Past the Edge of Darkness
History of the Craftworlds
In the time leading up to the Fall, not all the Eldar that remained on the Eldar Empire’s primary homeworlds fell to the lures of hedonism. Many remained free of the depraved corruption, struggling to turn their species from its doom. Unable to do so, many of the greatest Eldar Seers caught glimpses of the darkness to come. The craftworlds were originally large trading ships sung from wraithbone, aboard which lived hundreds of Eldar families. These colossal spacecraft would travel across the galaxy using the webway, trading with the many alien races they encountered before returning centuries later to Eldar homeworlds. When they returned a few years before the Fall, the craftworlds’ inhabitants were horrified by the changes in Eldar society. The Eldar seers who had remained behind enlisted their aid to undertake a titanic effort to save their people. Onto each Eldar craftworld, the last uncorrupted people from each Eldar world were loaded from each homeworld, along with works of art, plant life and animals, and whatever else of Eldar culture that could be saved. In these Craftworlds, the final Eldar Exodus began, and only barely in time. The psychic shockwave of Slaanesh’s awakening caught some of the Craftworlds and destroyed them, while others were pulled into orbit around the Eye of Terror. The rest drift throughout the galaxy today, their exact number uncertain, as contact with and between them can be difficult and intermittent.
In the ten-thousand years since the Fall, the craftworlds have grown in size between ten-fold and a hundredfold to accommodate the new survivors. The Craftworlds probably compose the majority of the surviving Eldar race in the galaxy of the forty-first millennium, although it is impossible to say just how many this is. They are certainly the seat of the remaining Eldar industry, technology, and culture, as they contain the only vestiges of their original homeworlds. Most of the Craftworlds contain special biodomes that house plants and wildlife from their original world, and these are carefully tended. Although each Craftworld is essentially independent in its actions and governance, they will generally offer and accept aid and advice from one another. Although not common, sometimes Craftworld disagreements will cause them to clash with each other on the field of battle, though this is always a last resort.
Far out on the frontiers of the galaxy, on the edge of explored space, lies the Alaitoc Craftworld. The Alaitoc Eldar are zealous in their guard against the touch of Slaanesh, even more so than other Craftworld Eldar. For these two reasons many of its citizens will at one time or another decide to leave the strict confines of the ship and strike out on their own or in small groups of rangers. They will return in times of need however, and so all Alaitoc armies will have a substantial force of rangers. These rangers are usually accompanied by harlequins, mysterious eldar that have no craftworld of their own, and instead travel through the webway to various craftworld. Alaitoc eldar kill from afar, They extensively use war walkers and rangers due to this. The colour of their armour varies from blue and yellow, to blue and bone.
A small Craftworld that had been on the edge of the shockwave from the Fall, Altansar was long thought to have been lost in the Eye of Terror along with the homeworlds of the Eldar. However, there were reports of its sighting and even active involvement in the recently conducted campaign between the Imperium and the Chaos Marines in the Eye of Terror during the Thirteenth Black Crusade, and doubt now exists as to its fate. As of the 4th Edition Eldar Codex, it was revealed that Altansar did, in fact, escape from the Warp with the help of the Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra, and that Eldar of other Craftworlds regard its inhabitants with deep suspicion due to their multi-millennial imprisonment in the Eye of Terror.
The most martial of the Craftworlds, Biel-tan has made the decision to try and reforge the Eldar Empire. Each craftworld carries the seeds of Eldar culture. Not all are identical by any means, as each reflects the cultural heritage of its long dead world of origin. Biel-Tan is renowned for the strong warrior ideals of its people. For the Eldar of Biel-Tan the Way of the Warrior, the life-stage that encompasses the Aspect Warriors, is considered the first step upon the Path of the Eldar. Upon reaching physical maturity a Biel-Tan Eldar becomes an Aspect Warrior, and only once he has fulfilled this role can he continue along the Path of the Eldar. The Eldar of Biel-Tan have a strong honour code and believe that the best way to die is in battle fighting the enemies of Biel-Tan. In the centre of the craftworld there is a special Chamber of Heroes where the spirit stones of dead Aspect Warriors are placed. When the Runeseers have to make a particularly difficult decision about the future of their craftworld they retire to the Chamber of Heroes to consult with the warrior dead. The dead of particular battles are arranged together and are often referred to by the name of the battle in which they fell – for example the Dead of Corrus fell fighting Chaos on an ancient Eldar colony.
The symbol of Biel-tan is the Eldar rune of rebirth and its name actually means the ‘Rebirth of Ancient Days’. Biel-tan Guardians wear white or grey uniforms with details in green. Vehicles are often coloured entirely green, with large areas broken up using a pattern of twisting vines in a contrasting shade. For every kill a pilot makes, a thorn is added to the vine. The name of the Craftworld is a variation of the Gaelic Beltane (aka Bealtaine or May Day). The colour scheme of the Biel-tan Craftworld and its forces is generally green and white.
The Eldar of Il-Kaithe constantly crusade against the forces of Chaos. Their talented Bonesingers are said to be able to practice their art even in the heat of battle. This talent is also extended to the manufacturing of eldar war vehicles. The craftworld is known far and wide for their expertise in constructing the venerable Wave Serpent and its cousins. The colour of Il-Kaithe is green accompanied by purple or crimson red accompanied by blue.
The Iyanden Craftworld was once one of the largest and most prosperous of all the remaining Eldar craftworlds. They barely survived an attack by the Tyranid Hive Fleet Kraken, which nearly destroyed the Craftworld and killed four-fifths of its population. On the verge of total annihilation, Iyanden was saved from complete destruction by the exiled Prince Yriel, who had formerly been the High Admiral of the Iyanden fleet. Yriel and his exile pirate raiders, even though previously vowing never to return to Iyanden, could not bear to have their craftworld destroyed and launched an attack on the Tyranid fleet. Taking the final battle to the craftworld itself, Yriel used an ancient artefact spear called “The Spear of Twilight” to slay the Hive Tyrant that led the assault. In doing so, Yriel doomed himself to a slow and painful death due to the psychic artifact being bound to its user and burning their soul. For now however, the forceshield worn by Yriel staves off the constant energies of the spear. Regardless of his actions, the chances of Iyanden recovering from its losses are slim and their future looks bleak.
Eldar of Iyanden rely much more heavily upon the spirits of the dead to defend them because of their low numbers. Iyanden makes heavy use of undead warriors known as Wraithguard and Wraithlords animated by the souls of their fallen kin. They have specialised psykers called Spiritseers who are trained in aiding the reanimated souls in battle. However, most Eldar see Spiritseers as necromancers, and even the Spiritseers themselves hate disturbing the spirits of the dead. Indeed, on the eve of the attack by Hive Fleet Kraken, Iyanden’s leader Farseer Kelmon made the fateful decision to take the spirit stones from their resting places and place them into Wraithbone constructs to take to battle, knowing that they would make the difference in the craftworld’s survival.The symbol of Iyanden is the Shrine of Asuryan. Asuryan is one of the most famous of the Eldar Gods. The Phoenix Lords all are some of the “children” of Asuryan, and Asurmen is the very “Hand of Asuryan”. The colour of Iyanden is bright yellow accompanied by dark blue. It should be noted that the symbol of the Shrine of Asuryan closely resembles the torii of the Shinto religion practiced in Japan.
Iybraesil is a largely matriarchal society. As followers of Morai-Heg, the Iybraesil Eldar constantly aspire to recover the hidden secrets of the crone worlds, the original homeworlds of the Eldar race which now reside in the Eye of Terror. The colour of Iybraesil is blue accompanied by white.
An extremely isolated Craftworld of the Eldar. Under unclear circumstances, at some point in the distant past Kaelor made a webway jump to the edge of the galaxy and has not ventured back towards the galactic centre for several millennia. It has virtually no contact with the outside galaxy, and even the Harlequins barely remember its existence.
The renegades of Lugganath foster close ties with the Harlequins, for the Lugganath Eldar hope to abandon this galaxy and start civilization afresh and claim the webway as their realm. The main colours of Lugganath are bright orange accompanied by black.
The Eldar craftworld of Saim-Hann was one of the first Craftworlds to abandon the crone worlds as the Fall of the Eldar approached, heeding their Farseer’s warnings. As such they have spent far more time isolated from the rest of the Eldar than the other main Craftworlds, although they do contact and have a similar culture to the Exodite worlds. They are fierce warriors, who place upon honour a higher value than their sophisticated kin. This, coupled with their pride, has sadly led them to conflict with each other and different Craftworlds. While this generally takes the form of an organised duel between representatives of each clan, in which first blood is usually sufficient, the high number of deaths from these conflicts has lent to the barbaric reputation of the craftworld.
On the tabletop the Wild Host of Saim-Hann is comprised almost entirely of jetbikes. Any unit which cannot be mounted on jetbikes or do not have a fast form of movement (such as warp jump generators or Swooping Hawk wings) is normally given a Wave Serpent transport. An exception to this are the Wraithlords and Dark Reapers, whose role is normally to give covering fire to the vehicles. The force is fast moving and tactically flexible, meaning that even against a far stronger or more numerous enemy the Eldar of Saim-Hann can always remain just beyond their reach.
The Saim-Hann warhosts are generally coloured red or a light scarlet colour. They are generally highlighted with contrasting clours, mainly black, white or yellow in striped patterns. The different warrior clans have different personal symbols, however, so there is almost certain to be a significant amount of variation between clans, squads or even individuals. The Craftworld symbol is a stylised serpent. The serpent is significant in Eldar mythology because it is supposed to be the only creature to exist in the spiritual and physical worlds at the same time. Indeed, it is revered so much by the Saim-Hann Eldar that one of their coming-of-age rites is to catch a daggersnake (found on the worlds of the Exodites) in mid-strike. The serpent also epitomises the attack style of Saim-Hann – a fast, deadly strike before withdrawing, leaving the enemy panicked and confused. The name of the Craftworld could possibly be a variation of the Gaelic Samhain (aka the Celtic New Year or in modern times, Halloween).
Ulthwé was caught in the pull of the Eye of Terror, where the Immaterium crosses with real space and a breeding ground for Chaos and a gateway to the Warp. Due to this proximity to the Eye, Ulthwé must be on constant high alert in case of attacks by the forces of Chaos. Constant risk and war has hardened the Craftworld’s citizens and due to the lack of Aspect Warriors in the Craftworld, Ulthwé maintains a standing militia known as the Black Guardians, better skilled and better trained than soldiers of other Craftworlds .
Such proximity to the potent raw energy that is the Eye is also believed to be responsible for the large number of vigilant psykers in the form of Farseers and Warlocks among Ulthwé Eldar. Ulthwé regard the Path of the Seer over the Path of the Warrior. The most powerful of these psykers was the late Eldrad Ulthran, who was the leader of the Craftworld prior to his apparent demise aboard a Blackstone Fortress. The Seers of Ulthwé are said to be much more capable than those of other Craftworlds and can see far into the future to shape the destiny of their Craftworld based on their insights. The Seers may predict catastrophe and steer Ulthwé away from it or determine the best course of action regardless of the cost to other races. Such foresight can lead the people of Ulthwé to perform actions which seem selfish and erratic in the eyes of Men and other races, but to the seers of Ulthwé it is clear that such actions must be performed for the good of the Craftworld. Though results may not directly arise from such action, it will indirectly influence Ulthwé’s fate perhaps far into the future.
In times of war, Ulthwé employs its militia of Black Guardians (professional battle hardened soldiers) and Guardians as its army’s backbone. Supporting these troops will be assortments of vehicles and elite units, flowing with advanced Eldar technology. Ulthwé also employs its large number of psykers on the battlefield, sometimes in the form of a Seer Council consisting of multiple Farseers and Warlock Bodyguards. The Seer Council or Seers will use their potent powers to destroy the minds of their enemies, shape the battle’s course to their favour and perform other tasks to ensure their victory. However, every time a Seer or Warlock delves into the Warp to harness its power to their favour, they risk their own minds and many have been lost to the terrors of the Warp which prey on the mind.
Ulthwé may strike fast and hard in the form of an Ulthwé Strike Force, a highly mobile entity of Ulthwé’s power in which units are highly mobilised by utilising jetbikes and other fast vehicles which enables Ulthwé to strike quickly and decisively through warp gates and vanish as quickly as they appeared.
The sight of an Ulthwé force is a brooding, dark image, filled with the air of mourning and suffering. Ulthwé’s forces main colour is an ominous black and most Ulthwé vehicles and warrior armour is this colour. This is often contrasted with bone white, golden yellow and dark red. Ulthwé’s full name is actually Ulthanash Shelwé, which means ‘Song of Ulthanash’. The symbol of Ulthwé is the Eye of Isha, a stylised eye with a lone tear symbolising the tears shed by the Goddess Isha for her Eldar children. It resembles the Eye of Horus.
The Eldar of Yme-Loc are talented artisans, and their armies are supported by powerful grav-tanks and Titans. Yme-Loc’s Guardians wear grey uniforms with orange helmets and armor. Their mighty Titans and other vehicles are often colored grey with orange details.
- Cairas Mythar
- Hareana zakisari
- “Hope of Other Days”
- Khan Zahr-Val
- Monkigenus necrotia