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In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Khaine is a god of the Eldar associated with battle, war and conflict. Many scholars believe him to be a manifestation of the Eldar's racial passion as manifested in battle and warfare. "Kaela Mensha" is not technically part of Khaine's name, but is a title he bears. It roughly translates to "bloody-handed", a reference to the blood which eternally drips from his hands as a reminder of his murder of the ancient Eldar hero, Eldanesh .
During the war of heaven, Khaine fought and defeated the Nightbringer, shattering his necrodermis, although the resulting metal shards pierced his flesh, tainting his form with 'the aspect of the Reaper'. It is also said that this event precipitated the eventual fall of the Eldar: The Nightbringer planted the fear of death within all mortal creatures except the Orks, which furthered their survivalist emotions. In the depths of the Warp, beings created during the turmoil of the War in Heaven would feast on these feelings and grow to sentience, setting into motion a chain of events that would close the Path of Rebirth for Eldar souls forever.
Khaine is one of the three surviving gods of the Eldar. In the old pantheon, he was second only to Asuryan himself in power, and was often shown as the enemy of Vaul. He is also the most violent and reckless of the gods. Asuryan was so appalled by his murder of Eldanesh, a mortal, that he cursed Khaine and made his hands drip eternally with the blood of Eldanesh so that everyone would remember what he had done.
Khaine is also believed to have been assaulted, defeated, and dominated by Slaanesh sometime after Slaanesh's awakening in the 29th millennium (Imperial Calendar). Following this, Khorne, Chaos God of war, battled Slaanesh for Khaine, rightly claiming the Eldar deity as his property. During their struggle, Khaine was driven into the material world, where he shattered into a thousand pieces. Each piece came to rest at the heart of an Eldar Craftworld. By sacrificing an Exarch to Khaine on the eve of battle, the Avatar becomes a fiery, animated manifestation of the god, including the blood dripping from his hand, and leads the Eldar army into battle .
Khaine's precise nature in the Warhammer 40,000 cosmology is not defined, although due to his interaction with the Chaos Gods, he appears to be an entity of the Warp, although not appearing to be like the Chaos Gods. Some background materials published by Black Library (such as Xenology), imply that Khaine and the rest of the Eldar gods are in fact members of the first sentient species known as 'the Ancients', also known as the Old Ones, which were the creators of the Eldar and many other races of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Other Black Library publications suggest that the psychically potent Eldar were themselves created by the Old Ones so that they would produce living manifestations of their racial collective unconscious for use in the war against the C'Tan. After the Old Ones were defeated, Eldar came to worship their psychic creations as gods.
Within the Warhammer Fantasy universe Khaine is worshipped primarily by the Dark Elves and High Elves. However, in this instance his full title is Khaela Mensha Khaine, with an 'h' that is not present in the Warhammer 40,000 Khaine; the meaning of "Khaela Mensha" remains the same.
The High Elves worship Khaine as a god of battle, similar to his Warhammer 40,000 incarnation. He is primarily worshipped during times of war, as he is seen to be a bloodthirsty deity and worship of him during peacetime is not considered appropriate. Khaine had a strong influence on the formative period of the High Elven kingdom, as the first Phoenix King, Aenarion, drew Khaine's sword to save the High Elves during their first war with Chaos. By drawing the sword, Aenarion became a living avatar of the God of War and he brought down a great curse upon himself and his family. This curse still affects the current heirs of Aenarion's legacy, the twins Tyrion and Teclis.
Khaine as he is worshipped by the Dark Elves is described as a god of murder. This suits the harsh society of Dark Elves, who view any sign of weakness as a fatal flaw. Holidays dedicated to Khaine, such as the Harvest of Souls and Death Night, invariably involve killing. Fueled by the social Darwinism of Dark Elf culture, devotees of Khaine elevate killing to an art form and will gladly kill anyone - friend or foe - who displays vulnerability.
The primary Temple of Khaine resides in the city of Har Ganeth (known as the City of Execuioners) in Naggaroth. It is a seat of great power, as the worship of Khaine is the official Dark Elf state religion. Morathi (the Queen Mother) and Crone Hellebron (the High Priestess of the temple) both claim supreme dominance of the temple, which often leads to conflicts. This power struggle is kept in check by Malekith, the Witch King of the Dark Elves and son of Aenarion.
It has been implied that Khaine is the Chaos god Khorne by another name, or possibly a minor aspect of Khorne who has gained his own consciousness. This is vehemently disputed by the Dark Elves, who see Khorne as a crude brute in comparison to the refinement and subtlety that defines their god of murder, and most human worshipers of Khaine, who consider their god to be an independent being.
Among the humans of the Old World, Khaine is seen as the younger brother of Morr, the God of the Dead, and he is worshiped as the Lord of Murder by assassins and other professional killers. It is said that Khaine is jealous of Morr's rulership over the dead, and thus also over death. Therefore he tries to steal as many souls as possible to fill out his own underworld. It is from this deathrealm that some necromancers call forth some of the souls that they enslave. Khaine can only steal souls that that have been directly sacrificed to him or have not received proper burial rites and are thus unprotected by Morr.
- Priestley, Rick (1994). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-872372-74-0.
- Thorpe, Gav (2000). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Craftworld Eldar. Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-029-3.
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- 8th Ed. Army Book