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- "Our beautiful land is besieged on all sides, but we resist the like our fathers did before us. We will emerge victorious and more intractable than ever to these turbulent times when our corrupt brothers come to ravage our shores. We are the Asur, the son of Aenarion and Ulthuan shall never fall. "
- —Prince Tyrion, Defender of Ulthuan
The High Elves, or the Asur as they call themselves,[1c] are one of the most ancient and powerful mortal civilizations within the Warhammer World.[2b] Hailing from a mighty mist-shrouded island-continent located within the center of the Great Ocean,[1e] the High Elves of Ulthuan are a proud and mighty nation of masterful warriors, peerless mages and lords of the sky and sea. They are an ancient race with powerful armies and even grander magic, building an ancient and all-mighty mortal civilization who, alongside the Dwarfs, fought a long-forgotten, apocalyptic war which saw some of the greatest and most powerful mortal heroes battle for this worlds survival, holding back the great darkness that tried to consume the world many thousands of years ago. At the zenith of their power, the world was truly theirs for the taking.[2b]
Yet their noble and compassionate nature, which was once one of the Elves greatest and most memorable trait was soon replaced by a boundless sense of pride and hubris in their own vanity and superiority, and in their arrogance and misguidance, they've only succeeded in shattering their once powerful friendship with the Dwarfs, culminating in a Great War which only crippled these two elder races and perhaps the future of this very world. Isolated and alone in a world they no longer control, the High Elves are facing the twilight years of their existence, their cities no longer bustling with vibrancy and life as they use to be but now serve as a gloomy reminder of their ultimate, impending demise.[2b]
The time of the High Elves has passed, or so it is said, yet such is their immense pride that they fight on nonetheless, for they consider themselves the true and rightful protectors of this ancient world, and they believe that so long as their civilization persist throughout the ages, this dying world will never fall into complete darkness. If oblivion is indeed to be their fate, they have chosen to face it with arrow nocked and sword held high, defending the world they have loved and protected for so long. So do the white-garbed hosts of Ulthuan march to war, banners streaming in the wind and every warrior reconciled to death in service of a greater cause; the protection of this very world.[1c]
The history of the High Elves of Ulthuan is the history of the world. They were once the masters of the mortal realm, and their actions have shaped the fates of many lands. Alas, the High Elves are now passing into twilight, their works and deeds dying alongside them. The empire of the Phoenix Kings, which once ruled entire continents, is now confined to the kingdoms of Ulthuan and scattered overseas outposts. Alabaster cities that once bustled with vibrancy are now naught but empty echoes of a bygone age, and lands that knew nothing but beauty and nobility now reek with the blood and fury of unremitting war.
Reign of Aenarion (-4498 to -4419 IC)
Aenarion was the greatest and most tragic of all Elf heroes: a doomed champion, a fallen god. He was the mightiest warrior in an age of darkness and constant strife; best-loved and most accursed of all the Phoenix Kings of Ulthuan. Aenarion's reign began in a time of terror and strife. The polar gates, once used by the star-walking Old Ones to step from world to world, had collapsed, unleashing a roiling tide of magical energy across the world. In the magic's wake came the daemonic legions of the Chaos Gods, who sought to claim the mortal world for their own. Against a foe such as this the Elves stood no chance, for they were unschooled in warfare and their magic was used only for peaceful pursuits. Ulthuan was soon ablaze with war and slaughter, and the Elves pleaded to their gods for salvation.[1g]
First of the Phoenix Kings
Aenarion was a wanderer who had travelled the length of the world, but who swiftly returned to Ulthuan in its time of need. Realising that the Elves could not long stand against the unfettered fury of Chaos, Aenarion battled his way through the land to the Shrine of Asuryan. There he offered himself to the sacred fire, and implored Asuryan to save his people. Asuryan made no response, but Aenarion held to his promise and cast himself into the white-hot flames - yet Aenarion did not die that day. He emerged unscathed from the fires, transformed by Asuryan's divine will from mortal Elf to the first and mightiest of the Phoenix Kings. Aenarion began his reign with a truly auspicious victory. Outside the walls of the temple, he faced a howling Daemon horde whose black hearts were set on toppling the shrine, that the sacred fires might be forever extinguished.[1g]
With a single throw of his hunting spear, Aenarion slew the Daemon-lord who led the charge. Then, scarcely breaking step, he took up the Daemon's weapon and butchered the rest of that abominable host. Word of Aenarion's victory swiftly spread across Ulthuan. All Elvenkind took heart at his actions, and rallied to him even as the Daemons reeled from the defeat. Caledor Dragontamer, the greatest wizard of the era, swore fealty to Aenarion, and together they trained the Elves in the art of battle. Whilst Aenarion bade the priests of Vaul forge mighty weapons of tempered ithilniar and steel, Caledor undertook the tutelage of his fellow mages, teaching them great sorceries to banish and destroy. Thus changed the Elves' fortunes.[1g]
With Aenarion at their head, the children of Ulthuan took the fight to the Daemons, casting down their champions and hurling their armies back into the Realm of Chaos. For nearly a century, the war dragged on without respite or sign of victory, and the Elves began to lose heart. Moments of peace were few, and even these were tainted by the knowledge that the Daemons would soon return. Even the implacable Aenarion realised that there could be no victory —only a slow and inevitable defeat. Ultimately, it was Caledor, that wisest and most ancient of sorcerers, who would offer salvation. He devised a plan to create a cosmic vortex that would drain magic from the world, and with it the Daemons who rode upon its fury.[1g]
It was a desperate plan, with little i hope of success, but Caledor, and many like him, thought a last desperate gamble would be preferable to the slow death the Elf people were enduring. Aenarion opposed Caledor's plan, calling it the counsel of despair. Although in his heart he knew that the war was unwinnable, the Phoenix King was determined to put off the end for as long as possible, A rather than risk Caledor's plan failing. Such were Aenarion's charisma and powers of reason, that he surely would have changed Caledor's mind entirely. Yet soon thereafter, Daemons overran Avelorn. Astarielle, Everqueen of Uhhuan and wife to Aenarion, was slain in the attack, and their children could not be found amongst the carnage.[1g]
Upon hearing of his family's fate, Aenarion was overcome with terrible fury. He swore to kill every Daemon on the face of the world and declared that he would travel to the Blighted Isle. Dread filled those who heard his words, for it could mean only one thing: Aenarion intended to draw forth the Widowmalcer, a weapon of terrible power that had waited, embedded in the great black Altar of Khaine since the beginning of time. As old as the world itself, it was the ultimate weapon, death itself made manifest — a splinter of the fatal weapon forged for the death god Khaine, capable of slaying mortals and gods alike. All knew that to wield Khaine's blade was to invite death, damn your soul and doom your lineage forevermore. Upon learning of his liege's intent, Caledor beseeched Aenarion to relent, but he would not be dissuaded.[1g]
Ignoring all warnings from mortal and immortal alike, Aenarion vaulted onto the back of Indraugnir, the greatest of the Dragons, and set off for the Blighted Isle. The journey was long and arduous and tested even Indraugnir's might. Winged Daemons assailed Elf and Dragon as they travelled, trying to turn Aenarion from his path. The Elf gods whispered warnings in Aenarion's ear, but if he heard, he paid no heed. Parting ways with Indraugnir just a few leagues from the Altar of Khaine, Aenarion walked towards his fate. It is said that even the ghost of his departed wife pleaded with I him to turn back. Yet, as he stood before the altar, Aenarion hardened his heart and wrenched free the great blood-dripping weapon, sealing his fate, and that of his people.[1g]
When Aenarion returned, those Elves most embittered by the war flocked to this side, and he created a kingdom in the dismal land of Nagarythc. There, to the surprise of everyone, he took another wife, the beautiful seeress Morathi. In time, Morathi bore him a second son, whom they named Malekith. Soon after, the court of Aenarion earned itself a dark reputation, and the Elves of other lands were reluctant to go there. Tales of cruelty at Aenarion's court began to spread across Ulthuan. Even Caledor led his Dragon-riders south to his own land. It is said that Caledor's departure angered Aenarion greatly, but the Daemons struck again before his wrath could bear fruit. Such was the size and ferocity of the daemonic attack that it became obvious to all but Aenarion that the war was lost and the world was doomed to eternal darkness.[1g]
The Great Ritual
Caledor, fully aware of Aenarion's incipient madness, decided that there was only one thing left he could do. He called together a convocation of the greatest High Elf sorcerers then living, and assembled them on the Isle of the Dead. With Caledor Dragontamer intent on performing the ritual, Aenarion was left with no choice. He assembled his forces and moved to defend the mages on the Isle of the Dead. At the centre of Ulthuan, the two forces met. Dragons, so numerous that their wings darkened the sky, descended upon the Chaos host. Elves and Daemons were slain in their thousands, and the death agonies of monsters filled the sea with foam. As the creation of the vortex began, the seas churned and a terrible wind blew from the north. The skies darkened, and raw magic lashed the tortured earth.[1g]
At the last, Aenarion, with only the faithful Indraugnir beside him, fought a bloody battle against four Greater Daemons of the Chaos Gods as they strove to breach Caledor's wards. It was a battle no mortal could ever win, yet Aenarion's fury and determination that day set him amongst the ranks of the gods —one by one, the foul creatures fell beneath the Sword of Khaine, though Aenarion was mortally wounded in return. While the battle raged, the High Elf sorcerers chanted the spell that would create the vortex. Chain lightning flickered. The world shuddered. For a moment all was silent. Then the mountains shivered. Terrible energies pulsed between earth and sky. From the mountaintops, bolts of pure power leapt to converge over the Isle of the Dead.[1g]
While Aenarion and his outnumbered army fought, the sorcerers it/ It struggled to complete their ritual. One by one they died, the weakest succumbing first as the magic that they sought to control burned out their minds. Even as Aenarion defeated the four Daemons, the ritual was finally completed — or at least partially so. The High Elf sorcerers had succeeded in opening a vortex to drain away the raging magic, but were trapped within it, eternally keeping it open, forever held in their battle with Chaos. His foes defeated, but his body ruined, Aenarion climbed wearily upon the back of the wounded Indraugnir and made once more for the Blighted Isle. Barely managing to complete the journey, Indraugnir crashed to the ground on the shores of that dismal island.[1g]
Trembling from fatigue and the terrible wounds to his ancient body, Indraugnir gave one last bellow of defiance and died. Alone, Aenarion crawled back to the Altar of Khaine. He knew that should anyone take the weapon of Khaine, they could rule the world, and so he thrust it back into the rock from whence it came. Then, it is said, he lay down beside the ravaged and torn bulk of his beloved steed and passed from that age of the world. The immediate effects of Caledor Dragontamer's ritual were a series of magical storms, earthquakes and tidal waves that ravaged the land for three days. Thousands died as the shores of Ulthuan were swept clear by monstrous waves, ships were sunk and the sky was split by lightning bolts. When the storms abated, though, the polar gates were sealed and the daemonic legions were gone. Ulthuan was a land in ruins, but at least it had a future.[1g]
Reign of Bel-Shanaar (-4419 to 2749 IC)
A year to the day after Aenarion disappeared, the princes of Ulthuan convened at the Shrine of Asuryan to elect a new Phoenix King. The obvious choice was Malekith, Aenarion's son by Morathi. He had grown to be a mighty warrior, a great sorcerer, and an excellent general, but there were those amongst the High Elf nobility who remembered the cruel days of Aenarion's court in Nagarythe and they doubted that any child raised there could be entirely wholesome.[1g]
Malekith said that he desired the kingship not for himself but in honor of the memory of his father. However, if the princes did not call upon him to serve, he would willingly swear fealty to whoever was selected. The princes thought this handsomely said, and took Malekith at his word. From their own number they chose Bel Shanaar, Prince of Tiranoc, an Elf who had distinguished himself in the war and yet was seen as a voice of peace and reason. Morathi shrieked her protests at her son not being chosen, but Malekith calmed her and agreed that the selection was a good one. He was the first to bend his knee to the future Phoenix King.[1g]
Age of Colonization
So began the great days of exploration. Colonies were planted across the face of the world. Contact was established with the Dwarfs and a great era of trade and friendship began. Bel Shanaar, a seaman of wondrous skill, personally visited the new colonies and even ventured to Karaz-a-Karak in the World's Edge Mountains to swear the Oath of Friendship with the High King Snorri Whitebeard. According to the Book of Honour of the Dwarf hold, Bel Shanaar gifted Snorri a single casket of Ellyrion wine of tremendous value. Keen to show his appreciation, the High King broke the lid with his axe and guzzled its contents in one go, wiping the spillage with his beard as his subjects cheered. It isn't known what the Elven courtiers thought of this, nor what Bel Shanaar felt about receiving twelve barrels of Gutstrangle's Owd Nasty Dwarf Ale and a two gallon tankard in return.[1g]
Afterwards, Malekith became his ambassador there. Thus, though none could yet know it, were sown the seeds of tragedy. As the Elves spread and multiplied across the face of the world, wealth flowed back into Ulthuan. The Elven cities became places of beauty and wonder once again. And, though the folk did not realise it, Chaos returned -- slowly, softly and insidiously. It came in a new guise, and so there were no defense raised against -- it spread in the form of Cults of Luxury and Pleasure. As the cults' influence spread, and their excesses deepened, the Phoenix King grew ever more concerned. Rumours abounded of living sacrifice and unwholesome association with the very darkest of forbidden gods. So it was that on his return to Ulthuan, Malekith found a realm in the grip of suspicion. The Cults of Excess were strongest in Nagarythe, his homeland, and his mother, the Lady Morathi, had long been a devotee. Indeed, legend has it she was one of the founding members, and their High Priestess.[1g]
Malekith appeared horrified by what he found in Nagarythe. He denounced the entire coven of pleasure worshippers, including his mother, and handed them over to the Phoenix King. Ingratiating himself further with the Phoenix King, he championed the hunt for hidden members of the cults. It seemed that cultists could be found in all levels of society. Nobody was safe from his scrutiny. Military action against the cults seemed inevitable. Malekith called Ulthuan's lords to a Council of War at the Shrine of Asuryan. On the eve of the council, the worst of horrors was revealed: Malekith claimed the Phoenix King himself was a secret member of one of these cults. Before Bel Shanaar could deny this, Malekith had him poisoned.[1g]
The Treachery of Malekith
With this act, Malekith had gone too far. No-one could believe that the king had been a worshipper of the cults, certainly not the assembled princes who had all known Bel Shannar long and well. Too late, the light of suspicion fell on Malekith. He and his followers already had the Shrine of Asuryan in their possession. The princes and their bodyguards were trapped within his grasp, and a secret treaty with his kin in Nagarythe meant an army of cultists would impose Malekith's will on the leaderless Elves. Believing that all he had to do was crown himself and slay the princes to ensure his ascendance, Malekith marched into the sacred flame, confident that, like his father before him, he could endure the ordeal.[1g]
He was wrong. The flame of Asuryan would not suffer his polluted body to pass through it as many have repeatedly said. Thus did the flame that brought Aenarion miraculous rebirth bring nothing but ruin to his deceitful and treacherous son. Malekith was caught within the fire, his body terribly scarred and burned. It is said that his screams were so terrible that none who heard them could ever cast them from memory. However, Malekith's twisted will was not yet spent. Unable to pass through the fires that even then ravaged his body, he managed to cast himself back into the side of the platform from which he had entered. With their leader on the verge of death, Malekith's followers took up their master's body and fled the shrine, leaving most of the Elf princes dead within and massacring all who stood in their path. The Sundering, an age of tragedy and conflict was about to begin.[1g]
Reign of Caledor I (-2749 to -2198 IC)
With Malekith's betrayal, the Elven realms were plunged into turmoil once more. Malekith and his followers fled north to Nagarythe. Leaderless, the High Elves did not pursue. Frantic consultations were held between the surviving princes, the chief priest of the Shrine of Asuryan and the Captain of the Phoenix Guard. It was decided that there was only one Elf capable of the task: the third Phoenix King would be Imrik, who upon his succession took the name Caledor the First, for he was the grandson of the famous mage of same name.[1g]
Scarcely had Caledor been affirmed when the legions of Nagarythe swept down from their grim realm, bearing Malekith's banner before them. Thus did civil war engulf Ulthuan and the colonies -- a desperate conflict in which quarter was neither asked nor given. Malekith himself rode at the head of his host, a dread figure clad in armour as black as his soul -- then, and ever after, he would be known as the Witch King.[1g]
As the war went on, the folk of Nagarythe became ever more desperate, relying on the blackest of sorceries and daemonic pacts. Thus did they come to be known as Dark Elves. Consumed by madness, the Witch King decided on a final scheme with which he would undo the spells that held together the Great Vortex, and return Chaos to the world. The daemonic legions would march once more upon the face of the world -- but this time to the aid of their new allies. Shocked by the turn of events, one amongst the Witch King's court saw this plan for the madness it was, and brought word of it to Caledor.[1g]
So began a last deadly conflict. As the Witch King and his councillors began their terrible ritual, the greatest wizards of the Elves attempted to stop them, but such was the awesome power of the Witch King's dark magic that he and his coven of mages slowly and inexorably gained the upper hand. The heavens shook and the earth trembled. In the far north of the world, the Realm of Chaos churned and prepared to advance once more. In the camp of the Phoenix King, Caledor prayed to all the gods and to his grandsire to aid him.[1g]
At dusk, the Witch King and his followers began their final push. Daemonic sorcerers came to their aid, and the last spells of the defenders collapsed before their onslaught. From the sky, the triumphant laughter of the Dark Gods was heard. Then, as the tainted magic touched the Isle of the Dead at the very heart of the vortex, new players entered the game. Mighty figures clad in light sent the surge of mystical power tumbling back to Nagarythe. The trapped mages of the Isle of the Dead refused to let their work be undone.[1g]
As the wave of energy reached Nagarythe, the island buckled under the titanic stress. Across Ulthuan, earthquakes cast down cities and toppled mountains. A wall of water a thousand feet high smashed down on Nagarythe. The sea rushed in to cover all the dark kingdom and most of Tiranoc besides. Thousands were slain -- drowned by waves, buried by earthquakes or struck by magical lightning. The shock was felt as far away as the World's Edge Mountains and is recorded in the chronicles of the Dwarf Kings.[1g]
Death of the Conqueror
With the High Elves weakened and in disarray, the surviving Dark Elves retreated northwards and founded the kingdom of Naggaroth in a bleak and bitter land. For a century, both sides nursed their wounds. Soon though, there began a long period of sea warfare and skirmishing over the north of Ulthuan as the Witch King sought to gain a foothold once more. Neither side had the strength to dominate, and the Blighted Isle, where the Widowmaker still rested, changed hands several times. During this period, Caledor oversaw the building of the fortresses at Griffon Gate, Phoenix Gate, Eagle Gate, Dragon Gate, and Unicorn Gate.[1g]
Caledor personally led the last expedition to the Blighted Isle and reclaimed it from the Dark Elves. It is said that he stood before the Altar of Khaine and for a moment the Blade called to him. He stood there for a time, head bowed, and in the end, simple said no. Returning home from the conquest of the Blighted Isle, Caledor's ship was separated from the rest of the High Elf fleet by a freak storm. It was attacked by Dark Elf raiders who set the ship alight. For long hours, Caledor and his crew fought off their attackers, but the Dark Elves gradually gained the upper hand, and the Phoenix King realised that he and his remaining warriors could not win. Rather than fall into the hands of the Witch King's servants and die a miserable, ignoble death, Caledor jumped into the sea clad in full armour and committed suicide. Thus passed Caledor the Conqueror. It was a bad end for a great king.[1g]
Reign of Caledor II (-2198 to -1599 IC)
Caledor I had perished, but his legacy remained. For his successor, he left a strong army, a secure line of fortresses in the north and the most powerful navy in the world. When the Council of Princes chose Caledor's son to succeed him, continuity was foremost in their minds -- to an Elf people desperate for stability, Caledor II promised a familiar hand at the tiller. Alas, Caledor II shared few of his father's traits. Where his father had been wise, Caledor II was foolish. Where the father had been a great general, the son was rash and impetuous.[1g]
As the Elves returned to the Old World in strength, trade between the two realms of Elf and Dwarf grew. Whilst rumours of the Elven civil war had reached the ears of the Dwarfs, they didn't really understand the full extent of the situation. Reaving and kinslaying were completely alien concepts to them, and no Dwarf would ever break his oath to his liege lord. Unfortunately, Malekith had been shown the secret trade routes of the Dwarfs during his period as Bel Shanaar's ambassador, and he now used that knowledge to his own benefit. Dark Elves, garbed as warriors of Ulthuan, fell upon the Dwarf caravans in IV, 193, seizing their goods and leaving tokens of their passage that the Dwarfs could not help but trace back to the Elves of Ulthuan.[1g]
Suspicion fell instantly upon the High Elves, and High King Gotrek Starbreaker demanded recompense. When word of this demand reached Caledor in IV, 198, his reply was immediate and undiplomatic. He sent a message saying that the Phoenix King did not answer demands but granted pleas. In turn, King Gotrek sent a blunt reply saying he made pleas to neither Elf nor god and demanded twice the recompense because of the implied insult. When the ambassador entered his court, Caledor sent the Dwarf ambassador back with his beard shaved off and said that if Gotrek wanted compensation he should come to Ulthuan, beg before him and collect it.[1g]
War of the Beards
Thus, in IV 201, began the War of the Beard, born from the dangerous combination of honour and stiff-necked pride. Dwarf armies quickly laid siege to the trading city of Tor Alessi, and Gotrek swore an oath that he would have his hoard of gold or find its equal weight in Elf blood. If he were to fail on his oath, he would take the Slayers Path and shave his head to compensate for lost honor. It was a mighty oath. The beardless ambassador had already become a Troll Slayer from the shame of having his beard shaved. The Dwarfs were determined that their king should not endure a similar fate.[1g]
Upon hearing of the Dwarf attack, the Phoenix King was outraged. He instantly dispatched an expedition to relieve Tor Alessi. Indeed, so mighty was the fleet, and so great was the army that it bore, that many of the Phoenix King's advisors feared that Ulthuan had been left all but defenseless, should they suffer another attack. Caledor flew into a towering rage and dismissed their fears as groundless.[1g]
Despite the arrival of Caledor's great host, the war dragged on. The fortress cities of the Dwarfs were virtually impregnable. The dour, stalwart Dwarf troops were quite unlike any foe the Elves had faced before. Displaying the tenacity and stubborness for which they have become renowned, the Dwarfs simply refused to give up or admit defeat, even when hopelessly outnumbered. For their part, the Dwarfs were astonished by the power of the Elf forces. They had judged the strength of Ulthuan by that of the least of its provinces. The huge armies of knights and disciplined infantry were not what they had expected. Still, in true Dwarf fashion, they were not about to admit to a mistake, especially to an Elf.[1g]
Death of the Warrior
The war engendered a legacy of hatred and bitterness that was to last for thousands of years. In response to the beard-shaving incident, the vengeful Dwarfs chopped down entire virgin forests simply to spite the Elves. In revenge, the Elves poisoned the tarns and underground lakes from which the Dwarfs drew their water, and a great sickness spread throughout the World's Edge Mountains. Both sides fought till nearly their entire military strength was spent. Tired of their lack of success, Caledor II dismissed his generals and took command of the Elven host personally in IV 596.[1g]
It was his last great mistake -- at the fourteenth siege of Tor Alessi, in IV 597, Caledor II was cut down by King Gotrek, who snatched the Phoenix Crown from his bloodied corpse and took it in payment for the Elves' insolence. With this final victory, the Dwarfs withdrew, claiming their honour was satisfied. Any petitions to return the Phoenix Crown were greeted with an invitation to come and plead for it. The first Phoenix Crown remains in the great vault of Karaz-a-Karak to the present day, an enduring source of festering hatred and recrimination between the two peoples.[1g]
Reign of Caradryel (-1599 to -996 IC)
Quiet and unassuming, Caradryel was an indifferent soldier that proved an able ruler. His first decree upon attaining the throne was that the colonies on the Old World would be abandoned, and their people brought home to Ulthuan. Faced with the implacable hostility of the Dwarfs, he deemed it foolish to maintain huge armies overseas, particularly with a more pressing threat to the Elf heartland coming from Naggaroth. Caradryel knew it would be many long ages of the world before the Dwarfs would consent to reconciliation without demanding ruinous recompense, but he also knew that there could be no war if the Dwarfs no longer had anyone to fight. Thus did Caradryel abandon pride.[1g]
He ordered the forging of a new Phoenix Crown and called the armies home. Among the haughtiest Elves there was a huge outcry. It seemed a gross insult to Elven pride that the Phoenix Crown should remain in Dwarf hands. Caradryel, ever a plainspoken individual, replied that he would rather lose the crown than the realm, and thereafter ignored the complaints. Additionally, there were protests from the Elf colonists, who saw the departure of the armies as a betrayal. Once more, Caradryel was unassailable in his intent, and direct in his rebuttal. He said simply that, if Elves required the protection of the armies of Ulthuan, then they should return home, where those armies could best offer that protection.[1g]
Many Elves did return but others, such as those in Athel Loren, refused to abandon their adopted homeland and declared themselves independent of the Phoenix Throne. Thus isolated from their kin, their culture thereafter took a different path from that practised on Ulthuan, in some ways staying truer to Elven tradition, and in others departing far from it. Though saddened by this turn of events, Caradryel attempted no forcible repatriation -- Ulthuan's situation was tenuous enough without risking another civil war. Caradryel now turned his gaze to matters of war. Recognising his own inexperience as a general, he appointed a succession of brilliant field commanders to lead the High Elf armies.[1g]
Tethlis of Caledor, in particular, established a brilliant reputation, lifting the siege of Griffon Gate and harrying the Dark Elves to within sight of Anlec. With his wars thus governed by veteran hands, Caradryel continued to oversee the long retreat from overseas. As ever more troops returned, he strengthened the forces holding the great gateway fortresses. He also initiated the system of rotating units to the forts in succession, so that the forces holding these valuable citadels would always be fresh and near to full strength. For the rest of Caradryel's reign, sporadic war blazed through northern Ulthuan.[1g]
Ever more Dark Elves flowed from Naggaroth, their blades lent purpose by centuries of nurtured hate. Yet all their twisted malice could not overcome the disciplined and impeccably trained armies of the Phoenix King, many of whom were veterans of the wars with the Dwarfs. The northern seas were the scene of many great naval battles, and despite an increased program of shipbuilding, the High Elves were never entirely able to sweep the seas clear of their foes. Caradryel was the first Phoenix King to die peacefully in bed.[1g]
Reign of Tethlis (-996 to -691 IC)
Tethlis loathed the Druchii with a passion, for they had murdered his family when he was but a child. At the start of his reign, the Dragons of Caledor began to succumb to a strange malaise, making them difficult to summon to war or even awaken from deep slumbers, and so Tethlis had to find new ways to compensate for the loss of these mighty beasts in his army. He began to train more and more soldiers, until he had rebuilt the Asur armies to a strength not seen since the time of Aenarion. When this was complete, Tethlis launched the Scouring, a long campaign to drive the Dark Elves out of Ulthuan.[1g]
The armies of Ulthuan and Naggaroth waged war against each other for centuries, the course of the war changing on the outcome of a single battle. The war reached heights of ferocity not seen since the days of the Sundering, as seen at the siege of Griffon Gate, where a Druchii army was ambushed by Tethlis' forces: only a counter-attack led by Malekith himself was enough to save the Dark Elves from destruction, or the siege of Tor Lehan, where the Asur and Druchii forces wiped each other out down to the last Elf, leaving no survivors.[1g]
After many years, Tethlis pushed the Druchii back into Nagarythe. He laid siege to Anlec and when it fell, gave the order for all Druchii prisoners -men, women and children- to be put to death - an action which only inflamed the hatred of the Dark Elves. Tethlis' commanders were also worried that the Phoenix King's hatred and bloodlust would spread to the Elven armies until they became no better than what they fought against.[1g]
On the 303rd year of his rule, he led a great armada to the Blighted Isle where he inflicted a mighty defeat upon the Druchii: he also found the armour of Aenarion himself and had the great heirloom passed onto the descendants of Morelion, Aenarion's son by his first wife. He later died under mysterious circumstances: some claimed that he was slain by a Dark Elf Assassin hiding among the bones surrounding the Sword of Khaine, others that he attempted to draw the weapon and as it began to come free, he was murdered by his own bodyguard, who feared the unleashing of the sword's terrible power. Whatever the truth of the matter, Tethlis did not return from the Blighted Isle and the Asur armada sailed home.[1g]
Reign of Bel-Korhadris (-691 to -499 IC)
While he did not neglect the defense of the realm, Bel-Korhadris was not given to fighting, believing that magic could shield Ulthuan from its enemies. A wizard-prince of Saphery, and a famed scholar[4a], he ruled wisely and well, and was loved by all. His reign was notable for being a time of near unbroken peace. The Dark Elves of Naggaroth had been so weakened by Tethlis' onslaught that they were afraid to attempt more than raids, which were seldom more than simple -- if unutterably cruel -- acts of piracy and brigandage.[1g]
It was well for the High Elves that their ancient enemies lay quiet, for the war had left much of Ulthuan in ruins, with untold villages and cities caught between the two armies. Worse, the war's constant demand for fresh warriors had left the foothills of the Annulii Mountains unguarded against the monsters of the peaks. As a result, many areas of Ulthuan that had suffered little from the ravages of war were preyed upon by Manticores and other fell creatures. Bel-Korhadris' first act as Phoenix King was, therefore, to decree an age of rebirth -- the ruined lands would be reclaimed, shattered settlements rebuilt, monsters driven out and the glory of Ulthuan restored once more.[1g]
Age of the Scholar
Thus began a reign that would be forever remembered as the start of a second golden age. During this time, the White Tower of Hoeth was constructed. This was to be the Scholar-King's greatest contribution to the rebirth of Ulthuan: a citadel of sorcery and scholarship, where the wisdom of the four corners of the world would be gathered, and grimoires of the most potent spells would be enshrined. For a thousand years, the Elves raised this vast sky-reaching structure, harnessing the secrets of artificer and mage in equal measure with every stone that was laid. Craftsmen laboured for nearly a millennium on intricate carvings. The tower was woven round with spells of illusion and warding to protect this treasured knowledge.[1g]
As work on the White Tower progressed, Bel-Korhadris founded the order of Loremasters who would be both the guardians and pupils of the knowledge assembled within. Every discipline, from warfare and sorcery to alchemy and astromancy, was to be studied. many famed scholars and sorcerers gathered at Hoeth, and such an exchange of knowledge occurred as had not been seen before, and has not been seen since. In the shadow of the needle-pointed spire, thousands of the wisest philosophers debated their knowledge. Within the library, a cadre of Loremasters began to inscribe the Book of Days, the great history of the Elven people on which all future histories would be based. It was during this time that the Swordmasters of Hoeth gathered to study the art of swordsmanship and protect the tower. They would later become a continent-wandering order of swordsmen intent on gathering information in service to the High Loremaster. By the time of 400-Scholar, an entire town of mages and scholars had sprung up within the shadow of the half-built tower.[1g]
The Great Hunt
Though Bel-Korhadris' own passion was the pursuit of knowledge, he recongised that scholarship and magic alone would not see Ulthuan preserved -- he knew that the time would again come when the High Elves would need heroes of the blade. He therefore encouraged the nobles of his court to prove their personal valor in vanquishing the beasts that roamed the land. Thus was Bel-Korhadris' reign also a renaissance of personal glory not seen in Ulthuan since the time of Aenarion, so vigorously did nobles of all ranks embrace the Phoenix King's charge. Slowly, but surely, the kingdoms of Ulthuan were scoured with fire and sword, the roaming monsters slain or else driven back into the Annulii Mountains to lick grievous wounds.[1g]
The threat of such creatures could never truly be ended, however. Even should an army prove bold enough to scour the Annullii Mountains, it could spend a thousand lifetimes amongst their peaks, and still not find every lair, nest, and roost. Each time the watch on the mountains grew lax, vile creatures slithered and crawled into Ulthuan's heartlands once more. Yet Bel-Korhadris did not seek lasting victory against the creatures of the mountains -- he desired only that his lands be reclaimed, and that the battle-skill of Ulthuan's nobility was not dulled by the years of relative peace. Bel-Korhadris died just three years after the completion of the White Tower in 1187 of his reign, and was buried amid its foundations. It is said that his ghost still haunts the crypts below the tower and occasionally assists scholars in their searches.[1g]
Reign of Aethis (499 to 1121 IC)
Bel-Korhadris was succeeded by Aethis of Saphery. He was the first Phoenix King who did not inherit an unstable kingdom or take the throne in the aftermath of a war. In his reign, the long peace continued. The Dark Elves lay quiescent in Naggaroth. Their raids ceased. Many suspected that they were a dying race, slowly passing into extinction. Rumours abounded that the Witch King had finally died. The Dwarfs, too, were content to be left alone. During the early centuries of Aethis' rule, news of the founding of a new human empire reached Ulthuan, but this seemed no great cause for concern. Nothing threatened the High Elves. Strangely enough, this was also the period when the High Elves came to realise they were a dying race. Even during the long golden days of peace, the population had fallen. The number of births had simply decreased and the great cities began to empty.[1g]
Aethis was a noted poet and singer. He gathered all the great artists of Ulthuan to his court in Saphery. Dramatists, painters, sculptors, writers of histories and masques all found a place in his palace of carved jade. This was the high-water mark of Elf culture, when most of their greatest works of art were created. This was the period that saw the creation plays of Tazelle, and Torion frireheart's animated court portraits. An army of sculptors and artisans beautified the mountains of Chrace. Above the Griffon Gate, a towering Griffon five hundred feet high seemed to leap from the mountain. So cunning was the sculptor's work that the story was told that it would come alive to guard the pass against any invader. Prodigious amounts of wealth were spent on grandiose projects such as these. The city of Lothern grew from a small fishing village to a great city to accommodate the increase in trade from the colonies and other realms. Contact was made with the old human empire in Cathay. Representatives of the Phoenix King arrived at the court of the Emperor of Cathay. Silk, jade and spices became valued commodities in Ulthuan.[1g]
Art and Decadence
Secure in their strength, the Elves began to run down their armies and fleets. After nearly fifteen hundred years of relative peace under Bel-Korhadris and Aethis, memories of old wars and old enmities began to fade. Approaches were made to the Dwarfs about the return of the Phoenix Crown. These were rebuffed, but the Elves took no insult. A certain complacency set in. Many nobles cast aside their martial pursuits and traditions, thinking such brutal arts an ill fit for these civilised times. Factions sprang up at court, and intrigue — always a dangerous pastime among the Elves — became a way of life for many. Where only a handful of generations earlier a prince would have proved his worth with sword or wisdom, now he did so by delivering prettily spoken compliments and razor-sharp epigrams.[1g]
Not all in Ulthuan surrendered entirely to indolence, however. In the north, Prince Valedor of Ellyrion ensured that the watch on the great gates never faltered, and that the warriors there received the best training and the finest wargear that Ulthuan could provide. On one occasion, Valedor happened upon several nobles of the Phoenix King's court as they were about the business of emptying one of the Griffon Gate's armouries. Scores of wagons were already loaded with fine-wrought ithilmar scale and Dragon plate i when Valedor encountered them. Flush with royal authority, the nobles spoke boldly at first, informing Valedor that the Phoenix King wished the 'surplus' to be used as costume at his latest theatrical masterpiece.[1g]
Valedor flew into a rage and struck down the speaker with a single blow of his mailed fist, at which point the nobles — craven and pleasure-loving wretches to an Elf— fled, leaving Valedor's warriors to return the armour to its proper place. It later transpired that Aethis had given no such instruction: the nobles had acted on their own initiative in order to gain their king's favour. None of this would preserve Prince Valedor, however. Little by little, his name and reputation were whittled apart by those he had thwarted. Within a year, he had been stripped of all honour and title, and his family divested of their ancestral wealth. Once more, the Cult of Luxury began to spread, this time cloaked in a secrecy that made it even more attractive to jaded Elf aristocrats. After a while, the Swordmasters of Hoeth began to investigate the cult and report back to the White Tower. Their findings disturbed the High Loremaster sufficiently for him to take them to the Phoenix King. The Chancellor of the Court was revealed as a secret spy for Naggaroth. As he was unmasked, he drove a poisoned dagger through Aethis' heart, and so the eighth Phoenix King was slain by a trusted friend.[1g]
Reign of Morvael (1121 1503 IC)
The Eighth eighth Council chose Morvael of Yvresse to succeed the assassinated Phoenix King. He was the High Loremaster of the White Tower under Aethis. Although learned, Morvael had little real experience of statecraft or warfare. His first act after his coronation was to order a punitive attack on Naggaroth. An Elf fleet was despatched to the cold north and was massacred by the Dark Elves. As the few survivors brought word of the defeat back to Ulthuan, panic spread among the High Elves. The last thing they had expected was defeat. They had supposed the threat of Naggaroth all but extinguished, but now it seemed that the Dark Elves had merely been rebuilding their strength.[1g]
By allowing their fleets and armies to be run down under Bel-Korhadris and Aethis, the Elves of Ulthuan had allowed their dark kindred to catch up and perhaps even surpass in military might. A mighty Dark Elf armada seized the Blighted Isle and sailed on to Ulthuan. They retook the cursed city of Anlec and cast up a great fortress in the rubble. Swiftly, they pushed south and were stopped only after desperate fighting around the Griffon Gate. Desperate for soldiers, Morvael organised the system of troop levies that still exists in Ulthuan today. This required every Elf to spend at least part of the year as part of a military force, and to provide wargear for himself. Thus was the depleted population of Ulthuan able to field mighty armies of citizen-soldiers well beyond that which it could otherwise have mustered. Morvael, having been forcibly confronted by his mediocre skills as a general over the course of earlier defeats, appointed Mentheus of Caledor as field commander.[1g]
Morvael was a sensitive and highly-strung soul, often troubled by terrible nightmares and dreams. He did not care for sending his friends and subjects to their deaths, but in order to preserve the realm, there was little else he could do. He emptied the coffers of the Phoenix Throne to build a new and powerful fleet capable of carrying the war to the northern seas and stopping the flow of reinforcements from Naggaroth. He was forced to use the Swordmasters of Hoeth and other agents to seek out the devotees of the Cult of Pleasure — who, as before, provided the Dark Elves with a network of influential spies — and it was his unpleasant task to sign the many death warrants that resulted. Many long nights Morvael would brood in his tower, and before long, he was turned stoop-shouldered and prematurely old by the weight of his crown. Yet no matter how deep Morvael's despair grew, it never overcame his sense of duty. He relied ever more upon his closest advisors and drew fresh strength from their own .4'faith to replenish his own frail resolve. Mentheus of Caledor ever remained his closest confidant, and Morvael soon came to rely on his general's counsel and friendship as surely as he depended upon his leadership and skill in battle.[1g]
For over a century, intermittent warfare blazed. The fleets of Ulthuan ranged the seas destroying Dark Elf slaving ships. Two new fortresses were built far from Ulthuan to enable these long range missions to be accomplished. At the tip of the Dark Continent, the Fortress of Dawn was built to refit the fleets and protect the trade routes to Cathay. At the tip of Lustria, the Citadel of Dusk was completed, as a base from which the Elf fleets could guard the coasts of southern Lustria. Eventually the war reached its climax. Mentheus of Caledor besieged Anlec with a great army of Elves. Morvael remained in the Shrine of Asuryan awaiting the outcome of the battle. Every night he was assailed by ever more dreadful dreams, which some say were sent by the Witch King to plague him. With every day that passed, he became ever more despairing and hopeless as messengers brought him reports that made much of the army's casualties and little of its chances of victory.[1g]
Yet despite Morvael's fears, the forces of Ulthuan ultimately proved victorious. Alas, the High Elves would yet have to bear two further tragedies in the face of triumph. On the final day when Anlec fell, Mentheus was killed as he led the assault. His great Dragon, Nightfang, went berserk with rage and grief, slaughtering many Dark Elves and their monstrous thralls. News of Mentheus' death finally shattered Morvael's resolve. Weary unto death, listless and depressed, the Phoenix King abdicated by walking into the sacred flame of Asuryan. No mortal frame could twice endure such a trial. From midnight until noon the next day, Morvael's body burned upon the sacred pyre; as the sun reached its apex, a cold wind from the north gathered up his ashes and scattered them across the Inner Sea.[1g]
Reign of Bel-Hathor (1503 to 2163)
The Ninth Council ended in deadlock, a tie between the faction that wanted a warlike king and those who preferred a peacemaker. In the end, a compromise was reached and Bel-Hathor, a wizard prince of Saphery, was chosen and crowned. Bel-Hathor seemed an inauspicious choice; like most Sapherian princes he was something of an eccentric. Many of the other princes saw him as easily manipulable towards their faction's ends. They were wrong. Bel-Hathor turned out to be surprisingly strong-willed — through sheer personality he managed to quell much of the infighting that had plagued the Phoenix King's court since the time of Aethis. He refused all attempts to force him to order an invasion of Naggaroth. He knew that, although Ulthuan could probably win such a war, the cost would be too high. Even numbers had so declined that many of the cities were half-empty and many of the lands abandoned. He was not prepared to gamble the future of the Elven race against the possibility of vengeance.[1g]
The Norse were not the only Men to dare the sea-routes to Ulthuan. Increasingly, other naval powers, and particularly the Empire and Bretonnia, also sent ships west over the ocean, seeking Ulthuan and the legendary golden cities of Lustria. Some of these determined mariners, and eventually some of their ships, found a route to Ulthuan. The Phoenix King issued an edict forbidding them to set foot on Elven soil. He did however agree to let Finubar, Prince of Eataine, take ship with them, to learn more of these emergent realms.[1g]
The Rise of Mankind
Finubar sailed to 1:Anguille in Bretonnia and, from there, spent fifty years wandering over the continent. Because of the ancient feud with the Dwarfs, it had been a long time since any High Elf had set foot on the shores of the eastern continent. He was at once impressed and appalled at what he saw. The human realms were endless, teeming and populous. Finubar had expected mud huts, primitive savages and anarchy unbound. Instead he found mighty walled cities and disciplined armies, capable of fending off the Greenskins and keeping the peace over huge stretches of territory. He saw that the humans were numerous and becoming more so, and that it was only a matter of time before they would eclipse even the elder races. In addition, Finubar was fascinated by the humans' crude vitality and exuberant culture, their energy and greed. He swiftly decided that it would be better for the Elves to have these people as allies rather than enemies.[1g]
In his travels he also came upon the lost Elf realm of Athel Loren. He was both shocked and amazed by what he found there. The Elves of the old frontier province had taken a far different path from the High Elves; they had become one with their woodland home, as far removed from the High Elves of Ulthuan as were the Dark Elves of Naggaroth. Ever after, they were known to their kin on Ulthuan as the Wood Elves. Though the Elves of Athel Loren were not unfriendly to Finubar, further rapprochement proved impossible and any ambassadors despatched from Ulthuan were treated with indifference at best. When Finubar finally returned to Ulthuan, he was hailed as a great hero. The Phoenix King listened to Finubar's report and reversed his earlier edict denying the Men of the Old World access to Ulthuan.[1g]
At Finubar's request the city of Lothern was opened to human merchants, and Elf pilots were provided to guide the trading fleets through the veiled approaches. Those races of Men who were inclined towards seamanship wasted no time in travelling to tht island-continent of Ulthuan to see its wonders for themselves. Thus began a second period of explosive growth in Lothern. Finubar watched his home city become the largest trading port in the world and was happy. The humans were astounded by the grace and nyajtaty of Etc Ltvilisation and well-pleased with the commerce that went on there. The Elves were content to have powerful allies in the Old World. When Bel-Hathor died peacefully of old age, Finubar was his chosen successor.[1g]
Reign of Finubar (2163 IC to Present)
With the invaluable experience gained during his sojourn to the Old World, Finubar of Lothern was the prince best suited to understanding this new age. By temperament and experience he was ready to deal with the race of Men, and as a native of Lothern, he had grown up with an understanding of the worth of trade and a tolerant, cosmopolitan outlook on the world. In accordance with Bel-Hathor's wishes, the ruling council elected Finubar. Thus, Finubar is the first Phoenix King to be chosen by his predecessor. A few amongst the ruling council were displeased with this appointment: perhaps they thought such a succession a break with all tradition. More likely, their sentiments were born of jealousy. Finubar's actions did little to end such concerns. From the start, he was often content to leave the day to day affairs of his realm to the trusted members of his court.[1g]
Indeed, in the early years of his reign, it seemed he was but an infrequent visitor to his own realm, for he spent much time travelling the world. Finubar's rivals spread rumour in his absence, their eyes ever on claiming the Phoenix Throne they were once denied. In the end, rebellious tongues were only stilled when the Everqueen, Alarielle, arrived unannounced at a meeting of the ruling council. Standing before the Phoenix Throne, she fixed her piercing gaze on each of the council in turn, and in icy tones reminded the princes where their loyalties truly lay. Thereafter, criticisms of Finubar's rule were decidedly muted.[1g]
As the years passed, Finubar's voyages became more radic, though none could say whether his wanderlust was finally leaving him, or he had simply found whatever it was he searched for. Increasingly, Finubar split his time between the business of rule and taking counsel with Belannaer, one of the oldest and wisest Loremasters of Hoeth. In the one hundred and thirty eighth year of Finubar's reign, the Great Chaos Incursion began, and it looked as if the Dark Powers had returned once more to claim the world. The Witch King himself returned at the head of a mighty Ihost, and swept the defenders of Ulthuan before him.[1g]
War raged across all Ulthuan's kingdoms. Avelorn burned, and for a time, it seemed as if the Everqueen was lost amongst the carnage, and the realm with her. Then, two mighty heroes, the twin brothers Tyrion and Teclis, arose to secure the realm and repel the invasion. By the efforts of the extraordinary twins, the Dark Elves were driven off and Ulthuan was rescued from the brink of destruction. Finubar was greatly pleased by the twins' deeds, and brought them ever closer into his councils — the Phoenix King deemed that the last war had been merely the opening skirmish in a new age of destruction, and was determined to command the loyalty of Ulthuan's mightiest heroes. In the years that followed, other heroes would join Tyrion and Teclis at Finubar's side, some of whom would go on to become as famous as any of the Phoenix Kings.[1g]
Since then, the world has grown darker. Despite the series of magical wards raised around the island in the reign of Bel-Korhadris, Norse raids on Ulthuan have become ever more numerous. A horde of Goblins led by Grom the Paunch of Misty Mountain even managed to pillage eastern Ulthuan. Dark Elf raiders have continued to commit innumerable acts of piracy. The promise of a new golden age of peace has faded, and the Elves and their new allies have looked once more to their weapons. For the Elves, the present holds both the promise of renewal and the threat of destruction. Their old enemies have grown stronger, while they in turn have become weaker.[1g]
Ulthuan can still muster the mightiest fleet in the known world and its armies are rightly feared by its foes, and yet the High Elves are a shadow of their former glory. Indeed, many on Ulthuan feel the greatest days of the Elves have passed. Yet every year brings new opportunities to win glory and fight against evil. There are still mighty Elf heroes, courageous warriors and mages willing to stand against the Dark Powers, and the mighty Dragons, though few in number, are turning restless in their long sleep. In the north, the Witch King stirs once more and the Widowmaker haunts the dreams of warriors, singing songs of forbidden glory to their desperate souls. Though they have dwindled and are weary, the High Elves still have a great part to play in the world before the final act of their long drama is played out.[1g]
- "We, the Asur, are a noble people, our long and proud history stretching back to a time when Men were still fur-clad savages. Living on our fair isles of Ulthuan, set in the center of the Great Oceans, we are far removed from the petty squabbles of the lesser races. Here, we are able to practice our magic and our arts, perfecting for no reason than the sheer joy of it."
- —Recounted by Unthwe Windrider, Herald of the Phoenix King[3b]
The High Elves of Ulthuan — the Asur as they name themselves — are not the only race of Elves to walk the world. The truth of the matter depends on who is telling the story; however, they do hold the honour of being the one true civilisation from which all other Elven realms have sprung. West of Ulthuan, amidst the crags and spires of Naggaroth, dwell the cruel Dark Elves, the Druchii. There is no peace to be had between the courts of Ulthuan and Naggaroth, for the millennia of their shared history have been of endless blood and betrayal. No enmity in all the world is so bitter, no war so savagely fought.[1c]
By contrast, the Wood Elves of Athel Loren hold no enmity for either their High or Dark Elf cousins, but then neither do they nurture any great trust of them. These Asrai possess a manner and outlook that is utterly alien to other Elves, and want no part of the ancestral hatred that has brought only ruin to the world. Regardless of their bloodline, all Elves are long-lived — some say immortal. Physically, they are tall and slender, with a dextrous grace and otherworldly aspect that no other race can aspire to match. Such traits are shared by all three races, although the High Elves would have you believe that only on Ulthuan can true Elven beauty and warrior grace be found.[1c]
- "We are a tall and slender people, slight of build and graceful of movement. Our armies, too, move with fluid grace as do our warship and steed. All that we touch is elegant and finely crafted for we are a long lived people who refuse to surrond ourselfs with ugliness and discord."
- —Recounted by Unthwe Windrider, Herald of the Phoenix King[3b]
All Elves are fair to behold and of them all the High Elves are the most handsome. High Elves are pale-skinned with refined, aesthetically beautiful features and hair as clean and fine as flax. High Elves are tall and proud in their bearing, indeed it is not uncommon for an Elf to stand a whole head taller than a man. They have a slim build, which has led to the common misconception that Elves are weak or fragile. In fact, the opposite is true, for Elves are surprisingly strong, and though they are not as robust as the races of Orcs or Dwarfs, they more than compensate for that with their dexterity and amazing agility.[2b]
For the High Elves, long hair is a symbol of strength, power and nobility -- the clearest token of a real warrior. Just as a Dwarf find great significance in his beard, so too do the High Elves hold their hair in high esteem. Because of this, locks of hair are also important talismans for the Elves. This ancient custom stems from the greatest heroes of Elf legend, who have always been depicted with long flowing hair, and it is said that it is from here that their might springs. All High Elves decorate their hair with combs made of silver or gold, and embellished with bright gems. Each jewel has a different meaning, and reflects the Elf's role in his family, his rank in battle, or can even be a token of favour granted by a betrothed.[1i]
Elves are long-lived, some say immortal, and less vulnerable to disease than humans. Every movement that an Elf makes is graceful and controlled, their minds are quick and clever with an intensity and depth of insight which makes them seem fey and strange to other races. High Elves convey meaning into the slightest gesture, perceiving a wealth of information in the slightest nod of a head, or narrowing of eyes. More than once the Lords of Ulthuan have made war amongst themselves or upon other races for some real or imagined slight, for though they are a noble people the High Elves can be cold and haughty, unreasoning in the view of other races.[2b]
The High Elves are also currently some of the most magically attuned race within the world, their developed knowledge and powers over magic and sorcery going far beyond the accomplishments of any other race save perhaps the mystical Slann of Lustria. They were amongst the first to study magic and remain the greatest mortal masters of it in the known world. Through magic the High Elves protect their island home of Ulthuan, for without the conjurations of the High Elf mages the entire island, already unstable with the creation of the Great Vortex, would sink beneath the waves forever. It is the Elves who in years past taught magic to men, although the Elf mages far surpass the human wizards of the Old World in both skill and knowledge.[2b]
- "During our long lives, we are able to perfect many skills and our people are renowned for our highly skilled artisans, fine craftsmen, the beauty of our art and the melodious grace of our songs. All in all, we are a race that loves beauty and treasures skill, but our days are not all spent in idle pursuit."
- —Recounted by Unthwe Windrider, Herald of the Phoenix King[3b]
To most outsiders, the High Elves can be describe in many different ways; subtle, elegant, graceful, cunning but perhaps above all, arrogant. Elven minds are subtle and clever, possessing an intensity and depth of insight that lies far beyond the ability of other creatures — a single word or gesture, however small, conveys a wealth of information to an attentive Elf. It is said, of the High Elves in particular, that their minds are their finest weapons. This is certainly true, but they are dangerous weapons indeed, and can require a lifetime to safely master. Unless he knows discipline, a High Elf's interests can quickly become obsessions — and set his feet on a path that will ultimately see his soul delivered to a thirsting god.[1d]
Due to this, Ulthuan's society has become tightly structured, rigidly bound by convention and precedent, ritual and ceremony. For a High Elf to behave out of keeping with tradition is considered a truly shameful matter, able to break the power of a family overnight if proven before the Phoenix Court. Thus, its mere implication is one of the chief gambits in Ulthuan's interminable politics. On the battlefield, it is the combined alacrity of mind and body that makes each Elf so deadly an opponent. His mind is keen enough to read an opponent's intent in the slightest shift of stance, and his body swift enough to deliver a lethal counterblow a heartbeat thereafter. There is no weapon nor form of fighting an Elf cannot master and, even untrained, his skills are formidable. Once properly tutored in his chosen way of war an Elf soldier is lethal grace given form, able to match a hero of lesser blood blow for blow.[1d]
Yet it is perhaps the arrogance and pride of the High Elves which can be considered their most defining trait. Almost every High Elf, from the humblest lowborn to the most esteem Lord, will always reserve a bit of self-satisfaction in his own superiority, especially to what the High Elves consider the "lesser races" of Mankind. This arrogance is in many ways the corrupted heart of High Elven society. Though they may not be afflicted with physical mutations as do those of Mankind, Chaos has nonetheless seeped itself into the heart and soul of the Elven races.[1d]
- "The noble families have led our people through times of peace and conflict for thousands of years. They pride themselves on their deep sense of honour and mastery of both the arts of diplomacy and war, taught to them from a young age. In times of conflict they demonstrate this prowess through their flexibility, perfectly capable of fighting with unmatched skill in the thick of the melee, or commanding our armies from a distance, directing the flow of battle as need dictates. "
- —Recounted by Unthwe Windrider, Herald of the Phoenix King[3b]
Ulthuan is ruled by a collection of princes, princesses and mages, above whom preside the Phoenix King and the Everqueen. The relationship between these rulers is not as simple as the titles would suggest. The kingship is elective while the queenship is hereditary, and both monarchs maintain entirely separate courts. The Everqueen is always the Queen of Avelorn. Her realm is the site of the principal shrine of the Earth Mother, and she is regarded as the spiritual leader of the whole Elven realm. The position of Everqueen is always taken up by the firstborn daughter of the previous queen, conceived during her year-long ritual marriage to the Phoenix King. After this formal marriage, they are free to take new consorts, but only the daughter conceived from the marriage of the Phoenix King and the Everqueen can be the new Everqueen.[1f]
Hence the Queens of Averlorn have always been the Everqueens of Ulthuan, forming an unbroken chain from ages past. By contrast, the Phoenix King is chosen from among the princes of Ulthuan, one year after the death of the previous incumbent. Each is crowned during a holy ceremony, held at the massive pyramidal Shrine of Asuryan and attended by the legions of the Phoenix Guard and the princes of Ulthuan. The process of choosing the new Phoenix King is rife with intrigue. Emotions often run hot during this fraught and delicate event. Traditionally, the last thirty days of the year of mourning are set aside for the election to take place; however, in practice the debate starts much sooner than that. Often, the politicking starts long before the reigning Phoenix King has died. High Elves love intrigue, and never is the prize greater than when a new Phoenix King is chosen.[1f]
The grandest of Ulthuan's noble families each look for their candidate to be chosen, and they vie for the support of their peers for their choice. Further to this, each realm in Ulthuan desires the new Phoenix King to be chosen from their land. So it is that rivalries are set aside — or created — to ensure that the agendas of the noble houses are met. For all the deception, manipulation and chicanery employed during the election process, it is almost unheard of for the tactics employed to escalate to violence or outright sabotage. Such actions are considered heretical, for the Phoenix King is the anointed servant of Asuryan. Few High Elf nobles are so consumed with victory that they could believe, even for a moment, that the Creator God would ever approve of a King selected by the ruling council under such dubious and destructive circumstances.[1f]
Outside of this monarchical structure, Ulthuan is comprised of Ten independent realms, each ruled by its own princes. Each of these realms form into two distinct geography, the Outer and Inner Kingdoms. The former are those whose shores touch the ocean, while the latter are those that surround the Inner Sea. The Inner and Outer Kingdoms are divided by the cloud-piercing Annulii Mountains. The Annulii are almost impossible to cross, save by certain passes and tunnels, and even then, travellers must contend with the perilous beasts that shelter amidst the crags and catacombs. No Elf has ever waled to the very summit of one of the Annul and spoken of it, but legends abound of an otherworldly realm beyond the clouds, where ancient gods hold court. Due to the extreme saturation of magic within Ulthuan, these rumors of supernatural beings may proven true.[1e]
The Inner Kingdoms, set within the twilit ring of the Annulii, are shielded from contact with the outer world by the mountains that surround them and the buffer states of the Outer Kingdoms. Many of the inhabitants of the inner lands are introverted and dreamy. They make scholars, mystics and sorcerers without peer, but all too often are affected by a languor that means they rarely bestir themselves except for the most pressing and dire of circumstances.[2c]
- The Kingdom of Eataine
- The Kingdom of Caledor
- The Kingdom of Ellyrion
- The Kingdom of Avelorn
- The Kingdom of Saphery
The Outer Kingdoms are the Elven realms that line the coast of Ulthuan's outer shores which borders the Great Ocean. Unlike the relative safety of Ulthuans Inner Kingdoms, the lands of the Outer Kingdoms are open to hostile invasions, either from their dark relatives to the East or Chaotic barbarian warriors of the West. As such, the inhabitants of these lands have replaced their books and poems with swords and bow, and are perhaps the most warlike of their civilization.[2c]
- The Kingdom of Tiranoc
- The Kingdom of Nagarythe
- The Kingdom of Cothique
- The Kingdom of Chrace
- The Kingdom of Yvresse
- "I’ve spent a lot of time around Elves, and I was surprised by how religious they are. Sure, they dress it up in mystical mumbo jumbo, but I’ve seen them before battle or when preparing for a trip. They pray just as much as you or I, if not more, and not to one or t’other god, but to the whole lot, every last one of ‘em.” "
- —Magda van Dyke, Wasteland Mercenary[5a]
The Elven Pantheon are split up into two groups, known as the Cadai and the Cytharai. All Elves revere this pantheon of dieties but put a lot more emphasis on certain gods than others. An example of this is the Dark Elves outright ignoring the Cadai Gods and the High Elves shunning the Cytharai Gods. The peaceful, fundamental, and productive aspects of the Elven Pantheon, such as crafting, smiting, motherhood, farming or hunting are represented by the Cadai. The High Elves openly worship and revere the Cadai, building large temples and shrines to profess their faith. Above all other gods is Asuryan, the Creator, who the High Elves worship the most.[5a]
Then come the rulers of Mirai (the Elven Underworld), whose pantheon are known as the Cytharai. Many Cytharai Gods are shunned by the vast majority of High Elves, yet there are some Cytharai Gods from which the High Elves attempt appeasement. However, even though worshipping the Cytharai Gods in Ulthuan is either frowned upon or totally outlawed depending on the deity in question, some individuals still do privately worship them. For a High Elf to worship Khaine, the Lord of Murder who is the Dark Elves patron God, is to ask to be put to death on the spot. On the other hand the worship of Mathlann, The God of the Deeps is common among elf mariners and is considered in a sense legal for worship.[1p]
The deities of the High Elves are actually represented by a circular rune pattern call the Pantheonic Mandala. Asuryan being the most important God to the High Elves would be placed in the center, while the others spiral outwards in an order of greatest to least. In secret, some Elves turn to the worship of Slaanesh out of a desire to appease it, so their souls could be spared. Elven worship is greatly desired by Slaanesh, for Elves experience emotions stronger than any other race. This creates the excess for which Slaanesh desires for it gives Slaanesh her power. The worship of Slaanesh and other Chaos Gods is strictly forbidden in Ulthuan, the penalty for doing so is death. To keep Chaos Cults from growing within High Elf society, the Sword Masters of Hoeth work diligently to root out and destroy any cults and cult members found.[5a]
The Mirai, otherwise known as the Black Pit, is the Elven equivalent of the Underworld from which all Elven souls are destined to enter. This dark realm is ruled by the Elven Goddess Ereth Khial, known as the Pale Queen, and her domain is only entered through a door, referred to as the Last Door, which is guarded by the Elven God Nethu, the Door Keeper. It is Nethu who prevents wayward souls from escaping, and the living from entering and stealing the secrets of the dead.[1p]
However, since the Coming of Chaos, most Elven souls don't reach Mirai and are instead claimed by the Chaos Gods, most particularly Slaanesh. The souls of the Elven race are a delicacy like no other to hungering Slaanesh, for their very souls are saturated with all the intense emotions from which the Prince of Decadence savors. This horrible fate terrifies all Elves, so in order to avoid being devoured by Slaanesh, the High Elves bind their souls to waystones. So when their ultimate death finally comes, their souls will instead be used to empower the magical wards protecting Ulthuan. Whenever High Elves are far from Ulthuan, they will bring and wear stone necklaces so that incase they meet their fate, their souls will be captured by it and not by Slaanesh.[1g]
However not all unprotected souls are doomed to be consumed by the Dark God, on occasion the Trickster God Loec will rescue souls by challenging Slaanesh in a game of chance, and then of course cheating to win. In addition to Loec, Ereth Khial often tries to send her winged servants to steal souls from Slaanesh's grasp. Even though these ploys rarely succeed, even the smallest chance to save their souls from being consumed gives the Elves some reminisce of hope.[1g]
Even if their souls are saved from being consumed by Slaanesh, they will receive no paradise, for their souls are often bound for all eternity as slaves within Ereth Khial's Army. Even though it is frowned upon for High Elves to do so some, Elves will worship The Pale Queen just for this reason, hoping to earn her favor. Ereth Phial uses every soul she receives to serve in her army for the day Rhana Dandra, which is known to the Elves as the apocalypse. It is in this day that the Cadai and the Cytharai Gods will have a final battle and Ereth Khial's Army of fallen Elven souls will be pitted against Asuryan's Creatures. It is also in this day that the Elven Gods will also battle the Chaos Gods, be the outcome good or ill.[1g]
List of Deities
- Asuryan The Creator
- Isha The Mother
- Kurnous The Hunter
- Hoeth The Lord of Wisdom
- Vaul The Maker
- Loec The Shadow Dancer
- Lileath The Maiden
- Ladrielle The Lady of Mists
- Ereth Khial The Pale Queen
- Khaine The Lord of Murder
- Morai-Heg The Crone
- Atharti The Lady of Desire
- Hekarti The Mistress of Magic
- Ellinill The Lord of Destruction
- Mathlann The Lord of the Deeps
- Drakira The Queen of Vengeance
- Hukon The Sunderer
- Addaioth The Bringer of Fire
- Estreuth The Lord of Hunger
- Nethu The Keeper of the Last Door
- Anath Raema The Savage Huntress
- Eldrazor The Lord of Blades
The High Elves' existence is one of eternal battle, fought with a courage and skill that only they possess. But it is a war that, little by little, is being lost. The High Elves fade, whilst their enemies multiply, and each death is a loss that the Ten Kingdoms of Ulthuan can ill afford. Yet it is not in the High Elves' proud nature to pass peacefully from history. When the Phoenix King issues the call to war, his people gladly awnser. Disiciplined spearmen form up in silence, their brilliant
High Elf Infantry
- High Elf Archers - the majority of warriors in the armies of the Asur are citizen militia rather than professional soldiers, but are quicker, braver, and better trained than the average human soldier. This militia is a form of part-time army in which all take their turn to serve, every Elf providing his own wargear in defence of Ulthuan. When young elves first join the militia, they will begin as archers, fighting with longbows and wearing light armor. This allows them to gain war experience from a relatively safe distance.
- High Elf Spearmen - after a decade or so of being an archer, they will become spearman, fighting with a spear and shield. This is the senior arm of the militia, and are expected to fight bravely in the main line of battle. Spearmen wear light armor and shields. Spearmen train to get as many in the fight as possible without getting in each other's way.
- Lothern Sea Guard - the province of Eataine does not field a citizen militia as all the other provinces do, instead contributing the Lothern Seaguard to the army. Unlike the normal levy, they are not only called up in times of need, but remain at arms at all times. They form a corps of marines to crew ships that patrol the seas around Ulthuan and its colonies, but also fight on land. They wear light armor, carry shields and wield both bow and spear. The sea guard also protect the Ulthuan capital city Lothern, and crew the repeater bolt throwers and the elegant Lothern Skycutters.
- Sisters of Avelorn - are the guardians of Avelorn and the Everqueen herself. They constantly watch over the sacred places of Avelorn, making sure the beasts who dwell in the tainted reaches do not stray, swiftly killing them if they do. The Sisters of Avelorn are picked by the Eeverqueen's personal decree out of the citizen militia, and like the Everqueen they are incorruptible. In battle the wield magical bows that fire bolts of white-blue flame. There is no foe the Sisters of Avevlorn can't handle.
- Swordmasters of Hoeth - the Sword masters are experts with a blade, especially when wielding their finely balanced ceremonial great swords. These expert warriors are the Guardians Of The White Tower and serve as protectors of the mages and scholars who live and study there. They study the secret ways of battle, honing their bodies and skills to unbelievable levels. In battle they are deadly opponents, eager to practice their legendary skills on real enemies, in an arena where there is no room for second best. This is the true test of mettle, skill and honour that they eagerly seek out.
- Shadow Warriors - even in times of relative peace, the Shadow Warriors are never at rest. They constantly patrol the barren shores and bleakest hills as they watch for the inevitable Dark Elf raiders. The Shadow Warriors are intense and brooding, proud and warlike, and this has made them little trusted by their fellow kin of Ulthuan. Despite this, they are among the most loyal subjects of the Phoenix King and the tales of their daring and dangerous exploits are many in number.
- Phoenix Guard - known as the Phoenix Guard, the main duty of these warrior monks is to protect the island shrine and all those who make their pilgrimage there. In battle, they can always be found where the fighting is in its most desperate state, knowing in advance if they shall fall or if they shall be victorious. The Phoenix Guard fight with their ceremonial halberds, clad in cloaks of embroidered fire that echo the sacred flame of Asuryan. They move throughout the battlefield in utter silence, accompanied only by the beat of a solemn drum. This unnatural manner is deeply disturbing for their enemies as even the direst of wounds will not make them cry out.
- White Lions of Chrace - ever since the time of Caledor the First, the closest bodyguards of the Phoenix Kings have come from the wildest forests of Chrace. Each must demonstrate his skill and bravery by tracking down one of the fierce white lions that roam the barren mountains and dark forests of the land. When they find one they must kill it through hand-to-hand combat and take its pelt. In battle, the White Lions use the traditional woodsman's axe of Chrace, a finely crafted weapon which is said to be sharp enough to hew a tree or a man in half with a single strike.
High Elf Cavalry
- Silver Helm Knights - silver Helms are the sons of High Elven nobles. They are called silver helms for their ilthilmar helmets, which they decorate with medals showing what monsters they've slain and deeds they've done. They are normally equipped with heavy armour, shields, and lances on barded elven steeds.
- Ellyrian Reavers - light cavalry from the province of Ellyrion. They frequently use bows (either as a replacement or in addition to their spears) to harass their foes, on unbarded elven steeds. They are exceptionally skilled riders and can shoot their bow in all directions, including behind.
- Dragon Princes of Caledor - long ago dragon princes fought on the backs of great dragons, but now the dragons sleep and they ride to battle on horses instead. Proud, arrogant, but extremely skilled, able to impale two people with one lance thrust, they are very elite heavy cavalry originating from the province of Caledor. The suits of Dragon Armour that they wear are extremely resilient against heat, even being able to survive dragon fire. It has been prophesied that a great battle will come in which the Dragon Princes will ride to war on the backs of the great drakes one last time.
High Elf War Machines
- Lion Chariots of Chrace - the lion chariots of Chrace are the more brutish and savage of the two high elf chariots. The crew manning the chariot are "the White Lions" or less commonly "the hunters of Chrace". The chariot is pulled by two lions, raised from the cubs of wild lions the hunters have killed. The chariots superior design allows the crew to use their huge axes to cleave foes in half. Unlike the elven steeds of the Tiranoc chariot, the Lions are more than capable of breaking the most determined shieldwall and tearing into the foes behind it with tooth and claw.
- Tiranoc Chariots - a few charioteers are all that remain of the ancient way of war of the Tiranoc nobility. In ages past, the coastal plains of their realm were full of herds of noble steeds and racing charioteers. Then the Sundering came, and the once fair land of Tiranoc sank below the waves of Ulthuan's sea. Not all was lost however. Indeed, many of their finest warriors were elsewhere, fighting against the evil minions of the Witch King. They now serve in any of Asur's armies, especially those that fight the Dark Elf kin, and will travel many days and nights to join a force on the road to war.
- Repeater Bolt Throwers - the repeater bolt thrower or "Eagle's Claw", as it is usually called, is a versatile weapon and by far the most common war machine in high elf armies. It is lightly made, though sturdy and strong, and is practical and portable. This makes it highly adaptable and it is widely used both on ship and on shore. In battle, the "Eagle's Claw" needs only two crew to operate, and unlike other bolt throwers can shoot two different types of bolts. Either a single spear sized bolt or a hail of smaller bolts.
- Lothern Skycutter - when the swift Hawkships of Lothern slip from their moorings, they are accompanied to the open sea by Skycutters - sleek, airborne chariots that rest upon a cushion of magic and are drawn into battle by the Swiftfeather Rocs that nest along the Glittering Coast. These hawkships can be fitted with Eagle Eye Bolt-throwers that, despite being compact, are still capable of punching through dragon scale.
High Elf War Beasts
- Great Eagles - these creatures are the last of a noble race that has lived high in the mountain peaks since before the rise of Men. They are haughty and proud, and the High Elves have an instinctive kinship with them. Great Eagles have been allies with the High Elves since the time of the Sundering, and the sight of one soaring high above a battle is still considered a sign of victory. The Eagles soar over the mist-shrouded peaks and rocky spires and when they return they speak with the Loremasters. In this way, the dire forces of Chaos can never make their way down from the Anulii without finding the warriors of Ulthuan waiting for them.
- Griffons - griffons are noble beasts, as beasts go, though they are far from tame and placid. Their heads are like that of a huge bird of prey, whilst their bodies resemble that of a lion or any other great cat. All this is borne aloft by a pair of mighty wings that carry the Griffon across the high mountains and peaks where it dwells. A patiently hand-reared hatchling can be trained to bear a noble upon its back, making a formidable mount in times of battle and war. The people of Chrace, renowned hunters and scouts of Ulthuan, are particularly famed for their skills at raising and training the Griffons that circle above the high mountains of their land.
- Dragons - in days long gone, there were many Dragons to be seen, riding the thermals of the mountain ranges, and fighting alongside heroes of the age. The largest nests of Dragons were in the mountains of Calendor, and the Asur of that realm were known as Dragon Princes. Rightly so, as they rode these majestic and fearsome beasts to war and vanquished all who challenged them. 'Not in a Dragon's age' is a common phrase among the Asur, and it has been many years since more than a handful rode the skies into battle. However, when they can be awoken from their deep slumber, they are terrible to behold. The light catches their glistening scales before they spread their mighty wings to blot out the sun and light the world with their fiery breath. They are huge and terrifying monsters with a cold, alien intelligence which fills sane folk with dread.
- Flamespyre Phoenix - the Flamespyre Phoenixes of Ulthuan dwell amongst the Flamespyre - great alabaster pillars of rock that stand sentinel about the Shire of Asuryan. Aqshy (the wind of fire) has left its marl on more than the silent stones. Over generations, the Phoenixes of the Flamespyres have become attuned to fire magic, harnessing it at whim. These very intelligent and deadly creatures, have a very unique alliance with the High Elves, often being called by the Phoenix Guard to act as mounts.
High Elf Lords
- High Elf Prince - Each of the ten Elven kingdoms are ruled by Elven princes. The High Elf Princes are usually the ones commanding Ulthuan's Armies in the name of the Phoenix King, while riding great war beasts, such as Griffons or in some cases Dragons. Using a variety of weapons depending on the kingdom in question the Princes of Ulthuan are all incredibly dangerous, able to strike down their foes with unmachted quickness.
High Elf Heroes
- High Elf Noble -
- High Elf Mage -
- Dragon Mage of Caledor -
- Lothern Sea Helm -
- Handmaiden of the Everqueen -
- 1: Warhammer Armies: High Elves (8th Edition)
- 2: Warhammer Armies: High Elves (7th Edition)
- 3: Warhammer Armies: High Elves (6th Edition)
- 4: Warhammer Armies: High Elves (4th Edition)
- 5: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation (2nd Edition)
- 5a: pg. 124 - 125