Wood Elves (Warhammer)
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In Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy universe, the Wood Elves are a variety of Elves (tall, slender human-like beings) who live in an enchanted forest in eastern Bretonnia, referred to (by the elves, in their own language) as "Athel Loren".
Background and history
The Wood Elves (known as "Asrai" to themselves) were once members of the High Elves the original elves of the Warhammer world which became split as both Asur, still considered "High Elves" and Druchii, direct descendants and enemy of the Asur. Dark cousins at war for the elven homeland Ulthuan under the leadership of the Witch King Malekith. Setting sail from their homeland of Ulthuan, an island-continent in the ocean to the west and seeking to spread from their shrinking homelands, the High Elves colonised the lands of the Dwarfs, later inhabited by men, including the forest of Athel Loren. After many years of peaceful existence and flourishing trade these colonists came into conflict with the Dwarfs, in part due to the scheming of the Druchii under orders from Malekith who conspired to establish conflicts between the Elven colonies of the Old World and their Dwarfen hosts in the hopes of an escalation into open war to weaken the Asur and allow Malekith to retake his home islands of Ulthuan. Known as the War of the Beard due to Caledor II act of shaming the Dwarf emissaries by cutting their beards from their faces, an unforgivable slight worthy or war to the Dwarfs (and why Dwarfs sometimes call it the War of Vengeance), this centuries long conflict saw the near decimation of both Dawi and Elgi.
Throughout the centuries of conflict individual Elves of both Druchii and Asur, some who had died and been reborn by the magic of the forest, mostly misfits, outcasts, refugees and victims of the war with the Dwarfs were called to the forest by its heart to stand vigil, waiting for as yet unknown conclusion. The conclusion came to pass at the end of the Elgi/Dawi war, as a group of Asur refugees of the sacked city of Tor Alessi that took to the forests for refuge under the leadership of Liandra of the House of Athinol were met and guided by an elf mistress who already served the forest. Under Lady Liandra's leadership and under the guidance of her mysterious ally the group took it among themselves to protect the forest from the axes and torches of Dwarfs marching to join the host against Caledor II. This fight was to be a test of Liandra who sacrificed herself for the forest and was victorious but killed, having proven herself loyal to the forest she was brought to the collection of others who had gathered over the years waiting just outside the glowing heart of the forest (whether her spirit was carried there or she was physically brought back to life is unclear). Upon her arrival the trees parted and these chosen few who had been waiting, some for centuries, were welcomed into the light of the heart to become born again as the Asrai. "Protectors and watchers, the guardians who will preserve *it (the forest) against axe and flame."
Eventually the High Elves, after the death of Caledor II and with the Dark Elf invasion of Ulthuan, retreated back to their homeland to its defense. However many of the colonists felt little loyalty towards that distant land and, having formed a bond with the woods of Athel Loren, chose to remain. ("The Curse of the Phoenix Crown" makes it clear that only those chosen by the forest and already living among the forest became the original Asrai, all Elgi were forced to abandon the Old World once defeated by the Dwarfs, none from any of the settlements were permitted to stay and seen off to their ships under armed guard, any who refused to leave were killed) They became known as the Wood Elves. Over time the forest's other inhabitants, spirits such as dryads, treemen and spites, have come to accept the elves, although some such as the branchwraith Drycha still resent their presence, and parts of the wood, such as the Wildwood, still remain closed to them.
The Wood Elves have learnt to wield Athel Loren as a weapon against invaders, leading invaders down magical pathways to wander for centuries, only re-appearing many years later before quickly ageing and dying. Such 'tree-singing' is also used to form great cities in the trees, cities which few outsiders are ever permitted to see. The Wood Elves cannot be described as morally 'good' or 'bad', lacking the clear definition of their cousins, the High Elves and Dark Elves. Despite this, Wood Elves are counted amongst the "Forces of Order" in the current rules. Like nature itself, they can appear as fickle and capricious as the winter chill, yet also as warm as the summer sun. Athel Loren, the enchanted forest of the Wood Elves, is ruled by two powerful elves called Ariel and Orion who are possessed by deities which are manifestations of aspects of nature. Ariel being the peaceful regenerative representation of nature, and Orion is the warlike unpredictable side.
The Wood Elven army
A Wood Elven army is made of two major groups: Elven soldiers, and the forest itself. 'Forest Spirits' can and will be awakened in a time of need to fight for the well-being of the entire forest. These Forest Spirits usually take the form of leafy tree-like creatures (called Dryads, Tree Kin and Treemen). Dryads present themselves as lithe and lovely maidens who entice the unwary into entering the forest. At a time that the dryads find amusing, the lovely, near-human aspect is shed and the violent aspect manifests as a tree-like vengeful monster that tears the erstwhile guest to shreds. Tree Kin are more nebulous spirits that normally move freely through the forest, unbound to any physical instrumentality. When the need arises, however, the Tree Kin embody a collection of dead limbs and trunks, which then shambles along with the elven horde, smashing and crushing all that it meets. Most terrible of all the forest spirits, however, are the Treemen, which result when an exalted spirit makes the choice to bind itself permanently to a tree. The resulting creature lives for centuries: indeed, the eldest of, the Ancients, recall a time when the meaty nuisances of elves and men, orcs and dwarfs, did not trouble and pollute (and, worst of all, cut down) the forest. Also found in the forest are 'spites' – the lowest form of spirits Athel Loren has to offer, who attach themselves to a unit, place or character and which confer a wide variety of unusual benefits.
- Highborns are the upper, ruling class of Elven society. They lead the Wood Elves in time of peace, and it is expected of them to be equally capable generals in times of war. They are far more skilled than the average elven foot troop. Highborns (and nobles) can take up special areas of training (called kindreds), which give them various skills and abilities. Most notably, the kindreds include the "Alters", who are characters that have been changed by the forest. They take on the aspects of the creatures of the forest, through which they move as rapidly as cavalry, and when they come upon the intruder they visit it with a torrent of attacks. Highborns, like most characters in Warhammer, can use magical equipment and ride on war animals. Athel Loren has a wide variety of steeds to choose from – a Highborn could ride on anything from a well-trained horse to an enchanted forest dragon.
- The Lord-level Mage is similar to mages in every other army, they have access to all eight lores of magic, or the Elf-specific High and Dark magic with a different lore attribute and have a variety of mounts to choose from, including Elven Steeds, Great Eagles, and Unicorns.
- Treeman Ancient
- Treeman Ancients are the oldest and wisest of the treemen that live in Athel Loren. They are just as large and strong as their brethren, but their knowledge of the past and workings of the Forest give the abilities much stronger than those of the average treeman. They cannot "purchase" kindreds as the elves do, nor can they carry magical items.
- The basic Wood Elf Hero Choice. He is similar to a Highborn, but with lower status, both on the battlefield and off. He can also choose a kindred for an additional points cost, but he cannot be mounted on a dragon, and can't take as many magical items as the Highborn. However, he is still a valuable addition to an army. Also, he can be chosen to carry the army battle standard, becoming a beacon for the elves in the near vicinity.
- The Spellsinger is the basic wizard in the elven ranks. Like the Spellweavers, they have access to all eight lores of magic, but not high and dark magic. The spellsinger can be upgraded to a higher level wizard.
- Branchwraiths are the most powerful dryads. They are only slightly more proficient than dryads in combat, but they can be upgraded to low-level wizards, making them an expensive, but much more durable alternative to the spellsingers.
- Glade Riders
- Forming a friendship of trust and understanding with their horses, Glade Riders move swiftly through the forest branches to bring their deadly bows to bear on the less mobile intruders. Glade Riders are capable of both ranged combat and close combat, though it is often better for them to weaken a target for another unit to assault. They often provide a curtain force on the front ranks, to delay and channel the intruder into a prepared devastating attack by wardancers, dryads, treekin and treemen.
- Glade Guard/Scouts
- Renowned for their impressive longbows, the Glade Guard are skilled bowmen whose understanding of the woods allows them to move seemingly unhindered through thick brush and dense undergrowth. Both Scout and Glade Guard are best suited to ranged combat. According to the background, they are feared throughout the whole world for the deadliness of their archery and rightly so. They also benefit from special rules that allow wood elves to move and fire on the same turn without penalty.
- Eternal Guard
- Using a unique fighting form with the asrai spear, Eternal Guard will solidly stand against any who threaten Athel Loren. Eternal Guard are frequently utilised as bodyguards for Highborn and Noble Elves. They are the only ones standing between the enemy and the destruction of the forest during winter time. During other seasons they have mostly ceremonial roles and of course, the right hand of the royals. Note that Eternal Guard are only a Core Unit as long as a highborn leads the army. If otherwise, they are a Special Unit.
- Forest spirits that are the embodiment of nature's duality: Beauty and Ferocity. Dryads will lure intruders off roads and trails, then let their sharp branches and thorns teach the intruder the folly of trespassing in Athel Loren. Dryads are some of the most capable assault troops in the Wood Elf host, being fast, strong, tough, fear causing, magically protected and nigh unstoppable.
- Wardancers are the elven equivalent of berserkers – they have no armor, move fluidly, weave 'dances of death' around their opponents, and are immune to psychological effects such as fear and terror. In Wood Elf folklore, Wardancers are treated with the utmost respect. Wardancer Kindreds are known for dancing at great feasts and banquets. The dances are known to last for many days and nights.
- Warhawk Riders
- Warhawk Riders are light, flying units used mostly for march-blocking and hit-and-run tactics. They are highly skilled elves riding agile, giant hawks, and resemble a sort of 'flying cavalry'.
- Tree Kin
- Tree Kin is the name given to the spirits of Athel Loren that bond themselves with dead trees to create an abominable, moving tree monster. They are, in essence, lesser forms of Treemen. Tree Kin tactics closely resemble that of other monsters its size, like a Troll, due to their high toughness and magical ward saves. They are great monsters that induce fear.
- Wild Riders
- As the personal guard of Orion, Wild Riders are aggressive and impulsive cavalry and are much more resilient than Glade Riders. They have transcended the status of elf and, through Orion have become akin to the forest spirits. They, like all forest spirits, become dormant during the winter but experience a violent rebirth in the spring, raiding lands from allied Bretonnia to the far north. Killing everyone from Bretonnians, Orcs, Beastmen, and even Wood Elves who accidentally cross paths with the wild hunt.
- Great Eagle
- A Great Eagle is just that—an eagle of epic proportions. They live in the Grey Mountains, or on the very highest treetops of Athel Loren and have a special connection with elves. Wood elves use eagles as deadly flying monsters. Some heroes of the Wood Elf race are even known to ride them to battle.
- Treemen are the most powerful spirits in Athel Loren. They, unlike Tree Kin, are permanently bound to a living tree, making a connection that only death can sever. Also, Treemen are ancient beings – some are old beyond mortal reckoning – of gigantic size and have many abilities that Tree Kin do not. One example is the mystical power of tree-singing, which can enable trees to walk or attack nearby enemies, another is strangle root, the ability to shoot roots out to damage enemies a short distance away.
- Waywatchers are elite scouts/rangers that have honed their skills to a point where they can remain concealed and unmoving for days on end and then let loose a volley of arrows instantly and with deadly precision, without the foe ever seeing their attackers. They are the best non-hero archers in the game and use similar tactics to scouts. They can pierce armour and even slay the most powerful heroes with just a single shot. If ever an unfortunate visitor comes to Athel Loren uninvited, he will likely already been spotted by waywatchers. If the visitor is lucky, the waywatchers will guide him out of the forest without showing themselves. If the visitor is unlucky, he will join the many skeletons on the outskirts of the forest, with arrows protruding from both his eye sockets.
- Orion, King of the Woods
- The immortal Consort King of Athel Loren, Orion is the rampaging Avatar of the elf god Kurnous. He is a terrifying sight to behold, standing over ten feet tall and his green skin ripples with muscle. Although he must die each winter, he is reborn each spring, and reaches the peak of his power in mid-summer. Such is the way of things, the "continuation of the never-ending process of death and rebirth". Orion is normally accompanied by his baying hounds and the Wild Riders of Kurnous. Orion counts as both a Lord and a Hero choice. At the height of his power in midsummer, Orion is a terrifying being of majesty and power. And his lithe, green-tinged body ripples with barely contained anger. As the moons align overhead on midsummer's eve, a beautiful cloak crafted by his Queen is draped over his shoulders, and the great horn of the Wild Hunt is placed reverently before him. As the time of the conjunction draws near, he takes up his weapons from their shrine within the Oak of Ages. At midnight, Athel Loren goes utterly silent – not a creature stirs – for all know that the ride of the Wild Hunt has come.
- Drycha is the most powerful Branchwraith in Athel Loren. The Asrai believe she was driven mad when the blood of the powerful beastman Morghur was spilled in her glade, though in truth, she was malevolent and capricious long before that. She hates all who enter into Athel Loren, and blames the Wood Elves for all the evils that threaten the enchanted forest. In recent years, she and the forest creatures that serve her have taken to attacking villages around Athel Loren, leaving no survivors and showing no mercy. Drycha is believed to have entered the service of Coeddil, a tree-man whose hatred of the Asrai is legendary, and it is rumoured that she is forming a resistance to exterminate the Asrai. She counts as a lord choice and any army led by Drycha may only contain "Forest spirits" (refer to the Wood Elves army book).
- Naestra and Arahan, the Sisters of Twilight
- The Sister-Twins of Athel Loren are a mysterious pair who occupy the alpine slopes of the Pine Crags. The story of their existence has been retold throughout the ages by the wardancers. They tell that a small Asrai child, Naestarahan, was lured into the woods by glowing faerie lights to a place where even the Waywatchers feared to tread. There she was split into two halves: identical in looks, save that one has hair as dark as night and the other has hair of the purest white. Both command the forest: Naestra, out of love, Arahan, out of fear. As long as one endures, both will endure. They always ride to battle either Ceithin-Har a forest dragon, or Gwindalor, a Great Eagle. Both sisters take up a single hero choice, while Ceithin-Har takes up an additional hero choice.
- Scarloc is a champion to the Asrai. He is known for his skill with the bow and his stealthy abilities. He is also the leader of the masterful scouts. In Imperial year 2007 he and his scouts slew Morghur, or Cyanathair, Child of Chaos, by piercing him with a hundred arrows.
- Ariel, Queen in the Woods
- The opposite of Orion, she is the incarnation of Isha and represents the very nature of Athel Loren itself. She takes the form of a beautiful maiden with the wings of butterfly. Ariel is the most powerful spellcaster available to a Wood Elves army.
- One of the eldest of the Treemen Ancients, he suffered at the hands of many races trying to desecrate the forest (particularly the Dwarves, who left him scarred beyond recognition). As such he now hates all races, and only has limited trust of the Wood Elves
- Araloth is known for being particularly brave. However, this was not always so. He was once a cowardly noble who shrunk from battle and only enjoyed hunting. One night while he was out, he found himself thrown off his horse and separated from his companions. Hopelessly lost, he wandered for hours. When the moon had just risen, he wandered into a clearing. What he saw there was a four-armed daemon and the elf-maiden it was torturing. Forgetting his fear, he charged into the glade with his hunting spear and slew the daemon. After the daemon had been killed, the maiden revealed herself to be an unknown goddess. She bestowed three gifts on him. The first was he would be freed from his fears. The second would be his first-born daughter; to be a saviour. The third is still yet to be found.
- Warhammer Bestiary