Segmentum Tempestus (Southern Galactic Rim)
Scorched Earth, Total-Destruction
Biel-Tan is the most martial and aggressive of the Eldar Craftworlds. The people of Biel-Tan constantly strive to return the ancient Eldar Empire to its former glory. Consumed with bitterness, they wage an endless campaign of xenocide against those foolish enough to cross their path. The world-rune used by Biel-Tan stands for the principle of reincarnation, a fate thought to have been reserved for every Eldar before the Fall. The name of the world-rune loosely translates as "Rebirth of Ancient Days." For the Biel-Tan, winter has fallen on the Eldar, but they are convinced that spring will soon return. The Biel-Tan Craftworld is currently located on the Southern Rim of the Milky Way Galaxy in Segmentum Tempestus.
Biel-Tan's story begins with the Fall of the Eldar -- the dying days of the Eldar empire, when the monstrous birth of Slaanesh shattered their civilisation, and the survivors fled in disarray across the stars. Having barely survived the catastrophe, the Eldar of Biel-Tan refused to despair. Soon after, they joined Craftworld Iyanden's cause. For thousands of years, Iyanden and Biel-Tan fought as inseparable allies, their distant Сraftworlds united by the common goal of defeating Chaos. Though the Eldar force were few, when considered on a galactic scale, their mastery of the Webway allowed their fleets and warhosts to span the stars with a speed and surety no other race could ever have hoped to match. As Biel-Tan purged the western arm, so did Iyanden drive the Forces of Chaos from the eastern rim, tirelessly defending the Exodites and Maiden Worlds they hoped would one day form the heart of a new civilisation. Then came the Tyranids. Iyanden had encountered such creatures before, but those had only been tendrils of the Hive Mind's awareness, groping blindly through space; now Iyanden stood exposed before the onset of an entire Hive Fleet. In their pride, the Eldar of Iyanden underestimated the threat. They believed that their might could weather even this storm, that their armies and fleets could vanquish the Great Devourer. Alas, they were terribly wrong. In an eye blink, as the Eldar reckon existence, Iyanden Craftworld was reduced to ruin. Abandoned by Biel-Tan, whose own dream of an empire reborn suffers not stragglers, Iyanden's living looked to their dead for salvation; the Infinity Circuit had become the Craftworld's only hope.
Honour of the Eldar Race
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 Eldar 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 of the Eldar, 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. As a result of this cultural predilection, the Biel-Tan Craftworld is famous for the militant and aggressive warrior ways of its Eldar population, and for the large number of Aspect Warriors it maintains, who often incorporate the traditional green and white colours of the Craftworld into their armour as well as the colours of their Aspect. The Eldar of Biel-Tan have a strong martial honour code and believe that the best way to die is in battle fighting the enemies of Biel-Tan.
The Eldar of Biel-tan are honourable warriors who have taken it upon themselves to rebuild the lost glory of the ancient Eldar Empire through the destruction of the lesser races like Mankind and the Orks who have "usurped" the galaxy, and they believe it is glorious to die fighting the enemies of the Craftworld and the Eldar people. At the centre of Biel-tan is the Chamber of Heroes where the Spirit Stones of dead Aspect Warriors are placed. Farseers often come to this chamber to consult the dead of the Craftworld on their proposed courses of action. The dead of particular battles that the warriors of Biel-Tan participated in 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 the Forces of Chaos on the ancient Eldar colony world of the same name.
As the Eldar of Biel-Tan see it, when the time comes for the Eldar to reclaim what is rightfully theirs, the paradise Maiden Worlds and the planets of the Exodites will be the first staging points for their conquest. Due to this, the Biel-Tan Eldar see any colonisation by other races of these worlds as a threat to the future growth of the reborn Eldar Empire. The incautious Explorators of the Imperium have often made planetfall on an Exodite world, only for their successors to find nothing but corpses that have been hacked to pieces and subsequently picked clean by indigenous scavengers.
Details of the first contact between the Imperium of Man and the Biel-Tan Craftworld are fragmentary at best. Whilst it is likely that the forces of the God-Emperor encountered Biel-Tan forces during the Great Crusade in the 30th Millennium, the first formally detailed encounter was in late M32. An Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleet was in the process of settling the uninhabited world of Gavris Minor when they came under attack. The archaeo-xenos teams had barely begun to unearth alien architecture when the Eldar assaulted with inhuman ruthlessness. The startled adepts sent a desperate cry for help before all communication was lost. In accordance with their settlement schedule, the Explorator teams had built several preliminary fortifications. However, under the ferocity of the assault, such meagre preparations proved useless and they were forced to retreat back to their landing craft in the hope of withdrawal. Deadly xenos weapons and highly specialised warriors slaughtered the fleeing adepts and their Skitarii protectors alike in carefully planned and meticulous orchestrated attacks.
The landing craft that escaped the planet found the fleet burning in orbit, slaughtered by the swift Eldar attack craft. Their ship crippled and without Warp capability, the Explorators that survived were abandoned to their fate, the Eldar leaving as swiftly as they had arrived. The only communication given by the Eldar throughout the incident was an ominous broadcast delivered to the floundering landers: "The soil of this planet is not for your feet to tread. Only death awaits you here." When elements of the Imperial Navy arrived to investigate, only one of the Explorator craft remained, drifting lifelessly amongst the molten wreckage of the settlement fleet, its crew long since starved of both food and oxygen. Reviewing the vid-logs and vox-recordings Admiral Kieslick ordered all Imperial vessels out of the area before marking the planet with warning buoys, declaring the planet unsuitable for settlement. Accurate records of the episode at Gavris Minor have long since been sealed by the Ordo Xenos, though it is interesting to note that, despite four subsequent settlement attempts by Explorator teams, Gavris Minor remains a contested world, and bears the same sanction as given by Admiral Kieslick 8,000 years ago.
The Baran War
Amongst the Orks, it is inevitable that from time to time a great and fearsome leader will arise to sweep aside all rivals and unite countless warring tribes under his brutal leadership. Arbuttz the Incredible was one such Ork who, in 914.M40, emerged from the wild and primitive worlds of the galaxy's south-western rim. Here, Ork battled Ork, just as they had done for centuries on a dozen worlds infested by Greenskins since an age no one could remember. Arbuttz at first swept over his own world and others in the same system, sweeping aside rival warlords and taking their followers for his own. The Orks revelled in the uproar caused by this ambitious warlord and his ceaseless invasion of other tribal territories. For months tribe gleefully battled tribe, eagerly hurling themselves into the tumult of battle with the kind of abandon only Greenskins are capable of. With each new battle formed, Arbuttz proved his dominance anew, effortlessly defeating all comers.
Now the tide changed. Where once each new warlord had battled and resisted Arbuttz, now they each in turn fell in behind him, joining his warband and bringing with them their own greenskin tribe, keen and hungry for war. Ork battled Ork no more. Tribe after tribe flocked to the ascendant Arbuttz, until at last they formed a great unruly mass, barrelling along to the sound of a single monotonous chant, "WAAAGH!" Now Arbuttz was unleashed upon the galaxy at large. In such an ancient and distant corner of the galaxy, Arbuttz was first forced to cross thousands of light years of wilderness, rampaging across one uninhabited planet after another, his boyz chasing and hunting any large predators or 'uge beasties they could find, desperate to get to the proper scrappin'. They would not have to wait long.
In the Zypher sub-sector, Arbuttz and his WAAAGH! swept across several ancient worlds of the Eldar. Here survivors of the long-ago fallen race lived in their socalled Exodite communities, the last sorrowful remnants of the once great Eldar empire. As the greenskins poured across the system, the Eldar rode to war, mounted atop great beastly lizards, armed with weapons far beyond the technology available to the Orks and moving with a graceful ease that the lumbering greenskins simply could not hope to match. But for all this, WAAAGH! Arbuttz was vast, and in its size unassailable, and the ancient Eldar were swept away in the few short months it took the Orks to cross the system. Arbuttz and his boys marched on, and here, on the most distant boundary of the Imperium, the Orks crashed into a dozen worlds of man as violently as the largest and most unstoppable of waves might smash asunder the shore. Arbuttz’s boys cut a bloody swathe through the Imperial defenders until finally running out of steam on the Imperial Death World of Gorang, where they were brought low fighting the indigenous life-forms as much as they were by the Imperial defenders. By the end of the fighting the entire Zypher sub-sector had be overrun and conquered by the Orks.
Eagles & Ravens
For almost 300 years this new Ork empire was left unmolested, until a campaign of re-conquest was finally begun in 204.M41 The re-conquest was led by troops of the Marauders, Eagle Warriors, Raven Guard and Revilers Space Marine Chapters, supported by over two-dozen Imperial Guard regiments. In a long, hard fought campaign these troops battled to reclaim the planets lost to Warlord Arbuttz, until finally in 224.M41, the Zypher sub-sector was declared free of the taint of alien infection. But the Imperium pushed on. Not content merely with reclaiming those worlds lost to Arbuttz three centuries prior, the Imperial war machine raged across the dozens of other worlds which the Ork WAAAGH! had claimed, conquering worlds never before touched by the boot of man. An Imperial Guard regiment was assigned to each of these planets and ordered to cleanse the planet of Ork infestation. Troops from the 127th Death Korps of Krieg regiment, commanded by General Himmel von Paulus, were assigned to cleanse a backwater planet named simply Baran. In return the Death Korps veterans were granted rights of settlement on the planet. Baran was a wild and uncultivated planet, covered by dense forests, rolling steppes, and craggy mountain ranges. Little could these valiant frontiersmen have realised that the soil upon which they now stood was that same ancient soil onto which the brave Eldar Exodites had bled as WAAAGH! Arbuttz stole their world from them.
The now Feral Ork tribes that inhabited Baran were quickly driven from the open steppe-lands by the initial Death Korp assault. The surviving Orks scattered and hid in the forests and mountainous areas of the planet, where they proved extremely difficult to eradicate. Lacking the huge numbers of troops needed to destroy the Orks by weight of numbers, von Paulus decided to contain the Ork threat instead, building a series of interconnected fortified positions to hem the Orks into their wilderness retreats. These fortified positions quickly grew into the first major Imperial settlements and cities on the planet. With the Orks still a major threat, the colonists were under a state of constant siege on a dangerous frontier planet. New cities were built as a curious amalgam of military and civilian structures, where the Imperial Guard's trenches, bunkers and other defences were slowly pushed out to incredible distances so that whole cities could be built amidst them, civilian buildings replacing the old fortifications as these cities snaked outwards.
Old Enemies, New Beginnings
Over the course of the ensuing generations, these colonies grew, and although never populous, and under constant threat of Ork assault, Baran thrived. Once the colonies were large enough new Imperial Guard regiments were raised to replace the Death Korps veterans who had long since aged and died. These new recruits were to become the first and foremost of Baran's defenders -- the Baran Siegemasters. Alongside them, the Raven Guard remained, though in precious few numbers, and concerned themselves mostly with hunting down those cunning Ork warlords believed to be in possession of Imperial technology stolen during the initial WAAAGH! On one of Baran's moons, the black rock known as Coron, the Raven Guard established a fortress-monastery from where little more than a hundred of their brethren could continue the struggle against remaining Ork elements. The men of Baran and the aloof Raven Guard shared little contact, though the Raven Guard watched their human charges closely, for they realised that such a harsh world as Baran would breed hardy stock -- stock from which the Raven Guard might one day draw initiates fit for their own superhuman ranks.
For decades the Siegemasters and the Raven Guard stood guard over Baran and the handful of valuable nearby worlds required for the mining of metal ores, minerals and other precious resources. The Orks remained a threat, and from time to time claimed great successes of their own, though the resolute Siegemasters and the grimly determined Raven Guard time and again proved themselves equal to any threat. Equal, that is, to any threat the increasingly feral Orks could throw at them.
The Talons of Biel-Tan
The Craftworld of Biel-Tan does not journey aimlessly as it glides through space. It does not wander as a lonely and frightened exile might, fleeing constantly from danger, finding itself ever battered, bullied and cast out. This is not the way of Biel-Tan. Biel-Tan is guardian and conqueror to its people, ceaselessly patrolling all those worlds that lie within the bounds of its ancient route, the same route it has ploughed ever since the Fall of the Eldar ten thousand years ago. This is the Kingdom of Biel-tan, or so they would have it known. Not an empire unto itself, but a great and powerful bastion of the larger Eldar Empire as the proud and warlike ruling Court of Biel-tan see it. As it journeys silently through the void, Rangers still loyal to their former craftworld roam far ahead, scouting the way to those worlds which lie next upon Biel-Tan's route. Alongside their craftworld, the warfleets of Biel-Tan streak through the stars, overwhelming any resistance which might endanger or impede the gargantuan craftworld as it sails on inexorably.
Many worlds lie upon this ancient route -- worlds populated by men, overrun by Orks, infested by crude and primitive usurpers or else barren, uninhabited and forgotten. But no matter their fate, to the Eldar of Biel-Tan these are Eldar worlds once and former, present and future. In the eyes of Biel-Tan, the young races who now populate the galaxy are not the natural successors some would claim them to be, springing up to fill the void left by an Empire which long ago betrayed, defeated and destroyed itself, but rather they are greedy and savage usurpers with no right to take these worlds from the Eldar. So it is that as Biel-Tan soars effortlessly through the stars its talons fall hungrily upon the Eldar's foes, crushing their primitive colonies and dragging their filthy carcasses away from the beautiful, verdant worlds of the Eldar. No matter that these societies have dwelled for centuries upon these worlds, no matter that the last flame of Eldar life on these worlds burned out millennia ago, no matter that many of these so-called usurpers have taken nothing which they did not find unused. None of this matters to the proud Eldar of Biel-tan. The mere presence of these young races brings only one outcome -- war. War with the Swordwind of Biel-Tan.
And so it was that as Biel-Tan drew silently through the Zypher sub-sector after long centuries of absence, its scouts ranged far ahead, abroad in all the worlds once held dear by the Eldar, and one by one their sorry accounts returned to the ears of Biel-Tan. World after world lay ruined, its people, its culture and its ancient Eldar heritage swept away into nothing. Such tales are ones that the Eldar of Biel-Tan have had to endure often in the millennia of their Long Winter, returning to worlds unseen in lifetimes to find them morbid and desolate. Yet for all the familiarity of these tidings of sorrow and despair, the Eldar resented them no less, and the fire of war burned brightly in the hearts of Biel-Tan people as all the Craftworld talk turned to vengeance and reclamation.
Of the worlds still known to them, the Rangers reported that no living Eldar now survived. Yet they spoke also of some gates within the webway barred so firmly that they had been unable to pass, and that beyond these might lie worlds yet untouched, or perhaps embattled worlds where the valiant Eldar still fought on. The Exarch Mauryon, Burning Spear of the Fire Dragons Aspect Shrine, met this news with both fury and determination, and travelled at once to a world he had known as a child to see if it still endured. Taking it upon himself to unearth the fate of his people, Mauryon travelled at once to the world of Baran. Just as the rangers had attested, no gate now remained open and Mauryon took instead to the Dragonship Ilethryr, Chariot of Khaine, accompanied by only a handful of his most faithful acolytes. Mauryon felt his numbers too few to risk journeying the Baran directly, and instead Ilethryr was hidden in orbit around the silver moon of Ephos. The gate to the silver moon had long been barred, but Mauryon hoped that the gate between Ephos and the planet below might remain open, and fortune was with him.
As predicted, the gate was closed (for none had been able to reach it from Biel-Tan), but it's structure still stood. All about it were carved runes of doom, frantic testimonies speaking of the last desperate Eldar defenders swept away by the greenskinned menace. These same runes barred the gate tight, sealed by those last brave Eldar so that the ancient webway might not be tainted by the Ork filth. Mauryon ordered that Elasthith, a seer, a steersman, be brought up and unfasten the magics which bound the gate shut. As he did so, he found many of the roads from the gate crumbled and impassable, so that there was still no direct way to Biel-Tan. Yet one path remained open -- the path to Baran itself, albeit by only the smallest and humblest of gates.
A Gate Unbarred, A Fury Unleashed
On Baran, Mauryon's rage was given a face, a shape and a name. Hordes of wild Orks, naked or clothed only in the skins of animals rampaged about him. Familiar landscapes remained, though the forests ran wild and uncultivated, ragged and imperfect. Rivers ran dirty, littered with ugly black rocks, while choking grasses covered the hills which Mauryon had remembered as lush, green and fair. Mauryon's rage was unleashed and he plunged his Burning Spear into the green savages that swarmed about him. The fire with which the Burning Spear raged was Mauryon's own, the fire of rage immolating the Orks all about him, but he and his Aspect Warriors were few and even in his fury Mauryon realised little good would come of remaining amidst the slaughter. Mauryon departed via the newly opened gate. Upon his shoulders he bore the body of the largest Ork, all the proof he would need that the Eldar had been done a great injustice. On Biel-Tan, Mauryon cast the Ork's stinking carcass to the floor as the Court of the Young King gathered in a circle about him. Few words were spoken, none were needed. With a single nod of derision at the corpse beneath him, Mauryon declared his Autarchy and thoughts turned to preparation for the coming war. As had happened a thousand times before, the entire craftworld was suddenly alive with a single monotonous chant, "Khaine! Khaine! Khaine!"
The Swordwind Descends
Finding himself without the means to transport anything larger than a man via the single wraithgate open to him, and not yet willing to reveal himself in an all-out assault from space, Mauryon was left with no choice but to begin his war with his Aspect Warriors alone. His entire army on foot, Mauryon and several dozen Aspect Warriors journeyed to Baran and the Swordwind was begun. The Gate by which Mauryon first journeyed to Baran was known as the Gate of the Dead, the Banshee Gate or the Hag Gate, for it was this ancient gate to which the Exodites of this and other worlds had journeyed in order to convey their dead to sacred barrows which lay nearby.
Emerging from the Gate of the Dead, Mauryon found the barrows broken and defiled. Their great structures lay hidden beneath the ground, yet they contained much wealth and Orks have a keen scent for plunder. The great sweeping hills which formed the surface of these barrows had been cracked open by the Orks who now infested them, littering this sacred place with their own filthy greenskin mess, disturbing the spirits of the resting and causing much damage to the delicate wraithbone fronds of the world spirit which formed the barrows' architecture. A whole tribe had made its home within the barrows, just as simple creatures might populate caves and tunnels for shelter. The greatest and most magnificent of the barrows, the resting place of the ancient Exodite Kings of Baran, had been claimed by the tribe's own Warlord, the bloated Bogga-Bogga.
The Eldar were far outnumbered by the Orks, but came upon them unawares, moving swiftly up to the barrows themselves. Each barrow was guarded by the same Ork mob who had taken it for their den, and even with the advantage of surprise the Eldar found resistance fierce. Orks are always ready for a fight, and bare moments after the Eldar revealed themselves a great shout, accompanied by a bellowing roar of WAAAGH! energy swept over the landscape, rousing the Orks to battle. The Orks rushed from the barrows, but the Aspect Warriors moved swiftly and hemmed them in, charging right up to the entrance of the barrows so that the Orks could not pass cleanly, cutting down the greenskins as they filtered into the narrow tunnels and archways which led up from below ground. By means of clever feints and faked retreats, the Eldar cleverly drew the Orks to push against themselves, or else drew them to one side so that Eldar themselves could advance a little further into the barrows. Each and every one of the Aspect Warriors knew full well that their ultimate goal lay deep within these cairns, and that no time could be wasted in reaching it.
As the Aspect Warriors hacked a way through to the Barrows, the handful of Seers who had been willing to accompany Mauryon broke through and took their place within one of the newly recaptured barrows. Here they paused for some moments to read of the fame and repute of those spirits which rested here, so that they might know them by both name and character, before solemnly turning their minds to commune with the dead. As the Seers spoke, the spirits awoke, drawing forth from the deep and hidden refuges to which they had fled when first the greenskins came. These bodiless spirits surged and rushed around the barrows and cairns, their formless voices ringing out from the walls and pillars of their ancient tombs, calling in voices of thunder and terror, startling the Orks as the battle raged all about. Their deathly wails stopped the Orks dead with fright and the Aspect Warriors found their blows striking home effortlessly as all fight drained from the terrified greenskins. In the Great Cairn of Kings, Bogga-bogga's Weirdboy, Zoombanga, began his own invocation to the spirits, casting his head upwards, shaking his primitive fetishes and totems in a savage dance before a single, barking howl from the dead shattered the WAAAGH! energy building up around him and dropped the Shaman lifeless to the floor.
As he watched Zoombanga assailed by the screaming Eldar spirits, Bogga-bogga himself fled from the barrow, surrounded by his Nobz and Grot attendants. Striking Scorpions of the Grieving Shrine surrounded the Warlord at the entrance to the Great Cairn and cut him down in an instant. With Bogga-bogga slain, the surviving Feral Orks broke and fled, seeking refuge in the great forest which lay in a circle all about the barrows. Mauryon had come for more than simple slaughter though, and with his objective in his grasp the Autarch ordered no pursuit. The Eldar abated their attack and a silent, deathly calm once more fell over this ancient resting place. But Mauryon had not arrived as some reverential liberator, returned to lay his people to rest -- his war demanded greater sacrifice than that. Mauryon called forth the Spiritseers and Bonesingers which he had ordered accompany him from the craftworld. With them they carried the humble beginnings of wraithbone, a few component psycho-plastics, nothing in and of themselves, but it was all that the powerful Seers would need to begin fashioning their intricate constructs.
From the broken tombs, from the scattered bodies and the partly buried wraithbone cores which lined the barrows the Seers plucked all the Spirit Stones they could find. The Seers muttered words of comfort and forgiveness as they went about their task, for this was sacrilege to them, an affront to the peace of death -- an atrocity, some might say -- but such was Mauryon's command. Alongside them, the Singers' voices boomed out as the wraithbone shells of great walking machines sprung upwards and were one by one assembled into silent, motionless ranks in front of the gloating Mauryon. Here and there the line was broken by the outline of a true giant, twice the size of a man, towering over the rest of these automatons. Into these same husks were placed the spirit stones taken from the barrows, and as the deathly Banshees danced and wailed about them, these tired and reluctant spirits were slowly coaxed from their slumber and brought once more to life inside their new wraithbone bodies. Larger than anything Mauryon could have hoped to get out of the solitary gate available to him, now before him stood Wraithguard and Wraithlords. As Mauryon and his army emerged once more from the barrows, an army of the dead now walked alongside them.
The War Goes On...
With a swift and decisive victory under his belt, Mauryon wasted no time in persecuting his war further. More Aspect Warriors were brought forth from Biel-Tan, though as yet Mauryon still lacked any means of deploying larger vehicles to aid his cause. Nonetheless, taking the ancient barrows as their camp, Mauryon divided his forces and began a program of cleansing in battles across much of Baran. The Barrows had been the resting place of Eldar from all over Baran, and from other nearby worlds. Many wraithgates surrounded the barrows -- avenues leading to dozens of ancient Exodite colonies across the planet. Mauryon's seers unbarred these gates and dispatched forces through each of them.
Invariably, the Eldar emerged to find yet more Feral Ork tribes encamped around ancient Eldar colony's, monuments and sacred places, knowing nothing of their value, but drawn to their riches nonetheless. Without hesitation Mauryon's armies fell vengefully upon the Orks, butchering them in devastating hit-and-run raids before vanishing once more through the ancient wraithgates. Ocassionally, however, the Eldar would emerge to find themselves greeted by the colonies of Man, rather than Ork, and here under Mauryon's specific orders the Eldar retreated, slipping away without ever their presence being made known to the men of Baran.
Mauryon's attacks caused much upheaval amongst the Orks, and whole tribes fled away from their tribal homelands, migrating hundreds of miles across Baran before again finding refuge amongst the wild and forgotten places of the world where their simple feral minds felt comfortable. Some tribes survived in such numbers that even as they fled they invaded the territory of rival warlords, taking land from their rivals as their own land was taken from them. In their hurried migrations, other Orks were flung against the cities of the Imperium, putting a great strain on Baran's beleaguered defenders. So it was, that even as the Eldar remained unseen, war still came soon enough to the Imperial Guard Regiment known as the Baran Siegemasters.
The Orks cared not who they fought and, driven from their own lands, many fell more hungrily than ever upon the cities of Baran. Great tides of Feral Orks swept down out of the wild places of Baran and smashed against the fortress-cities of the Imperium. In each of these cities, the Baran Siegemasters struggled to repel the attackers, though the greenskins surged in numbers never before witnessed, great massed tribes where once they had been scattered warbands. Three colonies were overwhelmed completely and Commander Asaberra, Planetary Governor of Baran, faced the greatest test of his time. From his capital at Enderra, Asaberra dispatched extra regiments of Siegemasters, including the few Baran Cavalry regiments available to him to reinforce the most distant and beleaguered cities. Some time was bought by this action, but with Asaberra’s forces barely able to defend their own colonies, little could be done in attempting to discover the cause of this great and unexpected Ork assault. All across Baran, in a dozen fortress cities, the Siegemasters were as prisoners, trapped in defence, able only to hold tight and attempt to repel each new wave of Orks with no hope of surging forwards and striking out for themselves. Such tactics, as Asaberra well knew, rarely suffice for long, and so it was with some urgency that Asaberra dispatched a plea for aid to his black-armoued allies on the dark moon of Coron.
Upon Dark Wings
Purposeful, if not truly callous, the Raven Guard showed little haste in their response. With their own numbers so few, their own Captain Moradius saw little reward in seeking to defend the cities of Baran. More troubling to Moradius was the sudden onslaught of the Orks, and it was to this which he turned his attention, lest the danger grow and come to pose a threat to the wider Imperium. Intent on discovering the source of this greenskin assault, Moradius and his Raven Guard ventured once more to Baran.
A Foe Revealed
Arriving on Baran, the Raven Guard chose to make only cursory contact with the Men of Baran and their Commander Asaberra, choosing instead to move virtually unknown amongst the deepest and wildest reaches of Baran, rooting out the Orks in their own lairs, searching for the source of their sudden ferocity. They would not wait long to find it. At a dozen sites across Baran the Raven Guard found the remains of Ork camps, littered with burned-out huts and dozens of Ork carcasses. Indeed, Moradius could find no Ork settlement standing at all. Something, it would seem, had driven every wretched greenskin from their lair and sent them hurtling against the fortress cities of Baran. It was quite possible that the Orks themselves had wrought such destruction, but to have done so spontaneously across the entire planet seemed too organised for them. Moradius feared that something more deadly lay at its root. Reconvening the scattered scouting parties, Moradius led his hundred or so men across the Voltus Plains -- a great, wind-beaten steppe where even the Orks did not settle, but instead prowled in nomadic, predatory packs atop boars, Squiggoths and other fungal monstrosities. After a week's hard march, the Raven Guard at last encountered Orks -- a curious kind of relief to Moradius. It would seem that the nomadic Orks had proven more elusive than their encamped counterparts, and so here had yet evaded attack.
The Orks, as ever, proved themselves eager for a fight and rushed forwards in great numbers as soon as they caught the sent of the Space Marines. Moradius, however, saw little benefit in sending yet more Orks fleeing across Baran and, after a cursory skirmish, withdrew his men, leaving the Orks to bludgeon their way across the plains as ever they had. His scouts remained close however, hoping that whatever fate had befallen the Ork settlements would soon reveal itself in pursuit of these nomads. Some days later, Moradius was once more proved shrewd. His scouts returned to report the Orks under attack and Moradius at once led his Raven Guard to their position. Six Thunderhawk gunships skimmed rapidly over the plain, following the signal sent by the remaining scouts, though even in the short time it took them to arrive, the Orks were overwhelmed and slain. Instead of Orks, as Moradius and his Raven Guard emerged from his gunships they were confronted by the Swordwind of Biel-Tan.
Recognising the Eldar for the elusive opponent they truly are, Captain Moradius ordered an immediate assault lest the Eldar simply vanish before he return. The Eldar, perhaps, had not intended to engage the Imperium so soon, let alone the Space Marines themselves, and the Raven Guard’s first strikes took heavy tolls. Relying on their favoured hit-and-run tactics, the Eldar rapidly fell back, though not nearly so swiftly as they could. Not so swiftly, more importantly, that the Raven Guard would not be able to follow. A running battle raged for hours as the Raven Guard, now heavily outnumbering the Eldar harried them from all sides.
At last, as the Eldar's numbers dwindled ever more, they fell back finally into the midst of a great ring of standing stones, ancient monuments left from a time when the planet had been under the Eldar’s rule. Here the Raven Guard resolved to wipe out the Eldar army utterly, rushing against them with their full strength. As with so many things, it proved to be just as the Eldar had intended. Amidst the standing stones, Wraithgates opened. Small gates by the Eldar's standards, but more than large enough for the Aspect Warriors of Biel-Tan to pass. Mauryon’s armies who had been marauding all across Baran now reconvened amidst the standing stones, Mauryon himself arriving to take command moments later.
Where the Raven Guard had thought they might surround and annihilate the Eldar, they now found themselves surrounded by a foe many times their own number. Even for the sturdy resistance they could offer, the Raven Guard survived precious few hours in the midst of the Eldar's circle of stone. The Raven Guard were gone, though the Men of Baran would know nothing of their passing, for their minds remained utterly occupied by the ever-growing hordes of Orks which hurled themselves at the Imperial colonies.
The Hordes Gather
Elswhere, the savage displacement of the Orks had created a near uncontrollable migration amongst the Greenskins. While some battled the Baran Siegemasters, others still warred amongst themselves. Ork fell upon Ork as tribes were driven from their homelands and sought to conquer the lands of others, or else were butchered as they fled through the territories of neighbouring tribes. Amidst the carnage, one wily and ambitious Ork saw his destiny awaiting him. Snagga of the Big Teef tribe spread his own horde far and wide, using brutal displays of power to intimidate all the newcomers, all the rampaging, migrating hordes, before offering sanctuary to any who would fight alongside him.
Many of the first to cross Snagga's land rebuked his offer, and sought instead to take his realm from him by force, but Snagga was cunning and defeated his rivals with ease. Soon those that came upon his borders recognised his might and Snagga's horde was swelled by the new arrivals. What’s more, word of his burgeoning WAAAGH! spread across Baran, carried far on the tribal drums, Suiggoth calls and Grot tellygraffz of the Orks. Word spread of this emerging Warlord, and dozens more tribes flocked to his banner. Many had felt the wrath of the Eldar first hand, and joined with others of their kind only too gladly. Now a full-blown WAAAGH! surrounded Snagga-Snagga (his name lengthened in honour of his victories) and the Eldar and Imperium alike had a unified foe to fear. This unity brought no calm to the Orks, however, it merely galvanised their thirst for war and now an ever more fearsome opponent descended upon the poor, beleaguered Baran Siegemasters.
Snagga-snagga unleashed his horde first against the city of Enderra, one of the oldest and largest cities on Baran, occupying one of the original landing sites of the Imperium's conquest of the planet. The Feral Ork Horde descended upon the city and bludgeoned it with a weltering mass of fire, but the walls stood firm. Snagga's horde was vast, and easily surrounded the city, easily overwhelming any who attempted to break out, but he yet lacked the punch to topple the walled fortresses for which the Siegemasters were rightly famed. Frustated, but not yet thwarted, Snagga-snagga retired to plot his next move.
An Enemy Made
The Eldar's war, however, went on, and with his forces now gathered on the plains of Baran, Mauryon unleashed his largest attack yet upon the Orks. In his rage, however, he had not reckoned upon the sheer number of tribes now under Snagga-snagga's command, and as the Swordwind fell upon the encamped Orks, Mauryon felt his first taste of defeat. Hundreds of thousands of Orks rushed to battle as the Eldar sprung their surprise assault. Falcons and Wave Serpents scythed down wave after wave of Orks with their opening pop-up attacks, but nothing could halt such a mass of Orks. The Greenskins smashed into the Eldar army and slaughtered hundreds -- a bitter loss Mauryon could little afford. Realising his trap was too soon sprung, Mauryon reluctantly ordered the retreat. As the Eldar fled, Snagga-snagga sat and gloated. Things were going very well indeed.
Bigga & Bigga
Like all powerful Warlords, Snagga-snagga found himself surrounded by a whole host of would be advisors (or 'Elperz) and sycophants, all vying for his affection. Amongst these were the boilerboyz Wurzbag and Durrboz. Wurzbag was a traditional boilerboy, a proven master of steam technology, while Durrboz was once a pigdok, and so sought fame for his legenday "grot-engine" with which he claimed to have once powered a Gargant by the medium of dozens of unfortunate Grots frantically leggin' it inside great caged wheels whose motion powered the Gargant. Snagga-snagga ordered that a machine be built that would allow him to topple the Siegemaster's fortifications, and set Wurzbag and Durrboz to the task. But the pair were rivalrous, and simply would not work together. Instead the pair conspired to hold a great contest -- each would build a machine, and Snagga-snagga and the tribe would choose which was the greatest and would hence win the honour of leading the assault on Enderra.
For days the pair slaved away on their creations until both were unveiled to the startled gasps of the tribes. Alas, however, in typical Ork fashion no one could quite decide which was the winning Gargant -- no one could quite decide which was the biggest (as is the Orkish way of deciding all things). The suggestion was raised that the gargants simply be named Bigga and Bigga, a suggestion loved by Snagga-snagga and loathed by the competitive boilerboyz. Still, two Gargants are better than one, and with his new machines at the head of his army, Snagga-snagga's Horde set off once more for the city of Enderra.
As Mauryon’s army fled their defeat at the hands of Snagga-snagga, not all had managed to follow their leader. Smaller bands, cut off and forced to retreat away from the main Eldar army lest they be surrounded now dashed across Baran, desperately seeking to find a wraithgate by which they might reunite with the main Eldar army. Mauryon was forced to wait some days as these scattered elements gathered at the Barrows. Last of all came the Striking Scorpions of the Grieving Shrine. Driven far to the south in their humiliating rout, the Scorpions, led by their Exarch Suerymane, had journeyed to an ancient Aspect Shrine, long ago hidden by the savage, cloying vegetation of Baran, but known to the Eldar by some unbreakable empathy.
Here though, disaster was found and their doom nearly met. The temple's wraithgate was barred with a force that the Scorpions simply could not break, and as pursuing Orks descended upon them, hope looked lost. As the Orks attacked, the Striking Scorpions hid themselves about the shrine, lurking deep within its ruins where they stealth might aid them and their lack of numbers not so utterly undo them. Suerymane himself crouched within the deepest and darkest of the shrine's ancient rooms, and here he found a sorry totem indeed. Scattered about the place were the broken forms and scattered spirit stones of his own kind. Still and perfect, they had lain in this lonely place of dying since Baran had first fallen to the Orks centuries ago. Just as Suerymane now intended, this place must once have been the site of his own people's last stand.
The Battle of Vaul's Gate
Mauryon's war had progressed well. With an army of Ghost Warriors taken from the Exodite Barrows, the Raven Guard utterly defeated and now the Phoenix Lord Karandras at his side, the Autarch’s victories were great, but he nonetheless remained powerless to tackle the human colonists in their heavily fortified cities. Without his vehicles and Titans, which had so far been unable to traverse any of the wraithgates opened by Mauryon’s forward forces, his efforts would all be in vain. As far as his Rangers could ascertain, only one substantial wraithgate survived on Baran -- Vaul's Gate, some several leagues away over the great plain which formed the centre of Baran's primary continent. Mauryon led his army on a swift overland march, the Eldar’s swift feet covering the distance in mere hours. Despite their fleet-footedness, such a large scale movement could never go unnoticed, and Snaggasnagga soon assembled a great horde to meet them at the edge of the great plain, where the land breaks into shallow bluffs and hard, earthy ground. Upon the highest of these bluffs stood Vaul's Gate itself, a towering Eldar monolith, fully twenty times the height of a man.
The Orks themselves clearly possessed no idea of the true value of Vaul's Gate, though its meaning to the Eldar was not lost on them, and out on the left flank the Orks clustered all about the ancient monument for no other reason than wanting to deprive their enemy of it. The Ork line was immense, stretched out for several miles across the plain. At its centre stood Snaggasnagga's twin Gargants, Bigga and Bigga. At the far right of the field, a few scattered ruins concealed the handful of Rangers who had joined the army, but apart from this Mauryon could simply not afford to face the Orks in a pitched battle. A single decisive attack was the Eldar's only hope, and accordingly Mauryon clustered his own forces near the Gate. Swooping Hawks and Warp Spiders formed a thin, broken line down the field, for Mauryon feared the Orks might surround him if he allowed his front to become too narrow. Against such vast numbers of Orks, however, those Eldar in the centre would stand little chance.
Great clouds of dust and smoke arose in the distance as the Orks began to bully their engines to life. Their raucous whoops and shouts rose to a cacophony as the shambling mass prepared itself for battle, but Mauryon and his army, however, were already on the move. Flocks of Swooping Hawks took to the skies, rushing headlong at the greenskins, drawing the centre of the Ork line forward, luring them away from the lumbering gargants behind. At the last possible moment the Hawks turned and soared away as one, and Mauryon unleashed his only gambit. Nightwing fighters and Phoenix bombers burst from the clouds and streaked around the Ork army, homing in on the now isolated Gargants. Many of the Orks turned back to defend the great war machines, racing backwards to turn their fire on the Eldar flyers, but they were too slow. The Hawks swooped back towards them again, as effortlessly as they had turned away in the first place and unleashed a withering hale of short-range fire into the back of the Orks. Bigga fell to the first Eldar attack run. Atop the other Gargant, Wurzbag beamed with perverse pride, gloating as his rival's machine went up in smoke.
Seeing the fight take shape in the centre, Orks from both flanks rushed towards the embattled gargants. On the right, the Ork advance stalled as the Rangers opened fire from their unseen positions amongst the ruins. Several mobs floundered and broke, even before reaching the battle, but as screeching hordes of trukks and wagons arrived to aid the surviving Gargant, a Phoenix crashed earthwards, then a second, then a third and the Eldar flyers were at last forced to speed away from the battlefield. They had already done more than enough. With the Orks' attention drawn to the centre of the field, Mauryon saw his chance to attack the Gate directly. The Autarch, the Phoenix Lord Karandras and hundreds of Aspect Warriors surged forwards over the shallow bluff betweem them and Vaul’s Gate. At last the Orks found themselves able to get to grips with the enemy up close and proper, and Mauryon's first attack was blunted by the sheer number of greenskins. Karandras and the Aspects close by him, however, battled on and quickly fought their way through to the Gate. Mauryon pushed forwards again and this time broke through the Orks, joining Karandras and the other Aspect Warriors atop the hill, at the foot of Vaul's Gate itself.
With the Eldar flyers gone, the Orks had won the battle in the centre ground and were quickly regrouping. The hulking figure of Da Biggest (as the Orks had hastily dubbed the surviving Gargant) rumbled towards Mauryon’s position, surrounded by a rampant mob of wagons and boyz. Mauryon himself rushed to the foot of the gate and stood guard over the small crowd of Seers gathered there as they frantically began the rituals necessary to re-open the long sealed gate. Even as they did so, the first thunderous blasts from the Orks' soopa guns slammed into the gate, shaking it to its very foundations and crushing two unfortunate Seers beneath the falling rubble. At the Gate’s centre, the portal blinked slowly into life, a streak of glowing energy running from base to peak. The portal flickered and struggled to open wider as more and more Ork fire flew about the heads of Mauryon and his Seers. On the slope below, the fastest of the Ork mobs were already deep in hand-to-hand fighting with the Scorpions and Banshees Mauryon had ordered to guard the approach.
Now Da Biggest itself arrived. Mauryon spun about as he felt the huge shadow loom over him and looked on in horror as all about him Aspect Warriors fell to the blaze of fire from the towering Gargant. At the machine's feet, Mauryon spotted Snagga-snagga himself, and rushed forwards towards him, fearing now that the only way to victory might be to slay the Ork warlord himself. There would be no such need. Barely had Mauryon taken a step before he felt a surging rush of energy behind him. The Gate was open and Mauryon knew victory was his. Raising his head skyward to look back towards it, Mauryon watched the shimmering portal roll and break apart as the figures of three great Phantom Titans stepped forth onto the field of battle.
Da Biggest lasted scant moments as the three Titans unleashed a co-ordinated burst of pulsar fire. Wurzbag was launched skywards as his gargant's head blew off and the machine came to a halt as a smoking wreck. Under the shadow of the burning gargant, Mauryon and Snagga-snagga met in hand-to-hand combat, though only one outcome was now possible. With the Orks fleeing all around him, and buoyed utterly by the capture of Vaul's Gate, Mauryon was undefeatable and drove his Burning Spear through Snagga-snagga's stomach. The Autarch cast Snagga-snagga's body over his shoulder and swiftly scampered up the creaking frame of the motionless gargant above. From atop this smoking wreck, Mauryon launched the warlord's body earthward in a rampant celebration of victory. As the slain Ork's corpses crashed to the ground, his army broke and fled, utterly defeated.
- The Voyage Begins (c.M31) - Iyanden is one of the first craftworlds to escape the failing and corrupt Eldar empire.
- The Fall of the Eldar (c.M32) - The Eldar empire is torn asunder as Slaanesh is born from their depravities.
- An Alliance Fades (777.M34) - Craftworld Biel-Tan begins a bloody war to reclaim the Maiden World of Rasilena from the encroaching humans. Iyanden, judging that reclaiming Rasilena brings no benefit in the ongoing war against Chaos, refuses to send aid, even when two whole sector fleets and ten Space Marine Chapters join the fight. Biel-Tan eventually emerges bloodied, but victorious. Thereafter, the two craftworlds soon lose their unity of purpose, each assuming the other to be uncommitted to their alliance.
- The Pyre of Killiak's Bane (838.M41) - Imperial xenologists begin to plunder the buried artefacts of the Eldar Maiden Kiliak, triggering a devastating response from the nearby Eldar craftworlds of Biel-Tan and Ulthwé. After a confirmed sighting of the Phoenix Lord Jain Zar and over a hundred [[Howling Banshees disciples, the Imperial interlopers are killed to a man, incinerated, and their ashes scattered to the wind.
- Battle of Orar's Sepulchre (888.M41) - An Eldar emissary from the Biel-tan Craftworld was sent to the Imperial world of Commrath to enter negotiations with its Planetary Governor for the return of an ancient eldritch artefact from the tomb of one of the Ultramarines' most-lauded heroes, Captain Orar, known as the Sceptre of Galaxian. When the Imperial noble refused his request, the Eldar emissary grew angry and soon his pleas turned to threats of violence. The Planetary Governor refused to be cowed by the arrogant xenos and had the Eldar executed on the spot. However, the Governor had the foresight to heed the Eldar's threats and requested aid from the Ultramarines. Eldar from the Alaitoc and Iyanden Craftworlds then proceeded to assault the planet Commrath to recover the Eldar artefact within Orar's Sepulchre. Orar was a great Ultramarines hero in the aftermath of the Horus Heresy, and Chapter Master Marneus Calgar vowed not a single alien would breach the sanctity of his tomb. For the first time since the Battle of Macragge, Calgar lead his entire Chapter to war. The Eldar descended upon Orar's Sepulchre to find it held against them by the Ultramarines. Eldar Aspect Warriors and Guardians darted towards the main gates of the great edifice that was Orar's tomb as grav-tanks and artillery engines battered the Imperial defenders. On Calgar's command, the Ultramarines emerged from cover and scoured the invaders from the Sepulchre's steps with disciplined Bolter volleys. The Eldar fell back, only to find their lines of retreat cut off by Assault Marines and Land Speeders. Eldar leaders emerged from cover and rallied the trapped first wave, only to fall to sniper fire as the Ultramarines' Scouts made their presence known. The initial Eldar assault faltered but, for an entire day and night, they continued to attack. Though they mustered every arcane science at their command, they could not overcome the tactical brilliance of Marneus Calgar and his Ultramarines. The following day, a fresh assault swept onto the great stairs of the sepulchre, led by a colossal figure wreathed in flame -- an Avatar of Khaela Mensha Khaine, the Eldar god of war. Heavy weapons fire seemed only to anger the creature, and the Ultramarines' battle line buckled beneath its onslaught, so Calgar issued a challenge himself. The fiery god bellowed with fury, its first blow missing the Ultramarines' Chapter Master by a hair's breadth. The second tore plates from Calgar's armour. A third bit deep into his shoulder, driving the Chapter Master to one knee. But the fourth slammed into the armoured palm of Calgar's left hand. Rising up, Calgar struck with all his strength, bringing his other gauntlet around in a mighty arc that punched clean through the molten ichor of the Avatar's torso. With the fall of their war god, the Eldar lost all heart and retreated. Some fled without heed while others fell back in good order, but all of the xenos retreated into the darkness. Despite overwhelming odds, once again the Ultramarines had emerged victorious, but in his wisdom Calgar knew that the Eldar would return for the Sceptre of Galaxian. So it was that Calgar informed Commrath's Governor that the Galaxian Sceptre would be removed from Orar's Sepulchre to Macragge, where it could be properly defended.
- Dishonourable Alliances (909.M41) - A vast Imperial force comprised of the 52nd and 124th Valhallan Imperial Guard regiments leads an invasion of the ice planet of Klaihn. To prevent a sacred Eldar Temple of Isha from falling into the hands of the Imperium, Biel-Tan and Lugganath each field their most potent Ghost Warriors and Aspect Warriors in a unified force. Partially because of the strange, ethereal blizzards that plagued the world, and the stubbornness of the Valhallans, what was intended to be a fast strike results in a protracted and exhausting conflict. Eventually, the Eldar reach the temple and encircle it with Ghost Warriors, only for a Warp-blizzard to bring new terrors in the form of a wave of Daemons. An uneasy alliance is struck between the Eldar and the Imperial forces to purge the planet of frost-blighted Slaaneshi Warp-horrors. However, the Eldar have a greater plan, and lure the Daemons and Valhallans into a bloody conflict against each other that greatly reduces the numbers of each. Though the Valhallans are finally victorious against the Warpspawn, the Ghost Warriors easily rout the exhausted Imperial survivors.
- The Devourer Descends (992.M41) - The Tyranids push their tendrils into the galaxy, and Craftworld Iyanden is locked in a death-struggle against the mighty Hive Fleet Kraken. As the craftworld teeters on the brink of extinction, more and more Ghost Warriors are summoned to its defence, until the army facing the Tyranids is as much of the dead as the living. Biel-Tan sends a small warhost to help fight against the Great Devourer, and acquit themselves well against the chitinous swarm. But in the end, they are all slaughtered by the innumerable creatures.
- The Red Death of Dûriel (778999.M41) - The Eldar of Iyanden and Biel-Tan combine with Dark Eldar forces to prevent the biological union of Hive Fleets Kraken and Leviathan upon the Maiden World of Dûriel. They are successful, but Dûriel itself is sacrificed to ensure victory, through means of an arcane device known as the Fireheart. In the wake of the battle, Prince Yriel disappears.
- The Bio-Purge Continues (811999.M41) - Encouraged by their successes against the Tyranids at Dûriel, the Eldar of Iyanden and Biel-Tan bring the Fireheart to other worlds. Thus do they begin a campaign of planetary annihilation in order to starve Hive Fleet Leviathan as it advances. The two craftworlds then take part in the incineration of dozens of Imperial and Ork-held worlds in and around the Octarius System. By swiftly establishing beachheads and activating a modified version of the psychic doomsday device used to destroy the Tyranid-infested planet of Dûriel, the Eldar ensure that no shred of biomass is left intact. Countless worlds, many of them inhabited, are scoured clean of bio-mass in the ensuing campaign. Though the Imperium rages at the slaughter, blindly venting its wrath upon any xenos spaceship within a dozen parsecs, Hive Fleet Leviathan is denied crucial bio-resources as a result. A short time after, a major part of the hive fleet is isolated and destroyed by interlacing Eldar attacks.
- "We bring only death, and leave only carrion. It is a message even a Human can understand."
- —Reqhiel of the Sons of Fuegan
When the Eldar of Biel-Tan go to war they assemble the Bahzhakhain. In the Eldar Lexicon this term defines their assembled warhost. Translated literally the term could be construed to mean "Swordwind," "Tempest of Blades" or even "Frozen Leaves" and "Falling to Cut." Regardless, the term Swordwind is also the name given to the manner in which the Biel-Tan wage war -- a single attack that relies on the immense fighting skills and overwhelming firepower of its Aspect Warriors to annihilate the enemy in one swift blow. This tactic works considerably well with the elite fighting skills of the many Biel-Tan Aspect Warriors, who can eliminate the enemy's main body of resistance before they can respond. The Biel-Tan therefore make expert use of the speed and manoeuvrability of their Craftworld's complement of Wave Serpents and Falcon Grav Tanks to move its units into position, from which the Aspect Warriors then launch a devastating all-out attack, smashing into the enemy and giving them no chance to recover. The Swordwind Court's battle colours are green and white, often with flowing vines painted on Biel-Tan vehicles. Each thorn of these vines represents the death of a hated enemy at the hands of the vehicle's pilot.
This kind of attack has proved particularly devastating against the Swordwind's favoured type of target -- enemy colonies. The Biel-Tan see any colonisation by other races as a threat to the future growth of the Eldar empire. It is their philosophy that it is better to eradicate any usurpers as soon as possible before the enemy becomes well established. To this end, there have been countless conflicts between Imperial forces and the Biel-Tan Craftworld. Often the Explorators of the Adeptus Mechanicus colonise worlds near to Biel-Tan's course, only for the Eldar to launch an attack and wipe out the settlers. This forces the Imperium to provide heavy garrisons for newly settled worlds on the southern rim to protect colonists from these sorties by the Eldar, draining valuable resources for battles elsewhere. While Biel-Tan certainly doesn't possess the power to restore the Eldar empire alone, this penchant for attacking Imperial colonies certainly makes the Craftworld one of the greatest threats to the Imperium on the southern rim.
The main targets of Biel-Tan aggression are non-Eldar colonists -- particularly non-Eldar occupying Maiden Worlds. Maiden Worlds are the lush paradise planets originally terraformed into existence by the Eldar before the Fall of their race. The creation involved seeding barren, dead planets with life, gradually leading to their transformation into lush, life-supporting worlds perfect for the settlement of Eldar colonies. This terraforming of worlds was part of a program of colonisation which was intended to take many thousands of Terran years to reach fruition, and the result would only be seen by later generations of Eldar. It is especially galling to the Eldar who created these paradise worlds that they are often overrun by the settlements of the "lesser" starfaring species of the galaxy. The Eldar of Biel-Tan believe the success of other alien races like Mankind is a threat to the future progression of the Eldar Empire reborn.
The Swordwind has fallen upon other alien races as well. The Orks in particular are hated by the Biel-Tan, as they can rapidly spread across a colonised world (with a prolification which even the Imperium finds hard to forestall). The starships of Biel-Tan hunt across the stars to destroy Ork spacecraft, such as Ork Roks, before they can find a world to engulf with a tide of green warriors. There have been many accounts through the millennia of the Biel-Tan Eldar arriving to help a beleaguered Imperial garrison fighting against the Orks, only for the Aspect Warriors to turn on their erstwhile allies once the Orks have been destroyed. The leaders of the Swordwind see it as their duty to protect the Exodite worlds from alien invasion. As the Eldar of Biel-Tan see it, when the time comes for the Eldar to emerge from the shadows and reclaim what is rightfully theirs, the Exodite worlds will be the first staging points for conquering the worlds of other races that have spread across the galaxy. Many an incautious expeditionary force has made planetfall on a world not knowing that the Exodites inhabit it, only to find themselves swept away by the ferocious attack of the Swordwind.
The Swordwind possesses a vehicle that is unique to the Eldar of Biel-Tan. It is a super-heavy gravity tank called a Void Spinner which is armed solely with a huge monofilament cannon which works just like any other Eldar monofilament weapon, except that it incorporates a techno-virus that sterilises the ground that it touches. This makes it extremely useful against the Orks due to the Orkoid physiology's spore-based method of reproduction, preventing further reinfestation of a world by Greenskins.
Structure of a Swordwind
- Biel-Tan Command
- Avatar of Khaine
- Wraithgate - Functions as a Webway portal to bring Biel-Tan forces quickly onto a battlefield.
- Biel-Tan Craftworld Hosts
- Aspect Warrior Warhost - Eight Apsect Warriors chosen from the following: Dire Avengers, Striking Scorpions, Howling Banshees, Fire Dragons, Warp Spiders, Dark Reapers, Swooping Hawks, Shining Spears.
- Eldar Guardian Warhost - Consists of one Farseer and four to seven Guardians. Up to three Heavy Weapon Platforms may replace up to three Guardians. Sometime this Warhost includes up to three Support Weapon Platforms, three Wraithguard units and three Wraithlords. Alternatively, sometimes this formation is mounted in four Wave Serpents.
- Aspect Warrior Warhost - Eight Apsect Warriors chosen from the following: Dire Avengers, Striking Scorpions, Howling Banshees, Fire Dragons, Warp Spiders, Dark Reapers, Swooping Hawks, Shining Spears.
- Biel-Tan Craftworld Troupes
- Ranger Troupe - From four to eight Eldar Ragners.
- War Walker Troupe - Six Eldar War Walkers.
- Windrinder Troupe - Six Jetbikes.
- Falcon Troupe - Five Eldar Falcons.
- Fire Prism Troupe - Three Eldar Fire Prisms.
- Night Spinner Troupe - Three Eldar Night Spinners.
- Engines of Vaul Troupe - Up to three Scorpion, Cobra, Storm Serpent or Voidspinners (or any combination of these).
- Ranger Troupe - From four to eight Eldar Ragners.
- Biel-Tan Craftworld Spacecraft, Aircraft & Titans
The Eldar way of war is very much akin to a child's puzzle. Composed of interlocking pieces of the puzzle, like the Eldar war machine, is of little value if any of the pieces are missing. The Eldar army functions by dozens of mutually supporting elements combining, creating a dangerous and effective force: each piece plays its own specific part. An army composed of several Warrior Aspects becomes a menace due to its diversity and speed, and it is this variety that makes Biel-Tan the threat it is. The combat capability of the Biel-Tan is comprehended well, for whilst victories over the Eldar are honoured and celebrated, victories against the Biel-Tan Eldar are disappointingly rare. In the Eldar tongue the term "Bahzhakhain" defines their assembled warhost. Translated literally the term could be construed to mean "Swordwind," "Tempest of Blades" or even "Frozen Leaves" and "Falling to Cut." Regardless, the term Swordwind is also the name given to the manner in which the Biel-Tan wage war -- a single attack that relies on the immense fighting skills and overwhelming firepower of its Aspect Warriors to annihilate the enemy in one swift blow.
The Swordwind is most effective against Biel-Tan's favoured target -- fledgling colonies that are ill-prepared for the carefully orchestrated onslaught of the Swordwind. What makes this behaviour unusual is that Biel-Tan is virtually the only craftworld to behave in this way. Ordo Xenos experts believe that Biel-Tan are attempting to take back the Eldar realm by force of arms, striking out to claim worlds that they believe are their own. The Swordwind utilises the very best weapons and technology available to the Eldar forces with deadly energy weapons mounted on the transport vehicles and well-armoured and armed warriors within.
For all the speed and precision of the Swordwind, there is a fatal flaw in its method. The very nature of this Swordwind tactic involves a rapid strike that is not bogged down in protracted combats, nor caught up in a war of attrition so often used by the Imperial Guard. For whilst the Aspect Warriors are swift and deadly beyond belief, they lack the physical endurance of the Adeptus Astartes and the numberless ranks of the Imperial Guard.
Court of the Young King
Biel-Tan places an unusual importance on the role of the warrior within their society. Whereas in many Craftworlds the Farseers hold sway over important decision, on Biel-Tan a warrior council, referred to as the Court of the Young King, appears to be at least the equal of the Farseers. This cadre reveres the idol of the Eldar war god Khaela Mensha Khaine and taken its name from the ceremony in which they awaken the Avatar of Khaine. A strong and dynamic political faction, it is often the Court that makes the decision to go to war or negotiate as they see fit. Every member of the court is an Aspect Warrior trapped in one particular path. Unable to move to another path and gain new experiences, these Exarchs as they are known, are perhaps the most potent political force actin in Biel-Tan as well as its most deadly warriors. The Exarchs are also the ones who designate the "Young King," who is ritually sacrificed on all Eldar Craftworlds to awaken the raging spirit of the Avatar, but on Biel-Tan, a Young King who survives the year in office will join the Court rather than return to tend their Aspect Shrine. The Exarchs of the Court are deeply hostile to all outsiders, as one might expect, and it is their influence which has produced the unusually aggressive and xenophobic culture of the Biel-Tan Craftworld. It is speculated that the Court is what drives the Craftworld to war over and over again.
The position of Autarch is one that arises only when a Craftworld is in a protracted or especially desperate state of war. Due to the aggressive nature of Biel-Tan, this is more often than most. An Autarch is an Exarch who has trodden the Path of the Warrior in several Aspects for so long that battle to them is first nature. To most Eldar the concept of Autarchy, where the individual allows war to rule their life completely, is a horrifying idea as it is anathema to the ideals of the Eldar Path. The Biel-Tan view it differently.
The technology employed by the Biel-Tan Craftworld is as advanced as that of the other Craftworlds. It can be argued that Biel-Tan is considered more terrifying, however, because of the diverse weapons and equipment they employ in the differing units of Aspect Warriors. Even the most basic weapon in the Eldar arsenal is of a technological level incomparable to the solid and dependable weaponry of the Imperial Guard, and arguably the equal of the Bolter wielded by the Adeptus Astartes. Every aspect of Eldar technology is baffling in the extreme, the shrewdest Tech-Priests and Adepts of the Machine Cult have all so far failed to unlock the secrets of their operation.
Classifying Biel-Tan on the Imperial Threat Index is a near impossible task. It has been proven time and again that Biel-Tan has attacked settler fleets, Explorator teams and Imperial outposts without provocation or warning. On most of these occasions the results has been the total destruction of the Imperial elements involved, followed by a swift withdrawal. Such damning evidence would cause the Ordo Xenos to classify Biel-Tan as a serious menace, except for every such account there are others where the armies of Biel-Tan have struck against Orkish infestations, Chaos-held planets and even the menace of the Necrons with the same results. In particular Biel-Tan has struck against the Orks time and again, harrying their hulks and attack ships to prevent them infesting more worlds, and exterminating them on a planet's surface if they are too late. Swordwind hosts have even been known to come to the assistance of the beleaguered Imperial forces facing the green tide, crushing the greenskins with no show of mercy, although all too often, they turn their attention and their weapons, on the armies of the Emperor once the Ork threat is removed.
The problem therefore is how can the Imperium classify a threat that is such a thorn in the side of its enemies? Attempts to negotiate with Biel-Tan have been abortive at best and there are many within and without the Ordos who perceive the very act of negotiating a heresy. Current policy amongst Imperial commanders towards the Biel-Tan Craftworld is unclear. Despite repeated petitions to hunt down and destroy Biel-Tan, there is neither the military might nor the political will to do this. For their part, Biel-Tan appear to be attempting to counteract any expansion into areas that they perceive as their own, rather than prosecuting a campaign of annihilation. Apparently the worlds that Biel-Tan is willing to fight over are of some deep cultural significance to their Craftworld, so much so that they are willing to expend significant resources purging them. It is unwise to attempt Imperila conquest of those worlds without overwhelming military support.
- Ixia Wayport
- The Deathly Wail Shrine - A Howling Banshees Aspect Shrine.
Notable Biel-Tan Eldar
- Anath'lan - Anath'lan was once one of Biel-Tan's most skilled Farseers. Alas, pride caused him to misread the runes, dooming a Maiden World to a bitter demise. Unable to forgive himself, Anath'lan died of grief. His Spirit Stone refused to bond with the Infinity Circuit, and guides other Eldar away from error to this day.
- Avele Swifteye - Known as the Duke of Asteri Reach, Avele Swifteye leads a Corsair fleet out of Biel-Tan Craftworld, and has continued Biel-Tan's pledge to protect the Maiden Worlds from settlement by lesser races. Swifteye has been known to display the greatest compassion to his defeated enemies if it pleases him to do so. On the world of Yrthal, Avele destroyed half a dozen Human settlements before the fledgling Imperial colony surrendered. He took the surviving forty thousand colonists to a nearby habitable moon, keeping them in stasis aboard his ships while they shuttled back and forth in short warp jumps, and promised that no further hostilities would be taken against them if they did not stray back to Yrthal.
- Macha - Macha is a powerful Eldar Farseer psyker who had originally sealed a Greater Daemon in the Chaos artefact called the Maledictum on the world of Tartarus. She later sought to prevent its unwitting release by the agents of Mankind. Later events indicate that her destiny had become intertwined with that of Captain Gabriel Angelos of the Blood Ravens Space Marines Chapter.
- Mauryon - Mauryon is a militant Autarch who leads campaigns to purge non-Eldar presences off Exodite Worlds and Maiden Worlds. A former warrior of the Fire Dragons Aspect Shrine, Mauryon is filled with a burning rage and hatred of the "lesser species" that now inhabit these worlds. He has led many a ruthless campaign to purge these "infestations" of both Orks and Humans. One of his greatest challenges came in the early 41st Millennium during the Baran War, where the Autarch managed to defeat both a detachment of Raven Guard Space Marines and an Ork horde under Warboss Snagga-snagga.
- Tyladrhas - Farseer Tyladrhas is known for leading a Biel-Tan warband against an Ultramarines Space Marine force.
Remnants of Glory
- The Spirit Stone of Anath'lan - Anath'lan was once one of Biel-Tan Craftworld's most skilled Farseers. Alas, pride caused him to misread the runes, dooming a maiden world to a bitter demise. Unable to forgive himself, Anath'lan died of grief. His spirit stone refused to bond with the infinity circuit, and guides other Eldar away from error to this day.
The name of the Biel-Tan Craftworld is a variation of the ancient Celtic holiday of Beltane (also known as Bealtaine or in modern times, May Day). Much Eldar lore has been drawn from Celtic mythology.
- Codex: Craftworld Eldar (3rd Edition), pp. 3, 9, 14, 20-21
- Codex: Eldar (6th Edition), pp. 14, 75, 82-86
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition), pp. 12, 15-16, 53
- Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition), pp. 18, 20, 24, 28
- Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition), pp. 21, 34
- Dataslate - Eldar Ghost Warriors (Digital Edition), pg. 13
- Dawn of War - Ascension (Novel) by C.S. Goto
- Dawn of War - Trials of Isador (Short Story) by C.S.Goto
- Warhammer 40,000: Planetstrike (5th Edition), pg. 56
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (3rd Edition), pg. 21
- White Dwarf 302 (UK), "Index Xenos: The Swordwind - The Eldar of the Galactic South," by Adam Troke, "Tactica: Swordwind - Aspects of War," by Alessio Cavatore, pp. 62-73
- White Dwarf 237 (US), "Codex: Eldar - Path of the Warrior," by Gav Thorpe, pp. 16-20
- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (PC Game)
- Swordwind Part One: Eldar Forces (PDF)
- Swordwind Part Three: The Baran War (PDF)
- Swordwind Part Four: Biel-Tan Craftworld Army List (PDF)
- Swordwind Reference Sheets (PDF)