- "There are not enough words in your simple tongue to express our hatred for them, Human. Killers, despoilers, slavers and thieves we name them, but not one of these oft-earned titles begins to describe the depths of their depravity. They have neither mercy nor honour. They roam and kill in darkness called up by their foul sorceries. They are so base as to specifically target children for their depredations. The capricious folk of Ulthuan claim that they are their despised kin, exiled long ago, but truly, can one ever trust the words of an Elf?"
- —Hargrim Furgilsson, Dwarf Trader[5a]
The Dark Elves, or the Druchii as they call themselves, and sometimes as the Nagarrothi or the "Dark Ones",[5a] are one of the most ancient, powerful and sadistic of the three Elven civilizations. From the bleak, chilly lands of Naggaroth lies the Dark Elven Kingdoms of Witch King Malekith, a realm born from the depths of malice and hate, a kingdom that seeks nothing more than to despoil a world they believe loathes their existence. With malevolent eyes, the Dark Elves watch this dying world, knowing it is their birthright to rule all that they've survey and those that live upon it are born to do nothing more than to grovel at their very feet.[1a]
They are raiders, slavers and heartless reavers of the first degree, their every whim being nothing more than to sow misery and pain to all that oppose them, for make no mistake, misery and pain is the very lifeblood of their existence. Thus do their Black Arks and Corsair Fleets ply the great waters of the world, raiding and enslaving all before them as a tribute to their own avaricious desires. Yet even should every other land would bow to their rule, the Dark Elves know that they cannot claim their glorious inheritance whilst their hated brethrens, the High Elves endure.[1a]
Until that day finally dawns when the Isles of Ulthuan are finally theirs, the Dark Elves will continue their bloody quest as they always have. Great raiding fleets, their sails black against the night sky, bring woe and destruction to all the shores of the world, bearing terror and death to distant realms, often for no better reason than because there is no-one who can stand against them. With every year that passes, the power of Naggaroth ascends to greater heights, built upon the backs of slaves and fuelled by a constant stream of plunder from far-off lands. As the other elder races fade, the Dark Elves thrive, knowing that their hour has at last come. Stormclouds gather across the High Elf realms, and the Witch King's malevolent laughter echoes upon the wind. Naggaroth will rise, Ulthuan will fall, and a vengeance thousands of years in the making will finally see its bloody conclusion.[1c]
The earliest days of the Elves go unrecorded, even by their own chronicles. They lived in contentment and peace on the isle of Ulthuan and learned the arts of civilisation and the skills of magic from the enigmatic Old Ones. This paradise was shattered and the Elves doomed to a slow dwindling by the coming of Chaos.[1k]
When the great star gate of the Old Ones collapsed, the ravaging Realm of Chaos spilled into the world and a tide of Daemons swept across the globe. Sustained by the roaring magic of the broken gate, the Daemons roamed at will, slaughtering countless mortal creatures and defiling the lands. When they came upon Ulthuan, the Daemons found an island steeped in magical energy and they gadiered into a massive horde to devour and destroy the Elves’ homeland. The Elves were defenceless against this surprise onslaught, untouched as they were by the depravities of war, their queen a figure of peace and healing.[1k]
The Age of Endless Glory (-4500 to -4419 IC)
Yet from the blood and slaughter emerged the greatest Elf hero to have ever walked the world: Aenarion. In him, the mightiest warrior spirit was kindled, and it was Aenarion who would rally the Elves and teach them the ways of war. His heart burned with the dark fires of battle and his prowess with blade, spear and bow remain unmatched to this day. A beacon of hope, Aenarion fought across Ulthuan and in his presence the warlike nature of the Elves was awoken.[1k]
Though Aenarion and his growing band of warriors fought hard and long, the Daemon horde was unending in number. Aenarion called to the gods to aid him, offering sacrifices to them for their intervention. Yet the gods remained silent. In desperation, Aenarion went to the sacred fire of Asuryan, lord of all the Elven gods, and offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice. With prayers upon his lips, Aenarion hurled himself into the white-hot flames. Though the mystical fires burnt his body and seared his soul, Aenarion refused to surrender. Through almighty strength of will, he lived through the punishment of the cleansing fires. Purified by his ordeal, a light shone from within Aenarion, a glow of power that filled Elves with courage and caused Daemons to cower in his presence. Invigorated by the purity of Asuryan, Aenarion waged his war with ever greater zeal. Soon he was hailed as the Phoenix King, the reborn son of Asuryan.[1k]
As Aenarion’s army swelled, the Daemon host recoiled from the renewed anger of the Elves. It was at this time that Aenarion met with the first of the Dragontamers, the powerful mage Caledor. With the aid of his Dragon riders, Caledor too had held back the first invasion of the Daemons from his lands. The two saw the strength that existed in each other and shared a common purpose. Caledor recognised the sacred blessing bestowed upon Aenarion and swore fealty to the Phoenix King, adding the strength of his armies to the host of Aenarion. For decades the two fought against the Daemons and the Elves learnt their warcraft well. Their natural grace steeled with the discipline of Aenarion, the armies of Ulthuan grew in power year by year. As magic swirled through the world, Caledor set the priests of the smith-god Vaul to bind the mystical energies into weapons with which to fight the Daemons.[1k]
Yet for all of the strength of die Phoenix King’s hosts, the legions of Chaos Daemons were without number and the magelord Caledor saw that there could be no ultimate victory by war alone. Caledor devised a bold plan to rid the world of Chaos forever. The Dragontamer and his mages would create a magical vortex to siphon away the power of the Daemons and return it to the Realm of Chaos. Aenarion cursed Caledor as a tool, for the magic and weapons the Elves used against the Daemons drew heavily upon the energies of Chaos pouring from the north.[1k]
The Doom of Khaine
Aenarion then heard news that was to quench the fire of his heart and turn it into a chill hatred. His wife, the Everqueen Astarielle, was slain and his children were missing. In a cold rage, Aenarion swore that he would destroy every Daemon in existence in vengeance for this heinous act. Though calmer minds counselled otherwise, Aenarion travelled to the Blighted Isle and entered the Shrine of Khaine, the Elves’ bloody god of murder. Jutting from within the black altar stood the weapon of the Lord of Murder - Widowmaker, Spear of Vengeance, Sword of Khaine, Godslayer. It was an accursed weapon and the moment Aenarion drew it from the altar he doomed both himself and his line.[1k]
Armed with the weapon of the war god, Aenarion slaughtered Daemons by their thousands from the back of the immense Dragon Indraugnir. The hordes of Chaos were hurled from Ulthuan by the might of the Elves. Magical wards and glittering spears protected the growing cities of the Elves from attack and for a while a fragile peace descended. In the ravaged lands of Nagarythe, in the north of Ulthuan, Aenarion set his capital and established his kingdom. Here rose the great fortress of Anlec, a bastion against the Daemons from which the armies of Aenarion could sally forth. Its towers rose higher than any other city in Ulthuan, and five curtain walls surrounded a central keep that could hold ten thousand warriors. It was a city built as a defiant gesture to the legions of Chaos, its black and silver banners proclaiming that these were Aenarion’s lands.To him came the most warlike and vengeful Elves, to serve in the army of the Deathbringer. Though his despair at Astarielle’s death never abated, Aenarion took a new wife, to bear him a son and heir. She was Morathi, a seeress, who it was claimed Aenarion rescued from the grip of Daemons. Later legends say that Morathi bewitched the Phoenix King, though it will never be known whether this is true or if he simply did not care about her character and history.[1k]
In due course, Morathi gave birth to a fine and strong son and Aenarion named him Malekith and took him as his heir. Hunting, duelling and other blood sports became common in the Court of Aenarion and it was here that the most proficient warriors gathered to hone their skills in daily battles against encroaching Daemons. Nagarythe became a land obsessed with war and death and Caledor departed to found his own kingdom in the south, much to the anger of Aenarion. Morathi spoke to Malekith and taught him the secrets of rulership and diplomacy, even as Aenarion taught his son his unmatched skill at arms and gift of command. Malekith soon became one of Aenarion’s most deadly warriors, and learnt spcllcraft from his mother so that he could wield fireballs and prophecy as easily as a sword and spear.[1k]
The VortexIn time, the Daemons came again, in a weltring tide of death that eclipsed all assaults so far. While Aenarion rode forth once more atop Indraugnir, Caledor resolved to enact his plan for the magical vortex. Though he battled as hard as before, this time Aenarion could not break the daemonic horde. When Caledor and his mages began their complex ritual to disperse the magic of the Daemons, Aenarion had no choice but to protect them. He surrounded the chanting mages with his army as Daemons of all the Chaos Gods assailed them from every side. Aenarion himself slew four Greater Daemons of Chaos, with the help of faithful Indraugnir. Battered and bloody, Aenarion refused to yield to his wounds and fought on as the incantations of the mages grew in power.[1k]
With a burst of energy that shook the mountains and cracked the ground, the vortex of Caledor sprang into life. A whirling, screaming tempest of magic engulfed Ulthuan, slaying thousands and tearing down tow'ers and castles. Trapped within the eye of the vortex stood Caledor and his mages, frozen in a battle against the forces they sought to contain. With his final strength, Aenarion flew atop Indraugnir to the Shrine of Khaine. He returned his sword to the black altar and there breathed his last; the first and greatest of the Phoenix Kings was dead, lying atop the corpse of his loyal Dragon. Ulthuan was in ruins, but the vortex drew away much of the magical energy corrupting the world. The Daemons vanished and Ulthuan was spared. The Elves thanked the gods and praised Aenarion, and set about creating a realm of light and warmth to drive away the evils that had beset them.[1k]
The Age of Betrayal (-4419 to -2723 IC)
For many, the natural successor to Aenarion was his son, Malekith. Having been raised in the court of Nagarythe, he was an accomplished warrior, skillful general and powerful spellweaver. He asked that he be allowed to honour his father’s memory, but there were voices raised against this course of action. Some of the princes asked for a cooler, steadier head to guide the Elves in the rebuilding of their civilisation. They whispered about the darkness that had beset the realm of Nagarythe, and of the manner of the son that had been raised in the Court of Aenarion. In the end, these doubters prevailed and, with good grace, Malekith accepted the princes’ choice of Bel Shanaar as the next Phoenix King. Though his mother, Morathi, ranted and railed against the iniquity heaped upon Malekith, the son of Aenarion was the first to bow his knee to Bel Shanaar and swear fealty.[1k]
The Voyages of Malekith
With the daemonic invasion defeated, the Elves looked to explore the world that had been left changed by Chaos. Malekith quit Ulthuan, claiming that Bel Shanaar would be able to rule the isle more soundly without the heir of Aenarion close at hand. The prince of Nagarythe travelled the world, where small colonies were growing upon the shores of the forest-swathed lands across the ocean. Here the Elves met the Dwarfs and soon the two races were fighting side-by-side, their armies waging war against the fierce Orcs of the mountains and the hideous Chaos beasts of the deep woods. In battle against brutal greenskins and warped monsters, Malekith perfected his fighting skills and rose to become a great leader. So great was his reputation that Bel Shanaar appointed Malekith to be his ambassador to the High King of the Dwarfs, Snorri Whitebeard.[1k]
As well as campaigning across the lands that would eventually become the Empire, Bretonnia and the Badlands, Malekith travelled even further abroad. He quested amongst the Worlds Edge Mountains and made war against the primal tribes of men in the blasted Chaos Wastes. It was here, in the frozen north, that Malekith came across a dead city, built by no human, Dwarfish or Elven hand. He wandered through its ice-trapped streets, between colossal buildings that hurt the eyes to look upon.The shifting ice had ruptured an ancient vault, and within it Malekith found an artefact older even than the Elves. It was a metal crown imbued with powers of sorcery, now known in myth as the Circlet of Iron. Malekith took the Circlet of Iron and resolved to unravel its secrets. It awoke in him a dark curiosity, and from that day forth Malekith turned his will to studying the forbidden depths of magic - the power of Chaos itself.[1k]
While Malekith explored the wider world, new travails beset Ulthuan in his absence. With the threat of the Daemons gone, many of the lessons of hard war were forgotten. Many Elves became indolent and selfish, indulging their heightened senses with ceremonies dedicated to exotic, forbidden gods. From the ancient temples of Nagarythe they had risen; cults of luxury, pleasure and excess that grew within the cities and spread across the kingdoms. These cults practiced obscene rituals of debasement and sacrifice, and more and more followers were drawn to dark shrines dedicated to gods that should not be worshipped.[1k]
Many of these Elves sought to escape the bitter grief that the Chaos incursion had left within their lives. In temples filled with beating drums, haunting pipes and narcotic vapours, they danced and feasted and sang blasphemous praises. Bel Shanaar seemed powerless to quell the growing unrest in his realm. The pleasure cults were gaining more sway with every passing season. The unknown but foul heart of the cults was Nagarythe, but Bel Shanaar was hesitant to act against the lands of Aenarion’s people. Princes caught in the grip of the cults began to mutter that Bel Shanaar was weak, and an usurper of the Phoenix Throne.[1k]
Malekith ReturnsWhen Malekith arrived in Ulthuan, he was heralded as a saviour. He vowed to hunt down the cults and exterminate them, claiming that no kingdom would be beyond his wrath, not even Nagarythe. When Malekith discovered that his mother was the chief architect of the cults, he renounced her and ordered that she be imprisoned upon her capture, along with thousands of her misguided disciples. Nobody was above Malekith's scrutiny, from the lowest farmer to the most vaunted prince. Those cultists who surrendered were sent to the castles of Nagarythe to be released from their delusions. Yet it seemed nothing short of outright war would quell the rise of the decadent cults.[1k]
After attacking Anlec with the aid of Prince Finudel and Princess Athielle, co-rulers of Ellyrion, Prince Thyriol who presided over the First Council which decided that Bel Shaanar, not Malekith would succeed Aenarion as Phoenix King, along with two other mages from Saphrey, Prince Bathanair of Yvresse and Prince Charill and his son Lorichar of Chrace, he took his mother back to Tor Anroc after she had accepted his deal of clemency in exchange for the leadership of the cults. Then,for about two decades, the surged out of hiding and sent the Naggarothi army into paroxysms of conflict forcing Malekith to take shelter with Bel Shaanar in Tor Anroc.[1k]
Malekith asked the Phoenix King to convene the council of princes. He washed to request control of Ulthuan’s armies so that he might cast out the cults of pleasure.Yet even as the princes gathered at the Shrine of Asuryan, a greater part of Malekith’s plan was set in motion. Unbeknownst to the other kingdoms, Nagarythe’s armies marched, bolstered by depraved cultists and practitioners of Dark Magic. Oblivious to the peril that descended upon their lands, the princes gathered to hear Malekith. His first pronouncement was to declare Bel Shanaar a member of the cults. Malekith said that Bel Shanaar had taken the coward’s route rather than be brought forth before the princes, and had poisoned himself before he could be rightfully tried. With Ulthuan on the verge of civil war again, Malekith would assume his rightful position as Phoenix King and avert the coming disaster.[1k]
Many of the princes were not swayed by Malekith’s speech and denounced him as a murderer and a traitor. At that moment, agents from Nagarythe broke into the shrine and fighting broke out between those loyal to Malekith and those that opposed him. As blood W'as spilt upon the marble floor, Malekith strode into the sacred flames to accept Asuryan’s blessing. Malekith’s screams echoed around the chamber, silencing the fighting. The flames engulfed the prince of Nagarythe, stripping away hair, skin and flesh. With a final shriek of agony, Malekith hurled himself back from the burning judgement of Asuryan and his charred body lay smoking upon the ground. Malekith’s disciples took up his body and fought their w'ay clear, leaving most of Ulthuan’s princes slain in the temple.[1k]
Civil WarAs Malekith's followers fleil north with his remains, war erupted. For the most part leaderless, the other kingdoms knew nothing of the danger until the hosts of Nagarythe besieged their castles. In Tiranoc and Ellyrion, agents of the pleasure cults had infiltrated and influenced the families of the ruling princes. Naggarothi forces occupied these kingdoms. They held families hostage and allowed the rulers to remain in power only to enact the will of Malekith. The armies of Nagarythe were impressive, the strongest military force in the world. Their commanders were veterans of the war against the Daemons and many had been trained by the hand of Aenarion.[1k]
The warrior creed of Aenarion had left an indelible mark upon Nagarythe and its citizenry. Iron discipline, backed by fear of their leaders, drove the legions of Nagarythe. To fail was to invite ruin so the warriors of Nagarythe fought with unmatched zeal - better to fall fighting than to lose and face the wrath of Morathi’s cultists. There were also those who embraced the opportunity to seize lands from their peers. These renegades raised their armies and marched forth with glee. As anarchy reigned, the Naggarothi moved swiftly, seizing many of the vital passes across the Annulii Mountains, separating the Inner Kingdoms of Ulthuan from the Outer Kingdoms. With them came many Chaotic beasts that lived within Ulthuan’s magic-riven mountains. Divided, the Elven realms were on the verge of being conquered within weeks.[1k]
The handful of princes that had survived did not stand idle. There was not one amongst them strong enough to succeed Bel Shanaar, for each had worries in his own realm. In the minds of the princes there was only one Iilf who could combat the Naggarothi - Imrik of Caledor. Grandson to Caledor Dragontamer, Imrik had none of his forefather’s magical skills, but was a deadly warrior and brilliant general. As prince of Caledor and leader of the Dragon riders, Imrik controlled the second most powerful kingdom in Ulthuan, eclipsed only by the might of the invading Nagarythe armies. At the time, Imrik was hunting in the mountains of Chrace and was utterly unaware of the war that had engulfed the isle. The princes dispatched heralds to locate Imrik and inform him of their decision. Meanwhile, Morathi used her sorcerous powers to divine the intent of the princes and sent a cadre of assassins to slay the future Phoenix King. The gods, or fate, would decide who reached Imrik first.[1k]
It was Morathi’s assassins that found Imrik and they closed in on their prey with evil intent. Swathed in magical shadows, they prepared their ambush. Yet they had not accounted for the loyalty and fighting skill of the hunters of Chrace. When the Naggarothi assassins struck, Imrik was alone and vulnerable. However, a band of Chracians who had accompanied him on his hunt heard the fighting and intervened. The Chracians slew the assassins but at great loss, and Imrik was saved. Even as Imrik thanked these warriors, he received word from one of the princes’ messengers of the terror being unleashed by the armies of Nagarythe.[1k]
While Imrik ascended to the Phoenix Throne and rallied the armies of the other Elven kingdoms, the rulers of Nagarythe acted to forestall their foes. They sent word to sympathisers and agents in Saphery, a realm renowned for its mages. Some of these mages had been tempted by the power of dark sorcery and subverted to the cause of Nagarythe. Though they numbered fewer than those wizards who were loyal to the Phoenix Throne, their spells were enhanced by a new, darker sorcery that was more powerful than the ‘safe’ magic employed by the mages. Titanic magical duels tore the lands of Saphery apart as sorcerer fought mage. Yet for all the power of Chaos unleashed by the sorcerers, they could not prevail and were forced to flee Saphery and seek refuge in Nagarythe and the kingdoms its armies now occupied.[1k]
There was betrayal all across Ulthuan. Even in Caledor, thought by many to be secure against die wiles of the Naggarothi, a priest of Vaul named Hotek secretly forged weapons for the legions of Nagarythe using the magical Hammer of Vaul, which Caledor had used to make weapons for Aenarion. When he was discovered, Hotek fled and sought sanctuary within Nagarythe. Aided by renegade sorcerers, Hotek used the Hammer of Vaul to construct a suit of armour for the crippled Malekith; although his body had been all but broken, the prince of Nagarythe had clung to life. Bitterness and anger had fuelled Malekith’s will, sustaining him through the long years of agony that he had endured. The burning would never stop, and so Hotek fused his newly forgetl armour directly to Malekith’s body. Clad in a rune-etched skin of black steel, Malekith could once again lead his armies. Swearing oaths of revenge and bargaining his soul to forbidden gods, Malekith grew in sorcerous power. He was no longer the prince of Nagarythe; he would forever more be known as the Witch King.[1k]
Malekith rode to battle astride a Black Dragon, raised in secret in Nagarythe away from the prying eyes of the Caledorian Dragontamers. Sulekh was her name and she was a fearsome beast, much scarred by fighting, the sole survivor of a brood of eight. Her temperament was evil and unpredictable, and only the Witch King could approach her. With promises of blood and slaughter, and direats of pain and humiliation, Malekith had broken Sulekh to his will and fed her upon magical warpstone so that she was truly monstrous. The two of them were terrifying to behold, and where the Witch King led the armies of Nagarythe victory swiftly followed. But for all the guile and ferocity of the hosts of Nagarythe, the kingdoms of Ulthuan would not be conquered. Led by the new Phoenix King, who had taken the name Caledor to honour his grandsire, the armies opposed to Malekith fought a cunning campaign of ambush and counter-attack. Where the armies of the Witch King advanced, the warriors of Caledor fell back, only to outflank the soldiers of Nagarythe and strike back from unexpected quarters.[1k]
Changing of the TidesSapped by this constant hit-and-run warfare, the Naggarothi advanced, faltered, regrouped and attacked again. For a quarter of a century', no single ruler reigned over Ulthuan, as each side failed to achieve the crushing victory it needed to secure power. Caledor and Malekith finally met at the field of Maledor. For years they had contested their strength against each other with the might of their armies, and at Maledor they would pit their skills face- to-face. Atop cruel Sulekh the Witch King commanded his army, launching them in an all-out attack against the serried ranks of spearmen and archers mustered by Caledor. Malekith’s wizards unleashed bolts of black energy and called down terrible storms to ravage the lines of the Phoenix King’s army. In Caledor’s host, Sapherian mages dispersed the dark magic of Malekith’s sorcerers and hurled fireballs and blazing walls of blue flame at the charging Naggarothi.[1k]
Seeing his attack lose momentum, Malekith intervened. Swooping down from the dark skies,Sulekh and Malekith crashed into the Elven host.Purple lightning leapt from Malekith’s fingertips and cut down scores of Elves while Sulekh belched forth clouds of noxious gas. Arrows and spears pattered harmlessly from the Witch King’s armoured body and the scales of his Dragon. Three Elven princes - Tithrain, Carvalon and Finudel - fell beneath the wicked blade of Malekith and the claws of Sulekh.[1k]
Even as the tide turned against his army, Caledor led the counter-attack. Surrounded by the hunters of Chrace and flanked by silent Phoenix Guard of Asuryan, the king of Ulthuan confronted Malekith. The snapping jaws of Sulekh smashed Caledor’s sword from his hand and cast the Phoenix King to the ground amongst the bodies of his loyal warriors. As Malekith’s spells hurled back the White Lions, Sulekh loomed over Caledor, acidic venom dripping from her jaws. With a defiant shout, Caledor snatched up Mirialith - the Spear of Midnight Fire - from the dead hand of Finudel, and cast it into Sulekh’s open maw. The magical weapon pierced the brain of the Black Dragon. In her death throes Sulekh cast Malekith from her back, pitching him into the ranks of the Phoenix Guard. Surrounded by enemies, Malekith had no choice but to cut his way clear and flee, leaving dozens of slain Elves in his wake. After the battle of Maledor, with the jeers of the victorious High Elves still burning in his memory, Malekith’s patience utterly snapped. His army was all but shattered by the unending fighting, and with the resistance of his foes showing no sign of breaking, the Witch King made one last, desperate bid for victory.[1k]
In Nagarythe, Morathi and Malekith had long studied the blacker arts of magic. A great number of warlocks and witches followed them, drawing directly' on the power of Chaos. It was to these dark wizards that Malekith turned. He gathered a huge number of' prisoners in preparation for a massive sacrifice and announced his final plan. He and his sorcerers would unbind the magic of the Ulthuan vortex created by Caledor Dragontamer, unleashing the full fury of the Realms of Chaos upon the island. The Witch King would summon the Daemon hordes to fight at his side and sweep away all opposition. Knowing that their fate was tied to that of the Witch King, the sorcerers agreed to this insane gambit. Malekith and his followers were willing to risk everything for victory - even the future of the whole world. To their minds, failure was incomprehensible; to live in exile and obscurity was unthinkable for the Witch King. He would rather the world ended than see it ruled by any other. Only one of his disciples, Urathion of Ullar, saw the madness of Malekith's ploy and escaped Nagarythe to bring word to Caledor.[1k]
The SunderingForewarned of Malekith’s intent, the mages of the Phoenix King roused their magic to thwart the spell of unbinding. As the sorcerers of Malekith stood upon the summits of their black towers and struggled for control of the vortex, great forces shook the lands. The mountains trembled and the seas bucked and heaved as dark and light waged a mystical battle for control of the swirling power at the heart of Ulthuan.[1k]
As night came, the stars obscured by flickering witchlights and coronas of magical energy, the Witch King and his coven exerted the last of their strength. Fuelled by daemonic pacts, their magic was the stronger and the shields of the Phoenix King’s mages began to crumble. The vortex itself howled and screeched, and than began to flicker. It was then, at the very moment that the vortex failed, that a new power entered the contest. Freed from their long stasis, Caledor Dragontamer and his mages trapped in the vortex returned to the realm of the living. Instantly realising the peril about to engulf Ulthuan, they added their own incantations to that of the Phoenix King’s wizards, and with a colossal release of magical energy they dragged the vortex into place once more.[1k]
The backlash of magic tore Ulthuan asunder. A tidal wave a thousand feet high crashed upon the northern coasts, engulfing Nagarythe and Tiranoc. Cities were washed away and tens of thousands of Elves perished. The earth heaved and cracked, and so great was the magical explosion that it was noted in the halls of the Dwarfs, thousands of miles to the east. As the deluge swept down upon the realm of Malekith, his followers used the last of their sorcerous power to hold back the storm. Energised with Chaos magic, their dark citadels broke free from their rocky foundations and rose upon the frothing waves.[1k]
Malekith’s plan had failed and his energy was spent. His kingdom lay beneath the waves and his army was all but destroyed. Upon the floating castles of Nagarythe - the Black Arks as they would be called in later years - the Witch King and his minions fled the wrath of the cataclysm they had unwittingly unleashed. North and west they travelled, across the churning seas to the desolate wilderness of Naggaroth - the Land of Chill.[1k]
The Age of Restless Spite (-2723 to -692 IC)
The fleet of Malekith sailed westwards for many weeks, through driving rain, howling wind and waves like mountains that had been unleashed by Nagarythe and Tiranoc plunging into the ocean. Ever towards the sunset Malekith led his people - towards the dark and welcoming night. Across the Sea of Chill and the Sea of Malice the fleet travelled - two storm-wracked bodies of water that had claimed many Elven ships and their brave crews as they had attempted to explore the rugged coasdines of the western seas. In the uttermost westward reaches of the Sea of Malice, in the freezing shadows of the jagged Iron Mountains, the Black Arks of Nagarythe finally halted. Here, in this desolate land, Malekith declared he would recreate the glories of Aenarion’s reign and build a capital to put the greatest cities of Ulthuan to shame.[1k]
The Founding of NaggarondThe Black Ark that had once been Malekith's castle beached itself upon the stony shore, fusing with the slate and iron-rich rocks of the foothills bordering the water. Food was scarce, though Malekith and his nobles led hunts across the foothills and brought back deer, boar and great shaggy mammoths to feast upon. Freezing winds howled down from the north, bringing snowstorms and chilling ice. More dangerous than the perils of frostbite and starvation were the many vicious predators that stalked these strange lands. The dark forests to the south and east, and the forbidding mountains to the west, held many fell beasts and hundreds of Naggarothi were devoured in the night as they made camps in the wilderness.[1k]
Scouts quickly found rich lodes of minerals in the mountains, but Malekith’s people had no aptitude for mining and smelting, nor for building the walls that would be needed to keep away the mutant beasts, nor for farming or animal husbandry. They were warriors and most had known nothing but war - against Daemons, Orcs, Beastmen, and lastly against their fellow Elves. Malekith soon realised that although he still had a formidable fighting force, his people cared nothing for the building of a new civilisation. If the Druchii - the Dark Elves as their enemies had called them during the civil war - were to build a new kingdom in the west, they would need a work force to build it for them.[1k]
So began the bloodthirsty raids of the Dark Elves.At first, their attacks were directed solely against their kin in Ulthuan, to take food and other supplies. The High Elves for the most part would fight to the death rather than be taken in battle, and so Malekith’s labour force did not grow quickly. Then word arrived from ships that had travelled further east, to the forests and mountains of the colonies where Malekith had once fought alongside the Dwarfs. Primitive humans lived there, in caves and mud huts. They were brutal and stupid, but the Dark Elves did not care, for humans also bred quickly and were physically strong.[1k]
Knowing that these short-lived savages could be easily controlled and swiftly grew in numbers, Malekith dispatched many fleets over the coming decades, to steal away whole settlements of humans and bring them back to Naggaroth. Though they understood little of what their lords asked of them, the humans learnt well enough from the whips of their masters how to dig ore from rock, herd cattle and forage in the woods. Guided by captured Elven masons and carpenters, the slaves began to build a city around Malekith’s citadel. He named this place Naggarond, the City of Winter, and its dark spires started to tower higher and higher over the growing pirate port that nestled in its black shadow.[1k]
The Longest of Wars
With his capital established, Malekith turned his attention back to Ulthuan. Some of his people still clung to a pitiful existence in the ruins of Nagarythe, while the Blighted Isle, and upon it the Shrine of Khaine, was held by neither side. Though he feared to wield the Sword of Khaine himself, Malekith was well aware of its powers and the vengeance Caledor would wreak upon the Naggarothi should he claim it. To ensure that the Phoenix King did not claim the Godslayer, Malekith led an attack that swept across the northern isles of Ulthuan - the Shadowlands that remained of Nagarythe, what little had been spared by the tidal waves. The Elves of Ulthuan remembered the lessons of the civil war and Malekith was unable to forge across the mountains to attack the Inner Kingdoms. At sea, the burgeoning High Elf fleet grew bolder and reinforcements and supplies from Naggarond were often intercepted, further weakening Malekith’s grip.[1k]
Caledor responded to Malekith's invasion with typical determination, ordering the construction of immense fortifications at each of the main passes through the Annulii Mountains. Never again would Malekith be allowed free passage to ransack and burn the shrines and cities around the Inner Sea. For thirty years Malekith probed and assaulted the outposts in the mountains, but Caledor’s armies were well organised and disciplined and every attack was beaten back after vicious fighting. While their armies held back the sporadic raids and attacks of the Naggarothi, the High Elves completed the first of their citadels - Griffon Gate, which historians would later call the Unconquered Fortress. The other Great Gates of the Annulii followed in the coming years, and soon the passes between the sundered lands and the Inner Kingdoms were separated by ramparts hundreds of feet high, held by stalwart defenders, ingenious war machines and powerful spells of protection.[1k]
The Building of Ghrond
While Malekith fought upon Ulthuan, control of Naggaroth rested with his mother, Morathi. Now steeped in the blackest of magic, Morathi sought further means to increase her mystical power. She sent expeditions into the Realm of Chaos to the north, tasking them to seek out artefacts of the Dark Gods and to observe the ever-changing miasma of Chaos energy. Few of these expeditions returned, and none came back to Naggaroth unscathed. Too great were the perils for Morathi to venture there herself, and so she commanded a great tower to be built in the north of Naggaroth, from which she could personally look upon the energy of the gods.[1k]
Ghrond, the North Tower, this citadel was called, and here Morathi founded the Convent of Sorceresses. She set hideous tests of magical and mental strength to find the most promising young seers and witches from amongst the Dark Elves. Many did not survive; those that did were hardened by dieir trials, as bitter and devoted to the pursuit of black magic as their mistress. Morathi set this coven of Sorceresses to studying the Realms of Chaos, gazing into its mesmerising, mind- shredding depths to discern its secrets and learn of what had passed and would come to pass. With her dark oracles to aid her, the paths of the future were laid out before Morathi like an insane map, and with this knowledge she charted the course of destiny tor her son. Yet for all her foresight and cunning, Morathi could not locate all of.thc strands of fate that would lead to ultimate victory over Ulthuan.[1k]
War in UlthuanThe war at sea swung back and forth as much as the war on land, but after two hundred years of naval battles, the High Elves were gaining the upper hand. Their ships and crew's were more disciplined than the bloodthirsty Corsairs of Naggaroth, who were used to raiding human and Ore settlements and fighting against unwitting and unsubtle opponents. The High Elves hit the Dark Elf convoys hard and then retreated, sapping the strength of Naggarond’s fleet. Even the mighty Black Arks, once invincible, met their match. The Palace of Joyous Oblivion, commanded by Luthern Fellhearth, was sunk by the enchanted starblade ran of the dragonship Indraugnir in a sea batde not far from the Blighted Isle. Their confidence shattered by this blow, the raiders of Naggaroth were more reluctant to dare the High Elf patrols over the coming years. Though Malekith could make no inroads towards the Inner Kingdoms, his armies remained poised on the far side of the Annulii mountains, ever ready for a moment of weakness.[1k]
The huge drain on the fleets and armies required to watch for Dark Elf attack seriously undermined the support Ulthuan could lend to the colonies across the other continents of the world. With the Inner Kingdoms secure against attack by the mountain fortresses, Caledor deemed the time was right to drive Malekith and his Dark Elves from Ulthuan once and for all. Once his borders were protected by the sea again he could then send vitally needed troops and ships to aid in battle all across the far-flung corners of the growing Elven empire. For nearly ten years, the High Elf fleets sunk any Naggarothi ships that approached the northern coast. Their naval dominance was supreme, and the Dark Elves isolated on Ulthuan grew weary of their master’s constant attacks against the impregnable fortress-gates of the Annulii passes. It was perhaps untimely, then, that Caledor chose to heap pressure upon Malekith by launching an offensive against the Shadow-lands in a bid to claim the Blighted Isle.[1k]
Faced with this sudden aggression by their kin, the Dark Elves quickly set aside their seditious plotting and stopped their desertions, instead rallying to the banner of the Witch King. Fighting for their ancestral lands, the Naggarothi were hate-filled and vicious, and Caledor's advance swiftly stalled. Knowing that to retreat w'ould be to give the Dark Elves an opportunity to counter¬attack, Caledor pushed onwards, fighting for ever)' hillock, valley and isle. After a further ten years, the Dark Elves were finally driven from the Blighted Isle, at tremendous cost. Malekith’s worst fear seemed at hand when Caledor travelled to the Shrine of Khaine. Yet for all the Witch King’s dread, Caledor resisted the w-hispers of the God of Murder and left the Sword of Khaine in its black altar.[1k]
With the Blighted Isle now in High Elf hands, Caledor set sail to return to l.othcrn. His departure was seen by the scrying spells of Morathi and she called down a storm to sink the High Elf fleet. Most of the ships survived the battering wind and waves, but the fleet was scattered and Caledor’s vessel was sent far off course. Guided by the sorcery of Morathi, Malekith’s pirates sw'iftly intercepted and boarded the Phoenix King’s ship. Knowing their intent was to capture him, Caledor cast himself into the sea in his full armour, escaping the torturous revenge Malekith had planned for him. Thus ended the reign of Caledor I, but his death did not end the war. Not for five thousand years have the Dark Elves known peace.[1k]
Hag Graef and Clar Karond
During the war, the Dark Elves had been defeated several times. Many of their commanders feared returning to Naggarond, wary of the Witch King’s temper and the machinations of Morathi. They instead made landfall on the coast of the Sea of Malice many miles south of Naggarond, and here they built a city for themselves. The city was named Hag Graef, the Dark Crag. Situated in a sheer-sided valley, the location of their new city was easily defensible against the creatures of the mountains and any punitive attack that Malekith might launch. An icy river that flows through the city to the Sea of Malice provided a natural harbour for Dark Elf fleets. Over the coming years, Hag Graef attracted other Dark Elves seeking to elude the Witch King for some real or perceived misdeed. Many of the raiders who travelled back from across the ocean first put in to Hag Graef, to unload a portion of their slaves and spoils before Malekith took his share. Sensing that this cauldron of dissent might prove rebellious in future years, Malekith at first thought to crush the dissidents and punish them for their insubordination. His hand was stayed by the intervention of Morathi, who had a far greater aptitude for subtle politics than her son.[1k]
Guided by Morathi’s counsel, Malekith accepted this new city. He promised rule of the south coast of the Sea of Malice to the rulers of Hag Graef An oath of fealty to the Witch King would ensure his protection. It was a masterful stroke, for the Dark Elf nobles of Hag Graef were soon gathering their power and took to fighting amongst themselves. Driven by their selfish ambitions, the rulers of Hag Graef looked to Malekith for favour, for they knew that the Witch King’s support could tip the ongoing power struggle engulfing their city.[1k]
Malekith invited half a dozen of the most powerful nobles of Hag Graef to a feast. He offered them a choice. One of the goblets of wine on the table, he told them, was poisoned. Any one of them willing to risk his life to rule should take a drink and Malekith would grant that noble a share of the city. Three of the nobles snatched up goblets without hesitation and downed their contents. They knew that it was better to be poisoned than suffer under the rule of the others. The last three, one-by-one, also drank, forced to prove their worth by the boldness of their peers. It was now that Malekith announced that in fact all of the wine was poisoned, and only by swearing unfailing loyalty to the Witch King would the princes receive the antidote.[1k]
The other princes who vied for control bargained with Malekith for warriors and sorcerers, and traded slaves and ships in return for his patronage. Caught up with their petty' schemes, each of the ruling families eventually fell under the sway of Malekith, and only through the Witch King’s patronage could they resist the ambitions of their opponents. In the end, they ruled only in name, for the Witch King had played them off against each other and now controlled them utterly. From Hag Graef, the Dark Elves ventured into the Black Spine Mountains. Such expeditions were fraught with danger, as storms and marauding beasts took their toll. For many years, it seemed as if the Dark Elves would be confined to the coast of the Sea of Malice, trapped between the bitter seas and the unforgiving mountains. This was to change dramatically when the Elves of Hag Graef mined further into the mountains. One day the slaves broke through a seam to find themselves in a huge subterranean chamber, many miles across.[1k]
A dark underworld sea glittered in the lantern light, fed by dozens of small streams from the heart of the mountains. As the Dark Elves pushed further into the mountains, they found a network of half-flooded caverns and tunnels that stretched the length of the mountain chain. Many were natural formations, while some had the disturbing look of having been hewn by mortal hands in ages. past. The caverns were not deserted; all manner of strange animals made their homes in the dark beneath the world. The Dark Elves found other entrances and built fortified gates from which to launch expeditions and guard against monsters rampaging into their lands.[1k]
To the east, a group of Dark Elves founded the city of Clar Karond, linked to Naggarond and Hag Graef by underground tunnels. Particularly in the freezing winter months, travelling under the surface proved much safer than overland or across the storm-wracked Sea of Malice. Clar Karond quickly grew in size and importance, as its location further east made it a natural port for returning Corsair ships. From Clar Karond, slaves and other prizes were moved swiftly to the mines of Hag Graef or to the capital. It saved weeks of sailing for ships to be sent out on raids from Clar Karond, and Malekith ordered a shipyard to be built there. Within twenty years, more ships came and went from Clar Karond than Naggarond and Hag Graef combined. The chance to profit from this endeavour was not missed by Malekith. who again pitted the strongest noble families against each other with the promise of controlling this lucrative trade.[1k]
The Cult of Khaine Grows
While Clar Karond prospered, politics and infighting became rife within Naggarond. Remnants of the many pleasure cults from Ulthuan continued to hold sway over the Dark Elves, but one sect in particular rose to dominate all others. They were cultists of Khaine, the God of Murder, and their bloody sacrifices made a great spectacle for the Dark Elves. The fumes from their pyres swathed the city of the Witch King, and bloodthirsty mobs ran rampant through the streets, killing and maiming in mindless bursts of violence. Rather than quell these excesses, Malekith sought to focus the devotion of these Elves and turn it to his own ends. The Witch King proclaimed himself a mortal incarnation of Khaine, his merciless instrument in the realm of the living. Malekith swore undying devotion to the Lord of Murder in the shrine of Naggarond, and poured a goblet of his divine blood into die braziers where die Witch Elves burnt the hearts of their sacrifices.[1k]
Morathi again aided her son, and gifted the Witch Elves of Khaine with the sacred Cauldrons of Blood. The Hag Queens who led the cult bathed in the blood of their sacrifices and rejuvenated their bodies, as did Morathi herself. Unlike Morathi, who kept the innermost secrets of the Cauldrons for herself, the Hag Queens’ revivification was only temporary. As the months passed, they began to age once more and needed to bathe again to reclaim their beauty. For decades, the most powerful Witch Elves indulged themselves in this bloody manner, realising too late that Morathi had ensnared them with an addiction to eternal beauty. The Hag Queen Hellebron, leader of the cult, once refused her ritual bathing, but became so decrepit and age-worn that her loyal followers had to sustain her with their own blood until she repented and bathed in a Cauldron once more. She has been defiant of Morathi ever since, but ultimately it is Morathi who controls the fate of the Hag Queens, not Hellebron.[1k]
The Invasion of ChaosIt came about that as Malekith’s reign as the Witch King neared its one-thousandth year, a great disturbance was seen within the Realms of Chaos. No seeress or sorcerer could discern what these storms foretold, but before long the intent of the Chaos Gods became all too clear. From the north came a great host of savage humans riding upon vicious dogs and in war chariots drawn by giant predatory cats. Etched into their skin with scars and tattoos were symbols of the Dark Gods and pictograms of many-headed beasts. Misshapen Spawn and bloated beasts of Chaos ran and scuttled alongside them, while in the skies above winged creatures with iron skins and the heads of snakes soared amongst the unnatural storm clouds. The ragged horde filled the horizon with their numbers and they advanced south from the Chaos wastes as if the gods themselves chased them. The baying and roaring of their beasts could be heard for miles and the bitter cold did not slow nor turn their headlong attack.[1k]
To Ghrond came this Chaotic horde, and they fell upon the city in a headlong assault, crashing against the black walls like a frenzied tide. The repeater crossbows of the Dark Elves cut down hundreds of demented tribesmen, but they climbed over the hills of corpses to continually assail the ramparts of the North Tower. The Sorceresses sent mystical word to their mistress in Naggarond, though many were slain in the attempt by daemonic entities brought south upon the winds of Chaos. For three weeks the siege continued, until at last the Witch King arrived with the army of Naggarond. The Black Guard led the relief, charging with their cruel halberds into the twisted Chaos-men and hacking them down. Spearmen drove the Chaos followers from the walls of Ghrond and allowed the defenders to sally forth and bolster the army of Malekith. Black-cloaked horsemen rode down those that tried to flee and hunted for survivors escaping across the barren tundra. Into the night the fighting continued, until not a single tribesman was left alive, though fully half of Malekith’s warriors had also fallen. The Sorceresses that had survived were brought before Malekith; he had them thrown into chains and sent to the sacrificial altars for their failure to foretell the Chaos attack.[1k]
Strife in the Colonies
While the cities of the Dark Elves grew in Naggaroth, their exploits further afield also increased. In the new world across the oceans, where slaving fleets terrorised tribes of primitive humans, the influence of Ulthuan was growing ever stronger. High Elf fleets patrolled the coasts and made raiding more perilous year by year. Soon the slaves and spoils began to slow, and Malekith was most displeased. He ordered his Corsairs to target the Dwarf trade convoys, and provided maps of their secret routes that he had learnt whilst he was ambassador to Snorri Whitebeard. The final part of Malekith’s scheme was suggested by Khalaeth Mournweaver, ruler of Hag Graef at that time. The raiders went clothed as Elves of Ulthuan, swathed in white robes and silver armour brought back from raids on the Shadowlands. While they swelled the coffers of Naggarond, the Corsairs would sow dissent between the Elves and Dwarfs. Malekith laughed at the thought of the betrayal of both races that had once lauded him as a hero. The short, ugly Dwarfs and his effete kin on Ulthuan would never be able to unite against him.[1k]
The results of these clandestine attacks proved to be far greater than Malekith had ever hoped. Caledor II had succeeded Malekith’s adversary during the civil war. Here was a Phoenix King who thought much of himself and when the Dwarfs demanded explanation for the attacks on their merchants, his arrogance got the better of him. The stubbornness of the Dwarfs played its part also, and within three years, Ulthuan and the Dwarfs were at war with each other. When news reached Naggaroth of the growing conflict, Malekith rejoiced. In celebration, he hosted a vast ceremony in Naggarond. The debauchery lasted for a whole month, and culminated in a massive hunt during which a thousand slaves were let loose into the forests and die Dark Elves chased them down over the following weeks. Calls for Malekith to lead his people back to Ulthuan became louder and louder, but the Witch King demanded patience from his subjects. The auspices cast by Morathi were good, but she warned that he must await the right time to strike.[1k]
For centuries the might of Ulthuan and the Dw'arfe were pitched against each other. The Dark Elves profited greatly from the slaughter, roaming the coasts at will to strike wherever they wished. Their fleets waylaid ships packed with reinforcements as they were sent to the colonies, and raiding armies ambushed many Dwarf regiments as they marched along the coastal roads to attack the High Elves. As despair and death engulfed the realms of Dwarfs and Elves, the people of the Witch King prospered like never before. In Naggaroth, Malekith's domains spread ever further. He gifted the city of Har Ganeth to Hellebron and her Khainite cultists. In return, the crazed Witch Elves would fight for the Witch King and his nobles when called upon. Har Ganeth became a thriving centre for the cult of sacrifice, and its bloody shrines rivalled those of Naggarond. In the centre of Har Ganeth Hellebron raised up a great temple, reached by an iron stairway of a thousand and one steps. At the top of the steps, the altars flowed with blood as sacrifices were made on an almost industrial scale.[1k]
Hundreds were slaughtered every day, beheaded by the chosen warriors of Khaine. The severed heads were tossed dow'n the steps at the feet of which Dark Elves bit and clawed each other to grab the heads and take them home. From these blood-soaked rituals arose the cult of the Executioners - guards of the temple who became so gifted with their blades that they could decapitate or eviscerate a captive with one swiff strike. Malekith dispatched Assassins raised and trained in Har Ganeth, to sow disorder in the Elven colonies and Dwarf fortresses in the new world, to ensure that no accord could ever be reached between Elves and Dwarfs. Such measures were not needed, as Caledor II and High King Gotrek Starbreaker were now utterly committed to the destruction of each other.[1k]
Events finally took a turn that Malekith took to be the sign to attack. The Convent of Sorceresses spied a fleet leaving the port of I.othern, and aboard the flagship was the Phoenix King. He was departing Ulthuan to personally oversee the war with the Dwarfs. His garrisons had been all but stripped of fighters and his best generals lay dead in the colonies or had been disgraced and dismissed from court. Malekith looked upon Ulthuan with eager eyes and saw that it was weak and vulnerable. He sent his riders to every city in Naggaroth, and recalled the greater part of the Naggarothi fleet. Every Black Ark returned to the Sea of Malice and an army the likes of which had not been seen for five centuries prepared for invasion. Malekith wras confident that, divided and leaderless, Ulthuan would not resist him this time.[1k]
As the Dark Elf Armada crossed the Sea of Chill, ships from the east brought news that might bode well or ill tor Malekith’s invasion. Caledor II was dead, slain by High King Gotrek Starbreaker. The Witch King had not expected such a turn of events and his thoughts shifted to w'ho might be named as successor to the Phoenix Throne. With the incompetent Caledor II ruling Ulthuan, Malekith had been confident of overwhelming his kinfolk in a lightning campaign. If another king with the steel of Caledor I were chosen, such a sw'ift victory would be impossible. Malekith resolved to take matters into his owm hands and ordered the fleet to make all speed to the coast of the Shadowlands. If the Dark Elves attacked before a new' Phoenix King could be chosen, they would be able to use the confusion and disarray to secure victory.[1k]
The Black Arks Citadel of Ecstatic Damnation and Jade Palace of Pain beached amidst the ruins of Nagarythe. Malekith had chosen his landing site well, amongst the overgrow'n fortifications of ancient Anlec. He would build Anlec anew and from the lands of the great Aenarion would strike out to reclaim his rightful rulership of Ulthuan. With many thousands of slaves labouring beneath the cruel w'hips of the overseers, the ramparts and bastions of Anlec were built again around the foundations of the Black Arks. Upon the site of Aenarion’s throne room, Malekith raised his flag in proclamation to Ulthuan that Aenarion’s heir had returned. As slaves began to erect a new' palace to the glory of the Witch King, the Dark Elves moved south and besieged Griffon Gate, beyond which were the verdant Inner Kingdoms.[1k]
Faced with imminent war, the princes of Ulthuan swiftly chose their new king. Caradryel, Prince of Yvresse, was elected as the most stable of the candidates, and his first decree was to recall all loyal Elves to defend Ulthuan. Thus it was that the Elves left the lands across the sea, and they did not return for many centuries. Their wars and labours would remain unseen by the wider world. As reinforcements rushed back to Ulthuan, Malekith threw the might of his army against the sparse defenders of Griffon Gate. For all the strength of the Naggarothi host, such was the cunning artifice of the defences and the resolution of the High Elves that Malckith’s army could make no headway and the siege ground on for many years.[1k]
As Elves from across the globe returned at Caradryel’s call, the Phoenix King instituted a system of rotating garrisons that ensured that the gates across the Annulii Mountains were always defended at full strength. The Dark Elves could afford no such strategy and were tired and demoralised, while their enemies ever seemed fresh and prepared. Yet for all the steely resistance of his people, Caradryel had sacrificed many of the colonies abroad and the power of the High Elves slowly diminished with the shrinking of their empire.In the cracked and cratered remnants of Nagarythe, Anlec grew ever larger as the Witch King moved more and more of his people back to Ulthuan, until the cities of Naggaroth were empty except for the slaves and their keepers. All of Malekith’s will and energy was bent on breaching the defences of Ulthuan.[1k]
Caradryel was no soldier, but the war with the Dwarfs had given rise to many great leaders and it was to these Elves that the Phoenix King gave command of his armies. Of these, the most gifted was Tethlis. His experience at war was equalled only by his hatred of the Dark Elves, who had left him an orphan after one of their many raids. Tethlis had been one of the generals discarded by the arrogance of Caledor II, but Caradryel put his faith in the coldly determined commander. He tasked Tethlis with driving the kin of Naggaroth back from the walls of Griffon Gate. Tethlis accepted this command with grim enthusiasm and from the various gate garrisons he mustered the most deadly veterans into a single army with which he would cast the Dark Elves back into the sea.[1k]
The High Elves’ offensive was utterly unexpected, as a column of glittering knights charged from Griffon Gate and Dragon riders soared overhead. The Witch King had left the siege to his lieutenants, and the Dark Elves fled before the fury of Tethlis’ attack. Northwards Iethlis drove the Naggarothi host, harrying them constantly, allowing them no respite to recover their nerve and choose their ground. When news of the rout reached Malekith he flew into a rage, tearing the head from one of the messengers and hurling it at his fellow heralds. Gathering his most fell warriors - Assassins of Khaine, Sorceresses of the Convent and batde-hardened Corsairs - Malekith marched out to meet the host of Tethlis.[1k]
He now had a new weapon to unleash upon the Elves of Ulthuan. The Witch King rode upon a massive chariot wrought from black iron and enchanted with spells of dread and destruction. TWo vicious reptiles pulled it, Cold Ones found in the undercaves of Naggaroth. Behind Malekith, those nobles who had proven their dedication advanced. Some rode in other chariots, others upon the backs of yet more Cold Ones. The High Elves had never seen such creatures in great numbers before. Faced with the ferocious assault of the foul-smelling beasts, spearmen and archers fell back in disarray before the Dark Elf charge. Though the reverse w'as unexpected, Tethlis had not plunged foolishly headlong towards Anlec. Tie brought up reserves of White Lions and Phoenix Guard, and the High Elves rallied and retreated in good order behind the ranks of these deadly warriors. For all of Tethlis’ cold fury, the Dark Elves had retained a foothold on Ulthuan and the Blighted Isle.[1k]
Rise of the Slayer
Despite the best efforts of Malekith’s assassins to hasten his demise, Caradryel reigned for just over six centuries, during which Malekith continually tested the defences of Ulthuan. After Caradryel died peacefully in his bed, Malekith’s spies returned from the Inner Kingdoms to bring word that the council of princes had elected Tethlis as his successor. The Witch King knew this did not bode well for his desire to claim Ulthuan. Tethlis had the tenacity and military verve of Caledor I, who had thwarted Malekith’s ambitions so many years before. He fully expected Tethlis to resume his campaign against Anlec and so Malekith drew his forces back to protect his new' capital. Within a decade, the High Elves came again, launching attacks from the Annulii Gates to strike into the heart of the Shadowlands.[1k]
The armies of Tethlis were more disciplined and coordinated than any force had ever been. Now formally trained in their towns and cities, these warriors fought for their homes and out of love for their king. Malekith’s warriors battled bitterly, out of hatred for their cousins and fear of their lord. Such bloody battles had not been seen since the civil war. Within forty years Tethlis offensive, which would be recorded in High Elf annals as the Scouring, threatened to push the Dark Elves out of Ulthuan altogether. Malekith struck back with ferocious counter-attacks and twice was forced to face Tethlis outside the gates of Anlec itself. On the second occasion, Malekith drove his warriors onw ard in a vicious pursuit, dogging the steps of Tethlis all the way to the Griffon Gate.[1k]
Sensing the fortress was poorly defended, Tethlis’ army having been scattered by the implacable pursuit, the Witch King ordered an immediate assault. Malekith wras to be outdone, however, as Tethlis’ whole attack and flight had been feigned - a lure to bait the Witch King from his fortress. As the Dark Elves stormed towards the gates, bolt throwers and archers on the valley tops unleashed a storm of arrows that slew one in five of the attackers in the first volley. Tethlis’ army regrouped according to the Phoenix King’s plan and cut off the Witch King’s escape from the pass. Only the sheer viciousness of the Witch Elves and Executioners of Khaine leading the breakout allowed the Dark Elves to hack their way free. As he led the remnants of his army northwards again, Malekith cursed Tethlis’ name and vowed to see the Phoenix King dead.[1k]
The war continued for another hundred and fifty years, during which Assassins and agents of Malekith tried several times to kill Tethlis. They came closest to success when they caught Tethlis travelling north from the Phoenix Gate. His bodyguard of White Lions was small, but they fought to the last Elf to defend their king, whose own blade accounted for half a dozen of his attackers. Though his guards were all killed, Tethlis himself suffered not a single scratch and he returned to the Phoenix Gate unharmed.[1k]
Over the two hundred and fifty years since his ascension to the Phoenix Throne, Tethlis had waged war upon his dark cousins, and now the army of the High Elves was ready for the final push. Forewarned by Morathi’s daemonic messengers, Malekith chose to strike first, before the weight of Ulthuan’s hosts could fall upon Anlec a final time. Bitter winter snows and winds swathed Nagarythe and Tethlis’ army was forced to retreat to the gates and would be unable to launch their campaign until the following spring. Shrouding his army in sorceries that warded away the winter chill, Malekith sent forth his remaining legions. Their orders were simple: take the inner Kingdoms or die at the hands of the Witch King and his torturers.[1k]
The High Elves were overwhelmed by the first attacks. Several fortresses fell within the first month and isolated garrisons were slaughtered or taken captive. Such was the surprise that Tethlis had no time to mobilise his armies, especially in the depths of winter. The Dark Elves swept through Phoenix Gate and Dragon Gate. However, the success of Malekith’s armies proved to be their undoing. They pressed on into the Inner Kingdoms where the weather was much milder. Here Tethlis’ hosts awaited them, and they had emptied the winter stores of all food and razed their own villages to deny the Dark Elves shelter. Even the magic of Morathi and her Sorceresses could not protect the armies from the pangs of hunger and thirst, and supplies ran incredibly low. Knowing that to fail was to invite disaster, the High Elves sold their lives dearly.[1k]
Such bitter fighting came to a head at the Siege of Tor Lehan. So determined were both sides not to retreat that diey wiped each other out - not a single High Elf or Dark Elf survived the siege. Tor Lehan marked the high point of the Dark Elves’ advance. As winter abated, more troops were ferried across the Inner Sea from the eastern realms and the Dark Elves were soon outnumbered. They Were within a few days march of the Shrine of Asuryan but their attack could go no further. Hatred of their kin and fear of their king had driven the Dark Elves this far, but it could drive them no further. With the advantage of surprise well and truly gone, the Dark Elves’ morale collapsed. They knew that to stay in the Inner Kingdoms was to risk their enemies surrounding them. Malekith’s commanders ordered the retreat to Nagarythe.[1k]
The Blighted Isle Falls
Malekith’s bloody recriminations were short-lived as Tethlis launched his inevitable counter-attack. For all his guile and sorcerous power, there was nothing the Witch King could do to halt the tide of High Elves pouring into Nagarythe. He abandoned Anlec, breaking out of a siege that lasted for two hundred days, and made for the sanctuary of the Blighted Isle. Left empty, mighty Anlec was destroyed by Tethlis’ army; razed from existence by blade, fire and magic. Even the stones from which it was built were melted or ground down so that no trace of Anlec remained to stain the lands of Ulthuan. At the centre of the palaces had stood an Altar of Khaine, which had claimed so many Elf lives their spirits could be heard screaming in torment around its baleful stone. The altar and the earth beneath it, saturated with the blood of so many sacrifices, were dug from the ground and taken out to sea, where they were dropped into an undersea chasm. To this day, the shrieks of the Witch King’s victims haunt the waves of that coast, terrifying sailors who dare cross those seas.[1k]
Still not content with driving the Witch King and his armies from the mainland of Ulthuan, Tethlis pressed onwards to the Blighted Isle. An armada of hundreds of ships left the shores of the Elven isle to face a dozen Black Arks under the command of Menreith Fellheart, grandson to the lord of the Palace of Joyous Oblivion that had been sunk so many centuries earlier. Menreith was determined not to suffer the same fate as his forefather, and the Battle of the Waves is remembered as one of the most closely fought and bitter naval battles between the two races of Elves. Despite the power of the Black Arks, Menreith could not prevent the forces of Tethlis making landfall upon the Blighted Isle. The High Elves were greeted by a hail of crossbow bolts that scythed though Tethlis’ troops as they disembarked into the shallow surf. Bodies and blood littered the waters as the volleys poured down from the cliff tops into the seas below.[1k]
Sharks sensed the blood in the water and gathered to feast on the dead and the living alike. Uncaring of the dangers, driven on by hatred of their kin and desperation to protect their final foothold in Ulthuan, the Dark Elves charged into the waters. Amidst the thrashing of the sharks, engulfed by waves and the screams of the wounded, the High Elves and Dark Elves butchered each other, fighting up to their waists in water, hacking at each other with primal fury. With the dead choking the red waters, the High Elves battled their way onto the land.[1k]
The bolts from the crossbows on the cliffs were relentless, hitting friend as often as foe, for the warriors of Malekith knew only that they had to drive their enemies back into the seas where the Black Arks awaited them. Unbeknownst to the Dark Elves, Tethlis had dispatched a small group of Hawkships from his main fleet, each with a mage aboard to swathe their vessel in a fog that obscured all detection. This flanking force beached upon the Blighted Isle several miles south of the main landing and from their holds rode dozens of Silver Helm Knights, assembled from the most powerful noble families in Ulthuan. The cavalry raced swiftly along the shoreline and fell upon the rear of the Dark Elves holding the cliffs. Swept away by the thunderous charge of the Silver Helms, many of the Dark Elves were driven over the cliff tops and fell to a hideous death on the jagged rocks below.[1k]
With their beachhead secure, the High Elves pushed more troops onto the Blighted Isle and advanced upon the Shrine of Khaine. Most of Malckith’s warriors were still aboard the Black Arks and could not intervene. Sensing that not even his personal attention could hold back Tethlis’ vengeful advance, Malekith cjuit the Blighted Isle on the back of a Manticore and sent word that his fleet was to return to Naggaroth. The Blighted Isle had been lost, and with it all Dark Elf presence had been driven from Ulthuan. Malekith knew the temper of Tethlis and predicted that the Phoenix King would not be content while the Witch King still lived. Hidden from the eyes and spells of the High Elves, a cabal of Assassins lay in ambush around theShrine of Khaine. If Tethlis attempted to draw the Widowmaker, they would strike at once, cursed to sell their lives to prevent the Phoenix King from drawing the Murderer of Gods.[1k]
None in Naggaroth know for sure what befell Tethlis as he stood before the black altar of Khaine. He was heard of no more, and it seems likely that Malekith’s Assassins succeeded in their attack. Yet, whispered rumours persist to this day that the Witch King’s killers were slain by the White lions who guarded iethlis, and that it was the bodyguards themselves who slew the Phoenix King when he tried to take the Sword of Khaine; an act that would have plunged all of the Elves into a new age of darkness and bloodshed to rival the times of Aenarion. Whether by the hand of foe or friend, Tethlis died at the Shrine of Khaine, and with him the last remaining desire for war was quenched. The High Elves had burnt their own lands and seen their people slaughtered in the fight against the Dark Elves, and they had no more stomach for battle. For his part, Malekith knew his armies were broken, their fighting spirit spent upon a thousand fields of battle, and the Dark Elves returned to Naggaroth to rebuild their strength.[1k]
The Age of Hateful Peace (-692 to 1123 IC)
Exhausted by centuries of war, both the High Elves and Dark Elves had spent the last of their strength during the Scouring. In Naggaroth, the survivors of the war drifted back to their homes, quiet and chastened by defeat. Even the all-night sacrifices ordered by Hellebron and the hunts organised by the Witch King could do litde to lift the morale of the Dark Elves. The fleet commanders willing to dare the High Elf patrols to the east were few and raiding ships slipped away and returned as sole hunters, unable to gather in great strength and repeat the mighty' invasions of the past.[1k]
Knowing that his people needed time to revive their spirits, and wary' of any threat that might prove the fatal blow to their wounded pride and lead to uprising, the Witch King turned all his resources to rebuilding the strength of Naggaroth and its six cities. He instigated the construction of a chain of fortified towers along the border with the Chaos Wastes, to aid Ghrond in its eternal vigilance. He stationed three Black Arks in the Dire Straits, the perilous stretch of water that led from the Great Ocean to the Sea of Chill, to protect against any High Elf incursion.[1k]
It was not long before news began to spread across Naggaroth that cheered the cold hearts of the Dark Elves and stirred in them their old desire for slaughter and mayhem. Kaledor Maglen, famed lord of the Shades and greatest explorer of the Underworld, had discovered a passage to the west, into the Boiling Sea. Named the Black Way for its miles of lighdess tunnels, this new route would allow the fleets of Naggaroth to pass into the west and avoid the armada of Ulthuan. In the Boiling Sea, the Black Arks found monstrous creatures, and Beastmasters from Karond Kar shackled these titanic monsters and broke them to the will of the Dark Elves. With spired castles upon their backs, the serpentine creatures of the Boiling Sea became the core of a new raiding fleet.[1k]
The construction of the northern watchtowers was completed, and not too soon, for Chaos warbands began to gather in the Chaos Wastes and foray into the lands of Naggaroth. Patrols from the fortifications swept the lands clear of the primitive human tribes that came south intent on pillaging; all that they found was a grisly death or the chains of the slavemasters.[1k]
For all his intent on rebuilding the power of the Dark Elves, Malekith never turned his gaze from the ultimate prize: Ulthuan. Spies and agents he had there still, while the auguries of Morathi and her Dark Convent provided the Witch King with much information. A wave of intellectual endeavour had swept the isle of the Elves, following the rise to power of Bel-Korhadris, a mage of Saphery. The mage-king built a great edifice to his own glory and the study of the magical arts, raising the White Tower of Hoeth to rival the soaring spires of Ghrond. The Witch King sensed a growing weakness in the heart of the High Elves, a softening of their souls as generations passed and the bloody battles of the Scouring slipped from living memory. But not for him would those bitter conflicts be forgotten, for Malekith was now so steeped in Dark Magic he did not age, and his people were forever reminded of their duty to their lord and the wrongs that had been done to them.[1k]
The Silent War
Direct war against the High Elves would serve no purpose, Malekith realised. Outright aggression would only stir them from their introverted decline, while the Witch King could use more subtle means to defeat his foes from within. Advised by Morathi, Malekith poured support into the many cults and sects that the Dark Elves participated in, openly supporting High Priests and High Priestesses like Hellebron, Aegethir and Kherathi. The cults' ceremonies became ever more extravagant and widely attended.[1k]
Luxuries were heaped upon the most dedicated followers of the Dark Elves’ sinister gods. From amongst the ranks of these fervent worshippers, the Witch King selected the most intelligent and devoted, and they were sent to learn the arts of subterfuge and spying from the Assassins of Khaine. When they were ready, these agents travelled, one at a time by hidden routes, to the shores of Ulthuan. They blended in with the High Elves and assumed normal lives as carpenters and smiths, as fanners and poets. All the while, they began to spread their poisonous beliefs, and the ancient cults of pleasure began to grow again. This time the cults were insidious and subtle, daring none of the flamboyant rituals that had exposed them in the time of Bel Shanaar. Century by century' generation by generation, the hidden sects flourished; a dark canker at the heart of Ulthuan that remained unseen by those who reigned.[1k]
When Aethis succeeded Bel-Korhadris as Phoenix King, Malekith knew that the time had arrived to unleash his hidden agents. Aethis was a weak-willed aesthetic. Under his reign the arts rose in prominence, and under the cover of this the cults created by Malekith expanded swiftly and struck without warning. Kidnappings and murders blighted the cities of Ulthuan. Terror of this unseen foe gripped the land, paralysing the High Elves. Nobles were found slain in their beds, mages disappeared from their towers and children vanished from their classrooms. Panic swept through Ulthuan as these crimes grew in boldness and horror, until Aethis finally acted.[1k]
Although Malekith’s cultists were wreaking havoc, they were not unopposed. When Bel-Korhadris had built the White Tower of Hoeth he founded a company of mystical guardians to protect it - the Swordmasters. Unknown to either the Phoenix King or Malekidi, the Swordmasters were waging a silent war against the pleasure cults and the conflict came to a climax in Lothern itself, when fighting erupted on the streets of the city between Naggarothi agents and the warriors of the Swordmasters, during which the cultists were all slain. Forced to abandon some of their bolder plans by the persecution of the Swordmasters, the cults of excess faded back intoHigh Elf society and continued their secretive work.Even as cultists were uncovered and executed, more agents were dispatched from Naggaroth to swell the ranks of the cults. Some of these were discovered and slain as soon as they landed on the coast, others slipped through the guard of the High Elves and established themselves as their predecessors had done.[1k]
This centuries-long infiltration reached fruition when Girathon, one of Malekith's most trusted agents, acquired the position of chancellor to the Phoenix King. Girathon used his power to subvert much of Aethis’ commands and spread confusion throughout the realm. When his loyalties were uncovered, Girathon assassinated the Phoenix King before he was himself slain. Malekith ordered a parade and three days of bloodletting in gratitude to the slain agent. What made Girathon’s death all the more remarkable was its utter falsehood. Girathon had long been the Witch King’s spymaster and when he became directly involved with the Phoenix King, he engineered his own capture and the subsequent opportunity to strike down Aethis.[1k]
Fleeing retribution, Girathon swapped places with an innocent servant of the court, casting a glamour upon his victim to give him the appearance of the spymaster.It was this unwitting pawn who was tortured to death, still raving his innocence, while Girathon commandeered a Hawkship from the harbour and led its crew into a Dark Elf ambush a few miles out to sea. Girathon continued to serve the Witch King for another three hundred years, during which he returned to Ulthuan eight more times. He had faked his own death so that he could continue to operate within Naggaroth and Ulthuan in absolute secrecy. His personal joy was acts of sabotage, always carried out in such a way that they left evidence pointing to an innocent Elf, who would then be executed for the treacherous acts. Eventually, Girathon’s natural talent for schemes and politics caught up with him - he finally died at the hands of his master when the Witch King learnt of a plot by Girathon to seize control of Ghrond.[1k]
The Age of Blood (1123 to 1503 IC)
In the coming years, rule of Ulthuan passed to Morvael, known in history as the Impetuous. Outraged by the actions of Malekith’s agents, Morvael gathered a war fleet and sent it to Naggaroth to exact revenge for the murder of Aethis. The Sorceresses of Ghrond sent warning, having foreseen the High Elves’ assault in signs from the Realm of Chaos. The Dark Elves were ready for the attack and the High Elf host was soundly defeated as it landed its troops. The Dark Elves fought savagely and the massacre is celebrated as the Day of Blood. More than half the High Elf fleet was destroyed and sensing weakness in Ulthuan’s defences. Malekith did not hesitate to send out the call to arms, launching his hosts and fleets upon Ulthuan once more.[1k]
Rise of the Militia's
As before, Anlec became the foundation of the Dark Elves' occupation and was rebuilt over the course of a decade using iron-hard black stone from the quarries of Naggaroth. Though lacking the sheer size and grandeur of its previous incarnations, this new Anlec was still a formidable fortress and a secure base from which Dark Elf armies once more besieged Griffon Gate.[1k]
With so many warriors lost in the attack on Naggaroth, Morvael was forced to institute a system of militia levies on the people of Ulthuan, insisting that all Elves be trained for military service. When news reached Malekith of this development, he scorned these new troops, dubbing them cowardly bakers and farmers. The first few levies fared badly against the vicious and battle hardened warriors of Naggaroth, but their presence ensured that Griffon Gate was always defended over the next thirteen years. Malekith believed that the quality of his troops and the power of his Sorceresses would eventually prove too much for the garrison, and that it would be only a matter of time before the fortress fell to the army of the Witch King.[1k]
Malekith had another reason to be confident. He was using his magic to visit nightmares upon the Phoenix King, testing his sanity with visions of Ulthuan engulfed in flames and Morvael’s family lanced upon spikes amidst the ruins of the White Tower of Hoeth. Season by season, the dreams inflicted upon Morvael became darker and ever more disturbing, turning the Phoenix King into a nervous, gibbering wreck. Fighting against madness and driven by a heartfelt paranoia, Morvael emptied the Phoenix King’s treasuries to rebuild the High Elf fleet. Resurgent again, the warships of the High Elves attacked the supply routes from Naggaroth to Anlec, cutting oflf Malekith from fresh warriors, food and weapons. While the battles at sea raged, Mentheus of Caledor, a renowned general, took matters into his own hands. Mentheus gathered together an army in a desperate attempt to relieve the siege at Griffon Gate. With a host of levy spearmen, mainly from Chrace and Cothique,Mentheus marched to Griffon Gate, accompanied by a cadre of mages from the White Tower. Weakened by a lack of supplies, the army of Naggaroth w'as forced from the fortress by Mentheus’ phalanxes of spears.[1k]
Over the following decades, sporadic fighting between the Dark Elves and High Elves erupted across the Shadow-lands. Unable to muster the supplies for an outright battle, Malekith was forced to send his armies on hit-and-run attacks, luring Mentheus’ forces into ambushes to whittle down their strength. Eventually, after more than three centuries of bloodshed, Mentheus’ army succeeded in pushing back the hosts of the Witch King to the gates of Anlec itself. Here, the Dark Elves turned and faced Mentheus, determined that Anlec would never again fall. The Witch King led his army from his black chariot, and the fighting raged for the better part of three weeks. In the final assault on Anlec, Mentheus was slain by a bolt thrower.[1k]
His Dragon, Nightfang, went berserk and the Dark Elves were scattered by the Dragon’s rampage. The Dragon was eventually slain with dark spells, but by then Anlec was lost and Malekith was forced to quit Nagary the once again, his bitterness and rage greater than ever. The Witch King did have one final revenge. Driven mad by his dreams, overwhelmed by the terrors unleashed by the Dark Elves, Morvael committed suicide. In the Shrine of Asuryan, the Phoenix King abdicated and hurled himself in the sacred flames to perish. Seven Phoenix Kings had now died, and Malekith had seen them all pass, his life sustained by the dark energies of Chaos. The Witch King vowed that he would survive to see the last of the Phoenix Kings die, even if he had to wait another five thousand years.[1k]
The Age of Glorious Torment (1503 to 2300 IC)
Malekith now turned his gaze from Ulthuan, and set his sights on the wider world. It had increasingly come to his attention that the globe was now home to many ascendant powers, and he determined that their wealth would be seized and harnessed to the Witch King’s cause. Thus did Malekith decree the Age of Glorious Torment to have begun. He bade the Dreadlords of Naggaroth take ship about the globe, sowing terror wherever they might. Competition amongst the noble families of Naggaroth fuelled a massive expansion of the raiding fleets. Any Dark Elf with the right blend of determination, bravery and ruthlessness could make his or her fortune fighting on distant shores. Even Malekith was not immune to wanderlust’s lure. At the head of a black fleet, he travelled the far reaches of the world, wreaking ruin and bringing dismay wherever he went.[1k]
Reaveres of the World
For an age, the warriors of Naggaroth put aside their bloody wars with their kin on Ulthuan, to venture further and further abroad across the oceans. Driven by the urge to gather ever greater power, Dark Elf ship captains and glory-hungry princes set out across the oceans seeking plunder and adventure. Competition between the many family dynasties that held sway in the cities created inter-house rivalries that fuelled a massive expansion of the raiding fleets. Any Dark Elf with the right blend of determination, bravery and ruthlessness could make his or her fortune fighting on distant shores. From the Boiling Sea, Black Arks could now raid the oriental lands of the farthest east. Yet for the Dark Elves these were uncharted territories and for each fleet that returned with prizes and slaves, half a dozen came back to Naggaroth in failure.[1k]
The most notable successes were by Laithikir Fellheart, latest in a long line of Black Ark commanders and as cunning a she-Elf as was ever born. Laithikir had learnt to follow the High Elf ships, her Black Ark swathed in shadow and storm, tracking their ever-increasing journeys to the lands of the orient. By shadowing the fleets of Ulthuan, she was able to raid the busy seaports and convoys that traded with the High Elves. As word of her success grew, Laithikir sold her charts to other captains, and within a decade dozens of Dark Elf fleets were attacking the settlements of the mysterious far east and bringing back tens of thousands of slaves and holds full of exotic wares such as witch jade, ivory, tigerfire, silk and spices. Ever-eager to show off their wealth and power, the Dark Elves prized these stolen wares highly and their value soared. Competition for the Witch King’s permission to raid these lands fuelled a period of infighting and politicking that saw Malekith's coffers swell with gold and silver.[1k]
In the Temple of the Goddess of a Hundred Eyes, Corsairs crucified a hundred red-robed priests and took a dozen golden statues, which were presented to Morathi as a gift. The Black Ark Citadel of Desolation sank untold fleets of unsuspecting nations and its raiders sacked entire cities. From hidden coves, Dark Elf raiders looted gold convoys and slave-traders, and brought back the riches of kings to adorn the palaces of Malekith. At one unfortunate port, the Dark Elves encircled the town and barred all escape, before the Witch Elves were unleashed to wreak havoc within the walls. The Khainites named the town Khairith Irlean - the Place of a Thousand Bloody Delights. When the armies of the Dragon Emperor arrived, the Dark Elves had already returned to sea. In their wake, they left a town empty but for heaps of dismembered and charred corpses, writhing with Hies and disease. The stones of the buildings were stained red w'ith blood. So disturbing was the scene that the town was razed utterly and all mention of it was stricken from maps and records.[1k]
The Witch King himself once travelled to the farthest reaches of the world, and personally led many attacks. At one eastern capital, mystics called up strange illusions and beastly apparitions to assail the Dark Elves as they stormed the towers protecting the city. Malekith unleashed his own sorceries, driving the mystics insane and boiling the blood in their veins. The city was little more than a ruin when Malekith left, and as a last contemptuous act, he summoned up a great wave to drown the remains. The broken domes of shrines and the walled steps of the great pyramid temple still break the waves at low tide, an ominous reminder of the Witch King’s power.[1k]
To the east, the sea patrols of the High Elves were sorely beset by ever-increasing raids by wild Norsemen and the raiding fleets of Naggaroth made great sport along the coasts of the Empire, Bretonnia, Estalia and Tilea. Shades from the Tower of Oblivion stole into the towm of Anducci in Tilea’s southern lands and crept into the houses of the local people, snatching all the children of the town from their beds. The commander of the Tower of Oblivion, Randelle Doomwhisper, then offered to ransom the children back to the townsfolk. After the terrified Tileans had gathered up all of their wealth and stores, the Dark Elves stormed ashore and slaughtered everybody. The captives were taken back to Naggaroth; to whatever unholy end none can say.[1k]
The Empire, for a time, had guarded its shores well, but division and civil war had split the people of Sigmar. In the confusion and anarchy of the following centuries, the Dark Elves found rich pickings. They even grew so bold as to raid the port of Marienburg. Under the cover of night, the raiders unleashed a storm upon the city. Their Helldrakes glided effortlessly through the tossing seas and their crews cut out seven merchantmen from under the guns of Rijker’s Isle, the port’s keep. The Dark Elves unloaded what they wanted and then set fire to the ships and sent them back into the harbour, destroying dozens more vessels. By the light of the burning ships the Corsairs laughed and offered sacrifices to their evil gods and goddesses.[1k]
From beneath the Blackspinc Mountains, the Dark Elves ventured further and further into Lustria to the south. They constantly assailed the High Elf settlement of Arnheim on the eastern coast of the New World and the city is now' in a state of almost constant war. Deeper into the ancient jungles, the Dark Elves discovered the soaring temples and hidden treasure vaults of the Slann and their Lizardmen servants. Laden with gold and strange artefacts, these expeditions were greeted with celebration upon their return. The raiders’ tales of cities paved with gold and immense, prehistoric ziggurats filled w'ith riches beyond counting lured more and more Dark Elves into the rotting jungles and raids into Lustria now take place ever)' few' years. For centuries the Lizardmen have launched retaliatory attacks against Naggaroth in attempts to retrieve their treasures, and the enmity between the two races remains particularly bloody.[1k]
Growing Wealth and Power
As the wealth of barbaric lands flooded into the Witch King’s treasury, the Dark Elf fleets expanded once again, ultimately eclipsing the all but forgotten glories of yore. At Malekith’s command, they recommenced their raids upon Ulthuan’s shores, wreaking whatever woe they could. Advantage was also sought in subtler ways: Dark Elf ships shadowed Ulthuan’s merchant vessels as they plied their trade, learning the location of the High Elves’ closest allies. This information in turn allowed the Dark Elves to infiltrate the courts of such realms. Some they struck bargains with, others they set about undermining in order to deny aid to the High Elves in the war that was sure to come.[1k]
Over the course of centuries, many realms experienced both the cold embrace and the wicked betrayal of Dark Elf diplomacy. Yet few who had been bloodied by Malekith’s claws were entirely reluctant to welcome him as ally afterward. Bitterness had done little to dull the Dark Elves allure. When they wished it, the Witch King’s ambassadors could speak charmingly enough to soothe even the rawest of grudges, and they were wealthy enough to awaken the most closely guarded avarice. It helped also that Malekith’s emissaries were steeped in the most sinful and hidden of desires, and they used this knowledge to unlock that would otherwise have been fixed against them. Only in Athel Loren did their honeyed words fall upon deaf ears. Wood Elves listened politely for a time, then bade the Dark Elves leave, and never return.[1k]
Malekith watched with grim pleasure as the tendrils of Dark Elf influence spread across the globe. By this time, the Witch King had so many informers and cat’s paws in other landi that he often received word of a High Elf fleet arriving at its destination before the Phoenix King did. Better still, with but a careful stroke of his puppets’ strings, Malekith could assail his hated foes with the armies and fleets of other land with his involvement secret to all but a few easily disposed- of pawns. For more than two hundred years, the Witch King revelled in this new method of war. Indeed, so much cruel delight did these manipulations elicit, that Malekith could well have continued upon this path for many centuries more, had his spies not brought unwelcome tidings: despite their woes, the High Elves had not lost heart. If anything, Finubar the Seafarer, the newly crowned Phoenix King, succeeded in uniting his people to a degree unseen since days of Aenarion. This indeed was news that could not be borne. Summoning Morathi and his closest councillors to his side, the Witch King swept from his throne room and into the storm-wracked night. It was time for the armies of Naggaroth to vent their full fury upon Ulthuan once more — the Age of Vengeance had begun.[1k]
The Age of Vengeance (2300 to 2522 IC)
As the Dark Elves extended their terrifying raids to the remotest regions of the world, the augurs of Ghrond began to see stark changes within the Realm of Chaos. The shifting inner energies of Chaos swelled with power, straining and boiling as they built up like a tide. Waves of despair and anger flowed through the miasntic vortices of raw magic, bringing scenes of death and destruction that both thrilled and chilled the onlookers. War was coming; Chaos was coming. Such import was placed on these visions that Malekith and Morathi travelled to Ghrond to witness the unfolding scenes of slaughter and misery for themselves. Snow-swathed fields were awash with blood, strange onion-domed towns burned with magical fire and shambling, shapeless beasts fed on mountains of bloody flesh. Over and over the images emerged from the coruscating energies, each time a little different, a small detail or event somewhat changed as the flowing threads of fate intertwined and unravelled, changing the future.[1k]
Invasion of Ulthuan
Malekith sensed that dark times would soon be at hand and he would be ready to strike at the hated High Elves. With the power of Chaos strengthening, more tribes of northern Marauders tried to breach the cordon of the watch towers. The danger of invasion from the north vexed Malekith gready, as he could not launch an invasion of Ulthuan while the borders of Naggarodi were unsafe. It was Morathi who turned consternation into opportunity. In a great caravan, a hundred laden wagons drawn by a thousand Cold Ones, the Hag Sorceress led an expedition into the north. With her she took ten thousand slaves, the riches of distant kings and a coterie of Sorceresses. Messengers were sent to the east and west, declaring that the Queen of the Elves would handsomely reward any who would fight for her.[1k]
The first tribe met Morathi with suspicion, but once they saw her cold beauty they were utterly bewitched. Pleasured by concubines and given gifts of gold, silver and gems, the chief of the tribe quickly swore an oath of fealty to the 'Elf Queen’. The same happened at the next encampment, and the next, and the next. As word spread, tribes travelled hundreds of leagues to seek out Morathi, and she created a palace of frozen ice and jet black rock to welcome her visitors. She lavished lustful attentions on the tribesmen and gave them jewellry and slaves. This continued for many months, until she had mustered a horde of tribesmen tens of thousands-strong. A year earlier, these vicious warriors had been intent on pillaging the cities of the Dark Elves; now they were pawns of Morathi ready to fight for the Witch King.[1k]
Slaves in the shipyards at Clar Karond laboured through bleak winter days and nights, building immense ships of timber and iron to carry the army of northmen - the Marauders were terrified of the Black Arks, and were too clumsy to sail upon the backs of Sea Dragons and Hclldrakes. Guided by Dark Elf steersmen, this flotilla crossed the Sea of Malice to await its human cargo. West of Har Ganeth, the tribes gathered under the shadow of the Black Pillar - a towering shrine to the Chaos Gods carved from obsidian and studded with the skulls of sacrifices. From here they embarked upon their fleet and followed the Black Arks across the Sea of Chill.[1k]
The size and fuforce of the combined Dark Elf and Chaos attack swept aside all resistance. Black Arks beached across Nagarythe and the armies of darkness smashed through Phoenix Gate and Unicorn Gate. While the Marauders were left to burn and plunder as they saw fit, the vanguard of the Dark Elves speared into the woodland realm of Averlorn - die home of the Everqueen of Ulthuan. Malekith’s aim was twofold: to sow panic and dismay with the Everqueen’s death and to corrupt the powerful magic that she wielded. Though the Witch King’s forces stormed through Averlorn and surrounded the camp of the Everqueen, she escaped with the aid of Prince Tyrion, who cut his way through the Dark Elves and fled with the Everqueen into the deep forests. The Dark Elves burnt Averlorn, razing woodland and meadow as they hunted for the Everqueen and her companion.[1k]
Elsewhere, the armies of Naggaroth advanced without pause, Malekith’s generals eager to outdo their rivals. The Blighted Isle swiftly fell and once again the Naggarothi held the Altar of Kliaine. In Ellyrion, the horsemasters sought to fight back, but the sorcery of iMalekith destroyed their army and scattered the survivors. Dark Elf ships broke through l.othern into the Inner Seas, and victory was within Malekith's grasp. While Ulthuan burned, the Witch King demanded that the Everqueen be found, or that her body be brought to him as proof of her death. Hour Assassins of Khaine pledged their lives and souls to bringing Alarielle to Malekith and then set out on their quest. In the blasted lands of Averlorn, they played a deadly game of cat-and- mouse with the Everqueen and her guardian. Despite coming close on several occasions, the Dark Elves always found their prey had eluded them, but the net grew ever tighter.[1k]
Only at Lothern and the White Tower were the Dark Elf armies checked in their advance. Besieged, the desperate defenders held out, praying to the gods for salvation. Malekith gloried in the destruction and carnage and mercilessly crushed every army raised against him. He would strangle all hope from his enemies, and then finish them forever. Yet a glimmer of hope remained for the High Elves, despite the darkness that had engulfed their lands. The Everqueen still lived, even if in hiding, and tales were heard of a young mage from Saphery who wielded magical power that was the match of the Witch King’s sorcery. He brought down storms of lightning upon his foes and engulfed armies with conflagrations of white flame. He was Teclis, brother to Prince Tyrion, and soon Malekith and his followers would curse his name.[1k]
The Assassins seeking the Everqueen came upon their prey one night, almost by chance. Prince Tyrion fought with savage skill and defiance, anti slew all tour hunters. Yet with his dying breath, the last Assassin sent forth a daemonic familiar to bring word to the Witch King of the Everqueen’s location. When the impish, bat-winged creature arrived in the camp of Malekith, the Witch King revealed his masterstroke. With unholy pacts of blood and depravity, Malekith had struck a bargain with a Greater Daemon of Slaanesh, a depraved and wicked creature called N’kari. In return for sacrifices and dark favours, N’kari would hunt down Alarielle and devour her soul. With chilling shrieks of joy, N’kari set off on the hunt, speeding through the charred forests of Averlorn in search of the Everqueen.[1k]
The Greater Daemon descended upon Tyrion and Alarielle in the last twilight hours of the night. For all his power and skill, Tyrion was wounded and easily smashed aside by N’kari. As the four-armed Daemon of Chaos loomed over the Everqueen, lightning suddenly erupted from the darkness, hurling N’kari back. In the starlight stood an emaciated figure, a sword wreathed in crackling magic in his hand. It was Teclis, Magelord of Saphery. With a bellow of hatred N’kari attacked, but a great coruscation of energy engulfed Teclis. At its touch, the shimmering sphere broke the magical aura binding N’kari to the world of mortals, casting it back into the Realms of Chaos. Feeling that his creature had been banished, Malekith howled with frustration.[1k]
The Battle of Finuval Plain
Enraged that Alarielle still lived, Malekith turned all of his fun' upon the High Elves. The Witch Elves kept the fires of Khaine burning day and night, as they heaped captives by the hundreds onto the pyres. Ulthuan’s rivers ran red with blood as wanton slaughter engulfed the isle. It seemed for all the world as if die High Elves would be obliterated by Malekith’s vengeance. In a final act of defiance, the army of Ulthuan drew what little strength remained at Finuval Plain. Here, High Elves from every kingdom and from beyond the seas were gathered to fight their last battle. The Witch King was unimpressed by the ragtag army of Tiranoc charioteers, Ellyrian cavalry, Sapherian mages and the weary militia regiments. From across Ulthuan, the hosts of the Witch King marched to Finuval Plain to crush the last resistance. The host of Malekith dwarfed that of the High Elves. Beastmasters goaded gigantic War Hydras into the battle line, while Witch Elves screamed obscene oaths to Khaine. Corsairs clad in cloaks made from the scales of Sea Dragons bared their wicked blades and hurled abuse at their hated enemies. Sorceresses and Hag Queens cavorted in dark rituals to summon their power. And beside Malekith stood Urian Poisonblade, the most deadly warrior to have ever been raised in Naggaroth.[1k]
The two armies clashed like a tide of black engulfing a white rock. Urian cut down a score of High Elves, seeking out Prince Tyrion, who in turn claimed dozens of Dark Elf lives with his runeblade, Sunfang. Malekith channelled ungodly energies to bring down fire and ruin upon his foes, whilst wrestling with the counterspells of Teclis. Daemons howled and gibbered as the titanic magical forces opened breaches into the Realm of Chaos, while upon the field Dark Elf and High Elf blood matted the grass and turned the ground into a crimson quagmire.[1k]
Seeing that the strength of Ulthuan could not prevail against the might of Naggaroth, Teclis sought to destroy the Witch King. The Elven Mage whispered a prayer to Asuryan and drew on the power of his staff, gifted to him by Alarielle. With all of his prayers behind it, Teclis unleashed a bolt of energy directly at the Witch King. Realising his peril, Malekith turned all his art and power to deflecting the deadly blast, but was too slow to divert it entirely. The bolt struck the Witch King and engulfed him with its energies. No ordinary' spell, the magical blast awakened the vengeance of Asuryan that still lingered within Malekith’s soul and had burnt within the breast of Malekith for nearly five thousand years. That wound of old, the hideous burning that would never leave him, raged anew through Malekith’s body, searing his flesh and mind. Tormented by the god’s judgement, Malekith summoned the last of his power and hurled himself into the Realms of Chaos to escape the crushing agony.[1k]
With their lord seemingly destroyed, the Dark Elves fled the wrath of Tyrion and Teclis, abandoning their armour and weapons in the speed of their flight.As news spread across Ulthuan, the High Rives rallied to the call while the Dark Elves melted away into the shadows and returned to their vessels. In Caledor great Dragons were roused from their slumber, while armies of High Elves marched to the relief of Hoeth and Lothern. While the northmen fought ignorantly against the resurgent High Elves, over the following years the Naggarothi slipped away with their spoils, back to their chill cities in the north.[1k]
Hatred Without End
Though Malekith was not slain by Teclis’ spell, it seemed that he wandered the Realm of Chaos for an eternity. He has never spoken of what he endured, not even to his mother, but eventually Malekith clawed and fought his way back to the world of mortals and was found not far from the northern watch tow'ers, his body broken, his armoured skin rent with savage gashes and dents. Morathi nursed her son for a year, pouring all of her vile magic and malice into his soul to revive him. In the ranting of waking nightmares, the Witch King spoke of castles of bones and forests of eyes. When he awoke from his fever, Malekith’s eyes burnt with a new light. Gone was the raging anger, replaced now by a harsh coldness that pierces the soul of any who looked upon the Witch King.[1k]
For the last two hundred years Malekith has plotted, conspiring with seers and Daemons, seeking the time for his retaliation against Teclis and his kin. Bloated on their victory at Finuval Plain, the confidence of the High Elves grows strong, and their daring with it. An expedition led by Eltharion of Tor Yvresse attacked Naggarond itself - with stolen clothes Eltharion and a small group of warriors sneaked into the Witch King’s capital and opened one of the gates for filtharion’s army to enter. Fires burnt as the High Elves ran amok, killing and razing what they could before stealing away into the pre-dawn shadows.[1k]
Where before Malekith would have flow'n into a berserk rage, now he calculates the demise of his enemies with chilling ruthlessness. His revenge against those w'ho continue to defy him will be long and agonising. Now the Witch King sits within his chamber atop the highest pinnacle of Naggarond and gazes out upon the world. He senses great doom and death will soon come and he stands ready to unleash his legions once more.[1k]
- "Who are they? They are sorrow. Pain. Misery. Misguided souls bound to darkness led by a damned prince who refused to accept his true destiny and will one day suffer as no other because of it. They embrace Chaos with open arms and much of their debauched society is given over to worship of Khaine, the Lord of Murder. They live in fear, comforted only by the lies they repeatedly whisper to each other as they nurse old wounds. They are terrible, seek them not. I will say no more."
- —Lord Alasir, Elven Ambassador[5a]
The Dark Elves, or the Druchii as they account themselves, are not the only Elven race to walk the world. They are but one of three great civilisations to have sprung from Ulthuan's cradle — though they dismiss the others as snivelling and effete weaklings, unfit to inherit the legacies of ancient times. East of Naggaroth, still rooted to the fractured lands of Ulthuan, dwell the High Elves, the Asur. Between these two realms there can never be peace, for the betrayals of old were the opening volleys in a close-fought and bitter war that only escalated as the millennia have flowed past.[1c]
Whilst Dark Elves aim to rule the world, they at least make their ambitions plain. Not so the High Elves, who seek control under the guise of protection, and care not what consequence might have on other lands. Further eastward still, upon a continent infested with humans and other barbaric primitives, lies Athel Loren, the realm of the Wood Elves, the Asrai. The Wood Elves are held in contempt by both the Dark Elves and the High Elves, for they seek neither to rule nor control, only to endure.[1c]
The Dark Elves, not so unlike their High Elven brethren, possess a cold if not glamorous beauty which only helps to hide the corruption and vileness which lurks beneath their skin. All Elves are beautiful, but such beauty is different between the three races. The beauty of the Asur is one of light and glamour whilst the beauty of the Asrai is feral and wild. Yet the beauty of the Dark Elves is a cold beauty, being said to take a men's breath away, both figuratively and literally.[1c]
No matter their allegiance, all Elves are long-lived to the point of immortality, possessed of a self-assurance that falls little short of other-worldliness. They are swift of both body and reflex, capable of an effortless grace that shames the most elegant of men. Though all Elves can broadly be accounted equal, the Dark Elves deem that only they make full use of their natural gifts, for they alone of Elvenkind do not allow such concepts as mercy and tradition to shackle their deeds.[1c]
Elves are cunning of mind and clever beyond the ken of mere mortals. Their every word conceals a depth of meaning that is altered wholly by the slightest change of inflection stance. Dark Elves, in particular, are adept at the art of twisting speech to serve their cause and can gleefully manipulate the emotions of another to whatever end best is their own interests. Thus do the Naggarothi make and break alliances in a careless fashion, knowing that their silver tongues can always be counted upon to heal the wounds of past. It is this, more than anything else, which renders Dark Elf society so opportunistic and impetuous.[1c]
When the deeds of old can be erased by a cleverly-spoken word, what need is there for integrity and law? Though a Dark Elf's swiftness of mind and deftness of body serve him well individually, it is the combination of the two which grants him such murderous prowess in battle. Every detail of an opponent's poise and stance speaks volumes to an attentive Elf, telling him not only where and when the enemy intends to strike, but also the manner in which the act of attacking will weaken the foe's guard. Thus has many an enemy died midway through a blow he thought fit to end the tile, his life stolen by an impossibly swift blade, guided by a quicksilver mind.[1c]
Chaos has left its mark upon the Elves, just as it has on almost all the races of the world. In this race, however, the power of the Dark Gods has taken a subtle form. It has fanned the arrogance of the Elven soul, reinforcing all that is prideful and hubristic. Long ago, compassion could have been said to be the Elves' defining trait, for such was the nature granted them by the Old Ones, but now generosity has been eclipsed by narcissism, empathy by conceit. However, Chaos has not changed all the Elves in equal manner.[1c]
To the Wood Elves, it has made them isolationist, deniers of the wider world who blindly hope that, so long as their realm knows order, no danger can threaten it. The High Elves have become ever more stubborn, having gained certainty beyond words' ability to convey that they, and they alone, can shield the world against the perils it faces. For the Dark Elves, however, Chaos has brought enlightenment — the knowledge that the world exists only for the pleasure of the strong. They have embraced this revelation with a burning passion that shames the cold hearts of their ancient cousins. Indeed, it may yet set the very world afire.[1c]
For the Dark Elves, all of the world's bounty is theirs to do with as they wish — provided that they have the strength to claim it. They have turned aside from the benevolent gods of their pantheon, flocking instead to the worship of their more capricious and cruel deities, in particular Khaine, Lord of Murder. It is a match well made, for the Dark Elves care nothing for the sanctity of life and consider the lesser races to be nothing more than insects begging to be ground beneath a boot heel if no more productive or entertaining use can be found for them. Naturally, the Dark Elves consider all other races inferior. Even those who approach them in skill and intellect, the Naggarothi dismiss as weaklings, sneering at the laws and traditions that waste resources nurturing the weak even as they shackle the ambitions of the strong.[1c]
The Dark Elves have no such restraint; in Naggaroth, the weak perish, and the strong take whatever they desire. None of this is to say that the Dark Elves wish to see all other races exterminated out of hand. So long as mines must be worked, farms must be tended, fortresses must be raised and ritual sacrifices are required to win the favour of the gods, there will always be a place for primitives in the realm of Naggaroth. Indeed, some of the more capable barbarians can even be wielded as weapons in their own right, manipulated by threats, trinkets and empty promises into assailing the shores of hated Ulthuan or else wreaking havoc upon the high seas. Only the High Elves have no hope of survival under the yoke of Naggarothi rule, for every Dark Elf dreams of the day when their ancient enemies will at last be scoured from every corner of the world. None consider the possibility that, when the last High Elf dies screaming in agony upon Khaine's altar, that ultimate victory might leave a void of purpose that is impossible to fill. On that day, the Dark Elves will learn just how much of their souls have been devoured by their ancient hatred — and they may not find the tally to their liking.[1c]
- "And lo, he shall rule with a dark hand and his shadow shall touch upon every land. Steel will be his skin and fire will be his blood, in hatred will he conquer all before him. No blade forged of Man, Dwarf or Elf shall endure him fear. Though will it come to pass that the firstborn son of noble blood shall rise to power. The child will be learned in the darkest arts and he will raise an army of terrible beasts. Thus will the Dark King fall, slain by neither blade nor arrow but by a sorcerous power of darkest magic and so shall his body be consumed in the flames and for all eternity burn."
- —The Prophecy of Demise[3l]
There is but one ruler of the Dark Elves, and his name is Malekith, the Witch King of Naggaroth. He is the son of Aenarion, greatest of the Elven heroes, and all Elves believe that greatness and destiny lies deep within his very blood and his very soul. None would dare to ever defy the Witch King and his rule, for all those that have no longer live within this world. His rule is absolute, for he is the very embodiment of all the Druchii and so long as he lives, the High Elves will never know true peace.
Below the Witch King is a collection of Lords and Ladies from the major cities of Naggaroth. These Lords of the Dark Elves live in six heavily fortified city-states, each one being as powerful and wealthy as any Human kingdom, their innumerable towers built from black stone, rising like sinister pinnacles into the dark storm clouds. All of these cities are evil places, steeped in death and agony. Their lightless dungeons are crammed with captives whose wailings fill the air and whose moans seep through the thick walls of the high towers, saturating the soul with pain and misery. From the tips of the high towers, above the filth and smog of sacrificial fires, the Sorceresses cast their malign magic over the world.[2g]
Rulership of the Dark Elven kingdoms is rigidly structured, its titles and positions stemming from the ancient traditions of pre-Sundering Nagarythe. New ranks and honours are created only on the rarest occasions, and most of those are abolished at Malekith's decree as soon as he hears of them. For the Witch King to do otherwise would suggest that the royal traditions of Nagarythe were somehow flawed, and if there is one truth closer to Malekith's black heart than any other, it is that the Nagarythe of old was a realm beyond all reproach. This underlying order goes entirely unnoticed by those few outsiders who glimpse the inner workings of Naggaroth. Seeing the constant stream of politicking, disgrace, betrayal and assassination, they confuse an attack upon the person holding a particular position with an attack upon the position itself. Yet no Dark Elf wishes to see these ancient titles cast down, for there is no more effective way of measuring one's worth than by reckoning the minions that grovel below and the fools who preen above.[1k]
The Black Council
Malekith's inner circle always numbers exactly one hundred lords and ladies of Naggaroth — though not all are living. Claiming a seat at the obsidian table is one of the highest honours, but also one of the most dangerous. The Witch King is nothing if not mercurial in his favours, and it is not unusual for fewer Dreadlords to leave the chamber than entered it. Down the ages, there have always been nobles clever enough to avoid falling victim to the Witch King's explosive temper, and it is no different now. Closest of all Malekith's Councillors is his mother, Morathi. This honour is not granted out of filial regard, but because the Hag Sorceress can be trusted only when kept in plain sight. Kouran, Captain of the Black Guard, is a different matter entirely, for his loyalty to the Witch King is without question.[1l]
The third most influential seat on the council belongs to the cadaverous noble known only as Ezresor — a particularly cold-blooded individual widely assumed to be Malekith's spy master, though this has never been officially confirmed. Venil Chillblade, latest incumbent of a seat that has become almost a hereditary privilege, holds sway over fleets that plough the seas east of Naggaroth, whilst the darkly beautiful Drane Brackblood directs the plunder of westward realms. Command of Naggaroth's armies is split between several nobles, of whom the heavily-scarred Emir Soulflayer is most prominent. His is perhaps the most tenuous seat on the council, for he earns glory for every victory and blame for every defeat. So far, Soulflayer has managed to shift any blame to other, now dead, council members, but this game can only be played for so long.[1l]
- "They are soulless reavers, deluded by their own corruption. Can they not see the madness that lies within the Witch King? Their very nature is anathema to our rich culture and heritage. I mourn for them even as I slay them."
- —Indronlil Shininghelm, Shadow Warrior[6a]
Dark Elves have one major source of income: slave labor. Dark Elves raid all other lands, particularly Ulthuan, home of their enemies the High Elves. They take food and treasure, but the main purpose of their raids is to obtain slaves. Slaves play an important part in Druchii society, as they perform the menial chores that an enterprising Druchii considers below him. Slaves also make up the bulk of the ritual sacrifices to the god Khaine. Dark elves do not value their slaves' lives, and often kill one or two to show the other slaves their brutality.[3m] Slave revolts are rare, harshly suppressed, and due to the brutality of the Dark Elves, usually only the "new stock" have the will to participate in any revolt. The only "successful" revolts usually occur at sea, aboard either the slave ships or the Black Arks.[3n]
In the former case, the surviving slaves tend to sail the captured ship to their freedom. In the latter case, the slave revolt is usually focused on stealing ships and escaping rather than taking over the Black Ark. The Dark Elves take to sea in their Black Arks. Kept afloat by magic, the Black Arks travel far and wide to procure slaves. Each Black Ark is home to a small army of Dark Elf raiders and a small fleet of raiding vessels. These forces can be landed on the coast of an unsuspecting kingdom, perform a lightning raid, and be off before any of the local defence forces are able to react (the raiders do not do well in stand-up fights). In this way, for hundreds if not thousands of years, countless millions of doomed souls have been taken back to Naggaroth to a fate worse than death.[3m]
- "Are there Chaos Elves? No. There are only the Druchii, the Dark Elves, those renegade kin from Ulthuan. Though some prostrate themselves before the Serpent, by and large, their entire culture seems to exist to serve Khaine, the Lord of Blood and Murder. Sounds like Khorne? Well, maybe. But the Witch Elves look nothing like the Chaos Marauders."
- —Korbad Grimaxe, Dwarf Explorer[6a]
The Elves worship a wide variety of deities of varying power and temperament. These beings are divided into two main spheres of influence, with neither having dominance over the other. This is encapsulated in the Elven belief of yenlui, or balance; a philosophy that dictates that there must be harmony between the light and dark natures of the Elven spirit.[2d]
The most widely acknowledged Elven gods outside of Naggaroth are the Cadai, or the gods of the Heavens, who represent the more positive characteristics of elven culture and the natural world. These are ruled by Asuryan, the greatest of the gods, and include such figures as Isha, goddess of fertility and healing, Kurnous the god of bunters, and Vaul the smith god. In elven belief many of the unsavoury aspects of their nature and the world at large are also represented by gods known as the Cytharai, or gods of the Underworld.[2d]
Of these, Khaine is the most well known, being a god of murder and war, but there are others such as Erelth Khial who rules the Underworld, Atharti, a goddess of pleasure and indulgence, and Hekarti the goddess of Dark Magic. These gods are not openly worshipped on Ulthuan, though they have small shrines that are usually shunned except during essential ceremonies of appeasement. Unlike their cousins on Ulthuan, the Dark Elves openly pay homage to these forbidding powers, the worship of whom rose through the Cults of Excess that preceded the civil war.[2d]
- "We dominate the seas of the world because they are ours to do with as we will. Our weak willed cousins once held all the oceans in their grasp, but allowed them to slip away as they declined into decadence. Not so, our forces. We strike where and when we will, leaving no doubt who are the true masters of the seas. We make slaves of the lesser races because they are fit for nothing else. It is only just that they should strive for their betters. What is truly insulting is how seldom any of them realises the honour we do them by enslaving them. Those we take are privileged to join something far greater than they ever would’ve been able to if we left them to lead their pathetic little lives. To serve the Witch King Malekith is to serve the greatest ruler the world has ever known. It is a shame that the wretches cannot see that, but what can you expect of such animals?"
- —Tullaris of Har Ganeth[5a]
Dark Elves are bitter, vicious killers that detest all other creatures — even other Dark Elves. Druchii warriors love nothing more than to see their enemies screaming in pain, and take pleasure from spilling blood and spreading misery. There are no Druchii craftsmen, workers or farmers; each and every Druchii is born, bred and trained to be a heartless warrior. They are relentlessly aggressive in battle, shouting praises to their black gods as they cut down their foes. The Dark Elves reserve their deepest enmity for the High Elves of Ulthuan, who they see as treacherous usurpers. For over five thousand years, the armies of Naggaroth have waged war upon their kin. Battles between Dark Elves and High Elves are exceptionally bloody, as the Dark Elves hurl themselves at their foes with unending ferocity and the warriors of Ulthuan stoically stand their ground despite the terrifying beasts and merciless agonies unleashed upon them.[1b]
Thus do the dread hosts of Naggaroth spread across the world, their fell banners dancing grimly on the wind, each warrior alert to the prospect of wicked joy that every battle brings. Ranks of spearmen advance remorselessly across the field, a shadow of death that consumes all who stand in its path. Black Ark Corsairs, given monstrous aspect by their scaled cloaks, hack through the foe, each chill-hearted pirate determined that his bladework and cunning will outdo that of his fellows. War Hydras thunder into the fray, trampling those who stand their ground, belching forth dark flame to consume those who flee. Cold One Knights strike home in a blur of steel and claw, the cold skill of the riders matched only by the savagery of their steeds. Sorceresses unleash their dark and forbidden magic, stripping flesh from bone and soul from body. Blood-drenched Witch Elves dance amongst the carnage, slashing with frenzied abandon at any who come within reach. Directing every assault are the black-hearted Dreadlords of Naggaroth, who expend the lives of their followers as easily, and with as little compunction, as they order the destruction of the foe.[1b]
Dark Elf Infantry
- Dark Elf Warriors - Dark Elven Warriors form the bulk of most Dark Elf armies, being composed mostly of civilian volunteers and conscripts. The Dark Elves are a warrior race descended from the noble people of Nagarythe, thus all Dark Elves possess a certain degree of martial skill. The Dark Elves are descendants of the brave warriorfolk that dwelt in Nagarythe during the reign of Aenarlon. They are raised from birth as soldiers and raiders, learning early on in their lives that they have only that which they can take.
- Dreadspears - Dreadspears are spearmen - each is armed with a Drannach or Sky-Piercer. They are more disciplined than the Bleakswords whom they consider arrogant. They best serve a defensive function through the use of their shield and spear walls.
- Darkshards - Darkshades are crossbowmen, theirs is the mastery of the Uraithen, the Deathrain. Many were stationed at the northern Watchtowers of Naggaroth as lightly armoured Chaos Marauders were vulnerable to their bolts.
- Bleakswords - Bleakswords are swordsmen renowned for their arrogance. To them the Dreadspears are peasants and the Darkshards craven, they alone are the greatest.
- Black Ark Corsairs - Black Ark Corsairs are notorious reavers, having spent their entire lives pillaging distant lands. They are the lionized darlings of Naggarothi society, embodying as they do the drive to earn riches and glory. It is a hard, dangerous life in the raiding fleets, but a successful voyage can see a captain and crew return laden down with wealth beyond the dreams of most city-dwellers. It is not uncommon for a Corsair fleet to spend years ransacking foreign lands, returning home only when their holds are bursting with slaves and plunder.
- Shades - Shades, or Dark Elf Scouts as they are often called, are a group of Dark Elves who eschew life in the cities of Naggaroth and instead lead a savage existence in the grim Blackspine Mountains. They are scouts without compare, able to move as swiftly and silently as ghosts through thick forest, across razor-sharp rocks and along the twisting caverns of the Underworld Sea. Companies of Shades disembark from the fleet under cover of darkness, before moving inland to locate targets for the Dark Elves' raids.
- Black Guard - The Black Guard of Naggarond, or simply the Black Guard are Malekith's personal army, answerable no other save he. They are recruited from the offspring of families high in the Witch King's favour, taken at birth from mothers who are soon thereafter put to the sword. With no family ties to distract them, these children are raised within the barracks of the Black Guard and taught the myriad skills of death and destruction that are required of Malekith's foremost elite.
- Executioners - The Executioners are some of the deadliest fighters within Har Ganeth, the City of Executioners. Har Ganeth is the spiritual centre of Khaine's worship, with many shrines to the Lord of Murder, dominated by the towering edifice of the great temple. It is from Har Ganeth that Hellebron rules over the Witch Elves, and countless victims are brought here to be sacrificed upon Khaine's altars.
- Sisters of Slaughter - The Sisters of Slaughter are first amongst the gladiatorial guilds, the undisputed queens of the arena. Once they numbered merely a dozen -- the outcast daughters of a disgraced house who pledged their lives to Eldrazor, the Lord of Blades, so that he might look favourably upon their quest for revenge. Now, with their vengeance long ago carved into the bones of their family's betrayers, the Sisters have thousands of experienced fighters spread amongst enclaves in all the great cities, and a legend that has reached even the shores of distant lands.
- Witch Elves - Witch Elves, known also as the Brides of Khaine are the cruelest of all their heartless race, for they live only to serve Khaine's malevolent demands for bloody, agonising sacrifice. Their observances to the Lord of Murder are blood-slicked affairs. Still-beating hearts are ripped from victims' chests and hurled into fires, writhing flesh is daubed with gore-red runes and altars are decorated with the entrails of dying captives.
- Doomfire Warlock - Doomfire Warlocks feel the Dark Prince's grasp on their souls grow with every passing day. As the grip tightens, dark runes blaze into life on their flesh, an unholy fire that creeps slowly across the skin. If this process is not arrested before the Warlock's entire body is swathed in flame, his soul is snuffed out and consumed by the Dark Prince. This fate cannot be thwarted, for no mortal can long deny rapacious Slaanesh. It can, however, be stalled if the Warlock sacrifices others in his stead -- the purer or mightier the soul, the better.
Dark Elf Cavalry
- Dark Riders - Dark Riders are the eyes and ears of Malekith's army, acting as lightning fast scouts that can outrun even the fastest horsemen. In the grim days when armies of Daemons besieged Ulthuan, keen-eyed messengers from Nagarythe kept guard for any signs of a daemonic intrusion.
- Cold One Knights - Cold One Knights count themselves amongst the finest warriors in Naggaroth. They are nobles of great wealth and ambition, whose warrior instincts elevate them far beyond the upstart cavalrymen of lesser races. The knights' weapons are the finest that can be bought in the great cities: long swords enchanted in such a manner as to never lose their edge, and tall lances sharp enough to pierce the hide of a Dragon.
- Cold One Chariot - Cold One Chariots are sometimes given as gifts to those rare knights who have pleased Lord Malekith with their devotion and prowess in battle. To possess such a machine is a symbol of great prestige, and is ranked amongst the highest stations in battle, even though the Cold Ones' truculent nature can often bring the chariot to a jarring halt at the most inopportune moments.
- Scourgerunner Chariot - Beastmasters are always eager to find fresh subjects, for the many perils of battlefield, gladiatorial arena and neglect ensure that stables suffer a high rate of attrition. Small bands of Beastmasters roam the wilds in Scourgerunner Chariots, searching fen, crag and cave for suitable prizes. Armed with barbed nets and harpoons attached to strong chains, they snare and immobilise their prey.
Dark Elf Artillery
- Reaper Bolt Thrower - A deviation of the normal Elven Repeater Bolt Thrower, Reaper Bolt Throwers are used at sea to clear the decks of enemy vessels, and on land to scythe down ranks of enemy warriors. A mechanism of counterweights and cords allows the Reaper to shoot a hail of bolts, or a single missile with force enough to pierce a Dragon's hide. A Reaper's bolts are barbed and difficult to remove from the wounds they inflict.
Dark Elf Warbeast
- Harpies - Harpy or Harpies are rare winged predators almost entirely unknown in the Old World. They make their lairs in the mountains and cliffs of the Land of Chill, the Northern Waste and the lands of Troll Country but always near the sea, where prey is more readily available. Their wings are leathery, resembling those of a bat, though their forms often sprout black feathers. Their lower bodies end in scale-covered bird’s legs and jagged talons.
- Bloodwrack Medusa - Bloodwrack Medusae are horrid half-snake creatures that have serve the whim and desires of Morathi, the Hag Queen of Naggaroth for many thousands of years. It is said that the the Bloodwrack Medusae were Sorceresses of Ghrond who used their magics and blood-feasting rituals to become more beautiful than even the gods.
- Kharibdyss - The Kharibdyss is a loathsome beast of the uncharted depths, its kind seldom seen on land save when the Dark Elves goad one to war. Untold numbers of these primeval horrors churn the murky deep off Naggaroth's western coastline, sating their hunger on any creature foolish enough to cross their path. Occasionally, a Kharibdyss can be sighted upon the broken isles of Naggaroth's western coast, tentacles writhing with slime and sea-spray as the beast hunts for tasty morsels.
- Manticore - Manticores are huge, leonine beasts that soar on leathery wings. They are amongst the most powerful of all the predators that live in the north’s mountain ranges. The mutating power of Chaos ensures that no two Manticores are truly alike. Some have manes of writhing serpents, others pelts of iron scales, and many sprout spiked tails with a poison strong enough to boil a man’s blood in his veins. However, all Manticores are berserk killers saturated with primal fury. They are so fierce that they are held by the Dark Elves to be incarnations of Khaine, God of Murder.
- War Hydra - The Hydra is a titanic beast of the mountains, whose ill-tempered and ravenous nature has proven the doom of many an unsuspecting morsel. Indeed, so ferocious is the Hydra that campaigning armies often make wide detours to avoid intruding on such a beast's bone-strewn lair. Those that march on regardless do so either out of confidence in their battle-prowess or ignorance of the Hydra's savagery.
- Black Dragon - Black Dragons are a corrupted variant of the Dragon race currently living within the cold frigid lands of Naggaroth. Like all intelligent creatures, Dragons are prone to acts of good or ill depending upon their nature and upbringing. When Prince Malekith began his schemes to usurp the Phoenix Throne for himself, his agents stole Dragon Eggs from the Kingdom of Caledor and used them to create a new breed of Dragons.
Dark Elf Warmachines
- Cauldron of Blood - The Cauldrons of Blood are rumored to be gifts from Khaine, who bestowed them upon the Witch Elves as rewards for their single-minded dedication to his cause -- at least that was Morathi's claim when she gave the first of these brass cauldrons to the Cult of Khaine. Each is kept filled with the blood of countless sacrificial victims, though curiously, it never overflows. The cauldron always maintains the same level, no matter how many gallons of lifeblood are poured into it, as though the very metal of the cauldron thirsts.
- Bloodwrack Shrine - The Bloodwrack Shrine bears the terrifying Bloodwrack Medusa into battle. Should an enemy meet her gaze, they will die a horrifying and painful death as their blood flows from every pore.
Dark Elf Lords
- Dreadlord - Dreadlords are the so-called noble-born rulers of Naggaroth. They range from sycophantic schemers to masterful strategists who have waged war across a hundred battlefields. Though all such nobles pursue their own unique enthusiasms and ambitions, they are without exception selfish individuals, possessed of an arrogance matched only by their martial prowess, honed over centuries of unceasing war.
- Supreme Sorceress - Most Dark Covents of Sorceresses centre around a single powerful Sorceress; these despots may have apprentice spellcasters and captains, but their rule is absolute. Such is the supernatural charisma of the mistress of a Dark Covent that almost anyone might fall under her spell.
- High Beastmaster - These cruel elves are the ones responsible to tame and train the warbeasts the Dark Elves use in their armies. It matters not whether the beast is a raging Manticore, a cunning Harpy or the wisest of Caledor's ancient Dragons: eventually, all submit to the Beastmaster's will, or perish under his lash.
- Black Ark Fleetmaster - It takes decades of hard-bitten villainy to earn (or usurp) command of a mighty Black Ark and its attendant fleet. Little wonder is it that Black Ark Fleetmasters are among the most intemperate and ruthless of their race, and must always have one eye on their 'loyal' warriors.
Dark Elf Heroes
- Dark Elf Master - Dark Elf Masters are the nobles of Dark Elven society, sustained by the misery they inflict upon others. Those that manage to survive to adulthood are sent on a year-long raiding expedition. Dark Elves abhor weakness of any sort, so those youths that fail to make their mark during this time do not endure long thereafter.
- Sorceress - Sorceresses are the most prominent magic-users of Naggaroth. Elves have a natural affinity for the shifting Winds of Magic. In the ancient days, they learnt the secrets of manipulating this mystical power from the Slann, the most powerful servants of the Old Ones. Yet for all their expertise, there was always a limit to the amount of power the Elves could harness - the risk of madness and spiritual corruption prevented them from delving deeper into the power of Chaos. It was Morathi who first ventured into this forbidden territory. Through dark rituals and bloody sacrifices, she moulded the energies of Chaos to her bidding.
- Death Hag - The Death Hags are the priestesses of the Witch Elves, the guardians of Khaine's mysteries. It is they who mix the noxious potions that drive the Witch Elves into their battle-rage and they who craft the poisons with which they taint their blades. They know also how to wield the secret names of their god as obscene weapons that can befuddle their foes or strike them down with madness.
- Khainite Assassin - Khainite Assassins are masters of a subtle and murderous magic, trained from infancy to be the chosen warriors of Khaine. They move silently and with a precision that surpasses even the standards of other Elves. Blindfolded, an Assassin can walk sure-footedly across the spears of an embattled phalanx, or strike a precise flurry of blows so that each cut exploits a different weakness of armour or flesh.
- Malekith - Malekith, the Witch King of Naggaroth, is the ruler of the Dark Elves or Druchii as they refer to themselves, and the son of Phoenix King Aenarion, the greatest Elven hero to have ever lived. Malekith is ancient and powerful beyond mortal reckoning, a being who has lived for thousands upon thousands of years, gathering great trove of magical power that few can rival within the world. Long ago, this mighty Lord of the Elven race sought to claim the Isles of Ulthuan by force of will, cruelty and bloodshed, but the Flames of Asuryan denied his right to rule and left him scarred by fire and twisted with hatred.
- Malus Darkblade - Malus Darkblade, the Tyrant of Hag Graef was always ambitious, even by the lofty standards of Hag Graef's warring families. For long years, he played the deadly game of politics an assassination and played it well, but finally his thirst for power led Darkblade into the clutches of a being darker even than he. Rumours of a great power hidden in the distant north set Darkblade on a quest that led him deep into the Realm of Chaos.
- Morathi - Morathi the Hag Sorceress of Ghrond and First of the Hag Queens is the mother of Malekith and one-time consort of Aenarion, who rescued her from a warband of Slaanesh in the days of the first Chaos invasion before the Sundering. She is not only the lone Witch Elf allowed to use Dark Magic but is also one of the most powerful magic-users in the world of Warhammer, rivaling perhaps even Nagash, the Lords of Change, and Teclis of Ulthuan. She has struck daemonic pacts with many vile and disturbing forces, and can unleash the terrible power of Chaos.
- Shadowblade - Shadowblade, known as the Death that Walks Unseen is the Chief Khainite Assassin of Crone Hellebron. Shadowblade is still relatively young, having known less than two centuries of Malekith's rule. His reputation, however, is legendary, and his arrogance is as bottomless as the sea. Fables of his grisly adventures are already used as stories to scare Dark Elf children, a litany of murder and terror that grows longer and bloodier with each passing day. Shadowblade's most famous exploit was the slaughter of the entire crew of a High Elf Hawkship, one by one, over a period of several days. Only the horribly mutilated captain was left alive, so that he could tell of the mounting horror on the ship as the crew desperately attempted to corner Shadowblade — to no avail.
- Hellebron - Crone Hellebron the Blood Queen of Har Ganeth is one of the most ancient of the Hag Queens and second only to Morathi in Khaine's sight. However, while the youth and beauty of Morathi never fades, that of Hellebron is now almost expended, for the Hag Sorceress deliberately withheld from her the deepest secrets of using the Cauldrons of Blood. Therefore, ever more sacrifices are needed to fill Hellebron's cauldron each year, and yet the rejuvenating effects last for less and less time. Once beautiful beyond measure, the Blood Queen must now endure many dark months with the visage of an old and ugly crone for each stolen day of vibrant youth. It is chiefly for this reason that Hellebron hates Morathi, and her wrath at the deception is only deepened by the knowledge that she would have performed the exact same betrayal had their positions been reversed.
- Lokhir Fellheart - Lokhir Fellheart, the Krakenlord, is a Dark Elf corsair of noble birth. He comes from a long line of raiders and naval generals. He is a relative of Laithkikir Hellheart, a raider and cartographer active 1103 IC whose maps allowed other Dark Elves to raid the rich coasts of Ind and Cathay.
- Kouran - Kouran Darkhand, Captain of the Black Guard is the longest-serving member of Malekith's Black Guard, having fought at the Witch King's side for nearly a thousand years. Kouran's wits are sharp, but his battle-skills are infinitely keener. One does not rise to his rank — nor survive the constant stream of challengers who would claim the title as their own — without possessing such ability. He has extensively studied the use of both sword and halberd from the finest weapon masters in Naggaroth, many of whom perished during the tutelage.
- Tullaris - Tullaris Dreadbringer is the Chosen of Khaine, Captain of the Har Ganeth Executioners and one of the most murderous war-leaders in the world. So notorious has Tullaris become within the city of Har Ganeth and beyond that the rumour of his presence sets an unassailable fear in his enemies' quivering flesh, and the merest glimpse of his blood-encrusted armour has been known to rout foes from the battlefield.
- Rakarth - Beastlord Rakarth is the most accomplished Beastmaster in Naggaroth. Even as a child Rakarth had an almost supernatural ability to subdue wild creatures. When Rakarth was only eight years old his father had been gifted with a particularly fine Dark Steed. The beast was called Bracchus and was faster and stronger than any other in the Rakarth stables, but it had a vicious temperament and would buck and rear uncontrollably if anybody tried to ride it. Rakarth's father attempted to break Bracchus, and was quickly hurled to the ground and almost trampled to death under the creature's hooves.
- Urian Poisonblade - Urian Poisonblade was one of the most infamous of all Dark Elven warriors. He was the Witch King's personal champion, a mighty fighter of awesome ability, skill and cunning. It was rumoured that he had been bred for battle by the Witch King himself to be the destroyer and relentless slayer of his enemies. Urian's cruelty was as legendary as his skill. His foes said that he had the heart of a daemon, and that if you were captured by him it was better to swallow your own tongue and choke to death than survive and face the horrors the following hours or days would bring. When Urian learnt of this he made sure that in future his prisoners had no tongue to choke on.
- Anethra Helbane - Anethra Helbane was a powerful Sorceress of the Dark Covent and former noblewoman of Nargarythe before the time of the Sundering.
- 1: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (8th Edition)
- 2: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (7th Edition)
- 3: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (6th Edition)
- 4: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (5th Edition)
- 4a: pg.
- 5: Old World Beastiary (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 5a: pg. 42
- 6: Tome of Corruption (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 6a: pg. 160