40K Lore: The Kabal of the Dark Eldar

Loremasters – Today we learn the secrets of the Dark Eldar Kabal!

A Kabal is a self-governing socio-economic paramilitary organization. Dark Eldar society is comprised primarily of these Kabals, as well as the Haemonculi Covens, the Incubus sect, and the Wych Cults. These Kabals send out raiding parties through Webway portals in order to collect alien beasts, slaves, and anything else the Kabal may need. The smallest Kabals may consist of hundreds of Dark Eldar, but their territories often consist of scattered hideouts and other secret locations. The largest Kabals contain millions of skilled soldiers.

Archons, the leaders of Kabals, have no real code or law structure to restrict their actions, save for the “Eye for an Eye” philosophy shared by Dark Eldar. Because of this, it is equally likely for Kabals to cooperate in order to achieve a common goal as it is for a Kabal to declare war on another for seemingly no reason.

History of the Kabal

Originally, the Dark Eldar society revolved around a small number of noble houses before the Fall and for a time after it. The descendants of these aristocratic houses were a part of the hedonism that ultimately led to the Fall. They ruled from their own province in the central mass of Commorragh, a port established entirely in the Webway that was outside the jurisdiction of the Eldar councils of the time. Elitism was a way of life, and the houses would seek out and kill anyone who threatened their position. They fought for dominance against the Solar Cults and emerged victorious. However, during M32, a Cult called the Black Heart was founded by a slave called Asdrubael Vect. Commorragh had remained as stagnant as it used to be, until Vect’s clique planted agents that would make ready for his ascension over the noble houses.

The Kabals became the ruling force in Commorragh after Asdrubael Vect took control of the city, replacing the old aristocracy with Kabalite power. The new system ensured that power would not be inherited but instead taken by force. In many ways, the brutal meritocracy of the Kabals resembles Vect’s own rise to power. Many of Commorragh’s surviving noble families fashioned themselves into Kabals, but they have not forgiven Vect for usurping their power.

As of M41, some of the greatest Kabals of Commorragh are the Black Heart, Flayed Skull, Obsidian Rose, Poisoned Tongue, Last Hatred, Bloodied Claw, Dying Sun, Falling Moon, The Severed, Iron Thorn, and Broken Sigil.

Kabal Command Structure

Positions within a Kabal are quite clearly defined, and anyone overstepping their rights as dictated by their position is seen as attempting to overthrow their superior, usually with fatal consequences. However, even the lowliest of the chain can find security if they manage to become a part of a larger kabal. Killing a Kabalite is to commit hostile action against an entire Kabal.

Competition for membership is rough, as one could expect. Kabals can act with a sense of immortality, for it is rare for an entire Kabal to ever be destroyed completely, and there is a never-ending supply of new aspirants ready to commit to the varied and often violent initiation rites.

It is also not unusual for Kabals to employ different kinds of mercenaries and spies. Many also rely on the Haemonculi Covens for stranger methods of surveillance.

The Covens are also responsible for the extremely important service of regenerating the dead elite of the Kabal after realspace raids. In exchange, the Haemonculus responsible for the healing process will take a permanent portion of the soul from their patient for unknown purpose as well as a significant number of slaves – the currency of Commorragh. For this service to be possible, however, the Haemonculus must to be able to get the corpse in question (though no matter how mangled or broken) back to life in a short amount of time. The revival must happen within a day or so from the battle, which is one reason why Kabals make great efforts to return back quickly from the raid, so that their deceased of high status – barring occasional “accidents” for certain cadavers – will still have another chance at life. This service is typically available only to figures such as Archons, Dracons, Trueborn, and successful Sybarites due to its prohibitive cost and high demand.

The chain of command for a standard Kabal is:

Learn More about the Dark Eldar at the Lexicanum!

  • Jonathon Runge

    Dark Eldar; always interesting.

    • Kabal1te

      Dark eldar, the most interesting villains in 40k.

      • Koldan

        Is not everyone a villain in 40k?

        • eMtoN

          In a universe of villains DE stands apart.

  • Rainthezangoose

    Considering how much of a shaft we DE players got in 1998 – 2010 Codex Blue-Balls I think GW owe us a codex and soon. Seriously haven’t played 8th edition at all recently, mainly because Its not been my cup of tea thus far. But my favorite race of drug fueled space raiders would definitely convince me to give it a second chance.

    • helvexis

      They did make up for it with the absolutely gorgeous piece of art that was the 5th ed dex although then they started shotting on us again from then on out …

      • Rainthezangoose

        Hey guys I have a great idea, let’s not update a army for twelve years, and then just when they think their safe, BAM next edition will be the same as the current codex but with LESS!
        :GW employees give thunderous applause:

        • Kabal1te

          If I recall there was also a 6 year gap between the 5th ed codex and the 7th ed codex which also happened to lack all the formations and advanced detachments that the later 7th ed codices had.

    • memitchell

      I’m also cool on 8th. But, it’s not all doom and gloom. DE got their own new game last year. Gangs of Commorragh. It’s fun! Even has a campaign.

    • J Mad

      As a person with 15k points of DE, i REALLY miss 5th ed codex 🙁

  • Gamecock13

    Love my dark eldar. Compelling villians steeped in a Machivellian society. My first and only love in 40k

    • Carey_Mahoney

      Your nickname FTW!

  • GilGordon

    I’m building Dark Eldar army. I already have a Wych Cult Shradstorm box set, 1 Venom, 3 boxes of Kabalite Warriors, 2 boxes of Wracks, 2 boxes of Incubi, 3 Raiders, 1 box of Hellions, 1 squad of Scourges, 3 Voidraven bombers, 3 Reavers, Archon and Archon’s Court, 2 Succubus, 1 Hermonculous, Lilith Hesperax(pewter).
    Anything else I would need?

    • Koldan

      Ravagers and Razorwing Jetfighters, and some beasts are also nice. And i personally would put the 9 reavers you have now, at the end of the building and painting list.
      Venoms are tougher then raiders, so some more may be good. But it mostly depends on your local meta.

      But actually i would just start with what you have, noone knows what actually changes with the codex, so i would not buy too much right now.

      • GilGordon

        Thanks.

    • DrunkCorgi

      A Codex.

  • Koldan

    “Originally, the Dark Eldar society revolved around a small number of noble houses before the Fall”

    Before the fall there were no dark eldar, as far as my fluff knowledge goes. Just because the exodites and craftworld eldar already left the eldar society does not mean, the ones living in the only city that survived the fall were already called dark eldar.

    • Gamecock13

      Yeah, Eldar were just Eldar before the fall. Commorragh was just a haven of lust/pleasure/etc…

      Commorragh was unique in its safety against the fall simply because it doesn’t exist in real-space. Those in real space either left via craftworlds, or were in the webways.

      • Koldan

        Commoragh was the main trading port of the Eldar empire, and it is in the webway. Those in real space either left via craftworlds, or were on far away planets. The webway is not part of the real space and it is always singular as there is only one webway. :p But i am sure you meant that.

        • Gamecock13

          Yep, I think you gathered my meaning.

  • Braden_Campbell

    Actually, the Archons (and indeed everyone living in the Dark city) DO have to follow a short set of laws: the 13 Foundations of Vengeance. Only 7 of these have seen print in various Black Library publications, which I will reprint below for your pleasure:

    1) If someone wrongs you, pursue vengence regardless of the cost.

    2) Once committed, fear not the blade.

    3) Protect yourself and your position.

    4) Excess caution puts a hundred daggers at one’s back, instead of just one to the front.

    5) An enemy can never be presumed dead unless their body be displayed.

    6) If you want something attended to satisfactorily, you must attend to it yourself.

    And…

    13) Above all else, the Dark City must endure