The C'tan or Necron 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 have thus 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, will 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.
Birth of 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 Old Ones
Just as the stars gave birth to their children so the planets of the newborn galaxy eventually gave birth to lifeforms composed of matter which began the long evolutionary climb to self-awareness. The first sentient beings of the Milky Way Galaxy known to have developed a civilisation technologically advanced enough to cross the stars was a reptilian race of beings called the Old Ones by the Eldar, who knew them best amongst the Younger Races. They possessed a slow, cold-blooded, but still deep wisdom, having long studied the stars and raised astronomy and physics to such a level that their science and technology appear to humanity like an arcane art. Their understanding of the workings of the universe were such that they could manipulate alternate dimensions and undertake great works of psychic engineering. Their science allowed them to cross the vast gulfs of space with only a single step through the myriad Warp Gates they built to connect the worlds of the galaxy in a vast network much like the Eldar Webway of today, though on a much larger scale. The Old Ones spread their spawn to many places in the galaxy, but they also knew that all life was precious. Where they passed, they seeded new intelligent species and reshaped thousands of worlds to make them their own according to their predetermined environmental and geographic criteria. It is believed by some in the Adeptus Mechanicus that even Terra felt the Old Ones' sculpting touch long before humanity's rise to self-awareness, though this notion is considered heretical at best by the Ecclesiarchy, as the Imperial Creed teaches that Mankind was made in the image of the God-Emperor before his spirit was incarnated in physical flesh millennia ago.
The Old Ones' civilisation reached its height in excess of 60 million years ago. The Old Ones were responsible for the creation or genetic advancement of most of the currently active intelligent species of the galaxy, including the Eldar, the Krork (the Orks' precursors), the Slann and the Jokaero, though it is unknown if they played any role in the evolution of humanity. The Old Ones were potent psychics who routinely used the powers of the Warp for a wide variety of technological applications. The Old Ones constructed a system of instantaneous faster-than-light portals through Warpspace that were ultimately adapted to create the Eldar's Webway (and was its more advanced precursor). These portals connected all of the Old Ones' colony worlds across vast swathes of interstellar space.
As the Old Ones spread across the galaxy, younger, fiercer intelligent races struggled upwards in their wake. The Necrontyr were one such species, born on a world scourged by an unstable star that drove their evolution forward with atomic winds, solar flares and plasma storms. What little information the Imperium has 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 ionizing 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. On the Necrontyr homeworld, the greatest monuments were always built for the dead, never the living. 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, sub-light, antimatter-powered torch-ships that were clad in the living metal known as necrodermis to resist the hazards of their millennia-long journeys through the void, the Necrontyr began to colonise distant worlds. Sometime during their slow expansion, the Necrontyr encountered the Old Ones. 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. As their surprise turned to jealousy and then hardened into hatred, the Necrontyr turned their entire civilisation towards destroying the Old Ones and all of their spawn across the galaxy.
The War in Heaven
The terrible wars between the Old Ones and the Necrontyr that followed, known in Eldar Mythology 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 milllennia 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.
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 discovered 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 had long worshipped.
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 or even the Eldar. Understanding that such diffuse minds could never perceive the material universe without manifesting themselves in a material form, the Necrontyr forged 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 electromagentic force shifting across space as the star vampires coiled into their new bodies in the physical realm across an incorporeal bridge of starlight.
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.
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 worshipped as the Star Gods the Necrontyr had previously 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.
The Rise of the Necrons
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 diseased flesh. Whether the Necrontyr actually realised the price they would actually pay for accepting this pact with the C'tan is not known, but their species was utterly purged, their essences fused with the robotic necrodermis bodies their scientists had crafted through the power of the C'tan. 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, 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. 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
The C'tan 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, Cegorach, 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 entire 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 were believed to be the earliest members of the Eldar species and many other xenos races, including the Rashan, the K'nib and 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 paterns 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 remaining 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 maelstroms 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 a 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 daemonic entities of the Warp from spreading to uncorrupted worlds and the 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.
The C'tan and Necrons Entombed
The Necrons had been vindicated in their pursuit only of science and control over the material realm and certainly took pleasure in seeing the Old Ones' civilisation collapse as a result of their over-indulgence of psychic power. Unfortunately, it seemed that the last of their own masters' food supply would be lost along with it. The C'tan, however, had a solution to even this catastrophe as a result of their immortal perception of the passage of time. They would allow the Enslavers to take what was left of the sentient life in the galaxy and let it become an interstellar wasteland; the psyker swarm would then die away and in time the galaxy would evolve new lifeforms for the C'tan to consume. It would take millions of years, but what mattered is that they and their Necron servants would be there to take advantage of it.
The C'tan chose to escape the great catastrophe that was coming by descending into Necron stasis-tombs that would be sealed for tens of millions of Terran years. Their machine slaves and Necron warriors would guard them while they slept on Tomb Worlds purged of all life to keep the Enslavers from their door. Only when they were disturbed by a sentient species with the correct physical characteristics that would allow them to be both mastered and consumed as the Necrontyr had been would the Star Gods reemerge into the galaxy. This plan worked with an amazing degree of success until the Necrons were awakened by the forces of the Imperium of Man in the late 41st Millennium to plague the galaxy once more. By that time, only two of the C'tan emerged. They discovered a new and unexpected age of interstellar civilisation and war much like the one they had left behind 65 million years ago. The galaxy is blossoming with life once more but is still overrun with latent psykers and worshippers of the infernal Chaotic Warp energies unleashed during the War in Heaven. It will take time and a great many machinations for the C'tan to regain their rightful places as the rulers of the galaxy; the agents of Chaos must be overthrown; the dangerous Eldar, inheritors of the Old Ones' mantle, eliminated; the great work cutting off the material universe from the Warp completed on Cadia and Mankind subjugated like the Necrontyr before a new age of red harvests can truly begin. But the C'tan and the Necrons are ageless and undying, their technology is still unmatched by any of the Younger Races and time is always on their side...
- 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 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 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 Labrynthus. 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 it's warriors were nigh invincible.
- The Burning One - Since the ancient race known as the Necrons have awakened from their millennia-long slumber, the C'tan known as Nyadra'zatha, the Burning One, who has long desired to carry his eldritch fires into the Webway and beyond, has finally enabled the Necrons to gain access to the Webway, 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 against them, vastly accelerating the end of the Necrons' long War in Heaven. 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.
Other C'tan Shards
- Kalugara - A piece of an ancient god trapped in a body of living metal, the C'tan Shard is a horrific engine of destruction. This particular C'tan Shard was entombed on Kalugura aeons ago, possibly at the command of the Silent King, then the supreme overlord of the Necron race.
- Og'driada, the Arisen
- 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 is currently imprisoned in a Dyson Sphere beneath the galactic plane. The Eldar Harlequins (followers of the Laughing God) whisper that "one dark night, it shall return."
- Yggra'nya, the Shaper
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), pg. 7
- Codex: Necrons (3rd Edition), pp. 24-31
- White Dwarf 191 (UK), "The Necrons," pp. 49-53
- Mechanicum (Novel)