Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In the table-top wargame Warhammer 40,000, the Harlequins comprise a sub-group of the Eldar race. They are the keepers of the Black Library and serve the Laughing God. They are welcomed by all other Eldar factions and known for their bright colors, agility, and powerful weapons.
History and Society
The Harlequins are a faction of the Eldar, and the most enigmatic of that mysterious race. They roam the Webway, fighting Chaos and its influence. Their sole purpose is to seek out Chaos and destroy it wherever they can, and Chaos is their most hated enemy.
Harlequins must pass a trial known only as The Ritual upon initiation into a Harlequin band, and this ritual is said to free them of the fear normal Eldar have of Slaanesh, the Chaos god of pleasure. This is why they need not wear a waystone when they travel in the Webway, and do not have to endure the tiring soul-draining that other Eldar endure when in the Webway for prolonged periods of time.
Harlequin lifestyle is very like the life of a roaming mime or troubadour of the medieval times. They wander the Webway and occaisionally appear at Eldar settlements: on a Craftworld, on Commorraugh, on an Exodite Maiden world. They perform dances for the spectators there: Masques, as they are sometimes called. Their artistic works portray the Fall, the legendary decline that destroyed the Eldar, the birth of the Chaos god Slaanesh, and many other tales from the long history of the Eldar.
Way of War
The Harlequins are highly accomplished warriors, each Trouper, as their warriors are called, almost a one-man close combat army. They are already graceful and lithe from their lifestyle and dances, they augment their prowess with so-called 'flip-belts' that generate a small anti-gravitic field around them and allow them to leap unnaturally high. They also wear 'holo-fields' and 'masks of fear'. Holo-fields are a sophisticated substitute for armour: whenever the Harlequin moves, their image is shattered into a cloud of crystal shards that dance and swirl around with vigour proportional to the speed the Harlequin is moving.
The Mask of Fear is a small holographic device worn like a mask. It projects daemonic visages and scenes of death onto the mask and has a short-range psychic amplifier which increases enemies' sensitivity to fear and despair. Other versions of the Mask of Fear include the Rictus Mask, which projects an aura of death in the general vicinity of the wearer, or the Dread Mask, which senses an enemy's worst fears and displays them on the mask, along with a more potent psychic amplifier like the ones used on the Masks of Fear.
Harlequins are also noted for their brutal combat weapons. The most gruesome of these is the Harlequin's Kiss. The Harlequin's Kiss resembles a sharpened tube, tapering to a wicked point, fixed to a warrior's forearm. The tube is actually filled with monofilament wires. When the Kiss is punched into a victim, the wires uncoil and flail around, slicing the victim apart from the inside. Less disturbing is the Stormglove (or Riveblades). The Stormglove is basically a Harlequin adaption of the power weapon used by the humans. It is a set of blades worn on the forearm, or more typically, on the hand as a glove.
Harlequins have no heavy weapons or tanks, save for the Death Jesters. The Death Jesters are the heavy specialists of the army, carrying an array of weaponry, from the humble Shuriken Cannon of the Craftworld Eldar, to the specialised Firepike, or the morbid Shrieker Cannon. The Shrieker Cannon is the trademark weapon of the Death Jesters, as only they create and maintain them. They are a variant of the Shuriken Cannon, but instead of firing a hail of projectiles, they fire only a single shot. This shot is impregnated with a virulent acid that causes the victim's blood vessels and insides to expand violently. This usually results in a small explosion that showers squadmates with pieces of their companion.
The most chilling of all the Harlequins are the Solitaires. The Solitaires are solitary individuals who roam the Webway, seeking out Eldar they think might be talented enough to join a Harlequin troupe. Their most startling characteristic is their apparent lack of a soul. Whenever Solitaires are with a Harlequin band, they prefer to distance themselves from the others, and one is considered cursed if one exchanges words with a Solitaire. The Solitaires show no sign of emotion, either with other Harlequins or on the battlefield. Psykers are known to be very depressed in the presence of a Solitaire. The mental node of the alien is obviously disturbing to them. Psychic attacks on Solitaires will fall short, and weapons which attack the enemy's mind, such as the neuro-disruptor, will simply have no effect.
The Black Library
It is not known where the Black Library is, only that it is a "dark Craftworld". We also know it was very far away from the center of the Eldar Empire, when she who thirsts was born. Harlequins have a greater understanding of the Warp and its effects than any other Eldar, so the Black Library could potentially be in the Warp, in the real world, or somewhere in between.
UK Harlequin homepage: http://uk.games-workshop.com/40kuniverse/warhammer40k/eldar/harlequins.htm
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