Extreme Spoilers ahead. This is a full breakdown of the fluff in Gathering Storm 2.
Previously, on the Gathering Storm...
Abaddon has launched the 13th Black Crusade in full, and Cadia has fallen; the heart of the Imperium lies open for the forces of Chaos. Belisarius Cawl, Archamagos Dominus of Mars, is in possession a super-important artefact that could mean the salvation of the Imperium. Cawl, Saint Celestine and Inquisitor Katarinya Greyfax of the Ordo Hereticus have managed to escape the Cadian System through the timely arrival of an Eldar strike-force on the planet Klaisus on the outer edges of the Cadian System. Celestine and Greyfax flirted outrageously with each other. Creed has been captured in Trazyn the Infinite's Pokeball. And most importantly, for the record, the planet broke before the Guard did! CADIA STANDS!
[spoiler]It's Fight Night in Commorragh! Isn't every night, fight night in Commorragh though? Well yes, but this is the big ticket title fight! In the red corner, LELITH HESPERAX, Queen of Knives and the People's Champion herself! She's going to be tough to beat, given she's currently undefeated and undisputed champion of the Crucibael. In the blue corner, our challenger for this evening, an upcoming gladiatrix who's risen to high fame under the patronage of Lady Malys herself, known to the craftworlders as YVRAINE, known to the Corsairs as AMHAROC, known to Commorragh as THE DAUGHTER OF SHADES. The Dark City is abuzz, crowd attendance is somewhere in the millions and even a Harlequin Troupe has come to be entertained and some bloke is probably streaming the fight on Facebook Live. First some warm-up fights though. Sslyth vs Donorian Clawed Fiends. Horrors of the Haemonculi vs Wych Cults vs a battered squad of Astartes vs Hellion free for all. The crowd is going wild. Then come the Tyranids - cross-bred strains of Hive Fleet Kraken and Leviathan are released by the Haemonculi into the arena as Lady Hesperax and Yvraine enter the fight. Asdrubael Vect watches with interest from his floating fortress high above Commorragh.
The fighting is fierce. Yvraine is up against a Hive Tyrant (flips over its head, kicks a knife off the ground into the back of its head, charges in underneath, carves out its underbelly. Killed). She quickly finds herself caught up in a melee with a Lichtor though, and Lelith uses that opportunity to get some hits in. The Lichtor gets eviscerated in the cross-fire, as Lelith comes in at Yvraine in a furious flurry of blows - who does this upstart think she is challenging Lelith to a duel? Yvraine is hard-pressed to simply defend herself, and quickly finds herself on the back foot but an unfortunate stumble by Yvraine sees Lelith's dagger in her gut. Satisfied with her victory, Lelith vaults off to find new prey while Yvraine is trying to stem the wound in her gut. However a Priestiess of Morag-Heg steps up for a duel, and Yvraine is quickly overwhelmed and loses her hand. Yvraine knows she's dead - she's loosing too much blood but manages to lock the Priestess up in a deathly choke-hold to at least take the Priestess out with her. They both shudder in their death spasms, falling to the ground....
... only for an all consuming brightness of a star to burst up from the ground and consume them both. Yvraine is screaming as she feels the awareness of a new dimension open up in her mind, casting away all concerns of her previous self. She sees Ynnead, shooting like a star from a distant crystal moon (*cough see Death Masque cough*) and laying the immensity of his gaze upon her. Her soul is layed bared to him, and she will forever see nothing but his glory. "Daughter," he whispers.
Explosions of energy shoot off from her body, as she's raised up in the air by invisible forces. The energy sweeps out into the arena, withering any Eldar it touches and turning them into husks. The Tyranids are largely unaffected though, and use the opportunity to start rampaging through the crowd. The Trueborn guards try to fight back, but they are mixed in attacking the 'Nids or the glowing body of Yvraine. All shots just seem to bounce off her though. Lelith zooms away into the night on a Reaver Jetbike, her smile like the
“glint of pearls in the gloom”.
Above the carnage, Vect is watching with growing anger... what the hell is going on? He sends his proxies to try to restore order. But something far worse is coming... Yvraine wakes from her apotheosis, and the ground shakes beneath her feet as she touches back down. Her hand restored, and even her blade transformed and radiating with power. Her Bloodbrides rally around her, as they quickly find themselves under attack by both Tyranids and Kabilites. Realising she's in the middle of a :cussstorm, Yvraine decides to get the hell out and they make for the exit of the arena killing as they go. But with each death of an Eldar around her, she starts to feel more and more power growing in her mind and body and eventually she can't hold it in and speaks words unbidden to her lips. The entire arena goes dark as every light is extinguished, and she's shocked to see dead eldar all around felled without a blow. Kabalite Guards cry out in alarm - psychic activity in the city is surely to draw the attention of Slaanesh! Kill her! More Incubi rush out to attack her, when a red armoured figure steps in to defend her. "Team up?" He offers, as he helps her cut down the Incubi. "No. Go Away. I don’t need help," she spits back but for some reason he seems really familiar... something about the styling of his armour and guard stance. He points to her sword, telling her it is called "Kha-vir" and that it is blessed by Ynnead, just as she is. "Ugh fine, you can tag along," she relents as they try to escape to the space-docks. She's got some mates there, from her Corsair days, and she might just be able to escape... because that 'far worse' thing that's coming?
Well, turns out that beneath Commorragh there is ancient sealed portal known as Khaine's Gate that has kept a flood of demons at bay. Only Yvraine's apotheosis had created a dysjunction of Empyrean energy that collapsed the gate, and let a flood of Demons into the Dark City. Vect had already prepared for an eventually like this though, and left the 'defence' of the gate to his rivals ensuring they are the first to die to the Demonic Invasion. His plan is to let other people bear the brunt of the invasion, while he can consolidate and come back in strength at a later date. Still, he's not particularly pleased at what Yvraine has wrought on his dominion. He commands Urien Rakarth to send his forces out to capture/kill her.
Anyway, Yvraine and her new buddy in red armour (he calls himself the Visarch) manage to escape into the webway along with some of their followers. They don't really know where they're going though, just away from Vect's forces. As she's travelling starts hearing voices in her head of some of the Eldar she killed in the arena. Wait a minute - she's somehow absorbed their souls! This meant she's kept them safe from Slaanesh! Could she be the salvation of all the Eldar? If only she wasn't hopelessly lost in the webway! Her Wych Cult are starting to get real antsy too, this deep in the webway and no 'food' to stave off their 'hunger'. They come across a portal, with strange music coming out of it which is creepy as censored.gif, but Yvraine's got no real choice - she goes through it. Only to run straight into a host of Demonettes, dancing and frolicking around as if at a grand ball with corpses of Kabalite Warriors! Creepy and Weird! They get ready to fight... but... the music is kind of relaxing... and the Demonettes are kinda nice to look at... And dancing at the centre of it all, the Masque of Slaanesh watches with glee as the Dark Eldar begin to drift off into slumber. The Masque is drawn forward to Yvraine, when SURPRISE HARLEQUIN AMBUSH! Harlequins of the Midnight Sorrow drop down from the 'roof' of the webway and start cutting through the Demonettes. This snaps Yvraine and her Dark Eldar group out of it, and they rally to fend off the Masque's ambush forcing the Masque to flee into the Empyrean. The Harlequins offer to guide Yvraine to a destination she knows well. Craftworld Biel-Tan.
You see, Yvraine was born on Biel-Tan. She walked the Path of the Performer first, dazzling with her displays of acrobatics. But then she felt the call of violence and went on the Path of the Warrior, but eventually not even the fiercest of battle could sate her spirit. So she tried the Path of the Warlock for a bit, but that wasn't quite right for her either. So she became an Outcast, rising up to become a famed Corsair admiral before a mutiny caused her to flee to the arenas of Commorragh. And here she is now, the Prodigal Daughter returning to Biel-Tan as a new force that could change the fate of Biel-Tan and the Eldar forever. Biel-Tan, as I’m sure you’re all aware, has violent and vengeful ambition to restore to the Eldar to its former glory. They think that the Exodite Eldar are the true hope of the Eldar, and will prosecute anything threatening one of their Maiden Worlds with extreme force hence their reputation as the most militant of the Craftworlders. Most other Craftworlds look on this as a delusional ideal though - the ability to restore the Maiden Worlds to the former glory of the Eldar Empire has long passed. But not everyone thinks that way, a certain Ulthwe High-Farseer and a troupe of Harlequins among them. Eldrad has forseen the coming of Ynnead's ascension in the form of Yvraine and the ambitions of Biel-Tan could be a perfect platform to make this happen and the Harlequins of the Midnight Sorrow have already worded up Biel-Tan about an arrival of a ominous nature. The Biel-Tan Autarch Melineil consults with his sister, Farseer Lathriel - in her divinations she sees a fork in the road. One path leads to Rhana Dandra (the end of days) and the other leads to darkness with the sound of a mourning bell ringing. Could the prophecies of the Seventh Way (the one where the Eldar don't have to all die for Ynnead to awaken) be true? One other small problem though, unknown to the Eldar - The Masque of Slaanesh is kinda keen on getting inside Biel-Tan and feasting on their tasty souls, especially because she senses Yvraine will end up there. And she's got a plan.
There's a backdoor into Biel-Tan, from a Maiden World called Ursulia. It's sealed and all that, but the Masque reckons she knows how to crack it. A sudden Warp Storm has popped up over Usulia, wreaking havoc through the Exodites living there. Also, the massive Demonic Invasion that the Masque organised, made up of a grand promenade of Slaanesh demons... and a grand battalion of Khorne Demons. Wait what? Khorne and Slaanesh, like really, really hate each other! Lucky for the Masque though, she rolled really well on her Charisma at character generation and has like a Persuasion check of +30. The wards on the portal from Ursulia to Biel-Tan are too strong for her to break, but can they stop SKARBRAND?!?! Let's find out. She goes to talk to Skarbard with an offer of alliance, but Skarbrand aint interested in anything but Slaughter and Carnage. He goes to chop her into little pieces, but also lucky for the Masque she also rolled really high on Dexterity and has an AC of like 30 too. Eventually Skarbrand gets bored that she's not being dead, and she starts spinning a story of how they're not all that different from each other, both being exiled from their God and all that, and maybe they could have a friendly wager on who can kill the most Eldar on some random Maiden World. Natural 20 rolled on the Persuasion check it seems, because Skarbrand's ire is raised just enough to get him to agree to the wager (as if he's gonna let a puny Slannesh girl beat him!), but not enough that he flies into a rage and kills her on the spot. So off to Usulia they go, and the killing begins.
Biel-Tan aren't about to let one of their precious Maiden Worlds go down, so they launch a counter-assault with Autarch Melinial leading it personally. The battle rages back and forth, massed demon charges vs lightning strikes of Eldar. The Masque and Skarbrard are up near the portal – the Masque’s plan is to lure the Eldar up to the portal and set Skarbrand loose and in his rage he’ll destroy the wards on the portal. What could go wrong? Well the Eldar don't take the bait initially, and Skarbrand is in danger of being lured away himself. Not good! So the Masque jumps up on the Portal in full view of the battle and starts guzzling spirit stones off some Warlocks she's killed like they're oysters. Melinial is infuriated by the Masque's brazen feasting of Eldar souls, and directs all his forces towards where the Masque and Skarbrand are at the portal. The Eldar unleash a devastating amount of firepower, mainly at Skarbrand since he's a huge censored.gif-off Bloodthirster after all, and manage to kill almost everything around him (except for the Masque) whilst also putting a fair bit of hurt on him. Skarbrand gets extraordinarily pissed that he's gonna die before he can even get to do anything, and looks around for something to smash... and the only thing he can see nearby is The Masque dancing on top of the portal. So he directs a big SKARBRAND SMASH! at her... but she jumps out of the way, and he cleaves through the wards on the portal instead. Meliniel watches in horror as the Masque and a whole swathe of Slaanesh demons dissapear into the Webway, enroute to Biel-Tan. Unfortunately Skarbrand is blocking his way, preventing him from pursuing. Skarbrand eventually realises The Masque has bailed on him through the portal, and he gets really angry (they had a wager!!!) so he jumps through the portal too. Demons are swarming through the portal now, and Melinel is forced to destroy the portal to stop even more getting through to Biel-Tan (though obviously cutting himself off from reinforcing). He sends a psychic warning off to his sister to ready the defences.
Lathriel has the defences organised - all ways into Biel-Tan are sealed off except for the main portal at the back of the Craftworld, which is put under heavy guard to destroy it if necessary. Drastic steps, but better than letting the Craftworld get overrun. The defenders wait - everything looks clear so far - and a scout ship returns from monitoring the advance of the Demons through the webway. No-one notices The Masque clinging to the bottom... ah the old classics. She slips off into the Craftworld, hypnotising anyone who crosses her path which allows Demonettes to possess their bodies. Back at the main gate, the bulk of the Demon forces have arrived led by Skarbrand. He bursts through the portal, carving through the Eldar defences... but the Avatar of Khaine has been roused and they slam into close combat. Farseer Lathriel rushes forward to seal the portal before more demons get through, and when she turns around both Skarbrand and the Avatar have obliterated each other. Meanwhile The Masque has set herself up in the Avatar's (empty) throne, and is summoning more and more Demonettes and preparing a ritual. Some Howling Banshees come across her, but quickly fall under The Masque's hypnotic spell and then Jain Zar shows up. The Masque tries to hypnotise her, to no avail, and Jain Zar impales the Masque upon the Avatar's Throne... but not before the Masque is able to dig her rune-inscribed claws into the Wraithbone surrounding the throne and breaches the Infinity Circuit. Oh censored.gif. The Masque and her Handmaidens are transported inside the Infinity Circuit, bypassing all its defences. Biel-Tan is being destroyed from the inside.
With all routes into the Craftworld now sealed off, Jain Zar leads the counter-attack against the remaining Demons. Yvraine and her group of Dark Eldar and Harlequin guide had managed to get through the Webway Portal just before it was sealed. They're not exactly greeted with open arms by the Biel-Tan warriors - a group of Commarragh warriors right on the heels of a demonic invasion? Sounds suss. But Yvraine helps fight off a huge group of Demonettes that rush in, and a cautious parley is struck. The rest of demons (well the ones physically running around anyway) are mopped up and a War Council is quickly convened, as the very wraithbone structure of the craftworld beings to grey and wither and die around them from the demons still inside the infinity circuit. What the hell can they do? The Spiritseers are frantically running around, transferring souls into Wraith Constructs before they are destroyed in the Infinity Circuit, but even then that will be all for naught if the Craftworld just falls apart around them. Yvraine tries to speak up, but she is shouted down. She abandoned them before, and has now brought Dark Eldar here - why should the listen to her? But Lathriel speaks up for her - maybe Yvraine is the Opener of the Seventh Way? That gets the Autarchs attention, as it’s the first bit of hope they're able to hold onto. Jain Zar also steps up to bat for Yvraine. So Yvraine speaks.
Yvraine tells the Biel-Tan she is the emissary of a new deity, that Ynnead is awakening. She tells them that the Seventh Path is indeed real; that Ynnead can be fully awakened without all the Eldar dying. She tells them that his sentience can be focussed from 5 enchanted bones, each a finger from Morai-Heg's severed hand. Vaul fashioned these bones into blades, and together they can awaken a god. She raises her blade Kha-vir, one of the Crone Swords, to prove her point. There is another Crone Sword aboard Biel-Tan, Asu-var, and she intends to claim it but in doing so the Craftworld’s fate will be sealed. This doesn’t go down too well amongst the Biel-Tani and some step forward to try to stop Yvraine. Jain Zar and the Visarch both step in to defend her, as Yvraine reaches into the Wraithbone structure as if it were a pool of water and draws forth a Greatblade. This sends cataclysmic shockwaves through the Craftworld, shattering spires and wreaking havoc, millions of souls in the Infinity Circuit being destroyed. “Arise!” shouts Yvraine, as a terrible form of ‘twisted bone and shimmering souls’ bursts forth from the wraithbone. Yncarne, the Avatar of Ynnead, had arisen.
The shockwave of the Yncarne’s creation was a violent process. The warp roiled and buckled, a hundred new rifts opening up. Whole sections of the Craftworld split apart, revealing the skeletal framework of the craftworld. One good thing though, the Demons running loose in the Infinity Circuit were utterly annihilated. Some Biel-Tani saw Yvraine as a threat, some trickery of Slaanesh come to destroy their home and attacked, but Yvraine had given the Visarch the sword she’d just pulled – Asu-var – and none stood long against him. The Farseer’s managed to calm things down, and direct all efforts into saving as many souls from the infinity circuits as possible. Curiously, Yvraine and her followers were able to do this too, despite not being Spiritseers. Accusing them of soul theft, some Biel-Tani attempted to stop them but where in turn stopped by Harlequins. “They are the Ynnari,” the Harlequins would say, “Reborn of Ynnead. Your long-dead ancestors go with them willingly.”
With the immediate threat of the Demon invasion over, the Bonesingers set to work to try and repair the Craftworld. It would take centuries of work though, and currently the Craftworld was effectively dead in the water, surrounded by Warp Rifts and all access into the Webway sealed off. Yvraine was uncertain – how where they going to get out of this one? The answer would come from Ulthwe. Ynneads awakening in the form of his Avatar had sent psychic ripples across the galaxy. The Seers of Ulthwe saw what had happened in Biel-Tan most clearly, and Eldrad demanded that the Yvraine and her Reborn be brought to Ulthwe asap. How? Use the psychic energy of the crystal seers on Ulthwe to form a channel directly through the warp from Biel-Tan to Ulthwe. a lot of the Seers were uneasy about this – to break the ancient revered seers from the infinity circuit to be used as mere tools in a ritual? Sacrilege! But Eldrad pressed on with his gamble – a single mistake could suck the entire craftworld into the warp – but they succeeded and a stable and calm passage was opened. The Reborn on Biel-Tan stepped through, led by the Yncarne, and the translocation of the Reborn through the warp sent yet more shockwaves through the warp, ripping open Gellar Fields of Imperial Ships hundreds of light years away, and even distorting the light of the Astronomican. Thousands of human lives were lost, but the Eldar would gladly pay a million more.
The force that stepped onto Ulthwe was a determined one. Led by the Yncarne, its’ ethereal energies swirling about it, larger and more fearsome than any Eldar warrior save perhaps the Avatar of Khaine. Then Yvraine, the Visarch and the rest of Yvraine’s followers, now bolstered by forces from Biel-Tan. To the Biel-Tani, the hope of Ynneads awakening meant a new path, one that didn’t mean skulking in the darkness to avoid the attention of She Who Thirsts. They could now take the fight back to the Great Enemy. Yvraine tells the Ulthwe Seers of the awakening of the Ynnead, and the Seventh Way. She needs to find the Croneswords, two of which are on the Croneworld Belial IV, deep in the eye of terror.
The Seers of Ulthwe are not too keen though. The cost of opening the channel through the warp had been costly, several new crystal statues had formed from Farseers who had been killed in the ritual. Eldrad had gambled big, again, and the Ulthwe Seers were sick his meddling in affairs of the gods. Exile they judge upon him and, if he meddles in the affair of the Eldar race again, Death. Yvraine spoke up for him, saying that they all need to work together to see this chance of salvation for the Eldar through. But the Ulthwe’ Seers are unconvinced, and believe that these new Ynnari will disrupt the very fabric of Eldar society that has kept them together for so long. Things dissolve into shouting matches, when word of new arrivals come. Warriors from Craftworld Altansar have arrived.
Craftworld Altansar had long been lost inside the Eye of Terror, and only recently had the Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra found it, and guided it to safety. But the people of Altansar are viewed with distrust, suspicions of them being tainted by Slaanesh the driving force behind the distrust. The Altansar contingent is led by a Warlock named Guentilian Onyxblade, who is accompanied by one of the rare Gyrinx familiars. She has had heard of the rising of Yvraine, and her quest to recover the Crone Swords and she urges Ulthwe to follow. However, the Altansar cannot return to the horrors of the eye so Guentilian offers Yvraine her soul instead. She raises her sword, and slits her own throat. Yvraine rushes forward to grab her, and breathes in Guentilian’s soul. The gyrinx starts rubbing up on Yvraine’s leg, recognising where its former owner has gone. “We must go to Belial IV now,” says Yvraine and starts to march towards the Webway Portal. The Seers of Ulthwe throw up psychic barriers to try and stop them, and hostilities are about to break out once again until Harlequins of the Midnight Sorrow intervene, accompanied by Kysaduras the Anchorite, wisest of all Seers. “The Ynnari must leave,” he says and the other seers listen, “or else yet another Craftworld will die, never to be reborn”. The Seers let the Ynarri leave for Belial IV – bolstered not only by the Biel-Tan but by some Altansari, Harlequins from the Midnight Sorrow and a swathe of Ulthwe sympathisers.
The Reborn make their way to Belial IV, deep in the Eye of Terror, and being their search for the two missing Crone Swords. Vect, still reeling from his retreat from Commorogh has heard word of this expedition and set Haemonculi to try and kill Yvraine, lest she infect the fabric of Eldar society even more. The Reborn come under attack from Ur-Ghuls, Pain Engines and other monstrosities. The senior Haemonculi starts to capture the Visarch with a box full of djinn-spirits, when the Yncarne steps in and straight up disintegrates the Haemonculi. And not just his physical body – all the samples the Haemonculi used to regenerate himself, kept locked away in the deepest recesses of Commorragh, also turn to dust. The rest of the Haemonculi don’t want anything to do with that, so they retreat. Then the Slaanesh demons arrive.
The Ynnari are bolstered by their belief in Ynnead, but even still they feel the terror of the Ancient Doom of She Who Thirsts. Yvraine can sense one of the swords nearby, but she’s unable to properly search for it as the Slaanesh Demons herd them back towards a giant, writhing pit. Out of the pit comes a giant tounge, with 3 Keeper of Secrets riding it. The Yncarne rushes the middle one, ripping it apart, but the other two Greater Demons drag the Yncarne down into the and start curb-stomping him. Yvraine looks around in anguish as her forces are getting overrun, and notices all the Harlequins flipping around in battle almost reprising their ritualistic performances as if they were telling the tale of The Fall. Yvraine remembers back to her days as a Performer and realises that this basically is a dance of the Final Act, and she knows the dances steps. Emboldened with her new/re-learned acrobatic moves, she vaults around the battlefield until she finds the energy of the sword underneath the ground. Pressing down into the ground, she pulls out a burst of energy – the Yncarne re-formed and holding Vilith-zhar – the largest and most powerful of the Crone Swords. Reinvigorated, the Yncarne cuts a swathe through the horde of demons, and opens a path of retreat for the Ynnari.
With the Yncarne back in the game, the Ynnari are able to break out of the killing fields and fall back to a more a defensible location. They hole up inside the giant Memorial Hall of Atransis, holding the choke points easily. But Yvraine has found only one of the two swords on Belial IV, and they’re effectively trapped inside the Hall. That’s when two huge structures at the back of the hall being to open up, revealing a glowing portal. Stepping out from it is a massive Wraithknight, blue and yellow heraldry emblazoned upon it. Two more Wraithknights follow, as well as a host of smaller Wraith Constructs. Leading the Wraiths is Iyanna Arienal, the Angel of Iyanden. The Iyanden Wraiths cover the Ynnari forces, as Iyanna beckons them through the portal. Whilst they’re still missing one of the crone swords, to stay is to die so the Reborn dash through to the Webway and eventually to Craftworld Iyanden. Iyanna recognises a kindred spirit of sorts in Yvraine. Iyanna believes in Ynnead, but matters of the dead are a touchy subject in Iyanden. “I’ve got your back Sis, but others might not be so friendly,” she warns Yvraine as they enter the Craftworld. There’s one other small problem facing Iyanden at the moment – it’s under attack by two Space Hulks swarming with Demons of Nurgle.