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How are Phoenix Lords made?


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#1
Moonreaper666

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It is strange that Karandras is the only third-generation Phoenix Lord (Asurmen the First and everybody else is Second)

I take there are strict requirements to turn a normal Eldar into one or replace a 'fallen' one such as Drazhar/Arha

Drazhar is Arha the same way Green Knight is Giles le Breton
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#2
Brother Tyler

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Note that I split this off the topic about Karandras "making" Drazhar.

I don't know if the "generation" terminology really applies to the Phoenix Lords except in the case of Karandras. Yes, Asurmen was the first of the Phoenix Lords, but, with the exception of Karandras, each Phoenix Lord is simply the first Exarch of their particular shrine.

Lore has evolved over the years, but here's the lore about the Phoenix Lords from the 2nd edition Codex: Eldar:

A few of the most ancient Exarchs have no shrines, for they have no Craftworld to call home. They wander from world to world, instinctively driven by war, attracted by intuitive power to places of great danger and need. During moments of desperation they appear, sometimes just one but often several depending upon the perils faced. Using the Eldar Webway they move from Craftworld to Craftworld and from planet to planet, following in the path of the Bloody-handed God.

These Exarchs are known as the Phoenix Lords and they are great heroes amongst the Eldar race. Their names are well known throughout the Craftworlds, and their deeds form part of the legends of the Eldar. No-one knows exactly how many Phoenix Lords there are, for some are seen but rarely, while others disappear for millennia only to reappear suddenly and unexpectedly. Some have undoubtedly perished far away, their suits lying upon some hostile world awaiting discovery by some predestined Aspect Warrior doomed to don the armour and become the ancient hero for another cycle of his existence.

Some of the Phoenix Lords are as old as the Fall. They were heroes during the cataclysm, and were the first to bear the spirit stones of the Warrior Aspects. Perhaps they never reached the Craftworlds and so never founded their own shrines as others did, or maybe their shrines have since been destroyed along with their Craftworlds. Whatever their past they are the most fearsome of all Exarchs, and the most powerful warriors of all the Eldar.

Basically, the Phoenix Lords are just super Exarchs. Like the Exarchs, they are a dominant personality with numerous other personalities subsumed within. The dominant personality is generally the original hero. The gestalt has developed into the ultimate expression of their shrine.

There are no "strict requirements" to becoming an Exarch or a Phoenix Lord. The general process is that both develop when an Aspect Warrior dons the suit of the Exarch/Phoenix Lord, becoming the Exarch/Phoenix Lord.

Here's an excerpt from the 2nd edition Codex: Eldar about the Exarchs:

...An Eldar who is lost upon the Path of the Warrior is called an Exarch. Such a fate does not befall an Aspect Warrior quickly, but the repeated exhilaration of battle can act like a dangerous drug upon a warrior's psyche. Aspect Warriors learn how to control their warrior-selves, putting on and casting aside their warrior-self as they don or discard their ritual costumes. An Aspect Warrior who becomes an Exarch loses this ability to dissociate himself. This has serious consequences because upon his death an Exarch's soul cannot be freed into the infinity circuit, for its only impulse is to wage war; all other feelings are subordinated to that single deadly desire.

When an Aspect Warrior becomes an Exarch he adopts an armoured suit from his shrine. Each shrine preserves the suits of its dead Exarchs, often the very suits worn by the shrine's founders. These suits are usually extremely elaborate and ancient. Once put on the suit is never removed and becomes a permanent part of the Eldar, its psycho-plastic form meshing with his tissues. If slain the warrior's costume will be found to be empty, the body having long since been consumed within the suit itself. Exarch suits are studded with the spirit stones of all the Eldar who have ever worn the suit. Their spirits continue to circulate through the psycho-supportive environment of the suit, like a miniature version of the infinity circuit of the Craftworld. It is the presence of this spirit-pool of raw psychic energy that gives the suit and warrior (for the two are indistinguishable) their special warrior powers.

Once he has become an Exarch a warrior is known by the ancient name associated with his armoured suit. The warrior's personality flows into the spirit-pool of the suit and is co-joined with the personalities of all the other Eldar who have ever worn it. Their lives and experiences meld with his own, and his named is added to the long list that constitutes the suit's full title. As a rule it is the first Exarch whose name alone denotes the warrior within, and whose personality remains strongest within the spirit-pool. Thus an Aspect Warrior who becomes an Exarch is reborn as an ancient warrior hero. His spirit breathes life into the suit once more, and the Exarch lives again, empowered by the reinvigorated spirit-pool.

As players, we are familiar with those Exarchs for which GW/FW have provided models/rules:
  • Asurmen (Dire Avengers)
  • Jain Zar (Howling Banshees)
  • Karandras and Arhra (Striking Scorpions)
  • Fuegan (Fire Dragons)
  • Baharroth (Swooping Hawks)
  • Maugan-Ra (Dark Reapers)
  • Irillyth (Shadow Spectres)
Then there are those that we haven't seen or which are unknown:
  • According to the Iyanden supplement, the Phoenix Lord of the Shining Spears Aspect is Drastanta, who is currently among the missing.
  • According to the novel Shadow Point, the Phoenix Lord of the Eagle Pilots Aspect is Amon Karakht.
  • The Phoenix Lord of the Warp Spiders is currently unknown.
  • The Crystal Dragons and Ebon Talons are Aspects mentioned in the novel Path of the Warrior, but their Phoenix Lord isn't named.
  • The Slicing Orbs of Zandros are an Aspect that are unique to Craftworld Zandros, but we don't know anything about them or their Phoenix Lord.
  • And all of the other less common Aspects and their Exarchs/Phoenix Lords are unknown to us.
I'm going to backtrack on one thing. We don't know for certain that each Phoenix Lord is simply the first/most powerful Exarch of their Shrine. It's possible that some [unknown] Phoenix Lords are additional (within their Shrine). These might be ancient Exarchs who came after the first Phoenix Lord and whose abilities rival their forebear. The ready example here is how Karandras replaced Ahra. Under this possibility (which is purely speculative, I'll admit), there might be other Dire Avengers Exarchs who have ascended to a level where they might be considered Phoenix Lords, without supplanting Asurmen. Moreover, we don't know that all Aspects have actually developed Exarchs who have become Phoenix Lords. We know of the major Shrines that are common to all/most Craftworlds, as well as a few minor ones. There are many smaller Shrines, though. Some of these may not have had an Exarch reach the Phoenix Lord level. Lastly, it's possible that some Phoenix Lords have developed outside of the normal Shrine concept. The lore I cited above mentions how some Phoenix Lords were great heroes during the Fall, and that some never founded Shrines of their own. These would be unique heroes outside of the Shrine structure, possibly resembling Autarchs in terms of their variation, but functioning like the Exarchs/Phoenix Lords.

Keep in mind that lore has evolved, so all of this is subject to any changes that have occurred. While some things have shifted a little over the years, I think that most of what I've quoted/cited above remains fairly intact. I'll look through the more recent codices, however, to see if anything above is now inaccurate due to lore updates.
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#3
Prot

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I’m halfway through the Jain Zar novel and she comes off as a very old school pit fighter that ‘saves’ Asurmen. He returns the favour and while the novel isn’t amazing it does give some interesting information on that sort of stuff. No spoilers but there are many passages about her path to becoming Jain Zar. 


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#4
Lord_Caerolion

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There does seem to be something else going on beyond just age, given the differences between how their "soul networks" work. For Exarchs, any new wearer is the "dominant" one, just assisted by the souls of previous wearers. It's only in the Phoenix Lords where we see the new wearer become completely subsumed by the original soul, "reincarnating" the original rather than simply ritualistically taking on the same name.


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#5
Beren

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I believe that the Asurmen novel mentions that some Aspect Shrines never had Phoenix Lords.



#6
Lord_Caerolion

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My headcanon explanation for this issue is that there's actually two classifications of Phoenix Lord. There are the "basic" ones, as described in 2nd Ed, that are basically just "super Exarchs", but the special characters we see aren't just Phoenix Lords, but the Asuryata. These are the pupils of Asurmen himself, blessed by Asuryan/Khaine. Other Aspects have been created since, and their founders may achieve the status to be deemed a Phoenix Lord, but they won't be able to become an Asuryata.


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#7
Ioldanach

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My headcanon explanation for this issue is that there's actually two classifications of Phoenix Lord. There are the "basic" ones, as described in 2nd Ed, that are basically just "super Exarchs", but the special characters we see aren't just Phoenix Lords, but the Asuryata. These are the pupils of Asurmen himself, blessed by Asuryan/Khaine. Other Aspects have been created since, and their founders may achieve the status to be deemed a Phoenix Lord, but they won't be able to become an Asuryata.

From that, I would just classify the Asurya as a subset of the phoenix lords rather than as a separate group. The Asurya aren't necessarily "better" than the other phoenix lords (aside from Asurmen being avowed as the greatest of the phoenix lords in the official lore).


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#8
Lord_Caerolion

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Except we've never heard of any of the Phoenix Lords outside the Asuryata. However many there are, the fact that we've only ever heard of the Asuryata when it comes to the Phoenix Lords implies that any others aren't exactly worth mentioning.


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#9
Brother Tyler

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Or that GW simply hasn't taken the time to develop them and so hasn't committed to them. Similarly, Cawl was never mentioned until GW needed him for the lore progression. GW has given information that the non-Asurya Phoenix Lords do exist so that, if they ever need them, they can introduce them. If that ever happens, they will be as potent as GW needs them to be, whether on par with the Asurya or at some other level (greater or lesser). It's not for us to assert anything regarding this. All we know is that they exist because GW has told us that they do.

(I brought the following over from the Thoughts on minor/additional Aspects discussion.)

More to the point is the fan theory, with prodding from GW, that Drazhar might be Arhra. He is on par with the Phoenix Lords in terms of his rules - different, but comparable. Granted, he was bested by a Phoenix Lord, but the overall battle was back and forth. In the end, the lore shows that his continued existence operates in much the same manner as the Exarchs/Phoenix Lords. It's entirely possible that we do have another "Phoenix Lord" in Drazhar. Given, if he is Ahra then he is one of the Asurya. However, this emphasizes that Karandras is not one of the Asurya. He was one of Arhra's disciples, not Asurmen's.

Also, some other unidentified Phoenix Lords may be Asurya, but they either didn't found shrines or their shrines fell into extinction (perhaps if/when the craftworlds upon which they were located fell, as described in the lore I cited previously).

All of this reinforces that our lack of information about these theoretical Phoenix Lords isn't sufficient for us to make any assertions about them. The oldest, but by no means the greatest, are the ones we know from the time of the Fall [according to GW]. Karandras, a "later" Phoenix Lord, was the equal of one of the Asurya. This demonstrates that the Asurya aren't necessarily inherently superior to their younger counterparts.
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#10
Lord_Caerolion

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Do we actually have confirmation that Karandras was a student of Ahra? I swear I read somewhere that he was also under Asurmen's tutelage, they just both "chose" the Scorpion as their Aspect, but interpreted it differently. They definitely both had their own students by the time Karandras held his coup. Of course, I could just be horribly wrong and making stuff up.

 

I've already posted my views on Ahra/Drazhar elsewhere on here. 


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#11
Brother Tyler

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Hyperbole alert!
 

KARANDRAS

Mystery clings tightly to the legend of Karandras, the Shadow Hunter. Through the gloom of history, his terrible deeds and hidden secrets can only be glimpsed. The most enigmatic of the Phoenix Lords, Karandras' past remains a sea of half truths from which the Striking Scorpions were born.

Perhaps the most ominous stories associated with this Aspect are those concerning Karandras' predecessor, Arhra, Father of Scorpions. The legends tell that Arhra succumbed to the darkness in his soul, and now burns with the black light of Chaos. Karandras, bravest and most cunning of his shrine, finally hunted down his old teacher within the cursed ruins of Zandros. There, Karandras duelled his former mentor for seventeen gruelling days. The two fought to a standstill before Karandras melted into a patch of shadow and disappeared. In doing so, he drove Arhra into a kill frenzy that saw him slaughter his own minions and damn himself even further.

Admittedly, I haven't read the book about Asurmen, so there may be something in there that backs up your point.
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#12
Lord_Caerolion

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Ah, fair enough. I'm still sticking to my theory that Karandras accidentally created Drazhar when he tried to kill Ahra, though.


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#13
Brother Tyler

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We've addressed the answer to Moonreaper666's initial question - the basic process by which a regular Aeldari becomes an Exarch. However, the official lore has a significant gap:

How did the Aeldari personalities that first became Exarchs (including the Phoenix Lords) become Exarchs? Presumably, each progressed over time, developing mastery over unusual warrior abilities until they ascended to the Exarch level. The first Exarchs, after all, couldn't don suits and assume personalities that didn't exist yet. For some, the progression may have been more rapid than for others.

The corollary of this is that it should be possible for modern Aeldari to develop into Exarchs without having to choose an Exarch suit.

Another logical corollary of this is that it should be possible for "regular" Exarchs to progress over time, developing more and more abilities until they rival the Phoenix Lords. This may not be possible to all Exarchs as there may be limits to the potential of each individual. However, it seems highly unlikely that the only Aeldari with the potential to become Phoenix Lords have already done so.

Under the current rules, there are three levels of Exarch:
  • "Basic" Exarch with 1 Warrior Power
  • "Exemplar" Exarch with 2 Warrior Powers
  • Phoenix Lord (currently only the named characters, though the lore allows for others)
(Note that the names in quotation marks are made up for the sake of discussion - I'm not suggesting that these are the actual names for these levels. The "Exemplar" name was chosen simply because the stratagems in Psychic Awakening: Phoenix Rising are called "Exemplar of the X Shrine.")

Curiously, the "Exemplar" level is problematic. Where the rules allow a "basic" Exarch to have any one of seven different warrior powers available to the Exarchs of each shrine, the "exemplar" must have the standard warrior power (the one given in Codex: Craftworlds) and one other. One might argue that the standard warrior power is the core power for the shrine - the power that really defines what true devotion to that Aspect really develops. There might be some merit in that argument. However, some might argue that if that were the case, all Exarchs of that Aspect should have that power and the "exemplar" should simply have a second power. A counter argument might be that they simply develop mastery of that core power later, after they've mastered some additional power.

For the sake of argument, I'll go with the theory that all Exarchs of a given shrine will develop the standard ability, but that some might develop an additional ability first.

More importantly, though, is the bridge between the "exemplar" level and the Phoenix Lord level. The differences between an "exemplar" and a Phoenix Lord are pronounced - the Phoenix Lords generally enjoy multiple stats that are enhanced, an enhanced version of the standard ability for their shrine, and one to three additional abilities, not to mention unique ancient wargear.

Personally, I'd love it if GW allowed us to represent more variations in the Exarch progression, starting with the standard Exarchs and allowing up to the Phoenix Lord level; not just the named Phoenix Lords - the Asurya - but also allowing for later Phoenix Lords from within a shrine. We've seen GW implement this with Karandras replacing Arhra as the Phoenix Lord of the Striking Scorpions. Even if we consider Karandras and the other Asurya to be exceptional, reaching levels that other Exarchs/Phoenix Lords might not reach, the current Exarchs don't quite come near enough to accurately represent what the lore supports.

I could see five levels:
  • "Lesser" Exarch - has one warrior power
  • "Greater" Exarch - has one warrior power and either a second warrior power or a stat line enhancement
  • "Exemplar" Exarch - has two warrior powers and a stat line enhancement
  • "Ancient" Exarch - has two warrior powers and a stat line enhancement, and either a third warrior power or a second stat line enhancement
  • Phoenix Lord - has three warrior powers and two stat line enhancements
An element of this would be that each of the warrior powers would have two levels - a basic level and an enhanced level. So a second/third warrior power might simply be the enhanced version of a basic warrior power that they already have.

An additional element of the "Ancient" and Phoenix Lord levels is that the Exarch might also take up to one wargear enhancement. The easy answer here is that weapons would have something akin to master-crafting, but this isn't always possible. Generally, I don't think that they should have new weapon/wargear types, but that they should have a slightly better version of something already available to the Exarchs of their Aspect.

The cost to advance an Exarch to each level would be steep, with the Phoenix Lord level rivalling the named Phoenix Lords in cost without quite equaling them in potency. The advantage players could derive from this, though, would be that they could tailor their custom Phoenix Lord to their play/army style rather than being stuck with the "stock" Phoenix Lords.

I don't see any way that GW would ever really do this because it breaks the simplicity they seem to be trying to implement with the codices. It would be nice to see if this concept could be developed as a homegrown rule, though. Perhaps I'll take the idea up in that forum.

For now, I think that GW might allow for the higher level Exarchs that I've posited via the vehicle of special characters - if they ever need to create an Exarch that is more potent than the current "exemplar" level, they'll just create a named special character for that purpose rather than giving us a rules construct to create our own.

And now for something completely different...

Thinking about how new Warrior Aspects are created, and also going back to the development of the heroes of old into the Phoenix Lords, I wonder if the Autarchs give us a model for how things might happen.

Unlike the Exarchs, who lose themselves upon the Warrior Path, the Autarchs are on the Path of Command. Each Autarch has also previously followed multiple Aspects of the Path of the Warrior.

Would it be possible for an Aeldari to study one or more Aspects and combine elements of each, and potentially their own improvisations or concepts of warfare that aren't elements of an existing Aspect, to create their own Aspect? These new Aspects might be variations on a theme, or branches from existing Aspects*. These heroes might dedicate themselves to their newly developed Aspect, losing themselves on the Path of the Warrior instead of applying their eccentric/variant skills to the Path of Command. Such heroes might then create their own shrines to their newly-developed Aspect, potentially becoming Exarchs (and potentially becoming the Phoenix Lord of their Aspect).

* This is reminiscent of how Karandras, in replacing Arhra as Phoenix Lord of the Striking Scorpions, changed the Striking Scorpions Aspect, imposing his stealthiness upon the teachings of the Aspect (presumably replacing some more vicious teachings that came from Arhra's darker nature).

This line of thought blurs the lines with the Thoughts on minor/additional Aspects topic.

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#14
Lord_Caerolion

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The first Exarchs didn't need a suit, they just became unable to take the psychological "war-mask" off. The suit doesn't seem to be a requirement, only part of a tradition. As you've said, it should be possible, theoretically, for an average Fire Dragon to be just as trapped as their Exarch, before they undergo the ritual to take a suit of their own. Speaking of, there's got to be some way for new Exarch suits to be formed. It could just be that a standard suit might change after the initial wearer becomes a "suitless Exarch", slowly becoming more ornate over time as newer Exarchs take that suit as their own upon "ascension".

 

And this is why the older description of a Phoenix Lord as "just" a super-Exarch is difficult. The Phoenix Lords aren't just stronger, there appears to be some sort of metaphysical distinction, from the fact that an Eldar who puts on the suit of their standard Exarch retains his personality, he just ritually takes on the name of the first wearer, and becomes part of a gestalt soul-network, but is still the dominant personality. They're still "them". With all Phoenix Lords we've been shown, so again we cannot assume this doesn't just go for the Asuryata, when you put on their mask you cease to exist as an individual, with the only conscious spirit being the initial personality.

 

 

EDIT: I do like the concept of the "divergent Exarchs", making the Aspects akin to religious denominations all worshiping Khaine. Sure, they might all agree that Khaine is the Destroyer/Dragon, and so be Fire Dragons, and Feugan was the founder of the Aspect, but as time goes on Shrines begin interpreting this Aspect a different way, until you get a difference as large as the interpretations of Khaine-as-Scorpion between Ahra and Karandras. 

When you get down to it, the Aspect Warriors are religious sects acting on the will of their god. Who interprets that? The priests, in this case the Exarchs/Phoenix Lords. If one "church" is separated for a really long time, it only makes sense that they start seeing things a little differently than their more "orthodox" followers elsewhere.


Edited by Lord_Caerolion, 18 March 2020 - 05:00 AM.

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#15
Ioldanach

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And this is why the older description of a Phoenix Lord as "just" a super-Exarch is difficult. The Phoenix Lords aren't just stronger, there appears to be some sort of metaphysical distinction, from the fact that an Eldar who puts on the suit of their standard Exarch retains his personality, he just ritually takes on the name of the first wearer, and becomes part of a gestalt soul-network, but is still the dominant personality. They're still "them". With all Phoenix Lords we've been shown, so again we cannot assume this doesn't just go for the Asuryata, when you put on their mask you cease to exist as an individual, with the only conscious spirit being the initial personality.

That's contradictory to what some of the lore says. The second quote in Brother Tyler's first post clearly says that the first Exarch personality is dominant. That quote was from 2nd edition. More recent lore doesn't repeat that, but it doesn't contradict it, either. The 2012 (6th edition) Codex: Eldar says that an Exarch "assumes the sacred name associated with this suit, and his spirit mingles with those of the Eldar who have borne it since the shrine's inception. It is the presence of the spirit-pool of raw psychic energy that gives the suit and warrior - for the two are indistinguishable - their special warrior powers." Moreover, the codices all identify the phoenix lords as the most ancient of the exarchs. Yes, the Asurya* are clearly better than other exarchs, but that may be nothing more than a matter of them having reached a certain level rather than them being inherently superior (i.e., a regular exarch could potentially reach a level where they rival the Asurya).

I think that the problem/confusion stems from portrayals of the exarchs that don't conform to the information given in the codices, where the exarch appears to be an individual that taps in to the gestalt consciousness rather than intermingling with it and being dominated by the first. Other official examples that might sow confusion stem from the old lore about exarchs that moved from shrine to shrine (I think that was in the 2nd edition codex, too, but I'll have to dig around) as well as the Visarch. There are others, too, where the exarch hasn't operated in the way described as the norm. This may, perhaps, mean that there is the norm (first exarch dominates) and there are exceptions (exarchs that move from shrine to shrine, exarchs that can leave the Warrior Path, exarchs where some personality other than the first dominates, etc.).



* You keep saying "Asuryata" when you are referring to the Asurya. The Asurya are the named phoenix lords whereas the Asuryata is an epic legend about the phoenix lords.
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#16
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In "Path of the Warrior," the main character Korlandril becomes a Scorpion Exarch. At first he retains his sense of self but is able to converse with all the previous wearers of his suit but loses himself bit by bit until he surrenders completely. He ceases to be Korlandril and becomes Morlaniath...and Korlandril becomes just another whisper in the back of Morlaniath's mind.

When Morlaniath witnesses Karandras felled by Space Marines, he approaches the rent armor of the Phoenix Lord. The souls of Morlaniath the Exarch are drawn into Karandras' armor and reanimate him - but the personality is not Morlaniath or Korlandril and any other previous Exarch. There is only Karandras.
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#17
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I don’t want to write a novel of an answer but is it has anybody else read Jain Zar?

 

im about halfway through it and the writing is muddy at times so I’m not entirely clear about her origin, but there is a reference to her not being alive. A scene with a big Dark Eldar personality calls her out as being undead. 
 

I know the power must in part come from the spirit stones but it what degree and is it unique to her?

 

I’ll hopefully finish the book soon but she definitely starts out as mortal and Asurmen takes her under his wing. 


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#18
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I haven't read the book, but I suspect that it is as you said. The personality and animus of Jain Zar, and of all the Phoenix Lords (and other Exarchs after a while), is that of the original entity (Jain Zar in this case) and derives from the spiritstone and not from a living entity within the armour. The living Aeldari that donned the armour provides physical motive force, but after a time, that physical body becomes dust (per the old lore). Despite the eventual condition of the body within, the Exarch continues to function until slain in combat. Afterwards, the Exarch will arise again when another dons the armour. That cycle could easily be perceived as a form of "undead" existence.

 

The cycle shares aspects with the ghost warriors, whose spirits, also housed in spiritstones, animate wraithbone constructs.


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Lord_Caerolion

Lord_Caerolion

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In "Path of the Warrior," the main character Korlandril becomes a Scorpion Exarch. At first he retains his sense of self but is able to converse with all the previous wearers of his suit but loses himself bit by bit until he surrenders completely. He ceases to be Korlandril and becomes Morlaniath...and Korlandril becomes just another whisper in the back of Morlaniath's mind.

When Morlaniath witnesses Karandras felled by Space Marines, he approaches the rent armor of the Phoenix Lord. The souls of Morlaniath the Exarch are drawn into Karandras' armor and reanimate him - but the personality is not Morlaniath or Korlandril and any other previous Exarch. There is only Karandras.

 

Thanks, it's been ages since I've read that book. In any case, with a "standard" Exarch each wearer remains a distinct voice, and with the Phoenix Lords they are instantly subsumed into the original soul. 

 

Actually, this raises the question, if a Phoenix Lord is "resurrected" by an Exarch, does that suit now have to "start over", as it were, given the souls are now part of the Phoenix Lord? Or would it just "kill" the Exarch, but leave their souls inside to speak to that suits next wearer? Path of the Warrior seems to indicate the former.

 

And yes, Ioldanach, I've accidentally been calling the Asurya the name of the poem about them. For some reason, I had it in my head that it was Asurya for singular, Asuryata for multiple. That's what I get for posting from work.


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