- "There is no safety in the darkness, my doomed darling, only pain. Come embrace me, and I will show you…"
- — Aestra Khromys, Archon of the Obsidian Rose
A Shadow Field is an arcane Dark Eldar device that creates a defence that is virtually impossible to pierce. Projecting a dark miasma of energy around the wearer, the field is proof against almost any attack, and the warrior within cannot be easily targeted. However, should one manage to penetrate this miasmic aura, the field’s instability causes it to collapse almost immediately.
The workings of a Shadow Field, and the locus that creates it, are indistinguishable from magic to all save the most skilled Commorite artisans. A Shadow Field locus has no obvious mechanical components, and no trigger mechanism. The bearer must will the device into life, and few races other than the Eldar have the strength of mind to do so.
No two Shadow Field loci are exactly the same. One might be an amulet, another a ring. Sometimes the locus is built into another artefact, such as a vambrace, or the pommel of a sword. Regardless of appearance, however, a Shadow Field locus always contains a black crystal known to the Eldar as nisariel in the Eldar Lexicon. This name roughly translates to ‘devourer of the waking light’. It is an appellation well given, for a nisariel crystal drains all light from its immediate vicinity, and leaves only darkness. This is no ordinary gloom, but a shadow-veil possessing an almost tangible presence. Even if an enemy can make out the bearer’s form within the shroud, shots from energy weapons dissipate within the shadow, and physical projectiles lose all momentum. It is said that some Shadow Fields -- those generated by larger crystals -- could be manipulated by the wielder, and directed to strangle or smother his enemies.
Shadow Fields date from the hedonistic years prior to the Fall. In those days, the Webway was a grander structure than the shattered tangle it has since become, but even then there were dark places half-in, half-out of the benighted Aelindrach. It was from here that nisariel crystals were harvested, shorn from the walls of collapsing paths. As a result of their unique genesis, nisariel crystals are essentially shards of universal fundament; they are incredibly hardy and almost impossible to destroy. That said, a sudden flare of energy can sate the crystal’s appetite for energy, temporarily dispelling the Shadow Field it generates and leaving the bearer without protection.
Many pre-Fall Eldar profited from their kinsfolk’s descent into debasement, but none more so than Drael Malcorvin, an information broker and spymaster. He knew every secret, every weakness, and he knew how they could be exploited. Malcorvin never acted personally in these matters, of course, for his actions had made him many enemies. Instead, he left such interdictions to his agents. These were known as sendrikhlavh, or Nightblades, for each bore darkness as both weapon and cloak. Protected by Shadow Fields of Malcorvin’s design, the Nightblades spread across the Eldar Empire and deep into the barbarous space beyond. Some of the sendrikhlavh were too ambitious to be truly trusted. However, those who betrayed Malcorvin quickly learned that their master had kept a few secrets of the Shadow Fields to himself. Such was Malcorvin’s will that he could command a Shadow Field to collapse, no matter how distant from him the bearer was. Thus did many a traitor meet his end as his cloak of darkness slipped away leaving them defenceless.
For centuries, Malcorvin sat at the centre of a web of intrigue and influence, a shadow empire whose darkness corrupted all it touched. By the time of the Fall, at least a thousand worlds lay under his direct control, and it is impossible to say how many others were so thoroughly infiltrated by his agents that only a veneer of independence remained. He did not do it for riches or ostentatious power, for he preferred the challenge of manipulating events from behind the scenes, plucking at the strings of his web until they made a tune pleasing to him. Then one day, Malcorvin disappeared. Perhaps he saw the looming danger of the Fall, perhaps he simply sought a new challenge. No one knows. Whatever the reason for Malcorvin’s absence, the sendrikhlavh quickly fell to fighting amongst themselves, and the shadow empire collapsed.
Many of Malcorvin's Shadow Field loci endured where the sendrikhlavh did not. Eventually, they found their way into the auction-markets of Commorragh, where they were reworked into new and more splendid forms. To this day, many of the Archons are ignorant of the history of the gems they wear, revelling only in the protection that they offer. A few still know the stories of Malcorvin, and employ their Shadow Fields warily -- though none of them will admit it, Malcorvin casts a long shadow, even millennia after his disappearance. Venture deep enough into Low Commorragh’s dark alleys and you will hear tales of how Malcorvin is not as dead as some may think, and that he dwells in a tower of nightmares, deep in the Webway. If this is true, if Malcorvin escaped the horrors of the Fall and endured through the millennia that followed, then it must have been for some dire purpose, and it can only be a matter of time before he emerges from the shadows. On that day, those who bear his Shadow Fields may discover there is a price for the protection they offer, a price they may not be willing to pay…
Dark Eldar ships are not protected by the vast energy shields which surround the vessels of other races, but rather employ the form-altering Shadow Fields. These create an eerie and uncertain fog around Dark Eldar vessels through which little information can be ascertained. Pinpointing the exact location or speed of a Dark Eldar vessel behind Shadow Fields can prove very tricky indeed.
- Battlefleet Gothic Armada, pg. 53
- Codex: Dark Eldar (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pg. 225
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition), pg. 62
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition), pg. 15
- Rogue Trader: Dark Kin (RPG), pg. 115
- Warhammer 40,000: Munitorum - Shadow Fields (Digital Edition)