Craftworlds, though spacecraft,are vast beyondcomprehension.They arenot merely hugecapital shipsploughing through space witha surroundingescort of smaller vessels.They arenot evenakin to vast cities,assomeof thelargest star forts of theImperiummight beconsidered,but rather areimmense spacefaring worldsaccompaniedby vast armadas, thelikes of whichmightotherwisebe set aside todefendanentire systemor evensub-sector.Wholebattlefleets cluster aroundkey pointsand stations allacross the thousands ofmiles of thecraftworld’s exterior as smaller,nimbler craft rushandsurgeacross its surfaceinaconstant shimmeringpatrol.Beneath this dizzying tideof vessels, under clear crystallinedomes through whichgroundand stars mightgaze upononeanother, theEldar live their lives aboardthese spaceborne worlds.Since theFallof their raceandthedeclineof their empire, thoseEldar who seek tocontinue their ancient way oflifehavedone soaboardthesecraftworlds,onanaeons longcourseacross thegalaxy,as muchinflight as in searchofany kindof destination,for theEldar raceis adyingone,andeven theexodus of thesegreat craftworlds willdolittle toavertthat.
With suchgargantuan vessels at their control,it may seemsurprising that theEldar rely uponafleet at all,but thecraftworlds shouldnot beconsidered ships inany realsenseof the word.Mobile they may be,but their own vastsizemakes themfar toomassiveandcumbersomeaproposition toinvolvedirectly inany fighting.Insteadacraftworld’s army must bedelivered todistant battles by means of the warfleets of theEldar,andmore specifically by theEldar’s ancient Webway.TheWebway is alegacy from thedays when theEldar ruled thegalaxy from themany trading ships which wouldlater form thebeginnings of thecraftworlds themselves.Inthesemerchant vessels theEldar journeyedacross thegalaxy througha series ofintricately connected warptunnels, returning to real spaceby means of warpportalsor ‘wraithgates’ which theEldar had seededacross thestars.By means of this Webway theEldar couldmovealmost unhindered throughout thegalaxy.It is still thissameancient system which theEldar use whenmovingtheir armies to war.TheWebway is not perfect,however,and thebirthof theGreat Enemy,Slaanesh,didmuch tomakeits usehazardous to theEldar.Many portals had tobepermanently sealed toprevent theforces ofChaos spillingfrom theWarp,and themilleniaof struggle which theEldar have sinceenduredcontinues todiminish theoncegreat extent of their Webway.
It is possiblefor anEldar to simply traverse theWebway onfoot,movingdirectly fromacraftworld toa wraithgateonsomefar distant world.Suchportals,however,areinvariably far too small toquickly deploy anentirearmy,andhence suchmethods are usedby few amongst theEldar –only theRangers, theHarlequins andother distant wanderers tread these slender paths.Onoccasionhowever, theEldar’s destiny willdraw themtofight ona worlddisconnectedfrom theWebway by themilleniaof tragedy whichhavebefallen theEldar.TheEldar warhosts may bedispatchedaboard vast wings of Eldar attackcraft –VampireRaiders and thelike– whichareable toferry susbstantialforces rapidly via theWebway. At other times,aforce so vast may be required that theaircraft and skimmers of theEldar army itselfareinsufficient.It is at such times that theEldar battlefleets willbe readied.The warhosts of theEldar willassembleaboard thefleet, which will thendepart thecraftworld,itself using the webway.As such,acraftworld’s docks arenot really simpleholdingareas for its fleet,but rather they areimmense wraithgates attached to thecraftworlditselffrom wherethefleet may enter theWebway.Suchafleet is thenable toexit theWebway by another point elsewherein thedepthsof space usingare thelargest of theEldar’s wraithgates – portals so sizeable that wholefleets may emergefromthem whenactivated.
AlthoughEldar Corsairs areaconstant threat tomerchant shipping, they very rarely poseamajor threat toImperialbattlefleets.The samecannot be saidof thedozens offleets ofEldar ships thatprotect eachEldar Craftworld.Eachof theseCraftworld warfleets is adeadly andhighly potent forcethat is capableoflaying waste toanentire sub-sector.
by Matt Keefe
Fan03_06-19 3/4/04 7:29Page 6