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Isle of the Dead concept art

The Isles of the Dead

The Isle of the Dead is a small landmass at the centre of Ulthuan's Inner Sea. It acts as both a cemetery and the focal point of the Great Vortex, into which all magic is siphoned to prevent the sinking of the continent.[1a]

It is not a true island, but rather an archipelago of waystones whose arrangements are laid in symbols of mystical significance. These menhirs vary greatly in size — some are scarce a dozen feet tall and slim as an Elf, whilst others are as tall as mountains and nearly a mile in girth. Without the latent spiritual energy contained within these waystones, the conjuration of the Great Vortex would have been impossible. The Isle of the Dead exists outside time, beyond the reach of the physical world — its black-robed guardians keep a grim watch to ensure it remains that way. If an intruder were to be allowed upon these haunted shores, he would find the archmages of old, caught like flies in amber, still chanting their ages-long spells to preserve the balance of the world.[1a]

The Beach

Though the lands of the Inner Kingdoms exist in perpetual summer, the mists surrounding the Isle of the Dead are cold and without life. Here, nothing has stirred the air for centuries, nor ever will. Sound does not echo here, swallowed up by the dead space between. Glittering lights and distance glows reside in both mist and cloud, yet no sooner are they noticed than they fade away. These are the souls of those who approached too close and were trapped in Caledor's great magic.[2a]

The bleak shorelines of tumbled boulders, shingled beaches of polished stone and forests of lifeless trees make up the main isle. Though the sea is like a polished mirror here, it pounds against the rocks of the isle itself. Booming waves hammering as though the fury of the sea at being kept from these shores for so long. Broken swords with black blades and skull-topped pommels drifted in the surf, and the bones of long-dead monsters lay half-buried in the black sand. Among such detritus can be found swords whose hilts are still sticky with blood, its blade razor-sharp, and their pommel stones stamped with a skull-rune.[2a]

Grey fingers of mist ease from the dead forests higher up on the scrubby bluffs overlooking the beach. The surf spreading more weapons and bones over the sand. At first it seems paradoxical that the sea still surges and recedes in such a timeless place. In truth, the island is cut off from the rest of the world, if someone were to stand on the beach, to anyone able to see them they would appear to be standing still. Time flows around such visitors, not with them.[2a]

The Forest

Beyond the beach, the island is just as bleak and desolate, having all the hallmarks of battlefield, for the dunes were formed from piles of skulls and heaps of rotted armour. The noise of the Inner Sea recedes, and the island becomes utterly quiet. The forest is unnaturally silent. No birds nest in the leafless trees, no burrowing animals make their lairs amid its roots, and not a breath of wind stirs the skeletal branches. A path winds a serpentine route through this place.[2a]

It is said that before it was the Isle of the Dead, the isle was a place of creation, where the Asur were born. It was here Asuryan made the first of them, the cradle in which the Elves were first given form. Even without hearing such a tale, if a mage wanders here, they begin to feel it as though they had always known it, even if the thought had never occurred to them before, feeling as though a memory.[2a]

Yet within this place, visitors will feel a presence draw near. Companions seem to disappear, and each in kind are either visited by a spirit of the dead, or an entity that calls itself Death. Sinuous of form, slender of figure and ghosting between the trees, it arrives. With Black hollows for eyes, and with solid black fingernails, a dreadful familiarity to the cruel cast of his smile strikes whomsoever sees it. Such is the empty blackness of his gaze and the spidersilk weave of his dark robes. Mocking laughter can be heard from the gathering mist as the trees swallow words of defiance. The light of the corpse candles as seen from the coast now surround the visitor. As Death walks from the trees, his robes rustling softly around him, he is made out as a tall elf, slender and thin-limbed, wearing a pale ivory mask, its features easily mistaken for an actual face until now. White long hair gathers at his shoulders, and a jade amulet in the form of a black-bladed sword hangs at his neck. The name of Khaine is stitched into his robes with silver thread, and one can see variations on that theme in the hems and cuffs of the figure's attire.[2a]

The Obsidian Plain

Following the path through the trees, one leaves the forest to find a wide plain of black sand turned to obsidian in the fires of some ancient cataclysm. Lighting-shot mist gathers on the plain, swirling around its perimeter in a ceaseless vortex. Crackling lines of power rage in the depths of the howling mist, and pillars of light stab into the sky from its centre. Elves have the sense of unimaginable power being drawn to this place, lines of convergence that had taken a lifetime to map and devise. The air is rich with magic, and can be felt as one's blood sings with its proximity. Flesh tingles with the desire to drink that power and reshape itself into new and ever more wondrous forms. Only with an effort of concentration is one able to force that desire down.[2a]

Thousands of carved waystones are strewn around the exterior of the vortex, some toppled, some still standing, but all rendered glassy by whatever infernal heat had vitrified the plain.[2a]

Trivia

  • According to Elasir, only mortals may traverse the Isle any further than the beach, saying that mortals cursed this place, and thus only mortals may walk its paths.[2a]

Artwork

  • Warhammer Online Artwork by Jonathan Kirtz

Source

  • 1Warhammer Armies: High Elves (8th Edition)
    • 1a: pg. 9
  • 2: Sons of Ellyrion (novel) by Graham McNeill
    • 2a: Chapter 18

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