The Howling Banshees are the all-female Eldar Aspect Warriors who specialise in highly mobile melee combat and represent the Eldar War God Khaela Mensha Khaine's ability to instill fear in his foes. The banshee is a harbinger of woe and death in Eldar Mythology. Their cry is said to herald ill fate and can even wrench a soul from its Spirit Stone. It is fitting that these most feared of all the Eldar Aspect Warriors draw their inspiration from this creature. These lightly-equipped warrior-women are fearsome melee combat specialists who draw their inspiration from the unearthly creature with which they share a name. What the Howling Banshees lack in brute strength they make up for with their uncanny and inhuman precision and efficiency. The piercing warcry of these Aspect Warriors has heralded the coming doom of countless enemies of the Eldar people.
According to the tales of Eldar Mythology, the spectral creatures known as banshees are the harbingers of grief and death. It is said that their cry heralds misfortune and the certainty of coming death, and calls forth dead spirits from the Warp. Even worse from the Eldar point of view, are those stories which claim that a banshee's cry may even call the spirits of the dead out from the safety of their Spirit Stones and thus lure them into the waiting embrace of Slaanesh, "She Who Thirsts." What is known is that the release of an Eldar spirit into the Warp is always accompanied by a terrible shriek, one which is felt by the soul rather than heard, and that Eldar spirits have been known to disperse unexpectedly into the Immaterium during the transference between Spirit Stones or even from a Spirit Stone into a Craftworld's Infinity Circuit.
Legend says that the Howling Banshees Aspect was first created when the Eldar Crone Goddess Morai-Heg desired the knowledge contained within her own divine blood and to this end sent her daughters, the banshees, to haunt their father, the War God Kaela Mensha Khaine, as he was the only being capable of harming another God. Seeking to end the torment caused by the banshees' constant wailing, Khaine decided to grant Morai-Heg her wish and severed her hand, which allowed her to drink the knowledge contained within her own blood.
In exchange for his help, Khaine was granted the Howling Banshee Aspect and thus it came into being after the Fall of the Eldar when the first Aspect Warriors were raised on the Craftworlds. As such, it is only fitting that the Howling Banshees are perhaps the most feared of all of the Aspect Warriors, since their spiritual ancestors tortured even Khaine. When the Phoenix Lord Asurmen raised the first Aspect Warriors, he selected the warrior Jain Zar for her ferocity and speed, whereupon she became the first of her race to lose herself upon the Path of the Warrior and become an Exarch, and then she became the Howling Banshee Phoenix Lord. Of all the Phoenix Lords, Jain Zar is the most devoted to her Aspect Shrines, travelling the Webway to spread and nurture her Aspect's teachings on every Craftworld within reach.
In 838.M41 in the campaign that became known as the Pyre of Kiliak's Bane, Imperial xenologists began to plunder buried Eldar artefacts on the Maiden World of Kiliak, bringing about a devastating retaliatory assault from the nearby Craftworlds of Biel-Tan and Ulthwé. A sighting of the Phoenix Lord Jain Zar, accompanied by one hundred of her Howling Banshee disciples, was confirmed before the entire Imperial force was slaughtered and incinerated, their ashes scattered to the winds in retribution for their assault upon the Eldar's lost patrimony.
A notable exception in the otherwise genderless meritocracy that is the society of the Craftworld Eldar, the Howling Banshees are almost always female. This is because the banshees of Eldar legend, the daughters of the Crone Goddess Morai-Heg, are themselves always female spirits. However, it is possible for Eldar males to walk the Path of the Howling Banshee, though this is extraordinarily rare due to the lack of the needed psychological and physical assets amongst most males. However, there do exist several males amongst the ranks of the Banshees, often Autarchs pausing on their advance along the Path of Command in order to master yet another aspect of Khaine. These often unique individuals are welcomed equally into the Aspect by their sisters-in-arms as long as they prove able to master the varied demands of the Aspect.
Fast and athletic, the Aspect of the Howling Banshee emphasises swiftness of foot and the importance of mobility in hand-to-hand combat when training their Aspect Warriors. Howling Banshee Aspect Armour is coloured bone-white and contrasts sharply with the flaming shock of orange hair that marks each Aspect Warrior. Howling Banshees are swift and athletic Eldar warriors who specialise in deadly hand-to-hand fighting. Howling Banshees wear armoured helmets called Banshee Masks that contain psychosonic amplifiers which magnify their keening battle screams into mind-destroying shock waves. The forces unleashed by the Banshee Mask can inflict severe damage to the central nervous system of a Banshee's foe; inspiring a feeling of mortal terror and causing momentary paralysis to take hold over a victim's body. A full squad of Banshees activating their masks in unison can cripple an enemy unit before a single blow is struck, leaving them paralysed and helpless before their onslaught.
Howling Banshees each utilise a Shuriken Pistol and an Eldar Power Sword in combat. This armament enables them to carve through even the toughest of enemy armour. Skillful use of their pistol can also eliminate vulnerable targets whilst their blade brings down heavily armoured foes such as Space Marines. Exarchs of the Howling Banshees Aspect Shrine can wield a deadly pair of Mirrorswords or the dreaded Executioner, a potent, powered polearm.
Howling Banshees operate in squads of five to ten warriors, and these squads are sometimes lead by their Exarch. While capable of extraordinarily rapid transit on foot, these squads may also make use of Wave Serpent transports to move to their destinations even more rapidly.
Notable Howling Banshees ShrinesEdit
- The Crimson Scream Shrine
- The Ebon Witch Shrine - A notable shrine that wears black bodysuits instead of the usual red and bone of their Aspect.
- The Shrieking Blade Shrine - The Exarchs of this shrine favour the use of Mirrorswords in battle.
Howling Banshees ExarchsEdit
An Eldar Exarch is the leader of an Aspect Shrine. An Exarch has traveled so far down the Path of the Warrior that he or she can no longer leave it and so dedicates him or herself fully as a high priest of Khaine in service to the Aspect of the War God that he or she represents. Exarchs wear more elaborate and ornate versions of Aspect Armour which incorporates the spirits of their past wearers, granting an Exarch not only wisdom and knowledge stretching across the millennia but a raw pool of potent psychic energy that can be used in combat.
Under the guidance of their female Exarch, a squad of Howling Banshees are acrobatic warriors, leaping and bounding into combat with deadly grace, while the psychosonic war shout delivered by an Exarch's Banshee Mask is even more devastating to the foe than the normal piercing cry of the Howling Banshees. Instead of a normal Eldar Power Weapon, some Howling Banshees Exarchs will wield an Executioner or Triskele, while others will replace both Power Weapon and Shuriken Pistol for twin Mirrorswords, practicing an arcane and ancient form of Eldar swordplay that allows the Exarch to maximise her inhuman close combat abilities with the blades and make her one of the deadliest melee warriors in the galaxy.
The Phoenix Lord of the Howling Banshees is Jain Zar, "the Storm of Silence." In the time after the Fall of the Eldar, she was the first warrior of her race chosen to serve at the side of the first Phoenix Lord, Asurmen, and the first to become an Exarch, those Eldar who can never leave the Path of the Warrior for they can never take off the war mask of Khaine. Jain Zar travelled the Webway after her time with Asurmen, teaching her skills to the rest of the Eldar, and leading others along the Warrior Path. Soon there were shrines to the Howling Banshees on all the large Craftworlds, and many Howling Banshees Exarchs to teach the warrior skills of Jain Zar to future generations. Of all the Phoenix Lords, Jain Zar is the most devoted to the shrines of the Warrior Aspects throughout the Craftworlds. She travels the Webway, visiting the shrines and nurturing her spiritual descendants. An acrobat at heart like the Harlequin, Jain Zar (which translates into Low Gothic from the Eldar Lexicon as "The Storm of Silence") is the fastest of all the Phoenix Lords save for Baharroth, the Phoenix Lord of the Swooping Hawks. Jain Zar still travels the labyrinthine corridors of the Webway, spreading her particular martial knowledge to all but the most remote of the Eldar Craftworlds. Although she is known to disappear for entire standard centuries at a time, she always returns, and the shrines of the Howling Banshees maintain a constant vigil in preparation for her coming.
Howling Banshee WargearEdit
- Aspect Armour - Like other Eldar Aspects, Howling Banshees wear lightweight synthetic bodysuits, reinforced with plates of psycho-sensitive bioplastics that will instantly harden to resist impacts. Those plates can also morph their shape in accordance with the wearer's movements, meaning the armour does not encumber the wearer in the slightest, affording both good protection with excellent mobility. The reinforced breastplate of the Aspect Warrior's armour bears her Spirit Stone, a precious item for all Eldar. This psycho-receptive gem is attuned to the individual so that at the moment of death, when the Eldar's psychic spirit is released, it is captured instead within the stone. Otherwise it is believed by the Eldar that the spirit would be released into the Warp, where the Chaos God Slaanesh, "She Who Thirsts," awaits to consume it. Contrary to popular belief, the small domes and blisters on the Howling Banshees' Aspect Armour are not extra gems, but small compartments that contain the suit's technical systems. A tabard or pennant is a common addition to the Howling Banshees' Aspect Armour. Its runic inscriptions name the shrine for which the Aspect Warrior is fighting and identifies the shrine's allegiance to its particular Craftworld. Regardless of a shrine's Craftworld of origin, the Aspect's colour scheme is usually bone white and flaming red. The red proclaims the Howling Banshees' ferocity and the burning passion that defines their variant of the Warrior Path. The bone white colour symbolises the eternal death the spirit of the Banshee brings to the foes of the Eldar.
- Aspect Helmet (Banshee Mask) - Each Warrior Aspect has its own distinctive helmet, and within each shrine the helmet may vary in form slightly, with correspondingly more elaborate versions for the shrine's Exarchs. A standard Howling Banshees Aspect Warrior's Banshee Mask is tall with their long flowing hair spilling from the top of it like a lion's mane. Their distinctive Banshee Masks contain psychosonic aplifiers that magnify their keening battle screams into mind-destroying shockwaves. This inflicts severe damage to the central nervous system of the Eldar warrior's foe, inspiring feeling of mortal terror and causing momentary paralysis. By custom, it is this helmet that marks the Aspect Warriors as the protectors and avengers of their Craftworld. It bears the Howling Banshees Aspect rune traced upon its forehead.
- Shuriken Pistol - Shuriken Pistols are graceful dealers of death that use sophisticated gravity accelerators to hurl volleys of miniature razor disks to literally slice their victims apart in seconds. Shuriken weapons use solid core ammunition which Imperial technology cannot replicate. When fired, a shuriken pistol unleashes a hail of razor-sharp monomolecular discs known as shuriken.
- Power Sword - Howling Banshees often fight with a Power Sword, capitalising on their swift and athletic capabilities, for they are deadly hand-to-hand fighters. What the Howling Banshees lack in brute strength they make up for in precision and efficiency, their shimmering Power Swords slicing through armour, flesh and bone with equal ease.
- Executioner - Howling Banshees Exarchs utilise a Power Glaive known as an Executioner which is capable of slicing an opponent in half with a single blow.
- Mirror Sword - Some Howling Banshee Exarchs have mastered a deadly ambidextrous sword-form that uses a pair of Power Weapons known as Mirrorswords.
- Triskele - A Triskele is a deadly ranged weapon composed of three blades that can be thrown in a great coruscating arc that slices through anything in its path. A unique version of this weapon, the Jainas Mor ("Silent Death"), is utilised by the Howling Banshees' Phoenix Lord, Jain Zar.
- Codex: Eldar (6th Edition), pg. 32
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition), pp. 31, 63
- Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition), pg. 10
- Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition), pp. 9, 12, 86
- Path of the Warrior (Novel) by Gavin Thorpe, pg. 160
- Planetstrike (5th Edition), pg. 55
- Rogue Trader: The Koronus Bestiary (RPG), pg. 51
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition), pg. 157
- Warhammer 40,000 Munitorum: Banshee Mask (Digital Edition)
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