Harlequins (Warhammer 40,000)
Harlequins is an army that features in Warhammer 40,000.
Harlequins (Rillietann) were a faction of Eldar that formed after the fall of their empire and developed into an enigmatic and mysterious group in their civilization.
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.
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 or Harlequin Avatar 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. These ranks were thus divided into the following:
- 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 : a special position within the ranks of the Harlequinns. 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 : (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 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.
- Ailill Nuada :
- Sylandri Veilwalker :
- Lhaerial Rey :
- Ni'iless :
- Jewyadin :
- Harlequins featured in the setting of Warhammer 40,000.
In other media
- Warhammer 40,000: Compendium:
- Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition):
- Codex: Harlequins (7th Edition):
- Codex: Harlequins (8th Edition):