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Warhammer Wood Elves Durthu

Durthu, Eldest of Ancients

Durthu, or Oakheart, is an Elder of Athel Loren, a Treeman so ancient that even Ariel’s millennia-long existence pales in comparison. It was he who first forged a union between Elves and forest, and he also who argued with his fellow Elders that the binding be made permanent. In those days, he was ever a friend to the children of Isha, always willing to help them broaden their understanding of the forest and of the Weave.[1b]

Alas, those days are long gone. Centuries of destruction and carnage have taken their toll on Durthu’s valiant spirit. He has borne witness to the rapacity of blooded fife, and of the wanton destruction it has heaped upon his homeland. He has seen untold acres of trees felled for kindling or from simple spite. He has watched, time and again, as the Elves have invited calamity on the forest through an inability to sever their connection to the outside world. Worst of all, he has seen his fellow Elders fall, one by one; some slain by their own foes but most destroyed by the enemies of the Elves.[1b]

HistoryEdit

The spirit known as Durthu is as old as the very forest of Athel Loren itself. He was amongst the first of the trees within that magical forest to gain a measure of consciousnesses, nurturing and watching over the others while the world lived during a time of great peace and prosperity. Before long, the great forest became aware of itself, and of the blooded life that crawled upon the world like insects. The great forest treated some races with tolerance, and even friendship. Others, especially those greedy folk who saw the trees only as a ready source of fuel, were met with ruthless fury, sparking legends of remorseless tree-daemons that would last for millennia.[1a]


OriginsEdit

By this time, the Oak of Ages at the great forest’s heart had spread its roots across many lands, creating a web of worldroots that the spirits of the wood could traverse to reach faraway places. So did the great forest first discover the summerlands of Avelorn, and encounter the Elves of Ulthuan. No race grew closer to the spirits of the great forest than the Elves, who in their innocence, marveled at its wondrous nature, and whispered with its ancient spirits so that they might learn their secrets. One of the spirits in particular, Durthu — or Oakheart, as the Elves named him - grew fond of Avelorn’s folk, in particular of their Everqueen Astarielle.

Soon, he consented to teach them how to shape the trees without harming branch or bough, and blessed them with many other secrets his kind possessed. For a short time thereafter, Avelorn knew a golden age that would eclipse any that followed. Under the combined stewardship of Elves and forest spirits, the woods and meadows blossomed into incredible life. Many of the great forest’s spirits forsook their home for Avelorn’s paradise, for they were determined to awaken those trees as they themselves had been awakened. Yet, though Avelorn became ever more wondrous and beautiful, its trees remained silent. Then the Daemons came.[1a]


The Coming of ChaosEdit

Chaos Coming

Forest Spirits defending their realm from the horrors of Daemons.

With the collapse of the great polar gates, Chaos swept across the world. Everywhere, civilizations burned and madness overtook order. Ulthuan suffered greater than any other land, for many amongst the daemonic host thirsted for Elven souls above all others. Had great heroes not arisen to meet the challenge, the Elves would have been utterly destroyed and their land made over into a court of pandemonium. Greatest of these heroes was Aenarion the Defender, first of the Phoenix Kings. It was he who rallied the Elves to hold back the daemonic tide, and his example ever spurred others to greater deeds. In time, Aenarion took the Everqueen Astarielle as his wife, and she bore him two fine children: Morelion, and Yvraine. As the Phoenix King fought to preserve Ulthuan, the Everqueen withdrew into the hallowed woods of Avelorn to raise their children as far from war as those days would allow.[1a]

Avelorn had so far been spared the horrors of the invasion, for the Daemons sensed that Durthu and his kind were not dissimilar in nature to themselves, and were wary of attacking their domain if easier prey was close at hand. Such a state of affairs could not last, however. One fateful day, when Aenarion’s army was campaigning far from Avelorn, a daemonic host greater than any yet seen descended upon Avelorn, and the slaughter began. As Avelorn burned, Durthu and his kind fought alongside the Elves - they could have fled back to the great forest, but chose to stand with their allies. Many were destroyed, others were driven mad with despair, yet still the spirits of the forest battled on. But Avelorn could neither be saved by valour nor by strength of arms. Hour by hour, the Elves and spirits were driven deeper into their heartlands, until finally there was nowhere left to retreat to.[1a]

It was late on that last day that Astarielle came to Durthu with a desperate request: that he rescue her children from the coming doom. For a time, Durthu stood silent, as the forest burned around them, the tears and pleas of his petitioner seemingly unheeded. To carry blooded creatures along the Oak of Ages’ worldroots would no doubt be seen as a dire transgression, and he was minded not to invoke the wrath of his peers, yet in his time in Avelorn, Durthu had seen how the Elves and forest spirits had been far stronger and wiser together than they had been apart — if either survived the darkness, that strength would surely serve the great forest well in whatever world followed. So it was that when Durthu spoke again, he agreed to Astarielle’s request. But, he cautioned, there would be a price to pay. If he saved the Everqueen’s offspring, the great forest would one day claim many Elves as its own, so that they might serve and protect it as they had tended the land of Avelorn.[1a]

Now it was Astarielle’s turn to fall silent, for there was something ominous in Durthu’s tone. Yet she had little choice - if Yvraine died, the line of the Everqueen would die with her, and the Elves would soon after fade forever. It was then that a colossal Daemon broke through the Elven lines, bellowing in triumph as it swept aside the last of the Everqueen’s bodyguard with its four mighty arms. Even in a day beset with horrors, this was a cruel fate. No mere foot soldier of the Daemon host was this, but mighty N’kari, foremost servant of thirsting Slaanesh. He was not merely a despoiler of bodies, but a devourer of spirits; his cruel embrace brought not death but the oblivion of the soul. Kissing her children once last time, the Everqueen now gave them hurriedly into Durthu’s keeping. As the spirit led Morelion and Yvraine away, Astarielle summoned what little of her magic remained unspent and went calmly down into the battle to meet her destiny.[1a]


The Corruption of NatureEdit

When Durthu returned to the great forest, he was dismayed that his home had fared little better than Avelorn. The great greenwood that had once sprawled across the world was now but a fraction of its former size. The land where it had flourished bore the scars of fire and wild magic that had driven it back, and even then its borders were assailed by Daemons beyond counting. It seemed he had exchanged one hopeless battle for another, yet appearances were deceptive. As the great forest’s battle for survival had become more desperate, the natures of some of its spirits — particularly those of the striplings — had changed.[1a]

Many were now wilder and more aggressive, perhaps even cruel, and their lithe and slender forms had grown much more suited to battle. It also transpired that much of the forest that had been destroyed in Durthu’s absence had been lost many years ago. The outpost that remained, nestled between the shoulders of two great mountain ranges, had held its ground for more than a decade, and was even now spreading outward once more. Yet if Durthu had been wrong about the forest’s plight, he had been correct about his fellow Elders’ reception. Adanhu, wisest of the tree lords, was readily displeased that the sanctity of the worldroots had been breached.[1a]

Coeddil, who had for long centuries directed the great forest’s wrath against its despoilers, was consumed with bitter fury and demanded that the interlopers be slain. At first, Adanhu agreed with Coeddil, but eventually relented. Eldest he was and fearful of change, but so too did he fear that the forest’s survival might have come only by sacrificing the peaceful side of their nature. Unchecked, the spirits of the great forest would become an enemy as dire as that which they had fought, and Durthu’s bargain presented some small hope that such a destiny could be prevented. Though Coeddil railed angrily against the decision, Adanhu agreed that Astarielle’s heirs could remain within the great forest until their homeland was safe once more — provided that they never awakened from their magical sleep whilst within its bounds. Thus did Morelion and Yvraine slumber through the last terrible deeds of that war. Avelorn was cleansed, and in time would become beautiful once more, but it would never recapture the glory of its heyday. The spirits of the great forest fought on as best they could, knowing that they could not end the onslaught, only endure it.[1a]

As for Aenarion, he was driven to madness by the loss of his wife and children. Soon after, he fell into darkness, only to redeem himself upon is death. In the end, the world was saved not by force of arms, but by the cunning of an Elf mage, whose great ritual of banishment cast the Daemons from the world. With the passing of the Daemons, Durthu was finally able to keep the promise he had made to Astarielle. Journeying through the worldroots once more, he brought Morelion and Yvraine to Ulthuan’s beautiful Gaean Vale, and there left them to be discovered. Neither sibling ever recalled anything of leaving Ulthuan, only that Oakheart had rescued them on the night of their mother’s sacrifice. Yvraine soon became the next Everqueen, and Morelion a stalwart protector ever at her side.[1a]

As for Durthu, he longed to rebuild the glory of Avelorn, but knew that the great forest needed his guidance far more. Gathering to him almost all of the spirits that had survived the invasion of Ulthuan, he returned home. Many centuries passed. Little by little, the spirits of the great forest and the lessons they had taught passed from the tales of the Elves, remaining only in half-remembered tradition and folktales. In time, Ulthuan grew in power and glory, establishing many colonies overseas. The world was riven by earthquakes, and the worldroots were severed, isolating the great forest from the wider world. Through it all, the Elders watched with patient eyes, awaiting the opportunity to collect on Astarielle’s debt.[1a]


The SunderingEdit

The Sundering

The sundering of the Elven race

Far away, an age of tragedy was dawning. Malekith, son of Aenarion by his second wife, sought to claim the Phoenix Throne by force and, in so doing, split the Elven race forever. No longer was there one race of Elves — now there were the Dark Elves loyal to the traitor Malekith, and the High Elves who were true to the Phoenix Throne. Ulthuan was torn apart in the battles that followed and, by the time Malekith led his defeated followers to the chill land of Naggaroth, the shattered nation was but a shadow of its former self.[1a]

Never again would the High Elves know peace. On those rare occasions which they were not locked in vendetta with their hated cousins, their colossal arrogance sparked conflict elsewhere, chiefly with the Dwarfs of the mountains. Many colonies were drawn into these fruitless campaigns, but the Elves of Athel Loren refused to become involved. When Phoenix King Caradryel finally gave the order that all loyal folk of Ulthuan should abandon their colonies and return home, only the Elves of Athel Loren refused, and they soon declared their independence from the Phoenix Throne. As the High Elves withdrew westward, the Dwarfs advanced. As the first snows of winter began to fall, the grudgeful children of the mountains descended upon Athel Loren, hacking and burning. This callous action drove the forest into a fury, but its spirits had ever been sluggish during the months of frost. The Dryads were soon scattered or slain, and Durthu, the only ancient not yet at slumber, was wounded near to death by keen Dwarfen axes.[1a]

Realizing that the forest could not defeat the Dwarfs alone, Durthu bade it draw back from the encroachers, and open up pathways that thrust them onto the fringes of the Elven settlements. Thinking themselves under attack, the Elves assailed the Dwarfs, filling the air with volley after volley of arrows. As the forest had twisted the advance of the Dwarfs so too did it now guide the footsteps of the Elves. Whenever the Dwarfs turned to face this threat, the Elves slipped away into the trees, only to emerge impossible distances away moments later. Unable to defeat a foe upon which they could not lay honest steel, the remaining Dwarfs retreated.

In the wake of victory, the Elves began to dwell within the borders of Athel Loren, for they feared reprisals from the Dwarfs more than they did the capricious will of the forest. The forest did not resist, and the Elves wondered why. The wayward children of Ulthuan never heard the harsh words that raged between Adanhu and Coeddil as they argued over their fate. Durthu, instigator of the current situation, remained silent through it all. He had suffered greatly from the Dwarfen axes; his once-kind nature had all but fallen away, and he no longer fully trusted his own judgement. Ultimately, Adanhu’s will prevailed, and the forest now opened up many of its secrets to the Elves, though the Dryads and Treemen took care never to intentionally reveal themselves.[1a]

At the very heart of Athel Loren, Ariel, foremost amongst the Elven magi, spoke with the forest for the first time and before long, many Elves learnt this art of treesinging. It was then that the Elves, always respectful of all things natural, truly embraced Athel Loren as their home. More than that, the Elves treated the forest with the awe and reverence it deserved and demanded, seeing the essence of their ancestral gods in its seasonal cycles. They vowed never to take from the forest without giving back equally in service and sacrifice. When the Elves needed wood to burn in order to survive the icy winters, they would take only fallen branches, and in the spring they would nurture and tend to new saplings, encouraging them to shape graceful halls above and below the ground. When the Elves hunted the animals of the forest for food and clothing, they used all that they took, and gave thanks to Athel Loren in ceremonies of blood. Thus was the pact between Durthu and Alariathe finally fulfilled.[1a]


CharacteristicsEdit

In his most earliest history, Durthu was a being that knew the concept of compassion during his time with the Elves of Ulthuan, a time when that race greatest characteristics was their boundless compassion to all life. Now Durthu’s benevolence is gone, replaced by an abiding madness. No longer is he a healer and teacher; he has taken up a sword, forged specially for him by Daith, and become solely a destroyer. He makes no distinction between the lost, the innocent and the wicked - all who tread Durthu’s beloved glades without leave are doomed if the Elder happens upon them. Only the Elves are spared Durthu’s wrath, for he does not blame them for what has come to pass, only himself. Yet nor does he any longer consider the children of Isha to be his friends, and now shuns their company as determinedly as he once embraced it. Allies they might be, through the common cause of survival, but that is all.[1b]

For their part, the Elves mourn for Durthu. As long-lived creatures themselves, they know well the cruelty of the world, but can only imagine the sorrows an eternity of destruction has inflicted on a creature older than their entire race. Alas, it is beyond the power of the Elves to heal Durthu’s weary heart; but it is not, perhaps, beyond his own. When an Elder of the Forest is slain, his essence is absorbed by his peers. As one of only two survivors, Durthu now commands fully half the combined might of every Elder that ever existed — more than enough to heal his ravaged soul, and to achieve many miraculous things besides. Sadly, so clouded by rage and loss has his mind become, that he is unaware of the power at his command.[1b]

What little Durthu employs, he does so only on an instinctive level to augment his already formidable strength or loose swarms of ethereal spite-creatures against his enemies. Manifestations of Durthu’s inner sorrow, these wraithlike apparitions chill the soul and spirit of any whom they assail. On those rare occasions on which Durthu slumbers, they sing maliciously through his dreams, ceaselessly reminding the Elder of all the ways in which he has failed his beloved forest. Yet still the potential remains for this being, once the noblest of his kind, to bring a new age of splendour to Athel Loren, if only he can abandon his hatred.[1b]

MiniaturesEdit

  • 8th Edition. (Front)
  • 8th Edition. (Back / Rear)

Sources Edit

  • 1: Warhammer Armies: Wood Elves (8th Edition)
    • 1a: pg. 15 - 27
    • 1a: pg. 53

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