Chapter 3 - Hope Reborn - The Battle of Athel Loren
-With the coronation of Malekith the Eternity King the Elves are at peace for the time being. The Dark Elves and the more militant of the High and Wood Elves fear and respect Malekith, and the High Elves and Wood Elves love Alarielle (while the Dark Elves have learned to respect her). However the forest itself is divided, the majority of the forest spirits honor the ancient pact and follow the example of Durthu the Ancient, but a growing number side with Coeddil the Mad and Drycha the Briarmaven who want the Elves gone.
-The war begins as Chaos flares again in Athel Loren, the Vaults of Winter burst with thousands of Daemons that assault large swathes of the forest. Several cities are lost and even more savaged with many Elves falling in the defence. At the Tree of Woe Morghur, also known as accursed Cyathanair, is reborn and leads a renewed Beastman assault against the Elves, Morghur himself corrupting many with his warping touch. As Athel Loren faces the forces of Chaos yet again, Drycha breaks the binding stones of the Wildwood, allowing Coeddil and the dark spirits of the forest to roam free again, the cruel Treemen shatter an army of Wood Elves but their attack is blunted by Alith Anar and the Shadow Warriors. The battles rage on but the resentments between the three factions of the Elves cause as many casualties as the enemy, though the asur refusing to cooperate with the druchii or the asrai trusting nobody but themselves; this is due to the fact that Malekith and Alarielle are not setting a good example as neither trusts the other, however the two take to the field and prove their worth as the Incarnates of Ulgu and Ghyran, as does Lileath who has joined with the Elves fully and fights on the frontline.
-Meanwhile Teclis and Malhandir have joined forces and are carrying a burden towards the Oak of Ages, Teclis is being guided by the spirits of Eltharion the Grim, Archmage Bellenaer, Korhil of Chrace and Finubar the Seafarer.
-Other issues for the Elves arise from Hellebron, who survived her injuries in Khaine and has restored the Cult of Blood, which swells with members from the Asur and Asrai. She fights fiercely in defence of Athel Loren, but spends her followers lives like cheap coin, Malekith's refusal to check her influence leads to a battle where after slaughtering their way through the beastmen warherd, Hellebron's followers savage the Asrai force that was fighting them and kill half of the Elves there. Forced to concede the point, Malekith allows Alarielle to strip Hellebron of everything she has and exile her, and disband the Cult of Blood. This however allows Be'lakor, who has plans for Athel Loren, to convince Hellebron to swear allegience to him instead, Hellebron's bitterness over her fall is enough for Be'lakor to win her service.
-Meanwhile the Wind of Aqshy, now loosed from the dead Ungrim Ironfist, travels across the world seeking a host. Many sorcerers attempt to harness it only for it to pass them by, or worse notice them and destroy them utterly as they fail to contain it's power. Egrimm van Horstmann makes hundreds of sacrifices in the tunnels underneath fallen Altdorf, but even he can only contain Aqshy for a second before the magic destroys him from the inside.
-As the Elves fight their battles alone, the survivors of Averheim arrive at Athel Loren after surviving Orc and Ogre attacks as well as Chimaera packs in the Grey Mountains. Balthasar Gelt has been accepted by the Dwarfs as their leader, as many believe him to be the reincarnation of Grungni due to the ancient and forgotten runes flaring to life in his presence. Karl Franz, now stripped of Azyr by Archaon's hand, is still a mighty force as traces of the magic linger and is leading the way as he is the only one who actually wanted to come to Athel Loren. Behind them marches a massive army under the command of Skarr Bloodwrath, resurrected from his death at the hands of Duke Jerrod, who plans to burn Athel Loren to the ground. Be'lakor pleads with him to stay his hand for now as the First-Damned's plan requires perfect timing and the element of surprise, but Skarr is too insane to listen and assaults the forest. Because the army under Franz have not harmed the forest, no cutting down trees for firewood (etc), the spirits have left them alone; Bloodwrath's forces are not so smart and soon they are attacked by every spirit for leagues. Be'lakor's plan is ruined, but he begins to redraw them.
-Coming to a great chasm Balthasar Gelt stays behind to buy the rest of the army time to reach the Elves. The Dwarfs refuse to abandon him and stay as well, while Franz and Jerrod split the army and take off in multiple directions to better their chances of finding help. Bloodwrath arrives shortly after and charges the chasm wall that the Dwarfs have prepared for battle; the ensuing fusillade kills thousands of the Skaramor tribesmen and a magic assault from Gelt sees Bloodwrath and hundreds of others turned into golden statues. However a dark miracle occurs as Khorne rises from his throne and slashes the mountain that the Dwarfs are using, breaking their battlelines, and personally undoing the petrification of Bloodwrath and his followers. The berserkers charge the Dwarven line and wreak havoc, however the Dwarfs refuse to give ground and hold the berserkers in check; many are killed on both sides and only the Dwarfs legendary stubborness and Gelt's immense power keep the northmen from victory. Help arrives in the nick of time as Caradryan leads a large Phoenix Flight and an army of the Phoenix Guard to help. The Skaramor are butchered in thousands by the fires of the Phoenixes, though Bloodwrath refuses to be cowed and meets Caradryan in single combat. The bloodmad warrior kills Ashtari, Caradryan's ancient Frostheart Phoenix, but is killed by the Elf Lord for his efforts; but before Caradryan can escape he is set upon and swarmed by the berserkers. In what appears to be his last moments he prays to Asuryan, now dead and gone, but his prayer is answered by the Wind of Aqshy which takes Caradryan at it's host and resurrects Ashtari as a Flamespyre Phoenix. Caradryan's new magic breaks the Skaramor assault utterly and sees all the Khornate Warriors killed.
-Be'lakor, in response to Skarr Bloodwrath ruining his initial plan, goes with his next plan. He meets with Drycha and Coeddil, preying on their hatred of the Elves and their foolish naivety that Chaos will leave the forest alone once the Elves are gone to sway them to his side. Next he finds Naieth, former chief spellcaster to Ariel, and tricks her into revealing her dream self to the Eye of Sheerian as she observes Archaon and in turn to the full gaze of the Dark Gods. The spellcaster's soul is devoured and her body is warped into a Daemon gate that allows hundreds of Slaaneshi forces to spill into Talsyn. The Eternal Glade and the Oak of Ages are now at risk, and with them the Weave that holds the world together.
-Three armies converge on the Oak of Ages; Be'lakor's Daemonic army, Hellebron and her Cult of Blood, and Drycha and Coeddil's spirit army. Malekith, Alarielle and the twins Naestra and Arahan lead the defence. The twins face off against Hellebron, whose madness has infected her army and turned them into little but blood-drunken savages whose only strength comes from their refusal to simply die. Malekith and his forces face the Daemons, Malekith however is only half-taken in by the battle and is keeping his mind on the shadows, thinking that there is a presence there that he will need to deal with when the time comes. Alarielle and her forces face Drycha and Coeddil who believe that with her death, the Elves will fragment and allow them to take the forest back for themselves.
-Meanwhile Teclis has reached the Oak of Ages, his unknown plan nearly completed. He finds Ariel/Isha's bones and prepares to use them in another gambit that could see the battle for Athel Loren ended, but if it fails the battle for the world at large will be lost.
-As the battle rages Coeddil charges the centre of the Everqueen's army and tries to kill her, only for Durthu to intercede and face his ancient brother in one last battle; a battle that he wins by piercing Coeddil's heart with his blade. Malekith faces down multiple Keepers of Secrets, including the legendary N'kari whom he defeats easily and sends screaming back to the Forge of Souls. As he sees Alarielle's line beginning to buckle under Drycha's attack Malekith moves to reinforce her, however the moment he has been waiting for arrives as Shadowblade drops from the forest canopy and attempts to kill the Eternity King. Having known this moment would come from the moment he exiled Hellebron, Malekith dispatches the Assassin and sends him falling to his death from Seraphon's back. As he arrives at the Everqueen's forces Malekith is pinned in place by vines controlled by Drycha, who leaps at him and prevents him from coming to Alarielle's aid.
-Be'lakor joins the battle and makes his way to the Oak of Ages. His shadows begin to infect the weave, causing reality to buckle. Upon sensing this Drycha finally realizes her hubris and turns to try and stop Be'lakor, but it is too little and far far too late and Malekith decapitates her when her attention falters (he refuses to embrace such a fickle being as an ally). Be'lakor continues to infect the weave, drawing the attention of the Dark Gods, but is stopped when an incredible light bursts forth from the ancient tree. Before he can resume his attack Be'lakor sees a knight emerge from the tree, exuding a bright and powerful light and a presence that causes the Daemons of Chaos to burn and waver. The knight reveals himself as Prince Tyrion, resurrected by Teclis using the Heart of Averlorn's magic and the divine bones of Ariel/Isha. Tyrion is now the Incarnate of Light and his very presence is anathema to Chaos, furthmore the madness is driven from the followers of Hellebron who beg forgiveness for their actions (mercy is not given and most are executed) bar Hellebron herself who flees swearing revenge, and the Daemons of Chaos shy away from Tyrion in fear. Be'lakor is driven off, the racous laughter of the Dark Gods ringing in his ears as he flees in shame.
-Victory is won, but at a cost. Half of the Elves who stood with Malekith and Alarielle are dead. The Daemons are chased by Prince Imrik, who is furious that he was not there for the battle, who harries them all the way to the gate made from Naieth's twisted body. Enraged by her desecration, Imrik annihilates the Daemonic stragglers and gives Naieth's corpse an honorable cremation, spreading her ashes among the forest. The Weave is stabilised, but it is still fragile and cannot be restored to it's former strength. The biggest concern is Tyrion though; nobody is willing to trust him. Malekith demands that Teclis explain his actions, which the Archmage does (and in doing so proves that Tzeentch has got nothing on him as a chessmaster) and reveals that he planned the entirety of Warhammer: Khaine. Tyrion was always destined to become the Avatar of Light, but had he become this while still saddled with the Curse of Khaine then the power of Hysh would have been corrupted and therefore worthless. Everything from the sacrifice of Aliathra to the corruption of Tyrion into the Avatar of Khaine, and the thousands of dead from Tyrion's rampage, was designed to remove the Curse of Khaine from him and allow Tyrion to assume his ultimate destiny. All but Malekith and Lileath are apalled beyong measure, Malekith deciding then and there that he respects Teclis for his ruthlessness and Lileath uncaring because the plan was hers and because she has done far worse. It is decided that Tyrion is necessary, though to ease the burden he vows that he has no interest in kingship of the Elves. Tyrion and Alarielle have a private conversation, their words are unknown, but it is clear that the innocent blood on Tyrion's hands and the destruction of the Heart of Averlorn have killed Alarielle's love for him.
-The next morning Caradryan arrives with the Imperial and Dwarven forces. The Incarnates meet at last and all three sides share their stories, from the destruction of the Dwarf-holds to the fall of the Empire to the sinking of Ulthuan. Teclis reveals his plan fully to all, explaining to the Incarnates exactly what their destiny is and how it can be achieved; though he admits that the Wind of Shyish was stolen before he could get to it and the Wind of Ghur is invisible to him at the moment. The sides agree to an alliance, however at night a new army arrives. Nagash and the army of the Undead. Mannfred von Carstein acts as his herald and reveals why Nagash has come to Athel Loren, he seeks to parley with the Forces of Order and ally against the Chaos Gods.
-Meanwhile Archaon's excavation is complete. Underneath Middenheim his forces have found something that Archaon believes will end the Apocalypse and destroy the world once and for all. He orders it to be activated by the sacrifice of the hundreds of slaves that have excavated it, and leaves to return to the field.