- "Blood Runs...Anger Rises...Death Wakes, War Calls!"
- — Eldar Battle-Chant to Khaine the Bloody-Handed God
Kaela Mensha Khaine is the the Eldar God of War in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and the Elven God of War in the Warhammer Fantasy universe. In Warhammer Fantasy, his name is spelt Khaela Mensha Khaine. Khaine is one of the only two surviving Gods of the Eldar. In the old Eldar pantheon, he was second only to the Phoenix King Asuryan himself in power, and was often shown as the enemy of the God of Smiths and Crafting, Vaul. He is also the most violent and reckless of the gods. Asuryan was so appalled by his murder of Eldanesh, a mortal Eldar, that he cursed Khaine and made his hands drip eternally with the blood of Eldanesh so that all would remember what he had done.
Khaine is the God of the Eldar associated with battle, war and conflict. Many scholars believe him to be a manifestation of the Eldar's racial passion as manifested in battle and warfare. "Kaela Mensha" is not technically part of Khaine's name, but is actually a title he bears. It roughly translates from the Eldar Lexicon as "bloody-handed", a reference to the blood which eternally drips from his hands as a reminder of his murder of the ancient Eldar hero, Eldanesh.
During the War in Heaven between the Old Ones and the Necrons millions of Terran years ago, Khaine fought and defeated the C'tan known as the Nightbringer, shattering his necrodermis, although the resulting metal shards pierced his flesh, tainting his form with "the aspect of the Reaper." It is also said that this event precipitated the eventual fall of the Eldar: The Nightbringer planted the fear of death within all mortal creatures except the Orks, which furthered their survivalist emotions. In the depths of the Warp, beings created during the turmoil of the War in Heaven would feast on these feelings and grow to sentience, setting into motion a chain of events that would close the Path of Rebirth for Eldar souls forever.
Khaine is one of the three surviving gods of the Eldar. In the old pantheon, he was second only to Asuryan himself in power, and was often shown as the enemy of Vaul. He is also the most violent and reckless of the gods. Asuryan was so appalled by his murder of Eldanesh, a mortal, that he cursed Khaine and made his hands drip eternally with the blood of Eldanesh so that everyone would remember what he had done.
Khaine is also believed to have been assaulted, defeated, and dominated by Slaanesh sometime after Slaanesh's awakening in the 30th Millennium of the Imperial Calendar following the Fall of the Eldar. Following this, Khorne, the Chaos God of war and murder, battled Slaanesh for Khaine, rightly claiming the Eldar deity as his property since they represented the same metaphysical forces. During the struggle between the Chaos Gods, Khaine was driven into the material world, where his psychic core shattered into a thousand pieces. Each piece came to rest at the heart of an Eldar Craftworld, where it hibernated within the Craftworld's Infinity Circuit, but could be animated again to possess an Eldar body and go to war when needed by the Craftworld. By sacrificing an Exarch to Khaine on the eve of battle, this newborn Avatar of Khaine becomes a fiery, animated manifestation of the God, including the blood dripping from his hand, and the Avatar leads the Eldar army of that Craftworld into battle.
Khaine's precise nature in the Eldar cosmology is not defined, although due to his interaction with the Chaos Gods, he appears to be an entity of the Warp, although as a servant of Order rather than Chaos. Recent information acquired by the Imperium implies that Khaine and the rest of the Eldar Gods may have been members of the first sentient species in the galaxy known to the Eldar as "the Ancients" and to the Imperium as the Old Ones, who were the creators of the Eldar and many of the other intelligent species of the galaxy. Some Imperial savants believe that the Eldar Gods' mythological roles were then assigned to them in later eras by the Eldar as an expression of that species' culture and psychological needs. But the Eldar themselves insist that their Gods were real and are not simply mythological expressions of the role played by their ancient creators.
War in Heaven
In Eldar Mythology, it was Isha who had inspired the creation of Asuryan's barrier between mortals and their gods, as she had wept over the destruction that Khaine, as the God of War and Murder, was causing amongst her children. It is also said that the first Spirit Stones were crafted from her tears so that the Gods and mortals would be able to communicate with each other once more through the barrier erected between the Immaterium and the Materium. One of these stones was given to Isha and the rest were handed over to the Eldar so that their prayers might be heard. When Asuryan learned that his directive that the Gods were to have no further contact with mortals had been violated, he gave Isha and her husband, Kurnous, to Khaine to do with as he wished. Khaine tortured the two of them in a burning pit until Vaul, the Eldar God of Crafting who was Isha and Kurnous' uncle and was moved by their plight, struck a bargain with the War God to craft 100 enchanted swords, the Blades of Vaul, for him in one's year's time. In exchange, Khaine promised to release his fellow Gods from their prison in his realm.
The Smith God worked long and hard at this task, and managed to forge all of the blades by the deadline except for the last one, which lay unfinished on his anvil. In order to trick Khaine, Vaul substituted the last blade with a mortal one which he delivered to the War God, who released his two captives. The three Gods quickly departed. But Khaine was quick to discover the subterfuge and cried out in rage. He called the Smith God a cheat and vowed revenge. He immediately set off to track Vaul down and make him pay. The conflict that followed, known as the War in Heaven, polarised the Gods, as Khaine's faction and Vaul's faction engaged in bloody warfare for an eternity. Gods changed sides, great deeds of heroism and of terrible evil were performed by both factions, and the war was mirrored in an internecine struggle between the Eldar in the mortal realm. Asuryan himself never took a side, watching the carnage impassively, slowly coming to regret his impetuosity in sentencing Isha and Kurnous to Khaine's tender mercies.
Vaul reforged the final sword, the one that he had failed to finish for Khaine, the greatest of all, and called it Anaris. Armed with this weapon, Vaul strode forth to do battle with Khaine. It was a long, hard-fought struggle, but even with Anaris, Vaul was no match for the War God. Khaine cast down Vaul, maiming the smith, and bound Vaul to his own anvil.
However, the falcon, Faolchú, consort of the Great Hawk, who had fought for Vaul, took the sword Anaris and delivered it to Eldanesh, the greatest warrior and leader of the mortal Eldar. With Anaris in hand, Eldanesh of the Red Moon took up the fight and faced Khaine in single combat. Eldanesh fought well, but in the end he too was defeated by Khaine, his body crushed by the God of War. As Khaine slew Eldanesh, his hands began to drip with red blood. Forever after he was to become known as Khaela Mensha Khaine, which means "Khaine the Bloody-Handed" in the Eldar Lexicon. By this time, Asuryan, the greatest of the Eldar Gods, had seen enough of the slaughter and proclaimed the War in Heaven over. Khaine had gained his vengeance and left the field satisfied.
Within the Warhammer Fantasy universe Khaine is worshipped primarily by the Dark Elves and the High Elves. However, in this instance his full title is Khaela Mensha Khaine, with an 'h' that is not present in the Eldar rendering of his name; the meaning of "Khaela Mensha" remains the same.
The High Elves worship Khaine as a god of battle, similar to his Eldar incarnation. He is primarily worshiped during times of war, as he is seen to be a bloodthirsty deity and worship of him during peacetime is not considered appropriate. Khaine had a strong influence on the formative period of the High Elven kingdom, as the first Phoenix King, Aenarion, drew Khaine's sword to save the High Elves during their first war with Chaos. By drawing the sword, Aenarion became a living avatar of the God of War and brought down a great curse upon himself and his family. This curse still affects the current heirs of Aenarion's legacy, the twins Tyrion and Teclis.
Khaine as he is worshiped by the Dark Elves is described as a god of murder. This suits the harsh society of Dark Elves, who view any sign of weakness as a fatal flaw. Holidays dedicated to Khaine, such as the Harvest of Souls and Death Night, invariably involve killing. Fueled by the social Darwinism of Dark Elf culture, devotees of Khaine elevate killing to an art form and will gladly kill anyone — friend or foe — who displays vulnerability.
The primary Temple of Khaine resides in the fortress city of Har Ganeth in Naggaroth. It is a seat of great power, as the worship of Khaine is the official Dark Elf state religion. Morathi (the Queen Mother) and Crone Hellebron (the High Priestess of the temple) both claim supreme dominance of the temple, which often leads to conflicts. This power struggle is kept in check by Malekith, the Witch King of the Dark Elves.
It has been implied that Khaine is the Chaos God Khorne by another name, or possibly a minor aspect of Khorne who has gained his own consciousness. This is vehemently disputed by both the Dark Elves, who see Khorne as a crude brute in comparison to the refinement and subtlety that defines their god of murder, and most human worshipers of Khaine, who consider their god to be an independent being.
Among the humans of the Old World, Khaine is seen as the younger brother of Morr, the God of the Dead, and he is worshiped as the Lord of Murder by assassins and other professional killers. It is said that Khaine is jealous of Morr's rulership over the dead, and thus also over death. Therefore he tries to steal as many souls as possible to fill out his own underworld. It is from this realm of death that some human necromancers call forth the souls that they enslave. Khaine can only steal souls that that have been directly sacrificed to him or have not received proper burial rites and are thus unprotected by Morr.
- Codex: Craftworld Eldar (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition)
- Liber Chaotica (2nd Edition)
- Rogue Trader: The Koronus Bestiary (RPG), pp. 62-65
- Warhammer 40,000: Compilation, "The Eldar Path"
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (2nd Edition) (RPG)
- Xenology (Background Book)