- "And lo, he shall rule with a dark hand and his shadow shall touch upon every land. Steel will be his skin and fire will be his blood, in hatred will he conquer all before him. No blade forged of Man, Dwarf or Elf shall endure him fear. Though will it come to pass that the firstborn son of noble blood shall rise to power. The child will be learned in the darkest arts and he will raise an army of terrible beasts. Thus will the Dark King fall, slain by neither blade nor arrow but by a sorcerous power of darkest magic and so shall his body be consumed in the flames and for all eternity burn."
- —The Prophecy of Demise[3a]
Malekith, the Witch King of Naggaroth, is the ruler of the Dark Elves or Druchii as they refer to themselves, and the son of the Phoenix King Aenarion, the greatest Elven hero to have ever lived. Malekith is ancient and powerful beyond mortal reckoning, a being who has lived for thousands upon thousands of years, gathering a great treasure trove of magical power that few can rival within the world. Long ago, this mighty Lord of the Elven race sought to claim the Isles of Ulthuan by sheer force of will, cruelty and bloodshed, but the Flames of Asuryan denied his right to rule and left him scarred by fire and twisted with hatred.[1b]
Near death, Malekith would be taken away and healed by his mother, Morathi and taken to the lands of Nagarythe. From there, Malekith was encased in a suit of magical black-metal, the plates literally searing itself upon Malekith's own flesh. To the brow of the great horned helmet was welded the Circlet of Iron, and with his body transformed, Malekith took the persona of the Destroyer and now sought to reclaim that which was denied to him.[3b]
In the years since, Malekith has led many great wars against the High Elven usurpers, but each time has been undone by cruel fate or the incompetence of his craven underling. Yet the Witch King is immortal and knows he will outlast those who foolishly believe themselves his betters. The day is fast approaching where old debts and insults will finally be paid, and Malekith will do anything within his power to hasten its arrival. Malekith firmly believes that if he can't rule Ulthuan, then no one else will.[1b]
- "If they shall not bow to me, the rightful ruler of Ulthuan, then I shall see each tower crumble and every soul scourged in pain until they beg for my rule."
- —Malekith, Witch King of Naggaroth[6a]
For many, the natural successor to Aenarion was his son, Malekith. Having been raised in the court of Nagarythe, he was an accomplished warrior, skillful general and powerful spellweaver. He asked that he be allowed to honour his father’s memory, but there were voices raised against this course of action. Some of the princes asked for a cooler, steadier head to guide the Elves in the rebuilding of their civilisation. They whispered about the darkness that had beset the realm of Nagarythe, and of the manner of the son that had been raised in the Court of Aenarion. In the end, these doubters prevailed and, with good grace, Malekith accepted the princes’ choice of Bel Shanaar as the next Phoenix King. Though his mother, Morathi, ranted and railed against the iniquity heaped upon Malekith, the son of Aenarion was the first to bow his knee to Bel Shanaar and swear fealty.[1a]
The Age of Betrayal (-4419 to -2723 IC)
With the daemonic invasion defeated, the Elves looked to explore the world that had been left changed by Chaos. Malekith quit Ulthuan, claiming that Bel Shanaar would be able to rule the isle more soundly without the heir of Aenarion close at hand. The prince of Nagarythe travelled the world, where small colonies were growing upon the shores of the forest-swathed lands across the ocean. Here the Elves met the Dwarfs and soon the two races were fighting side-by-side, their armies waging war against the fierce Orcs of the mountains and the hideous Chaos beasts of the deep woods. In battle against brutal Greenskins and warped monsters, Malekith perfected his fighting skills and rose to become a great leader. So great was his reputation that Bel Shanaar appointed Malekith to be his ambassador to the High King of the Dwarfs, Snorri Whitebeard.[1a]
As well as campaigning across the lands that would eventually become the Empire, Bretonnia and the Badlands, Malekith travelled even further abroad. He quested amongst the Worlds Edge Mountains and made war against the primal tribes of men in the blasted Chaos Wastes. It was here, in the frozen north, that Malekith came across a dead city, built by no human, Dwarfish or Elven hand. He wandered through its ice-trapped streets, between colossal buildings that hurt the eyes to look upon. The shifting ice had ruptured an ancient vault, and within it Malekith found an artefact older even than the Elves. It was a metal crown imbued with powers of sorcery, now known in myth as the Circlet of Iron. Malekith took the Circlet of Iron and resolved to unravel its secrets. It awoke in him a dark curiosity, and from that day forth Malekith turned his will to studying the forbidden depths of magic - the power of Chaos itself.[1a]
While Malekith explored the wider world, new travails beset Ulthuan in his absence. With the threat of the Daemons gone, many of the lessons of hard war were forgotten. Many Elves became indolent and selfish, indulging their heightened senses with ceremonies dedicated to exotic, forbidden gods. From the ancient temples of Nagarythe they had risen; cults of luxury, pleasure and excess that grew within the cities and spread across the kingdoms. These cults practiced obscene rituals of debasement and sacrifice, and more and more followers were drawn to dark shrines dedicated to gods that should not be worshipped.[1a]
Many of these Elves sought to escape the bitter grief that the Chaos incursion had left within their lives. In temples filled with beating drums, haunting pipes and narcotic vapours, they danced and feasted and sang blasphemous praises. Bel Shanaar seemed powerless to quell the growing unrest in his realm. The pleasure cults were gaining more sway with every passing season. The unknown but foul heart of the cults was Nagarythe, but Bel Shanaar was hesitant to act against the lands of Aenarion’s people. Princes caught in the grip of the cults began to mutter that Bel Shanaar was weak, and an usurper of the Phoenix Throne.[1a]
When Malekith arrived in Ulthuan, he was heralded as a saviour. He vowed to hunt down the cults and exterminate them, claiming that no kingdom would be beyond his wrath, not even Nagarythe. When Malekith discovered that his mother was the chief architect of the cults, he renounced her and ordered that she be imprisoned upon her capture, along with thousands of her misguided disciples. Nobody was above Malekith's scrutiny, from the lowest farmer to the most vaunted prince. Those cultists who surrendered were sent to the castles of Nagarythe to be released from their delusions. Yet it seemed nothing short of outright war would quell the rise of the decadent cults.[1a]
After attacking Anlec with the aid of Prince Finudel and Princess Athielle, co-rulers of Ellyrion, Prince Thyriol who presided over the First Council which decided that Bel Shaanar, not Malekith would succeed Aenarion as Phoenix King, along with two other mages from Saphrey, Prince Bathanair of Yvresse and Prince Charill and his son Lorichar of Chrace, he took his mother back to Tor Anroc after she had accepted his deal of clemency in exchange for the leadership of the cults. Then, for about two decades, the surged out of hiding and sent the Naggarothi army into paroxysms of conflict forcing Malekith to take shelter with Bel Shaanar in Tor Anroc.[1a]
Malekith asked the Phoenix King to convene the council of princes. He wished to request control of Ulthuan’s armies so that he might cast out the cults of pleasure. Yet even as the princes gathered at the Shrine of Asuryan, a greater part of Malekith’s plan was set in motion. Unbeknownst to the other kingdoms, Nagarythe’s armies marched, bolstered by depraved cultists and practitioners of Dark Magic. Oblivious to the peril that descended upon their lands, the princes gathered to hear Malekith. His first pronouncement was to declare Bel Shanaar a member of the cults. Malekith said that Bel Shanaar had taken the coward’s route rather than be brought forth before the princes, and had poisoned himself before he could be rightfully tried. With Ulthuan on the verge of civil war again, Malekith would assume his rightful position as Phoenix King and avert the coming disaster.[1a]
Many of the princes were not swayed by Malekith’s speech and denounced him as a murderer and a traitor. At that moment, agents from Nagarythe broke into the shrine and fighting broke out between those loyal to Malekith and those that opposed him. As blood was spilt upon the marble floor, Malekith strode into the sacred flames to accept Asuryan’s blessing. Malekith’s screams echoed around the chamber, silencing the fighting. The flames engulfed the prince of Nagarythe, stripping away hair, skin and flesh. With a final shriek of agony, Malekith hurled himself back from the burning judgement of Asuryan and his charred body lay smoking upon the ground. Malekith’s disciples took up his body and fought their way clear, leaving most of Ulthuan’s princes slain in the temple.[1a]
- "I am Malekith! Son of Aenarion, the daemons’ bane. Hear my name and know me, the rightful king of the elves!"
- —Malekith, Witch King of Naggaroth[7y]
As Malekith's followers fled north with his remains, war erupted. For the most part leaderless, the other kingdoms knew nothing of the danger until the hosts of Nagarythe besieged their castles. In Tiranoc and Ellyrion, agents of the pleasure cults had infiltrated and influenced the families of the ruling princes. Naggarothi forces occupied these kingdoms. They held families hostage and allowed the rulers to remain in power only to enact the will of Malekith. The armies of Nagarythe were impressive, the strongest military force in the world. Their commanders were veterans of the war against the Daemons and many had been trained by the hand of Aenarion.[1a]
The warrior creed of Aenarion had left an indelible mark upon Nagarythe and its citizenry. Iron discipline, backed by fear of their leaders, drove the legions of Nagarythe ever onward. To fail was to invite ruin so the warriors of Nagarythe fought with unmatched zeal - better to fall fighting than to lose and face the wrath of Morathi’s cultists. There were also those who embraced the opportunity to seize lands from their peers. These renegades raised their armies and marched forth with glee. As anarchy reigned, the Naggarothi moved swiftly, seizing many of the vital passes across the Annulii Mountains, separating the Inner Kingdoms of Ulthuan from the Outer Kingdoms. With them came many Chaotic beasts that lived within Ulthuan’s magic-riven mountains. Divided, the Elven realms were on the verge of being conquered within weeks.[1a]
The handful of princes that had survived did not stand idle. There was not one amongst them strong enough to succeed Bel Shanaar, for each had worries in his own realm. In the minds of the princes there was only one left who could combat the Naggarothi - Imrik of Caledor. Grandson to Caledor Dragontamer, Imrik had none of his forefather’s magical skills, but was a deadly warrior and brilliant general. As prince of Caledor and leader of the Dragon riders, Imrik controlled the second most powerful kingdom in Ulthuan, eclipsed only by the might of the invading Nagarythe armies. At the time, Imrik was hunting in the mountains of Chrace and was utterly unaware of the war that had engulfed the isle. The princes dispatched heralds to locate Imrik and inform him of their decision. Meanwhile, Morathi used her sorcerous powers to divine the intent of the princes and sent a cadre of assassins to slay the future Phoenix King. The gods, or fate, would decide who reached Imrik first.[1a]
It was Morathi’s assassins that found Imrik and they closed in on their prey with evil intent. Swathed in magical shadows, they prepared their ambush. Yet they had not accounted for the loyalty and fighting skill of the hunters of Chrace. When the Naggarothi assassins struck, Imrik was alone and vulnerable. However, a band of Chracians who had accompanied him on his hunt heard the fighting and intervened. The Chracians slew the assassins but at great loss, and Imrik was saved. Even as Imrik thanked these warriors, he received word from one of the princes’ messengers of the terror being unleashed by the armies of Nagarythe.[1a]
While Imrik ascended to the Phoenix Throne and rallied the armies of the other Elven kingdoms, the rulers of Nagarythe acted to forestall their foes. They sent word to sympathisers and agents in Saphery, a realm renowned for its mages. Some of these mages had been tempted by the power of dark sorcery and subverted to the cause of Nagarythe. Though they numbered fewer than those wizards who were loyal to the Phoenix Throne, their spells were enhanced by a new, darker sorcery that was more powerful than the ‘safe’ magic employed by the mages. Titanic magical duels tore the lands of Saphery apart as sorcerer fought mage. Yet for all the power of Chaos unleashed by the sorcerers, they could not prevail and were forced to flee Saphery and seek refuge in Nagarythe and the kingdoms its armies now occupied.[1a]
There was betrayal all across Ulthuan. Even in Caledor, thought by many to be secure against die wiles of the Naggarothi, a priest of Vaul named Hotek secretly forged weapons for the legions of Nagarythe using the magical Hammer of Vaul, which Caledor had used to make weapons for Aenarion. When he was discovered, Hotek fled and sought sanctuary within Nagarythe. Aided by renegade sorcerers, Hotek used the Hammer of Vaul to construct a suit of armour for the crippled Malekith; although his body had been all but broken, the prince of Nagarythe had clung to life. Bitterness and anger had fuelled Malekith’s will, sustaining him through the long years of agony that he had endured. The burning would never stop, and so Hotek fused his newly forged armour directly to Malekith’s body. Clad in a rune-etched skin of black steel, Malekith could once again lead his armies. Swearing oaths of revenge and bargaining his soul to forbidden gods, Malekith grew in sorcerous power. He was no longer the prince of Nagarythe; he would forever more be known as the Witch King.[1a]
Malekith rode to battle astride a Black Dragon, raised in secret in Nagarythe away from the prying eyes of the Caledorian Dragontamers. Sulekh was her name and she was a fearsome beast, much scarred by fighting, the sole survivor of a brood of eight. Her temperament was evil and unpredictable, and only the Witch King could approach her. With promises of blood and slaughter, and direats of pain and humiliation, Malekith had broken Sulekh to his will and fed her upon magical warpstone so that she was truly monstrous. The two of them were terrifying to behold, and where the Witch King led the armies of Nagarythe victory swiftly followed. But for all the guile and ferocity of the hosts of Nagarythe, the kingdoms of Ulthuan would not be conquered. Led by the new Phoenix King, who had taken the name Caledor to honour his grandsire, the armies opposed to Malekith fought a cunning campaign of ambush and counter-attack. Where the armies of the Witch King advanced, the warriors of Caledor fell back, only to outflank the soldiers of Nagarythe and strike back from unexpected quarters.[1a]
Changing of the Tides
- "Send the word out across the world. Celebrate and give thanks to the mighty Lord of Murder for delivering unto us his world-born son. We have been blessed and in His name we shall bare our blades in readiness for His will as voiced by His avatar. Hail Malekith, Eternal Khaine Incarnate."
- —Hellebron, High Priest of Khaine[7h]
Sapped by this constant hit-and-run warfare, the Naggarothi advanced, faltered, regrouped and attacked again. For a quarter of a century', no single ruler reigned over Ulthuan, as each side failed to achieve the crushing victory it needed to secure power. Caledor and Malekith finally met at the field of Maledor. For years they had contested their strength against each other with the might of their armies, and at Maledor they would pit their skills face- to-face. Atop cruel Sulekh the Witch King commanded his army, launching them in an all-out attack against the serried ranks of spearmen and archers mustered by Caledor. Malekith’s wizards unleashed bolts of black energy and called down terrible storms to ravage the lines of the Phoenix King’s army. In Caledor’s host, Sapherian mages dispersed the dark magic of Malekith’s sorcerers and hurled fireballs and blazing walls of blue flame at the charging Naggarothi.[1a]
Seeing his attack lose momentum, Malekith intervened. Swooping down from the dark skies,Sulekh and Malekith crashed into the Elven host.Purple lightning leapt from Malekith’s fingertips and cut down scores of Elves while Sulekh belched forth clouds of noxious gas. Arrows and spears pattered harmlessly from the Witch King’s armoured body and the scales of his Dragon. Three Elven princes - Tithrain, Carvalon and Finudel - fell beneath the wicked blade of Malekith and the claws of Sulekh.[1a]
Even as the tide turned against his army, Caledor led the counter-attack. Surrounded by the hunters of Chrace and flanked by silent Phoenix Guard of Asuryan, the king of Ulthuan confronted Malekith. The snapping jaws of Sulekh smashed Caledor’s sword from his hand and cast the Phoenix King to the ground amongst the bodies of his loyal warriors. As Malekith’s spells hurled back the White Lions, Sulekh loomed over Caledor, acidic venom dripping from her jaws. With a defiant shout, Caledor snatched up Mirialith - the Spear of Midnight Fire - from the dead hand of Finudel, and cast it into Sulekh’s open maw. The magical weapon pierced the brain of the Black Dragon. In her death throes Sulekh cast Malekith from her back, pitching him into the ranks of the Phoenix Guard. Surrounded by enemies, Malekith had no choice but to cut his way clear and flee, leaving dozens of slain Elves in his wake. After the battle of Maledor, with the jeers of the victorious High Elves still burning in his memory, Malekith’s patience utterly snapped. His army was all but shattered by the unending fighting, and with the resistance of his foes showing no sign of breaking, the Witch King made one last, desperate bid for victory.[1a]
In Nagarythe, Morathi and Malekith had long studied the blacker arts of magic. A great number of warlocks and witches followed them, drawing directly' on the power of Chaos. It was to these dark wizards that Malekith turned. He gathered a huge number of' prisoners in preparation for a massive sacrifice and announced his final plan. He and his sorcerers would unbind the magic of the Ulthuan vortex created by Caledor Dragontamer, unleashing the full fury of the Realms of Chaos upon the island. The Witch King would summon the Daemon hordes to fight at his side and sweep away all opposition. Knowing that their fate was tied to that of the Witch King, the sorcerers agreed to this insane gambit. Malekith and his followers were willing to risk everything for victory - even the future of the whole world. To their minds, failure was incomprehensible; to live in exile and obscurity was unthinkable for the Witch King. He would rather the world ended than see it ruled by any other. Only one of his disciples, Urathion of Ullar, saw the madness of Malekith's ploy and escaped Nagarythe to bring word to Caledor.[1a] Urathion managed to send a partial warning to Caledor before Malekith's agents killed him for his betrayal.
Forewarned of Malekith’s intent, the mages of the Phoenix King roused their magic to thwart the spell of unbinding. As the sorcerers of Malekith stood upon the summits of their black towers and struggled for control of the vortex, great forces shook the lands. The mountains trembled and the seas bucked and heaved as dark and light waged a mystical battle for control of the swirling power at the heart of Ulthuan.[1a]
As night came, the stars obscured by flickering witchlights and coronas of magical energy, the Witch King and his coven exerted the last of their strength. Fuelled by daemonic pacts, their magic was the stronger and the shields of the Phoenix King’s mages began to crumble. The vortex itself howled and screeched, and than began to flicker. It was then, at the very moment that the vortex failed, that a new power entered the contest. Freed from their long stasis, Caledor Dragontamer and his mages trapped in the vortex returned to the realm of the living. Instantly realising the peril about to engulf Ulthuan, they added their own incantations to that of the Phoenix King’s wizards, and with a colossal release of magical energy they dragged the vortex into place once more.[1a]
The backlash of magic tore Ulthuan asunder. A tidal wave a thousand feet high crashed upon the northern coasts, engulfing Nagarythe and Tiranoc. Cities were washed away and tens of thousands of Elves perished. The earth heaved and cracked, and so great was the magical explosion that it was noted in the halls of the Dwarfs, thousands of miles to the east. As the deluge swept down upon the realm of Malekith, his followers used the last of their sorcerous power to hold back the storm. Energised with Chaos magic, their dark citadels broke free from their rocky foundations and rose upon the frothing waves. Malekith’s plan had failed and his energy was spent. His kingdom lay beneath the waves and his army was all but destroyed. Upon the floating castles of Nagarythe - the Black Arks as they would be called in later years - the Witch King and his minions fled the wrath of the cataclysm they had unwittingly unleashed. North and west they travelled, across the churning seas to the desolate wilderness of Naggaroth - the Land of Chill.[1a]
The Age of Restless Spite (-2723 to -692 IC)
- "You know me as your king. Know me now also as the incarnate vessel of your lord and god, Khaine the Ruthless, the Bloody-Handed Messenger, Jaguar of the Night, the Manticore. In me has He invested His power in the mortal realm, so that He might lead you on the crusade of death."
- —Malekith, Witch King of Naggaroth[7h]
The fleet of Malekith sailed westwards for many weeks, through driving rain, howling wind and waves like mountains that had been unleashed by Nagarythe and Tiranoc plunging into the ocean. Ever towards the sunset Malekith led his people - towards the dark and welcoming night. Across the Sea of Chill and the Sea of Malice the fleet travelled - two storm-wracked bodies of water that had claimed many Elven ships and their brave crews as they had attempted to explore the rugged coastlines of the western seas. In the uttermost westward reaches of the Sea of Malice, in the freezing shadows of the jagged Iron Mountains, the Black Arks of Nagarythe finally halted. Here, in this desolate land, Malekith declared he would recreate the glories of Aenarion’s reign and build a capital to put the greatest cities of Ulthuan to shame.[1a]
The Founding of Naggarond
The Black Ark that had once been Malekith's castle beached itself upon the stony shore, fusing with the slate and iron-rich rocks of the foothills bordering the water. Food was scarce, though Malekith and his nobles led hunts across the foothills and brought back deer, boar and great shaggy mammoths to feast upon. Freezing winds howled down from the north, bringing snowstorms and chilling ice. More dangerous than the perils of frostbite and starvation were the many vicious predators that stalked these strange lands. The dark forests to the south and east, and the forbidding mountains to the west, held many fell beasts and hundreds of Naggarothi were devoured in the night as they made camps in the wilderness.[1a]
Scouts quickly found rich lodes of minerals in the mountains, but Malekith’s people had no aptitude for mining and smelting, nor for building the walls that would be needed to keep away the mutant beasts, nor for farming or animal husbandry. They were warriors and most had known nothing but war - against Daemons, Orcs, Beastmen, and lastly against their fellow Elves. Malekith soon realised that although he still had a formidable fighting force, his people cared nothing for the building of a new civilisation. If the Druchii - the Dark Elves as their enemies had called them during the civil war - were to build a new kingdom in the west, they would need a work force to build it for them.[1a]
So began the bloodthirsty raids of the Dark Elves.At first, their attacks were directed solely against their kin in Ulthuan, to take food and other supplies. The High Elves for the most part would fight to the death rather than be taken in battle, and so Malekith’s labour force did not grow quickly. Then word arrived from ships that had travelled further east, to the forests and mountains of the colonies where Malekith had once fought alongside the Dwarfs. Primitive humans lived there, in caves and mud huts. They were brutal and stupid, but the Dark Elves did not care, for humans also bred quickly and were physically strong.[1a]
Knowing that these short-lived savages could be easily controlled and swiftly grew in numbers, Malekith dispatched many fleets over the coming decades, to steal away whole settlements of humans and bring them back to Naggaroth. Though they understood little of what their lords asked of them, the humans learnt well enough from the whips of their masters how to dig ore from rock, herd cattle and forage in the woods. Guided by captured Elven masons and carpenters, the slaves began to build a city around Malekith’s citadel. He named this place Naggarond, the City of Winter, and its dark spires started to tower higher and higher over the growing pirate port that nestled in its black shadow.[1a]
The Longest of Wars
With his capital established, Malekith turned his attention back to Ulthuan. Some of his people still clung to a pitiful existence in the ruins of Nagarythe, while the Blighted Isle, and upon it the Shrine of Khaine, was held by neither side. Though he feared to wield the Sword of Khaine himself, Malekith was well aware of its powers and the vengeance Caledor would wreak upon the Naggarothi should he claim it. To ensure that the Phoenix King did not claim the Godslayer, Malekith led an attack that swept across the northern isles of Ulthuan - the Shadowlands that remained of Nagarythe, what little had been spared by the tidal waves. The Elves of Ulthuan remembered the lessons of the civil war and Malekith was unable to forge across the mountains to attack the Inner Kingdoms. At sea, the burgeoning High Elf fleet grew bolder and reinforcements and supplies from Naggarond were often intercepted, further weakening Malekith’s grip.[1a]
Caledor responded to Malekith's invasion with typical determination, ordering the construction of immense fortifications at each of the main passes through the Annulii Mountains. Never again would Malekith be allowed free passage to ransack and burn the shrines and cities around the Inner Sea. For thirty years Malekith probed and assaulted the outposts in the mountains, but Caledor’s armies were well organised and disciplined and every attack was beaten back after vicious fighting. While their armies held back the sporadic raids and attacks of the Naggarothi, the High Elves completed the first of their citadels - Griffon Gate, which historians would later call the Unconquered Fortress. The other Great Gates of the Annulii followed in the coming years, and soon the passes between the sundered lands and the Inner Kingdoms were separated by ramparts hundreds of feet high, held by stalwart defenders, ingenious war machines and powerful spells of protection.[1a]
The Building of Ghrond
While Malekith fought upon Ulthuan, control of Naggaroth rested with his mother, Morathi. Now steeped in the blackest of magic, Morathi sought further means to increase her mystical power. She sent expeditions into the Realm of Chaos to the north, tasking them to seek out artefacts of the Dark Gods and to observe the ever-changing miasma of Chaos energy. Few of these expeditions returned, and none came back to Naggaroth unscathed. Too great were the perils for Morathi to venture there herself, and so she commanded a great tower to be built in the north of Naggaroth, from which she could personally look upon the energy of the gods.[1a]
Ghrond, the North Tower, this citadel was called, and here Morathi founded the Convent of Sorceresses. She set hideous tests of magical and mental strength to find the most promising young seers and witches from amongst the Dark Elves. Many did not survive; those that did were hardened by dieir trials, as bitter and devoted to the pursuit of black magic as their mistress. Morathi set this coven of Sorceresses to studying the Realms of Chaos, gazing into its mesmerising, mind- shredding depths to discern its secrets and learn of what had passed and would come to pass. With her dark oracles to aid her, the paths of the future were laid out before Morathi like an insane map, and with this knowledge she charted the course of destiny tor her son. Yet for all her foresight and cunning, Morathi could not locate all of the strands of fate that would lead to ultimate victory over Ulthuan.[1a]
War in Ulthuan
The war at sea swung back and forth as much as the war on land, but after two hundred years of naval battles, the High Elves were gaining the upper hand. Their ships and crews were more disciplined than the bloodthirsty corsairs of Naggaroth, who were used to raiding human and orc settlements and fighting against unwitting and unsubtle opponents. The High Elves hit the Dark Elf convoys hard and then retreated, sapping the strength of Naggarond’s fleet. Even the mighty Black Arks, once invincible, met their match. The Palace of Joyous Oblivion, commanded by Luthern Fellhearth, was sunk by the enchanted starblade ram of the dragonship Indraugnir in a sea battle not far from the Blighted Isle. Their confidence shattered by this blow, the raiders of Naggaroth were more reluctant to dare the High Elf patrols over the coming years. Though Malekith could make no inroads towards the Inner Kingdoms, his armies remained poised on the far side of the Annulii mountains, ever ready for a moment of weakness.[1a]
The huge drain on the fleets and armies required to watch for Dark Elf attack seriously undermined the support Ulthuan could lend to the colonies across the other continents of the world. With the Inner Kingdoms secure against attack by the mountain fortresses, Caledor deemed the time was right to drive Malekith and his Dark Elves from Ulthuan once and for all. Once his borders were protected by the sea again he could then send vitally needed troops and ships to aid in battle all across the far-flung corners of the growing Elven empire. For nearly ten years, the High Elf fleets sunk any Naggarothi ships that approached the northern coast. Their naval dominance was supreme, and the Dark Elves isolated on Ulthuan grew weary of their master’s constant attacks against the impregnable fortress-gates of the Annulii passes. It was perhaps untimely, then, that Caledor chose to heap pressure upon Malekith by launching an offensive against the Shadow-lands in a bid to claim the Blighted Isle.[1a]
Faced with this sudden aggression by their kin, the Dark Elves quickly set aside their seditious plotting and stopped their desertions, instead rallying to the banner of the Witch King. Fighting for their ancestral lands, the Naggarothi were hate-filled and vicious, and Caledor's advance swiftly stalled. Knowing that to retreat would be to give the Dark Elves an opportunity to counter¬attack, Caledor pushed onwards, fighting for every hillock, valley, and isle. After a further ten years, the Dark Elves were finally driven from the Blighted Isle, at tremendous cost. Malekith’s worst fear seemed at hand when Caledor travelled to the Shrine of Khaine. Yet for all the Witch King’s dread, Caledor resisted the whispers of the God of Murder and left the Sword of Khaine in its black altar.[1a]
With the Blighted Isle now in High Elf hands, Caledor set sail to return to Ulthuan. His departure was seen by the scrying spells of Morathi and she called down a storm to sink the High Elf fleet. Most of the ships survived the battering wind and waves, but the fleet was scattered and Caledor’s vessel was sent far off course. Guided by the sorcery of Morathi, Malekith’s pirates swiftly intercepted and boarded the Phoenix King’s ship. Knowing their intent was to capture him, Caledor cast himself into the sea in his full armour, escaping the torturous revenge Malekith had planned for him. Thus ended the reign of Caledor I, but his death did not end the war. Not for five thousand years have the Dark Elves known peace.[1a]
Hag Graef and Clar Karond
During the war, the Dark Elves had been defeated several times. Many of their commanders feared returning to Naggarond, wary of the Witch King’s temper and the machinations of Morathi. They instead made landfall on the coast of the Sea of Malice many miles south of Naggarond, and here they built a city for themselves. The city was named Hag Graef, the Dark Crag. Situated in a sheer-sided valley, the location of their new city was easily defensible against the creatures of the mountains and any punitive attack that Malekith might launch. An icy river that flows through the city to the Sea of Malice provided a natural harbour for Dark Elf fleets. Over the coming years, Hag Graef attracted other Dark Elves seeking to elude the Witch King for some real or perceived misdeed. Many of the raiders who travelled back from across the ocean first put in to Hag Graef, to unload a portion of their slaves and spoils before Malekith took his share. Sensing that this cauldron of dissent might prove rebellious in future years, Malekith at first thought to crush the dissidents and punish them for their insubordination. His hand was stayed by the intervention of Morathi, who had a far greater aptitude for subtle politics than her son.[1a]
Guided by Morathi’s counsel, Malekith accepted this new city. He promised rule of the south coast of the Sea of Malice to the rulers of Hag Graef. An oath of fealty to the Witch King would ensure his protection. It was a masterful stroke, for the Dark Elf nobles of Hag Graef were soon gathering their power and took to fighting amongst themselves. Driven by their selfish ambitions, the rulers of Hag Graef looked to Malekith for favour, for they knew that the Witch King’s support could tip the ongoing power struggle engulfing their city.[1a]
Malekith invited half a dozen of the most powerful nobles of Hag Graef to a feast. He offered them a choice. One of the goblets of wine on the table, he told them, was poisoned. Any one of them willing to risk his life to rule should take a drink and Malekith would grant that noble a share of the city. Three of the nobles snatched up goblets without hesitation and downed their contents. They knew that it was better to be poisoned than suffer under the rule of the others. The last three, one-by-one, also drank, forced to prove their worth by the boldness of their peers. It was now that Malekith announced that in fact all of the wine was poisoned, and only by swearing unfailing loyalty to the Witch King would the princes receive the antidote.[1a]
The other princes who vied for control bargained with Malekith for warriors and sorcerers, and traded slaves and ships in return for his patronage. Caught up with their petty' schemes, each of the ruling families eventually fell under the sway of Malekith, and only through the Witch King’s patronage could they resist the ambitions of their opponents. In the end, they ruled only in name, for the Witch King had played them off against each other and now controlled them utterly. From Hag Graef, the Dark Elves ventured into the Black Spine Mountains. Such expeditions were fraught with danger, as storms and marauding beasts took their toll. For many years, it seemed as if the Dark Elves would be confined to the coast of the Sea of Malice, trapped between the bitter seas and the unforgiving mountains. This was to change dramatically when the Elves of Hag Graef mined further into the mountains. One day the slaves broke through a seam to find themselves in a huge subterranean chamber, many miles across.[1a]
A dark underworld sea glittered in the lantern light, fed by dozens of small streams from the heart of the mountains. As the Dark Elves pushed further into the mountains, they found a network of half-flooded caverns and tunnels that stretched the length of the mountain chain. Many were natural formations, while some had the disturbing look of having been hewn by mortal hands in ages past. The caverns were not deserted; all manner of strange animals made their homes in the dark beneath the world. The Dark Elves found other entrances and built fortified gates from which to launch expeditions and guard against monsters rampaging into their lands.[1a]
To the east, a group of Dark Elves founded the city of Clar Karond, linked to Naggarond and Hag Graef by underground tunnels. Particularly in the freezing winter months, travelling under the surface proved much safer than overland or across the storm-wracked Sea of Malice. Clar Karond quickly grew in size and importance, as its location further east made it a natural port for returning Corsair ships. From Clar Karond, slaves and other prizes were moved swiftly to the mines of Hag Graef or to the capital. It saved weeks of sailing for ships to be sent out on raids from Clar Karond, and Malekith ordered a shipyard to be built there. Within twenty years, more ships came and went from Clar Karond than Naggarond and Hag Graef combined. The chance to profit from this endeavour was not missed by Malekith. who again pitted the strongest noble families against each other with the promise of controlling this lucrative trade.[1a]
The Cult of Khaine Grows
While Clar Karond prospered, politics and infighting became rife within Naggarond. Remnants of the many pleasure cults from Ulthuan continued to hold sway over the Dark Elves, but one sect in particular rose to dominate all others. They were cultists of Khaine, the God of Murder, and their bloody sacrifices made a great spectacle for the Dark Elves. The fumes from their pyres swathed the city of the Witch King, and bloodthirsty mobs ran rampant through the streets, killing and maiming in mindless bursts of violence. Rather than quell these excesses, Malekith sought to focus the devotion of these Elves and turn it to his own ends. The Witch King proclaimed himself a mortal incarnation of Khaine, his merciless instrument in the realm of the living. Malekith swore undying devotion to the Lord of Murder in the shrine of Naggarond, and poured a goblet of his divine blood into die braziers where die Witch Elves burnt the hearts of their sacrifices.[1a]
Morathi again aided her son, and gifted the Witch Elves of Khaine with the sacred Cauldrons of Blood. The Hag Queens who led the cult bathed in the blood of their sacrifices and rejuvenated their bodies, as did Morathi herself. Unlike Morathi, who kept the innermost secrets of the Cauldrons for herself, the Hag Queens’ revivification was only temporary. As the months passed, they began to age once more and needed to bathe again to reclaim their beauty. For decades, the most powerful Witch Elves indulged themselves in this bloody manner, realising too late that Morathi had ensnared them with an addiction to eternal beauty. The Hag Queen Hellebron, leader of the cult, once refused her ritual bathing, but became so decrepit and age-worn that her loyal followers had to sustain her with their own blood until she repented and bathed in a Cauldron once more. She has been defiant of Morathi ever since, but ultimately it is Morathi who controls the fate of the Hag Queens, not Hellebron.[1a]
The Invasion of Chaos
It came about that as Malekith’s reign as the Witch King neared its one-thousandth year, a great disturbance was seen within the Realms of Chaos. No seeress or sorcerer could discern what these storms foretold, but before long the intent of the Chaos Gods became all too clear. From the north came a great host of savage humans riding upon vicious dogs and in war chariots drawn by giant predatory cats. Etched into their skin with scars and tattoos were symbols of the Dark Gods and pictograms of many-headed beasts. Misshapen Spawn and bloated beasts of Chaos ran and scuttled alongside them, while in the skies above winged creatures with iron skins and the heads of snakes soared amongst the unnatural storm clouds. The ragged horde filled the horizon with their numbers and they advanced south from the Chaos wastes as if the gods themselves chased them. The baying and roaring of their beasts could be heard for miles and the bitter cold did not slow nor turn their headlong attack.[1a]
To Ghrond came this Chaotic horde, and they fell upon the city in a headlong assault, crashing against the black walls like a frenzied tide. The repeater crossbows of the Dark Elves cut down hundreds of demented tribesmen, but they climbed over the hills of corpses to continually assail the ramparts of the North Tower. The Sorceresses sent mystical word to their mistress in Naggarond, though many were slain in the attempt by daemonic entities brought south upon the winds of Chaos. For three weeks the siege continued, until at last the Witch King arrived with the army of Naggarond. The Black Guard led the relief, charging with their cruel halberds into the twisted Chaos-men and hacking them down. Spearmen drove the Chaos followers from the walls of Ghrond and allowed the defenders to sally forth and bolster the army of Malekith. Black-cloaked horsemen rode down those that tried to flee and hunted for survivors escaping across the barren tundra. Into the night the fighting continued, until not a single tribesman was left alive, though fully half of Malekith’s warriors had also fallen. The Sorceresses that had survived were brought before Malekith; he had them thrown into chains and sent to the sacrificial altars for their failure to foretell the Chaos attack.[1a]
Strife in the Colonies
While the cities of the Dark Elves grew in Naggaroth, their exploits further afield also increased. In the new world across the oceans, where slaving fleets terrorised tribes of primitive humans, the influence of Ulthuan was growing ever stronger. High Elf fleets patrolled the coasts and made raiding more perilous year by year. Soon the slaves and spoils began to slow, and Malekith was most displeased. He ordered his Corsairs to target the Dwarf trade convoys, and provided maps of their secret routes that he had learnt whilst he was ambassador to Snorri Whitebeard. The final part of Malekith’s scheme was suggested by Khalaeth Mournweaver, ruler of Hag Graef at that time. The raiders went clothed as Elves of Ulthuan, swathed in white robes and silver armour brought back from raids on the Shadowlands. While they swelled the coffers of Naggarond, the Corsairs would sow dissent between the Elves and Dwarfs. Malekith laughed at the thought of the betrayal of both races that had once lauded him as a hero. The short, ugly Dwarfs and his effete kin on Ulthuan would never be able to unite against him.[1a]
The results of these clandestine attacks proved to be far greater than Malekith had ever hoped. Caledor II had succeeded Malekith’s adversary during the civil war. Here was a Phoenix King who thought much of himself and when the Dwarfs demanded explanation for the attacks on their merchants, his arrogance got the better of him. The stubbornness of the Dwarfs played its part also, and within three years, Ulthuan and the Dwarfs were at war with each other. When news reached Naggaroth of the growing conflict, Malekith rejoiced. In celebration, he hosted a vast ceremony in Naggarond. The debauchery lasted for a whole month, and culminated in a massive hunt during which a thousand slaves were let loose into the forests and the Dark Elves chased them down over the following weeks. Calls for Malekith to lead his people back to Ulthuan became louder and louder, but the Witch King demanded patience from his subjects. The auspices cast by Morathi were good, but she warned that he must await the right time to strike.[1a]
For centuries the might of Ulthuan and the Dwarfs were pitched against each other. The Dark Elves profited greatly from the slaughter, roaming the coasts at will to strike wherever they wished. Their fleets waylaid ships packed with reinforcements as they were sent to the colonies, and raiding armies ambushed many Dwarf regiments as they marched along the coastal roads to attack the High Elves. As despair and death engulfed the realms of Dwarfs and Elves, the people of the Witch King prospered like never before. In Naggaroth, Malekith's domains spread ever further. He gifted the city of Har Ganeth to Hellebron and her Khainite cultists. In return, the crazed Witch Elves would fight for the Witch King and his nobles when called upon. Har Ganeth became a thriving centre for the cult of sacrifice, and its bloody shrines rivalled those of Naggarond. In the centre of Har Ganeth Hellebron raised up a great temple, reached by an iron stairway of a thousand and one steps. At the top of the steps, the altars flowed with blood as sacrifices were made on an almost industrial scale.[1a]
Hundreds were slaughtered every day, beheaded by the chosen warriors of Khaine. The severed heads were tossed down the steps at the feet of which Dark Elves bit and clawed each other to grab the heads and take them home. From these blood-soaked rituals arose the cult of the Executioners - guards of the temple who became so gifted with their blades that they could decapitate or eviscerate a captive with one swift strike. Malekith dispatched Assassins raised and trained in Har Ganeth to sow disorder in the Elven colonies and Dwarf fortresses in the Old World, to ensure that no accord could ever be reached between Elves and Dwarfs. Such measures were not needed, as Caledor II and High King Gotrek Starbreaker were now utterly committed to the destruction of each other.[1a]
Events finally took a turn that Malekith took to be the sign to attack. The Convent of Sorceresses spied a fleet leaving the port of Iothern, and aboard the flagship was the Phoenix King. He was departing Ulthuan to personally oversee the war with the Dwarfs. His garrisons had been all but stripped of fighters and his best generals lay dead in the colonies or had been disgraced and dismissed from court. Malekith looked upon Ulthuan with eager eyes and saw that it was weak and vulnerable. He sent his riders to every city in Naggaroth, and recalled the greater part of the Naggarothi fleet. Every Black Ark returned to the Sea of Malice and an army the likes of which had not been seen for five centuries prepared for invasion. Malekith was confident that, divided and leaderless, Ulthuan would not resist him this time.[1a]
As the Dark Elf Armada crossed the Sea of Chill, ships from the east brought news that might bode well or ill for Malekith’s invasion. Caledor II was dead, slain by High King Gotrek Starbreaker. The Witch King had not expected such a turn of events and his thoughts shifted to who might be named as successor to the Phoenix Throne. With the incompetent Caledor II ruling Ulthuan, Malekith had been confident of overwhelming his kinfolk in a lightning campaign. If another king with the steel of Caledor I were chosen, such a swift victory would be impossible. Malekith resolved to take matters into his owm hands and ordered the fleet to make all speed to the coast of the Shadowlands. If the Dark Elves attacked before a new Phoenix King could be chosen, they would be able to use the confusion and disarray to secure victory.[1a]
The Black Arks Citadel of Ecstatic Damnation and Jade Palace of Pain beached amidst the ruins of Nagarythe. Malekith had chosen his landing site well, amongst the overgrown fortifications of ancient Anlec. He would build Anlec anew and from the lands of the great Aenarion would strike out to reclaim his rightful rulership of Ulthuan. With many thousands of slaves labouring beneath the cruel whips of the overseers, the ramparts and bastions of Anlec were built again around the foundations of the Black Arks. Upon the site of Aenarion’s throne room, Malekith raised his flag in proclamation to Ulthuan that Aenarion’s heir had returned. As slaves began to erect a new palace to the glory of the Witch King, the Dark Elves moved south and besieged Griffon Gate, beyond which were the verdant Inner Kingdoms.[1a]
Faced with imminent war, the princes of Ulthuan swiftly chose their new king. Caradryel, Prince of Yvresse, was elected as the most stable of the candidates, and his first decree was to recall all loyal Elves to defend Ulthuan. Thus it was that the Elves left the lands across the sea, and they did not return for many centuries. Their wars and labours would remain unseen by the wider world. As reinforcements rushed back to Ulthuan, Malekith threw the might of his army against the sparse defenders of Griffon Gate. For all the strength of the Naggarothi host, such was the cunning artifice of the defences and the resolution of the High Elves that Malekith’s army could make no headway and the siege ground on for many years.[1a]
As Elves from across the globe returned at Caradryel’s call, the Phoenix King instituted a system of rotating garrisons that ensured that the gates across the Annulii Mountains were always defended at full strength. The Dark Elves could afford no such strategy and were tired and demoralised, while their enemies ever seemed fresh and prepared. Yet for all the steely resistance of his people, Caradryel had sacrificed many of the colonies abroad and the power of the High Elves slowly diminished with the shrinking of their empire. In the cracked and cratered remnants of Nagarythe, Anlec grew ever larger as the Witch King moved more and more of his people back to Ulthuan, until the cities of Naggaroth were empty except for the slaves and their keepers. All of Malekith’s will and energy was bent on breaching the defences of Ulthuan.[1a]
Caradryel was no soldier, but the war with the Dwarfs had given rise to many great leaders and it was to these Elves that the Phoenix King gave command of his armies. Of these, the most gifted was Tethlis. His experience at war was equalled only by his hatred of the Dark Elves, who had left him an orphan after one of their many raids. Tethlis had been one of the generals discarded by the arrogance of Caledor II, but Caradryel put his faith in the coldly determined commander. He tasked Tethlis with driving the kin of Naggaroth back from the walls of Griffon Gate. Tethlis accepted this command with grim enthusiasm and from the various gate garrisons he mustered the most deadly veterans into a single army with which he would cast the Dark Elves back into the sea.[1a]
The High Elves’ offensive was utterly unexpected, as a column of glittering knights charged from Griffon Gate and Dragon riders soared overhead. The Witch King had left the siege to his lieutenants, and the Dark Elves fled before the fury of Tethlis’ attack. Northwards Tethlis drove the Naggarothi host, harrying them constantly, allowing them no respite to recover their nerve and choose their ground. When news of the rout reached Malekith he flew into a rage, tearing the head from one of the messengers and hurling it at his fellow heralds. Gathering his most fell warriors - Assassins of Khaine, Sorceresses of the Convent and battlee-hardened Corsairs - Malekith marched out to meet the host of Tethlis.[1a]
He now had a new weapon to unleash upon the Elves of Ulthuan. The Witch King rode upon a massive chariot wrought from black iron and enchanted with spells of dread and destruction. Two vicious reptiles pulled it, Cold Ones found in the undercaves of Naggaroth. Behind Malekith, those nobles who had proven their dedication advanced. Some rode in other chariots, others upon the backs of yet more Cold Ones. The High Elves had never seen such creatures in great numbers before. Faced with the ferocious assault of the foul-smelling beasts, spearmen and archers fell back in disarray before the Dark Elf charge. Though the reverse was unexpected, Tethlis had not plunged foolishly headlong towards Anlec. He brought up reserves of White Lions and Phoenix Guard, and the High Elves rallied and retreated in good order behind the ranks of these deadly warriors. For all of Tethlis’ cold fury, the Dark Elves had retained a foothold on Ulthuan and the Blighted Isle.[1a]
Rise of the Slayer
Despite the best efforts of Malekith’s assassins to hasten his demise, Caradryel reigned for just over six centuries, during which Malekith continually tested the defences of Ulthuan. After Caradryel died peacefully in his bed, Malekith’s spies returned from the Inner Kingdoms to bring word that the council of princes had elected Tethlis as his successor. The Witch King knew this did not bode well for his desire to claim Ulthuan. Tethlis had the tenacity and military nerve of Caledor I, who had thwarted Malekith’s ambitions so many years before. He fully expected Tethlis to resume his campaign against Anlec and so Malekith drew his forces back to protect his new capital. Within a decade, the High Elves came again, launching attacks from the Annulii Gates to strike into the heart of the Shadowlands.[1a]
The armies of Tethlis were more disciplined and coordinated than any force had ever been. Now formally trained in their towns and cities, these warriors fought for their homes and out of love for their king. Malekith’s warriors battled bitterly, out of hatred for their cousins and fear of their lord. Such bloody battles had not been seen since the civil war. Within forty years Tethlis' offensive, which would be recorded in High Elf annals as the Scouring, threatened to push the Dark Elves out of Ulthuan altogether. Malekith struck back with ferocious counter-attacks and twice was forced to face Tethlis outside the gates of Anlec itself. On the second occasion, Malekith drove his warriors onward in a vicious pursuit, dogging the steps of Tethlis all the way to the Griffon Gate.[1a]
Sensing the fortress was poorly defended, Tethlis’ army having been scattered by the implacable pursuit, the Witch King ordered an immediate assault. Malekith was to be outdone, however, as Tethlis’ whole attack and flight had been feigned - a lure to bait the Witch King from his fortress. As the Dark Elves stormed towards the gates, bolt throwers and archers on the valley tops unleashed a storm of arrows that slew one in five of the attackers in the first volley. Tethlis’ army regrouped according to the Phoenix King’s plan and cut off the Witch King’s escape from the pass. Only the sheer viciousness of the Witch Elves and Executioners of Khaine leading the breakout allowed the Dark Elves to hack their way free. As he led the remnants of his army northwards again, Malekith cursed Tethlis’ name and vowed to see the Phoenix King dead.[1a]
The war continued for another hundred and fifty years, during which Assassins and agents of Malekith tried several times to kill Tethlis. They came closest to success when they caught Tethlis travelling north from the Phoenix Gate. His bodyguard of White Lions was small, but they fought to the last Elf to defend their king, whose own blade accounted for half a dozen of his attackers. Though his guards were all killed, Tethlis himself suffered not a single scratch and he returned to the Phoenix Gate unharmed.[1a]
Over the two hundred and fifty years since his ascension to the Phoenix Throne, Tethlis had waged war upon his dark cousins, and now the army of the High Elves was ready for the final push. Forewarned by Morathi’s daemonic messengers, Malekith chose to strike first, before the weight of Ulthuan’s hosts could fall upon Anlec a final time. Bitter winter snows and winds swathed Nagarythe and Tethlis’ army was forced to retreat to the gates and would be unable to launch their campaign until the following spring. Shrouding his army in sorceries that warded away the winter chill, Malekith sent forth his remaining legions. Their orders were simple: take the Inner Kingdoms or die at the hands of the Witch King and his torturers.[1a]
The High Elves were overwhelmed by the first attacks. Several fortresses fell within the first month and isolated garrisons were slaughtered or taken captive. Such was the surprise that Tethlis had no time to mobilise his armies, especially in the depths of winter. The Dark Elves swept through Phoenix Gate and Dragon Gate. However, the success of Malekith’s armies proved to be their undoing. They pressed on into the Inner Kingdoms where the weather was much milder. Here Tethlis’ hosts awaited them, and they had emptied the winter stores of all food and razed their own villages to deny the Dark Elves shelter. Even the magic of Morathi and her Sorceresses could not protect the armies from the pangs of hunger and thirst, and supplies ran incredibly low. Knowing that to fail was to invite disaster, the High Elves sold their lives dearly.[1a]
Such bitter fighting came to a head at the Siege of Tor Lehan. So determined were both sides not to retreat that wiped each other out - not a single High Elf or Dark Elf survived the siege. Tor Lehan marked the high point of the Dark Elves’ advance. As winter abated, more troops were ferried across the Inner Sea from the eastern realms and the Dark Elves were soon outnumbered. They were within a few days' march of the Shrine of Asuryan but their attack could go no further. Hatred of their kin and fear of their king had driven the Dark Elves this far, but it could drive them no further. With the advantage of surprise well and truly gone, the Dark Elves’ morale collapsed. They knew that to stay in the Inner Kingdoms was to risk their enemies surrounding them. Malekith’s commanders ordered the retreat to Nagarythe.[1a]
The Blighted Isle Falls
Malekith’s bloody recriminations were short-lived as Tethlis launched his inevitable counter-attack. For all his guile and sorcerous power, there was nothing the Witch King could do to halt the tide of High Elves pouring into Nagarythe. He abandoned Anlec, breaking out of a siege that lasted for two hundred days, and made for the sanctuary of the Blighted Isle. Left empty, mighty Anlec was destroyed by Tethlis’ army; razed from existence by blade, fire and magic. Even the stones from which it was built were melted or ground down so that no trace of Anlec remained to stain the lands of Ulthuan. At the centre of the palaces had stood an Altar of Khaine, which had claimed so many Elf lives their spirits could be heard screaming in torment around its baleful stone. The altar and the earth beneath it, saturated with the blood of so many sacrifices, were dug from the ground and taken out to sea, where they were dropped into an undersea chasm. To this day, the shrieks of the Witch King’s victims haunt the waves of that coast, terrifying sailors who dare cross those seas.[1a]
Still not content with driving the Witch King and his armies from the mainland of Ulthuan, Tethlis pressed onwards to the Blighted Isle. An armada of hundreds of ships left the shores of the Elven isle to face a dozen Black Arks under the command of Menreith Fellheart, grandson to the lord of the Palace of Joyous Oblivion that had been sunk so many centuries earlier. Menreith was determined not to suffer the same fate as his forefather, and the Battle of the Waves is remembered as one of the most closely fought and bitter naval battles between the two races of Elves. Despite the power of the Black Arks, Menreith could not prevent the forces of Tethlis making landfall upon the Blighted Isle. The High Elves were greeted by a hail of crossbow bolts that scythed though Tethlis’ troops as they disembarked into the shallow surf. Bodies and blood littered the waters as the volleys poured down from the cliff tops into the seas below.[1a]
Sharks sensed the blood in the water and gathered to feast on the dead and the living alike. Uncaring of the dangers, driven on by hatred of their kin and desperation to protect their final foothold in Ulthuan, the Dark Elves charged into the waters. Amidst the thrashing of the sharks, engulfed by waves and the screams of the wounded, the High Elves and Dark Elves butchered each other, fighting up to their waists in water, hacking at each other with primal fury. With the dead choking the red waters, the High Elves battled their way onto the land.[1a]
The bolts from the crossbows on the cliffs were relentless, hitting friend as often as foe, for the warriors of Malekith knew only that they had to drive their enemies back into the seas where the Black Arks awaited them. Unbeknownst to the Dark Elves, Tethlis had dispatched a small group of Hawkships from his main fleet, each with a mage aboard to swathe their vessel in a fog that obscured all detection. This flanking force beached upon the Blighted Isle several miles south of the main landing and from their holds rode dozens of Silver Helm Knights, assembled from the most powerful noble families in Ulthuan. The cavalry raced swiftly along the shoreline and fell upon the rear of the Dark Elves holding the cliffs. Swept away by the thunderous charge of the Silver Helms, many of the Dark Elves were driven over the cliff tops and fell to a hideous death on the jagged rocks below.[1a]
With their beachhead secure, the High Elves pushed more troops onto the Blighted Isle and advanced upon the Shrine of Khaine. Most of Malekith’s warriors were still aboard the Black Arks and could not intervene. Sensing that not even his personal attention could hold back Tethlis’ vengeful advance, Malekith quit the Blighted Isle on the back of a Manticore and sent word that his fleet was to return to Naggaroth. The Blighted Isle had been lost, and with it all Dark Elf presence had been driven from Ulthuan. Malekith knew the temper of Tethlis and predicted that the Phoenix King would not be content while the Witch King still lived. Hidden from the eyes and spells of the High Elves, a cabal of Assassins lay in ambush around the Shrine of Khaine. If Tethlis attempted to draw the Widowmaker, they would strike at once, cursed to sell their lives to prevent the Phoenix King from drawing the Murderer of Gods.[1a]
None in Naggaroth know for sure what befell Tethlis as he stood before the black altar of Khaine. He was heard of no more, and it seems likely that Malekith’s Assassins succeeded in their attack. Yet, whispered rumours persist to this day that the Witch King’s killers were slain by the White lions who guarded Tethlis, and that it was the bodyguards themselves who slew the Phoenix King when he tried to take the Sword of Khaine; an act that would have plunged all of the Elves into a new age of darkness and bloodshed to rival the times of Aenarion. Whether by the hand of foe or friend, Tethlis died at the Shrine of Khaine, and with him the last remaining desire for war was quenched. The High Elves had burnt their own lands and seen their people slaughtered in the fight against the Dark Elves, and they had no more stomach for battle. For his part, Malekith knew his armies were broken, their fighting spirit spent upon a thousand fields of battle, and the Dark Elves returned to Naggaroth to rebuild their strength.[1a]
The Age of Hateful Peace (-692 to 1123 IC)
Exhausted by centuries of war, both the High Elves and Dark Elves had spent the last of their strength during the Scouring. In Naggaroth, the survivors of the war drifted back to their homes, quiet and chastened by defeat. Even the all-night sacrifices ordered by Hellebron and the hunts organised by the Witch King could do litde to lift the morale of the Dark Elves. The fleet commanders willing to dare the High Elf patrols to the east were few and raiding ships slipped away and returned as sole hunters, unable to gather in great strength and repeat the mighty invasions of the past.[1a]
Knowing that his people needed time to revive their spirits, and wary of any threat that might prove the fatal blow to their wounded pride and lead to uprising, the Witch King turned all his resources to rebuilding the strength of Naggaroth and its six cities. He instigated the construction of a chain of fortified towers along the border with the Chaos Wastes, to aid Ghrond in its eternal vigilance. He stationed three Black Arks in the Dire Straits, the perilous stretch of water that led from the Great Ocean to the Sea of Chill, to protect against any High Elf incursion.[1a]
It was not long before news began to spread across Naggaroth that cheered the cold hearts of the Dark Elves and stirred in them their old desire for slaughter and mayhem. Kaledor Maglen, famed lord of the Shades and greatest explorer of the Underworld, had discovered a passage to the west, into the Boiling Sea. Named the Black Way for its miles of lightless tunnels, this new route would allow the fleets of Naggaroth to pass into the west and avoid the armada of Ulthuan. In the Boiling Sea, the Black Arks found monstrous creatures, and Beastmasters from Karond Kar shackled these titanic monsters and broke them to the will of the Dark Elves. With spired castles upon their backs, the serpentine creatures of the Boiling Sea became the core of a new raiding fleet.[1a]
The construction of the northern watchtowers was completed, and not too soon, for Chaos warbands began to gather in the Chaos Wastes and foray into the lands of Naggaroth. Patrols from the fortifications swept the lands clear of the primitive human tribes that came south intent on pillaging; all that they found was a grisly death or the chains of the slavemasters.[1a]
For all his intent on rebuilding the power of the Dark Elves, Malekith never turned his gaze from the ultimate prize: Ulthuan. Spies and agents he had there still, while the auguries of Morathi and her Dark Convent provided the Witch King with much information. A wave of intellectual endeavour had swept the isle of the Elves, following the rise to power of Bel-Korhadris, a mage of Saphery. The mage-king built a great edifice to his own glory and the study of the magical arts, raising the White Tower of Hoeth to rival the soaring spires of Ghrond. The Witch King sensed a growing weakness in the heart of the High Elves, a softening of their souls as generations passed and the bloody battles of the Scouring slipped from living memory. But not for him would those bitter conflicts be forgotten, for Malekith was now so steeped in Dark Magic he did not age, and his people were forever reminded of their duty to their lord and the wrongs that had been done to them.[1k]
The Silent War
Direct war against the High Elves would serve no purpose, Malekith realised. Outright aggression would only stir them from their introverted decline, while the Witch King could use more subtle means to defeat his foes from within. Advised by Morathi, Malekith poured support into the many cults and sects that the Dark Elves participated in, openly supporting High Priests and High Priestesses like Hellebron, Aegethir and Kherathi. The cults' ceremonies became ever more extravagant and widely attended.[1a]
Luxuries were heaped upon the most dedicated followers of the Dark Elves’ sinister gods. From amongst the ranks of these fervent worshippers, the Witch King selected the most intelligent and devoted, and they were sent to learn the arts of subterfuge and spying from the Assassins of Khaine. When they were ready, these agents travelled, one at a time by hidden routes, to the shores of Ulthuan. They blended in with the High Elves and assumed normal lives as carpenters and smiths, as fanners and poets. All the while, they began to spread their poisonous beliefs, and the ancient cults of pleasure began to grow again. This time the cults were insidious and subtle, daring none of the flamboyant rituals that had exposed them in the time of Bel Shanaar. Century by century and generation by generation, the hidden sects flourished; a dark canker at the heart of Ulthuan that remained unseen by those who reigned.[1a]
When Aethis succeeded Bel-Korhadris as Phoenix King, Malekith knew that the time had arrived to unleash his hidden agents. Aethis was a weak-willed aesthetic. Under his reign the arts rose in prominence, and under the cover of this the cults created by Malekith expanded swiftly and struck without warning. Kidnappings and murders blighted the cities of Ulthuan. Terror of this unseen foe gripped the land, paralysing the High Elves. Nobles were found slain in their beds, mages disappeared from their towers and children vanished from their classrooms. Panic swept through Ulthuan as these crimes grew in boldness and horror, until Aethis finally acted.[1a]
Although Malekith’s cultists were wreaking havoc, they were not unopposed. When Bel-Korhadris had built the White Tower of Hoeth he founded a company of mystical guardians to protect it - the Swordmasters. Unknown to either the Phoenix King or Malekith, the Swordmasters were waging a silent war against the pleasure cults and the conflict came to a climax in Lothern itself, when fighting erupted on the streets of the city between Naggarothi agents and the warriors of the Swordmasters, during which the cultists were all slain. Forced to abandon some of their bolder plans by the persecution of the Swordmasters, the cults of excess faded back into High Elf society and continued their secretive work. Even as cultists were uncovered and executed, more agents were dispatched from Naggaroth to swell the ranks of the cults. Some of these were discovered and slain as soon as they landed on the coast, others slipped through the guard of the High Elves and established themselves as their predecessors had done.[1a]
This centuries-long infiltration reached fruition when Girathon, one of Malekith's most trusted agents, acquired the position of chancellor to the Phoenix King. Girathon used his power to subvert much of Aethis’ commands and spread confusion throughout the realm. When his loyalties were uncovered, Girathon assassinated the Phoenix King before he was himself slain. Malekith ordered a parade and three days of bloodletting in gratitude to the slain agent. What made Girathon’s death all the more remarkable was its utter falsehood. Girathon had long been the Witch King’s spymaster and when he became directly involved with the Phoenix King, he engineered his own capture and the subsequent opportunity to strike down Aethis.[1a]
Fleeing retribution, Girathon swapped places with an innocent servant of the court, casting a glamour upon his victim to give him the appearance of the spymaster. It was this unwitting pawn who was tortured to death, still raving his innocence, while Girathon commandeered a Hawkship from the harbour and led its crew into a Dark Elf ambush a few miles out to sea. Girathon continued to serve the Witch King for another three hundred years, during which he returned to Ulthuan eight more times. He had faked his own death so that he could continue to operate within Naggaroth and Ulthuan in absolute secrecy. His personal joy was acts of sabotage, always carried out in such a way that they left evidence pointing to an innocent Elf, who would then be executed for the treacherous acts. Eventually, Girathon’s natural talent for schemes and politics caught up with him - he finally died at the hands of his master when the Witch King learnt of a plot by Girathon to seize control of Ghrond.[1a]
The Age of Blood (1123 to 1503 IC)
In the coming years, rule of Ulthuan passed to Morvael, known in history as the Impetuous. Outraged by the actions of Malekith’s agents, Morvael gathered a war fleet and sent it to Naggaroth to exact revenge for the murder of Aethis. The Sorceresses of Ghrond sent warning, having foreseen the High Elves’ assault in signs from the Realm of Chaos. The Dark Elves were ready for the attack and the High Elf host was soundly defeated as it landed its troops. The Dark Elves fought savagely and the massacre is celebrated as the Day of Blood. More than half the High Elf fleet was destroyed and sensing weakness in Ulthuan’s defenses, Malekith did not hesitate to send out the call to arms, launching his hosts and fleets upon Ulthuan once more.[1a]
Rise of the Militia's
As before, Anlec became the foundation of the Dark Elves' occupation and was rebuilt over the course of a decade using iron-hard black stone from the quarries of Naggaroth. Though lacking the sheer size and grandeur of its previous incarnations, this new Anlec was still a formidable fortress and a secure base from which Dark Elf armies once more besieged Griffon Gate. With so many warriors lost in the attack on Naggaroth, Morvael was forced to institute a system of militia levies on the people of Ulthuan, insisting that all Elves be trained for military service. When news reached Malekith of this development, he scorned these new troops, dubbing them cowardly bakers and farmers. The first few levies fared badly against the vicious and battle hardened warriors of Naggaroth, but their presence ensured that Griffon Gate was always defended over the next thirteen years. Malekith believed that the quality of his troops and the power of his Sorceresses would eventually prove too much for the garrison, and that it would be only a matter of time before the fortress fell to the army of the Witch King.[1a]
Malekith had another reason to be confident. He was using his magic to visit nightmares upon the Phoenix King, testing his sanity with visions of Ulthuan engulfed in flames and Morvael’s family lanced upon spikes amidst the ruins of the White Tower of Hoeth. Season by season, the dreams inflicted upon Morvael became darker and ever more disturbing, turning the Phoenix King into a nervous, gibbering wreck. Fighting against madness and driven by a heartfelt paranoia, Morvael emptied the Phoenix King’s treasuries to rebuild the High Elf fleet. Resurgent again, the warships of the High Elves attacked the supply routes from Naggaroth to Anlec, cutting off Malekith from fresh warriors, food, and weapons. While the battles at sea raged, Mentheus of Caledor, a renowned general, took matters into his own hands. Mentheus gathered together an army in a desperate attempt to relieve the siege at Griffon Gate. With a host of levy spearmen, mainly from Chrace and Cothique, Mentheus marched to Griffon Gate, accompanied by a cadre of mages from the White Tower. Weakened by a lack of supplies, the army of Naggaroth was forced from the fortress by Mentheus’ phalanxes of spears.[1a]
Over the following decades, sporadic fighting between the Dark Elves and High Elves erupted across the Shadowlands. Unable to muster the supplies for an outright battle, Malekith was forced to send his armies on hit-and-run attacks, luring Mentheus’ forces into ambushes to whittle down their strength. Eventually, after more than three centuries of bloodshed, Mentheus’ army succeeded in pushing back the hosts of the Witch King to the gates of Anlec itself. Here, the Dark Elves turned and faced Mentheus, determined that Anlec would never again fall. The Witch King led his army from his black chariot, and the fighting raged for the better part of three weeks. In the final assault on Anlec, Mentheus was slain by a bolt thrower.[1a]
His Dragon, Nightfang, went berserk and the Dark Elves were scattered by the Dragon’s rampage. The Dragon was eventually slain with dark spells, but by then Anlec was lost and Malekith was forced to quit Nagarythe once again, his bitterness and rage greater than ever. The Witch King did have one final revenge. Driven mad by his dreams, overwhelmed by the terrors unleashed by the Dark Elves, Morvael committed suicide. In the Shrine of Asuryan, the Phoenix King abdicated and hurled himself in the sacred flames to perish. Seven Phoenix Kings had now died, and Malekith had seen them all pass, his life sustained by the dark energies of Chaos. The Witch King vowed that he would survive to see the last of the Phoenix Kings die, even if he had to wait another five thousand years.[1a]
The Age of Glorious Torment (1503 to 2300 IC)
Malekith now turned his gaze from Ulthuan, and set his sights on the wider world. It had increasingly come to his attention that the globe was now home to many ascendant powers, and he determined that their wealth would be seized and harnessed to the Witch King’s cause. Thus did Malekith decree the Age of Glorious Torment to have begun. He bade the Dreadlords of Naggaroth take ship about the globe, sowing terror wherever they might. Competition amongst the noble families of Naggaroth fuelled a massive expansion of the raiding fleets. Any Dark Elf with the right blend of determination, bravery and ruthlessness could make his or her fortune fighting on distant shores. Even Malekith was not immune to wanderlust’s lure. At the head of a black fleet, he travelled the far reaches of the world, wreaking ruin and bringing dismay wherever he went.[1a]
Reavers of the World
For an age, the warriors of Naggaroth put aside their bloody wars with their kin on Ulthuan, to venture further and further abroad across the oceans. Driven by the urge to gather ever greater power, Dark Elf ship captains and glory-hungry princes set out across the oceans seeking plunder and adventure. Competition between the many family dynasties that held sway in the cities created inter-house rivalries that fuelled a massive expansion of the raiding fleets. Any Dark Elf with the right blend of determination, bravery and ruthlessness could make his or her fortune fighting on distant shores. From the Boiling Sea, Black Arks could now raid the oriental lands of the farthest east. Yet for the Dark Elves these were uncharted territories and for each fleet that returned with prizes and slaves, half a dozen came back to Naggaroth in failure.[1a]
The most notable successes were by Laithikir Fellheart, latest in a long line of Black Ark commanders and as cunning a she-Elf as was ever born. Laithikir had learnt to follow the High Elf ships, her Black Ark swathed in shadow and storm, tracking their ever-increasing journeys to the lands of the orient. By shadowing the fleets of Ulthuan, she was able to raid the busy seaports and convoys that traded with the High Elves. As word of her success grew, Laithikir sold her charts to other captains, and within a decade dozens of Dark Elf fleets were attacking the settlements of the mysterious far east and bringing back tens of thousands of slaves and holds full of exotic wares such as witch jade, ivory, tigerfire, silk and spices. Ever-eager to show off their wealth and power, the Dark Elves prized these stolen wares highly and their value soared. Competition for the Witch King’s permission to raid these lands fuelled a period of infighting and politicking that saw Malekith's coffers swell with gold and silver.[1a]
In the Temple of the Goddess of a Hundred Eyes, Corsairs crucified a hundred red-robed priests and took a dozen golden statues, which were presented to Morathi as a gift. The Black Ark Citadel of Desolation sank untold fleets of unsuspecting nations and its raiders sacked entire cities. From hidden coves, Dark Elf raiders looted gold convoys and slave-traders, and brought back the riches of kings to adorn the palaces of Malekith. At one unfortunate port, the Dark Elves encircled the town and barred all escape, before the Witch Elves were unleashed to wreak havoc within the walls. The Khainites named the town Khairith Irlean - the Place of a Thousand Bloody Delights. When the armies of the Dragon Emperor arrived, the Dark Elves had already returned to sea. In their wake, they left a town empty but for heaps of dismembered and charred corpses, writhing with flies and disease. The stones of the buildings were stained red with blood. So disturbing was the scene that the town was razed utterly and all mention of it was stricken from maps and records.[1a]
The Witch King himself once travelled to the farthest reaches of the world, and personally led many attacks. At one eastern capital, mystics called up strange illusions and beastly apparitions to assail the Dark Elves as they stormed the towers protecting the city. Malekith unleashed his own sorceries, driving the mystics insane and boiling the blood in their veins. The city was little more than a ruin when Malekith left, and as a last contemptuous act, he summoned up a great wave to drown the remains. The broken domes of shrines and the walled steps of the great pyramid temple still break the waves at low tide, an ominous reminder of the Witch King’s power.[1a]
To the east, the sea patrols of the High Elves were sorely beset by ever-increasing raids by wild Norsemen and the raiding fleets of Naggaroth made great sport along the coasts of the Empire, Bretonnia, Estalia and Tilea. Shades from the Tower of Oblivion stole into the towm of Anducci in Tilea’s southern lands and crept into the houses of the local people, snatching all the children of the town from their beds. The commander of the Tower of Oblivion, Randelle Doomwhisper, then offered to ransom the children back to the townsfolk. After the terrified Tileans had gathered up all of their wealth and stores, the Dark Elves stormed ashore and slaughtered everybody. The captives were taken back to Naggaroth; to whatever unholy end none can say.[1a]
The Empire, for a time, had guarded its shores well, but division and civil war had split the people of Sigmar. In the confusion and anarchy of the following centuries, the Dark Elves found rich pickings. They even grew so bold as to raid the port of Marienburg. Under the cover of night, the raiders unleashed a storm upon the city. Their Helldrakes glided effortlessly through the tossing seas and their crews cut out seven merchantmen from under the guns of Rijker’s Isle, the port’s keep. The Dark Elves unloaded what they wanted and then set fire to the ships and sent them back into the harbour, destroying dozens more vessels. By the light of the burning ships the Corsairs laughed and offered sacrifices to their evil gods and goddesses.[1a]
From beneath the Blackspine Mountains, the Dark Elves ventured further and further into Lustria to the south. They constantly assailed the High Elf settlement of Arnheim on the eastern coast of the New World and the city is now in a state of almost constant war. Deeper into the ancient jungles, the Dark Elves discovered the soaring temples and hidden treasure vaults of the Slann and their Lizardmen servants. Laden with gold and strange artefacts, these expeditions were greeted with celebration upon their return. The raiders’ tales of cities paved with gold and immense, prehistoric ziggurats filled with riches beyond counting lured more and more Dark Elves into the rotting jungles and raids into Lustria now take place every few years. For centuries the Lizardmen have launched retaliatory attacks against Naggaroth in attempts to retrieve their treasures, and the enmity between the two races remains particularly bloody.[1a]
Growing Wealth and Power
As the wealth of barbaric lands flooded into the Witch King’s treasury, the Dark Elf fleets expanded once again, ultimately eclipsing the all but forgotten glories of yore. At Malekith’s command, they re-commenced their raids upon Ulthuan’s shores, wreaking whatever woe they could. Advantage was also sought in subtler ways: Dark Elf ships shadowed Ulthuan’s merchant vessels as they plied their trade, learning the location of the High Elves’ closest allies. This information in turn allowed the Dark Elves to infiltrate the courts of such realms. Some they struck bargains with, others they set about undermining in order to deny aid to the High Elves in the war that was sure to come.[1a]
Over the course of centuries, many realms experienced both the cold embrace and the wicked betrayal of Dark Elf diplomacy. Yet few who had been bloodied by Malekith’s claws were entirely reluctant to welcome him as ally afterward. Bitterness had done little to dull the Dark Elves allure. When they wished it, the Witch King’s ambassadors could speak charmingly enough to soothe even the rawest of grudges, and they were wealthy enough to awaken the most closely guarded avarice. It helped also that Malekith’s emissaries were steeped in the most sinful and hidden of desires, and they used this knowledge to unlock that which would otherwise have been fixed against them. Only in Athel Loren did their honeyed words fall upon deaf ears. the Wood Elves listened politely for a time, then bade the Dark Elves leave, and never return.[1a]
Malekith watched with grim pleasure as the tendrils of Dark Elf influence spread across the globe. By this time, the Witch King had so many informers and catspaws in other lands that he often received word of a High Elf fleet arriving at its destination before the Phoenix King did. Better still, with but a careful stroke of his puppets’ strings, Malekith could assail his hated foes with the armies and fleets of other land with his involvement secret to all but a few easily disposed-of pawns. For more than two hundred years, the Witch King revelled in this new method of war. Indeed, so much cruel delight did these manipulations elicit, that Malekith could well have continued upon this path for many centuries more, had his spies not brought unwelcome tidings: despite their woes, the High Elves had not lost heart. If anything, Finubar the Seafarer, the newly crowned Phoenix King, succeeded in uniting his people to a degree unseen since the days of Aenarion. This indeed was news that could not be borne. Summoning Morathi and his closest councillors to his side, the Witch King swept from his throne room and into the storm-wracked night. It was time for the armies of Naggaroth to vent their full fury upon Ulthuan once more — the Age of Vengeance had begun.[1a]
The Age of Vengeance (2300 to 2522 IC)
As the Dark Elves extended their terrifying raids to the remotest regions of the world, the augurs of Ghrond began to see stark changes within the Realm of Chaos. The shifting inner energies of Chaos swelled with power, straining and boiling as they built up like a tide. Waves of despair and anger flowed through the miasmic vortices of raw magic, bringing scenes of death and destruction that both thrilled and chilled the onlookers. War was coming; Chaos was coming. Such import was placed on these visions that Malekith and Morathi travelled to Ghrond to witness the unfolding scenes of slaughter and misery for themselves. Snow-swathed fields were awash with blood, strange onion-domed towns burned with magical fire and shambling, shapeless beasts fed on mountains of bloody flesh. Over and over the images emerged from the coruscating energies, each time a little different, a small detail or event somewhat changed as the flowing threads of fate intertwined and unravelled, changing the future.[1a]
Invasion of Ulthuan
- "With the service of this bound daemon we shall be able to move so swiftly that our enemies will not know where we are or how to stop us before it is too late. We will be able to amass our forces to overwhelm our enemies before they know what has hit them. This more than anything else will give us a victory. This time all of Ulthuan will be ours. This time we will succeed. This time victory is inevitable."
- —Witch King Malekith, enacting the Invasion of Ulthuan[5g]
Malekith sensed that dark times would soon be at hand and he would be ready to strike at the hated High Elves. With the power of Chaos strengthening, more tribes of northern Marauders tried to breach the cordon of the watchtowers. The danger of invasion from the north vexed Malekith greatly, as he could not launch an invasion of Ulthuan while the borders of Naggaroth were unsafe. It was Morathi who turned consternation into opportunity. In a great caravan, a hundred laden wagons drawn by a thousand Cold Ones, the Hag Sorceress led an expedition into the north. With her she took ten thousand slaves, the riches of distant kings and a coterie of Sorceresses. Messengers were sent to the east and west, declaring that the Queen of the Elves would handsomely reward any who would fight for her.[1a]
The first tribe met Morathi with suspicion, but once they saw her cold beauty they were utterly bewitched. Pleasured by concubines and given gifts of gold, silver and gems, the chief of the tribe quickly swore an oath of fealty to the 'Elf Queen’. The same happened at the next encampment, and the next, and the next. As word spread, tribes travelled hundreds of leagues to seek out Morathi, and she created a palace of frozen ice and jet black rock to welcome her visitors. She lavished lustful attentions on the tribesmen and gave them jewellry and slaves. This continued for many months, until she had mustered a horde of tribesmen tens of thousands-strong. A year earlier, these vicious warriors had been intent on pillaging the cities of the Dark Elves; now they were pawns of Morathi ready to fight for the Witch King.[1a]
Slaves in the shipyards at Clar Karond laboured through bleak winter days and nights, building immense ships of timber and iron to carry the army of northmen - the Marauders were terrified of the Black Arks, and were too clumsy to sail upon the backs of Sea Dragons and Helldrakes. Guided by Dark Elf steersmen, this flotilla crossed the Sea of Malice to await its human cargo. West of Har Ganeth, the tribes gathered under the shadow of the Black Pillar - a towering shrine to the Chaos Gods carved from obsidian and studded with the skulls of sacrifices. From here they embarked upon their fleet and followed the Black Arks across the Sea of Chill.[1a]
The size and force of the combined Dark Elf and Chaos attack swept aside all resistance. Black Arks beached across Nagarythe and the armies of darkness smashed through Phoenix Gate and Unicorn Gate. While the Marauders were left to burn and plunder as they saw fit, the vanguard of the Dark Elves speared into the woodland realm of Averlorn - the home of the Everqueen of Ulthuan. Malekith’s aim was twofold: to sow panic and dismay with the Everqueen’s death and to corrupt the powerful magic that she wielded. Though the Witch King’s forces stormed through Averlorn and surrounded the camp of the Everqueen, she escaped with the aid of Prince Tyrion, who cut his way through the Dark Elves and fled with the Everqueen into the deep forests. The Dark Elves burnt Averlorn, razing woodland and meadow as they hunted for the Everqueen and her companion.[1a]
Elsewhere, the armies of Naggaroth advanced without pause, Malekith’s generals eager to outdo their rivals. The Blighted Isle swiftly fell and once again the Naggarothi held the Altar of Khaine. In Ellyrion, the horsemasters sought to fight back, but the sorcery of Malekith destroyed their army and scattered the survivors. Dark Elf ships broke through Lothern into the Inner Seas, and victory was within Malekith's grasp. While Ulthuan burned, the Witch King demanded that the Everqueen be found, or that her body be brought to him as proof of her death. Four Assassins of Khaine pledged their lives and souls to bringing Alarielle to Malekith and then set out on their quest. In the blasted lands of Averlorn, they played a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the Everqueen and her guardian. Despite coming close on several occasions, the Dark Elves always found their prey had eluded them, but the net grew ever tighter.[1a]
Only at Lothern and the White Tower were the Dark Elf armies checked in their advance. Besieged, the desperate defenders held out, praying to the gods for salvation. Malekith gloried in the destruction and carnage and mercilessly crushed every army raised against him. He would strangle all hope from his enemies, and then finish them forever. Yet a glimmer of hope remained for the High Elves, despite the darkness that had engulfed their lands. The Everqueen still lived, even if in hiding, and tales were heard of a young mage from Saphery who wielded magical power that was the match of the Witch King’s sorcery. He brought down storms of lightning upon his foes and engulfed armies with conflagrations of white flame. He was Teclis, brother to Prince Tyrion, and soon Malekith and his followers would curse his name.[1a]
The Assassins seeking the Everqueen came upon their prey one night, almost by chance. Prince Tyrion fought with savage skill and defiance, and slew all four hunters. Yet with his dying breath, the last Assassin sent forth a daemonic familiar to bring word to the Witch King of the Everqueen’s location. When the impish, bat-winged creature arrived in the camp of Malekith, the Witch King revealed his masterstroke. With unholy pacts of blood and depravity, Malekith had struck a bargain with a Greater Daemon of Slaanesh, a depraved and wicked creature called N’kari. In return for sacrifices and dark favours, N’kari would hunt down Alarielle and devour her soul. With chilling shrieks of joy, N’kari set off on the hunt, speeding through the charred forests of Averlorn in search of the Everqueen.[1a]
The Greater Daemon descended upon Tyrion and Alarielle in the last twilight hours of the night. For all his power and skill, Tyrion was wounded and easily smashed aside by N’kari. As the four-armed Daemon of Chaos loomed over the Everqueen, lightning suddenly erupted from the darkness, hurling N’kari back. In the starlight stood an emaciated figure, a sword wreathed in crackling magic in his hand. It was Teclis, Magelord of Saphery. With a bellow of hatred N’kari attacked, but a great coruscation of energy engulfed Teclis. At its touch, the shimmering sphere broke the magical aura binding N’kari to the world of mortals, casting it back into the Realms of Chaos. Feeling that his creature had been banished, Malekith howled with frustration.[1a]
The Battle of Finuval Plain
Enraged that Alarielle still lived, Malekith turned all of his fury upon the High Elves. The Witch Elves kept the fires of Khaine burning day and night, as they heaped captives by the hundreds onto the pyres. Ulthuan’s rivers ran red with blood as wanton slaughter engulfed the isle. It seemed for all the world as if the High Elves would be obliterated by Malekith’s vengeance. In a final act of defiance, the army of Ulthuan drew what little strength remained at Finuval Plain. Here, High Elves from every kingdom and from beyond the seas were gathered to fight their last battle. The Witch King was unimpressed by the ragtag army of Tiranoc charioteers, Ellyrian cavalry, Sapherian mages and the weary militia regiments. From across Ulthuan, the hosts of the Witch King marched to Finuval Plain to crush the last resistance. The host of Malekith dwarfed that of the High Elves. Beastmasters goaded gigantic War Hydras into the battle line, while Witch Elves screamed obscene oaths to Khaine. Corsairs clad in cloaks made from the scales of Sea Dragons bared their wicked blades and hurled abuse at their hated enemies. Sorceresses and Hag Queens cavorted in dark rituals to summon their power. And beside Malekith stood Urian Poisonblade, the most deadly warrior to have ever been raised in Naggaroth.[1a]
The two armies clashed like a tide of black engulfing a white rock. Urian cut down a score of High Elves, seeking out Prince Tyrion, who in turn claimed dozens of Dark Elf lives with his runeblade, Sunfang. Malekith channelled ungodly energies to bring down fire and ruin upon his foes, whilst wrestling with the counterspells of Teclis. Daemons howled and gibbered as the titanic magical forces opened breaches into the Realm of Chaos, while upon the field Dark Elf and High Elf blood matted the grass and turned the ground into a crimson quagmire.[1a]
Seeing that the strength of Ulthuan could not prevail against the might of Naggaroth, Teclis sought to destroy the Witch King. The Elven Mage whispered a prayer to Asuryan and drew on the power of his staff, gifted to him by Alarielle. With all of his prayers behind it, Teclis unleashed a bolt of energy directly at the Witch King. Realising his peril, Malekith turned all his art and power to deflecting the deadly blast, but was too slow to divert it entirely. The bolt struck the Witch King and engulfed him with its energies. No ordinary spell, the magical blast awakened the vengeance of Asuryan that still lingered within Malekith’s soul and had burnt within the breast of Malekith for nearly five thousand years. That wound of old, the hideous burning that would never leave him, raged anew through Malekith’s body, searing his flesh and mind. Tormented by the god’s judgement, Malekith summoned the last of his power and hurled himself into the Realms of Chaos to escape the crushing agony.[1a]
With their lord seemingly destroyed, the Dark Elves fled the wrath of Tyrion and Teclis, abandoning their armour and weapons in the speed of their flight. As news spread across Ulthuan, the High Elves rallied to the call while the Dark Elves melted away into the shadows and returned to their vessels. In Caledor great Dragons were roused from their slumber, while armies of High Elves marched to the relief of Hoeth and Lothern. While the northmen fought ignorantly against the resurgent High Elves, over the following years the Naggarothi slipped away with their spoils, back to their chill cities in the north.[1a]
Hatred Without End
Though Malekith was not slain by Teclis’ spell, it seemed that he wandered the Realm of Chaos for an eternity. He has never spoken of what he endured, not even to his mother, but eventually Malekith clawed and fought his way back to the world of mortals and was found not far from the northern watch towers, his body broken, his armoured skin rent with savage gashes and dents. Morathi nursed her son for a year, pouring all of her vile magic and malice into his soul to revive him. In the ranting of waking nightmares, the Witch King spoke of castles of bones and forests of eyes. When he awoke from his fever, Malekith’s eyes burnt with a new light. Gone was the raging anger, replaced now by a harsh coldness that pierces the soul of any who looked upon the Witch King.[1a]
For the last two hundred years Malekith has plotted, conspiring with seers and Daemons, seeking the time for his retaliation against Teclis and his kin. Bloated on their victory at Finuval Plain, the confidence of the High Elves grows strong, and their daring with it. An expedition led by Eltharion of Tor Yvresse attacked Naggarond itself - with stolen clothes Eltharion and a small group of warriors sneaked into the Witch King’s capital and opened one of the gates for Eltharion's army to enter. Fires burnt as the High Elves ran amok, killing and razing what they could before stealing away into the pre-dawn shadows.[1a]
Where before Malekith would have flown into a berserk rage, now he calculates the demise of his enemies with chilling ruthlessness. His revenge against those who continue to defy him will be long and agonising. Now the Witch King sits within his chamber atop the highest pinnacle of Naggarond and gazes out upon the world. He senses great doom and death will soon come and he stands ready to unleash his legions once more.[1a]
- "We shall strike down our foe with sharp steel and cold hearts. The weak die so that the strong shall be spared. Then and only then will our enemies know the true meaning of fear."
- —Malekith, the Witch King of Naggaroth[3d]
The Witch King of Naggaroth possess a complex and tormented spirit. To all outsiders, they see the Witch King as a cruel tyrant, a bloodthirsty King who sought to dominate the world through great acts of cruelty, malice and arrogance. In part, this is true, for what is the Witch King if not a tyrant who revelled in bloodshed and misery to all others. Yet unlike the Druchii, whose soul is forever tainted by malice and evil born from their own desires for avarice, Malekith, through thousands upon thousands of years of pain and torment, retains a portion of what he previously was, a once proud prince of the Elven race, son of the famed Aenarion and heir to all that he has built. In him are two parts of his souls battling for dominance, one side seeking to uphold the greatness, pride and love that his father once embodied for his people, and in the other, a darkness which became tainted by his mother's ambition, seeking to claim all that was denied to him and right the wrongs that the world cast upon his shoulder. Once, in his youth, he truly seemed like a ruler who truly sought to protect his people and seek their adoration and love above all others.
If fate would have acted differently, this future might have come to pass. Yet the poisoned whispers of his mother had forever shattered that hope for a bright future, and through her lies and deceit, Malekith was convinced of his undisputed right to rule and took the throne by force. In his hubris, the Flame of Asuryan burned him whole, the physical pain was nothing compared to the emotion and spiritual rejection of the God his father once served. Bitter, resentful and lost at this horrific rejection by the Gods of his father, Malekith became the Witch King of Naggaroth, forsaking Asuryan as his God and taking up the image of the Bloody-Handed Destroyer, known in their language as Khaela Mensha Khaine. Taking up his persona, Malekith became certain that if he cannot rule Ulthuan, than no one else will.
- The Destroyer - Forged by the Witch King of Naggaroth himself, this blade is a symbol of the Dark Elves' determination to destroy the High Elves and all their works. The Destroyer's merest touch can unmake enchantments or even draw knowledge from the minds of unwary wizards.[1b]
- Armour of Midnight - Malekith's rune-armour is forged from the hardest meteoric iron and protects against any mortal weapon.[1b]
- Supreme Spellshield - The Supreme Spellshield absorbs magic and then unleashes the energy back at the foe.[1b]
- Circlet of Iron - The Circlet of Iron is said to be older than the race of Elves and is a potent source of magical power.[1b]
- Malekith's first memories were of the blue skies over Nagarythe. To this day, he has vivid recollections of his first horse ride, the sight of dragons moving across an empty sky, the cloud-girth mountains, the emerald seas. He could still remember talking with his father in their few quiet moments together when he was young.[8b]
- During the invasion of Ulthuan in VII, 1 (XI 110), Malekith blamed his mother and the cults she had introduced so long ago for influencing the Dark Elves towards outdoing each other in decadence and cruelty. When they tortured and mutilated otherwise useful, elven slaves, servants or bargaining chips, he perceives it as wasteful stupidity. To his cold logic and reasoning, those whom break his laws need simply be put to death. It is unclear, however, if he holds the same opinion with non-elves. Regardless, even when present, he did nothing to stop it, allowing his soldiers to 'have their sport', intent on bringing the cults and Morathi to heel only once victory was achieved.[8c]
Related Invasion Cards
- 1: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (8th Edition)
- 2: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (7th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 53
- 3: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (6th Edition)
- 4: Tyrion and Teclis: Blood of Aenarion (Novel) by William King
- 4a: Chapter:
- 5: Tyrion and Teclis: Blood of Aenarion (Novel) by William King
- 6: Warhammer Invasion Cards
- 7: Curse of Khaine (Novel) by Gav Thrope
- 7a: Chapter One: "The Witch King Rises"
- 7b: Chapter Two: "Destiny's Master"
- 7c: Chapter Three: "The March North"
- 7d: Chapter Four: "Visions in Blood"
- 7e: Chapter Five: "An Unexpected Barrier"
- 7f: Chapter Six: "City of Ghrond"
- 7g: Chapter Seven: "Mother and Queen"
- 7h: Chapter Eight: "The Witch King Demands"
- 7i: Chapter Nine: "A Salutary Example"
- 7j: Chapter Ten: "Battle of Eagle Gate"
- 7k: Chapter Eleven: "An Alliance of Necessity"
- 7l: Chapter Twelve: "Servants to a Higher Cause"
- 7m: Chapter Thirteen: "The Tyrant Shamed"
- 7n: Chapter Fourteen: "Chracian Wars"
- 7o: Chapter Fiftheen: "Battle of the Whiteweald"
- 7p: Chapter Sixteen: "Ghyran, the Power of Life"
- 7q: Chapter Seventeen: "The Great Necromancer"
- 7r: Chapter Eighteen: "Fresh Plans"
- 7s: Chapter Nineteen: "A Hasty Council"
- 7t: Chapter Twenty: "Shadow of Khaine"
- 7u: Chapter Twenty-One: "Battle of the Blighted Isles"
- 7v: Chapter Twenty-Two: "Khaine's Promise"
- 7w: Chapter Twenty-Three: "Brother against Brother"
- 7x: Chapter Twenty-Four: "Painful Memories"
- 7y: Chapter Twenty-Five: "Flames of Asuryan"
- 8: Sword of Caledor (Novel), by William King