- "Athel Loren shall not suffer the presence of Men, nor Orcs, nor Dwarfs, nor Beastmen. If a foe takes a single step upon such sacred soil, they shall not take another."
- —Scarloc, Mist Walker of Athel Loren.
The Wood Elves, known as the Asrai in some tales,[1c] or as the Fay Folk of Athel Loren,[2a] are a reclusive, secretive and highly isolationist race of Elves that have long ago voluntarily split off from the rest of their kin, preferring instead to live out their lives in Nature's embrace beneath the enchanted forested canopy of Athel Loren. From here, they have learnt to dwell in concord with the seasons and the weave of life and death that binds all living things together. They are the defenders of the forest, guardians of all things natural and pure. For millennia, the Wood Elves have lived in this state of harmony, lying in wait and hidden from the prying eyes of the wider World.[1a]
Yet times have changed since that ancient age, and the Wood Elves realise that the fate of Athel Loren is now tied to that of other lands. Though they do not seek to act as the world’s protectors as do the High Elves, nor enthrone themselves as its rulers as do the Dark Elves, there are those times when the will of Orion and Ariel, the King and Queen in the Woods, must shape the fortunes of those that live beyond the boundary of their homelands.[1a]
As such, the Wood Elves have spent their entire existence bent solely on the preservation of their forested realms, to ensure that it persist throughout the ages and to protect their demi-god rulers from all harms. Never has this been truer than in these dark days, where every broken bough or withered leaf carries an omen of darker times to come.[1a] It is this cause in which they fight, for no land endures long if it cannot take up arms against those that wish it harm, and the waking woodland of Athel Loren have endured for many thousands of years, so long as the watchful eyes of her protectors continue their loyal vigilance.[1b]
The History of the Wood Elves is tied with those of their former kin, the High Elves, but the forest that they would call their home have existed long before that. Long ago, before the coming of Chaos, before even the rise of the Elves, a great forest took root upon the world. Like much that came to exist in that halcyon time, the forest was the work of the mysterious Old Ones, who planted its seeds and saplings as part of their grand experiment. This was no magically tainted arborea, as the jungles of the south would one day become, but a form of life utterly unique in all the realms of the world. Of course, other forests had existed before that time, and would exist again, but they were pitiable things in comparison, populated by trees that possessed neither voice nor thought and were unable to protect themselves from the predations of those who sought their boughs for fire and shelter.[1b]
The Forgotten Season (-10,000 to -1501 IC)
This great forest was different, for powerful spirits dwelt within and amongst its trees. It is impossible to say whether this was part of the Old Ones’ design, the work of the Elf gods or caused by some other influence that seeped into the trees’ souls, but as time went on, the trees came to think in a way that trees were never meant to, and learned of feelings such as anger and hate. Before long, the great forest became aware of itself, and of the blooded life that crawled upon the world like insects. The great forest treated some races with tolerance, and even friendship. Others, especially those greedy folk who saw the trees only as a ready source of fuel, were met with ruthless fury, sparking legends of remorseless tree-daemons that would last for millennia.[1i]
By this time, the Oak of Ages at the great forest’s heart had spread its roots across many lands, creating a web of worldroots that the spirits of the wood could traverse to reach faraway places. So did the great forest first discover the summerlands of Avelorn, and encounter the Elves of Ulthuan. No race grew closer to the spirits of the great forest than the Elves, who in their innocence, marveled at its wondrous nature, and whispered with its ancient spirits so that they might learn their secrets. One of the spirits in particular, Durthu — or Oakheart, as the Elves named him - grew fond of Avelorn’s folk, in particular of their Everqueen Astarielle. Soon, he consented to teach them how to shape the trees without harming branch or bough, and blessed them with many other secrets his kind possessed. For a short time thereafter, Avelorn knew a golden age that would eclipse any that followed. Under the combined stewardship of Elves and forest spirits, the woods and meadows blossomed into incredible life. Many of the great forest’s spirits forsook their home for Avelorn’s paradise, for they were determined to awaken those trees as they themselves had been awakened. Yet, though Avelorn became ever more wondrous and beautiful, its trees remained silent. Then the Daemons came.[1i]
The Coming of Chaos
With the collapse of the great polar gates, Chaos swept across the world. Everywhere, civilizations burned and madness overtook order. Ulthuan suffered greater than any other land, for many amongst the daemonic host thirsted for Elven souls above all others. Had great heroes not arisen to meet the challenge, the Elves would have been utterly destroyed and their land made over into a court of pandemonium. Greatest of these heroes was Aenarion the Defender, first of the Phoenix Kings. It was he who rallied the Elves to hold back the daemonic tide, and his example ever spurred others to greater deeds. In time, Aenarion took the Everqueen Astarielle as his wife, and she bore him two fine children: Morelion, and Yvraine. As the Phoenix King fought to preserve Ulthuan, the Everqueen withdrew into the hallowed woods of Avelorn to raise their children as far from war as those days would allow.[1i]
Avelorn had so far been spared the horrors of the invasion, for the Daemons sensed that Durthu and his kind were not dissimilar in nature to themselves, and were wary of attacking their domain if easier prey was close at hand. Such a state of affairs could not last, however. One fateful day, when Aenarion’s army was campaigning far from Avelorn, a daemonic host greater than any yet seen descended upon Avelorn, and the slaughter began. As Avelorn burned, Durthu and his kind fought alongside the Elves - they could have fled back to the great forest, but chose to stand with their allies. Many were destroyed, others were driven mad with despair, yet still the spirits of the forest battled on. But Avelorn could neither be saved by valour nor by strength of arms. Hour by hour, the Elves and spirits were driven deeper into their heartlands, until finally there was nowhere left to retreat to.[1i]
It was late on that last day that Astarielle came to Durthu with a desperate request: that he rescue her children from the coming doom. For a time, Durthu stood silent, as the forest burned around them, the tears and pleas of his petitioner seemingly unheeded. To carry blooded creatures along the Oak of Ages’ worldroots would no doubt be seen as a dire transgression, and he was minded not to invoke the wrath of his peers, yet in his time in Avelorn, Durthu had seen how the Elves and forest spirits had been far stronger and wiser together than they had been apart — if either survived the darkness, that strength would surely serve the great forest well in whatever world followed. So it was that when Durthu spoke again, he agreed to Astarielle’s request. But, he cautioned, there would be a price to pay. If he saved the Everqueen’s offspring, the great forest would one day claim many Elves as its own, so that they might serve and protect it as they had tended the land of Avelorn.[1i]
Now it was Astarielle’s turn to fall silent, for there was something ominous in Durthu’s tone. Yet she had little choice - if Yvraine died, the line of the Everqueen would die with her, and the Elves would soon after fade forever. It was then that a colossal Daemon broke through the Elven lines, bellowing in triumph as it swept aside the last of the Everqueen’s bodyguard with its four mighty arms. Even in a day beset with horrors, this was a cruel fate. No mere foot soldier of the Daemon host was this, but mighty N’kari, foremost servant of thirsting Slaanesh. He was not merely a despoiler of bodies, but a devourer of spirits; his cruel embrace brought not death but the oblivion of the soul. Kissing her children once last time, the Everqueen now gave them hurriedly into Durthu’s keeping. As the spirit led Morelion and Yvraine away, Astarielle summoned what little of her magic remained unspent and went calmly down into the battle to meet her destiny.[1i]
The Corruption of Nature
When Durthu returned to the great forest, he was dismayed that his home had fared little better than Avelorn. The great greenwood that had once sprawled across the world was now but a fraction of its former size. The land where it had flourished bore the scars of fire and wild magic that had driven it back, and even then its borders were assailed by Daemons beyond counting. It seemed he had exchanged one hopeless battle for another, yet appearances were deceptive. As the great forest’s battle for survival had become more desperate, the natures of some of its spirits — particularly those of the striplings — had changed.[1i]
Many were now wilder and more aggressive, perhaps even cruel, and their lithe and slender forms had grown much more suited to battle. It also transpired that much of the forest that had been destroyed in Durthu’s absence had been lost many years ago. The outpost that remained, nestled between the shoulders of two great mountain ranges, had held its ground for more than a decade, and was even now spreading outward once more. Yet if Durthu had been wrong about the forest’s plight, he had been correct about his fellow Elders’ reception. Adanhu, wisest of the tree lords, was readily displeased that the sanctity of the worldroots had been breached.[1i]
Coeddil, who had for long centuries directed the great forest’s wrath against its despoilers, was consumed with bitter fury and demanded that the interlopers be slain. At first, Adanhu agreed with Coeddil, but eventually relented. Eldest he was and fearful of change, but so too did he fear that the forest’s survival might have come only by sacrificing the peaceful side of their nature. Unchecked, the spirits of the great forest would become an enemy as dire as that which they had fought, and Durthu’s bargain presented some small hope that such a destiny could be prevented. Though Coeddil railed angrily against the decision, Adanhu agreed that Astarielle’s heirs could remain within the great forest until their homeland was safe once more — provided that they never awakened from their magical sleep whilst within its bounds. Thus did Morelion and Yvraine slumber through the last terrible deeds of that war. Avelorn was cleansed, and in time would become beautiful once more, but it would never recapture the glory of its heyday. The spirits of the great forest fought on as best they could, knowing that they could not end the onslaught, only endure it.[1i]
As for Aenarion, he was driven to madness by the loss of his wife and children. Soon after, he fell into darkness, only to redeem himself upon is death. In the end, the world was saved not by force of arms, but by the cunning of an Elf mage, whose great ritual of banishment cast the Daemons from the world. With the passing of the Daemons, Durthu was finally able to keep the promise he had made to Astarielle. Journeying through the worldroots once more, he brought Morelion and Yvraine to Ulthuan’s beautiful Gaean Vale, and there left them to be discovered. Neither sibling ever recalled anything of leaving Ulthuan, only that Oakheart had rescued them on the night of their mother’s sacrifice. Yvraine soon became the next Everqueen, and Morelion a stalwart protector ever at her side.[1i]
As for Durthu, he longed to rebuild the glory of Avelorn, but knew that the great forest needed his guidance far more. Gathering to him almost all of the spirits that had survived the invasion of Ulthuan, he returned home. Many centuries passed. Little by little, the spirits of the great forest and the lessons they had taught passed from the tales of the Elves, remaining only in half-remembered tradition and folktales. In time, Ulthuan grew in power and glory, establishing many colonies overseas. The world was riven by earthquakes, and the worldroots were severed, isolating the great forest from the wider world. Through it all, the Elders watched with patient eyes, awaiting the opportunity to collect on Astarielle’s debt.[1i]
The Season of Rebirth (-1500 to -1095 IC)
It would be millennia before the destinies of the Elves and the great forest became entwined once more. Ulthuan’s power was now at its height, and Elven colonies were established in many lands. Most were founded along the shores, but a great many Elves headed inland. Some were guided by dreams and visions, or by urges not easily explained. Others were driven by wanderlust that set their feet on paths that had lain untrodden since the dawn of creation. It was these Elves who first encountered the great forest, and they were intrigued by what they found. At night they saw strange lights dancing in the darkness beneath the bows, and huge shapes lingering on the outskirts of the glades.[1i]
Captivated, the Elves attempted to push deeper, but found themselves thwarted at every turn by shifting paths. Despite this resistance, the Elves never once considered settling elsewhere. The forest’s magic was in their blood, a legacy of Astarielle’s long-ago pact, and it could not be denied. Thus did the Elves name the forest Athel Loren, which translates to "Wood of the Dawning of the World". They settled on its outskirts and planted great waystones about the boundaries to contain the spirits within. Despite these precautions, folk occasionally vanished into the forest, driven by strange visions or lured by ghost-like nymphs. None of these were ever seen again.[1i]
Far away, an age of tragedy was dawning. Malekith, son of Aenarion by his second wife, sought to claim the Phoenix Throne by force and, in so doing, split the Elven race forever. No longer was there one race of Elves — now there were the Dark Elves loyal to the traitor Malekith, and the High Elves who were true to the Phoenix Throne. Ulthuan was torn apart in the battles that followed and, by the time Malekith led his defeated followers to the chill land of Naggaroth, the shattered nation was but a shadow of its former self.[1i]
Never again would the High Elves know peace. On those rare occasions which they were not locked in vendetta with their hated cousins, their colossal arrogance sparked conflict elsewhere, chiefly with the Dwarfs of the mountains. Many colonies were drawn into these fruitless campaigns, but the Elves of Athel Loren refused to become involved. When Phoenix King Caradryel finally gave the order that all loyal folk of Ulthuan should abandon their colonies and return home, only the Elves of Athel Loren refused, and they soon declared their independence from the Phoenix Throne. As the High Elves withdrew westward, the Dwarfs advanced. As the first snows of winter began to fall, the grudgeful children of the mountains descended upon Athel Loren, hacking and burning. This callous action drove the forest into a fury, but its spirits had ever been sluggish during the months of frost. The Dryads were soon scattered or slain, and Durthu, the only ancient not yet at slumber, was wounded near to death by keen Dwarfen axes.[1i]
Realizing that the forest could not defeat the Dwarfs alone, Durthu bade it draw back from the encroachers, and open up pathways that thrust them onto the fringes of the Elven settlements. Thinking themselves under attack, the Elves assailed the Dwarfs, filling the air with volley after volley of arrows. As the forest had twisted the advance of the Dwarfs so too did it now guide the footsteps of the Elves. Whenever the Dwarfs turned to face this threat, the Elves slipped away into the trees, only to emerge impossible distances away moments later. Unable to defeat a foe upon which they could not lay honest steel, the remaining Dwarfs retreated. In the wake of victory, the Elves began to dwell within the borders of Athel Loren, for they feared reprisals from the Dwarfs more than they did the capricious will of the forest. The forest did not resist, and the Elves wondered why. The wayward children of Ulthuan never heard the harsh words that raged between Adanhu and Coeddil as they argued over their fate. Durthu, instigator of the current situation, remained silent through it all. He had suffered greatly from the Dwarfen axes; his once-kind nature had all but fallen away, and he no longer fully trusted his own judgement. Ultimately, Adanhu’s will prevailed, and the forest now opened up many of its secrets to the Elves, though the Dryads and Treemen took care never to intentionally reveal themselves.[1i]
At the very heart of Athel Loren, Ariel, foremost amongst the Elven magi, spoke with the forest for the first time and before long, many Elves learnt this art of treesinging. It was then that the Elves, always respectful of all things natural, truly embraced Athel Loren as their home. More than that, the Elves treated the forest with the awe and reverence it deserved and demanded, seeing the essence of their ancestral gods in its seasonal cycles. They vowed never to take from the forest without giving back equally in service and sacrifice. When the Elves needed wood to burn in order to survive the icy winters, they would take only fallen branches, and in the spring they would nurture and tend to new saplings, encouraging them to shape graceful halls above and below the ground. When the Elves hunted the animals of the forest for food and clothing, they used all that they took, and gave thanks to Athel Loren in ceremonies of blood.[1i]
The Great Council
Before long, Dwarfs marched upon Athel Loren once more. This time they came in a throng many tens of thousands strong, with warriors drawn from dozens of holds. When they learned of this threat, the great lords and ladies of the Wood Elves held council at the foot of the Oak of Ages, and even the trees of the glade crowded close, as if paying attention to what was said. The devotees of the trickster god performed their ritual dances, and the seers and prophetesses read the skeins of fate in the stars and patterns of flame. In that fire-lit glade, beautiful Ariel found herself drawn to the Lord Orion. He was the bravest and most handsome of his folk as Ariel was the wisest and fairest of hers. Whilst the council debated how best to oppose the Dwarfs, Ariel and Orion were deep in a conversation of their own, seemingly oblivious to the great matters that were discussed around them. Finally, they slipped away, unnoticed and unremarked.[1i]
The mood of the council was otherwise bleak, for it was apparent to all that they could not best the Dwarfs in battle. Worse, the seers had determined that the Dwarfs were but the lesser of two nascent threats — a great horde of Greenskins was but a few days from launching their own assault. It was in that moment of despair that Adanhu finally revealed himself to the Elves. He pledged that the spirits of the forest would fight alongside them if only the battle was brought before winter came. Emboldened by Adanhu’s words, the Elves prepared their plans anew. In their enthusiasm, they were heedless of the ancient one’s warning that a great sacrifice would be required.[1i]
It was not until many hours later, when the feast was over, that the absence of Ariel and Orion was noted, but when no amount of searching would reveal them, the errant lovers were reluctantly forgotten. Next day, the great host of Athel Loren brought the Dwarfs to battle. As Adanhu had promised, the Elves did not fight alone. Colossal Treemen strode amongst the Elven lines, and great hosts of Dryads swarmed about the flanks. Mighty Durthu led the charge, an unstoppable force of nature who sought revenge upon those who had scarred him. Against this host, the Dwarfs stood little chance. Though they strove with all the stubbornness of their race, they eventually broke and ran, leaving the mountainside heavy with their dead.[1i]
The Winter of Woe
Alas, scarcely had the last arrow found its mark in Dwarfen flesh when an icy wind whistled through the boughs of the forest and a chill gripped the land like never before. The cold only hastened the Greenskins onset. In an orgy of destruction, the Orcs built great pyres in order to warm their calloused hides. The Elves fought with all their might under skies stained with the ashes of living wood, but the Orcs were too many and their forest spirit allies addled by intense cold. Little by little, Athel Loren fell to the invaders. The Elves prepared for their final stand before the Oak of Ages. They did so with heavy hearts, for they did not believe that they could win, but knew there was no choice save to fight.[1i]
Then, at dawn, they saw that the forest was transformed. The snows were in retreat and blood-red blossoms had pushed through the hard ground. Animals had roused from hibernation and a restlessness could be felt on the air. As the sun rose, the haunting cry of a great horn echoed on the wind. As the note faded, the mighty form of Kurnous, god of the hunt, crashed through the woods. A pack of shadowy hounds was baying at his heels, and all the Elves who looked upon him were filled with fresh vigour. The horn was winded a second time, and the Greenskins met their doom. Kurnous smashed into the Orcs, slaying all before him in an orgy of destruction. Newly awakened Dryads swarmed in his wake, eager to bestow their cruel mercies.[1i]
As the living god plunged deeper into the Greenskin lines, the Elves joined the charge, eyes and blades afire with their god’s furious power. By the time the sun set, not a single Orc remained alive. In the battle’s aftermath, the exhausted Elves came before the Oak of Ages to pay homage. Here they discovered the enthroned figures of Ariel and Orion, now become avatars of Isha, the mother goddess, and Kurnous, the hunter. Another great council was swiftly called, and there, all the lords and ladies of the forest knelt in worship to Ariel and Orion, now and forever the Queen and King in the Woods.[1i]
The Season of Withering (-1094 to -625 IC)
To begin with, Ariel did not truly understand the blight that had risen to wakefulness - only that it posed a great threat to Athel Loren. Determined to discover the truth, the Mage Queen took council with the Elders of the forest, and sent her canniest scouts to scour distant realms. Little by little, Ariel was able to glean the nature of the creature she sought. No Wood Elf had yet seen the beast and lived to speak of the encounter, but the works it left behind were testament to its unspeakable ways. Where the creature walked, the fabric of the world twisted in hateful transformation: trees writhed into terrible and unnatural shapes, blackened crops bled under the scythe, and flesh reformed like clay in the hands of some crazed sculptor. Where it passed, sanity became drooling madness, and measured nobility became wanton abandon. By these works did Ariel finally put a name to the foe: Cyanathair, she called it the Corruptor, incarnation of disorder and chaos. To his own vile kin he was known as Morghur, Master of Skulls.
The existence of this being was of great offence to Ariel, for its ruination of the Weave represented everything that she opposed. Desperate to learn how to combat this new foe, Ariel took a great risk. Adopting a spirit form, she went out into the lands where Morghur had known free rein. After long months of tracking the creature’s spoor into lands no mortal Elf could tread without harm, she finally discovered the beast capering madly in the company of other abominable things. So lumpen and wretched was the creature that Ariel almost laughed to see it. She had expected some power-addled Mage, or a vengeful sorcerer of the ancient times; what she beheld was a crude and ignorant beast that lacked the wit to understand its own nature. Without hesitation, Ariel called cleansing flame down upon the Corruptor and its yowling herd.
Her task complete, the Mage Queen returned home. In her arrogance, she believed that Morghur’s threat was ended. In time, she was sure, the living world would heal from the Corruptor’s touch and the Weave would gradually be restored. What Ariel did not realize was that Morghur was not so easily destroyed. Even as the Mage Queen turned to leave, the beast’s wounds had begun to heal. Worse, Morghur had taken her measure just as she had taken his. The beast had understood little of what he had seen, for his warped mind was a mad spiral in which thoughts and words were alien concepts; but Morghur was not so addled that he did not recognise Ariel for what she was. Having tasted a small measure of her power, he hungered for more. Slowly but surely, Morghur’s meandering path began to creep southwards to Athel Loren.
The Coming of Mankind
It was at about this time that human barbarians began to cross westward over the Grey Mountains. The Elves had long abandoned this land, leaving in their passing only abandoned fortresses and settlements. A great many of these elegant halls had been torn down and burnt, for greenskins had overrun the land as the Elves had retreated. The superstitious and ignorant barbarians avoided these places, fearing that they were haunted, and fought hard to drive the Orcs and Goblins out of other domains. The Wood Elves looked with amusement upon these battles between primitive tribes, content to let one set of barbarians eradicate the other. Only when the fighting spilled close to the borders of Athel Loren did the Elves take action, driving back the interlopers with spear and bow before vanishing beneath the trees once more. Thus began the tradition of the Wild Hunt.[1i]
Each summer, when the battles ‘twixt men and greenskins were at their most sprawling, Orion led the most hot-blooded of his folk across the Wild Heath and into the barbarous lands beyond, hunting their two-legged quarry as they would any other prey. Soon the glory and terror of the Wild Hunt passed into the barbarians’ legends, and they learned that to threaten the forest was to invite a swift and merciless death. As time passed, the Elves came to delight ever more in making sport with the lives of Men and Orcs. They even began to manipulate the two sides into ever-escalating confrontation — though in truth the greenskins needed little encouragement. The Elves told themselves that they did this to control their enemies’ numbers as they would with any dangerous beasts. The further afield the folk of Athel Loren plied their sport, the less credence this idea held, but they cared little and continued to foment war in all the lands north of the mountain range known as the Vaults.[1i]
Yet whilst the Wood Elves cowed the threat from without, they failed to notice the danger growing within. There had been Beastmen in the forest as long as any of the Elves could remember, great warherds that roamed beneath the boughs, hacking and despoiling as they travelled. Each year, the Elves hunted these interlopers without mercy, but each year there were always more. Some lords and ladies of the wood believed that the creatures had some instinctive understanding of Athel Loren’s timeless paths, and so used them to avoid extermination. Indeed, they said, given the curious passage of time beneath the boughs, it was entirely possible that they fought only the same warherd time and again, its warriors trapped forever in a cycle of defeat. Such theories appealed to the Elves’ arrogance, and so few of them noticed when the numbers of Beastmen began to increase. It happened slowly at first, so slowly that no-one noticed. By the time the Wood Elves awoke to the danger, it was too late — Morghur was upon them.[1i]
It was now more than two centuries since Morghur had grown aware of Ariel, and he had spent that time gathering to him warherd of incredible proportions. Thousands of Beastmen and other horribly mutated creatures had responded to his silent call, and now they hurled themselves at Athel Loren. For the passage of many seasons the forest was riven with bitter warfare. The war would have been dire enough if the Elves and forest spirits had fought as one, but Morghur’s primal nature spoke to the forest’s heart, and parts of Athel Loren rebelled.[1i]
For a long and terrible year, the natural order of Athel Loren was disrupted, for Morghur could seemingly not be slain by the weapons of the Elves. Worse, he recovered from even the most heinous of wounds. Most disastrous of all, the trees and spirits of Athel Loren did succumb to Morghur’s taint. Countless times, the Elves would be on the brink of victory, only to have it snatched from their grasp as madness seized spirits that moments before had been their allies. This insanity was not always lasting, but seemed to afflict the Dryads worst of all, for they had ever been the most capricious and malevolent of all their kind. This terrible conflict was only ended when Morghur was slain at the Battle of Anguish.[1i]
Coeddil, one of the most ancient tree lords, scattered the Corruptor’s forces and seized the beast himself. As Morghur attempted to free himself, Ariel smote the creature. This time, the Mage Queen was determined that the creature be destroyed, so she drew not only on her own power, but that of the forest as well. Before such an onslaught, not even Morghur could endure; Ariel battered through the creature’s defenses and shattered his mutated form. The battle had been won, but the forest would ever bear the taint of Morghur’s passing. No living being touched by the Corruptor’s blood would ever truly recover. A gnarled oak tree, branches twisted like claws, still marks the place where Morghur’s tainted blood was spilt. The site of Morghur’s death was known ever after as the Glade of Woe, for it was home only to twisted and withered life thereafter. Alas, Ariel soon learnt that Morghur was as immortal as she — whenever the beast was slain, it was reborn elsewhere. Thus did the Battle of Anguish mark the beginning of a secret war between the Wood Elves and Beastmen, one that would rage down all the ages that followed.[1i]
The Great Betrayal
Five hundred years after the Battle of Anguish, Athel Loren once more knew internal strife. The tree lord, Coeddil, driven perhaps by a last taint of Morghur’s madness, and who had begun to harbor a deep resentment of the Elves, sought to disrupt Orion’s rebirth. That winter, Coeddil and his Dryad handmaidens did not sleep, but bided until Ariel began her own long slumbers within the Oak of Ages. With much of the forest quiescent, and the Elves unaware of his intent, the ancient strode to King’s Glade and slaughtered all he could find, for if no Wild Riders survived to lead the ritual of rebirth, Orion would be severely weakened — if indeed he could be summoned at all.[1i]
Ariel was abruptly awakened from her slumbers as the first Elven blood was spilt. In a great rage she sped to where the Wild Riders fought for their lives. Against Ariel’s fury Coeddil and his followers could not endure. Summoning all her awesome power, the Mage Queen scattered the ancient’s handmaidens and cast down the tree lord. Though Ariel dearly wished to slay the spirits for the damage they had caused and the blood they had shed, Ariel could no more end their existence than sever a portion of her own soul, for Coeddil was still bound to Athel Loren, and Ariel was bound to the forest. Instead she imprisoned the Elder, and the Dryads who had followed him, in the Wildwood — the dark southeastern corner of Athel Loren where no Elves dwelt. The Wildwood was then encircled with waystones, and Coeddil was abandoned amongst the shadow-glades to brood upon his betrayal.[1i]
Since that day, no Elf has set foot in Coeddil’s prison, for to do so is to walk with death as their only companion. Coeddil may silently contemplate his fate, but his handmaidens have been driven mad by their exile, and restlessly stalk the glades with cruel desires in their hearts.[1i]
Season of Revelation (-624 to 1116 IC)
Athel Loren now enjoyed a golden age. Under Ariel’s careful guidance, Elves and forest grew closer than ever before, and the wounds of the previous season were healed. For centuries as the outside world reckoned time, the Wood Elves ventured seldom beyond the waystones that bounded their home. Only the Wild Hunt openly rode forth, ever reminding the surrounding lands that Athel Loren was still a place of power. Of course, there were those who took the warnings about Athel Loren as craven superstition. There always are such folk, whatever the land or the age of the world. Most such creatures were wandering seekers of treasure and glory whose dreams and bodies ended as mulch for Dryads. Every few years an Orc Warboss or Dwarfen Thane would gather enough of his followers to make a concerted foray, and in those years the trees fed well on the blood of outsiders.[1i]
The Wood Elves remember this as an era of great peace, though this was not strictly accurate. More correctly, this was a time in which Athel Loren suffered few ills from the forces of the outside world, and whatever battles were fought ended in victories so glorious that the lives lost were deemed well worth the price. Fed by the spoils of war, the forest grew ever more majestic, and its dwellers multiplied as never before. Yet such bountiful peace could not last. Morghur was reborn again, and a great warherd of Beastmen soon gathered to him. This time the wild horde did not descend upon Athel Loren, but rampaged through the human tribal lands west of the forest. According to the scouts who shadowed Morghur’s trail, his destination was quite clear.[1i]
If the path of destruction held true, his herd was making for a mountain known to the Elves as the Silverspire — a shining peak from which the lifeblood of the western lands flowed. Ariel knew this as a site of ancient power, and knew also that Morghur could not be permitted to befoul its waters. Though not so mighty as they once were, the roots of Athel Loren dug deep, and drew sustenance from many of the lands fed by the waters of the Silverspire. Ariel did not dare face Morghur herself, for the beast’s touch had weakened her terribly when last she had confronted him. Orion had no such misgivings. Indeed, he longed for the opportunity to slaughter the beast who had dared to harm his beloved queen.[1i]
The Hunt Rides Out
The Elves that travelled with Orion were swept up in his great fury, and they unleashed great ruin on the human lands that lay in their path. But the Elves cared not, for the slain were only humans, and therefore of little account. Only when the Wild Hunt reached the slopes of the Silverspire was its wrath finally slaked. With spear and with arrow the Wood Elves drove the Beastmen from the sacred confluence and into the waiting claws of Dryads. Orion himself tore Morghur limb from limb, and tossed the corrupt remains into a cleansing Starwood pyre.[1i]
No other living being did the Elves encounter on the Silverspire, yet still Orion sensed another presence there, one not unlike to his queen, and whose unspoken whispers echoed through his mind. When Orion brought word of this back to Athel Loren, none were more intrigued than Ariel. The Mage Queen had long believed that Morghur was scarcely aware of his own actions, and that the Chaos Gods guided his steps. It was they who drove the Corruptor to devour her and Orion, to consume the godly essence of Isha and Kurnous as his dark masters had all but consumed the Elven gods.[1i]
Thus were the wars of the heavens echoed in the mortal realm. Seldom had Ariel given thought to the idea that there might be others like her and Orion; certainly she had not encountered them. But if there were, it was likely that Morghur would be driven to devour these also. Many turnings of the world later, this theory seemed to be all but proven. Morghur was again reborn in the lands west of Athel Loren, and was drawn to the Silverspire once more. Again, the Wood Elves marched to thwart Morghur’s advance. This time, however, they had allies in the struggle against the Corruptor. Since last the Elves had striven with Morghur, the rough humans of the western lands had united under the banner of a mighty champion.[1i]
The Silverspire was sacred ground to these primitives, and they too now mustered to its defence. It would have gone ill for the humans had Orion led this second Wood Elf host, for the King in the Woods had little fondness for such humans. As it was, the midwinter snows laid heavy on Athel Loren; Orion was naught but a memory and a hope, so cooler heads than his prevailed and an alliance was struck. Together, Men and Elves cleansed the land of Morghur’s taint.[1i]
A Shield Forged
When the Beastmen were defeated, the Wood Elves shrouded themselves in mist and slipped away, despite the humans’ attempts to treat with them. The Elves thought nothing more of their brief alliance — such things had happened before, and would doubtless happen again. The humans did not so swiftly forget, and began to tell stories of the fair folk who had ridden to their champion’s aid. Many years later, that champion’s son braved the perils of Athel Loren in the hope of forging a lasting accord between the Elves and the kingdom his father had founded. Orion, reborn as hot-tempered as usual, had not looked favourably on the supplication, but Ariel overruled her consort in the matter.[1i]
The Mage Queen knew that whilst the spirit of the Silverspire endured, it would distract Morghur from feasting upon Athel Loren, and how better to ensure the spirit endured than to ensure that its human protectors thrived? Thus began a tumultuous friendship between the ancient realm of Athel Loren and the nascent kingdom of Bretonnia. Orion was displeased, and vocally so. He would not, he said, hold back the fury of the Wild Hunt in service to his queen’s whim. Ariel had simply smiled and bade her husband ride wheresoever he wished; if the lands he chose were those claimed by the Bretonnians, so much the better.[1i]
Common cause had brought friendship, but it was only good sense that the humans should fear their superiors. The spirit of Silverspire had, by this time, spread its influence far and wide across Bretonnia. The humans now worshipped it as their saviour, but Ariel believed she shared more kinship with it than they. The humans called the spirit the Lady of the Lake, but the Mage Queen ever after knew her as Corrigyn, Daughter of Mists. There would never be lasting friendship between the two, but neither would there be enmity; each was too wary of the other’s power for that. With a whole kingdom now slyly enlisted to serve as a shield against Morghur, it seemed that Athel Loren’s future could only grow brighter.[1i]
Unfortunately, the Wood Elves soon found it was harder to fade from the world for a second time. Bretonnian bards soon carried tales concerning the ‘fair folk of the woods’ to many lands. Such stories could not help but find the ears of warlords seeking new territory, and the Wood Elves soon found their realm assailed by a succession of armies, each greater and more determined than the last.[1i]
As stories of Athel Loren began to spread in the outside world, so too did word concerning events in other lands trickle into the forest. Many of the tidings were ignored, for the Elves concerned themselves little with the affairs of their inferiors. Reports concerning the ongoing vendetta between Ulthuan and Naggaroth were not so readily dismissed. Most Wood Elves were filled with disdain that such a pointless war still dragged on, but to others the news brought only sorrow. Foremost amongst these was Allisara, sister to Ariel and once, long ago, wife to Malekith of Naggaroth. She had come to Athel Loren shortly before Malekith began his rebellion, and had ever since dwelt in solitude, seeking to still her troubled heart.[1i]
In time she came to learn much of Malekith’s deeds, and came to feel guilty for the path her husband had taken. So it was that Allisara pleaded with Ariel for leave to depart Athel Loren and return to Malekith’s side, in order that she might soothe the rage in his soul. Ariel was loath to grant this request but, seeing her sister’s determination, relented. Arrangements were made, and Allisara soon traveled west with an escort befitting her rank. Malekith strove to keep Allisara’s imminent return hidden from all in Naggaroth, but his mother Morathi flouted these precautions with laughable ease. She did not want Allisara to return, yet nor did she dare act directly. Instead, she disguised herself and charmed Valedor, a disgraced prince of Ulthuan, and led him to believe that Allisara’s escort was, in fact, an army of Elven Corsairs who had pledged aid to Naggaroth.[1i]
Blinded by Morathi’s spells and his own desire to regain high station, Valedor gathered what forces he could and brought the Wood Elves to battle on the shores of Bretonnia. Mighty was the battle that day, though it is ill-remembered by any save the Bretonnians, for whom it passed into legend as a battle between glorious and terrible gods. Though the Wood Elves fought without fear, it was a battle that they could not win. As it became clear that they could find no victory, the leader of Allisara’s escort bade her flee. Alas, an ill-fated arrow felled the eagle that carried her away from harm, and she was left weaponless and alone before Valedor. As the prince moved in for the killing blow, Allisara saw plain the madness that Morathi had placed upon him. Desperately, she sought the proper counter-charm that would set the prince free, but the Hag Sorceress was not so easily thwarted.[1i]
Allisara was still trying to break the spell when Valedor’s spear pierced her heart. As Allisara collapsed, her dying breath formed the final syllable of the counter-charm. All at once, the madness fell from Valedor’s eyes, and he wept for his deeds that day. Overtaken by despair, the prince cast himself from the bluff and into the churning waters below. Allisara saw none of this, for her soul had already fled. With their commander’s death, the High Elves withdrew. Some thought that they had prevented a great evil; others suspected that same evil had been wrought by their own hands. Few of either group spoke of it ever again. Only a handful of Wood Elves survived to bring word to Athel Loren and, when Ariel learned of her sister’s death, a great quiet fell over King’s Glade, one that remained unbroken for many risings and settings of the sun. Winter came early to Athel Loren that year. As the frost hung ever heavier on the bough, Ariel’s grief became bitterness, and bitterness became wrath. The Season of Retribution was about to begin.[1i]
Season of Retribution (1117 to 1702 IC)
Ariel was determined to discover the identity of those responsible for her sister’s death, and bent all the energies of Athel Loren’s seers to the task. She knew the murderers had been warriors of Ulthuan, but she sought the name of the enemy who had contrived the attack. Alas, Morathi had foreseen that such an attempt might be made, and had covered her tracks with charms of concealment. Ariel soon discovered that even magics of the Weave, from which she drew her power, could not break these enchantments. In vengeful desperation, Ariel delved ever deeper into forbidden knowledge and mastered the very darkest of sorceries.[1i]
Using her new power, the Mage Queen restored a portion of Athel Loren’s worldroots, and Orion used these pathways to loose a great host of war upon Ellyrion, the land of Prince Valedor’s birth. The folk of Ellyrion were slow to respond. Kurnous had ever been the chief deity of their land, and they were slow to raise weapons against he who wore his aspect. Their hesitation was to cost them dearly. That summer, the plains of Ellyrion ran red with the blood of its people. Finally, even Orion could find no joy in this work; it was no hunt, but a slaughter. This would surely have brought Orion to quarrel with his queen, had not Ariel finally shattered Morathi’s enchantments, revealing at last the Hag Sorceress and her wicked schemes.[1i]
Vengeance of the Mage Queen
Now, the Wood Elves carried their vengeance northwest and into the bleak pine forests of Naggaroth. They had no desire to tarry in that land, for its woods were bitter and lifeless things, and the chill air sapped the heart of even the cruellest of Dryads. They soon brought Morathi’s fortress of Ghrond under siege. The Tower of Prophecy’s defences had been wrought to guard against attack from the frozen north, not one that had emerged from the forests of its own heartlands, and its outer walls soon shattered under the fists of Treemen. Desperate, Morathi sent messengers south to request aid from her son, the Witch King. Alas for the Hag Sorceress, Malekith had long since learned of his mother’s role in Allisara’s death. Though the Witch King had publicly forgiven Morathi her transgression, he now saw an opportunity for vengeance for his lost wife, bringing her to heel, and it was with grim amusement that he forbade any aid be sent north.[1i]
Finally, and at the cost of many thousands of lives, the Wood Elves breached Ghrond’s inner citadel. Cornered and desperate, Morathi fell back upon deceit. Abasing herself before Ariel and Orion, she made great show of repentance. Orion wanted the business done with, and would have taken Morathi’s heart had Ariel given leave. Yet the Hag Sorceress had tasted the sorceries which Ariel had woven about herself, and now Morathi’s serpentine tongue offered deeper insight into dark lore, if only Ariel would spare her life.[1i]
At the last, Ariel relented and accepted Morathi’s bargain; after all, without the power of sorcery, she would never have been able to restore the long-sundered worldroots, nor overthrow Morathi’s dark citadel. Ariel should not have accepted that bargain. Indeed, the Mage Queen would not have accepted it had her soul not been shadowed by the sorceries she had already employed, but the lure of power was upon her. Morathi smiled inwardly as the deal was struck; she had no intention of giving up her greatest secrets, but if a portion of her knowledge must be shared to ensure survival, it was a price worth paying. So was Morathi allowed to live, and begin the slow process of remaking her ravaged fortress.[1i]
Descent into Darkness
Upon their return to Athel Loren, Ariel and Orion quarrelled greatly about the deal that had been struck. Legends tell how their arguments raged for days without meeting resolution, and of how that year the normally glorious autumn months were marred by icy cold. Next spring, the unthinkable happened — Orion was not reborn. The Wild Riders brought their supplicant to the Oak of Ages, but Ariel sent them away without explanation. The Mage Queen now became ever more reckless. Indeed, many lords and ladies of the queen’s court believed that she had gone mad. Soon Ariel's bitter nature spread to the spirits of the forest, and without the onset of Orion's Wild Hunt to vent-their spite, they began to prey on the Elves in a way that hadn't been seen for centuries. Within a decade, life in Athel Loren had shifted from symbiotic harmony to a daily battle for survival.[1i]
The Elves and spirits neither noticed nor cared, for their perceptions had insidiously shifted as the forest had changed. Indeed, none could recall living another way. Only a few had a sense that the balance had shifted, and to these life now became a waking nightmare. Durthu and Adanhu were amongst those that kept their sanity, but they could do nothing in the face of the burgeoning madness. The Wood Elves now became ever more aggressive, and at Ariel’s will journeyed far and wide, avenging the hurts of previous seasons. Bretonnian lords who expanded their domains too close to the forest’s bounds were driven back. Dwarf holds that had sent warriors against Athel Loren found their trade caravans slaughtered and their armies ambushed on the march. Greenskin tribes were exterminated, or driven from their lairs in the mountains. Ariel used her sorceries to reinforce many of these attacks. Never again, she swore, would Athel Loren suffer from the greed or cruelty of primitives.[1i]
What she did not realise was that the more she drew on the forbidden magics, the more damage was done to the Weave and, as a consequence, the weaker Athel Loren — and all who dwelt within it — became. Before long, Morghur arose again, this time in the Forest of Shadows. On this occasion, Ariel resolved that the creature’s corruption would be stilled once and for all — she would consume his power as he had ever tried to devour hers. The Mage Queen sent a host north through the worldroots, and they soon brought Morghur’s warherd to battle. As they had before, the Wood Elves found the Corruptor all but immune to their weapons, but Ariel had planned against this circumstance. Indeed, she relied upon it. At the battle’s height, Ariel directed a great convocation of Spellsingers to snare Morghur and transport him through the worldroots to the Oak of Ages.[1i]
There she bound the foul creature with all the dark magics at her command, and began the ritual that would make his power her own. She would have succeeded in this disastrous plan had it not been for Durthu. The Elder had felt the disturbance as the Corruptor had been brought along the worldroots, and was outraged that their sanctity could be so violated. Hastening to the Oak of Ages, he slew Morghur before the ritual could be completed. Ariel screamed and railed at Durthu, but dared do no more. Even deluded as she was, the Mage Queen knew better than to harm one of the Elders, so she let him depart, claiming ever after that it was mercy, rather than weakness, that stayed her hand.[1i]
Corruption and Bloodshed
Decades passed. Still Ariel refused to allow Orion to be reborn, and still the Wood Elves cruelly pursued every slight inflicted on them. Dwarfen traders entered the Pine Crags, and were slaughtered without mercy. When the mountain dwellers took revenge, the Wood Elves destroyed several holds in the Grey Mountains, though even they could not breach the mighty fortifications of Karak Norn. Later, when a hopelessly lost Empire army blundered into the Meadow Glades, not only was it crushed without mercy, but Ariel loosed Dryads to raze the town from whence it had marched. The Bretonnian cities of Parravon and Quenelles suffered most of all, and teetered towards abandonment as peasants and nobles alike fled west to escape the cruelty of the Elves.[1i]
But the Wood Elves were now dwindling. Some perished whilst warring in other lands, but most sickened and died as the imbalance Ariel had caused in the Weave took hold. Many of the newly-created worldroots withered and could not be healed, no matter what the Mage Queen tried. Yet even this disaster would not turn Ariel from her path, so utterly had the Dark Magic tainted her soul. At around this time, the Phoenix King of Ulthuan sent ambassadors to Athel Loren in an attempt to heal the wounds of the past. Ariel scornfully rejected the High Elves’ advances, and trapped them within the unseen paths of the forest.[1i]
Unable to navigate Athel Loren so instinctively as the Wood Elves, the ambassadorial party remained trapped for long decades. They finally escaped only to blunder into an army of Bretonnians seeking recompense for the Wood Elves’ predations, and were soon after burnt at the stake by vengeful humans. At the last, the Elders of the forest could stand by no more. Spring came upon them, but there was no sign of renewal. Indeed, they could feel the forest withering and dying around them, and knew that disaster could only be averted if the taint in Ariel’s soul could be cleansed. With the aid of a young seeress named Naieth, who had herself resisted the madness of those times, they gathered what forces they could and marched on the King’s Glade.[1i]
There Adanhu tried to reason with Ariel. He sought to turn the Mage Queen aside from the path she had taken, but she denied him, and saw only an army come to dethrone her. Issuing a great shriek, Ariel summoned the maddened Elves and spirits to her side, and ordered her challengers begone. Battle then broke out in the heart of Athel Loren, though afterward none could say which side struck the first blow. The tide soon turned against Adanhu and his followers, for they were badly outnumbered. Thus did the Elder resort to a desperate deed. Reaching out to Ariel through their shared connection with the Weave, Adanhu drew the taint from her heart and into his own. Alas, that selfless act was Adanhu’s last — the burden which Ariel had borne those long years was too great for the mighty Elder, and he perished instantly.[1i]
All at once, the madness passed from the forest. Elves and spirits awoke as from a nightmare, the cloak of vengeance and spite that had clouded their vision for so long at last melting away like snow in the first days of spring. Ariel saw none of this. Adanhu’s final gift had brought awareness of all the harm she had wrought, of the natural cycles she had put out of balance by selfishness. Weeping, the Mage Queen fled and hid within the Oak of Ages, there to atone for her sins and focus on restoring the harm that she had done. The Season of Retribution was finally ended, and a time of healing could now begin.[1i]
Season of Redemption (1703 IC to 2007 IC)
Ariel's final act before sealing herself away was to return Orion to the world. Never had his return carried such sorrow, for though queen and consort exchanged many words, few of them were joyful. Many years would pass before Ariel was seen again amongst the glades of Athel Loren. At the close of each year, the Wild Riders brought Orion's ashes to the Oak of Ages, and each spring the King in the Woods was reborn. Yet for many long years he ruled alone. Ariel, in her sorrow and guilt, could not face her people, and instead dwelt silent and alone in the Oak of Ages.[1i]
The Wood Elves were distraught that they should be so abandoned by she who was at once both mother and queen to them, but no amount of prayer or pleading would bring Ariel forth. So it was that the Mage Queen's throne of silver and Starwood sat empty for many turnings of the leaves. Despite Ariel’s absence, the cycle of life continued. The boundaries of the forest were guarded against intruders, the ancient glades were maintained and roving Beastmen warherds were slaughtered. Naieth argued for the folk of Athel Loren to put aside their isolationism. Such a radical departure from tradition wasn't liking to the taste of the lords and ladies, but a compromise was struck. Were it within the Wood Elves’ power to redress wrongs committed against the humans or Dwarfs of nearby lands — in essence, the creatures whose past transgressions had been born of crude ignorance, rather than willful malice — then they would do so. Such acts could only hasten the restoration of the Weave, and strengthen Bretonnia to a point where it could again serve as Athel Loren’s shield.[1i]
Righting the Balance
For several decades, all seemed well. The Wood Elves held true to their council’s decision, and many an incredulous Dwarf king or Bretonnian duke found a losing battle reborn as victory through the aid of Athel Loren’s keen-eyed archers. Many were the battles won, but the greatest without doubt were when the Skaven emerged from their Under-Empire and besieged the cities of Brionne and Quenelles. For three nights and days, the fey warriors of Athel Loren fought alongside the flower of Bretonnian chivalry, and finally drove the foul ratmen back into their tunnels. In honour of the victory, Lord Arda, Warden of Ygrysyll and commander of the Wood Elf host, was accorded an honorary Knight of the Realm by Duke Merovech of Mousillon. Arda remained carefully polite whilst in the company of the humans, but removed the gaudy decoration Merovech had pinned upon him as soon as he was out of sight.[1i]
It is doubtful that any guessed the Wood Elves’ motivation at this time, and no explanation was given. After all, outsiders would never have understood the importance of maintaining the Weave. Even if they had been capable of grasping the concept, the Wood Elves were certainly not prepared to share their secret guilt. Little by little, the Bretonnians came to look upon the Wood Elves as allies once more. As for the Dwarfs, they took what aid was offered, but never once considered striking an entry from the Book of Grudges in thanks. No one fought harder than Orion. He knew full well the depth of his queen’s hurt, and sought to soothe it.[1i]
If that meant fighting alongside filthy Dwarfs, then his soul would bear that burden. He was a god, after all, and therefore capable of feats beyond the reach of mortals. However, with each passing year Orion’s campaigns became longer and bloodier. Deep within the Oak of Ages, Ariel learned of this and grew troubled. It would serve the Wood Elves poorly if Orion’s unchecked fury repeated the previous season’s mistakes. The Mage Queen saw now that the balance between her and her consort was crucial to Athel Loren’s survival. Unfortunately, the Mage Queen was not yet ready to leave the Oak of Ages and rejoin the council — nor would she be so for many seasons. Thus she sent emissaries in her stead, two heralds who shared her power and spoke with her voice. These were strangers to all but a few, who claimed to have fought alongside them in battles long past, even though the emissaries’ age belied such a claim.[1i]
The Sisters of Twilight
Ariel's emissaries were twin maidens named Naestra and Arahan; only by the shade of their hair and their manner could they be told apart. Dark-maned Naestra's spirit was noble and chaste. Her touch could heal the rawest wound, and it was with heavy heart that she brought harm to even the foulest creature. By contrast, Arahan's hair was as white as newly fallen snow, and belied a wild soul that rejoiced in the viscera of battle. She revelled in the thrill of life, and her conduct ever teetered on the brink of acceptable - even in a realm as permissive as Athel Loren. In years to come, rumours would abound that Neastra and Arahan were but one being split in twain, the better to speak for the dark and light natures of Ariel's soul. And perhaps this was true. Certainly the twins were never seen apart. Moreover, they often finished one another's sentences - though whether the original intent was maintained when this happened, or was twisted to match the speaker's will, it was impossible to say.[1i]
Initially, the council did not accept Naestra and Arahan at their word, for they were strangers to all living Elves, and the spirits of the forest remained silent on the matter. The twins were treated with cautious respect, but barred from the King's Glade. Naestra took this distrust in her stride, never once raising her voice in ire; Arahan responded with anger and impetuous threats. Only when summer cooled to autumn, and Orion returned to the forest, was the matter settled. The King in the Woods instantly recognized the essence of his queen in the twins and, though he disliked the rebuke that their presence implied, grudgingly confirmed their authority. Thereafter, Naestra and Arahan took Ariel's place upon the council. Neither took her throne, but stood in attendance on either side of it whilst the council debated. Seldom did the twins speak, except to counteract the prevailing mood. Neastra addressed the council most often in the summer months, and sought only to temper wildness, while Arahan made outburst only in winter's dull months, when needless caution and lethargy were rife.[1i]
In all, Ariel spent more than three centuries hidden from the world. It is likely she would have tarried longer, had she not discovered that Morghur had been reborn. Ariel sensed that this incarnation was more powerful than any that had preceded it, and that all of Athel Loren would need to unite to defeat him. In truth, the Mage Queen's soul was still not fully cleansed, and she worried on the wisdom of going forth unhealed. But she knew that dire times have ever required dire sacrifice, and emerged at last from the Oak of Ages.[1i]
Great was rejoicing that day. The Wood Elves had all but given up their queen for lost, and now welcomed her without reservation. Even the spirits of the forest, who had longer memories than the Elves and who had borne the brunt of Ariel's madness, felt joy at her return - though few would admit it. Most joyous was the reunion between Ariel and Orion, for they had spent long centuries of sadness and anger apart. The celebrations were tempered not one whit by the knowledge that Ariel's return coincided with the eve of another great battle. If the Corruptor had returned their queen to them, said the Elves, then at least the misbegotten creature had done something wholesome in his vile existence. None of them saw the dark spark of malice that still lurked in Ariel's spirit. A taint of darkness that can never be fully driven once it has taken root, a burden the Mage Queen would have to bear ever after. Often, its darkness would call to her in the still watches of the night, when hope seemed lost. In the ages after, Ariel would never truly know which of her decisions were made out of malice, rather than reason.[1i]
A month later, as the outside world reckons time, Morghur's warherd was brought to battle in the Forest of Arden. The beast had already annihilated an army of knights riding from nearby Gisoreux, and he doubtless believed that the host of Elves arrayed before him would fall just as easily. He was wrong. Having been forced to confront the darkness within her own soul, Ariel had lost her fear of Morghur and had accompanied her folk to war. Though she was content to let Orion command the battle, Ariel matched and overcame the dark sorceries of the Bray-Shamans with her own magics. Worse yet for the Beastmen was the fact that Naestra and Arahan, too, had accompanied the Elves to war. They fought not at their mistress's side, as perhaps might have been expected, but roamed far and free upon the back of a mighty Forest Dragon. Naestra's purity was anathema to the Beastmen, and her very presence burned them like fire. Yet the Children of Chaos did not flee her coming, for Arahan fought ever at her sister's side. The shadowed twin's dark nature was an irresistible lure to the Beastmen, and they pursued her with mad hunger. Few survived long enough to reach their quarry, and those that did had their vile throats slit by Arahan's wicked knives.[1i]
At the last, their ranks scythed down by arrows or scattered by the hooves of the Wild Hunt, the Beastmen could take no more. As one, the warherd turned and melted away into the woods. Only Morghur stood his ground, gibbering his wild madness at those who came to claim his life. The Corruptor was gravely wounded, his hide pierced by many arrows, but still the will of the Dark Gods drove him to defiance. Then a final bowstring sang, and at last Morghur fell dead, a black arrow protruding from his eye socket.[1i]
Great was the feasting in Athel Loren when the host returned. Many heroes had made their names that day. Most lauded of these was Scarloc, the archer whose arrow had finally felled the Master of Skulls; but there was glory aplenty in which all the Elves could share. Thus passed the Season of Redemption, Ariel and Orion were at last reunited, and the Wood Elves' sundered spirits were again made whole.[1i]
Anatomy and Physiology
- "Bold Brandyn met with a fair lady, as graceful as light and as free as the dawn. He strayed with her into the wilding wood, and nobody saw him no more. Yes, nobody saw him no more."
- —excerpt from "Four Foolish Knights", a popular Bretonnian drinking song.[5s]
The Wood Elves as a whole are physically very much like their High Elven brethren, whom they are descended and related by blood and kinship. As such, they are typically tall and lithe in body, and are elegant and graceful in movement as well as being quick and agile. After splitting off from Ulthuan, the Wood Elves had to adapt to a new life within the forest, living and roaming among the trees in search of game and edible vegetation. Nevertheless, different societies of Wood Elves within the Forest of Athel Loren also have their own distinct appearance, with some resembling close in appearance to the High Elves while others appear more savage and feral in comparison.[1c]
Unlike their brethren to the west, the attitude of the Wood Elves is in stark contrast to the arrogant nature of the High Elves and Dark Elves. They are a rather humble people, more interested in being left alone in their forest than anything else. They don't preach their superiority over all the races within the Old World, but rather reserve an air of suspicion. They broker little trust with those that live beyond the borders of their realms, and only take action should the fate of their forest come under threat.[1c]
No matter what they might like to think, Elves are not immune to the influence of Chaos; they are untouched by physical mutation, but the power of the Dark Gods has seeped into their souls. Here it fans an arrogance that was legendary even in ancient times. The unconditional compassion that was once the Elves’ defining trait has long since been extinguished, replaced by a belief in their own preeminence that knows no denial.[1c]
This arrogance has manifested differently amongst the Elven races. It has remade the Dark Elves as selfish despoilers of a world they see fit only for their pleasure. To the High Elves, it has made them stubborn and conceited, the self-appointed protectors of a world whose fate lies far beyond their control. Only the Wood Elves reject the lure of bending other lands to their will, for in them, the influence of Chaos has awakened only distrust and isolationism. The folk of Athel Loren crave nothing so much as to be left alone, to tend the groves of their woodland home in peace. Only on those occasions where the fate of the wider world threatens Athel Loren, do they even notice the lands beyond the forest’s eaves.[1c]
- "My king, you have performed deeds others could not achieve in a thousand lifetimes. You have held a mirror up to your subjects and shown them the truth of what they are: proud, noble, but most of all wild. Do you understand? You are more than you were – more than just flesh and bone; you are everything that defines us."
- —Atolmis, Priest of Kurnous.[4a]
Athel Loren is divided into twelves realms, each ruled by a lord or lady of the great council. Some realms are permanently locked in time, and only ever experience a single season as the years pass. Others dwell eternally under the night, or in the glory of the noon-day sun.[1d]
Scattered throughout the glades of these realms are the magical halls of the lords and ladies, their mighty entrance doors woven from the trunks of ancient trees or delved into the hillside. They are hidden to those the Elves do not welcome, and many an interloper has passed within a few paces of such a portal without knowing it was there. Those who enter through one of these strange gateways find themselves in a series of grand, beautiful caverns deep below the tree or hill. Roots can be seen far above, curving down from the roof of the hall to form elegant, interweaving pillars set with silver and gemstones. Everywhere there is ghostly music, soft glowing light and laughter that sounds like the wind blowing through autumnal trees.[1d]
It is in these halls that the Wood Elves feast and celebrate the natural cycles of the forest, holding grand banquets of woodland game and free-flowing, intoxicating Elven wines. Children taken from the lands around the forest, destined never to grow old, joyfully serve their graceful Elven masters. The halls are alive with wild dancing, lilting laughter and melodic music. It is not unheard of for outsiders, such as Bretonnian Questing Knights, to on occasion join an Elven feast, but it is a foolish individual indeed that would eat or drink the foodstuffs of the Elves without invitation.[1d]
The Eternal Realms
- Talsyn - Talsyn is the largest and most prosperous of all Athel Loren's High Realms, and its warriors have ever formed the backbone of its armies. It is in this realm that the King's Glade and the Oak of Ages currently lie, thus the realm has also been known to be called the "Groves of Eternity."[1e]
- Arranoc - Arranoc is a kingdom known to be encased in eternal summer, with brilliant sunshine being shone all year round, even when the rest of the world is blanketed by darkness. Those outsiders that wander into this paradise are glutted with pleasure before they are given up as sacrifice upon the Vaults of Winters.[1e]
- Argwylon - Argwylon is a land of light and wonder, where the rivers are alive with naiads, and the waterfalls sing with ghostly voices. This is a realm of mages and magic, of daily deeds that would be thought miraculous in other corners of the forest.[1f]
- Modryn - Modryn is a land that lies forever in shadow. Sunlight never reaches these glades, and the only light is that emitted are the flickering spite-creatures that quarrel and frolic as they flit through the upper branches of the trees. Shaped by the perpetual gloom, the Elves and spirits of the Night Glens are spiteful even by the standards of Athel Loren. They practice magics and customs that are forbidden in other realms, and worship gods most other Wood Elves shun.[1f]
- Cavaroc - Cavaroc, also known as Skymark is the land of the meadow glades, the sparsely-wooded grasslands that lie on Athel Loren's southern border. The Elves of Cavaroc are horsemasters as fine as any in the world, and the first to march when the war-horns are sounded.[1f]
- Atylwyth - Atylwyth is a realm locked in the icy embrace of winter; its boughs are ever covered in a thick rime of frost, its glades always heavy with snow. Pale statues line every path, and mark the entrance to every hall. Some of these works are exquisite ice sculptures, shaped by an artisan’s patient touch. Others are frost-caged mischievous naiads or spiteful kelpies, imprisoned by Elven magics in punishment for past misdeeds or to prevent future ones. These statues flow and reform when the eye does not rest upon them, the creatures inside ever seeking to escape.[1f]
- Cythral - Cythral is known as the Wildwoods, a place where the forest has rejected the presence of the Wood Elves unto this very day, and thus is not considered a true High Realm in its own right. Instead, the Wood Elves living here are tasked with maintaining the waystones that traps the foul spirits that still lay untamed within the forest.[1g]
- Wydrioth - Wydrioth, known as the Pine Crags is an embattled region, ever beset by the Dwarfs and greenskins of the Grey Mountains. From the outside, its steep slopes appear to be no more defensible than any other part of Athel Loren. It is only when an invader is drawn beneath the eaves that he discovers that the Pine Crags are in fact a sprawling fortress.[1g]
- Fyr Darric - Fyr Darric is Loec the Trickster’s holy ground within Athel Loren, the site of many shrines to his anarchic glory. Here too can be found the Feast Halls of the Wardance — the closest thing that the nomadic Wardancers of Athel Loren have to a home. As a result, the glades of Fyr Darric always resound to the sound of laughter, though much of it is mean-spirited. Every deception requires a victim, and the consequences can range from wounded pride to a slow death.[1g]
- Torgovann - Torgovann, also known as the Forge of Starlight is the domain of makers and craftsmen, of the artisans and smiths who create all Athel Loren’s many tools of wonder and war. In the very centre of the realm lies Vaul’s Anvil, the shrine to the Maker God, and every night, the beech trees of that glade bask in the light and warmth of the mighty forge-temple. Inevitably, the rippling heat from Vaul’s Anvil draws forest spirits from the nearby groves, who watch the striking of hammer upon anvil with childlike fascination. Such creatures love the flame for the warmth and life it gives, but are also wary of it for the harm it can wreak if left untended.[1h]
- Anmyr - Anmyr is a realm in desperate decline. Many years ago, the foul beast Morghur was slain in the heart of the region, and his blood corrupted the land for many leagues around. Indeed, Addaivoch, the mighty elm that once served as the halls of Anmyr’s rulers, was reduced to a blighted and atrophied husk during that battle, and its shadow falls now only on barren and lifeless soil.[1h]
- Tirsyth - Tirstyh is a High Realm encased in eternal autumn, where the land itself appears to be on the very verge of death but continues on living for thousands of years. It is a sombre place, and is filled with Wood Elves that have a high respect for the end of life, erecting statues to commemorate the long deceased.[1h]
- "How could you ever understand us? You are not of the forest; you do not follow the Green Way. Yours is the scurrying of badgers, the flight of the starlings, but without meaning. You are never still, never at peace. Always taking without thought, never giving back. You anger me sorely. I wish your kind would find your proper place in the world, then all would be better."
- —Mossback, Treeman.[3a]
The Wood Elves, or the Asrai as they are named in some tales, are but one of three Elven races. Like the others, they sprang from the cradle of Ulthuan. Unlike the others, they did so before acts of jealousy and spite shattered that great nation and its traditions. For this reason, the Wood Elves hold themselves to be the only true Elves left in the world, for only they embrace the whole of their nature. The folk of Athel Loren are unburdened by ritual sanctimony and therefore capable of great extremes of thought and deed.[1c]
They are at once capricious and generous, malicious and caring, servants of both the dark and the light. The folk of Athel Loren know it is folly to claim guardianship of the entire world, and that it is only arrogance that drives their cousins to make the attempt. Just as the Wood Elves see the princes of Ulthuan as arrogant and overbearing, they perceive the Naggarothi as wild and impetuous children, lashing out at a world that has rightly wronged them.[1c]
For much of the Wood Elves’ existence, they spared little thought for the outside world unless it began to encroach on their daily lives. Indeed, only the very youngest and oldest paid it any heed. The youngest do so because they yearned for an adventure that could not be found within the forest’s bounds, the oldest because they had been taught too many times that Athel Loren was not so removed from the circles of the world as they might have wished. Yet, little by little, the Wood Elves have come to realise that the fate of other realms is theirs also.[1c]
There are rumblings of a doom that will see the world torn asunder, and the sanctity of Athel Loren forever lost. Such is a fate fit to shake even the Wood Elves from their millennia of isolation. Guided by prophecy and the wisdom of Ariel, their immortal Mage Queen, the Wood Elves seek to prevent the oncoming disaster from claiming their forest home. Now, their hosts march with a purpose not seen for millennia. They know Athel Loren will not survive the coming disaster unscathed, and if the price of saving their beloved home is the preservation of other realms, then so be it.[1c]
Communities of Wood Elves often tend towards small, nomadic groups of like-minded individuals, known as a Kindred, rather than the large and populous cities of other Elven kingdoms. These kinbands have strong bonds that unite them, ties that are often stronger than those of kith and kin. There are literally hundreds of these nomadic groups that dwell within Athel Loren. Each reflects how it relates to physical influences such as their surroundings, as well as the way they relate to other Elves, Athel Loren and its many and varied fey inhabitants and the attitudes of the individual.[5s]
Kindreds that are many score of leagues apart will often share the same name, for they share the same core beliefs and ideals, though in reality even like-minded kindreds will often be somewhat distant and suspicious towards each other. Some kindreds hold particular rivalries and deeply ingrained mutual suspicion of others, and conflicts between kindreds are not uncommon. Though the Wood Elves are generally a roaming and nomadic people, each kindred holds allegiance to a particular Elven Highborn. Some Highborns may have certain kindreds within his realm, such as the Lord of the Peaks, whom has many kindreds of Warhawk Riders at his disposal while the Lord of the Southern Glades have many Glade Rider kindreds of his own.[5s]
Over time, smaller kindreds - known as Kinbands - arose as bloodlines combined and recombined, and as new traditions evolved from those that had been brought from Ulthuan. By the Season of Revelation, there were not only the twelve great kindreds whose lords and ladies ruled Athel Loren alongside Ariel and Orion, but also hundreds of lesser kinbands, each dedicated to a unique way of life. Eventually the influence of the forest saw the kindreds united in common cause.[1i]
The Alter Kindreds, also known as the Kindreds of Laith-Kourn or Alters, Shifters or Wild kin, are Elves who can adopt the aspects of the creatures who dwell within Athel Loren. They are much more isolationist than any other of the Kindreds, and though they see themselves as a Kindred, they live alone and generally do not mix any more with their own than any other Kindreds. The name Laith-Kourn has evolved from a combination of the Elven root-word Lathain, meaning storm, wrath, and gently falling rain that brings eternal sleep, and the name of the Elven god Kurnous.[5t]
The Eternal Kindreds or the Kindreds of Selathoi form an undying and unyielding defence of all the sacred places of Athel Loren during the winter months. Members of the Eternal Kindreds tend to have learnt their trade in a Warrior Kindred and have proved time and again that their skills and courage are worthy. The name Selathoi has evolved from the Elven root-word Sarathai, meaning unyielding defiance.[5t]
The Glamourweave Kindreds, also known as the Kindreds of Yenayla is a Spellsinger kindred that is dedicated to maintaining the correct balance within Athel Loren. Glamour weaves, sometimes known as Shapers, Tree-Singers, Skein-weavers, Shadow-Walkers, Changelings, Wood-seers, Grove-kin and Wood-shapers, are very closely linked to Athel Loren, and often act as emissaries and ambassadors between the Wood Elves and the older spirits of Athel Loren itself. The name Yenayla has evolved from the Elven root-word Yenlui, meaning balance, harmony and chaos.[5t]
The Wardancer Kindreds, also known as the Shadow Dancers of Loec, Feast Masters, Bladesingers, Deathdancers or the Kindreds of Caidath, are a cult Kindred dedicated to the Elven trickster god Loec, the god of laughter, dance and music. The name Caidath has evolved from the Elven root-word Cadaith. This Greater Word carries the following meanings: grace, power, music of the stars.[5s]
The Spellsinger Kindreds, known as Handmaidens of the Everqueen, Priestess of Athel Loren or Spellsingers and Spellweavers are generally part of the Kindred of Kel-Isha. The name Kel-Isha has evolved from the Elven root-word Quyl-Isha, meaning the Tears of Isha, sorry, mercy, endurance and mourning of lost children.[5d]
The Warrior Kindreds, also known as the Kindreds of Lakoys make up the vast bulk of the armies of Athel Loren. They generally include Glade Guard warriors, and will sometimes include Glade Riders, Warhawk Riders and other warrior caste. The name Kakoys has evolved from the Elven root-word Lacoi, meaning might, glory, and fear of death.[5f]
Wind Rider Kindreds
Wind Rider Kindreds, known as the Brethrens of Seth or Dawn-Riders, hail mostly from the Pine Crags where their mounts live unrestrained by the dense forest canopy of the lower reaches of Athel Loren. Members of the Wind Rider kindreds are often reckless, secure in the knowledge that the swiftness of their mounts can carry them unharmed through great danger. The name Sethayla has evolved from the Elven root-word Sethai, meaning flight, wind and the cry of the far mountains.[5k]
Younger Kindreds, known also as the Kindreds of Haroith, tend to attract young Elves. This kindred is typified as being impatient and impulsive. Many Elves leave this kindred when they are older, though other wilder Elves will stay within the kindred. A mistrusted kindred by other Wood Elves, most regard them as not understanding balance, and therefore making them dangerous to all others, often the first to react violently. The name Haroith has evolved from the Elven root-word Harathoi, meaning youth, boundless energy, and jealousy.[5l]
Glade Rider Kindreds
Glade Rider Kindreds, known also as the Kindreds of Sehenlu, the Kindreds of Equos, Horse-Masters, Saddle-born, and the Ridderkin, are a kindred of Glade Riders. A noble that rides an Elven steed will often be from a Kindred of Sehenlu, or was once a part of one of those kindreds. The name Sehenlu has evolved from the Elven root-word Senlui, meaning swiftness and accuracy.[5m]
The Vengeance Kindreds, or the Kindreds of Talu, are a very small kindred devoted to revenge for acts of particular harm. This is an unusual kindred in that those who join it only do so for the fulfilment of a particular vendetta, and they then return to their former Kindred. To stay too long within the kindred of Talu is particularly dangerous, for one cannot leave the kindred without fulfilling the reasons he or she entered for. Those belonging to this kindred are known by names such as Riftblades and Mournsinger. The name Talu has evolved from the Elven root-word Thalui, meaning hatred or vengeance.[5n]
The Scout Kindreds, also known as the Kindreds of Arahai are those known as Sentinels, Wayfarers, and Hawkeyes. The name Arahain has evolved from the Elven root-word Arhain, meaning shadows, night, stealth, secrets, and perfidious.[1h]
Every Wood Elf holds Kurnous and Isha above all other beings, but beyond that they make little distinction between the Gods of the Heavens and the Gods of the Underworld. Instead, they worship according to the callings of their own natures, embracing the wildness of Khaine as readily as the compassion of Lileath.[lk] In addition, they also worship the The Ancients, for it was they who spoke on behalf of Athel Loren when the pact between forest and elf was made.[ll] The Wood Elves also believe in the Weave, the web of life and death that bind all living things. A 'weave' of existence.[ln]
Ever since the coming of Chaos, Slaanesh has feasted on the spirits of elven dead, for no other race possesses souls so sweet and filled with sensation. Elven souls lucky enough avoid Slaanesh's hunger must then reside in Mirai, the realm of Ereth Khial in eternal torment. To guard against either fate, the Wood Elves make a pact with Athel Loren that extends beyond their mortal bodies. When a Wood Elf perishes, the forest he has tended for so long absorbs his soul and keeps it safe from Slaanesh's hunger. The final result of this transmutation can vary widely. Most souls immediately lose all sense of identity and meld with the forest. Some spirits wander the paths they walked in life, hidden from the gaze of the most magically intuned, carrying messages and warnings to those who can hear their words. Others, driven by an undying need to protect their woodland home, take root in deadwood hulks, animating the barren timbers into the battle form known as Tree Kin. Some elves even believe they have encountered loved ones reborn as wild animals, or as mischievious spite creatures that flit between the boughs.[lm]
The Wood Elves speak a form of Eltharin known as Fan-Eltharin, a mixture of their older languages mixed in with new ones that were learned during their time within Athel Loren. Elves are subtle creatures at heart, and live in the details of thought and deed that lesser creatures seldom notice. They live for intrigue and find joy in a clever tongue wielded by an accomplished mind. The speech of a Wood Elf is particularly incomprehensible to an outsider. This is not because the words themselves make little sense, but because there are always at least two possible interpretations of the intended meaning. In this way, a promise of assistance can sound disturbingly like a threat, and a death sentence like an offer of clemency. In this way does the speech of the Wood Elves reflect their complicated relationship with the world. Until backed up with deeds, words are just empty prophecies that speak to possible outcome; sometimes, even the Wood Elves do not know what they intend until the moment of action.[1c]
- "Do not lightly rouse the Forest Lords, for they are slow to anger, but when they finally decide to unleash their wrath, all the wood rages with them. The warhawks grow restive as the shadows stretch longer. Creatures who were once prey turn on their predators and we have to guard against the fiercer beasts who suddenly become bold enough to attack our villages. Woe then to any that creeps uninvited under the grand canopy of the Dark Green for never shall they emerge again."
- —Elthias, Glade Guard.[3a]
The Wood Elves consider themselves to be eternally at war, for their forest home is surrounded on all sides by enemies who seek to do it harm. There is no peace, just moments of silence between the clamour of battles. When the invaders inevitably return, then do the lords and ladies marshal their great hosts, and mighty Orion summons forth the Wild Hunt. Each battle they fight, whether upon the borders of their own realm or in the lands beyond, serves to protect Athel Loren and preserve the balance of the Weave upon which all living things depend.[1j]
The humans see the forest as a brooding and malicious foe. Dwarfs see Athel Loren’s boughs as a resource to be harvested and put to work as fuel for their great warmachines. Reckless wizards too see the forest as a wellspring of fuel, but it is not timber they crave, but the magical essence which gives life to the trees and vigour to those that live within the forest’s bounds. Then there are those that seek to topple the trees and defile the ground for no other reason than to cause destruction.[1b]
Thus does the host of Athel Loren march to war, hidden by skeins of sorcerous mist. The battle starts with a single arrow, fired by the greatest marksman in the host and aimed at the enemy warlord’s heart. This signal given, Glade Guard and Waywatchers emerge from concealment and blacken the skies with their own volleys, each shot guided by an instinct beyond human comprehension. Only then do the hunting horns sound, loosing the Wood Elves to the fray.[1b]
The Wood Elves are an elite army, formed around a core of highly skilled Elven Archers and supported by the mysterious spirits of Athel Loren. All Wood Elves are archers of unparalleled skill, their armies relying heavily on mobility and skirmishing tactics where their skills with the bow can be used to full effect. The demigod Orion, who dies in flame each year only to be born anew in the spring, leads the charge, scattering enemies with every thrust of his mighty spear. Wild Riders gallop in his wake, their furious steeds trampling any who survive the riders’ onset. Wardancers dart and spiral through their bewildered opponents, their every cut and parry an act of worship to their trickster god. Eternal Guard and Wildwood Rangers advance next, blades blurring as they strike. And the Elves do not fight alone, for they are joined by the spirits of the forest. Lithe Dryads rip through their foes, their quicksilver forms given purpose by the seething malice in their thorny hearts. Colossal Treemen smash through the enemy lines, their gnarled fists pulverising all in their path. Overseeing these battles are the Spellweavers of Athel Loren, who direct both dark and light magics to wherever they are needed, bringing relief to wounded allies, and blasting enemies apart with searing bolts of the blackest magic.[1b]
Wood Elf Infantry
- Glade Guard - The Glade Guards forms the very core of Athel Loren's armies. In time of need, every Wood Elf can answer the call to defend their forest home, for all are trained in the arts of the longbow as soon as they can hold one.
- Deepwood Scouts - Deepwood Scouts hold the responsibility of patrolling those areas of the forest deemed too dangerous for Glade Guard to enter. To tread such paths, an Elf must be invisible not only to a predator’s sight, but to his other senses also - no easy matter when contending with otherworldly creatures to whom an Elf’s soul manifests as a brightly burning light.
- Wildwood Rangers - Wildwood Rangers are those Elves that have suffered a great tragedy by the hands of those entities that live within the Wildwoods, and have thusly dedicated their lives in patrolling those cursed grounds.
- Eternal Guard - Using a unique fighting form with deadly swordstaff called saearath, the Eternal Guard will solidly stand against any who threaten Athel Loren. Eternal Guard are frequently utilised as bodyguards for Highborn and other Wood Elven nobility. They are the only ones standing between the enemy and the destruction of the forest during winter time. During other seasons they have a mostly ceremonial role.
- Waywatchers - Waywatchers are silent sentinels, the guardians of the paths leading into Athel Loren. They are masters of concealment, and can lie unmoving and unnoticed for days on end before springing an ambush on a startled and unfortunate prey.
- Wardancers - Wardancers are the elven equivalent of berserkers—they have no armour, move fluidly, weave 'dances of death' around their opponents, and are immune to both fear and terror. In Wood Elf folklore, Wardancers are treated with the utmost respect.
- Dryads - Forest spirits that are the embodiment of nature's duality: Beauty and Ferocity. Dryads will lure intruders off roads and trails, then let their sharp branches and thorns teach the intruder the folly of trespassing in Athel Loren. Dryads are some of the most capable assault troops in the Wood Elf host, being fast, strong, tough, fear causing and nigh unstoppable.
- Tree Kin - Tree Kin is the name given to the spirits of Athel Loren that bond themselves with dead trees to create an abominable, moving tree monster. They are, in essence, lesser forms of Treemen.
Wood Elf Cavalry
- Glade Riders - Forming a friendship of trust and understanding with their horses, Glade Riders move swiftly through the forest branches to bring their deadly bows to bear on the less mobile intruders. Glade Riders are capable of both ranged combat and close combat and often provide a curtain force on the front ranks, to delay and channel the intruder into a prepared devastating attack by wardancers, dryads, treekin and treemen.
- Sisters of the Thorn - The Sisters of the Thorn are Ariel’s handmaidens. In many ways, they are equal and opposite to the Wild Riders of Kurnous, a sisterhood pledged to sorcery and subtlety where Orion’s equerries know loyalty only to the glory of the hunt. Where the Wild Riders are borne into battle on steeds as reckless as they, the Sisters ride upon Steeds of Isha — mounts whose viciousness lies hidden beneath a graceful aspect.
- Wild Riders - The Wild Riders of Kurnous are Orion’s personal guard, each as aggressive and impulsive as he. They are fey and dangerous creatures who are no longer truly the Elves they once were. Now and forever they are a part of the Wild Hunt’s eternal glory.
- Warhawk Riders - Warhawk Riders are light, flying units used mostly for march-blocking and hit-and-run tactics. They are highly skilled elves riding agile, giant hawks, and resemble a sort of aerial cavalry.
Wood Elf Warbeasts
- Great Stag - No beast in all of Athel Loren is treasured more than the Great Stag, a creature that the Wood Elves revere as representing the true soul of the forest. Wherever the truth of their nature lies, the Great Stags are unquestionably magical creatures, though they are undoubtedly of a nobler cast than Unicorns.
- Unicorn - The Unicorns are innately magical creatures that serve as either warbeasts or mounts for the Wood Elven hosts. They are magical creatures and thus are attracted to female Spellweavers like moths to a flame.
- Great Eagle - A Great Eagle is just that — an eagle of epic proportions. They live in the Grey Mountains, or on the very highest treetops of Athel Loren and have a special connection with elves. Wood elves use eagles as deadly flying monsters. Some heroes of the Wood Elf race are even known to ride them to battle.
- Treemen - Treemen are the most powerful spirits in Athel Loren. They, unlike Tree Kin, are permanently bound to a living tree, making a connection that only death can sever. Also, Treemen are ancient beings - some are old beyond mortal reckoning- of gigantic size and have many abilities that Tree Kin do not. One example is the mystical power of tree-singing, which can enable trees to walk or attack nearby enemies.
- Forest Dragons - Forest Dragons are mighty serpentine beasts that dwell within the enchanted woodlands of Athel Loren. Protected by the forest canopy and shielded from the attentions of young heroes seeking to make names for themselves by the sheer rock faces of the chasms, these Forest Dragons thrived and multiplied.
Wood Elf Lords
- Glade Lord - Glade Lords, or Highborns, are the upper, ruling class of Elven society. They lead the Wood Elves in time of peace, and it is expected of them to be equally capable generals in times of war. They are far more skilled then the average elven foot troop. Highborns (and nobles) can take up special areas of training (called kindreds), which give them various skills and abilities. Most notably, the kindreds include the "Alters," who are characters that have been changed by the forest. They take on the aspects of the creatures of the forest, through which they move as rapidly as cavalry, and when they come upon the intruder they visit it with a torrent of attacks.
- Spellweaver - The Lord-level Mage is similar to mages in every other army, though she (female mages are far more attuned to Isha than males are) is limited to choosing spells from the Lore of Life, the Lore of Beasts, or the Wood Elf-specific Lore of Athel Loren - a set of magical skills which allow Spellweaver and Spellsingers to communicate with the forest for a variety of offensive and defensive benefits.
- Treeman Ancient - Treeman Ancients are the oldest and wisest of the treemen that live in Athel Loren. They are just as large and strong as their brethren, but their knowledge of the past and workings of the Forest give the abilities much stronger than those of the average treeman.
Wood Elf Heroes
- Shadowdancers - Shadowdancers are the closest thing that the Trickster God has to a priesthood, and they are both respected and feared as a result. They, and only they, know all the paths through Athel Loren — indeed, it is said that they tread the paths of the Dreaming Wood as surely as they do the mortal world.
- Waystalkers - Waystalkers’ personalities have become entirely submerged by their obsession with stalking prey. They are taciturn and solitary individuals, and they may let years pass between visits to Wood Elf halls. Waystalkers are perfectly at ease within their forest homeland and effortlessly survive by their wits and cunning in the wilds.
- Branchwraiths - Branchwraiths are the oldest of the Dryads. They have ever served as the handmaidens to the Ancients of Athel Loren, and attend to the Treemen with a dedication bordering upon the fanatical.
- Orion - The immortal Consort King of Athel Loren, Orion is the rampaging avatar of the elf god Kurnous. He is a terrifying sight to behold, standing over ten feet tall and his green skin ripples with muscle. Although he must die each winter, he is reborn each spring, and reaches the peak of his power in mid-summer. Such is the way of things, the "continuation of the never-ending process of death and rebirth". Orion is normally accompanied by his baying hounds and the Wild Riders of Kurnous. Orion counts as both a Lord and a Hero choice. At the height of his power in midsummer, Orion is a terrifying being of majesty and power. And his lithe, green-tinged body ripples with barely contained anger. As the moons align overhead on midsummer's eve, a beautiful cloak crafted by his Queen is draped over his shoulders, and the great horn of the Wild Hunt is placed reverently before him. As the time of the conjunction draws near, he takes up his weapons from their shrine within the Oak of Ages. At midnight, Athel Loren goes utterly silent – not a creature stirs – for all know that the ride of the Wild Hunt has come.
- Ariel - Ariel is the Queen of Athel Loren and presides over the realm together with Orion. Ariel is one of the most powerful wizards in all of the world. She is a demi-goddess and the avatar of Isha, the ancient Elven goddess of nature, and acquired the Aspects of Isha through the strange magic of the Oak of Ages at the same time as Orion gained the Aspects of Kurnous. Thus, the magical force of nature flows through Ariel as if she were the goddess Isha herself.
- Durthu - Durthu, or Oakheart, is an Elder of Athel Loren, a Treeman so ancient that even Ariel’s millennia-long existence pales in comparison. It was he who first forged a union between Elves and forest, and he also who argued with his fellow Elders that the binding be made permanent. In those days, he was ever a friend to the children of Isha, always willing to help them broaden their understanding of the forest and of the Weave.
- Araloth - Araloth the Bold or Araloth the Hooked Blade is the current Lord of Talysn and one of Athel Loren's greatest military commanders and warriors.
- Drycha - Drycha is the most powerful Branchwraith in Athel Loren. The Asrai believe she was driven mad when the blood of the powerful beastman Morghur was spilled in her glade, though in truth, she was malevolent and capricious long before that. She hates all who enter into Athel Loren, and blames the Wood Elves for all the evils that threaten the enchanted forest. In recent years, she and the forest creatures that serve her have taken to attacking villages around Athel Loren, leaving no survivors and showing no mercy. Drycha is believed to have entered the service of Coeddil, a tree-man whose hatred of the Asrai is legendary, and it is rumoured that she is forming a resistance to exterminate the Asrai.
- Naestra and Arahan - The Sister-Twins of Athel Loren are a mysterious pair who occupy the alpine slopes of the Pine Crags. The story of their existence has been retold throughout the ages by the wardancers. They tell that a small Asrai child, Naestarahan, was lured into the woods by glowing farie lights to a place where even the Waywatchers feared to tread. There she was split into two halves: identical in looks, save that one has hair as dark as night and the other has hair of the purest white. Both command the forest: Naestra, out of love, Arahan, out of fear. As long as one endures, both will endure. They always ride to battle either Ceithin-Har, a forest dragon, or Gwindalor, a Great Eagle.
- Scarloc - Scarloc is a champion to the Asrai. He is known for his skill with the bow and his stealthy abilities. He is also the leader of the masterful scouts. In Imperial year 2007 he and his scouts slew Morghur, or Cyanathair, Child of Chaos, by piercing him with a hundred arrows.
- 1: Warhammer Armies: Wood Elves (8th Edition)
- 2: Knights of the Grail (8th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 42
- 3: Old World Beastiary (Fantasy Roleplay)
- 3a: pg. 32
- 4: Orion: Tears of Isha (Novel)
- 4a: Chapter: 2
- 5: Warhammer Armies: Wood Elves (6th Edition)