed a smoothly shaped planetoid, unbound to the enslavement of any star and free to roam the vastness of space. This was Craftworld Il-Kaithe, a shimmering jewel in the darkness, one of the precious few remaining world-ships of the Eldar. Undaunted by the tragedy of the Fall, or the aggressions of their foes, the inhabitants of Il-Kaithe refined the art of bonesinging to a level unsurpassed by their brothers and sisters scattered across the stars. With every song and every wonder created, they defied the Chaos Gods.

Somewhere near the heart of the Craftworld, Phoenix Lord Karandras strode into the hall of Autarchs. Before the assembled leadership of Il-Kaithe he spoke, with a voice both ancient and powerful. “On a desolate world in the Sorathian system, that bears my name, a mighty army of the souldark was once defeated. Their warriors were turned to dust and leaders routed, but their greatest works could not be undone. So it was that I built my temple upon the ruins of the yngiract crypts, that none may claim the secrets buried within. The hour soon approaches when many will come to the Sorathian worlds, each with their own designs. Some may desire the eldrich technologies of the souldark to fuel their ambitions. This may not come to pass. The Phoenix Court calls upon you to defend Karandros and ensure the Necron abominations are never unearthed by unwitting fools, or their makers.”

With that ominous warning, and without waiting for any response, Karandros turned and left the great hall, soon disappearing into paths that no other could tread. Shocked, the Farseers and Autarchs of Il-Kaithe debated over how they would address this threat. Surely the yngiract technology that the Phoenix Lord spoke of was powerful beyond their imagining and must at all costs be kept from the servants of the Dark Gods. The skein must be studied and a fleet will be assembled, to be dispatched at all speed. But who will lead it?

Dark Eldar: Possibilities

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Archon Oberon-Geren Mackareth of the Undivided Blood Kabal rested upon his throne and reveled in the spectacles of both pain and pleasure arrayed before him. Or so it would appear to an outside observer. Though he hungrily drank in the suffering of slaves displayed before him, arranged in macabre vignettes, the Archon’s mind was elsewhere. Oberon’s thoughts were consumed by his myriad plots and machinations, overlaid by a pervasive hatred for his rivals.

As a denizen of one of Commorragh’s middle tiers, Archon Oberon was a step above the muck of the eternal city, but only barely. Every Kabal that did not reside in the upper tier of the dark city aspired to carve a bloody path and rise to claim a slice of the higher levels of Commorragh. Of course, the upper levels were dominated by the great and ancient Kabals, each commanding entire tiers for themselves. By comparison, Oberon’s fiefdom was small and insignificant. But that would change.

A recent raid unearthed something that had greatly excited his haemonculi. Oberon’s chief Haemonculus, Zakarias, had been frustratingly obtuse on the subject and the Archon was at a loss as to what all the commotion was about. The raid had been on a pathetic mon-keigh backwater planet and yielded a paltry haul of slaves and trinkets. Oberon tried in vain to guess what Zakarias might have found to justify the months of suspense, not to mention the exorbitant amount of resources the ancient haemonculus had requested for his experiments.

But today, Oberon had been promised results and was impatiently awaiting the hour when he would meet Zakarias in his dungeon and finally learn what fruits his investment had yielded. Externally, the Archon displayed an air of studied nonchalance, giving the impression that nothing of any particular importance was afoot. In the dark city, secrecy was a matter of course and duplicity the key to survival. Oberon inhaled deeply from a pipe offered to him by a scantily clad female slave and enjoyed the effects of the narcotic fumes in order to pass the time.

The hour finally drawing near, Archon Oberon rose from his throne and sauntered onwards. His elite cadre of Incubi formed around him without a word, and followed their master out of the chamber, even as the Archon’s minions bowed and scraped as he passed. After several twists and turns, taking back ways and crossing secret doorways, Oberon was satisfied that any spies following him had either lost him or been killed by the creative variety of traps that lay hidden along the path that the Archon just took.

At last Oberon arrived at Zakarias’ laboratory. He was greeted by a pair of the Haemonculus’ foul smelling Wracks. Monstrosities that had once had the honor of calling themselves Eldar, yet willingly allowed themselves to be mutilated in pursuit of eldritch knowledge. As distasteful as Oberon found them, he was well aware that the relative immortality that he himself enjoyed would be impossible without the Haemonculi and their Wrack servants.

The Haemonculus’ minions led Oberon into the laboratory, past quivering victims, grotesquely mutated flesh and barbarous apparatus, until they reached a circular room with a glass tank containing blueish liquid at its center. Beside it stood Chief Haemonculus Zakarias, who currently appeared more or less humanoid, though he had grown two additional hands from his body and his features were generally unrecognizable as anything Eldar. “Greetings, my Archon, so good for you to have ventured down to my most humble workshop.” Zakarias said, in a grating voice. Oberon hid his disgust well and said “Yes, yes, spare me your pointless placation and show me your work.” Zakarias turned and pointed at the tube. Inside, the Archon could make out a strange pulsating mass of flesh, though he truly could not say any more than that. The Haemonculus did not allow his master to remain ignorant for long. “Amongst the refuse that was collected in your last raid, my Archon, were the remains of a mon-keigh mutant, the so-called ‘Space Marines.'” He explained and pointed at the contents of the tube this was developed from the distilled gene-seed that was recovered. Oberon rolled his eyes and expressed irritation “you waste my resources for this nonsense?! Better Haemonculus than you have attempted to manipulate the mon-keigh super soldier genes for centuries and all of them have failed.”

Zakarias contorted his face into what presumably passed for a smile and gestured for permission to speak. When this was granted, the Haemonculus explained “with respect my Archon, these are not the diluted genetic material that may have been found within any mon-keigh captured within the last ten thousand years. This gene-seed belonged to one of the original mutants created from genetic material taken from one of the fabled mon-keigh primarchs! Long have the secrets of their creation eluded us, but I believe that these pure samples are the key for unlocking the deepest mysteries of the art.”

Zakarias’ excitement was palpable, but Archon Oberon was still doubtful. “That seems all well and good, Zakarias, but what value could this these esoteric discoveries have for me?” He asked. The Haemonculus’ beady eyes veritably sparkled as he replied “the possibilities are endless, my Archon, if we could but acquire more samples for these ancient mon-keigh mutants, we could adapt their properties to your Kabalite warriors, or even yourself! your body would become more resilient, your strength far greater and your ability to regenerate from an injury vastly increased.”

“Interesting, I must think more on this” was all that Archon Oberon said. As he stalked out of the dank laboratory, his mind was afire. The possibilities were indeed endless, and many of those could very well give him the edge he needed to crush his rival Archons. However, the raid that this gene-seed had been collected from was in the Sorathian system, an isolated place with only a single entrance into the webway. He would need his minions to be sent ahead to scout the region and relay information to him. But who could be trusted enough to be silent for this mission and yet expendable enough not to be missed? Oberon smiled to himself as he realized who amongst his vassal petty Archons he would call upon. He need not tell him everything after all…