A Shadowseer, known in the Eldar Lexicon as an esdainn, is a powerful Eldar Harlequin psyker whose abilities are centred around spreading confusion and fear during both a Harlequin performance or Masque and on the battlefield. As the spiritual guides of the Harlequins, Shadowseers are enigmatic and mysterious individuals. Though not affiliated to a Troupe, they perform alongside them as part of a masque, using their psychic powers to subtly enhance a performance. In battle, however, the Shadowseer turns his psychic might upon the enemy, invading their minds and souls to cause terror and mayhem. Like Eldar Seers of old, the Shadowseer wears long robes, his head covered by a long cowl weighted with sun and moon trinkets. Further curios hang from his belt, including two Harlequin masks and mysterious pouches, while in his left hand he wields a Miststave -- both a mark of office and a potent close combat weapon. To augment his prodigious psychic skills, the Shadowseer wears a fluted Creidann Grenade Launcher that fires hallucinogenic cartridges, while his Harlequin mask is disturbingly blank and impassive. That is, until an unsuspecting victim gazes into it and sees a distorted reflection of their future self. This disturbing vision, combined with the narcotic gas, leaves most foes incapable of defending themselves against the Shadowseer.
Illusion, misdirection and terror whirl about the Shadowseer like a psychic tempest. With a subtle twist of the mind, these warrior mystics can erase the memory of the Harlequins from their enemies' thoughts, clouding their perceptions with confusion or horror. It is child's play for Shadowseers to bind their victims within the twists of their own minds, engaging them in one-sided psychic duels, or tricking their bodies into stopping hearts and choking off breath. Wherever the Shadowseer treads the battlefield, shards of illusory light and shadow blind the foe, while clouds of hallucinogenic gas send them into paroxysms of terror or bewildered joy. Discipline collapses, replaced by a bedlam of screams, gibbering and panicked, aimless gunfire. Warriors stagger drunkenly, slashing their blades at phantom foes. Through it all strides the Shadowseer -- an island of sinister calm amid a raging ocean of madness, robes swirling as their faceless mask reflects naught but the emptiness of the void. During a Masque the Shadowseers of a Harlequin troupe act as the primary storytellers, releasing programmed hallucinations from their creidann hallucinogen grenade launcher backpacks which form scintillating phantoms that dance and duel in the air. In older Imperial texts they are sometimes referred to as Harlequin Warlocks.
Shadowseers use manipulation of the mind as their foremost weapon. In battle, they turn their victims' senses against them, blinding eyes, driving brave men mad, or gouging fatal psychosomatic wounds. At the same time, they shield their allies from harm, wreathing them in veils of illusion until the moment comes to strike. Enigmatic masters of trickery and misdirection, the Shadowseers' prodigious psychic abilities are a powerful tool in the ongoing war against the servants of Chaos. Amidst the mayhem of battle, Shadowseers use their phantasmic powers to terrify and misdirect, drowning the enemy in nightmare visions, and should one of the dreaded Solitaires deign to join a battle, they can slaughter entire enemy regiments in impossible displays of martial prowess. In the Harlequins' performances, the Shadowseers play the role of Fate. They act as narrators, speaking in monologue, song or rhyme while their fellow Players whirl and spin around them. It is the Shadowseers' subtle psychic abilities, coupled with the hallucinogenic creidann grenade launchers they wear upon their backs, that provide diverse illusions for their shows. Blasts of multicoloured light, glowing swirls of blinding mist and white-hot illusory flame -- all are conjured forth with consummate showmanship.
All Shadowseers wear a featureless mask finished to a silvered, mirror sheen. They never remove their masks in the presence of others, and so none, even amongst their peers in a Harlequin troupe, have looked upon the wearer's true face. Instead, when each looks upon that mirrored mask, that individual see something different. Some see what the wearer wants them to see, others what they themselves want to see. During a performance, this mask takes on a myriad of identities, as is appropriate to the Shadowseer's role of the personification of fate. During battle, when a Shadowseer is performing the so-called Dance of Death, the mask reflects back upon those unfortunates that see it a terrifying range of faces. It is said that many see their own deathmask in that reflection, though, if this is true, none have ever confirmed it, for all who gaze upon it die within moments.
Though a Shadowseer's own mask is a blank, faceless thing reflecting nightmares back at those who dare gaze upon it, he carriers two other masks on his belt. Facts are few but truths are many where the Harlequins are concerned and the masks on the Shadowseer's belt are no different. Some say they are the masks of slain Troupe members, held by the Shadowseer until a new Player is found, though there may be a little more to it than that: Shadowseers can foresee the fate of their fellow Harlequins, so when an Eldar becomes a Harlequin it will often be a Shadowseer who presents the new Player with their mask, peering into the new Harlequin's future to scry the role they were fated to play
Shadowseers are skilled in reading the skeins of the future. However, their second sight is differently honed to that of Farseers; they are concerned less with the literal manipulation of events, but rather the fulfilment of the mythic roles that others unknowingly assume. Concealing their identities with stage names, Shadowseers act as envoys to their Craftworld or Commorrite kin, their faceless masks revealing nothing of their thoughts or intentions.
The High Shadowseer, sometimes referred to in older texts as the High Warlock and called in the Eldar Lexicon the athesdan, is the overall commander of a Harlequin masque's Shadowseers, and may overrule commands issued to Warlocks by their Troupe Masters -- though this rarely happens in practice. It is not unknown for a High Warlock to take the Warlocks from the troupes and form them into a separate unit under his (or her) own command. The High Shadowseer advises the High Troupe Master on all psychic matters pertaining to a masque. In performance, the High Shadowseer leads and coordinates the other Shadowseers as they play the role of a supporting chorus to his Storyteller; in battle, the High Shadowseer may coordinate the Shadowseers' grenade barrages, or act as a completely independent warrior.
Shadowseers are the masters of illusion and misdirection. Such is their power and intellect, they can reach into the minds of mortals and twist their perceptions at a whim. This may involve shrouding the presence of the Harlequins from the victims' mind, or trapping the foe in purgatorial thought-mazes of their own worst fears. Whatever the precise nature of the manipulation, it will invariably be subtle, sinister, and dangerously cruel. Known powers of the Phantasmancy Discipline include:
- Veil of Tears - Sketching a gesture in the air, the Shadowseer snatches the image of the Harlequins from the minds of their foes, and plucks it out, hiding them from sight.
- Dance of Shadows - The Shadowseer uses his powers of illusion to exaggerate the play of light and shadow around his allies. The effect swiftly intensifies, shrouding the unit in a whirling vortex of gloom, shot through with blinding pulses of light.
- Peal of Discord - Drawing in a slow breath of Warp energy, the Shadowseer throws back his head and sings out a perfect note, interwoven with a horrific banshee scream. Soaring and plunging, the wave of sound rolls outward, a crashing discordia that shatters bones, bursts brains, and leaves the few survivors bleeding and befuddled.
- Shards of Light - The Shadowseer reaches out and plucks blades of light from thin air. Though nothing but illusion, this trick is so realistic that it fools the senses utterly, the blades inflicting horrific psychosomatic wounds as they whistle through the air to blind and impale.
- Fog of Dreams - Soft and subtle, the Shadowseer sends his consciousness forth like a creeping mist. Moment by moment, his thoughts seep into those of the foe, veiling their sight and baffling their senses. Soon enough they see only a whirling bank of lambent silver mist. The sounds of battle echo weirdly through this icy murk, and shadows prowl beyond the edge of sight. The enemy are left deaf, blind, and all but helpless as the Shadowseer's comrades descend upon them.
- Mirror of Minds - The Shadowseer singles out a foe and appears to them as an apparition lodged in their subconscious. Reality falls away before the helpless victim, replaced by a warped mirrormaze of the Shadowseer’s making. Though only seconds pass in the real world, within the victim's mind they must strive against the Shadowseer's will for days, months, even years in their efforts to escape. Many never do. Their souls erode until nothing remains but a ghost, wandering mad and alone within the prison of their own mind.
A Shadowseer's garb incorporates a version of their masque's colours and rune, while occasionally displaying the device of whichever Troupe they most often fight alongside.
Most Harlequin masks project whatever appearance the wearer wishes, yet a Shadowseer's mask shows only a twisted reflection of those who stare into its depths.
- Holo-Suit - The Holo-Suit, or dathedi -- meaning "between colours" -- is responsible for this transformation. The device incorporates a programmable holo-field that breaks down the wearer's profile into a fractal lightstorm as they move; the faster they travel, the more pronounced the effect. So it is that a charging Harlequin appears as nothing more than an indistinct, prismatic storm that is nigh-on impossible to hit, allowing them to simply avoid blows that would otherwise lay them low.
- Creidann Grenade Launcher - The Creidann Grenade Launcher hurls canisters of hallucinogenic gas through the air according to pre-programmed fire patterns.
- Shuriken Pistol - Shuriken Pistols are light, compact sidearms much favoured by Harlequins. The slender, graceful lines of these weapons mislead many foes, who discover their lethal stopping power only as a flurry of razor-edged shuriken rip through their flesh. The reliability and featherweight construction of the shuriken pistol means that most Harlequins bear them into battle, the Players' acrobatic combat style perfectly complemented by the firearm they wield.
- Miststave - Traditionally, every Shadowseer carries a Miststave -- a weapon that channels their mental force to crush armour plates and shatter bones. Against living victims, even a glancing blow from such a stave scrambles their perceptions, clouding the mind with contradictory illusions and reducing sight to a slow-motion blur.
- Flip Belt - These devices enhance the Harlequins' agility to incredible levels.
Notable Shadowseers Edit
- Vaiuri M'atua - This Harlequin Shadowseer has become a nightmare to all who serve the Ruinous Powers within the Screaming Vortex. Her mission brings her into constant conflict with petty warlords and weak-willed sorcerers, and legend has that she has never been defeated. As her reputation grows, the more powerful denizens of the Vortex have placed numerous bounties on her head, offering great rewards to the warrior who can fell her. Most are too afraid to attempt such a feat, and of those that have tried, none have returned. Vaiuri’s tactics vary little from those of her companions. She excels at sowing confusion amongst the enemy ranks, breaking their coordination and shattering their morale with her devastating Psychic Powers and hallucinogenic grenades. She often strikes from concealment, erupting from a webway portal to overwhelm her foes in a flurry of disorder and lethal strikes from her Witchblade, then vanishing before a counterattack can be organised. Of her true plans, none can say for, she tells no one besides her Troupe and they follow her without question. Amongst her own people it is rumoured she has even spoken with the mysterious and deadly Solitaires, enlisting their aid for some, as yet, unknown purpose.
- Ailill Nuada - Ailill Nuada is a performer and a warrior, and she has travelled with the Harlequins for countless centuries and visited every last remnant of the once mighty empire of the fallen Eldar. She has performed for Eldrad Ulthran under the pulsating violet luminescence of the Eye of Terror in the Dome of Lamentations on Craftworld Ulthwé, and gone before the court of Asdrubael Vect in his throne room at the heart of Commorragh. Yet, Nuada appears to have taken leave of her role in order to focus upon the mission of the Conclave of Tears in the Jericho Reach. It is rare for her to know the company of fellow Harlequins, though on occasion they have answered her silent call to oppose the foes of the Eldar in the Outer Reach.
- Black Crusade: The Tome of Excess (RPG), pg. 112
- Codex: Craftworld Eldar (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition), pg. 26
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition), pg. 49
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition), pg. 42
- Codex: Harlequins (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 12, 21, 27, 32, 35, 50-51, 59, 70-71, 97-100, 139, 144, 150, 155, 177-178
- Deathwatch: The Outer Reach (RPG), pp. 62-63
- Harlequins Painting Guide - Warriors of the Laughing God, pp. 5, 11-12, 21, 23, 27, 29-30, 36, 42, 45, 51, 56, 59-60, 71-76, 119-122, 136-141, 164
- White Dwarf Weekly Magazine Issue #56 (21 Feb 2015), "Shadowseer," "Harlequin Army List - Shadowseer," pp. 5-9, 52-55
- Games Workshop Catalogue - Harlequin Shadowseer
- Games Workshop Catalogue - Classic Shadowseer