Wood elves are physically similar to their high elf kin. They equal them in beauty and grace, and have unsurpassed agility. Wood elves wear simple hides and furs, camouflaged to allow them to fade among the trees. Their forest life teaches them to move without trace through the most tangled terrain. Their home, Athel Loren, is a great forest that hugs the southern foothills of the Grey Mountains between the Empire and Bretonnia. Outsiders dare not enter these strange woods, for a powerful magic protects the trees. The wood elves wander in small kinbands, forever guarding the forest. They emerge from the foliage like ghosts, striking down intruders before vanishing mist-like into the undergrowth.
Magic and illusion are integral aspects of wood elf life – their mages can awaken the trees and commune with the spirits of the forest, such as tiny spites, vicious dryads, and lumbering treemen. Wood elves revere all arboreal life, and despise those who despoil the forests, whether men, dwarfs, or greenskins, but reserve their bitterest hatred for Chaos, which warps the natural world.
At the time of the War of the Beard, even elves avoided mysterious Athel Loren. Those who had settled near its borders regarded the Old World as their home and decided not to return to Ulthuan in the aftermath of the war. They were attacked by the dwarfs, and fled for refuge within the forest. The dwarfs followed, hacking and burning, but awoke the anger of the ancient trees, which slaughtered them all.
The elves embraced Athel Loren as their home, vowing never to take from nature without recompense, and the forest slowly accepted their presence. Over a thousand years before the founding of the Empire, the dwarfs returned to settle their grudge with the elves. They were met with flights of arrows from unseen archers, and the trees again came alive and assaulted them from all sides. Elves and forest united to drive off the intruders, and from that moment, the inhabitants of Athel Loren became known as wood elves.
That winter, ice gripped the land, and an army of orcs rampaged through the forest. Athel Loren’s magic ebbs during the coldest months, and the elves were butchered mercilessly until two of their kind, Orion and Ariel, who had earlier vanished into the forest, reappeared touched by divinity. Orion was possessed by Kurnous, the hunter god, cloaked in leaves and crowned with horns. His fury emboldened the elves, and they massacred their enemies. In Orion’s wake came Ariel, now a beautiful aspect of Isha the mother goddess, restoring the wounded forest with her touch. As the bitter chill of winter set in, Orion strode into a ritual bonfire and was consumed. With the vernal equinox, however, he was reborn and leads his Wild Hunt to herald the spring. Since that time, this cycle occurs every winter and spring.
For over three and a half millennia, under the protection of Ariel, the wood elves have defended the forest against men, dwarfs, and even undead hosts, raised by the necromancer, Heinrich Kemmler. However, their bitterest foes are the abominations that skulk in the darkest woods, perverting the beauty of nature. The wood elves have battled many times against beastmen hordes led by Cyanathair the Corruptor, a beast-daemon that exists only to despoil. Their hatred for the beasts of Chaos is all-consuming.
Wood Elves in the Reikland
Wood elves seldom venture from their sylvan retreats, for they care little of the world beyond Athel Loren. However, a decade ago, Naieth the prophetess foresaw the death of the forest, and both Orion and Ariel acknowledge that the fate of their realm is intertwined with the fate of the wider world. Thus they have directed the wood elves to hunt their enemies beyond Athel Loren. Kinbands now roam the Reikwald Forest, hunting beastmen breeding in its shadowy depths. Sometimes individuals step from the trees to ally with the causes of men, when they coincide with their own concerns.
A few wood elves wander the realm of men in self-imposed exile for dishonouring their kinband, perhaps by allowing enemies to escape, or failing to save a kindred-brother’s life. Also, legend speaks of the Lost Kindred who long ago migrated across the Grey Mountains. Their descendants may yet haunt the most remote parts of the Reikwald.