Quickly setting my thoughts down to order them ahead of this weekend’s Lakeland Ultimate Trails 55k which I’ll be running in. If I don’t do this the current sketch of the history will just keep churning around in my head, so I’m hoping this will serve as a brief foundation from which to refine and evolve the Craftworld’s history.
Let’s first note that the pencil sketch here isn’t claiming to be fine art. Rather it’s a swift view of this small, ravaged Craftworld – Nelequë, meaning “13” in Elvish (and thus we imply some dialect version of Eldar). It is equally a number of ill omen for the Eldar, associated with the sinister Shadow Fox character of Eldar myth.
Initial ideas are as follows – this is a Craftworld of a personality cult. Nelequë Everkiss was an exceptionally gifted Psyker pre-Eldar fall. Her father Saim-Hann rounded her up unwillingly as the Craftworld departed, racing away ahead of the collapse of the old Eldar civilisation. Essentially a captive on the ship, she was held in stasis after rebellious attempts to escape and return to a growing cult on her homeworld. Even post fall, having been awoken from hibernation, she rebelled against the order and controls put in place to protect Eldar from the newly born threat of Slaanesh. With a rising cult threatening stablity on Saim-Hann she was confronted by the Craftworld’s council of seers. Calling on her remarkable gifts as a Psyker, she battled one against many, confounding their attempts to restrain her, but in doing so called on such dark energy as to teeter suddenly on the edge of damnation. Shocked by this nanosecond epiphany, Nelequë abandoned the battle and banished herself in a small craft, with her followers.
Struck by a mysterious vision in that moment of near-death, she had a course set out of the galaxy. As starvation threatened to take the last of her cult, as they slid out of the grasp of the galaxy, a ping on short range scanners alerted them to a craft ostensibly coming the other way. A space hulk, ancient and warped, but at its core a dormant, perhaps dead, Craftworld. Perhaps from another parallel race in another galaxy, perhaps from another time, an earlier cycle of this galaxy, perhaps simply out of time and place due to the vagaries and ravages of warp space.
Boarding the hulk, in an attempt to find food and fellow Eldar on the hulk, Nelequë’s people at first find hope and begin to reactivate the Craftworld’s wraithbone core. The infinity circuit begins to wake, sparking more mysterious and confusing revelations – perhaps these Eldar all went mad before they died, perhaps they were not Eldar of this galaxy or time or dimension – the echoes of the spirits there are bizarre, distant and ominous. As the Craftworld wakes, so too does a Tyranid horde, millions strong. The few thousand Eldar endure a nightmare thousand year war against this ravenous foe. By this point, Nelequë is framed like Kellhus in R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing series – a Psyker of transcendent power and a leader of pure, searing intellect. Pushed back to the heart of the mysterious Craftworld, she bids her people hold this final sacred ground, before stepping forth into the Tyranid horde, a blazing beacon of psychic force. Summoning forth pure, incandescent power Nelequë sweeps through the legion of enemy, in a one against thousands battle that cleanses the ship.
Yet it comes at a cost, the final eruption of white light that blasts through the hulk, somehow dissolves her utterly, fusing her to the Craftworld’s long dead infinity circuit, sparking it into life. The Craftworld of Nelequë has no true Khaine Avatar – instead, Nelequë’s spirit has merged within it, and it she who appears in times of war. (She may one day be fielded in the long run as a 28mm miniature, floating above a huge base, in a floating chorus of lightning and Hive Tyrant corpses, to be pointed and played as a Phantom Titan).
Since then, the Craftworld has struggled back to life, bolstered by outcasts and exiles from other Eldar worlds, it now has a stable population, capable of defending itself and functioning as a sustainably growing society. Yet, separated from the rest of the galaxy for some thousands of years, without the anchor of continuity or Eldar hierarchy, without a recognisable Avatar, its traditions are its own. It only hosts a tiny number of Aspect shrines, and those are its own echoes of the better known traditions. Rather than the base 12 mathematics of other Eldar society, they use base 13. Moreover, Craftworld Nelequë holds strange beliefs about the nature of the galaxy and mirror-like cycles of creation and destruction.
Other Eldar treat them with great suspicion, not least for their long separation and the eerie reworkings of Eldar culture that came of it. They are seen as edge walkers, too close to She Who Thirsts. They are obsessed with patterns in their own perverse branch of mathematics, and fanatically search out dangerous relics thought worthless to other species – especially space hulks. They ally widely, often with their Dark Eldar kin, sometimes, it is said, with Chaos where agendas align. They are only tolerated due to their hatred of and skill in confronting the Tyranid threat. Though not a large enough power in the galaxy to confront a Tyranid horde on the battlefield, they have an uncanny ability to show up to make a surgical strike against a genestealer cult or other nascent threat before it gathers pace, and for this they have earned a few unlikely, but powerful friends despite their otherwise sinister reputation.