It seems that we are losing more than just Cadia in the Gathering Storm. Despite the first book in the series only being a few days old, Games Workshop are apparently pushing full steam ahead with this storyline. On Monday, a trailer was released via the company's Youtube channel hinting at the conflict to come, and offering a few odd bits of news.
As you might have guessed from the iconography and mention of souls, this next book in the series will heavily involve the Craftworld Eldar. It's not that big of a surprise really given the ending featured a massed Warhost arriving to reinforce the Imperium's badly beaten troops, but one word in there stands out as a bit odd. Specifically "Aeldari" in place of "Eldar". Yes, this is the whole Astra Militarum nonsense arising all over again, and it's likely for the same reason Elves, Dwarfs and Lizardmen have been replaced by more unique names in Age of Sigmar; It's easier to defend in courts of law if someone ends up using it without Games Workshop's permission.
This was further confirmed by writer Robbie MacNiven (AKA The guy who is thankfully forcing the spotlight back onto the Space Sharks) on his blog when a fan queried him over the question:
"Oh please tell me the Eldar are getting renamed to Aeldari. That's such a good name."
"They are indeed, and I know right? I was actually going to make a post about this. I’ve almost forgotten a dozen times since November not to call them Aeldari before the announcement.
Also, for you traditionalists (or whiners), the name Eldar isn’t being removed from the canon either, they still are called/call themselves that, it’s just they can be called both in the same way the Imperial Guard are the Imperial Guard and the Astra Militarum. As a writer it sure is easier when there are multiple names you can use for things. "
Obviously, open trolling of traditionalists aside, this raises a few problematic points and suggestions. Oh, not due to the name itself of course, but mostly thanks to how it will be executed and the implication it offers.
The first and most obvious one can be found simply be looking at the Imperial Guard. Specifically, when was the last time you actually saw Imperial Guard written in a book? Really, sit back and think for a moment about this sort of thing and consider if you have seen it at all. Despite all comments to the contrary, it has completely supplanted the term in every form, and you'd be hard pressed to find anything beyond "Guardsmen" suggesting that it had ever existed at all.
Now, even as a hobbyist who has followed this universe for over a decade, i'll not weep too many tears over the loss of Eldar as a name. That said, it is a part of their identity, one which has been about for more than thirty years and it's something fans recognise. Changing something so basic as that can hurt a faction for old and new fans, or even cause discontent within those who follow them. After all, if Superman's name was to be changed tomorrow, that would hardly go down well on either a marketing or fandom perspective. Klingons would be the same, in fact most well established things from science fiction settings. Ridiculous sounding as they often are, they're what people recognise, and old and new fans alike are often willing to accept the inherent silliness as part of a grandfather clause. Something which was acceptable in its time, but is so well ingrained into the franchise it would do more damage than good to change it.
However, the more pressing issue which might arise from this is what it might imply for the Craftworld Eldar themselves. Specifically, that it could be an indication of an Aelf situation here, where all Eldar are forced into being one people rather than the variety of factions we had before. The company pulled this with Age of Sigmar, and the repeated disasters they have piled upon the species of late does make it seem likely it could happen again here. In fact, it's somewhat supported by the final pages of Fall of Cadia.
While the sudden involvement of the Craftworld Eldar was something I was trying to keep whilst reviewing Fall of Cadia, the final page revealed a vast army from multiple craftworlds arriving at once. Not just alone however, but with Harlequins and Dark Eldar among them, apparently fighting as a single force.
The good news about this is that, unless someone in the photography department was handed the wrong memo, the vehicles belonging to this faction still work. We still have Aspect Warriors showing up among their number and their technology seems to be fine, so apparently only the Infinity Circuits were drained rather than all spirit stones. The bad news is that, well, it only supports the "one people" angle some players are dreading. You have two arch enemies lined up side by side, every single army from a very isolated and scattered people shunted together, and most of them forced to work thanks to the great disaster that had befallen them.
This point is only further implied by the symbol in the trailer. which seems to be combined together from a variety of Craftworld sigils. You can pick out several details of the symbol which seem to have been incorporated from the likes of Biel-Tan, Saim-Hann and Altansar among others. If it was to be a major change like this, the chances are that we would see various older details or icons being altered like this, or even the army's defining symbol being changed to reflect their altered state.
Some have gone so far as to argue that this could be a symbol for Ynnead instead, an ascendant or diminished god rather than the old symbol, but that could lean towards this as well. After all, the Craftworlds were hedging their bets on this god showing up and dealing with Chaos for centuries, and the subject of souls introduced in this trailer links in heavily to her. The god's active presence would be enough to unite them and, combined with Age of Sigmar's preference for big god characters leading their new armies, it still fits into the depiction mentioned.
Is this speculation? Yes. It might be based upon the narrative arcs of Games Workshop's existing properties and the words of an author, but it is still merely just a theory. We will only know more once the next book of the Gathering Storm is out, but one thing should be clear beyond anything else - Times are changing. Whatever we know of Warhammer now, the universe could be something utterly alien within just a few years. That will be the price of advancing the storyline.