Friday, March 4, 2011

Introducing the Harlequins

The harlequins are a subset of the Eldar race. They share a common history, up until the Fall of the Eldar and the birth of Slaanesh. This article is the first of several that will explore the backstory of the Harlequins and the Eldar race. Though the Eldar are one of the major factions of the Warhammer universe, it seems that a lot of people don't know much about the history of the Eldar. We will begin by looking at the history of the Eldar race and the events that led up to the "creation" of the Harlequin faction in Eldar society.

Long before the "present" events of Warhammer 40,000, before mankind first explored the use of faster-than-light travel, the Eldar race spanned the galaxy. Combining advanced technology and inherent psychic abilities, the Eldar were - for a time - the most powerful race in the galaxy. Nothing was impossible for those who were willing to attempt it. stars were extinguished and barren planets were terra-formed into lush habitable worlds. 

The average Eldar citizen had very little hard work to do. Everyday chores and labors were taken care of with the effort of a thought or a gesture. Eventually, many Eldar began to explore the limits of their powers. cults were formed to explore the pleasures that could be taken from this life. Decadence and evil spread. Many Eldar nobles took their experiments away from prying eyes into the recesses of the webway, a vast network connecting the settlements and worlds of the Eldar empire. 

The Seers of the Eldar saw that this path would lead to destruction. though they did not see clearly what would come of the Eldar race, they knew that their very way of life was in danger. They pleaded with their people to abandon their evil ways, but the majority did not listen. Many of the Seers were abducted by those that they sought to save and were subjected to many of the horrible rituals that had overtaken the Eldar culture. the power structure of the Eldar empire fractured and dissolved. 

Some listened, however. Some of these Eldar joined with the Seers to creating the giant world-ships known today as craftworlds. These giant ships abandoned the Eldar homeworlds and drifted out into space where they hoped to avoid the fate of the Eldar that the Seers warned them about.

Others saw the decadence of the Eldar as a result of the technology and other advances that their race had made. They decided to attempt to right the wrongs of the past by bringing their society back to a previous state. They left the Eldar homeworlds and settled on the untouched planets known as the Maiden Worlds. these Eldar would later be known as the Exodites.

There were others who escaped the coming destruction of the Eldar race. They were not part of the larger movements of the craftworlds or the exodites. these Eldar are said to have been spoken to by Cegorach, the laughing god of the Eldar pantheon. He warned them of the destruction of the Eldar race and called to them to leave behind their past and the decadence of their people. many heeded this call and left everything from their old lives and disappeared. later these Eldar would emerge from the safety of the webway as the Harlequins.

Even those not familiar with the Eldar history are familiar with the destruction caused by the fall. the Warp mirrored the emotions and thoughts of the psychic Eldar race and those thoughts came together to form a new Chaos God, Slaanesh. the birth of Slaanesh burst through real space, tearing a whole in the fabric of space, allowing daemons and the like to pour into our universe. the Eldar Homeworlds were entirely destroyed, and many of the fleeing Craftworlds were caught in the shock wave and ripped to shreds. 

The survivors of the Fall were spread across the galaxy, split into several factions. the Exodites were far enough from the warp storm and did not suffer the fate of their people. Several Craftworlds escaped the storm and drift through the universe. Many who hid in the Webway still survive, though they have become twisted and evil, preying on souls to protect their own souls from the Chaos god they created. Elsewhere in the Webway, the Harlequins remain, traveling the hidden passages of the Webway under the protection of the Laughing god himself. 

This is how the current Eldar factions came into being. In addition, members of several of these factions have at times joined together in raiding bands of Eldar pirates, although these are often not counted among the major factions of the Eldar. In future articles, we will explore what became of the Harlequins after the Fall, and how the responses of the factions  to the evil of Slaanesh differed. We will also look at what happened to the Eldar Pantheon at the time of the fall, and what it means to the Eldar race. 

Until next time.

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