Nature of the Aeldari
“Ask not the Eldar a question, for they will give you three answers, all of which are true and terrifying to know.”
From the very first day of its space exploration, Mankind has met various races of aliens, or, as the Imperium calls them - Xenos. While some attempts to make peaceful contact with myriad alien races were made in the distant past, all of them ended in millenia-long unending bloodshed.
The only rare exception extends to parts of the Aeldari race. While at large Mankind and the Aeldari are often drawn into conflict, there are known instances of short-lived pacts to the mutual benefit of both.
The Aeldari are a technologically advanced and psychically gifted race. Their empire has long fallen and their disparate and dwindling people now fight for their very survival. Those Aeldari who belong to the craftworlds are called Asuryani, and they are feared across the galaxy for very good reasons.
To understand the Aeldari, one must first learn of their fickle nature. In appearance, they are like unto humans, although the comparison can only be made on a superficial basis, for in their minds and souls the Aeldari are truly alien. The Aeldari stand taller than a man, with longer, cleaner limbs and handsome, striking features. Their skin is pale and unblemished as polished marble, yet with a surprisingly supple strength hiding beneath it. Their keen ears are pointed and their slanted eyes possess a penetrating quality more akin to that of a hunting cat than a man. The most fundamental difference can be seen when the Aeldari move, for they each radiate an inhuman elegance and poise. This is especially evident in the sinuous grace with which they fight and the dexterity with which they wield their weaponry. Every gesture is laden with subtle intent, and their reflexes are dazzlingly fast. A casual, languid gesture can end in a pinpoint thrust should the necessity arise. On closer inspection, every aspect of the Aeldari physiology betrays their alien nature. Their hearts beat at twice the speed of a human’s, and their minds race through possibilities and process emotions so fast that the brightest geniuses of human history appear dull by comparison. Even their lives are greater in span – the Aeldari enjoy an existence of rich sensation and wonder that can stretch over millennia, unsullied by illness, frailty, or disease.
Beyond these physical superiorities, each of their race is also psychic to one extent or another; it is said the ancient Aeldari could read thoughts at a glance, whilst those who trained their minds for war could crush a foe’s weapon with a simple narrowing of the eyes. Even the complex technology of the craftworlds is based upon psychic engineering, the manipulation of and creation of matter using mental energies alone. But such raw power has its price.
At their peak, nothing was beyond the Aeldari’s reach and nothing was forbidden. The ancient race continued their glorious existence unaware or unwilling to acknowledge the dark fate that awaited them. They plied the stars at will, experiencing the wonders of the galaxy and immersing themselves completely in the endless sensations that it offered them. Such was the technological mastery of the Aeldari that worlds were created specifically for their pleasure, and stars lived or died at their whim.
The catalyst that brought about the Aeldari race’s fall came from the very depths of their collective psyche, the innate need to fuel their passions and indulge in every extreme. Their people had long outgrown the need for labour or manual agriculture. The society provided all that was required without individual effort, leaving long centuries for the Aeldari to spend sating their every desire. Fuelled by an inexhaustible curiosity, many gave way to their most hedonistic impulses. Exotic cults sprang up across the Aeldari domains that eclipsed the noble pursuits of old.
The acts of the pleasure cults began to transcend those and became a race-wide addiction. Aeldari from every corner of the empire wallowed in their most unnatural impulses in the pursuit of debauchery. As the cults gained a tighter hold over their society, the Aeldari became increasingly divided. Some departed to found colony worlds on the fringes of the Aeldari empire - they are known as Exodites. As the civilisation slid further into anarchy, others repented of their ways and fled into deep space aboard world-ships called craftworlds - those became the Asuryani. Most Aeldari, however, continued to glut themselves on the pursuits of the depraved.
As the moral corruption of the Aeldari race tightened, echoes of ecstasy and agony began to ripple through time and space. In the parallel dimension of the warp, the reflections of these intense experiences began to coalesce, for the shifting tides of the Empyrean can take form around intense emotion. Slowly, silently, a nascent god of excess grew strong in the depths of the Warp.
What an unimaginably foul and sickening thing it was that the Aeldari unknowingly raised in the warp, it was a dire shadow of themselves, of what they had become, of nobility and pride brought low by perversity and shamelessness. Worlds burned as the Aeldari slew and laughed and feasted upon the corpses of the dead. Slowly, the Great Enemy stirred towards wakefulness. Too late, the Aeldari realised that they had created a god in their own image, a god grown immense and potent by suckling upon the dark fodder of the Aeldari spirit. No creature was ever conceived that was as terrible or perverse as the Chaos God Slaanesh. It is a name the Aeldari will not speak, instead whispering Sai’lanthresh, translatable as ‘She Who Thirsts’.
When Slaanesh finally burst into divine consciousness, there was not one Aeldari alive who did not feel its claws in his soul. Slaanesh roared into supernatural life. A psychic implosion tore at the universe. Countless billions of Aeldari screamed aloud and fell dead. In a heartbeat, the shining Aeldari civilisation that had lasted for aeons had its heart ripped out, leaving a pulsing afterbirth of pure chaos in its place. The spirits of the Aeldari were drawn from within them and consumed as their blasphemous creation took its first infernal breath. Intoxicated with this draught, Slaanesh laughed and looked upon a universe ripe for the taking.
Life of the Asuryani
Since the Fall, those Aeldari who fled upon the craftworlds have faced their inescapable doom. The battles they have fought in the name of survival have been many and violent. Yet their most important struggle is a spiritual one, for the nature of their psyche remains fundamentally unchanged. As ever they were, the Aeldari are prone to emotional extremes. To ensure temptation is put behind them, the philosophy often called Ai’elethra, or the Path, governs every aspect of craftworld life, enabling the Asuryani to harness their emotional and intellectual intensity safely, without jeopardising themselves or those around them.
In adult life, every Asuryani chooses for themself a discipline that they then make their task to master to the exclusion of all else. Each discipline is a Path unto itself, and each Path may necessitate further choices and specialisations. It is a concentration of effort that encompasses every aspect of the devotee’s life. Once an Asuryani has walked a Path for long enough, they choose another, then another. Though they forsake each Path in turn, their soul is nourished by the experiences upon it.
There are innumerable Paths open for an Aeldari to explore, some as common as the Path of the Artisan, others as rare and dangerous as the Path of the Seer. Each offers its followers a complete way of life. Those Asuryani who have mastered the less esoteric Paths are no less respected than their brethren. After all, the artisans are those who create the craftworlds themselves and their contents, calling masterpieces into being with the care a musician lavishes upon his harp or a warrior upon his sword. It is from the ranks of those ‘civilian’ Paths such as these that the Guardian militia are mustered in times of need, as the Aeldari are so few in number that all are required to gird themselves.
Path of the Outcast
Sometimes the rigid constraints of craftworld society are intolerable for an Asuryani to bear. Such individuals might leave their world-ship to walk the Path of the Outcast.
There are many kinds of Outcast, each with a varying degree of dissociation from their kin. Some craftworlders simply yearn for the undiscovered vistas of open space, and take the road less travelled – the Path of the Outcast – until their wanderlust is sated. The majority of these eventually return home to take up a new Path and rejoin their people, bringing with them alien treasures and tales of new worlds, fabulous discoveries, and battles on the edges of the galaxy.
Outcasts can become Corsairs, Aeldari pirates. They are quick-tempered and unpredictable, equally inclined to magnanimity and wanton slaughter, and many of their fleets have become infamous.
A select few hear the laughter of Cegorach, the Laughing God, in their dreams and join the enigmatic Harlequin troupes who travel between the realms of their divided kin as performers and messengers.
Those who choose to continue to serve their people are called Rangers. They are unparalleled scouts and expert marksmen. These Aeldari have adopted a nomadic lifestyle, free from the rigid constraints of their world-ships. Despite this, most remain loyal to their kin and traditions and often choose to accept a mission from their superiors.
Many die, alone and forgotten. Some fall from grace and become consumed by their dark passions, while others manage to exorcise their wanderlust and eventually return to their craftworld. They investigate alien planets, search for lost Webway gates, explore new-found maiden worlds, and hunt down those who would harm their craftworlds. Their greatest duty, however, is vigilance, keeping a close eye upon potential foes, and reporting any source of danger to the craftworld.
The Aeldari are a complicated and mysterious race. And we simply can’t wait to introduce you to one of them - a lonely ranger, who might join you in your adventures.