The oldest of all the forests of the Old World, its most ancient trees having grown from saplings seeded by the Old Ones' servants, Athel Loren is a mystical place whose shadow stretches far across the land. Whether it was the Old Ones that granted strange life to these woods, or perhaps the coming of Chaos that awoke the trees, it is impossible to say. All that can be said is that in the dawn of time, the trees began to think in a way that trees are not meant to, and that they learned of feelings such as anger and hate. The forest became aware of itself and of the other races crawling like insects upon the world, and it was not pleased with their intentions.
Standing stones carved with worn Elven runes mark the borders of this primeval realm, beyond which giant trees loom, their branches moving slowly as they strain to escape the magical barrier of the watchstones. Roots twist and claw across the fern-covered rocks and loam, and low mists coil and spread throughout its hollows and glades. This verdant labyrinth unsettles even the most courageous soul - filled with movement glimpsed from the corner of the eye, strange noises, and the feeling that one is being watched at all times. There is a slumbering awareness and a sense of watchfulness that permeates each leafy glade and winding track.
Dark forms move through the twisting branches and dense undergrowth. Tiny darting shapes flit between the trees on the very edge of vision. Athel Loren sees and feels everything within its boundaries and is watchful and secretive, perfectly willing to destroy those that seek to enter. Only the insanely brave, mad, or foolish dare to cross into Athel Loren, for the forest is a haunted place, filled with unquiet, malicious spirits.
The forest of Athel Loren defies the natural laws of the world, and time flows strangely within its bounds. An individual that treks under the dark boughs for what may only seem like a couple of hours may, if he survives, return home to find that 100 years have passed. Equally, one might wander lost within Athel Loren for decades, only to find that scant minutes have passed in the outside world. Athel Loren is more alive than any normal forest, and landmarks and glades shift and move. What was open clearing one night may be heavily wooded the next morning, and pathways often disappear or turn back on themselves within hours.
Most that try to enter Athel Loren find themselves constantly returning to where they started despite their best efforts to make headway. Even if they try and walk a straight path, they invariably find themselves turned around and facing out of the forest. Most travelers that persist in entering Athel Loren are found on its outskirts as little more than gibbering wrecks, their sanity shredded by whatever horrors they witnessed in the magical forest.
That is, if they ever return.
However, there are those spirits whose hearts are not darkened to the other living creatures of the world. The fortunate or the worthy might occasionally find passage between the changing paths, guided perhaps by a welcome shaft of sunlight, or coming across a forest trail at an unexpected turn. So it is that there are always those that would dare the dark forest to learn its secrets or were drawn by fanciful tales of treasures and hidden knowledge to be won.
Throughout Athel Loren are the magical halls of the Elven lords. These places are filled with ghostly music, laughter that sounds like the wind blowing through trees in autumn, and soft glowing light. The mighty entrance doors to the Elven halls are woven from the trunks of ancient trees or delve into the turf of the hillside - they are hidden to those the Elves do not welcome, though outsiders might pass within a few paces of such portals.
Those that enter through one of these strange gateways find themselves in a grand, beautiful cavern deep below the tree or hill. Roots can be seen far above, curving down from the roof of the hall to form elegant, interweaving pillars. Here, the Wood Elves make their homes, fine structures of ethereal beauty. Elegant lanterns adorn the hall filled with tiny, flitting, glowing figures. Here the Wood Elves feast and celebrate the natural cycles of the forest, holding grand banquets of woodland game and free-flowing, intoxicating Elven wines. The halls are alive with wild dancing, lilting laughter, and melodic music. Boy children taken from the lands around the forest, destined never to grow old, joyfully serve their graceful Elven masters. It is not unheard of for outsiders, such as Bretonnian Questing Knights, to join an Elven feast on occasion, but it is a foolish individual indeed that would eat or drink the foodstuffs of the Elves without invitation.
Elves have dwelt around and within Athel Loren for almost 5,000 years. Over this time, they have become intrinsically linked with their forest home, and their nature has changed to reflect Athel Loren. Forsaking their ties to other Elven folk, the Wood Elves have become deeply secretive and suspicious and shun all outsiders. They are the guardians of the forest, and their fate is utterly entwined with that of Athel Loren: if the forest were to die, the Wood Elves would die with it.
Capricious and unpredictable, the Wood Elves have been likened to a force of nature, neither truly good nor evil. Athel Loren and the Wood Elves are far removed from simple comparison with the values held by other races. Like a placid lake, the Wood Elves can appear serene, beautiful, and enchanting, or as frightening and destructive as a storm. For every intruder that the Wood Elves guide out of Athel Loren, another is slain without question or remorse and left where he falls to be claimed by the forest. Bones and skulls can often be seen on the outskirts of Athel Loren, many with arrows protruding from ribs or embedded in eye-sockets, before they are obscured and covered by twisting roots and undergrowth or taken away by forest animals.
Ever watchful and vigilant, the Wood Elves guard Athel Loren ceaselessly. Even those who enter the forest with no ill intention are regarded with suspicion and resentment and will often come to a bad end. The Wood Elves have a distinct lack of interest in the goings on of the world outside of the forest and care little for those who are not their own. On occasion, they must take part in wars and battles beyond the borders of their forests in order to save their homes from future threat, but this situation is rare indeed. If the Wood Elves could live their lives without interference from the world beyond their fey lands, then they would do so gladly. However, Athel Loren is assailed constantly by those that seek to invade and corrupt it, and so they must wage an unending battle against these despoilers.
Unparalleled archers and almost unnaturally stealthy, the Wood Elves are a deadly foe to face. Those that they slay will rarely have even glimpsed their enemy before being struck down by unerringly accurate arrows from the dense woods. Swift and silent, the Wood Elves erupt from the trees in sudden bursts of savagery, cutting down their enemies ruthlessly before vanishing like ghosts into the depths of the forest.
The army of the Wood Elves is primarily a "shooter" army. Meaning they carry missile troops in abundance and generally can turn an enemy army into pincushions before they advance halfway across the battlefield. Fast and quick they are skilled at launching ambushes.
CoreEditWhen Athel Loren goes to war the Glade Guard form the bulk of the army, a deadly core of skilled archers that can often put a foe to flight before the battle has been joined. Glade Guard bring devastating massed missile fire to the battlefield.
All Wood Elves are trained in the use of the bow and most young warriors start their carrers in the Glade Guard.
Another core choice for the Wood Elf army is the Glade Riders. The Glade Riders form most of the calvary of the Wood Elves.
The Glade Riders are perhaps the greatest horse-warriors of the Old World, their Elven reflexes allowing them to perform all manner of seemingly reckless acts that are far beyond the abilities of the lesser races.The horses are much more swift and agile than their human counterparts. They can gallop at full speed through the crowded forest where a human would struggle just to walk. The famed knights of Bretonnia and the Empire may be bigger and stronger, but they could only manage a slow crawl in the forests of Athel Loren. A surprise flank attack by a unit of Glade Riders has won many a battle for the Wood Elves. They excel in hit-and-run tactics. The Glade Riders will often slam into an enemy battle line like a sledgehammer and then just as quickly turn and vanish like a mist. Next on the list of Core choices is the Eternal Guard. The Eternal Guard are the bodyguards of the Wood Elf lords and accompany them on the battlefield. They are some of the most skilled fighters the Wood Elves posses, so naturally only veterans are founf amongst their ranks. During the winter when the power of the forest is weakest it is the Eternal Guard that form the first line of defence against all invaders.
SpecialEditThe first special choice is the Wardancers. The Wardancers are an elite group that have turned hand-to-hand combat into an art form. Of all Wood Elves the Wardancers especially hate all outsiders and are even seen as eccentric to other Wood Elves. They wear almost no armor and thus are somewhat fragile, but their speed makes up for this. An arrow from the weakest of bows could slay them if the archer actually saw the Wardancer before he was killed. Even when visible their speed makes them extremely hard to hit.
Another Special choice is the Wild Riders. While Wild Riders are generally quite skilled they come from every segment of Wood Elf society. During the height of summer when Orion begins his Wild Hunt he will be joined by every Elf he cannot resist his call. These Elves form the Wild Guard and they serve as the bodyguard of Orion on the battlefield. While they only carry light armor the Wild Guard still make good shock cavalry. Their horses are faster than most other horses from other races.
Athel Loren is inhabited by strange and powerful beings, many of whom are as ancient as the forest itself. In spirit form, these creatures are insubstantial, though in times of conflict they can bind themselves to the husks of dead trees and fallen branches, creating a powerful shell with which they can oppose interlopers. This amalgamation of woodland detritus forms a horrific parody of a man, one who walks on gnarled and twisted limbs and reaches out to crush its foes with phenomenal force. These creatures are the Tree Kin. They act without pity and feel no remorse.
RareEditThe unseen sentinels that have guarded Athel Loren for thousands of years are the Waywatchers. Quick, silent, deadly summarizes their fighting style. They use the bow and the blade with unequaled skill. It has been said that a Waywatcher can put an arrow in the eye of a man from a great distance in the darkest of nights. They see everything and miss nothing. They also benefit from the Forest Stalkers rule which means they can move through forest as if its normal terrian. While the cannot actually become invisible, their use of camoflauge renders them practically invisible.
Treemen are powerful beings that wield tremendous strength, and Elven mages will wake these powerful creatures only in times of direst necessity. They are similiar to the Tree Kin yet the Treemen are older and more powerful. It is rumored that the Treemen are the spirits of the trees themselves and their hatred of all creatures knows no bounds. The purest among the Treemen actually resent the presence of the Wood Elves themselves and while they tolerate them now, they long for the days when the forest was silent and the Treemen were the sole guardians of Athel Loren.
There has always been a great bond of kinship between the Elves and the Great Eagles, stretching back to the birth of the Elven race. That bond remanins strong between the Wood Elves and the noble avians, and many families of eagles chose to make their homes in the heights of the Grey Mountains, close by the borders of Athel Loren. The Eagles will often join the Wood Elves in battle. Some Eagles will even carry Wood Elf lords upon their backs.
Orion- consort-king of Athel Loren
Naestra and Arahan- The Sisters of Twilight who are masters of all wild beasts that dwell in Athel Loren
Drycha- A powerful Branchwraith who was driven mad by the death of a companion