- "Upon the isle beneath the fight, wise mages cast their spells And Daemon minions howled in anguish, cursed to eternal hell. And on this day we bow our heads to he who world did save, Aenarion the Proud Defender, Aenarion Ever Brave."
- —Part of the Verse, sung once every decade by the Asur
Aenarion the Defender was the first Phoenix King of Ulthuan, the monarch of the High Elves, and is the most revered High Elf of all time. Aenarion united all the kingdoms of Ulthuan and the entire race of Elves beneath his rule and defended the world from the terrible daemonic hordes that plagued the globe during the Great Catastrophe. In his rage at the deaths of his wife and children at the hands of the Daemons, Aenarion drew the immensely powerful, yet cursed Sword of Khaine and used it to keep the Daemons at bay. This was until his great friend, the Archmage Caledor Dragontamer, had sacrificed himself to enact a spell of Elven High Magic that created a Great Vortex that sucked away the surplus Winds of Magic. This meant the Daemons of Chaos could no longer physically manifest in the mortal world without a mortal host. Aenarion was mortally wounded while defending Caledor and he lived just long enough to return the Sword of Khaine to its altar in the Blighted Isle. Yet the curse of Khaine came upon Aenarion's bloodline for making use of the weapon and his son Malekith, later called the Witch King, would ultimately shatter the unity of Ulthuan and divide the Elven race into its noble High Elven and villainous Dark Elven branches. Aenarion is sometimes known as the first Champion of Light.
The First Chaos Incursion
Aenarion was an explorer in his youth, traveling the breadth and width of the Old and New Worlds and as such had been absent in the early days of the Great Catastrophe, when the Chaos Portal at the poles of the Warhammer World collapsed and raw Magic from the Realm of Chaos flowed into the world, but when he returned to the Elven homeland of Ulthuan to find entire villages massacred and the Elven race pushed to the edge of extinction, he knew something had to be done. Battling through the Chaos hordes to the shrine of Asuryan, Aenarion prayed fervently for his people's salvation, yet all that answered him was silence. He burned offerings, incense, he sacrificed a lamb, still there was no reply. Finally, Aenarion declared that he would sacrifice himself if it would save his people, yet the silence remained deafening. True to his word, Aenarion hurled himself into the brazier of the flames of Asuryan. At first it seemed as through the flames would consume him, for Aenarion's skin blackened and peeled and his hair was burned from his head, but then a miracle occurred. He began to heal, and after a few moments stepped out of the flames reborn as the first Phoenix King of Ulthuan, the light of Asuryan now burning within his breast. Upon leaving the shrine, he took up his old hunting spear and hurled it towards the Daemon Lord leading the Chaos host attacking the shrine, killing him in one blow. Then taking up the fallen daemon's own weapon, Aenarion proceeded to butcher the rest of the chattering daemons single-handedly. The High Elves were then ready to go on the offensive against the Forces of Chaos.
Along with the great Elven High Mage Caledor Dragontamer, Aenarion forged the great weapon at the Anvil of Vaul, calling the Asur together into a great army that would sweep the land of Ulthuan clean of the minions of Chaos. Aenarion was proclaimed by all the Elves to be the "Phoenix King", the living embodiment of the God Asuryan. With the aid of Caledor, and a chosen band of Elven warriors wielding the Great Weapons (who would later become The Council of Princes,) Aenarion turned to the task of ending the Chaos incursion. With the brief respite from the fighting his victories had won him, Aenarion married the first Everqueen of Ulthuan, Astarielle, and sired a son (Morelion ) and a daughter (Yvraine ) by her, but soon the horns of battle sounded again with the daemons of Chaos once more at the gate.
The Second Chaos Incursion
This second incursion of Chaos daemons and mutants was far larger then the first, an unending tide of gibbering horrors. Although Aenarion won battle after battle, the Elves were losing the war. It was the great Archmage Caledor who devised a plan to put a stop to the roaring army of Chaos spilling out upon the shores of Ulthuan. He had discovered the existence of the collapsed polar Warp Gates and had come up with the idea to create a magical vortex that would drain the Chaos energies from the ruinous Warp Gates away from the world, which would make it impossible for the Chaos daemons to continue to manifest in the mortal world. Aenarion flatly opposed this plan when it was first presented to him, calling Caledor and his mages a "council of despair" and their plan too desperate and dangerous. He might have changed Caledor's mind if a wounded, weary messenger hadn't come stumbling before the Phoenix King saying that his queen and children had been slain by the rampaging daemons.
Gripped with a titanic fury, Aenarion swore he would scour every last trace of Chaos from the land. Leaping upon the back of his dragon Indraugnir , he sped towards the Blighted Isle upon which stood the Altar of Khaine, the Elven God of War, where the Sword of Khaine rested, a splinter of the great weapon forged for the War God Khaela Mensha Khaine, capable of spilling the blood of Gods and mortals alike. During Aenarion's journey, both the Elven and Chaos Gods whispered words of warning, pleading for him to turn back, but he was blind and deaf to all but his rage. It is said that as Aenarion grasped the hilt of that damned weapon, even the ghost of his departed wife Astarielle returned to him, one final attempt to keep him from walking this cursed path, but Aenarion hardened his heart and ripped the blade from its slumber in the War God's shrine.
When Aenarion returned to the battlefield wielding the Sword of Khaine, none could stand before him. Empowered by the creator Asuryan, giver of all life, and wielding the sword of the War God, the Phoenix King was terrible to behold, shattering the daemon horde a second time. From that time onward, Aenarion and those Elves like him that were most embittered by the losses of the Chaos invasion, went north and founded the Kingdom of Nagarythe on Ulthuan. Aenarion took a new wife, the dark seeress Morathi that he rescued from a band of Slaaneshi daemons, and she became the mother to his second son Malekith. In time, Aenarion became a cruel tyrant, his anger at his losses producing behaviour so shocking that his former comrade Caledor the Archmage took his own people south to find a new land in Ulthuan away from the Phoenix King's growing tyranny and wanton cruelty.
This seeming betrayal by his greatest friend angered Aenarion deeply but before anything could be done, another Chaos horde arrived on the shores of Ulthuan, this one seemingly infinite in scale and ferocity. Even Aenarion knew that the Elves could not hope to stand against such a force, and that this was their darkest hour.
The Last Battle
During the prior invasion, the Archmage Caledor Dragontamer had respected his King's order to not proceed with the creation of the magical vortex, but now with Armageddon crashing down upon Ulthuan, he had nothing left to lose. Gathering up the most powerful of the High Elven mages Caledor flew on dragonback to the Isle of the Dead in the center of Ulthuan's Inner Sea and began to weave the spell that would create the swirling magical vortex that would become a sink for all of the world's surplus of magical energy. The daemon horde knew the words of their undoing were being uttered and the full might of their army swept towards the tiny cadre of High Elven mages too focused on creating their complicated spell to defend themselves. It was then that Aenarion realised what he must do if the Elven race was to be saved from extinction, he rallied his armies and rode to the defence of his old friend one last time.
During the battle, Caledor was successful in using a potent spell of High Magic to summon into being a mystical vortex on the Isle of the Dead in the middle of Ulthuan's Inner Sea that drained away the Chaos energy and the surplus Winds of Magic from the Realm of Chaos, using ancient Menheir Stone scattered around Ulthuan and the Warhammer World by the Old Ones to channel the energy, and secretly aided by the mystical Slann in far away Lustria, who saw the Elves' efforts as the salvation of the world if their efforts could be enhanced by the Slann's far greater command of magical forces. Yet, the creation of the vortex came with a great cost, for Caledor Dragontamer and his fellow High Elven mages were trapped for eternity inside the vortex, never to die as the power of the spell affected the flow of time itself, creating a bubble of pure stasis at the heart of the vortex where time never passed.
Mortally wounded from a duel in which he had slain four Greater Daemons of the Chaos Gods themselves, Aenarion clambered upon his dragon Indraugnir , both of them fatally wounded, and flew to the Altar of Khaine on the Blighted Isle where Aenarion was able to thrust the Sword of Khaine back into the stone of the War God's altar whence it came before dying beside the bleeding corpse of his noble dragon. Aenarion the Phoenix King, the greatest champion the world has ever known against the Forces of Chaos, passed from the mortal plane and none have seen his equal since.
After great deliberation, the High Elf noble Bel Shanaar of Tiranoc was chosen as the next Phoenix King of Ulthuan by the surviving members of the Council of Princes, Aenarion's closest companions in life. The curse Aenarion brought upon his house and bloodline by drawing the Sword of Khaine would later come to fruition. His son by Morathi, Malekith the Witch-King, would later cause The Sundering of Ulthuan, cleaving the single race of Elves into two and creating a great rift which the Elves have never fully recovered from. Aenarion's two other remaining descendants (by Morelion) in the modern day, the potent twins, Prince Tyrion and the Archmage Teclis , would live on into the present time still suffering from the effects of the curse wrought by their grandfather's actions millennia before.
Once each decade, the High Elves hold the Festival of Light to celebrate Aenarion and remember his sacrifice. At dawn on the day of the festival, each Elf recites this verse:
- "Brother spoke the four as one, together we shall rule, Surrender to the Darkness within your heart you know holds true.'
- In his hand the Sword of Khaine did promise power untold, As God of Light and God of Murder battled for his soul.'
- One by one the Daemons fell and Elf Lord he stood tall, For should he fail upon his task then mortal world would fall.'
- Upon the isle beneath the fight, wise mages cast their spells And Daemon minions howled in anguish, cursed to eternal hell.'
- And on this day we bow our heads to he who world did save, Aenarion the Proud Defender, Aenarion the Ever Brave."
- Morathi remembers how Aenarion would always say: Better to be ashes than dust, meaning one would rather burn bright and short rather than to live a long, slow decline.[3a]
- His name might be a reference to Anárion, the first King of Gondor from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings universe.