"The elves proclaimed Aenarion the Defender, the blessed Phoenix King of Asuryan, and where he led others followed; where he fought, the daemons were thrown back. Great were his victories and many are the tales told elsewhere of the Phoenix King’s battles. Mighty heroes rallied to Aenarion’s banner; elves such as Caledor the Dragontamer, greatest of the elven mages, and Eoloran Anar who first raised the Phoenix King’s standard; names forever entwined with the legend of the first Phoenix King."
- —The Saga of Aenarion
Aenarion, called "Aenarion the Defender," was the first Phoenix King of Ulthuan, the first monarch of the High Elves, sometimes also known as the first Champion of Light, 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 mortal 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, 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.
The First Chaos Incursion
The reign of Aenarion began in a time of terror and strife. The nightmare creations of Chaos swept across the land. The Polar Gates, once used by the star-walking Old Ones to step from world to world, had collapsed, unleashing a roiling tide of magical energy across the world. In the magic's wake came the daemonic legions of the Chaos Gods, who sought to claim the mortal world for their own.[1a]
The Golden Age of peace on Ulthuan came to an end. Borne across the sea on monstrous daemonic vessels, or excreted from tears in the fabric of the world itself, hideous servants of the Chaos Gods flooded forth. Against them, the Children of the Everqueen had no chance, for they were unschooled in warfare and their magic was used only for peaceful pursuits.[4a] Black-armoured warriors burned the sacred groves. Hideous Beastmen massacred entire villages and towns. Daemons gibbered in the ruins of ancient settlements.[5a]
All the Elves could do was flee. Their bows and spears, used only for hunting and duels of honour, were useless against the armour of the Chaos Warriors and the brazen hides of Daemons. The Elves hid themselves in caves, woods, and mountainsides and prayed to their gods that they would not be found, and that a hero would emerge to deliver them from this evil.[5a]
"Phoenix King they called him now. He had passed through the sacred flames and come out the other side, not burned but stronger, faster, more alive than any mortal should be. He had offered himself as a sacrifice to save his people when the gods had rejected all others, and they had taken his flesh and his agony as their offering and sent him back transformed to do their work."
- —The Chosen of the Gods.[2a]
From the red murk of this age emerged Aenarion, greatest and most tragic of all Elf heroes: a doomed champion, a fallen god, mightiest warrior in an age of constant warfare; the first, best-loved and most accursed of all the Phoenix Kings of Ulthuan.[4a]
Tall, lithe, and strong, a wanderer who had travelled the length and breadth of the world, Aenarion returned to Ulthuan in its time of need. Realizing that the pitiful weapons of the Elves could not stand against the unfurled fury of Chaos, he battled his way through the land to the Shrine of Asuryan and there pleaded with the Creator God to aid his people. If the god heard, he gave no sign. He burned offerings, and the god did not respond. He sacrificed a white lamb. No aid came.[4a][7a]
Finally, in desperation, Aenarion offered himself, saying he would cast himself into the sacred fire if Asuryan would only save his people. As the god made no response, Aenarion kept his promise and strode into the Eternal Flame, oaths of sacrifice upon his lips. Agony wracked his body. Pain seared his limbs. His hair caught fire. His heart stopped. Those who watched thought he was dead. Then a miracle occurred.[4a][7a]
Aenarion refused to die. Slowly, painfully he staggered through the fire. As he did so, his burned skin healed and his scorched hair re-grew. He emerged from the flame unscathed, transformed by the cleansing fire. The spirit of Asuryan had entered him. There was a light about him that all the onlookers could see. All were aware that he had become the vessel of a transcendant power. When he spoke, Elves hastened to obey.[4a]
Leaving the shrine, Aenarion led the Elves to war. Outside the walls he faced the howling Chaos horde. With a single throw of his hunting spear he slew the Daemon lord commanding the force. The weapon tore through the Daemon lord's body then through the chest of his standard-bearer, before coming to rest in the neck of a Minotaur. Weaponless, Aenarion strode down the steps toward the stunned enemy. Then, scarcely breaking a step, he took up the Daemon's weapon and butchered the rest of that abominable host.[1a][4a]
Word of Aenarion's victory swiftly spread across Ulthuan. All Elvenkind took heart at his actions, and rallied to him even as the Daemons reeled from the defeat. Caledor Dragontamer, the greatest wizard of the era, swore fealty to Aenarion, and together they trained the Elves in the art of battle. While Aenarion bade the priests of Vaul forge mighty weapons of tempered ithilmar and steel, Caledor undertook the tutelage of his fellow mages, teaching them great sorceries to banish and destroy. Thus changed the Elves' fortunes.[1a]
Like a thunderbolt the Elves descended from the mountains of Caledor. Dragon-mounted knights smashed the armies of Beastmen. Forces of heavily armed and armoured infantry drove the followers of the four Chaos powers before them. In the campaign that followed, Aenarion forged his army in the way a smith would temper a sword. Mounted on Indraugnir, eldest of Dragons, and clad in a suit of inviolable armour wrought within the legendary Anvil of Vaul, he led the way into every battle. Aenarion was like unto a god of war. With his new army flew hundreds of Dragons, allies of the Elves since the dawn of that race. The skies themselves came alive with their number, and the Daemons were driven back in disarray before their wrath.[5a][7a]
At Korumel, in present-day Ellyrion, Aenarion slew the Keeper of Secrets, N'kari, banishing the Daemon from the mortal plane for centuries. In the foothills of southern Chrace, he smashed the Khorne-worshipping army of Vorghan the Slayer. He cleared the boundaries of the sacred grove on the Island of Apples from the Skull Dancers of Slaanesh, and their mistress Aazella Silkenthighs. Dragonfire incinerated Hugin the Plaguelord, and the rotting legions of Nurgle. Then, for a moment, the war seemed to end.[5a]
Brief peace settled over Ulthuan, like the shroud over a corpse. It was the peace of death and sorrow, in a land weary of war, and made listless by loss. It was a time of brief liaisons and temporary gladness. The northern gate continued to run out of control, gnawing into the heart of the world like a cancer. The tide of magic continued to rise.[5a]
Ulthuan, on a natural fault line in the fabric of reality, was saturated with the energy of magic. The Annulii Mountains glittered with polychromatic light. Maids gave birth to monsters. The voice of Chaos thundered in the valleys. Terrible laughter filled the burning night. Strange events and portents abounded. Oracles went mad with fear. The Keeper of the Shrine of Asuryan plucked out his eyes, but even this did not stop the terrible visions. When questioned about the fate of the world, he refused to speak.[5a]
During this time Aenarion came to the court of the Everqueen. He was a striking figure, a tired giant in golden armour. There he met and married the Everqueen, Astarielle. Little is known of their courtship but it is said that, for a brief time, they were happy. Their first born children were twins, a daughter, the future Everqueen Yvraine, and a son, Morelion. Then the forces of Chaos returned once more, and the silver horns summoned Aenarion again to battle.[5a]
The Second Chaos Incursion
"Indraugnir landed, crushing more daemons beneath his bulk. Aenarion leapt from his saddle-throne, pinning another daemon beneath his speartip as he landed on the floor of the rocky valley. Dragon and king fought side-by-side; Aenarion’s spear a white blur of destruction, Indraugnir’s fangs and claws rending and tearing all that came within reach, tail snapping and cracking behind.
Around and about them the dragon princes struck, every pass heralded by a rush of wind from beneath a dragon’s wings and completed with a clutch of bodies cast into the air. Higher up the slope, Caledor and Eoloran led the elven lords down into the melee, swords and spears flickering. As a fire burns across a piece of parchment, the line of elves surely advanced, leaving naught but the ruin of the daemons behind."
- —Aenarion leads the princes to battle.
War surged over the length and breadth of Ulthuan. At first the Elves and their draconic allies had the mastery. But slowly and surely the followers of Chaos gained the upper hand. More and more Daemons and corrupt things emerged from the warp gates. More and more men were transformed by the mutating power of the great clouds of Chaos magic drifting from the poles. More and more monsters swarmed down from the glowing mountains. Every Elf warrior who fell was well nigh irreplaceable. For every Chaos worshipper who fell there were two more to take his place.[5a]
The war dragged on for decades. At times, by dint of heroic effort, the Elves achieved a breathing space and cleared their lands. Sometimes they even launched expeditions to other continents to aid the Dwarfs and Humans. But it was obvious the war was being lost. Any victory merely slowed the inevitable defeat; any defeat accelerated the process immeasurably. In the end, all the Elves, even Aenarion, grew tired of the unceasing conflict. The forces of Chaos fought on showing neither weakness nor mercy. They were relentless, insane, and deadly. Then came the two incidents that were to echo down the long ages of Elf history and set the stage for the great dramas that were to follow.[5a]
It was Caledor, that wise and ancient mage, who proposed a plan to thwart the powers of Chaos. Years of experimentation had taught him that the Old Ones' gates had collapsed, and it was those ancient devices that allowed the followers of darkness to invade the world. Caledor devised a plan to gather these energies and return them to the Realm of Chaos to create a cosmic vortex that would drain the magic from the world, and save its inhabitants from Chaos. It was a desperate plan, with little hope of success, but Caledor and many like him thought a last desperate gamble would be preferable to the slow death the Elf people were enduring.[4a]
Aenarion opposed this, calling it a "council of despair". Although in his heart he knew that the war was unwinnable, he was determined to put off the end for as long as possible. If news of a brutal Daemonic attack had not reached Aenarion, he would likely have changed Caledor's mind entirely, such were his charisma and powers of reason. In the camp of the Elf army, Aenarion and Caledor were in the midst of their last great argument when fatal news was brought to Aenarion. The messenger, wounded and weary unto death, wept as he relayed to the Phoenix King how Astarielle had been slain, and Aenarion's children could not be found for the carnage.[1a][4a][5a]
"The ground shook and rock crumbled as Aenarion’s fist closed upon the hilt. He pulled the sword free from its stone prison and held it aloft. Blood seeped from the runes etched into the blade and poured in thick rivulets across his hand and down his arm, trailing crimson across his armour. Godslayer, Widowmaker, Doom of Worlds, Spear of Vengeance, Deathshard, Icefang and Heavenblight. By many names it was called, by mortal and daemons and gods. But one name alone it truly held: Sword of Khaine, the Lord of Murder. Now it was the Sword of Aenarion."
- —The doom of the Elves is sealed.
No-one who looked at him could meet his gaze. He was overcome with rage and bitterness and titanic fury. He swore that he would kill every Chaos creature on the face of the world. Few who heard him doubted his resolution or his madness. The dark powers were too strong to be overcome. Aenarion did not think so. He announced that he would travel to the Blighted Isle. Dread filled those who heard his words, for it could mean only one thing: Aenarion would journey to the Blighted Isle and there draw forth the Sword of Khaine.[4a][5a]
A weapon of terrible power, the Sword of Khaine had waited, embedded in the great black Altar of Khaine since the beginning of time. As old as the world, it was the ultimate weapon, death made manifest — a splinter of the fatal weapon forged for the death god Khaela-Mensha-Khaine, capable of slaying mortals and gods alike. All knew that to wield Khaine's blade was to invite death, damn your soul and doom your lineage forevermore.[1a][4a][5a]
Upon learning of his liege's intent, Caledor beseeched Aenarion to relent, but he would not be dissuaded. Seized for a moment by the power of prophesy, Caledor spoke words that would ring down the ages. He told Aenarion that if he sought such corrupt power he would bring eons of tragedy to the Elves, that he and his line would be accursed to the last generation, that the gods would turn their faces from him and that Aenarion himself would surely die. Ignoring all warnings from mortal and immortal alike, the first Phoenix King climbed onto the back of Indraugnir and set off for the Blighted Isle.[1a][4a][5a]
The journey was long and arduous, and tested even the strength of mighty Indraugnir. As he flew, portents abounded. Winged Daemons assailed Elf and Dragon alike as they travelled, trying to turn Aenarion from his path. The Elf gods whispered words of warning in his ear, but if he heard, he paid no heed. Even the Chaos Gods attempted to discourage him from his goal, and Aenarion contended that they feared the blade. A great storm blew up as he approached the island, as if the elements themselves were trying to drive him from his chosen path.[1a][4a][5a]
Indraugnir was mighty even as dragons measure strength, but even he was weary by the time he bore Aenarion to his destination. Before plunging into the maelstrom, Indraugnir gave his own warning, counselling Aenarion he would have no peace in this life or the next, should he follow through with his plan. Only upon hearing the words of the millennia-old dragon did Aenarion pause, but even this did not dissuade him.[1a][4a][5a]
Parting ways from Indraugnir just a few leagues from the Altar of Khaine, Aenarion walked towards his fate. There, he was assailed by spirits — the Dead Yet To Be. The ghost of Astarielle appeared then, pleading with him to turn back. Though Aenarion loved his wife dearly, he hardened his heart and wrenched the great blood-dripping weapon from the altar, sealing his fate, and that of his people.[1a][4a][5a]
A Mortal God
"If the gods had given him strength, the Sword had made him all but invincible. Where he walked daemons died. Where he led, victory was inevitable. But he could not be everywhere and with every day the forces opposed to him grew stronger and those who followed him grew fewer and fewer."
- —Aenarion’s struggle.[2a]
When Aenarion returned to the fray, his power was without match. None who stood before him could prevail for his arm was strengthened by the Creator God and in his hand he bore the Widowmaker, and gods and Daemons trembled at his wrath.[4a]
Those Elves most embittered by the war against Chaos flocked to their king, and he created a kingdom in north of Ulthuan, in the dismal land of Nagarythe. There, to the surprise of everyone, he took another wife, the strange, mysterious and beautiful seeress Morathi whom he had rescued from a band of Slaanesh worshippers. To them was born another child, Malekith, who was to become the most hated of Elves. The court of Aenarion was a wild place, full of desperate gaiety and feverish mirth. The court of Aenarion earned itself a dark reputation, and the Elves of other lands were reluctant to go there. Unrest fermented, and many decried Aenarion's merciless persecution of all who defied him.[1a][4a][5a][7a]
Sensing the growing evil in the land, Caledor led his Dragon-riders south to his own land. He was dismayed by the change in his old friend, and could see the darkness in his soul warring with the light. Aenarion decried the departure of the Dragon-riders as a betrayal and swore he would be avenged on their prince, but the Daemons struck again before his wrath could bear fruit.[1a][4a][5a]
The war reached its final stage, an unequal contest of might between the Elves, and the innumerable legions of the four Chaos powers. Touched by Asuryan and marked by Khaine, Aenarion was an all but invincible warrior, a child of darkness and light. His blade lent him power beyond mortal reckoning; the Eternal Flame gave him the strength to use it. In battle, Aenarion slew foes beyond reckoning. His loyal mount Indraugnir was a match for any Daemon. And yet there was only one Aenarion, and the number of his followers was finite. During the long years of war, their numbers slowly dwindled till only the most savage, cunning, and ruthless survived to carry the war to Chaos. It became obvious to all but Aenarion and his followers that the war was lost and the world was doomed to eternal darkness.[1a][4a][5a]
The Last Battle
"Today will be our last battle. Today, for better or worse, this war ends," he shouted, and his voice carried even over the bellowing of the dragons. "Today we go forth from this place to victory or to death. Gird on your armour. Make ready your lances. We ride!"
- —The King Departs.[2a]
Caledor, fully aware of Aenarion's incipient madness decided that there was only one thing left he could do. Up till then he had respected his old friend's command abjuring him from creating the vortex. But now, with the world about to end in blood and fire, there was nothing left to lose. Caledor called together a convocation of the greatest High Elf Mages and they assembled on the Isle of the Dead to begin the great ritual. The mightiest Sorcerer-Daemons of the Chaos host set to work to breach the spell-walls around the island.[1a][4a][5a]
With Caledor Dragontamer intent on performing the ritual, Aenarion was left with no choice. He assembled his forces and moved to defend the mages on the Isle of the Dead. At the centre of Ulthuan the two forces met. Dragons so numerous that their wings darkened the sky descended on the Chaos Host. On land and sea total war was fought between Elf and daemonic minion. The death agonies of monsters filled the sea with foam. Dragons plummeted earthward, killed by fatal spells. As the creation of the vortex began, the seas churned and a terrible wind blew from the north. The skies darkened and lightning bolts lashed the tortured earth.[1a][4a][5a]
While the battle raged, the High Elf sorcerers chanted the spell that would create the vortex. Chain lightning flickered. The world shuddered. For a moment all was calm, all was silent. Then the mountains shivered. Terrible energies pulsed between earth and sky. From the mountain tops bolts of pure power leaped to converge over the Isle of the Dead. The clouds swirled and rushed inward, vanishing in on themselves like waves in a whirlpool. The air grew thick and clotted with magical power. All present found it hard to breathe. Their lungs tingled with magical energy. The ground was split and vast chunks of rock were carried into the sky by the rising tide of magic.[1a][4a][5a]
While Aenarion and his outnumbered army fought, the sorcerers struggled to complete their ritual. One by one they died, the weakest first as the magic that they sought to control burned out their minds.[1a][4a][5a] As the mages of Ulthuan faded away, Aenarion and his faithful dragon Indraugnir were locked in battle against the four towering Greater Daemons of Chaos sent to destroy him. It was a battle that no mortal should have been able to survive, for each of the Daemons was the mightiest of his kind. But Aenarion was the vessel of his god's wrath, and in his hand was the Sword of Khaine.[1a][2a][4a][5a][7a]
Atop one of the floating islands, Aenarion fought The Keeper of Secrets, N'kari. Its terrible grasp could not cut Aenarion's armour, but the pressure was too much for any mortal to bear. Aenarion's ribs snapped like twigs under the awesome stress. The pain would have killed a lesser being, but Aenarion had passed through the fire of Asuryan and agony could not slow him. The Elven god-king reversed his grip on the blade, and drove it through the Daemon's chest. In Aenarion’s hand the Sword of Khaine dripped smoldering blood and the daemonic blade took on a life of its own. It whispered terrible threats and promises into his mind. Having drunk the Daemons' souls, it filled Aenarion with new strength.[1a][2a][4a][5a][7a]
The Phoenix King then staggered toward the towering form of the Great Unclean One, Throttle Gurglespew. It loomed over him chuckling with preternatural malice. Aenarion drew his blade across the Nurgle-thing's gut, slicing through the fleshy sac and unleashing a seemingly unending tide of foulness. A wave of corruption, pus, bile and writhing white maggots threatened to fill Aenarion's lungs. The thing's entrails writhed around him like the tentacles of a daemonic octopus. Slowly, Aenarion was drawn down into the Daemon's innards. Even as he hacked his way free more tentacles looped around him and dragged him into the filth. He called to Indraugnir for help. The old Dragon turned its head and seared its suppurating flesh with white-hot flame. Protected by his enchanted armour, Aenarion stood unscathed at the centre of the firestorm.[1a][2a][4a][5a][7a]
Last to fall was the raging, gore-clad Bloodthirster, Hargrim Dreadaxe. Though with a last swing of its hell-forged axe it dealt Indraugnir a fatal blow, and broke Aenarion's arm, against the Sword of Khaine it could not stand. Aenarion carved it in two.[1a][2a][4a][5a][7a]
On the Isle of the Dead the last surviving mages completed their chant. For a moment all was quiet. His foes defeated, but his body ruined, Aenarion climbed wearily into the saddle of his dying Dragon and they took to the air on their last flight. Buffeted by the raging winds Indraugnir carried the dying Phoenix King high above the battlefield. Looking down he saw the final fearful act of that day. With a terrible flash that all but blinded the onlookers the island vanished behind a raging storm of magical energy.[1a][4a][5a]
The ritual was finally completed — or at least partially so. The High Elf sorcerers had succeeded in opening a vortex to drain away the raging magic, but were trapped within it, eternally keeping it open, forever trapped in their battle with Chaos. After the silence came the thunder. Tidal waves rippled across the Inner Sea, great walls of water that sank ships and brought trees on distant shores toppling down. Those who could fled. Those who could not died. It seemed as if all the magical power in the world was being trapped in the centre of the storm that would last three days.[1a][4a][5a]
Indraugnir bore the dying Aenarion outward to the Blighted Isle. The receding tide of magic had reduced his power. The touch of Asuryan was no longer so strong in his mind, and the Sword of Khaine no longer provided him with near limitless strength. The great days of High Magic were over. As the power withdrew the madness lifted from Aenarion's mind. The first Phoenix King had time of think of the Daemon's taunts. His conscience warred with the whispered promises of the semi-sentient sword. He knew that should anyone take the weapon of Khaine, they could rule the new world.[1a][4a][5a]
Barely managing to complete the journey, Indraugnir crashed to the ground on the shores of that dismal island. Trembling from fatigue and the terrible wounds to his ancient body, Indraugnir gave one last bellow of defiance and died. Alone, Aenarion crawled back to the Altar of Khaine and drove the blade back into its resting place, embedding it so deep that none could ever draw it forth again. Then, it is said, he lay down beside the ravaged and torn bulk of his beloved steed, and passed from that age of the world.[1a][4a][5a]
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 bear terrible consequences. His son by Morathi, Malekith the Witch-King, would 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 still suffering from the effects of the curse wrought by their grandfather's actions millennia before.
The Song of the Creator
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 repeats this verse five times over:
"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."
- —Song of the Creator[8a]
Prophecy of Caledor
The prophecy spoken by Caledor, just before Aenarion declared his intention to draw the Sword of Khaine.
"The Elven-king wrapped hard in woes,
A gifted curse to break his grief,
To slay unnumbered his wicked foes,
A brightening flame that burns too brief.
To Gods he turned and to Gods he fell,
Save One alone of dark divine,
In blackest heart rings murderous knell,
In deepest shadow where no light shines.
His slaying shall be as the flood,
Lets loose the Godslayer’s ire,
Drowns the world in seas of blood,
Burns it all with waves of fire.
In the North this Doom awaits,
Luring like flame to moth,
Promising life of endless hate,
Bloodshed eternal, uncaring wrath.
And kindled in the fire of rage
Born from blood of anger’s womb,
Child of slaughter cursed for an age,
Bearer of the elf-king’s doom."
- —Caledor Dragontamer
- 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]
- While Aenarion was deeply in love with his first wife, the Everqueen Astarielle, he did not feel the same about Morathi. Rather, he reckoned it as a “mad, sick passion.”[2a]
- His name may be a reference to Anárion, brother of Isildur and King of Gondor from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings universe.
- 6: Aenarion (Short Story), by Gav Thorpe
- Bane of Malekith (Novel), by William King.