- "They came to us as gods and we, like fools, took them at their word. Mephet'ran the Deceiver, Aza'gorod the Nightbringer, Iash'uddra the Endless Swarm; I curse their names, and the names of all their malevolent brethren."
- —from the Chronicle of Szarekh, Last of the Silent Kings
The C'tan or Star Gods (in the Eldar Lexicon they are called the Yngir) are said to be the oldest intelligent beings in existence in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is said that they were created at the very beginning of the universe, spawned from swirling gases and enormous amounts of energy, and as such are etheric creatures by nature. In their natural form they are vast beings and spread themselves over the surface of a star, absorbing its solar energy to feed themselves. After a time, they learned to use diaphanous wings to travel to other stars to continue their consumption when their host star died. The matter around them was so insignificant that it did not register on their voracious appetite. They are able to interact with the physical world thanks to the technology of the Necrontyr which transferred their consciousnesses into robotic bodies made of the living metal called Necrodermis. The C'tan used the hatred of the Necrontyr towards the ancient species called the Old Ones to help them gather the more appetizing energy of living beings that they came to crave.
The C'tan hate the Warp and its psychic energies (even as they crave the living energies of organic beings) and had the Necrons construct a series of pylons on the world of Cadia and other planets across several sectors in the Segmentum Obscurus which, when completed, were intended to close off the Warp from the material universe entirely, utterly destroying any living creatures with a soul, leaving all other life in the galaxy as nourishment for the C'tan.
It was the C'tan who designed the process of bio-transference for the Necrontyr, transferring their proteges' consciousnesses into undying mechanical bodies composed of Necrodermis. However, the biotransference process also transformed the Necrontyr into the Necrons, soulless beings who have difficulty taking pleasure in anything and who can never truly enjoy their immortality. After the end of the War in Heaven against their ancient foes the Old Ones, the Necrons, led by the Silent King Szarekh, successfully rebelled against their C'tan Star Gods. Those C'tan who survived the revolt were broken into fragments known as C'tan Shards that were more easily contained and imprisoned within arcane Necron devices known as Tesseract Labyrinths. At present, since the Necrons' Great Awakening began in the mid-41st Millennium, these C'tan Shards are deployed when needed as the Necron Dynasties' greatest weapons on the battlefield. However, there always exists the possibility that the imprisoned C'tan will escape their captors. Then they will wreak a terrible vengeance upon their captors and the innocent alike...
The Star Gods
The birth of the entities known as the Star Gods occurred at the same time as the moment of Creation itself, as they formed from the vast, insensate energies first unleashed by that churning mass of cataclysmic force. In that anarchic interweaving of matter and energy, the sea of stars began to swirl into existence and for an eon the universe was nothing more than hot hydrogen gas and light elemental dust ruled over by the gravitic force of billions of newborn suns. Long before the first planets had formed and cooled, the very first truly self-aware beings emerged, their thoughts encased within the lines of force produced by the plasma and electromagnetic flares of the stars themselves. In later times, these entities would become known as the C'tan, but early in their existence they were nothing like the malevolent beings they would eventually become. They were little more than monstrous energy parasites that suckled upon the solar energies of the stars that had brought them into existence, shortening the lives of otherwise main-sequence stars by millions of standard years. In time, these star vampires learned to move on the diaphanous wings of the universe's electromagnetic flux, leaving their birthplaces to drift through the cosmic ether to new stellar feeding grounds and begin their cycle of stellar destruction once more. Beings of pure energy, they paid no mind to the hunks of solid matter they passed in the vacuum of space, the blazing geothermal fires and weak geomagnetic fields of these nascent planets insufficient to be worth feeding even their ravenous hunger.
The Necrontyr and the Wars of Secession
The humanoid species that would become the Necrons began their existence under a fearsome, scourging star in the far reaches of the galaxy known as the Halo Stars region, billions of standard years before Mankind evolved on Terra. Assailed at every moment by ionising solar winds and intense radiation storms, the flesh and blood Necrontyr became a morbid people whose precarious life spans were riven by constant loss. What little information the Imperium of Man has recovered on the Necrontyr tells that their lives were short and uncertain, their bodies blighted and consumed at an early age by the terrible cancers and other illnesses linked to the high levels of ionising radiation given off by their sun. Necrontyr cities were built in anticipation of their inhabitants' early demise, as the living were only brief residents living in the shadow of the vast sepulchres and tombs of their ancestors. Likewise, their ruling dynasties were founded on the anticipation of demise, and the living were thought of as no more than temporary residents hurrying through the more permanent and lasting structures raised to honour the dead. On the Necrontyr homeworld, the greatest monuments were always built for the dead, never the living. Driven by necessity, the Necrontyr escaped their crucible-prison and struck out for the stars, hopeful of carving an empire in which they could realise their species' potential free from the lethal energies of their birth star.
Unable to find peace on their own world, the Necrontyr blindly groped outward into the universe to explore other stars. Using stasis crypts and slow-moving antimatter-powered torch-ships that were clad in the living metal known as necrodermis to resist the millennia-long journeys through the void, the Necrontyr began to colonise distant worlds. Little by little, the Necrontyr dynasties spread ever further, until much of the ancient galaxy answered to their rule. From the earliest days, the rulers of individual Necrontyr dynasties were themselves governed by the Triarch, a council composed of three Phaerons. The head of the Triarch was known as the Silent King, for he addressed his subjects only through the other two Phaerons who ruled alongside him. Nominally a hereditary position, the uncertain life spans of the Necrontyr ensured that the title of Silent King nonetheless passed from one royal dynasty to another many times. The final days of the Necrontyr Empire occurred in the reign of Szarekh, the last of the Silent Kings.
Sometime during their slow expansion, the Necrontyr encountered an ancient species far older than any other in existence in the known galaxy. Collectively, these beings were known as the Old Ones, and they were absolute masters of forms of energy the Necrontyr could not even conceive of, yet alone wield. The Old Ones had long ago conquered the secrets of immortality, yet they refused to share the gift of eternal life with the Necrontyr, who yet bore the curse of the bitter star they had been born under. The colonisation of much of the galaxy by the reptilian mystics had been immeasurably swifter and more expansive than that of the Necrontyr because of their Warp Gates and mastery of the Immaterium. That, and the Old Ones' incredibly long, if not downright immortal lifespans, kindled a burning, jealous rage in the Necrontyr, which ate at their culture spiritually as much as their physical cancers consumed their bodies. The Necrontyr were astonished to learn that another intelligent species enjoyed such long lives while their own were cut so brutally short.
But as time wore on, further strife came to the Necrontyr. Each dynasty of the Necrontyr sought to claim its own destiny and soon the great houses were engaged in all-out conflicts known as the Wars of Secession. Had circumstances remained as they were for but a generation more, it is possible that the Necrontyr would have wiped themselves out, as so many species had before them and shall do in the future. As their territory grew ever wider and more diverse, the unity that had made them strong was eroded, and bitter wars were waged as entire realms fought to win independence. Ultimately, the Triach -- the ruling council of the Necrontyr Empire-- realised that the only hope of unity lay in conflict with an external enemy, but there were few who could prove a credible threat. Only the Old Ones, the first of all the galaxy's known sentient species, were a prospective foe powerful enough to bind the feuding Necrontyr dynasties to a common cause. Such a war was simplicity itself to justify, for the Necrontyr had ever rankled at the Old Ones' refusal to share the secrets of eternal life. So did the Triarch declare war on the Old Ones. At the same time, they offered amnesty to any secessionist dynasties wjo willingly returned to the fold. Thus lured by the spoils of victory and the promise of immortality, the separatist Necrontyr realms abandoned their Wars of Secession and the War in Heaven began.
It was the last of the Silent Kings who headed the Triarch of the Necrontyr Empire, Szarekh, who formulated the plan that would change everything forever and have consequences that would echo through history for countless millions of years. In a typically bitter act of jealousy and resentment for the Necrontyr race, it was the Silent King who used the Old Ones' refusal to share the secret of immortality as a pretext for war, forcibly uniting the entire Necrontyr species beneath the rule of the Triarch against their common foe. War erupted across the stars, yet while the Silent King succeeded in uniting his hateful people, it was a war the Necrontyr could not win. Not on their own.
The War in Heaven
The terrible wars between the Old Ones and the Necrontyr that followed, known later in Eldar myth as the War in Heaven, would fill a library in their own right, but the Necrontyr could never win. Their superior technology was consistently outmanoeuvred by the Old Ones thanks to their mastery of the Webway portals and Warp Gates. The Necrontyr were pushed back until they were little more than an irritation to the Old Ones' dominance of the galaxy, a quiescent threat clinging to their irradiated world among the Halo Stars, exiled and forgotten. The Necrontyr's fury was cooled by their long millennia of imprisonment on their homeworld, slowly transforming into an utter hatred towards all other forms of intelligent life and an implacable determination to avenge themselves upon their seemingly invincible enemies.
But in the face of defeat, the always fragile unity of the Necrontyr began to fracture once more. No longer did the prospect of a common enemy have any hold over the disparate dynasties. Scores of generations had now lived and died in the service of an unwinnable war, and many Necrontyr dynasties would have gladly sued for peace with the Old Ones if the ruling Triarch had permitted it.
Thus began the second iteration of the Wars of Secession, more widespread and ruinous than any that had come before. So fractured has the Necrontyr dynasties become by then that, had the Old Ones been so inclined, they could have wiped out their foes with ease. Faced with the total collapse of their rule, the Triarch searched desperately for a means of restoring order. In this, their prayers were answered,though the price for their species would be incalculably high.
It was during the reign of the Silent King Szarekh that the godlike energy beings known as the C'tan first blighted the Necrontyr. It is impossible to say for certain how the Necrontyr first made contact with the C'tan though many misleading, contradictory and one-sided accounts of these events exist. The dusty archives of Solemnace claim it was but an accident, a chance discovery made by a stellar prove during the investigation of a dying star. The Book of Mournful Night, held under close guard in the Black Library's innermost sanctum, tells rather that the raw hatred that the Necrontyr held as a race for the Old Ones sang out across space, acting as a beacon that the C'tan could not ignore.
Another account claims that from the earliest days of their civilisation, Necrontyr scientists had been deeply engaged in stellar studies to try to understand and protect themselves from their own sun's baleful energies. After long, bitter centuries of searching for some power to unleash upon the Old Ones, the Necrontyr researchers used stellar probes to discover unusual electrodynamic anomalies in the oldest, dying stars of the galaxy. In the complex skeins of the energetic plasma of these suns, the Necrontyr found a sentience that was more ancient than that of any of the corporeal species in Creation, including the Old Ones, entities of pure energy that had spawned during the birth of the stars eons before. These entities had little conception of what the rest of the universe entailed when the Necrontyr first found them, feeding upon the solar flares and magnetic storms of these bloated red giants. Here was the weapon the Necrontyr had long sought to bring about the downfall of the Old Ones, beings they believed were the progeny of the death-god they worshipped. Howsoever first contact occurred, the shadow of the C'tan fell over the oldest Necrontyr dynasties first.
The power of these star-born creatures was incredible, the raw energy of the stars made animate, and the Necrontyr called them the C'tan or "Star Gods" in their own tongue. The C'tan were dispersed across areas larger than whole planets, their consciousnesses too vast for humanoids to comprehend. How the Necrontyr ever managed to communicate with them is unknown to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Understanding that such diffuse minds could never perceive the material universe without manifesting themselves in a material form, some Necrontyr actively sought the C'tan's favour and oversaw the forging of physical shells for the C'tan to occupy, cast from the living metal called necrodermis that they had once used for their colony torch-ships. Fragmentary Eldar legends tell of translucent streamers of electromagnetic force shifting across space as the star vampires coiled into their new bodies in the physical realm across an incorporeal bridge of starlight. Thus clad, the C'tan took the shapes of the Necrontyr's half-forgotten gods, hiding their own desires beneath cloaks of obsequious subservience.
Incomprehensible forces were compressed into the living metal of the necrodermis bodies which the Necrontyr had forged as the full power of the C'tan at last found form. As the C'tan focused their consciousnesses and became ever more aware of their new mode of existence, they came to appreciate the pleasures available to beings of matter and the other realities of corporeal life. The deliciously focused trickles of electromagnetic energy given off by the physical bodies of the Necrontyr all about them awakened a new hunger in the C'tan very unlike the one they had once sated using the nourishing but essentially tasteless energies of the stars.
So it was that one of the C'tan came before the Silent King Szarekh, acting as forerunner to the coming of his brothers. Amongst its own kind, this C'tan was known as the Deceiver, for it was willfully treacherous. Yet the Silent King knew not the C'tan's true nature, and instead granted the creature an audience. The Deceiver spoke of a war, fought long before the birth of the Necrontyr, between the C'tan and the Old Ones. It was a war, he said, that the C'tan had lost. In the aftermath, and fearing the vengeance of the Old Ones, he and his brothers had hidden themselves away, hoping one day to find allies with whom they could finally bring the Old Ones to account. In return for this aid, the Deceiver assured, he and his brothers would deliver everything that the Necrontyr craved. Unity could be theirs once again, and the immortality that they had sought for so long would finally be within their grasp. No price would their be for these great gifts, the Deceiver insisted, for they were but boons to be bestowed upon valued allies.
Thus did the Deceiver speak, and who ca say how much of his tale was truth? It is doubtful whether even the Deceiver knew, for trickery had become so much a part of his existence that even he could no longer divine its root. Yet his words held sway over Szarekh who, like his ancestors before him, despaired of the divisions that were tearing his people apart. For long months he debated the matter with the other two Phaerons of the Triarch and the nobles of his Royal Court. Through it all, the only dissenting voice was that of Orikan, the court astrologer, who foretold that the alliance between the Necrontyr and the C'tan would bring about a renaissance of glory, but destroy forever the soul of the Necrontyr people. Yet desire and ambition swiftly overrode caution, and Orikan's prophecy was dismissed. A Necrontyr year after the Deceiver had presented his proposition, the Triarch agreed to the alliance, and so forever doomed their race.
For their part, the Necrontyr soon fell into awe of their discoveries and the C'tan moved to take control over their benefactors. The powers of the C'tan manifested in the physical world were indeed almost god-like and it was not long before the C'tan were being worshiped as the Star Gods the Necrontyr had named them. Perhaps they had been tainted by the material universe they had become a part of, or perhaps this had always been their nature even when they were bound to the suns they fed upon, but the C'tan proved to be as cruel and capricious as the stars from which they had been born. They soon revelled in the worship of the Necrontyr and feasted upon the life energies of countless mortal slaves.
Biotransference and the Rise of the Necrons
- "When the Silent King saw what had been done, he knew at last the true nature of the C'tan, and of the doom they had wrought in his name."
- —excerpt from the Book of Mournful Night
Armed with weapons of god-like power and starships that could cross the galaxy in the blink of an eye through the use of quantum phase technology, the Necrontyr stood ready to begin their war against the Old Ones anew. But the C'tan had another gift for their mortal subjects. They offered the Necrontyr a path to immortality and the physical stability their race had always craved. Their diseased flesh would be replaced with the living metal of necrodermis that made up their Star Gods' own physical forms. Their discarded organic husks would be consumed and their cold, metal forms would then be free to pursue their great vengeance against the Old Ones and the rest of a hateful universe, freed forever from the weaknesses of their hated flesh.
With the pact between Necrontyr and C'tan sealed, the Star Gods revealed the form that immortality would take for the Necrontyr, and the great biotransference process began. Colossal bio-furnaces built by Necrontyr artifice roared day and night, consuming weak-bodied flesh and replacing it with enduring machine forms of living metal, much like the C'tan themselves. As the cyclopean machines clamoured, the C'tan swarmed about the biotransference sites, drinking in the torrent of cast-off life energy and growing ever stronger.
Whether the Necrontyr actually realised the price they would actually pay for accepting this pact with the C'tan is not known. The immortality the C'tan promised would be delivered unto the Necrontyr by way of the arcane and terrible process of bio-transference. Vast bio-foundries were constructed, and into these the Silent King's peoples marched according to the terms of the pact he had made with the C'tan. What blasphemous procedures the Necrontyr were subjected to within the raging bio-furnaces cannot be known, but certainly, each was stripped of flesh and of soul, his body replaced by a shell of living metal animated by what remained of his guttering self. Above each furnace swooped and dove the ethereal true-forms of the C'tan as they glutted themselves on the spiritual detritus of an entire species. It was only when the Silent King himself emerged from the bio-transference process and looked upon what had become of his people that he saw the awful truth of the pact he had made. Though immortality and nigh godlike strength and vigour were his, it had come at the cost of his soul, the effluvial remains of which had already been sucked down the gullet of a circling C'tan.
As Szarekh watched the C'tan feast on the life essence of his people, he realised the terrible depth of his mistake. In many ways, he felt better that he had in decades, the countless aches and uncertainties of organic life now behind him. His new machine body was far mightier than the frail form he had tolerated for so long, and his thoughts were swifter and clearer than they had ever been. Yet there was an emptiness gnawing at his mind, an inexpressible hollowness of spirit that defied rational explanation. In that moment, he knew with cold certainty that the price of physical immortality had been the loss of his soul. With great sorrow the Silent King beheld the fate he had brought upon his people: the Necrontyr were not but a memory, and the soulless, undying Necrons had been reborn in their place.
Yet if the price had been steep, biotransference had fulfilled all of the promises that the C'tan had made. Even the lowliest of the Necrontyr was now blessed with immortality -- age and hard radiation could little erode their new mechanical bodies, and only the most terrible of injuries could destroy them utterly. Likewise, the Necrons now enjoyed a unity that the Necrontyr had never known, though it was achieved through tyranny and the complete loss of individuality and emotion rather than by consent. The biotransference process had embedded command protocols in every Necron mind, granting Szarekh the unswerving loyalty of his subjects. At first, the Silent King embraced this unanimity, for it was a welcome reprieve from the chaos that had consumed the Necrontyr Empire in recent years. However, as time wore on he grew weary of his burden but dared not sever the command protocols, lest his subjects turn on him seeking vengeance for the terrible curse he ahd visited upon them.
Thus the Necrontyr became the Necrons, cursed to the eternal servitude of their Star Gods. The C'tan feasted upon the entire Necrontyr race's life energies even as they made the transfers, leaving behind only the ghostly echoes of the Necrontyr's consciousnesses. Only a few of the most strong-willed Necrontyr retained their intellect and self-awareness and even they were but shadows of their former selves. They had been purged of so much of what had made them unique individuals. The Necrons cared not at all for their loss; all that mattered to them was that they would live forever without disease or death as their Star Gods had promised. Nevertheless, the Necrontyr species was united as never before. The process imbued in every one of the Silent King's subjects the command protocols with which he would rule over them with an iron hand. The entire species was his to command, and so it fell upon the Necrons to honour their side of their terrible bargain. Renewed by their devouring of the souls of an entire species, the C'tan were unstoppable, and with the legions of the Necrons marching in their wake, the Old Ones were doomed. Only one thing truly remained of the old Necrontyr -- their burning hatred for all the other living, intelligent species of the universe. Legions of the undying living metal warriors set out into the galaxy in their Tomb Ships and the stars burned in their wake. The Old Ones' mastery of the Warp was now countered by the C'tan's supremacy over the physical universe and the ancient enemies of the Necrons suffered greatly in the interstellar slaughter that followed.
The Necrons Ascendant
With the C'tan and the Necrons fighting as one, the Old Ones were now doomed to defeat. Glutted on the life force of the Necrontyr, the empowered C'tan were night unstoppable and unleashed forces beyond comprehension. Planets were razed, suns extinguished and who star systems devoured by black holes called into being by the reality-warping powers of the Star Gods. Necron legions finally breached the Webway and assailed the Old Ones in every corner of the galaxy. They brought under siege the fortresses of the Old Ones' many allies amongst the younger intelligent races of the galaxy, harvesting the life force of the defenders to feed their voracious C'tan masters.
In the closing years of the War in Heaven, one of the primary factors that led to the Necrons' ascendancy was their ability to finally gain access to the Old Ones' Webway. The C'tan known as Nyadra'zath, the Burning One, had long desired to carry his eldritch fires into that space beyond space, and so showed the Necrons how to breach its boundaries. Through a series of living stone portals known as the Dolmen Gates, the Necrons were finally able to turn the Old Ones' greatest weapon against them, vastly accelerating the ultimate end of the War in Heaven.
The portals offered by the Dolmen Gates are neither so stable, nor so controllable as the naturally occurring entrances to the Webway scattered across the galaxy. Indeed, in some curious fashion, the Webway can detect when its environs have been breached by a Dolmen Gate and its arcane mechanisms swiftly attempt to seal off the infected spur from the rest of the Labyrinthine Dimension until the danger to its integrity has passed. Thus, Necrons entering the Webway must reach their intended destination through its shifting extradimensional corridors quickly, lest the network itself bring about their destruction.
Of course, in the present age, aeons have passed since the Necrons used the Dolmen Gates to assault their archenemies. The Old Ones are gone, and the Webway itself has become a tangled and broken labyrinth. Many Dolmen Gates were lost or abandoned during the time of the Necrons' Great Sleep, and many more were destroyed by the Eldar, the Old Ones' successors as the guardians of the Webway. Those that remain grant access to but a small portion of the immense maze that is the Webway, much of that voluntarily sealed off by the Eldar to prevent further contamination. Yet the Webway is immeasurably vast, and even these sundered skeins allow the Necrons a mode of travel that far outpaces those of the younger races. It is well that this is so. As a race bereft of psykers as a result of the loss of their souls during the biotransference process, the Necrons are also incapable of Warp travel, and without access to the Webway, they would be forced to rely once more on slow-voyaging stasis-ships, dooming them to interstellar isolation.
In the wake of these victories, the C'tan and their undying Necron servants now dominated the galaxy. The last planetary bastions of the Old Ones were besieged and the intelligent races they had once nurtured became cattle for the obscene hunger of the C'tan. To the younger sentient species of the galaxy, the Necrons and their Star Gods were cruel masters, callously harvesting their populations at will to feed the C'tan's ceaseless hunger. The C'tan were figures of terror who demanded their adoration and fear in equal measure. For unknown reasons, but probably because their individual hungers for mortal life energies knew no bounds, the C'tan ultimately began to fight amongst themselves for both sport and out of spite as they unleashed destructive forces beyond mortal comprehension. Among the Eldar, an ancient myth holds that their Laughing God tricked the C'tan known as the Outsider into turning on its brothers and beginning their long war for ascendancy. In the course of the C'tan's struggle against one another, whole planets were razed, stars were extinguished and whole solar systems were devoured by unleashed black holes. New cities were built by the efforts of millions and then smashed down once more. As the "red harvests" of the C'tan and their Necron servants grew thin, C'tan eventually devoured C'tan, until only a few were left in the universe and they competed amongst themselves for a long age.
Eventually, even the Old Ones, who had once been defined by their patience and unstoppable will, became desperate in the face of the Necron assault. They used their great scientific skills to genetically engineer intelligent beings with an even stronger psychic link to the Warp, hoping to create servants with the capability of channeling psychic power to defend themselves. They nurtured many potential warrior races, among which are believed to be the earliest members of the Eldar species and many other xenos races, including the Rashan, the K'nib, the Krork and many others. Millennia passed as the Old Ones' creations finally bore fruit and the C'tan and their Necron servants continued to extinguish life across the galaxy.
The Tide Turns
The Old Ones' psychically-empowered servant races spread across the galaxy, battling the advanced Necron technology with the psychic power of their Warp-spawned sorcery. Facing this new onslaught, the C'tan's empire was shattered, as the psychic forces of the Immaterium were anathema to soulless entities whose existence was wholly contained within purely physical patterns of electromagnetic force. For all the destruction they could unleash, they were unable to stop the Old Ones and the younger races' relentless advance across the stars.
The C'tan, unified by this great threat for the first time in millions of years, sought a way to defeat the soul-fuelled energies of the younger species. They initiated a great warding, a plan to forever defeat the psychic sorceries of the Old Ones by sealing off the material universe from the Warp, a plan whose first fruits can still be found on the Imperial Fortress World of Cadia in the form of the great pylons that litter the surface of that world in intricate networks and create the area of space-time stability near the Eye of Terror known as the Cadian Gate. With their god-like powers, it was only a matter of time until the C'tan succeeded and the greatest work of the C'tan was begun. But before it was complete, the seeds of destruction the Old Ones had planted millennia before brought about an unforeseen cataclysm. The growing pains and collective psychic flaws of the younger races threw the untapped psychically reactive energies of the Immaterium into disorder. War, pain and destruction were mirrored in the bottomless depth of the Sea of Souls that was the Warp. The maelstrom of souls unleashed into the Immaterium by the carnage of the War in Heaven coalesced in the previously formless energies of the Warp. Older entities that had existed within the Immaterium transformed into terrifying psychic predators, tearing at the souls of vulnerable psykers as their own environment was torn apart and reforged into the Realm of Chaos.
The Enslaver Plague
The denizens of the Warp clustered voraciously at the cracks between the Immaterium and the material universe, seeking new ways to enter the physical realm. The Old Ones brought forth new genetically-engineered warrior races to defend their last strongholds, including the technology-mimicking Jokaero and the formidable, green-skinned Krork who were the ancestors of the present day Orks, but it was already too late. The Old Ones' intergalactic Webway network was breached from the Immaterium and lost to them, several of their Warp Gates were destroyed by their own hands to prevent the entities of the Warp from spreading to uncorrupted worlds and Old Ones' greatest works and places of power were overrun by the horrors their own creations had unleashed. The most terrifying of these horrors were the Enslavers, Warp entities whose ability to dominate the minds of the younger races and create their own portals into the material realm using transmuted possessed psykers brought them forth in ever greater numbers. For the Old Ones, this was the final disaster as the Enslavers took control of their servants. The Pandora's Box unleashed by the creation of the younger races finally scattered the last of the Old Ones and broke their power over the galaxy once and for all. Life had stood at the edge of an apocalypse during the War in Heaven between the Old Ones and the C'tan. Now as the Enslavers breached the Immaterium in epidemic proportions, the survivors looked doomed.
Ultimately, beset by the implacable onset of the C'tan and the calamitous Warp-spawned perils they had themselves mistakenly unleashed, the Old Ones were defeated, scattered and finally destroyed. Whether the species went extinct or simply fled the galaxy to seek a new haven elsewhere is unknown.
The Silent King's Betrayal
Throughout the final stages of the War in Heaven, Szarekh bided his time, waiting for the moment in which the C'tan would prove vulnerable. Though the entire Necron race was now his to command, he could not hope to oppose the C'tan at the height of their power, and even if he did and met with success, the Necrons would then have to finish the War in Heaven against the Old Ones and their increasingly potent allies alone. No, the Old Ones had to be completely and utterly defeated before the C'tan could be brought to account for the horror they had wrought. And so, when the C'tan finally won their great war, their triumph proved short-lived. With one hated enemy finally defeated, and the other spent from hard-fought victory, the Silent King at last led the Necrons in revolt against the C'tan masters.
In their arrogance, the C'tan did not realise their danger until it was too late. The Necrons focused the unimaginable energies of the living universe into weapons too mighty for even the Star Gods to endure. Alas, the C'tan were immortal star-spawn, part of the fundamental fabric of reality and therefore nigh impossible to destroy. So was each C'tan instead sundered into thousands of smaller and less powerful fragments with a similar energy signature. Yet this was sufficient to the Silent King's goals. Indeed, he had known the C'tan's ultimate destruction to be impossible and had drawn his plans accordingly; each C'tan Shard was bound within a multidimensional Tesseract Labyrinth, as tramelled and secured as a Terran djinn trapped in a bottle. Though the cost of victory was high -- millions of Necrons had been destroyed as a consequence of the rebellion, including all of the members of the Triarch save the Silent King himself -- the Necrons were once more in command of their own destiny.
A C'tan Shard is all that remains of the once mighty Star Gods of Necron antiquity. They are now only echoes of their former selves, splinters of energy that survived their Necron servants' ancient betrayal and were enslaved in turn. Most now languish in unbreakable servitude to their former vassals, utterly incapable of acting without commission. Should a C'tan Shard rebel, or a fault develop in its control relays, then fail-safe mechanisms automatically activate, whisking the creature back to its tomb, there to languish for long Terran centuries until times are dire enough that the Necrons must call upon its services again. Even with these precautions, the Necrons are wary of employing C'tan Shards in battle. Though the chance of escape is remote, the possibility remains, so the day must be dark indeed for the Necron cause before the Tesseract Labyrinths are opened and the C'tan unleashed upon the galaxy once again. In the late 41st Millennium, the foes of the Necrons have so far only encountered two types of C'tan Shard, those of Aza'gorod the Nightbringer and Mephet'ran the Deceiver.
Even now in their reduced and wholly fettered state, C'tan Shards are beings of near-unlimited power. They can manifest energy blasts, control the minds of lesser beings, manipulate the flow of time, and banish foes to alternate dimensions. Indeed, a C'tan Shard's abilities are limited only by two things: its imagination -- which is immense -- and glimmering memories of the being from which it was severed. Whilst no individual C'tan Shard has full recall of the omnipotent beings it once was, each carries the personality and hubris of that vaster and more puissant being. Though a C'tan Shard has the power to reduce a tank to molten slag with but a gesture, it might simply not occur to it to do so, as its gestalt primogenitor would have tackled the situation through other means, such as by devolving the crew into primordial ooze, or deceiving them into attacking their own allies. The only hope of defeating a C'tan is to breach its Necrodermis shell -- the living metal form that cages its energetic essence. If the Necrodermis is compromised, the C'tan Shard explodes in a pulse of blinding energy, its being scattered to the galactic solar winds.
Whilst it is true that many C'tan Shards are now indentured to Necron service, this by no means accounts for the entire pantheon of C'tan. Rumours of C'tan-like beings can be found across the galaxy, though many are merely entities that exhibit inexplicable reality-warping powers. Indeed, any such being -- whether Warp-spawned daemon, energy-based life form or an alien with advanced technology -- can be mistaken for a C'tan if the observer is primitive, credulous or simply ill-informed enough. This discrepant information causes great confusion concerning the exact number and nature of the surviving C'tan, even among the Eldar. Records held in the Black Library contradict those maintained on Ulthwe, which are again at odds with the archives held on Alaitoc. There might be four C'tan at present in the galaxy, four thousand or any number in between. However, all Eldar agree that the splinters of knowledge held by the Imperium of Man are so flawed and confused that they, if anything, move further from the truth with each fresh discovery made. Any who go looking for proof of a C'tan's existence can easily uncover it, but this speaks more to the mindset of the searcher than it does to any value of the "evidence."
Transcendent C'tan are the most dangerous of their kind amongst the C'tan Shards. Each is an aggregation of anywhere between a dozen and a hundred lesser C'tan Shards, and its power far surpasses the sum of its parts. Those few that are chained to Necron service are not contained by Tesseract Labyrinths, but by energy shackles designed aeons ago by the legendary Necron artificer Svarokh. Such devices are unstable, making the deployment of a Transcendent C'tan without the device known as a Tesseract Vault to contain it something of a risk, only undertaken in times of direst need. For this reason, when contained within a Tesseract Vault, a Transcendent C'tan is also kept within a special energy shield generated by a robotic Necron construct known as a Canoptek Sentinel. Canoptek Sentinels are used to control the raw elemental energies of a Transcendent C'tan. The Sentinel draws from the Transcendent C'tan's own power to generate a force shield strong enough to keep the C'tan shackled to the mechanisms of the Tesseract Vault. At the same time, constructs known as Canoptek Leeches arrayed and docked around the circumference of the vault and an army of Canoptek Scarabs move to constantly repair the damage done to the arcane prison. However, there are only so many Scarabs and Canoptek Leeches holding the Tesseract Vault together, and as the Transcendent C'tan bends reality and tears metal off the vault in its bids for freedom, the Canoptek automatons rebuild its prison using the debris in a cyclical process of destruction and reconstruction.
The C'tan who are known to currently still exist include:
- Aza'gorod the Nightbringer - Aza'gorod the Nightbringer has impressed its image as that of the grim reaper itself on the psyche of the younger races, apart from the Orks (since they do not fear death). Upon entering stasis it was almost destroyed and starved but was released accidentally by the Space Marines in the 41st Millennium, which caused the Necrons to begin to awaken from their ancient sleep. The Nightbringer is one of the two types of C'tan Shard that have so far been encountered by the foes of the Necrons since their Great Awakening.
- Mephet'ran the Deceiver - Mephet'ran the Deceiver came out of stasis an unknown time ago and has been weaving plots ever since, including the destruction of the ancient Old Ones weapons the Eldar call the Talismans of Vaul and the Imperium knows as the Blackstone Fortresses which were designed to destroy the C'tan on their emergence. The Deceiver is the second of the two types of C'tan Shard that have so far been encountered by the foes of the Necrons since their Great Awakening.
- Mag'ladroth the Void Dragon - Mag'ladroth the Void Dragon is the most powerful C'tan and still resides in stasis, theorised to be located beneath Mars in the Noctis Labyrinthus. The Void Dragon is believed by some Tech-priests to be the actual Machine God venerated by the Cult of the Machine of the Adeptus Mechanicus. A master of the material realm, this particular C'tan was a figure of oblivion, devastation and wanton destruction and its created warriors were nigh invincible. No C'tan Shard of this C'tan has yet been encountered, and it is possible that the Void Dragon has remained whole through the eons and its essence was never captured within the Tesseract Labyrinths. This is a truly terrifying prospect for the galaxy if this entity were to awaken.
The names of several other C'tan are known to the Imperium of Man and the Eldar, though they have not yet been encountered as active C'tan Shards and it remains unknown whether they still exist in Necron captivity like their brethren or have ceased to exist.
- Iash'uddra the Endless Swarm - Nothing is currently known about this C'tan, other than that it exists.
- Kalugura - Kalugura is a C'tan who was captured and transformed into a C'tan Shard. Kalugura was once a horrific engine of destruction. This particular C'tan Shard was entombed on the world of Kalugura aeons ago, at the command of the Silent King Szarekh, then the supreme overlord of the Necron race's ruling Triarch. The reason why this Shard was imprisoned and is no longer deployed by the Necrons is unknown.
- Og'driada, the Arisen - Nothing is currently known about this C'tan, other than that it exists.
- Nyadra'zatha the Burning One - It was the C'tan known as Nyadra'zatha, the Burning One, who had long desired to carry his eldritch fires into the Webway and beyond, who enabled the Necrons to gain access to the Labyrinthine Dimension, showing the Necrons how to breach its boundaries. Through a series of living stone portals known as Dolmen Gates, the Necrons have finally been able to turn the Old Ones' greatest weapon to their own purpose. As a race bereft of psykers, the Necrons are incapable of Warp travel, and without access to the Webway, they would be forced to rely once more on slow-voyaging stasis-ships, dooming them to isolation within the galaxy.
- Tsara'noga the Outsider - Tsara'noga the Outsider became insane due to its consumption of other C'tan, a trick played on it by Cegorach, the Eldar Laughing God. It developed a hellish presence, causing madness in all who came close, and many killed themselves rather than have to face the Outsider. The Outsider shares some similarities with the Nightbringer, in that it is said that to look upon it would cause terror, much like the Nightbringer's infusion of terror in the younger races produced by the Old Ones. Furthermore, one of the Harlequins' many dances depicts the moment when the Laughing God tricked the C'tan into consuming each other, except that the C'tan depicted is the Nightbringer, rather than the Outsider. The Outsider is currently imprisoned in a Dyson Sphere beneath the galactic plane. The Harlequins whisper that "one dark night, it shall return."
- Yggra'nya, the Shaper - Nothing is currently known about this C'tan, other than that it exists.
Other C'tan Influences
The Imperial Inquisition employs elite Officio Assassinorum Assassins, among whom, the members of the Callidus Temple, use a weapon called a C'tan Phase Sword. It is unknown what specific relation the weapon has with the C'tan themselves. The most likely explanation would be that the C'tan Phase Sword is made out of Necrodermis, such as in one instance where a Callidus Assassin attacked an Imperial Planetary Governor, only to have her C'tan phase weapon absorbed into the "governor" and become a part of his body. This governor was most likely the C'tan called the Deceiver in another of its myriad disguises.
The primary weakness of the C'tan is their inability to comprehend the Warp. It is speculated that they find it impossible to survive in it and are particularly susceptible as a result to Warp-spawned psychic and the psykers that wield it. It is also speculated that they have set up the networks of pylons on Cadia, with the likely intention of sealing off the local area of realspace (i.e. the galaxy) from the Immaterium. Whether these pylons have anything to do with the existence of the nearby Eye of Terror is unknown, but it is unlikely, as the Eye was not opened until long after the C'tan were already in their stasis tombs. There is also a Necron object of unknown purpose on the Hive World of Armageddon in the Equatorial Jungle regions of the planet.
- Black Crusade: Hand of Corruption (RPG), pg. 136
- Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition), pg. 83
- Codex Imperialis (2nd Edition), pg. 90
- Codex: Necrons (5th Edition), pp. 5-8, 40-41
- Codex: Necrons (3rd Edition), pp. 24-31
- White Dwarf 191 (UK), "The Necrons," pp. 49-53
- Mechanicum (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Apocalypse (6th Edition), pg. 174
- C'tan Shard of The Deceiver on Games Workshop Website
- C'tan Shard of The Nightbringer on Games Workshop Website