- "The scions of the Dark City would never admit that the unceasing hunger at their core is what drives them to such heights of cruelty. Instead they maintain that they act only upon their own desires. Some have even managed to convince themselves of this. In truth, unless our cousins in the Webway feed upon a constant diet of extreme emotion they will slowly wither away, leaving naught but a soulless husk. We of the Craftworlds deny all such urges, and in doing so become less than ourselves. Perhaps it is those that we left to perish who are the lucky ones."
- — Spiritseer Iyanna Arienal, Meditations
Commorragh, the Dark City, is the massive city-state within the Eldar Webway that is the primary home of the Dark Eldar race. It is said to be impossible for outsiders to find, and anarchy and terrorism are a well-established way of life for its debased inhabitants. It is widely believed to be hidden deep within the inter-dimensional labyrinth known as the Webway, described by the Eldar as a "dark stain" growing within their holy pathways. It is a city known to have "wandering shadows that tear apart the unwary" and is bathed in the crimson half-light of the Ilmaea, or "black suns," dying stars taken from realspace by the Eldar at the height of their technological prowess and installed within their own sub-realms within the Webway to provide Commorragh with light and power. In the final weeks of the 13th Black Crusade of Abaddon the Despoiler in 999.M41, the Eldar collapsed several Webway portals leading to Commorragh, isolating it from much of the rest of the Webway. Given the mutable nature of the Webway, however, the Dark Eldar can still use artificial Webway portals which are a part of their technological base to create temporary tunnels through the Warp to reach realspace. As a result they remain largely unaffected by their Craftworld cousins' actions.
Commorragh's origins date to the apex of the lost Eldar empire, millennia before Mankind even knew of the Eldar's existence. It does not exist in realspace, but in the Labyrinthine Dimension of the Webway. Yet the Webway is not a true dimension of its own. It has been described instead as a complex network of glowing tunnels through the Warp, a mystic tapestry of hidden threads that breach the veil between the Immaterium and realspace. These analogies are only crude approximations of the reality that the Webway is a physical construct created to span the dimensions that underlie the material realm. The Webway sits between the material universe and the hyperdimensional, psychically-reactive reality that is the Warp, a nexus comparable to the surface of a mirror or a thin piece of fabric cast over something foul and dangerous. The ancient Eldar discovered that it was possible to harness their advanced technology to exist within that reflective interdimensional surface and to move within the interlocking threads of that veil. The Eldar mastered the original Webway network, though it has changed greatly in the long millennia since the end of the Eldar empire, reshaped by the disaster that claimed so many Eldar souls. Moving between the dimensions is an activity that is always fraught with danger, but such is the skill and technological powess of the surviving Eldar that they still choose to do so without hesitation.
Though used by the Eldar, the Webway was originally forged by the ancient and immensely powerful species known as the Old Ones. They created its vast network of tunnels through the Immaterium millions of Terran years ago to allow them to travel at will to the far-flung worlds across the galaxy that served as their colonies, seed planets and research projects. The Webway allowed the Old Ones to enjoy near-instantaneous interstellar travel without risking exposure to the dangers of the Warp. Since the Fall of the Eldar, the Webway has become a shattered and extremely dangerous realm, its darkest corners infested by strange entities from the many different realities that comprise the Warp. Yet the Webway's myriad portals still allow the courageous and the malevolent to strike without warning at millions of locations in realspace throughout the Milky Way Galaxy.
Commorragh was originally the greatest of the Webway's portal-cities before the Fall and was intended to be used to transport a fleet to any of the homeworlds of the Eldar empire. Because of the access it could grant to even the most far-flung corners of the galaxy in realspace, Commorragh was held by the ancient Eldar to be the most important location within the entire Webway. Because of this intrinsic strategic value, it was not controlled by any of the dominant factions within the Eldar empire. Precisely because of its autonomy from the jurisdiction of the great Eldar councils that governed the empire, the city-port soon became a magnet for all those inhabitants of the Eldar civilisation who wished to hide from prying eyes. The realm of Commorragh rapidly expanded as all the wealth and influence of the great Eldar empire and its allies flowed into its coffers. It spread outward into the Webway's void, consuming the other port-cities, private estates and satellite realms of the Labyrinthine Dimension, growing ever larger and even more impressive off the plunder of ten thousand worlds.
The Satellite Realms
Beyond the runic wards that define the borders of Commorragh lie the tributary realms of the Dark Eldar, ancient vassal states of the Dark City dating back to the Fall. These are the hidden domains in which the Dark Eldar enact their vile rites and Machiavellian schemes. Their origins lie in the tumultuous times that preceded the Fall: as the Eldar empire's hedonistic cults of excess began to thrive, the private realms they maintained within the Webway flourished unseen until the largest of their number grew large enough to pose a threat to Commorragh itself. Over the course of its long history, the Dark City has absorbed all of the vassal domains that it has not destroyed outright, linking one massive sub-realm to another using ancient Webway portals and gates. Within the gilded corridors and flesh-pits of these myriad satellite realms cavort those debauched Eldar who are responsible for the fall of their own species. Despite all the terror and misery that has befallen the Eldar since the Fall, these self-absorbed hedonists still laugh at the warnings of their sober Craftworld counterparts.
The Dark City
- "Commorragh is a city like no other in the universe. It exists outside space and time in the unknowable depths of the Sea of Souls, the realm beyond our realm that idiot savants argue gave birth to all we know. Commorragh's makers, or rather architects as they would claim, did not fashion the city as one place. Rather, each of them used ways unimaginable to lesser beings to fashion their own secret enclaves out of the Immaterial Realm to serve as fortress, sanctum, pleasure palace or arena according to their whim. In time the hubris of these "architects" grew so great that they created something that breached the very walls between realms. As all crashed into ruins they fled to their enclaves like rats into their holes. In time, as they grew ever more fearful of the dreadful child they had sired together, those that survived the tempest strove to connect their realms. So steeped in torture and murder were they that they had no choice. They must do so to feed one upon another and whomever else they could bring beneath their hand. And so the eternal city was born."
- —Adept Xalinis Huo, Hereticus Majoris
In the deepest depths of the Webway lies Commorragh, the primary home of the Dark Eldar. It is often called the Dark City by those who fear even to speak its name. But Commorragh is no mere city as humans think of the term, since it makes even the largest of Mankind's Hive Cities seem to be no more than a termite mound in comparison to its mountainous bulk. Its dimensions would be considered outright impossible if Commorragh existed within the confines of the physical universe rather than the Webway. Commorragh is more like a vast, interlinked network of satellite Webway realms and cities linked by innumerable portals and hidden interdimensional pathways. In reality, the Dark City is a loose collection of far-flung Dark Eldar habitation nodes spread across the arteries of the Webway like a malignant cancer. Its nodal clusters are scattered at various points across the entire galaxy, thousands of actual light years apart. Yet these locations are linked together by shimmering interdimensional portals. As such, from the perspective within the Webway's confines, the immense distances between each of the different sub-realms of Commorragh can be crossed with but a single step, using the Labyrinthine Dimension's non-Euclidean physics to teleport seemingly instantaneously across the stars.
Commorragh appears within the Webway to be a composite urban centre on an impossibly vast scale, a hazy, contradictory realm whose dimensions can overawe the sanity of any who approach it. Thousands of starships dock each day at its spires, for the Dark Eldar are a far more numerous species than the Imperium of Man or even their own Craftworld kin fully suspect. Yet Commorragh plays host to more than just the Dark Eldar race. Many diverse species of alien mercenaries, bounty hunters and renegades all risk their souls to do business in Commorragh, hoping to claim just some of the riches to be had in the Dark City. The reaches of the interdimensional space around Commorragh are filled with the light-trails of spacecraft that pass between the Dark City and the Webway portals that surround it. Some of these gateways into realspace are small and dim, while those above the largest city-states of the realm are massive and can accommodate an entire pirate fleet with ease. A profusion of thorny dock-spurs juts from every spire and starscraper, holding Dark Eldar and other strangely-shaped xenos spacecraft fast in crackling violet beams of electromagnetic force.
At present, Commorragh is an almost-infinite nest of architectural impossibilities and spatial anomalies. Each of its estates has been overdeveloped to the point that their growth has been forced into the vertical plane, the various regions sprouting upwards like needle-plants fighting for sunlight. Each of the Dark City's spires and starscrapers is linked to its fellows by curved arches and gossamer-like buttresses. Its miles-tall aeries and palaces both reach upwards and downwards simultaneously, spiralling into the depths of the Webway's curved space-time. With every Terran year that passes, the hideous city seeks to spread out over more of the dimension that serves as its foundation.
Around the titanic central spires of the Dark City are the trading districts of the old Eldar empire. The lowliest of ports was once an architectural masterpiece millennia ago, but the ravages of civil war have not been kind. Low Commorragh now consists of a mixture of shattered ruins and scavenged former glories. Numerous dilapidated fortress complexes and barter-ports now spread out in every direction. The lesser Kabals riddle the extremities of the angular black spires with opportunistic growth. The labyrinthine depths of the outer zones are so congested that a traveller could travel for months on end without so much as a glimpse of a stolen sun. Many areas that have been twisted beyond recognition by the tremendous upheaval of the Fall are haunted by scavengers and spectres. Within the pitch-black catacombs of Low Commorragh there lurks far larger and uglier creatures than the Dark Eldar, for they are prowled by the lost, and the feral thrive there.
One could not possibly visit all the outer districts of Low Commorroagh in a single lifetime, for they are many and varied. Attempting to catalogue them would prove fatal, for the Dark Eldar are highly territorial and tend to kill intruders on sight. One such outer district is Hidden Blade, a crucially placed Kabalite stronghold that sticks out between Port Carmine and Nightsound Ghulen. Port Carmine is second only in violent reputation to the Port of Lost Souls. The immensely tall spires of the starport sprout outward for miles, each host to a fleet of ornate spacecraft. Port Carmine's central docks play host to the spectacle of two major Kabalite fleets at full anchor, the Slashed Eye Kabal and the bloodthirsty Stolen Conscience, locked in a never-ending struggle for dominance. Around Port Carmine lay the war-torn ruins known as the Sprawls. Their bleak streets play host to the Parched, cadaverous Dark Eldar that have fallen from grace and wound up on the fringes of their violent society. These wretches are drawn ravenously to a battle whenever one breaks out, vicariously experiencing the acts of extreme violence and drinking in the bloody spectacle to rejuvenate their wasted bodies. Occasionally they will drag an unfortunate soul who has been fatally wounded into the dark alleyways, where the Parched will fight one another over the scraps of the departing soul.
The Sprawls eventually give way to a network of atriums and chambers through which flow the toxic acid-green waterway known as the River Khaïdes. This polluted waterway winds around and through the outer districts of central Corespur, shrouded in subterranean darkness and wreathed in mist. Above the toxic surface of the foul river drift thin grav-craft bedecked in faded grandeur. The sorry hosts of these craft earn what little they can by hooking corpses from the Khaïdes and selling them as slave-food. These corpse-fishers often fall prey to Jetbikes and sky-chariots which streak through the air above the river at dizzying velocity, slashing apart the unfortunate victims in merciless contests of speed.
The mercenary district of Sec Maegra is found further coreward, and is more popularly known as Null City; a nation-sized shanty town permanently riven by civil war. The permanent smell of cordite hangs over the roofs of the shanties, and every few minutes fresh screams pierce the silence. The scorched streets resound with solid-shot gunfire and the crack-spit of Splinter Rifles at night, as negotiations and assassinations turn out badly. It is said that occasionally xenos mercenaries can be found stalking the streets of Null City. It is even rumoured that from time to time the most vicious of their number are called upon to serve the Kabals.
Inward to Core
Within the inner rings that surround the Dark City's core can be found the oldest noble houses. Descendants of the architects of the Fall live in massive mansions that are crested by citadels full of proud aristocratic warriors. Sorrow Fell, the largest of these city-states, can trace its lineage to the ancient Eldar. It surrounds a massive promontory that leads into the region known as Corespur. Thirteen screaming statues of Supreme Overlord Asdrubael Vect stand sentinel over Sorrow Fell, each representing one of the Foundations of Vengeance, serving as stark reminders that even the most powerful of the Dark Eldar noble houses was ultimately undone by raw intellect.
Aelindrach is one of the Dark City's ancient city-states that has literally fallen into shadow, existing in more than one dimension at once. Here amongst the velvet domes the dreaded Mandrakes make their lairs, bathing in the darkness. The outskirts of Aelindrach give way to the Bone Middens of the Wych Cults, a district buried under mounds of calciferous matter. Here can be found a massive ossuary of millions of skeletons, representative of each sentient species in existence, ranging in size from insects to massive colossi, positioned in grim tableaus and mock battles. They stand throughout the Middens as a testament to the Dark Eldar's status as the apex predator of the galaxy.
Beneath these inner districts are ranged the weapon and food factories of the city that are massive in scale. They spread outward and down into the lower spires underneath the Old City. Each year these factories ravenously consume millions of workers and slaves; Humans, Orks, Tau and even other Dark Eldar are amongst their number. Divisions of cruel taskmasters watch over their charges, each of which is locked in a murderous rivalry with their peers. The world beneath the Old City puts out prodigious output of war materiel, allowing the Dark Eldar war machine to wage its ceaseless war against all intelligent species in realspace. Without such labour performed on such a massive scale, the Dark City would soon be forced to feed upon itself.
The impossibly high structures of the Dark City's upper regions are the province of the warrior elites. Thousand-foot idols of Kabalite Archons and Dracons stand incomplete amongst the spiralling starscrapers that vanish beyond sight. Blood continuously drips down from the highest spires in squalls of red raid. Slaves are forced to crawl across the facias of titanic buildings, suspended in near-invisible webs as they labour to carve titanic likenesses of their cruel masters. Further toward the core, the central mass of towers, statues and spires forms a close-packed threatre for inter-Kabalite war. Mercenaries and armoured bounty hunters clad in segmented Ghostplate move steathily under the vaulted arches, stalking those with a high price on their heads.
The battleground that exists above the thickets of spires and towers plays host to the deadly world of the Scourges, terrifying aerial predators, as well as the lightning-fast Jetbike pilots who hunt them for sport. Though most of High Commorragh is controlled under the iron rule of the Kabalite masters, this volatile region is firmly under the control of these aerial apex predators. Those who dwell in the aeries of High Commorragh consider themselves blessed, and have little but contempt for those who fester in what they scornfully term, Ynnealidh, "the necropolis below." Further down into the murk of Commorragh lies the Middle Darkness, an area plagued by Hellion gangs. These skyboard-riding rebels fly through the foul air in great swarms that attack on sight. Though these gangs are known to be feral and wild, they are not adverse to allying with the Kabals for the right price when a realspace raid is in the offing.
Arenas of the Wych Cults
The Wych Cults of the Dark Eldar stage displays of ultraviolence in the massive areans built into their lofty citadels and razor-edged ziggurats, allowing the citizens of High Commorragh to feed upon the acts of wanton murder and killing refined to the level of an art form. These multi-level structures are clustered with barbed stages upon which thousands of warriors and slaves meet a gruesome end. The arena's spectators observe from ornate thrones or from anti-gravitic pleasure-craft, drinking in the pain from a thrillingly unsafe distance. Wyches are paragons of physical perfection, and the Syrens and Succubi that rule over them are supernaturally adept at the art of dealing death. The ruling Archons of the Kabals know that without the imaginative displays of killing put on in the Wych arenas, Dark Eldar society would soon collapse in order to slake its eternal thirst for suffering. This practice of feeding the populace of High Commorragh with regular displays of bloodletting is known amongst the Archons as Lith'antu Khlavh, "the knife that stays the blade."
Around the peaks of the Wych Houses are the toroid arenas, elaborately curved racetrack complexes famous for their death races. Cliques of elite Jetbike pilots known as Reavers take part in fighting battles at breakneck speeds around the curvilinear interior of each arena, hurtling past the ingenious traps and moving blades of each deathscape, careening into each other with their custom-bladed craft and mowing down those nearby with blasts from their sophisticated weaponry.
The Dwellers Beneath
The underworld that lies beneath Commorragh is an exceptionally dangerous place. It is the domain of the Haemonculi, a twisted brotherhood of torturers and monsters so ancient and thoroughly steeped in evil that their continued existence requires daily acts of indescribable torment. The seedy underside of Commorragh is host to almost as many edifices and spires as the top. Clustered together, these spires are often hollowed out by controlled acts of destruction in order to form cavernous lairs. Within these deadly complexes, the Haemonculi ply their trade, dealing body modification, fleshcrafting, drug distillation, and beauty elixirs. Often times, Haemonculi of similar bent are wont to form into Covens, which occupies a vast demesne of cells and laboratories under the core. Here they practise their vile experiments, torturing the unfortunates that fall into their clutches and savouring their endless torment and pain like a fine meal. Most Haemonculi Covens dwell at the bottom of spiral-edged pits underneath the Core. At the heart of each spiralling labyrinth, the eldest and most vile Haemonculi dwell at the heart, revelling in epic depravities of their own invention.
A Realm Unbound
This is but a fraction of the surreal sights and landscapes scattered throughout dread Commorragh. Across the Rift of Dead Hope, pillars of bone reach up to form a makeshift bridge into the Pale Fortress. In the City of Titans, enormous statues enact historic assassinations and coups with terrible inevitability. Vitreous Heap is filled to capacity with piles of glassened body parts, sorted into a landscape of limbs, torsos and heads, and in the bleak wilds of Iron Thorn the choking gut-clouds of the red smog bring the corpses of the cursed back to life. Cyclopean gates of crackling jade fire link one realm to another, guarded by the most vigilant warriors, and in Devil's Orchard noisome hanging gardens of grave-lotus sprout from a mosaic of the dead. There is no end to the depths of the Dark City, just as there is no end to the chilling depravity of its occupants.
Life in Commorragh
Asdrubael Vect, Archon of the Kabal of the Black Heart and the present overlord of the Dark City, once related to the human torture slave, Gideon, how the Dark Eldar arose and how Commorragh came to exist. Lord Vect made it clear that Commorragh exists within the Webway:
"It seemed there was but one way of escaping Her (the Chaos God Slaanesh, known as "She Who Thirsts" to the Eldar) and that was to flee our homes and leave the physical world behind forever. We came here, into the realm between worlds that we created to traverse the galaxy safe from harm. Here, the Great Enemy's grip is weakened, yet to our Lord's horror it was not wholly broken. He had bought his people time, a little instant of time but nothing more. Others followed him, each choosing a place for themselves, building new shrines and around them great palaces. Here, where you sit now, is one of the chambers of the original Temple of the Black Heart. You are very privileged, you know. Not many survive to get this far. Most of them break before they even reach the second level."
A quote from The Annals of Terror, penned by Lasko Pyre, posthumously pronounced a Heretic by the Inquisition, (but died by his own hand in 647.M34), describes Commorragh thusly:
"What can one say of Commorragh, the Dark City of the Eldar? It is the embodiment of anarchy and terror. It is fear, hatred and desperation incarnate. How long I was enslaved in that timeless city, I cannot say. There is no day or night, just an eternal twilight, an ever-present ruddy glow that bathes all living things in blood light. The air is filled with screams and cruel laughter. When they put out my eyes, my ears alone still conveyed that omnipresent aura of dread and loathing."
"They took great delight in telling us what tortures and agonies they had prepared, using dread-ridden anticipation as another means to increase our suffering. When the Masters deigned to speak to us, they bought arcane machines to translate their words; they would not sully their tongues with the language of others. Most of my fellow slaves fell beneath the blades and poisons of those tortures beyond compare; the Haemonculi. Sometimes a Succubus of the Wyches would come and take the fittest to battle against brutal creatures and skilled fighters in the death of arenas. Ten men at a time, great warriors amongst humanity, would face a lone gladiator. They stood no chance against the Wyches; who delighted in toying with their foe, slashing and cutting, darting to and fro, leaving a trickle of blood with every pass. No-one dies quickly in the Dark City."
"They prey upon each other as much as their captives. The great Kabals may hold power, but in the twisting alleys and dusk-shrouding corridors, allegiance is secondary to martial skill. To stray into the wrong territory is tantamount to suicide, running battles are fought every day, blood is spilt constantly. The ghastly Mandrakes are the worst, one wizened old slave told us. They stalk the shadows at will, plucking their victims from their homes, ambushing the unwary and slicing them to death with their claws. We were never truly imprisoned in the slave quarters, but it was clear that if we left, we would be at the mercy of the Dark City -- a barrier more effective than any amount of walls, fences and razorwire."
"They made no attempt to hide their deceitful ways, actually glorifying in treachery and betrayal. Assassination, murder and double-dealing are established ways of life to these decadents. Ownership of myself changed hands so many times that I was unsure who were my masters and who were their enemies. Some times I was stolen, other times I was traded for raw souls, given as a prize in the arena, or simply taken as a right of conquest."
"Life is worthless in the Dark City, only pain, misery and death have value. Others I saw, humans amongst them, who took to this depraved life with natural empathy. They bowed down to the Eldar and treated them as lords, in return for favours. It is claimed that the most promising are taken as apprentices by the Haemonculi. Most end up as twisted creatures in permanent agony, but others survive and learn, to be let free again into the outside world to spread their corrupt ways."
"The Hellions are a constant plague to all, they race through the winding streets, blades shimmering as they randomly lop off limbs and heads with wanton glee. They gather for insane races; goaded by each other they attempt death-defying feats of aerial skill. Many die, and when one of the Masters die others quickly gather to feed upon the escaping soul. They fight each other, bite and claw if they have no weapons, to partake of that precious essence."
"My escape was miraculous; the Emperor must have rewarded my undying faith in those times. However, though I am physically free, my body bears the scars; the many, many scars. Every breath takes me to a new plane of agony, every heartbeat sets my jagged nerves with writhing pain. I cannot see. I cannot speak. Most horrid of all, I cannot forget. Nightmares and waking visions plague me, the drip of my own blood, the cries of anguish haunt me."
"No-one escapes the Dark City."
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition), pp. 8-13, 20
- Codex: Dark Eldar (3rd Edition), p. 45
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 208
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition), pp. 176-177
- The Torturer's Tale (Short Story) by Gav Thorpe