An Alliance Cracks, a Demon Thirsts – Psychic Awakening Phoenix Rising Review Part 1: The Lore

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Warhammer 40k’s 8th Edition brought with it an advancing of the storyline by about 100 years. According to a recent Voxcast we’ll be spending some time over the next few years exploring this era. Across the galaxy, psychic-sensitive beings are crying out. The Great Rift has torn the galaxy in half and from this gaping hole in reality spill demons and warp-touched energies. Psychic-sensitive beings of every race feel their powers growing – uncontrollably in some cases – as reality is infused with the power of the Warp. The first news of Warhammer 40,000’s new campaign event came at the 2019 NOVA Open. Known as Psychic Awakening, this galaxy-spanning event will touch nearly every faction through a series of expansions that detail the events of various war zones. Psychic Awakening is the 2nd major campaign event of 8th edition (Vigilus is the first) and is expected to to run for quite some time.

The first book of the Psychic Awakening is Phoenix Rising. It provides new rules for the various Aeldari factions and gives us a look at what has been happening with the Ynarri in the wake of the Dathedian – known as The Cicatrix Maledictum to the Imperials. We’ll have coverage of the new rules later this week; today we want to talk about the narrative that Phoenix Rises introduces. This post will be heavy in spoilers from Phoenix Rising. You’ve been warned.

Credit: Games Workshop

Prophecy

Central to the Warhammer Community’s buzz surrounding this release has been snippets of Prophecy delivered by a Visionary of Alaitoc. This prophecy implies that all Aeldari must die to defeat Slaanesh and usher in the rebirth of the race. It’s a haunting premise, and one the Ynarri are hoping to avoid by banding together and bringing Ynnead to life. However not all the Craftworlds and factions of the Aeldari have bought into the Ynnari vision and the book ensures it gives some pages over to those stories. The Alaitoc, for example, believe that this prophecy refers to the rise of the Necrontyr and set out to snuff out a sleeping Necron dynasty before they awaken, only to find themselves embattled by a Chaos incursion.

Another prophecy makes an appearance in this book however, and with the return of Jain Zar it seems as if it’s approaching fulfillment. The remnants of the Biel-Tan Craftworld find themselves defending a trio of Exodite worlds. These fierce battles herald the arrival of three Phoenix Lords. Unfortunately, an ancient prophecy foretells that the Rhana Dandra – the apocalyptic battle to end all things – will see all six Phoenix Lords battling together. Could the Rhana Dandra be imminent? Only Jain Zar is present at the final battle, tucked away on the very last page of Phoenix Rising, but with four of the Phoenix Lords present in this book I would not blame the Farseers for getting a little nervous.

While not quite prophetic, Yvraine’s desperate flight towards Iathglas to confront the Greater Daemon Shalaxi Helbane is driven by visions delivered in her dreams. She sees herself and her closest allies killed over and over again until one thread in one dream shows her a glimpse at victory. To win she must bring together forces of Harlequins, Drukhari, and Asuryani to defeat Helbane and unite the Asuryani.
Note: Eagle-eyed readers of Codex: Craftworlds will recognize the Council on Iathglas as the most recent event detailed in the Codex timeline.

A Race United

The arrival of the Great Rift wasn’t great for anyone, least of all the Aeldari. Already suffering in the wake of Slaanesh’s birth, the ancient race lost two entire Craftworlds to the storm. This raising of stakes didn’t have the effect of uniting the various factions. Rather, resentment and isolation churn among the Aeldari. Many feel the pangs of guilt. The Rift seems to have exploded outwards from the Eye of Terror, which itself was born as a direct result of Aeldari excess. Some extend that blame directly to Yvraine and the Ynnari, given that the appearance of the Rift seems to coincide with Eldrad’s attempt to summon the God of Death. Others, however, see in this conflict an opportunity to defeat Slaanesh and reclaim their ancient strength.

Yvraine, high Priestess of Ynnead, is the central figure of Phoenix Rising. The narrative of this book details her efforts to bring together elements from all the Aeldari faction on the planet Iathglas. It is there she hopes to slay the Slaaneshi Keeper of Secrets known as Shalaxi Helbane, a Keeper of Secrets who has haunted Yvraine’s dreams after being released to hunt her down and slay her. Helbane is a dedicated slayer of demigods and Yvraine believes that Helbane’s death at the hands of a united force of Aeldari will both eliminate a threat and act as a rallying cry to bring more Aeldari to the teachings of Ynnead. Phoenix Rising provides information on a number of different battles between these two and even provides a Battleplan that can be used to play through one of these battles yourself.

Helbane is not the only enemy Yvraine faces in this book. Her efforts to unite the Aeldari under the banner of the God of Death are opposed by many. Vect – Supreme Overlord of Commorragh – is filled with resentment over Yvraine’s transformation in the Crucibael arena and sets his machinations against her. Several raids are launched within Commorragh to snuff out any Ynnari strongholds and he even places a bounty on Yvraine’s head. The offered rewards tempt many including Drazhar, Master of Blades, who comes within a hair’s breadth of slaying Yvraine. She’s saved by none other than the Phoenix Lord Jain Zar who arrives to join the battle and stay his blades in a duel that is the focus of Blood of the Phoenix, a large boxed set releasing alongside Phoenix Rising.

Despite these enemies, Yvraine seems to be succeeding in her attempts to bring the Aeldari together. At the dawn of her great battle with Helbane, her coterie of fighters include a Solitaire of the Masked Sorrow, Lelith Hesperax, and even a fleet of Corsairs. It is this alliance that sees Craftworld Iyanden fight with by her side as well. As the great battle approaches, they debate whether or not the Ynnari’s abilities of Rebirth could be combined with the Drukhari’s ability to regrow flesh to find a way to cheat Slaanesh and rebuild their race.

If you don’t want to know how the story ends, stop reading now. Phoenix Rising concludes with the aftermath of a large battle between Yvraine and Helbane (one of the Battleplans features this fight), and affects the fate of some of the characters in this narrative. As a non-Eldar player I found myself enjoying the focus on Yvraine and her journey through this book. Ultimately a lot happens but nothing too drastic changes — but that’s to be expected with the first book in a grand campaign. There’s quite a bit more to the story, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Psychic Awakening takes us and how the story continues to unfold across the galaxy.

The Yncarne

The Yncarne by Corrode

An Alliance Fractured

Final spoiler warning. Most of the narrative in Phoenix Rising appears before all the fancy new rules and datasheets, however the final showdown between Yvraine and Shalaxi Helbane is included as well on the very last page of the book.

This final page describes the ultimate moments of this battle. Yvraine, surrounded by her champions, takes the fight directly to Shalaxi Helbane. This demon shows just how powerful she is as she strikes down first the Solitaire, then Jain Zar, and then the Visarch himself. All seems lost as Yvraine’s throat is torn from her body by the demon and she feels the souls of so many Ynnari leaving her body. However, just as her back hits the blood-soaked ground, the Yncarne bursts from the body of the Visarch, Jain Zar summons power from the dead, and Yvraine rises with the energies of the planet itself. Together they strike back at Helbane. They slash, cut, and stab and the demon finally begins to dis-incorporate.

The assembled forces of the Aeldari, united in triumph celebrate together even as they mourn the deaths of their allies. Suddenly, a haunting laughter fills their mind. Victory turns to ash in their mouth when they realize that all they’d fought was a projection of Helbane, barely fighting at strength. With this deception revealed, morale is decimated and the promise of unity is broken. Yvraine leaves with her surviving allies vowing to continue the fight against Slaanesh.

More to Come

Of course, there’s still much more to the Phoenix Rising book, and we’ll be digging into and reviewing the rules this week as well. Come back tomorrow for Part Two of our review, when we talk about the Ynnari rules and how their changes affect the faction and its prospects for competitive play.

 

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