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Shrine03

The Shrine of Asuryan, an annual destination of the Phoenix King, is located on the Island of Flame due north of Lothern, and is considered both the holiest place on Ulthuan, and the safest. It is also here that those born of Aenarion's Line are tested for the Curse that plagues his descendants.[2a]

Overview

The temple itself is not of Elven design. According to Teclis, the ziggurat echoes the patterns of ancient cities of the Slann. Some think it was they who first contacted Asuryan and taught his worship to the Elves. Up close, the ancient, weathered stones are covered in an ochre moss. For visitors, as the temple rises above them, it can be difficult to tell the real scale of the structure, seeming as though it were part of the cliffs, a mountain that had been partially sculpted by the ancient builders. It was as if the gods themselves had placed it there. Even non-mages can tell that there was a power contained within the Shrine, can sense the energy pulsating out through the very stone. When Teclis and Tyrion visited the Shrine, the former looked as though gazing upon some natural marvel: a mountain landscape, a perfect beach, a glorious sunset. The sixteen year old's face was transformed as if he were looking upon a wonder. Indeed, Teclis claimed he could see the Flame of Asuryan burning through the cliff. He then corrected himself in saying that he not so much saw as "perceived" its energy. In his own words, this was a place where a power from Outside touches the mortal world. Something vast and slow and terribly ancient.[2b]

The Flamespyres

Surrounding the central shrine are great pillars of alabaster called the Flamespyres, which are home to the phoenixes of same name, as they are held sacred to Asuryan.[1b]

Ziggurat Interior

A priest of Asuryan awaits at the entrance to the walled temple-complex, the Eye of Asuryan worked into the surplice of his robes mirroring the symbols set in the wall. Passing through a small postern gate leads into the grounds around the great ziggurat. Beneath the cool shadow of the massive stone walls, a host of smaller stone structures waited attendance on the mighty stepped pyramid of the temple proper. The aforementioned priest will lead his charges through courtyard after courtyard. A fortress onto itself, even when an army is garrisoned here, the Shrine is sparsely manned due to its sheer size. To compensate, extremely ancient and powerful wards have been woven into the walls, the shrine having been built atop a nexus of enormous power. Indeed, Teclis claims a mighty presence lays within the Shrine, not chained but constrained in some way. It was the same thing that had touched Finubar, leading both him and his brother Tyrion to believe it was Asuryan himself.[2c]

Those of Aenarion's bloodline are led by an acolyte deeper into the shrine, one by one, to an archway watched over by the Phoenix Guards. The acolyte is disallowed from going further, and so the inheritor passes the archway to then be led by another priest to a robing chamber. Here, those of the Blood have their clothes taken away, and made to purify themselves in a pool fed by a bubbling hot spring, mildly stinking of sulfur. Once they have cleaned themselves, they are made to take a simple, patched robe and belt of cloth - smelling faintly of incense - from the priest, before being led deeper into the Shrine.[2c]

The Inner Shrine

Slowly, the downward sloping corridors of the building give way to the walls of a cavern. Deep beneath the earth, lanterns light the way passed walls carved with glorious scenes from the life of Aenarion. Here he was passing through the Sacred Flame. There he defeated hordes of Chaos monsters, all of which had not taken place far from the shrine's location.[2c]

At last, the passage leads into a large cave far beneath the ziggurat, lit by flickering flames that surge and roar from a great pit. Enormous statues of the old elf gods inhabit shadowy alcoves. A great altar flanks each side of the volcanic maw, looking like a bridge that had been broken. During the ritual in which the Phoenix King ascends, the would-be king passes from one of these altars to the other. This was the deepest and most sacred shrine on the island.[2c]

Indeed, within this ancient pyramid's central chamber burns the eternal Fire of the Phoenix. When a new king is crowned, he bathes in these white-hot flames, passing miraculously unscathed through the inferno before emerging to be clad in ceremonial robes and the great feathered cloak of kingship. Both these ceremonies are overseen by the Phoenix Guard, the silent sentinels of Asuryan. Just as they attend the king on his journey to the flame, so too do they bear his lifeless body to the funerary White Ship when his mortal existence finally ends.[1a]

Within this same chamber, each of Aenarion's bloodline are examined one at a time by three masked figures. One is female, two are males, yet each is a powerful and ancient asur. From behind their masks, and after the descendant of Aenarion has disrobed, these priests of Asuryan circle the youth, walking around and minutely inspecting their body. To those with the Sight, the trio are each a powerful archmage. As they move their hands about, it would at first seem to be a blessing, but those like Teclis instinctively know it to be a divinatory spell. The trio openly speak about their findings amongst themselves, noting any blemishes or signs of corruption.[1c]

After deducing what they can of the supplicant, the three figures begin casting a work of ritual magic of great power and sophistication. To Tyrion, each of the three chanted together and began to glow around them and then to the prince. Teclis was awestruck as he watched the three weave their spell. It was divinatory magic of awesome complexity. The sixteen year old followed every part of the weave despite not understanding all of their functions. If he had any doubts to the skill of these wizards, their ability to work this spell would have removed them, for it was part ward, to contain any inimical magic that might be unleashed, and part revelatory spell designed to inspect his body and soul for the effects of the Curse and taint of Chaos. Indeed, the number of wizards present had been carefully calculated. No single mage could stand against three wizards of such skill. Even if he were tainted, and had been fully trained, there was nothing Teclis could do here against the three.[1c]

The prince felt the spell invade his form, passing along nerves and blood vessels, touching chakras and soul lines. He felt tiny flares of energy within his body respond, blazing up like a stocked furnace. Suddenly, after the trio of wizards noted aloud what they saw, a huge jet of flame erupted from the pit. Giant plumes of molten magma formed themselves into the image of a huge, robed figure. Flames flickered in the eyes of the priests. Teclis saw the lines of force connecting them to the thing in the pit. He then realized that the spell had joined not just the mages and himself. It had joined the mages at least in part to the power this shrine was sacred to. They were receiving wisdom from somewhere outside of normal space and time. The trio noted that Teclis could see them, impressed, that he sensed the presence of the god. And from there, the voices of the three became altered as something else spoke through them. By its climax, the unified voices became terrible, and they slumped like puppets whose strings had been cut. With the power suddenly out of them, they seemed less like threatening and mighty wizards, and more like soul-weary ancient elves. No magic or force of will is able to compel the three to tell what they saw beyond the initial prophecy.[1c]

Once they are able to give their blessing, the trio bid the youths leave the chamber through the exit, a flight of stairs leading up and out onto a ledge that looks out onto the Inner Sea. Gulls fly about the area, often taking to a stone banister.[1c]

Chamber of Days

Travelling along high, fire-lit corridors of red marble and golden carvings of the many aspects of the Creator God, one will eventually reach a huge chamber at the peak of the pyramid. Its walls are golden and lit by a thousand torches, and is one of the most sacred sites in all of Ulthuan.[3a]

A masked statue of Asuryan sits on a glassy throne at the far end of a long processional, and a wide portal is carved into the statue's legs, tall enough for a giant to walk through. A host of Phoenix Guard line a marble floored path towards the portal when new supplicants are brought from across the continent. Golden doors lead beyond, though what lies ahead is a mystery to all save the Shrine's protectors. Curling runes line the coffered panels, and those who look upon them see contradictory ideas represented there. Urithair next to Harathoi, Elthrai abutting Quyl-Isha, while foremost among the runic concepts being Sarior. Yet all these runes seem to pulse with their own heartbeat. In truth, the runes are different for every would-be supplicant who eyes them.[3a]

The golden doors swing wide and warm light shines from within the chamber beyond. It grows brighter than the sun, spilling out into the temple. Golden light enfolds the supplicant as he enters inside, who feels the warmth of a nearby flame. The great doors close behind with a soft brush of metal. The light dims to a level where the supplicant can see, and look around at the vast space they find themselves within. The chamber is enormous beyond imagining, surely too vast to be contained within the top of the pyramid. A vast circle of black marble fills the centre of the chamber, and a towering flame of purest white burns at its heart.[3a]

The walls of the chamber taper inwards and are covered from top to bottom with runic script. A thousand lifetimes worth of words were written on the walls, maybe more, and supplicants marvel at the wealth of information inscribed here.[3a]

This is the Chamber of Days, a living record of all the Phoenix Kings who had ever lived and ever would. The walls tell the story of Ulthuan as it was known, and the story of Ulthuan that is yet to be written. Even as one understands what is chronicled here, the feeling of flame at the heart of the chamber burns hotter and brighter. A chorus of song issues from the fire, and one closes their eyes as the dead and unborn speak with one voice, the echoes of all the Phoenix Kings of the past and the voices of those yet to be crowned.[3a]

This is history and legend combined, a tale of days that had no beginning and no ending. The kings speak to the supplicant of their reigns, and the supplicant lives their lives in a heartbeat. They learn their loves, their joys, their sorrows and their great deeds. They live the history of an entire land and its people in one bright and shining moment. In this chamber of eternal life, even remembrances of those loved and lost that had grown cold and lifeless burn as bright as stars.[3a]

The supplicant has seen all that had ever been and all the future held; the wonders yet to come to pass, the resurgent glory of the asur and the last great battle for the fate of the world. They will become a part of it, though they will never speak of it. And so the temple doors reopen, and the Phoenix Guard await the return of their chosen warrior.[3a]

Defences

In addition to the Phoenix Guard, the walls of the Shrine itself are warded by great patterns of magic that swirl around the structure. Potent spells woven by great mages in the days of High Magic, before the making of the Great Vortex. Yet, as proven when N'Kari's horde assailed the Shrine in XI 10, such wardings were old, with areas where time's endless entropy had frayed them. There were places where the physical foci had gone and the spells were worn so thin that they were vulnerable. The Keeper of Secrets could see the patterns of magic superimposed on his vision of the world, and thus found a crack within the wards that would allow a spell to seep through like water. In so doing, N'Kari managed to cause havoc within the garrison, enough to widen the breach and charge forth.[2d]

However, even with such a flaw, the Shrine was protected by something "akin to his kind and yet opposed" made contact with the mortal world, communicating with its followers, feeding off their worship, touching this plane with its magic. A mighty enemy indeed. The very soil of this sacred place would bring daemons great pain, banish them, twist the minds and destroy the bodies of N'Kari worshippers. Even the casting of Chaos Sorcery would be impeded the closer one drew to the Shrine's spell walls.[2d]

The Shrine's garrison is also armed with weapons capable of harming daemons. Every arrow is enchanted, and mages atop the battlements rain the most potent of magics down upon assailants.[2d] During such attacks, the Flame of Asuryan roars like a city on fire, its heat enormous. Within the chamber that holds the Flame of Asuryan, to those with magesight, the flows of power around them tell the presence of the god as it leaks out from whatever realm Asuryan dwells in, and into the mortal world. To Teclis, it was visible as glittering sparks that tingled against his skin wherever they touched, raising the hairs on the back of his neck. Being here and being a mage was like swimming in murky water as a leviathan rose from the depths beneath. The Cothique prince sensed the imminence of the god as a displacement of energy from one world to another.[2e]

Invasion Card

Canon-Conflict

  • In Blood of Aenarion, it's explained that the Pheonix King is shielded from the Flame of Asuryan by the priests, who have mastered bending the Flame to their will. Yet in the High Elves' 8th Edition Armybook, it says he is watched over by the Phoenix Guard as he miraculously exits the Flame unscathed.[1a][2e]

Trivia

  • Smoke from the Flame of Asuryan rises from a hole in the temple-pyramid's apex.[2b] The top of the temple is accessible from the inside, though remains exposed to the elements.[2e]
  • The monastic cells of the Shrine are sparse of furnishing, with small cabins on a ship seeming easier to accept by comparison.[2c] The walls of these small cells are also made of rough stone.[2d]
  • An abbot commands the priesthood of the Shrine, though it is unclear if he has any sway over the Phoenix Guard.[1e]
  • The chamber of the Sacred Flame is large enough to house twenty Phoenix Guard and a Keeper of Secrets with room to spare.[2e]

Source

  • 1 Warhammer Armies: High Elves (8th Edition)
    • 1a: pg. 11
    • 1b: pg. 52
  • 2: Blood of Aenarion (Novel)
    • 2a: Chapter 24
    • 2b: Chapter 25
    • 2c: Chapter 26
    • 2d: Chapter 27
    • 2e: Chapter 28
  • 3: Sons of Ellyrion (novel) by Graham McNeill
    • 3a: Chapter 20

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