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"All the branches you break, the leaves and vines you tread on, will rise up in anger and punish you for your insolence."
Ariel, Queen in the Woods.[3a]

Mage-Queen Ariel.

Ariel is the Queen of Athel Loren and presides over the realm together with Orion. Ariel is one of the most powerful wizards in all of the world. She is a demi-goddess and the avatar of Isha, the ancient Elven goddess of nature, and acquired the Aspects of Isha through the strange magic of the Oak of Ages at the same time as Orion gained the Aspects of Kurnous. Thus, the magical force of nature flows through Ariel as if she were the goddess Isha herself.[2a]

Ariel wields tremendous power over the forces of nature, and could weave them according to her will. She commands the trees of the forest to grow, and vegetation to spring forth from the ground. It is Ariel who weaves enchantments around the Forest of Loren to delay and mislead intruders, or lure them onwards to their doom.[2a]

When enemies enter the Forest of Loren, Ariel shifts shape into her sylph-like War Aspect. She grows almost twice the height of an ordinary Elf and unfolds huge wings like those of a gigantic moth, covered in tiny scales of shimmering, iridescent colours. Upon her wings are strange markings known as the Eyes of Isha, and the Spirals of Isha can also be seen in the patterns of her wings. Sometimes, Ariel's wings display the markings of the death's-head moth to indicate that she is enraged and in a vengeful mood. Moth-like antennas emerge from Ariel's head, but her face remains that of a beautiful she-Elf with piercing eyes. The upper part of her body is clad in shimmering scales of incandescent green, while the lower part trails away into infinity — like an ethereal or elemental being. She appears to glow with an inner light like the moon and trails raw magic in a shower of glittering stardust. In this form, Ariel can fly around the battlefield wielding her magic. The wafting of her huge wings over the heads of the enemy fills them with both dread and awe.[2a]


The Queen of Athel Loren was not immortal, at least not in the beginning. The being that would one day become the Avatar of Isha was originally an Elven colonist born sometime during Ulthuan's so-called Age of Exploration, having made the lands of what would one day be Bretonnia her new home.[1a]


At the very heart of Athel Loren, Ariel, foremost amongst the Elven magi, spoke with the forest for the first time and before long, many Elves learnt this art of treesinging. It was then that the Elves, always respectful of all things natural, truly embraced Athel Loren as their home. More than that, the Elves treated the forest with the awe and reverence it deserved and demanded, seeing the essence of their ancestral gods in its seasonal cycles. They vowed never to take from the forest without giving back equally in service and sacrifice. When the Elves needed wood to burn in order to survive the icy winters, they would take only fallen branches, and in the spring they would nurture and tend to new saplings, encouraging them to shape graceful halls above and below the ground. When the Elves hunted the animals of the forest for food and clothing, they used all that they took, and gave thanks to Athel Loren in ceremonies of blood.[1a]

The Great Council

Orion in his earlier years.

Before long, Dwarfs marched upon Athel Loren once more. This time they came in a throng many tens of thousands strong, with warriors drawn from dozens of holds. When they learned of this threat, the great lords and ladies of the Wood Elves held council at the foot of the Oak of Ages, and even the trees of the glade crowded close, as if paying attention to what was said. The devotees of the trickster god performed their ritual dances, and the seers and prophetesses read the skeins of fate in the stars and patterns of flame. In that fire-lit glade, beautiful Ariel found herself drawn to the Lord Orion. He was the bravest and most handsome of his folk as Ariel was the wisest and fairest of hers. Whilst the council debated how best to oppose the Dwarfs, Ariel and Orion were deep in a conversation of their own, seemingly oblivious to the great matters that were discussed around them. Finally, they slipped away, unnoticed and unremarked.[1a]

The mood of the council was otherwise bleak, for it was apparent to all that they could not best the Dwarfs in battle. Worse, the seers had determined that the Dwarfs were but the lesser of two nascent threats — a great horde of Greenskins was but a few days from launching their own assault. It was in that moment of despair that Adanhu finally revealed himself to the Elves. He pledged that the spirits of the forest would fight alongside them if only the battle was brought before winter came. Emboldened by Adanhu’s words, the Elves prepared their plans anew. In their enthusiasm, they were heedless of the ancient one’s warning that a great sacrifice would be required.[1a]

It was not until many hours later, when the feast was over, that the absence of Ariel and Orion was noted, but when no amount of searching would reveal them, the errant lovers were reluctantly forgotten. Next day, the great host of Athel Loren brought the Dwarfs to battle. As Adanhu had promised, the Elves did not fight alone. Colossal Treemen strode amongst the Elven lines, and great hosts of Dryads swarmed about the flanks. Mighty Durthu led the charge, an unstoppable force of nature who sought revenge upon those who had scarred him. Against this host, the Dwarfs stood little chance. Though they strove with all the stubbornness of their race, they eventually broke and ran, leaving the mountainside heavy with their dead.[1a]

The Winter of Woe

Lord Orion during the Winter of Woes.

Alas, scarcely had the last arrow found its mark in Dwarfen flesh when an icy wind whistled through the boughs of the forest and a chill gripped the land like never before. The cold only hastened the Greenskins onset. In an orgy of destruction, the Orcs built great pyres in order to warm their calloused hides. The Elves fought with all their might under skies stained with the ashes of living wood, but the Orcs were too many and their forest spirit allies addled by intense cold. Little by little, Athel Loren fell to the invaders. The Elves prepared for their final stand before the Oak of Ages. They did so with heavy hearts, for they did not believe that they could win, but knew there was no choice save to fight.[1a]

Then, at dawn, they saw that the forest was transformed. The snows were in retreat and blood-red blossoms had pushed through the hard ground. Animals had roused from hibernation and a restlessness could be felt on the air. As the sun rose, the haunting cry of a great horn echoed on the wind. As the note faded, the mighty form of Kurnous, god of the hunt, crashed through the woods. A pack of shadowy hounds was baying at his heels, and all the Elves who looked upon him were filled with fresh vigour. The horn was winded a second time, and the Greenskins met their doom. Kurnous smashed into the Orcs, slaying all before him in an orgy of destruction. Newly awakened Dryads swarmed in his wake, eager to bestow their cruel mercies.[1a]

As the living god plunged deeper into the Greenskin lines, the Elves joined the charge, eyes and blades afire with their god’s furious power. By the time the sun set, not a single Orc remained alive. In the battle’s aftermath, the exhausted Elves came before the Oak of Ages to pay homage. Here they discovered the enthroned figures of Ariel and Orion, now become avatars of Isha, the mother goddess, and Kurnous, the hunter. Another great council was swiftly called, and there, all the lords and ladies of the forest knelt in worship to Ariel and Orion, now and forever the Queen and King in the Woods.[1a]

The Season of Withering (-1094 to -625 IC)

To begin with, Ariel did not truly understand the blight that had risen to wakefulness - only that it posed a great threat to Athel Loren. Determined to discover the truth, the Mage Queen took council with the Elders of the forest, and sent her canniest scouts to scour distant realms. Little by little, Ariel was able to glean the nature of the creature she sought. No Wood Elf had yet seen the beast and lived to speak of the encounter, but the works it left behind were testament to its unspeakable ways. Where the creature walked, the fabric of the world twisted in hateful transformation: trees writhed into terrible and unnatural shapes, blackened crops bled under the scythe, and flesh reformed like clay in the hands of some crazed sculptor. Where it passed, sanity became drooling madness, and measured nobility became wanton abandon. By these works did Ariel finally put a name to the foe: Cyanathair, she called it the Corruptor, incarnation of disorder and chaos. To his own vile kin he was known as Morghur, Master of Skulls.[1a]

The existence of this being was of great offence to Ariel, for its ruination of the Weave represented everything that she opposed. Desperate to learn how to combat this new foe, Ariel took a great risk. Adopting a spirit form, she went out into the lands where Morghur had known free rein. After long months of tracking the creature’s spoor into lands no mortal Elf could tread without harm, she finally discovered the beast capering madly in the company of other abominable things. So lumpen and wretched was the creature that Ariel almost laughed to see it. She had expected some power-addled Mage, or a vengeful sorcerer of the ancient times; what she beheld was a crude and ignorant beast that lacked the wit to understand its own nature. Without hesitation, Ariel called cleansing flame down upon the Corruptor and its yowling herd.[1a]

Her task complete, the Mage Queen returned home. In her arrogance, she believed that Morghur’s threat was ended. In time, she was sure, the living world would heal from the Corruptor’s touch and the Weave would gradually be restored. What Ariel did not realize was that Morghur was not so easily destroyed. Even as the Mage Queen turned to leave, the beast’s wounds had begun to heal. Worse, Morghur had taken her measure just as she had taken his. The beast had understood little of what he had seen, for his warped mind was a mad spiral in which thoughts and words were alien concepts; but Morghur was not so addled that he did not recognize Ariel for what she was. Having tasted a small measure of her power, he hungered for more. Slowly but surely, Morghur’s meandering path began to creep southwards to Athel Loren.[1a]

The Coming of Mankind

The Wood Elves as they hunt down the human barbarians of the lowlands.

It was at about this time that human barbarians began to cross westward over the Grey Mountains. The Elves had long abandoned this land, leaving in their passing only abandoned fortresses and settlements. A great many of these elegant halls had been torn down and burnt, for greenskins had overrun the land as the Elves had retreated. The superstitious and ignorant barbarians avoided these places, fearing that they were haunted, and fought hard to drive the Orcs and Goblins out of other domains. The Wood Elves looked with amusement upon these battles between primitive tribes, content to let one set of barbarians eradicate the other. Only when the fighting spilled close to the borders of Athel Loren did the Elves take action, driving back the interlopers with spear and bow before vanishing beneath the trees once more. Thus began the tradition of the Wild Hunt.[1a]

Each summer, when the battles ‘twixt men and greenskins were at their most sprawling, Orion led the most hot-blooded of his folk across the Wild Heath and into the barbarous lands beyond, hunting their two-legged quarry as they would any other prey. Soon the glory and terror of the Wild Hunt passed into the barbarians’ legends, and they learned that to threaten the forest was to invite a swift and merciless death. As time passed, the Elves came to delight ever more in making sport with the lives of Men and Orcs. They even began to manipulate the two sides into ever-escalating confrontation — though in truth the greenskins needed little encouragement. The Elves told themselves that they did this to control their enemies’ numbers as they would with any dangerous beasts. The further afield the folk of Athel Loren plied their sport, the less credence this idea held, but they cared little and continued to foment war in all the lands north of the mountain range known as the Vaults.[1a]

Morghur's Revenge

Queen Ariel smiting the Beastman known as Morghur.

Yet whilst the Wood Elves cowed the threat from without, they failed to notice the danger growing within. There had been Beastmen in the forest as long as any of the Elves could remember, great warherds that roamed beneath the boughs, hacking and despoiling as they travelled. Each year, the Elves hunted these interlopers without mercy, but each year there were always more. Some lords and ladies of the wood believed that the creatures had some instinctive understanding of Athel Loren’s timeless paths, and so used them to avoid extermination. Indeed, they said, given the curious passage of time beneath the boughs, it was entirely possible that they fought only the same warherd time and again, its warriors trapped forever in a cycle of defeat. Such theories appealed to the Elves’ arrogance, and so few of them noticed when the numbers of Beastmen began to increase. It happened slowly at first, so slowly that no-one noticed. By the time the Wood Elves awoke to the danger, it was too late — Morghur was upon them.[1a]

It was now more than two centuries since Morghur had grown aware of Ariel, and he had spent that time gathering to him warherd of incredible proportions. Thousands of Beastmen and other horribly mutated creatures had responded to his silent call, and now they hurled themselves at Athel Loren. For the passage of many seasons the forest was riven with bitter warfare. The war would have been dire enough if the Elves and forest spirits had fought as one, but Morghur’s primal nature spoke to the forest’s heart, and parts of Athel Loren rebelled.[1a]

For a long and terrible year, the natural order of Athel Loren was disrupted, for Morghur could seemingly not be slain by the weapons of the Elves. Worse, he recovered from even the most heinous of wounds. Most disastrous of all, the trees and spirits of Athel Loren did succumb to Morghur’s taint. Countless times, the Elves would be on the brink of victory, only to have it snatched from their grasp as madness seized spirits that moments before had been their allies. This insanity was not always lasting, but seemed to afflict the Dryads worst of all, for they had ever been the most capricious and malevolent of all their kind. This terrible conflict was only ended when Morghur was slain at the Battle of Anguish.[1a]

Coeddil, one of the most ancient tree lords, scattered the Corruptor’s forces and seized the beast himself. As Morghur attempted to free himself, Ariel smote the creature. This time, the Mage Queen was determined that the creature be destroyed, so she drew not only on her own power, but that of the forest as well. Before such an onslaught, not even Morghur could endure; Ariel battered through the creature’s defences and shattered his mutated form. The battle had been won, but the forest would ever bear the taint of Morghur’s passing. No living being touched by the Corruptor’s blood would ever truly recover. A gnarled oak tree, branches twisted like claws, still marks the place where Morghur’s tainted blood was spilt. The site of Morghur’s death was known ever after as the Glade of Woe, for it was home only to twisted and withered life thereafter. Alas, Ariel soon learnt that Morghur was as immortal as she — whenever the beast was slain, it was reborn elsewhere. Thus did the Battle of Anguish mark the beginning of a secret war between the Wood Elves and Beastmen, one that would rage down all the ages that followed.[1a]

The Great Betrayal

Five hundred years after the Battle of Anguish, Athel Loren once more knew internal strife. The tree lord, Coeddil, driven perhaps by a last taint of Morghur’s madness, and who had begun to harbour a deep resentment of the Elves, sought to disrupt Orion’s rebirth. That winter, Coeddil and his Dryad handmaidens did not sleep, but bided until Ariel began her own long slumbers within the Oak of Ages. With much of the forest quiescent, and the Elves unaware of his intent, the ancient strode to King’s Glade and slaughtered all he could find, for if no Wild Riders survived to lead the ritual of rebirth, Orion would be severely weakened — if indeed he could be summoned at all.[1a]

Ariel was abruptly awakened from her slumbers as the first Elven blood was spilt. In a great rage she sped to where the Wild Riders fought for their lives. Against Ariel’s fury Coeddil and his followers could not endure. Summoning all her awesome power, the Mage Queen scattered the ancient’s handmaidens and cast down the tree lord. Though Ariel dearly wished to slay the spirits for the damage they had caused and the blood they had shed, Ariel could no more end their existence than sever a portion of her own soul, for Coeddil was still bound to Athel Loren, and Ariel was bound to the forest. Instead, she imprisoned the Elder, and the Dryads who had followed him, in the Wildwood — the dark southwestern corner of Athel Loren where no Elves dwelt. The Wildwood was then encircled with waystones, and Coeddil was abandoned amongst the shadow-glades to brood upon his betrayal.[1a]

Since that day, no Elf has set foot in Coeddil’s prison, for to do so is to walk with death as their only companion. Coeddil may silently contemplate his fate, but his handmaidens have been driven mad by their exile, and endlessly stalk the glades with cruel desires in their hearts.[1i]

Season of Revelation (-624 to 1116 IC)

Athel Loren now enjoyed a golden age. Under Ariel’s careful guidance, Elves and forest grew closer than ever before, and the wounds of the previous season were healed. For centuries as the outside world reckoned time, the Wood Elves ventured seldom beyond the waystones that bounded their home. Only the Wild Hunt openly rode forth, ever reminding the surrounding lands that Athel Loren was still a place of power. Of course, there were those who took the warnings about Athel Loren as craven superstition. There always are such folk, whatever the land or the age of the world. Most such creatures were wandering seekers of treasure and glory whose dreams and bodies ended as mulch for Dryads. Every few years an Orc Warboss or Dwarfen Thane would gather enough of his followers to make a concerted foray, and in those years the trees fed well on the blood of outsiders.[1a]

The Wood Elves remember this as an era of great peace, though this was not strictly accurate. More correctly, this was a time in which Athel Loren suffered few ills from the forces of the outside world, and whatever battles were fought ended in victories so glorious that the lives lost were deemed well worth the price. Fed by the spoils of war, the forest grew ever more majestic, and its dwellers multiplied as never before. Yet such bountiful peace could not last. Morghur was reborn again, and a great warherd of Beastmen soon gathered to him. This time the wild horde did not descend upon Athel Loren, but rampaged through the human tribal lands west of the forest. According to the scouts who shadowed Morghur’s trail, his destination was quite clear.[1a]

If the path of destruction held true, his herd was making for a mountain known to the Elves as the Silverspire — a shining peak from which the lifeblood of the western lands flowed. Ariel knew this as a site of ancient power, and knew also that Morghur could not be permitted to befoul its waters. Though not so mighty as they once were, the roots of Athel Loren dug deep, and drew sustenance from many of the lands fed by the waters of the Silverspire. Ariel did not dare face Morghur herself, for the beast’s touch had weakened her terribly when last she had confronted him. Orion had no such misgivings. Indeed, he longed for the opportunity to slaughter the beast who had dared to harm his beloved queen.[1a]

The Hunt Rides Out

The Wild Riders riding to Orion's call.

The Elves that travelled with Orion were swept up in his great fury, and they unleashed great ruin on the human lands that lay in their path. But the Elves cared not, for the slain were only humans, and therefore of little account. Only when the Wild Hunt reached the slopes of the Silverspire was its wrath finally slaked. With spear and with arrow the Wood Elves drove the Beastmen from the sacred confluence and into the waiting claws of Dryads. Orion himself tore Morghur limb from limb, and tossed the corrupt remains into a cleansing Starwood pyre.[1a]

No other living being did the Elves encounter on the Silverspire, yet still Orion sensed another presence there, one not unlike to his queen, and whose unspoken whispers echoed through his mind. When Orion brought word of this back to Athel Loren, none were more intrigued than Ariel. The Mage Queen had long believed that Morghur was scarcely aware of his own actions, and that the Chaos Gods guided his steps. It was they who drove the Corruptor to devour her and Orion, to consume the godly essence of Isha and Kurnous as his dark masters had all but consumed the Elven gods.[1a]

Thus were the wars of the heavens echoed in the mortal realm. Seldom had Ariel given thought to the idea that there might be others like her and Orion; certainly she had not encountered them. But if there were, it was likely that Morghur would be driven to devour these also. Many turnings of the world later, this theory seemed to be all but proven. Morghur was again reborn in the lands west of Athel Loren, and was drawn to the Silverspire once more. Again, the Wood Elves marched to thwart Morghur’s advance. This time, however, they had allies in the struggle against the Corruptor. Since last the Elves had striven with Morghur, the rough humans of the western lands had united under the banner of a mighty champion.[1a]

The Silverspire was sacred ground to these primitives, and they too now mustered to its defence. It would have gone ill for the humans had Orion led this second Wood Elf host, for the King in the Woods had little fondness for such humans. As it was, the midwinter snows laid heavy on Athel Loren; Orion was naught but a memory and a hope, so cooler heads than his prevailed and an alliance was struck. Together, Men and Elves cleansed the land of Morghur’s taint.[1a]

A Shield Forged

When the Beastmen were defeated, the Wood Elves shrouded themselves in mist and slipped away, despite the humans’ attempts to treat with them. The Elves thought nothing more of their brief alliance — such things had happened before, and would doubtless happen again. The humans did not so swiftly forget, and began to tell stories of the fair folk who had ridden to their champion’s aid. Many years later, that champion’s son braved the perils of Athel Loren in the hope of forging a lasting accord between the Elves and the kingdom his father had founded. Orion, reborn as hot-tempered as usual, had not looked favourably on the supplication, but Ariel overruled her consort in the matter.[1a]

The Mage Queen knew that whilst the spirit of the Silverspire endured, it would distract Morghur from feasting upon Athel Loren, and how better to ensure the spirit endured than to ensure that its human protectors thrived? Thus began a tumultuous friendship between the ancient realm of Athel Loren and the nascent kingdom of Bretonnia. Orion was displeased, and vocally so. He would not, he said, hold back the fury of the Wild Hunt in service to his queen’s whim. Ariel had simply smiled and bade her husband ride wheresoever he wished; if the lands he chose were those claimed by the Bretonnians, so much the better.[1a]

Common cause had brought friendship, but it was only good sense that the humans should fear their superiors. The spirit of Silverspire had, by this time, spread its influence far and wide across Bretonnia. The humans now worshipped it as their saviour, but Ariel believed she shared more kinship with it than they. The humans called the spirit the Lady of the Lake, but the Mage Queen ever after knew her as Corrigyn, Daughter of Mists. There would never be lasting friendship between the two, but neither would there be enmity; each was too wary of the other’s power for that. With a whole kingdom now slyly enlisted to serve as a shield against Morghur, it seemed that Athel Loren’s future could only grow brighter.[1a]

Unfortunately, the Wood Elves soon found it was harder to fade from the world for a second time. Bretonnian bards soon carried tales concerning the ‘fair folk of the woods’ to many lands. Such stories could not help but find the ears of warlords seeking new territory, and the Wood Elves soon found their realm assailed by a succession of armies, each greater and more determined than the last.[1a]

Allisara's Bane

As stories of Athel Loren began to spread in the outside world, so too did word concerning events in other lands trickle into the forest. Many of the tidings were ignored, for the Elves concerned themselves little with the affairs of their inferiors. Reports concerning the ongoing vendetta between Ulthuan and Naggaroth were not so readily dismissed. Most Wood Elves were filled with disdain that such a pointless war still dragged on, but to others, the news brought only sorrow. Foremost amongst these was Allisara, sister to Ariel and once, long ago, wife to Malekith of Naggaroth. She had come to Athel Loren shortly before Malekith began his rebellion, and had ever since dwelt in solitude, seeking to still her troubled heart.[1a]

In time she came to learn much of Malekith’s deeds, and came to feel guilt for the path her husband had taken. So it was that Allisara pleaded with Ariel for leave to depart Athel Loren and return to Malekith’s side, in order that she might soothe the rage in his soul. Ariel was loath to grant this request but, seeing her sister’s determination, relented. Arrangements were made, and Allisara soon travelled west with an escort befitting her rank. Malekith strove to keep Allisara’s imminent return hidden from all in Naggaroth, but his mother Morathi flouted these precautions with laughable ease. She did not want Allisara to return, yet nor did she dare act directly. Instead, she disguised herself and charmed Valedor, a disgraced prince of Ulthuan, and led him to believe that Allisara’s escort was, in fact, an army of Elven Corsairs who had pledged aid to Naggaroth.[1a]

Blinded by Morathi’s spells and his own desire to regain high station, Valedor gathered what forces he could and brought the Wood Elves to battle on the shores of Bretonnia. Mighty was the battle that day, though it is ill-remembered by any save the Bretonnians, for whom it passed into legend as a battle between glorious and terrible gods. Though the Wood Elves fought without fear, it was a battle that they could not win. As it became clear that they could find no victory, the leader of Allisara’s escort bade her flee. Alas, an ill-fated arrow felled the eagle that carried her away from harm, and she was left weaponless and alone before Valedor. As the prince moved in for the killing blow, Allisara saw plain the madness that Morathi had placed upon him. Desperately, she sought the proper counter-charm that would set the prince free, but the Hag Sorceress was not so easily thwarted.[1a]

Allisara was still trying to break the spell when Valedor’s spear pierced her heart. As Allisara collapsed, her dying breath formed the final syllable of the counter-charm. All at once, the madness fell from Valedor’s eyes, and he wept for his deeds that day. Overtaken by despair, the prince cast himself from the bluff and into the churning waters below. Allisara saw none of this, for her soul had already fled. With their commander’s death, the High Elves withdrew. Some thought that they had prevented a great evil; others suspected that same evil had been wrought by their own hands. Few of either group spoke of it ever again. Only a handful of Wood Elves survived to bring word to Athel Loren and, when Ariel learned of her sister’s death, a great quiet fell over King’s Glade, one that remained unbroken for many risings and settings of the sun. Winter came early to Athel Loren that year. As the frost hung ever heavier on the bow, Ariel’s grief became bitterness, and bitterness became wrath. The Season of Retribution was about to begin.[1a]

Season of Retribution (1117 to 1702 IC)

Ariel was determined to discover the identity of those responsible for her sister’s death, and bent all the energies of Athel Loren’s seers to the task. She knew the murderers had been warriors of Ulthuan, but she sought the name of the enemy who had contrived the attack. Alas, Morathi had foreseen that such an attempt might be made, and had covered her tracks with charms of concealment. Ariel soon discovered that even magics of the Weave, from which she drew her power, could not break these enchantments. In vengeful desperation, Ariel delved ever deeper into forbidden knowledge and mastered the very darkest of sorceries.[1a]

Using her new power, the Mage Queen restored a portion of Athel Loren’s worldroots, and Orion used these pathways to loose a great host of war upon Ellyrion, the land of Prince Valedor’s birth. The folk of Ellyrion were slow to respond. Kurnous had ever been the chief deity of their land, and they were slow to raise weapons against he who wore his aspect. Their hesitation was to cost them dearly. That summer, the plains of Ellyrion ran red with the blood of its people. Finally, even Orion could find no joy in this work; it was no hunt, but a slaughter. This would surely have brought Orion to quarrel with his queen, had not Ariel finally shattered Morathi’s enchantments, revealing at last the Hag Sorceress and her wicked schemes.[1a]

Vegeance of the Mage Queen

Now, the Wood Elves carried their vengeance northwest and into the bleak pine forests of Naggaroth. They had no desire to tarry in that land, for its woods were bitter and lifeless things, and the chill air sapped the heart of even the cruellest of Dryads. They soon brought Morathi’s fortress of Ghrond under siege. The Tower of Prophecy’s defences had been wrought to guard against attack from the frozen north, not one that had emerged from the forests of its own heartlands, and its outer walls soon shattered under the fists of Treemen. Desperate, Morathi sent messengers south to request aid from her son, the Witch King. Alas for the Hag Sorceress, Malekith had long since learned of his mother’s role in Allisara’s death. Though the Witch King had publicly forgiven Morathi her transgression, he now saw an opportunity for vengeance for his lost wife, bringing her to heel, and it was with grim amusement that he forbade any aid be sent north.[1a]

Finally, and at the cost of many thousands of lives, the Wood Elves breached Ghrond’s inner citadel. Cornered and desperate, Morathi fell back upon deceit. Abasing herself before Ariel and Orion, she made great show of repentance. Orion wanted the business done with, and would have taken Morathi’s heart had Ariel given leave. Yet the Hag Sorceress had tasted the sorceries which Ariel had woven about herself, and now Morathi’s serpentine tongue offered deeper insight' into dark lore, if only Ariel would spare her life.[1a]

At the last, Ariel relented and accepted Morathi’s bargain; after all, without the power of sorcery, she would never have been able to restore the long-sundered worldroots, nor overthrow Morathi’s dark citadel. Ariel should not have accepted that bargain. Indeed, the Mage Queen would not have accepted it had her soul not been shadowed by the sorceries she had already employed, but the lure of power was upon her. Morathi smiled inwardly as the deal was struck; she had no intention of giving up her greatest secrets, but if a portion of her knowledge must be shared to ensure survival, it was a price worth paying. So was Morathi allowed to live, and begin the slow process of remaking her ravaged fortress.[1a]

Descent into Darkness

As Ariel begins her descent into darkness, so too did her madness infect the Wood Elves of Athel Loren.

Upon their return to Athel Loren, Ariel and Orion quarrelled greatly about the deal that had been struck. Legends tell how their arguments raged for days without meeting resolution, and of how that year the normally glorious autumn months were marred by icy cold. Next spring, the unthinkable happened — Orion was not reborn. The Wild Riders brought their supplicant to the Oak of Ages, but Ariel sent them away without explanation. The Mage Queen now became ever more reckless. Indeed, many lords and ladies of the queen’s court believed that she had gone mad. Soon Ariel's bitter nature spread to the spirits of the forest, and without the onset of Orion's Wild Hunt to vent-their spite, they began to prey on the Elves in a way that hadn't been seen for centuries. Within a decade, life in Athel Loren had shifted from symbiotic harmony to a daily battle for survival.[1a]

The Elves and spirits neither noticed nor cared, for their perceptions had insidiously shifted as the forest had changed. Indeed, none could recall living another way. Only a few had a sense that the balance had shifted, and to these, life now became a waking nightmare. Durthu and Adanhu were amongst those that kept their sanity, but they could do nothing in the face of the burgeoning madness. The Wood Elves now became ever more aggressive, and at Ariel’s will journeyed far and wide, avenging the hurts of previous seasons. Bretonnian lords who expanded their domains too close to the forest’s bounds were driven back. Dwarf holds that had sent warriors against Athel Loren found their trade caravans slaughtered and their armies ambushed on the march. Greenskin tribes were exterminated, or driven from their lairs in the mountains. Ariel used her sorceries to reinforce many of these attacks. Never again, she swore, would Athel Loren suffer from the greed or cruelty of primitives.[1a]

What she did not realize was that the more she drew on the forbidden magics, the more damage was done to the Weave and, as a consequence, the weaker Athel Loren — and all who dwelt within it — became. Before long, Morghur arose again, this time in the Forest of Shadows. On this occasion, Ariel resolved that the creature’s corruption would be stilled once and for all — she would consume his power as he had ever tried to devour hers. The Mage Queen sent a host north through the worldroots, and they soon brought Morghur’s warherd to battle. As they had before, the Wood Elves found the Corruptor all but immune to their weapons, but Ariel had planned against this circumstance. Indeed, she relied upon it. At the battle’s height, Ariel directed a great convocation of Spellsingers to snare Morghur and transport him through the worldroots to the Oak of Ages.[1a]

There she bound the foul creature with all the dark magics at her command, and began the ritual that would make his power her own. She would have succeeded in this disastrous plan had it not been for Durthu. The Elder had felt the disturbance as the Corruptor had been brought along the worldroots, and was outraged that their sanctity could be so violated. Hastening to the Oak of Ages, he slew Morghur before the ritual could be completed. Ariel screamed and railed at Durthu, but dared do no more. Even deluded as she was, the Mage Queen knew better than to harm one of the Elders, so she let him depart, claiming ever after that it was mercy, rather than weakness, that stayed her hand.[1a]

Corruption and Bloodshed

Decades passed. Still Ariel refused to allow Orion to be reborn, and still the Wood Elves cruelly pursued every slight inflicted on them. Dwarfen traders entered the Pine Crags, and were slaughtered without mercy. When the mountain dwellers took revenge, the Wood Elves destroyed several holds in the Grey Mountains, though even they could not breach the mighty fortifications of Karak Norn. Later, when a hopelessly lost Empire army blundered into the Meadow Glades, not only was it crushed without mercy, but Ariel loosed Dryads to raze the town from whence it had marched. The Bretonnian cities of Parravon and Quenelles suffered most of all, and teetered towards abandonment as peasants and nobles alike fled west to escape the cruelty of the Elves.[1a]

But the Wood Elves were now dwindling. Some perished whilst warring in other lands, but most sickened and died as the imbalance Ariel had caused in the Weave took hold. Many of the newly-created worldroots withered and could not be healed, no matter what the Mage Queen tried. Yet even this disaster would not turn Ariel from her path, so utterly had the Dark Magic tainted her soul. At around this time, the Phoenix King of Ulthuan sent ambassadors to Athel Loren in an attempt to heal the wounds of the past. Ariel scornfully rejected the High Elves’ advances, and trapped them within the unseen paths of the forest.[1a]

Unable to navigate Athel Loren so instinctively as the Wood Elves, the ambassadorial party remained trapped for long decades. They finally escaped only to blunder into an army of Bretonnians seeking recompense for the Wood Elves’ predations, and were soon after burnt at the stake by vengeful humans. At the last, the Elders of the forest could stand by no more. Spring came upon them, but there was no sign of renewal. Indeed, they could feel the forest withering and dying around them, and knew that disaster could only be averted if the taint in Ariel’s soul could be cleansed. With the aid of a young seeress named Naieth, who had herself resisted the madness of those times, they gathered what forces they could and marched on the King’s Glade.[1a]

There Adanhu tried to reason with Ariel. He sought to turn the Mage Queen aside from the path she had taken, but she denied him, and saw only an army come to dethrone her. Issuing a great shriek, Ariel summoned the maddened Elves and spirits to her side, and ordered her challengers begone. Battle then broke out in the heart of Athel Loren, though afterwards none could say which side struck the first blow. The tide soon turned against Adanhu and his followers, for they were badly outnumbered. Thus did the Elder resort to a desperate deed. Reaching out to Ariel through their shared connection with the Weave, Adanhu drew the taint from her heart and into his own. Alas, that selfless act was Adanhu’s last — the burden which Ariel had borne those long years was too great for the mighty Elder, and he perished instantly.[1a]

All at once, the madness passed from the forest. Elves and spirits awoke as from a nightmare, the cloak of vengeance and spite that had clouded their vision for so long at least melting away like snow in the first days of spring. Ariel saw none of this. Adanhu’s final gift had brought awareness of all the harm she had wrought, of the natural cycles she had put out of balance by selfishness. Weeping, the Mage Queen fled and hid within the Oak of Ages, there to atone for her sins and focus on restoring the harm that she had done. The Season of Retribution was finally ended, and a time of healing could now begin.[1a]

Season of Redemption (1702 IC to 2007 IC)

Ariel’s final act before sealing herself away was to return Orion to the world. Never had his return carried such sorrow, for though queen and consort exchanged many words, few of them were joyful. Many years would pass before Ariel was seen again amongst the glades of Athel Loren. At the close of each year, the Wild Riders brought Orion’s ashes to the Oak of Ages, and each spring the King in the Woods was reborn. Yet for many long years he ruled alone. Ariel, in her sorrow and guilt, could not face her people, and instead dwelt silent and alone in the Oak of Ages.[1a]

The Wood Elves were distraught that they should be so abandoned by she who was at once both mother and queen to them, but no amount of prayer or pleading would bring Ariel forth. So it was that the Mage Queen’s throne of silver and Starwood sat empty for many turnings of the leaves. Despite Ariel’s absence, the cycle of life continued. The boundaries of the forest were guarded against intruders, the ancient glades were maintained and roving Beastmen warherds were slaughtered. Naieth argued for the folk of Athel Loren to put aside their isolationism. Such a radical departure from tradition wasn't liking to the taste of the lords and ladies, but a compromise was struck. Were it within the Wood Elves’ power to redress wrongs committed against the humans or Dwarfs of nearby lands — in essence, the creatures whose past transgressions had been born of crude ignorance, rather than wilful malice — then they would do so. Such acts could only hasten the restoration of the Weave, and strengthen Bretonnia to a point where it could again serve as Athel Loren’s shield.[1a]

Righting the Balance

For several decades, all seemed well. The Wood Elves held true to their council’s decision, and many an incredulous Dwarf king or Bretonnian duke found a losing battle reborn as victory through the aid of Athel Loren’s keen-eyed archers. Many were the battles won, but the greatest, without doubt, were when the Skaven emerged from their Under-Empire and besieged the cities of Brionne and Quenelles. For three nights and days, the fey warriors of Athel Loren fought alongside the flower of Bretonnian chivalry, and finally drove the foul ratmen back into their tunnels. In honour of the victory, Lord Arda, Warden of Ygrysyll and commander of the Wood Elf host, was accorded an honorary Knight of the Realm by Duke Merovech of Mousillon. Arda remained carefully polite whilst in the company of the humans, but removed the gaudy decoration Merovech had pinned upon him as soon as he was out of sight.[1a]

It is doubtful that any guessed the Wood Elves’ motivation at this time, and no explanation was given. After all, outsiders would never have understood the importance of maintaining the Weave. Even if they had been capable of grasping the concept, the Wood Elves were certainly not prepared to share their secret guilt. Little by little, the Bretonnians came to look upon the Wood Elves as allies once more. As for the Dwarfs, they took what aid was offered, but never once considered striking an entry from the Book of Grudges in thanks. No one fought harder than Orion. He knew full well the depth of his queen’s hurt, and sought to soothe it.[1a]

If that meant fighting alongside filthy Dwarfs, then his soul would bear that burden. He was a god, after all, and therefore capable of feats beyond the reach of mortals. However, with each passing year Orion’s campaigns became longer and bloodier. Deep within the Oak of Ages, Ariel learned of this and grew troubled. It would serve the Wood Elves poorly if Orion’s unchecked fury repeated the previous season’s mistakes. The Mage Queen saw now that the balance between her and her consort was crucial to Athel Loren’s survival. Unfortunately, the Mage Queen was not yet ready to leave the Oak of Ages and rejoin the council — nor would she be so for many seasons. Thus she sent emissaries in her stead, two heralds who shared her power and spoke with her voice. These were strangers to all but a few, who claimed to have fought alongside them in battles long past, even though the emissaries’ age belied such a claim.[1a]

The Sisters of Twilight

Ariel's emissaries were twin maidens named Naestra and Arahan; only by the shade of their hair and their manner could they be told apart. Dark-maned Naestra's spirit was noble and chaste. Her touch could heal the rawest wound, and it was with heavy heart that she brought harm to even the foulest creature. By contrast, Arahan's hair was as white as newly fallen snow, and belied a wild soul that rejoiced in the viscera of battle. She revelled in the thrill of life, and her conduct ever teetered on the brink of acceptable - even in a realm as permissive as Athel Loren. In years to come, rumours would abound that Neastra and Arahan were but one being split in twain, the better to speak for the dark and light natures of Ariel's soul. And perhaps this was true. Certainly the twins were never seen apart. Moreover, they often finished one another's sentences - though whether the original intent was maintained when this happened, or was twisted to match the speaker's will, it was impossible to say.[1a]

Initially, the council did not accept Naestra and Arahan at their word, for they were strangers to all living Elves, and the spirits of the forest remained silent on the matter. The twins were treated with cautious respect, but barred from the King's Glade. Naestra took this distrust in her stride, never once raising her voice in ire; Arahan responded with anger and impetuous threats. Only when summer cooled to autumn, and Orion returned to the forest, was the matter settled. The King in the Woods instantly recognized the essence of his queen in the twins and, though he disliked the rebuke that their presence implied, grudgingly confirmed their authority. Thereafter, Naestra and Arahan took Ariel's place upon the council. Neither took her throne, but stood in attendance on either side of it whilst the council debated. Seldom did the twins speak, except to counteract the prevailing mood. Neastra addressed the council most often in the summer months, and sought only to temper wildness, while Arahan made outburst only in winter's dull months, when needless caution and lethargy were rife.[1a]

Ariel Returns

In all, Ariel spent more than three centuries hidden from the world. It is likely she would have tarried longer, had she not discovered that Morghur had been reborn. Ariel sensed that this incarnation was more powerful than any that had preceded it, and that all of Athel Loren would need to unite to defeat him. In truth, the Mage Queen's soul was still not fully cleansed, and she worried on the wisdom of going forth unhealed. But she knew that dire times have ever required dire sacrifice, and emerged at last from the Oak of Ages.[1a]

Great was rejoicing that day. The Wood Elves had all but given up their queen for lost, and now welcomed her without reservation. Even the spirits of the forest, who had longer memories than the Elves and who had borne the brunt of Ariel's madness, felt joy at her return - though few would admit it. Most joyous was the reunion between Ariel and Orion, for they had spent long centuries of sadness and anger apart. The celebrations were tempered not one whit by the knowledge that Ariel's return coincided with the eve of another great battle. If the Corruptor had returned their queen to them, said the Elves, then at least the misbegotten creature had done something wholesome in his vile existence. None of them saw the dark spark of malice that still lurked in Ariel's spirit. A taint of darkness that can never be fully driven once it has taken root, a burden the Mage Queen would have to bear ever after. Often, its darkness would call to her in the still watches of the night, when hope seemed lost. In the ages after, Ariel would never truly know which of her decisions were made out of malice, rather than reason.[1a]

A month later, as the outside world reckons time, Morghur's warherd was brought to battle in the Forest of Arden. The beast had already annihilated an army of knights riding from nearby Gisoreux, and he doubtless believed that the host of Elves arrayed before him would fall just as easily. He was wrong. Having been forced to confront the darkness within her own soul, Ariel had lost her fear of Morghur and had accompanied her folk to war. Though she was content to let Orion command the battle, Ariel matched and overcame the dark sorceries of the Bray-Shamans with her own magics. Worse yet for the Beastmen was the fact that Naestra and Arahan, too, had accompanied the Elves to war. They fought not at their mistress's side, as perhaps might have been expected, but roamed far and free upon the back of a mighty Forest Dragon. Naestra's purity was anathema to the Beastmen, and her very presence burned them like fire. Yet the Children of Chaos did not flee her coming, for Arahan fought ever at her sister's side. The shadowed twin's dark nature was an irresistible lure to the Beastmen, and they pursued her with mad hunger. Few survived long enough to reach their quarry, and those that did had their vile throats slit by Arahan's wicked knives.[1a]

At the last, their ranks scythed down by arrows or scattered by the hooves of the Wild Hunt, the Beastmen could take no more. As one, the warherd turned and melted away into the woods. Only Morghur stood his ground, gibbering his wild madness at those who came to claim his life. The Corruptor was gravely wounded, his hide pierced by many arrows, but still the will of the Dark Gods drove him to defiance. Then a final bowstring sang, and at last Morghur fell dead, a black arrow protruding from his eye socket.[1a]

Great was the feasting in Athel Loren when the host returned. Many heroes had made their names that day. Most lauded of these was Scarloc, the archer whose arrow had finally felled the Master of Skulls; but there was glory aplenty in which all the Elves could share. Thus passed the Season of Redemption, Ariel and Orion were at last reunited, and the Wood Elves' sundered spirits were again made whole.[1a]


  • Wand of Wych Elm - This is a long, twisted and gnarled staff cut from the rare and magical Wych Elm tree. This tree draws magical power out of the ground as it grows and stores it in its wood. Any wand cut from such a tree may have centuries of stored magical power locked within it. The only way to tap the power locked in the wood is to cut a wand from the tree and inscribe a spell on it. The spell can then be cast using the power of the wand instead of the Winds of Magic. Only a demi-god or a wizard of exceptional skill can unlock and use such power. When Ariel takes on the divine aspect of the goddess Isha she gains the ability to use the power stored in the Wych Elm. The wand is never drained of power during the battle - indeed, it will not be drained for perhaps a thousand years.[2a]
  • Acorns of the Oak of Ages - These are shed by the tree each autumn and collected by Ariel because of their magical properties. When the acorns are scattered on the ground they instantly sprout into oak saplings which grow at a phenomenal pace to become trees in a moment.[2a]
  • Dart of Doom - This dart was carved from a twig broken from the Tree of Woe. The tip of the dart is a thorn and the shaft is engraved with magical spiral designs. When hit, its victims see their energy drained away.[2a]
  • Berry Wine - This is a magical and intoxicating brew made from the berries of magical trees. It is so potent that more than enough can be held in an acorn cup. Ariel uses it to invigorate herself or any injured allies.[2a]
  • Heartstone of Athel Loren - A physical representation of the many ties that bind Ariel to the forest of Athel Loren, this gemstone protects her from the effects of hostile magics.[2a]




Introducing Ariel, Queen of Athel Loren - The Twisted & The Twilight, Total War- WARHAMMER 2

Ariel, Queen of Athel Loren