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Template:In-universe/Warhammer 40,000 In the fictional universe of the table-top wargame Warhammer 40,000, the Harlequins are a sub-group of the Eldar race. They are the keepers of the Black Library and serve the Laughing God. They see themselves as a unifying force for the Eldar, dedicated to preserving their race, and often acting as mediators and coordinators between the various Eldar factions. The other Eldar view the Harlequins with a mixture of awe, fear and respect.

History and Society

The Harlequins are a faction of the Eldar, and the most enigmatic of that mysterious race. They roam the Webway, fighting Chaos and its influence. Their main purpose is to seek out their most hated enemy, Slaanesh, and destroy it wherever they can while protecting the craftworlds. As a corollary to this mission, they also compile all knowledge about Chaos, the source of its power, and how to defeat it. This knowledge is kept in the Black Library.

Harlequins must pass a trial known only as "The Ritual" upon initiation into a Harlequin band. The details of this trial are not known to outsiders, however, this ritual is said to free them of the fear of the Chaos god Slaanesh, the eternal enemy of the Eldar race. Unlike the other Eldar, when they die their souls become part of the Laughing God, rather than falling prey to Slaanesh. This is why they need not wear a soulstone (also known as a waystone) when they travel in the Webway (although they once did wear soulstones), and do not have to endure the tiring soul-draining that other Eldar suffer from.

Harlequin lifestyle is very much like the life of a roaming mime artist or troubadour of the medieval era. They wander the Webway as members of a group called a 'troupe', and occasionally appear at Eldar settlements: on a Craftworld, in the dark city of Commoragh, or on an Exodite Maiden world. They perform dances, sometimes called Masques, for the spectators there. Their performances portray the history of their race, preserving it so as to prevent the Eldar from forgetting their past. Subjects of the dances tend to include the myths of the Eldar before the Fall (including stories of their war with the Necrons and C'Tan), the Fall itself, and the destruction of the Eldar pantheon by Slaanesh.

Way of War

The Harlequins are highly accomplished warriors; each Harlequin takes to the battlefield as a "Trouper", and is a formidable warrior. Much of the Harlequin way of war revolves around mobility, quick strikes, and psychological attacks on the enemy. The Harlequins reportedly do not see a difference between their performed dances and the 'dance' of warfare, to them they are but one and the same.

Each troupe is led, both in peace and war, by a Great Harlequin or with the new codex Troupe Master (also sometimes called a "Harlequin Avatar"-- not to be confused with the Avatar of Khaine), who performs the role of the Laughing God during the Masque performances. Other important figures in the troupe, which are described later, include the Death Jesters, the Solitaire, the Shadowseers, and the Mimes.

Equipment

The Eldar race is renowned (or reviled) for its grace and agility; the Harlequins are more so, due to their lifestyle. In battle, however, these characteristics are enhanced by so-called flip-belts, which generate a small anti-gravity field. This allows them to perform impossible feats of athleticism, moving faster and jumping higher than even other Eldar.

In addition, the Harlequins, rather than wear cumbersome armor, carry personal versions of the holo-field (known as a "dathedi" in the Eldar language), a device which Craftworld-dwelling Eldar often use to protect their tanks and other large vehicles. The holo-field protects by generating a distorted holographic image of the wearer; this is then used to mislead an opponent, causing him to strike empty space rather than the Harlequin. A more sophisticated version of the holo-field exists, known as a domino field (or "d-field"); this version creates a more complex pattern, complete with dazzling shards of light, making the wearer virtually impossible to hit.

The Harlequins prefer to use equipment designed to instill fear and terror in their foes. One of the primary ways they do this is to wear specially designed masks; these masks are able to detect an opponent's fears and augment them. There are more specialized variants of these masks, which have effects such as creating an aura of death, or projecting an image of the opponent's fears upon the wearer, causing the opponent to be forced to fight his most feared adversary. Perhaps the most sinister feature though is the "Death Throe(s)". As Harlequins strike down their enemies, their masks will replay the horrifying screams and cries of an enemy's previous fallen commrades. This combined with the visual and emotional effects, the Harlequins mask overwhelms their enemies senses with grisly reminders of death and abject terror.

Harlequins are sometimes seen wielding grenades which contain a powerful hallucinogen; victims of these grenades then see illusory opponents (as well as the Harlequins themselves), and are subsequently easier to defeat.

The weapons of the Harlequins tend to be the same as those used by their Craftworld cousins, however, many of the weapons unique to the Harlequins are known for being startlingly brutal. One such weapon, which is similar to the shuriken cannon of the Craftworlders and is known as a Shrieker Cannon, fires a single micro-thin blade at the target; this blade emits a shrieking sound as it flies (hence the name) and carries a horrific toxin which causes the victim to literally explode, potentially harming (as well as terrifying) nearby fellow soldiers. Another notorious weapon system is known as riveblades, which are a set of blades attached to the forearm; these are powerful weapons which are useful against heavily armored infantry, but also have the ability to drive themselves deep into a victim, easily killing them despite their resistance to damage. However, arguably the most terrifying weapon is the Harlequin's Kiss. The Kiss appears to be a simple tube attached to the forearm of the trouper; this is deceptive, as the Harlequin then drives this tube into his victim. Upon doing so, the tube unleashes a monofilament wire which enters the victim's body and wildly lashes around inside them, liquifying their innards and killing them instantly.

Due to the constraints of the Webway, the Harlequins maintain few vehicles. They do, however, often field jetbikes (fast, motorcycle-like vehicles which hover just above the ground rather than ride wheels) and a type of lightly armored, hover transport called a Venom. There have also been reports of Harlequins fielding large walking vehicles virtually identical to the "Wraithlords" of the Craftworlds; unlike normal Wraithlords, these walkers bear protective holo-fields and frequently wield unusual weapon systems.

Shadowseer

Unlike the Seers of the Craftworld Eldar, the Shadowseer does not possess the ability to see the future. However, the Shadowseer does possess potent psychic powers, most of which relate to affecting the emotions of others, creating illusions, and telepathy. During performances, these powers are used to heighten the emotions of the audience and to create special effects, but during battles, these powers are used to confuse and misdirect the enemy. Shadowseers are usually identifiable by the featureless silver masks which they wear.

Death Jesters

Another special position within the troupe is that of the Death Jester. During the peacetime Harlequin performances, the Death Jesters perform the role of death. Their attire includes the bones of previous Death Jesters, and a Death Jester is often known for his/her morbid sense of humor.

During battles, it is the Death Jester who wields the long ranged weaponry of the troupe. The Death Jester often wields the frightful Shrieker Cannon, as well as anti-tank weaponry like a missile launcher or the heavy laser known as a brightlance. They fight individually on the battlefield, operating almost similar to a lone sniper, striking down foes or tanks from afar. They are also extremely skilled in close combat, wielding deadly powerblades—many unwary soldiers have charged into hand-to-hand combat with a Death Jester only to be cut down with ease.

Mimes

Mimes, also known as distaur, are the members of the Harlequin troupe who perform a variety of demonic and mystical roles. As their name suggests, Mimes appear to be incapable of speech, a trait which forces them to make use of an intricate form of sign language known as Lambruith in order to communicate. Mimes in general act as the troupes advanced scouts, both in times of war and in peace. It is a long standing custom for Mimes to go ahead of the troupe to announce its arrival through symbolic dance. The majority of the time, Mimes simply appear in the midst of a heavily guarded craftworld, without a single member of the craftworld's guard knowing how or where the scout arrived from. And of course, the Mimes never tell. In combat, Mimes excel at advanced infiltration and assassination, and are often the ones who get sent on some of the most dangerous advanced missions. Mimes, as a rule, never remove their masks, constantly keeping them on a shapeshifting setting in order to conceal their identity to all but the Solitaire who recruited them.

Solitaires

One of the most important and most feared positions within the troupe is that of the Solitaire. The Solitaires act as a sort of scout for the troupe, seeking out potential members from the populations of the various other Eldar factions. They are greatly feared and yet pitied by the other Harlequins. A Solitaire lives apart from the rest of the troupe at all times and this isolationist nature is also evident on the battlefield, as a Solitaire always fights alone and never joins with a unit of other Harlequins. The reason for this is that during the much rarer version of their already rare performances about the Fall, it is only the Solitaire who is able to play the role of the Great Enemy of the Eldar, Slaanesh. Some have been foolish to take on the role and been driven insane. This also means that when the Solitaire dies, his soul is damned to eternal torment by the Great Enemy. The Laughing God sometimes emerges from the Webway to trick Slaanesh, thereby saving the soul of the departed Solitaire from eternal damnation; however, the Laughing God is rarely able to successfully do so, and most Solitaires must endure eternal torment. Sometimes, if a Solitare is saved, his soul will be transferred to one of the Wraithlord-esque machines as mentioned above.

The role of Solitaire is thus difficult for an Eldar to bear. Only the strongest are able to endure the position and the knowledge that they will surely be consumed by Slaanesh upon death—those who are not strong enough either die or are driven insane. Since his soul is already claimed, the Solitaire has absolutely no fear, and he is one of the most skilled warriors found on the battlefield of the 41st millennium. It is rumored that the oldest and most powerful Solitaires ultimately become the guardians of the Black Library, virtually invincible warriors with one of the most important tasks in the universe.

The Laughing God

The Laughing God, also known as Cegorach, is an Eldar deity in the Warhammer 40,000 fictional universe created by Games Workshop. The Laughing God is, with Khaine, and Isha who remains captive by Nurgle, one of only three surviving Eldar gods.

The Laughing God was the trickster and artist of the pantheon, and as such is the god of the Harlequins troupe. It is said that during the fight between Slaanesh and Khaine the Laughing God hid behind Khaine for protection, in the aftermath of the struggle the Laughing God fled to the Webway where Slaanesh could not find him. He still resides there, and is the only known being to know exactly where every door in the webway leads.[1][2][3][4]

In ancient Eldar myth it was said to be the Laughing God who tricked the Outsider into eating other C'tan. Those Eldar who follow him, known as the Harlequins, are protected from Slaanesh in a different way from their Craftworld brethren. While Craftworld Eldar wear Spirit Stones which absorb their souls when they die, Harlequins are directly protected by their God, becoming one with him on death. The only exception to this is the Solitaire whose soul must be won from Slaanesh by the Laughing God.

The Black Library

After the Fall of the Eldar, much of the vast knowledge of that race was lost; however, the Eldar have one last repository of their knowledge, especially the knowledge of Chaos—knowledge which is useful to fight against or to better serve the Dark gods. This repository, hidden somewhere deep within the Webway in a place only the masters of the Harlequins know, is known as the Black Library. The exact location is not known to non-Harlequins; while it apparently can only be reached via the Webway, it is possible that the Library lies within the warp or somewhere in outer space. More than likely it exists entirely within the Webway, in the same manner as the dark city of Commorragh.

The Library is eternally guarded by the Guardian Scribes, who also take care to transcribe the books, preventing their information from being lost; they also must ensure that the knowledge contained within the Library does not fall into the wrong hands. Many who have fallen to the lure of Chaos would sacrifice anything to get just a glimpse of the tomes of the Library; during Abaddon the Despoiler's 13th Black Crusade, the sorcerer Ahriman of the Thousand Sons managed to enter the Webway and attempted to seize the Library; he was stopped by the Harlequins.

The Library is also guarded by a powerful, nearly sentient psychic shield. This shield is able to defend itself, and can deny entry to anyone who it deems as "immature"-- someone who has not mastered themselves sufficiently or otherwise lacks the discipline necessary to prevent corruption by Chaos. Few beings have been allowed entry into the Library, and of those, only a mere handful have come from races other than Eldar. Notably, certain members of a secret group of humans known as the "Illuminati" (humans who have been possessed by a warp entity, survived, and now have great knowledge of Chaos which they use to fight against it) have been allowed entry. Also, the rare Inquisitor has been allowed entry, notably Inquisitors Jaq Draco and Czevak. It is believed by Imperial officials that Czevak was captured and interrogated by Ahriman shortly prior to the 13th Black Crusades, thus allowing the sorcerer to at least partially discern the location of the Library.

The forbidden lore of the Black Library describes the blandishments, influences, forms, creatures, perils, promises and horrors of Chaos. There, the grim secrets of the Gods of Chaos lie. There are the names and deeds of the Traitor Legions. There, hidden in the deepest shadows, lies the truth of the Fallen Eldar. There rests the record of the dark soul of man and Eldar, the truth of the terror which the galaxy may yet become. Should this knowledge fall into the wrong hands (such as Ahriman's), that person could become incredibly powerful, virtually a dark god in their own right.

4th Edition

With the advent of the 4th edition Codex: Eldar, the Harlequins were brought back as a single unit for use in any Eldar army. Most of the original Harlequin unit types were dropped, including the Great Harlequin, Solitaire, Venom, Jetbike, and Wraithlord (the last two are still available manned by regular Eldar, just not by Harlequins). The remaining Harlequins are grouped into a single unit of 5 to 10 Harlequins. These are mostly regular Harlequins armed with shuriken pistols and close combat weapons, although two can replace their pistol with a fusion pistol (a hand-held meltagun), while any harlequin can replace their chainsword with a Harlequin's Kiss, which now acts as a rending weapon (much like the claws of a Genestealer). In addition, one can be upgraded to a troupe master, the most powerful Harlequin in the unit. One Harlequin can be upgraded to a Death Jester (who remains in the unit, and is only armed with a Shrieker Cannon), who is just as powerful in assault as a regular Harlequin. Finally, one Harlequin can be upgraded to be a Shadowseer, the advantage being that the squad benefits from plasma grenades and the veil of tears which forces one's opponent to first roll for spotting distance before attempting to shoot at the unit. The unit can become expensive with all of its upgrades, but with the ability to ignore difficult terrain and to leave and re-enter combat, coupled with their powerful and fast assault troops, Harlequins are a powerful asset to an Eldar Army. New, resculpted Harlequin models were released April 2007, and a few of their models (five Harlequins and a Death Jester) can be seen in Codex: Eldar.

Harlequins were introduced in the real-time strategy computer game Dark Crusade as a Commander unit for the Eldar army. In-game, they are extremely potent melee units, and are especially effective against other Commander units.


5th Edition

The current set of rules best adapted for the 5th edition of the game is a fan-based project from 40konline.com where one of the original authors of the Harlequin list for 3rd edition, published in Citadel Journal has continued the work, and made it playable in 5th edition. These are not official rules, but the most faithful to the older official Harlequin lists while still playable in the current ruleset.

References

  1. Thorpe, Gav (2000). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Craftworld Eldar. Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-029-3. 
  2. Thorpe, Gav (2001). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-869893-39-5. 
  3. Kelly, Phil (2006). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Eldar (4th Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-791-3. 
  4. Priestley, Rick (1994). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-872372-74-0. 
  • Priestley, Rick (1994). Warhammer 40,000: Eldar (2nd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-872372-74-0. 
  • Chambers, Andy (2003). Warhammer 40,000: Codex Eye of Terror (3rd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-398-5. 
  • Thorpe, Gavin (2000). Codex Harlequins [1]
  • 40konline.com [2]
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