The Lore Explainer: Warzone Valedor

You want some weird lore today folks? We’ve got you covered here at Lore Explainer! Today, we are looking at an almost forgotten warzone in Warhammer 40,000 lore: The Battle of Valedor.

So back in 2014, Warhammer 40,000 was right in the middle of its most infamous edition: seventh edition. Seventh was a rough edition for the game for many reasons, and one of the bigger problems was that the edition was plagued with rules bloat. If you thought the campaign books in ninth were bad, having to hop between several campaign books to source rules for all your Space Marine formations is a hell I’m very glad we are all past. One particularly notable set of seventh edition campaign supplements were those made for Apocalypse.

Back in those days Apocalypse wasn’t a separate game but an additional ruleset for playing larger games of 40k. Games Workshop released a set of four campaign supplements for Apocalypse, each detailing a major campaign in the game’s lore, usually with three or more factions. These were Pandorax, Valedor, Damnos, and Damocles. Valedor is particularly noteworthy for being the only one that does not feature Imperial forces in an engagement.

Credit: Games Workshop

For a quick background, my first ever Warhammer army was Tyranids, but Drukhari are my true Warhammer love. So any lore that features both of these factions is a sell for me, and I think Warzone: Valedor is one of the few where these two forces get spotlight in the same story.

The Aftermath of Iyanden

Valedor’s story begins right after the Battle for Iyanden, where Hive Fleet Kraken was defeated in a very pyrrhic victory by the Asuryani after the return of the exiled Prince Yriel. The Craftworld Iyanden is barely hanging on to life, while there are still some pockets of the shattered tendril of Kraken hanging around the Craftworld. The remaining Aeldari needed to destroy these bits of the hive fleet before they could regroup and deal the final deathblow to the Craftworld. So in the first of several “Space Elf Self Owns” we see in Valedor, the seers of Iyanden harness all of the sorrow and anger at the devastation of their home by the survivors into a single point in space, and create a warp storm called The Vortex of Despair to banish their foes into the warp so the Craftworld can escape. One splinter fleet closest to Iyanden gets sucked into the warp because of this – and as you may recall, the Aeldari do not normally travel in the warp, and doing so is very bad for them. As Craftworld Iyanden escapes, the seers look at each other and say “Out of sight, out of mind” and decide that surely nothing bad can come of this. 

If you can’t see a Tyranid, it legally can’t hurt you anymore. Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Fast forward to a little while later, in a wholly different part of the galaxy, it turns bad things were coming of this. 

On the planet Valedor (which the Aeldari once called Duriel), the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Leviathan had arrived to spell doom for the Imperial citizens there. 

Once, Valedor was an Aeldari Maiden world, but when Slaanesh was born during the Fall of the Aeldari, the Aeldari living on Duriel had their souls taken from them and died as a result. This paved the way for the Imperium to show up a few millennia later, tear down all the fancy Eldar stuff, build their own garish replacements, and colonize the planet. Then 999.M41 the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Leviathan show up in the sector to consume the planet for biomass and it falls in a week. And normally that would be the end of the story.

Except on the other side of the sector, the pieces of Hive Fleet Kraken that got sucked up by Iyanden’s Warp Storm of Sadness get spit out by the warp, and the Tyranids of Kraken immediately start doing their thing consuming the other planets in the sector, making a route to Valedor. It is implied in the lore that the Chaos Gods did this on purpose just to spite the Aeldari, and I respect that.

Back on Iyanden, A farseer is struck with a grave vision: A super-species of extra dangerous Tyranids that emerge from the Hive Fleets Leviathan and Kraken meeting and merging their genetic material and knowledge, which could spell doom for the Aeldari, if not the entire galaxy. The Farseer warns the craftworld, and they make haste to Valedor through the webway. Even then, they won’t make it in time to stop the two hive fleets from merging, so they physically call out to Biel-Tan for aid in this task. After being reminded the kind of threat Tyranids this poses, Biel-Tan musters the Swordwind to strike. 

The Swordwind in action on an imperial world. Credit: Games Workshop

The Aeldari Assault

Led by Autarch Sunspear, Biel-Tan strikes at Kraken with deadly swiftness just as Kraken is arriving at the planet. The Aeldari focus on knocking out the synaptic beasts of the Tyranids, so that the smaller beasts would be directionless and easier to hunt down, and lack any synaptic imperative bonuses. Initially, this goes really well for Biel-Tan. They even manage to get the Avatar of Khaine to fight some Tyranids and not just get immediately owned, like it did during the Battle of Iyanden.

Notes: As an immortal, nameless creature, the Avatar is among several character-like units in 40k which can just be killed to prove a point or prop up a threat and brought back later at no narrative cost. During the Iyanden the Avatar of Khaine challenged a Hive Tyrant to a fight and the Hive Tyrant just sent a dozen Carnifexes to kick its ass. Truly, to be an Avatar of Khaine is to be among the lowest of the jobbers of Warhammer.

Credit: Keewa

Things fall apart though when Leviathan shows up to crash the party, and I found it funny that Leviathan’s arrival wasn’t with crazy bio-titans or big scary monsters here, but with thousands and thousands of Gargoyles. Too many Gargoyles. Biel-Tan is forced to retreat from Gargoyle-Con M.41, but not after more “Space Elf Self Owns” when the book makes a point that there were so many pieces of Tyranid living ammunition flying around that when Falcon and Wave Serpent pilots closed the hatches to protect the Aeldari inside, it actually sealed the doom of the passengers within because all the living ammunition inside the Grav-Tank would just eat the Aeldari who now had no way to escape. 

Oh, and the Avatar of Khaine gets dogpiled when the rest of Leviathan shows up. Not a great day for Biel-Tan.

At this point the bellicose Biel-Tan decide the only way to stop the combination of Kraken and Leviathan now is to blow up the planet. Biel-Tan and Iyanden don’t have any way to destroy a planet wholesale though, so they need outside help from someone who can. They consult the runes of Fate, and with this the true stars of this story are introduced: The Drukhari.

Enter the Drukhari

Using an acient Players Mask, Sunspear summons a Harlequin to act as an ambassador to the Drukhari in order to strike a deal for aid. Said Harlequin then bows, disappears, and does exactly that with the Dark Kin. The Asuryani don’t really know what the bargain was, but they don’t much care when the raiders of both the Kabal of the Black Heart and the Wych Cult of Strike erupt from Webway portals to aid them.

If you’re a Drukhari fan, by the way, the Drukhari in Valedor are amazing. The Drukhari in this story don’t turn into dumb, villainous backstabbing the first second they can. They’re actually not only unambiguously heroic and helpful, but they basically save the day. But god, the Drukhari are just complete dicks about it the whole time, and it’s great.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

One wonderful example: There’s one blurb that talks about how the Kabal of the Black Heart came to aid, and many of it’s warriors dressed in the colors of the Iyanden warriors they fought beside. The Drukhari sarcastically maintained this was a sign of respect to the craftworld, and then spent the entire battle openly mocking Iyanden for its large amount wraith constructs, calling it necromancy and sacrilege, and openly mocked its perversion to the Craftworld reincarnation process to the point where it left “a permanent stain on the honor of Iyanden.”

Just imagine, some Drukhari walking up to a farseer and saying this “Oh wow, look at all these wraith constructs in your warhost. I can’t imagine what your dead wife would think about such a perversion against nature itself. Hey, you know what, why don’t you just point to which wraithblade is her and we can ask her ourselves!”, then laughing in the farseer’s face as they walk away.

Amazing. No notes.

A Drukhari Archon named Lord Sarnak (with, according to the book, a permanent shit-eating grin on his face, god I love these jerks), shows the leadership of Biel-Tan the planet-destroying device that can be used to destroy Valedor. It’s a device called The Fireheart, which can be placed where the planet’s crust is weakest. Once activated, it’ll penetrate the planet’s core, disrupting it to the point of catastrophic meltdown. Sarnak smiles even harder as he explains that the Drukhari can’t use it because it has to be psychically controlled, so but if Biel-Tan sends its best seers to control it while the forces of the Aeldari and Drukhari buy them time, that should work. It will however, tragically kill the best seers on the craftworld in the process. What a bummer that is, huh?

For the Aeldari, this is a great tragedy and sacrifice. For the Drukhari, this is comedy gold. Biel-Tan accepts, but before they can get to work on the Fireheart the Aeldari have one more big “Space Elf Self Own” to complete: In their haste to retreat from the Tyranids, Biel-Tan forgot to close a webway gate behind them. So now there’s just a bunch of Tyranids in the webway. Good job, Aeldari.

The Wych Cult of Strife and the Wraith Hosts of Iyanden do manage to clean all this mess up, but at this point a pattern of failures and missteps is starting to emerge, creating a weird tone for a story that is very Aeldari-centric.

Lelith Hesperax personally kills a whole bunch of Tyranids to save the Craftworlders’ collective asses, with no ulterior motives whatsoever, just Love of the Game. Credit: Robert “theChirurgeon” Jones

There’s one big own that Biel-Tan gets to take back though: scouts report what looks like a red glow on the planet, and when forces arrive it turns out that Biel-Tan’s Avatar of Khaine is still alive, and has decided to rip and tear Tyranids until there were no more Tyranids to kill. The Aeldari rally at this point and the combined forces set up the Fireheart here. Now they just have to defend it for long enough to destroy the planet and then get away before it dies. 

Notes: At this point you’re reminded it’s an apocalypse book, because a Tyranid Hierophant shows up and fights a trio of Aeldari Titans: two revenants and a phantom. Fortunately for the Aeldari, they do manage to kill the Hierophant, but not before it kills one of the Revenant Titans with Tyranid gun-goo as it dies. Every Apocalypse game has rules for the world literally breaking apart as the game goes on and pretty much every campaign book involves some kind of world-shattering event.

The Battle of Valedor. Credit: Games Workshop

The Final Battle

The combined forces manage to hold off the Tyranids long enough to activate the Fireheart. However the Tyranids can also sense that something is up and they’re about to lose, so they start the desperate process of trying to combine Hive Fleet resources. As the Aeldari begin to retreat a Leviathan bio-ship latches on to a Kraken feeder pool to start assimilating that Hive Fleet’s Biomass, and Sunspear falls to his knees and cries out in anguish as the Craftworlders are denied literally any victory in a book when they are the main characters.

Once again the Drukhari step in to save the day – just as the assimilation process is about to begin, a squadron of Razorwing Jetfighters who are all trying to one-up each other in skill and kills swoops down and uses their razor sharp wings to cut the capillary towers holding the biomass with expert precision, severing the arterial tubes carrying the biomass and preventing the assimilation. The Tyranids were denied their prize and the Drukhari had saved the day, flying off into the sunset of the dying planet.

The real heroes of Valedor. Credit: Sky Serpent (Instagram: @skyserpent40k)

The Aftermath

The Asuryani withdraw their forces as best they can as the Aeldari forces in space make sure to destroy every last one of the Kraken bio-ships before Hive Fleet Leviathan could close in. It’d cost Prince Yriel the better part of his fleet but in the end they managed to prevent the deadly merging of Hive Fleets.

Back on Comorragh, we find that the Drukhari have captured a host of Tyranids from both Hive Fleets. The Haemonculi are already doing experiments on them and planning to merge them into a single strain, just to create a set of superwarrior Tyranids for the gladitorial arenas. Surely this is a plan which will only have upsides and never backfire.

Final Thoughts

Valedor doesn’t really have a lasting narrative impact on the 40k universe. Or at least it hasn’t yet – there are some interesting story hooks, the most important being the merged strain of hive fleets being kept by the Drukhari – but mostly it serves to flesh out and give more context to the Fall of Iyanden, and to give us a rare story with no Imperial actors.

If you’re a fan of the Tyranids then this is a good story. Here the Tyranids are presented as a real apocalyptic threat and given the opportunity to cut loose in ways they normally can’t against the Imperium. Tyranid fans are pretty used to reading stories about their space bugs losing, so the good stories are the ones like this where it’s a bloody, desperate battle to overcome the swarm, and the Tyranids are presented more as cunning predators than mindless beasts without number.

If you’re a Craftworlds fan, Valedor is weird. A lot of the focus of this story is the Craftworlders making bad decisions or being killed by Tyranids. It feels like these aren’t Aeldari from an Aeldari book, where they get to be swift and cunning strategists, but Aeldari from a Space Marine book, where the Aeldari exist to be haughty and die horribly. At least the Avatar of Khaine gets a rare moment to shine; that rocks.

If you’re a Drukhari fan the story of Valedor rules. There are so many descriptions of Craftworlders getting killed by Tyranids in this story, but no descriptions of Drukhari dying. They pretty much swing the battle wherever they show up. They get to provide the deus ex machina with the Fireheart, then save the day with the Razorwing Jetfighters, and all the while they take every opportunity to relentlessly laugh at and mock their Craftworld cousins. The Drukhari are huge, gigantic dicks in this story and are free to get away with it. And even after all that they just undo the hard work of Biel-Tan and Iyanden. I just cannot emphasize this enough gang, I love the Drukhari. 

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