The Webway, also known as the Labyrinthine Dimension, is an extra-dimensional space partitioned off from the Immaterium millions of Terran years ago by an extremely advanced xenos species known as the Old Ones. Today, it is utilised by the Eldar of the Craftworlds and their Dark Eldar counterparts for faster-than-light travel and as the home of the vast Dark City of Commorragh and the hidden Craftworld known as the Black Library. It has been described as an incredibly complex network of arteries and capillaries, a maze of glowing tunnels, and a mystic tapestry of hidden threads that spread across the veil between realspace and the Warp. The Webway is an extradimensional construct that spans the dimensions of Creation, primarily defined by the fact that it sits between the material realm and the roiling tides of the Warp, an interstice comparable to the fabric of a veil cast over something foul.
The Webway was created by the Old Ones, an ancient and technologically advanced intelligent species of cold-blooded reptilian beings who established an interstellar empire across the Milky Way Galaxy tens of millions of standard years before the development of most of the other sentient species. They created the Webway as a conduit that allowed its masters to travel at will to countless far-flung worlds without risking the fickle tides of the Warp. Since Fall of the Eldar in the late 29th and early 30th Millennia, the Webway has become a realm shattered and dangerous, its splintered reaches infested by strange beings from different realities. Yet the Webway's portals still allow the brave and the bold to strike without warning at millions of locations throughout realspace. The ancient Eldar discovered millions of Terran years ago the means to move within the threads of the veil between realspace and the Warp. It was they who mastered the original Webway network, though it has changed drastically since the height of the Eldar empire, torn open by war and disaster. Moving between the dimensions is a technique fraught with danger, but such is the skill and intellect of the Eldar that they are still able to utilise it without hesitation.
The Eldar Craftworlds float in deep space and move at only sub-light speeds. Their exact locations are not known by other intelligent races, and the Eldar themselves do not consider their physical positions to be important -- a minor detail in an eternal journey. Smaller Eldar spacecraft, moored in docks upon the Craftworld's fringes, travel between the different Craftworlds by means of the Webway. The main gateways into the Webway take the form of swirling spheres of light and darkness held in stasis astern of each Craftworld. The pathways of the Webway lead to the Craftworlds, to the surface of the verdant worlds of the Exodites, to the Dark Eldar's corrupt city of Commorragh, and to untold thousands of other worlds throughout the galaxy. Though the Webway still connects many Eldar worlds and Craftworlds to one another, the baleful energies of the Fall have ruptured its hyperspatial pathways in countless places. Amongst the Webway's shattered and treacherous tendrils there are many byways, dead ends and mazes that can entrap the unwary. Some lead to places long since abandoned or destroyed, or else now inhabited by the daemons of the Warp. These doors are sealed with runes of power, lest unknown horrors gain access to a Craftworld or some unwary traveller unwittingly opens a doorway and is sucked into the Warp.
It is claimed that there are many secret paths that lead through time and reality, though only the elegant and deadly Harlequins are reputed to know of such routes. Within the furthest reaches of the Webway are mighty Dark Eldar cities and infestations of nests of the wasp-like Warp entities known as the Psychneuein. The best hidden of all the realms in the Labyrinthine Dimension is the mysterious Black Library, the secret Craftworld which contains all the knowledge that the Eldar have collected about the primal force of Chaos across millions of standard years. The exact shape and form of the Webway is not fully understood by the Eldar of the present day. The Eldar no longer share its secrets with humans for the knowledge of the myriad secret ways are considered of the utmost importance to the survival of their threatened species. It is rumoured that a complete map of the Webway was made many thousands of Terran years ago, which is now kept in the Black Library. This is a bulky, ancient Imperial tome known as the Atlas Infernal. It is an organic, adaptable map of the Webway, dating from before the time of the Horus Heresy. A psionically-negative item, its "pages" were created from the stretched pieces of skin of an Untouchable who had once been an Imperial Sister of Silence, attached to lightweight golden frames. The veins, capillaries, and arteries on the "pages" could reconfigure themselves to show the reader his desired destination within the Webway, being constantly fed oxygen by an intricate regulated pump embedded in the book’s spine. Although no longer entirely accurate, the Atlas Infernal shows many secret ways through the Labyrinthine Dimension that have since been lost or forgotten.
In the late 30th Millennium, during the Unification Wars on Terra, buried deep under a huge and inhospitable desert on the Terran continent of Asia, the Emperor of Mankind discovered a portal that led to the Webway's vast network of tunnels that had been constructed eons ago by a xenos race more ancient than the Terran sun. This was in the time before the building of the Imperial Palace, although the exact date is also currently unknown. The Emperor discovered there the core of the psychic amplification device that the Golden Throne would later be constructed around to serve as a portal into the Webway based on Terra. Prior to the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, and over a period of several centuries, the Emperor directed tens of thousands of Adeptus Mechanicus Tech-priests to modify the Golden Throne so that it could be put into use as the nexus of his secret Imperial Webway Project. This greatest of the Emperor's many works was intended to open up the Eldar Webway to Mankind by establishing a portal into its network from Terra. This would provide a means of instantaneous interstellar travel between the worlds of the newborn Imperium of Man, making navigation through the dangers of the Warp unnecessary and remove the necessity for reliance upon astrotelepathy as the only form of interstellar communciation, literally connecting all the branches of Mankind instantaneously, creating a truly unified human race as never before in history. The Emperor believed that this level of unity would be necessary if humanity was truly to thrive and prosper in such a dangerous universe.
The Golden Throne's gateway, the Imperial conduit and the alien-built Webway-tunnels were all both physical and psychic in nature. Wrapped around the physical component was a psychic sheath or shield. The very substance of the alien tunnels appeared to generate this shielding naturally. For the human-built gateway and conduit, the Emperor himself had to generate the protective psychic sheath. This psy-shield sealed the Webway from the Warp and its daemonic denizens in some inexplicably arcane fashion. The Emperor's efforts were thwarted as a direct result of the Thousand Sons Primarch Magnus the Red's sorcerous warning, which penetrated the multiple psychic shields the Emperor had erected around the Imperial Palace in order to warn the Emperor of the Warmaster Horus' perfidy in the days just before the Horus Heresy began in the early 31st Millennium. Magnus' psychic sending disrupted the Emperor's psychic shield around the Terran Webway portal, causing great rifts to appear in it. It was through these rifts that the creatures of the Warp were able to gain egress into the Terran Webway tunnels. Through the valiant sacrifice of many members of the Legio Custodes and the Sisters of Silence, the Imperials were able to stem the tide of the daemonic incursions, preventing them from breaching the Warp and assaulting the sacred soil of Terra itself. Yet the Terran Webway gate only remained sealed for as long as the Emperor was able to power its shield directly from his throne atop the golden portal. Only the strongest of other human psykers had enough power to temporarily replace the Emperor's efforts. Only the Emperor had the might to keep the gate closed permanently and for him the effort became harder as the daemonic forces gathered about him. As long as the daemon horde threatened to breach the portal, the Golden Throne would be the Emperor's prison.
During the Battle of Terra, the epic final battle of the lamentable galaxy-spanning civil war known as the Horus Heresy, the Emperor was temporarily relieved from this burden by the valiant sacrifice of Malcador the Sigillite, the oldest and most trusted advisor of the Emperor, and a potent psyker in his own right. But this would merely prove a temporary respite, as the burden of holding the gate closed quickly drained the valiant Malcador of his life force. This provided the Emperor with the opportunity to face his once favoured son Horus aboard his Battle Barge, the Vengeful Spirit, in Terran orbit. In the end, Horus was utterly destroyed by the Emperor, body, mind and soul. But the Emperor was mortally wounded himself in the effort and was brought back to Terra where his ravaged body was placed within permanent stasis upon the Golden Throne, after further rapid modifications accomplished at the direction of Imperial Fists Primarch Rogal Dorn, in order to prevent his death. Acting as a complex life support machine, the Golden Throne has held the dessicated and slowly decaying body of the Emperor in stasis for ten millennia, preserving his mind and will, which originates and guides the psychic beacon that is the Astronomican within the Warp. He is also said to constantly struggle to keep the forces of the Dark Powers of Chaos at bay so that humanity can flourish even to the extent that it has in the galaxy. It is not known whether the Emperor's ability to protect individual human beings from the powers of Chaos is related to the destroyed Terran portal of the Webway or to the unknown alien device that lies at the heart of the Golden Throne itself.
Webway and the WarpEdit
The Webway is used by the Eldar to ply the galaxy and wage war. The arterial passageways of the construct are large enough to carry spacecraft, though most tunnels only allow strike forces of Eldar on foot or small vehicles to pass. Although Eldar spacecraft can travel through the Warp itself, the Eldar avoid using Warp space because they possess a powerful depth and range of emotion which gives them a stronger psychic presence in the Warp. This would inevitably attract a large daemonic presence during the voyage, making the trip extremely hazardous. As a result, the Eldar travel infrequently to places in the galaxy that lie more than a few light years from their Webway portals. Webway journeys are relatively fast, enabling Eldar fleets to move easily between the network's major gateways. This allows the Eldar to move swiftly to places directly connected to the Labyrinthine Dimension, but makes it extremely difficult for them to reach worlds that have no gate in the network or that lie more than a few light years beyond one.
The Webway is best imagined as a vast and tangled network of doorways between fixed points in realspace. Through the Webway the Eldar can travel farther and faster than most other starfaring races. However, if there is no Warpgate -- the name for the exits and entrances to the Webway -- near their destination, or the one present is not big enough to permit the necessary forces to pass, the Eldar are at a disadvantage. Much of the Webway has fallen into obscurity and disrepair, with many sections destroyed or found uncharted after the Fall of the Eldar. This often forces the Eldar to make connecting stops on their way to their destination because they will discover that they have no direct route. Because the technology to create them has been lost, intact Webway gates are some of the Eldar's most treasured artefacts. The Warpgates that allow entry to the Labyrinthine Dimension range in size from personal gates intended for foot travel to massive ones that entire Craftworlds use. Because of the Warpgates' rarity and importance, the Eldar will stop at nothing to either claim or deny the use of the gates to the enemy.
Necron Dolmen GatesEdit
Since the ancient race known as the Necrons have awakened from their millennia-long slumber, the C'tan known as Nyadra'zatha, the Burning One, who has long desired to carry his eldritch fires into the Webway and beyond, has finally enabled the Necrons to gain access to the Webway, showing the Necrons how to breach its boundaries. Through a series of living stone portals known as Dolmen Gates, the Necrons have finally been able to turn the Old Ones' greatest weapon against them, vastly accelerating the end of the Necrons' long War in Heaven. As a race bereft of psykers, the Necrons are incapable of Warp travel, and without access to the Webway, they would be forced to rely once more on slow-voyaging stasis-ships, dooming them to isolation within the galaxy.
The portals offered by the Dolmen Gates are neither so stable, nor so controllable, as the naturally occurring entrances to the Webway. Indeed, in some curious and unknown fashion, the Webway can detect when its environs have been breached by a Dolmen Gate and the newtwork swiftly attempts to seal off the infected spur until the danger has passed. As such, Necrons entering the Webway must reach their destination quickly, lest the network bring about their destruction. Fortunately, many Dolmen Gates were lost or abandoned during the time of the Great Sleep aeons ago, and many more were destroyed by the Eldar. Those that remain grant access to but a small portion of the Webway, and much of that portion of the Labyrinthine Dimension has already been voluntarily sealed off by the Eldar to prevent further contamination. Yet the Webway is immeasurably vast, and even these sundered skeins allow the Necrons a mode of travel that far outpaces those of the younger races.
- Battlefleet Gothic Magazine #13, "The Cerberus War: Endgame," pp. 22-23, 25
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (4th Edition), pg. 18
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition), pp. 6-8, 20
- Codex: Dark Eldar (3rd Edition), pg. 15
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition), pp. 12-13
- Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition), pg. 3
- Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition), pp. 5-6
- Codex: Necrons (5th Edition), pp. 6, 8
- Codex: Necrons (3rd Edition), pg. 24
- Dark Heresy: Creatures Anathema (RPG), pg. 77
- Epic Swordwind, pp. 3, 22
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions, pp. 322, 324, 326, 328, 350-351, 359-361
- Warhammer 40,000: Compendium (1st Edition)
- Daemonigfuge (Graphic Novel)
- Inquisition War Trilogy
- Draco (Novel) by Ian Watson
- Harlequin (Novel) by Ian Watson
- Chaos Child (Novel) by Ian Watson
- Atlas Infernal (Novel) by Rob Sanders