Grand Alliance Order
"Tom's words laid bare the hearts of trees and their thoughts, which were often dark and strange, and filled with a hatred of things that go free upon the earth, gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning: destroyers and usurpers. It was not called the Old Forest without reason, for it was indeed ancient, a survivor of vast forgotten woods; and in it there lived yet, ageing no quicker than the hills, the fathers of the fathers of trees, remembering times when they were lords. The countless years had filled them with pride and rooted wisdom, and with malice."
- – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
"Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. [...] And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect."
- – Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
"Tarik backed away from the Bloodbound assault, stumbling and falling to the forest floor. Throughout the wood his brother Freeguilders were likewise breaking before the Chaos assault, men falling back between the trees as armoured shapes chased them down. Suddenly, a Chaos Warrior loomed over him, a crimson shape blotting out the sky. He raised his shield but his foe smashed it aside before raising an impossibly large axe to cut Tarik down. Then the trees moved. Roots and vines shot out of the shadows like thorny serpents, enveloping his attacker. Elsewhere in the gloom Tarik heard the screams and curses of the Chaos horde as new adversaries joined the fray. The Bloodbound lashed out at the branches as they struck, but it was as if the whole world had turned against them. Tarik watched, transfixed, as the vines tightened around the killer that moments ago had been poised to end his life. Appearing as if out of norwhere, the Dryad embraced her victim, his bones snapping at her touch. As the broken Chaos Warrior fell to the ground, Tarik looked into the Dryad's Eyes and felt a cold chill run down his spine."
- – Age of Sigmar
The Sylvaneth, children of the goddess Alarielle, have suffered greatly under the yoke of the Dark Gods. Their emerald kingdoms and woodland refuges in the Realm of Life have been infected and ravaged by the vile servants of Nurgle, until little but rot and decay remains. As Sigmar's tempest rolls out across the realms, a new age of hope is dawning, and the treefolk stir within their devastated forests and glades, taking up arms once more against those who have invaded their lands. However, this is not an ironbound contract. It is not unheard of for a slight misunderstanding to cause the Sylvaneth to depart from their erstwhile allies, or even attack them should they appear to threaten lands the Sylvaneth hold Sacred.
They were well-received upon their release, due to being one of the first factions unique to Age of Sigmar and being seen as a refreshing break from the near-constant focus on Sigmarines vs Chaos. It helps that one of their mainstay units (Kurnoth Hunters) are one of the best value units in AoS.
Age of Myth
The sylvaneth are the offspring of the goddess Alarielle, Queen of the Radiant Wood and ruler of Ghyran. Early in the Age of Myth Alarielle went around sowing soulpods, spirits she had saved from the World-That-Was. These formed into the first Sylvaneth. During this time, Alarielle sang a spirit-song, and this resounds in the souls of all Sylvaneth to this day, and through it Alarielle can communicate directly with them in Ghyran. The song of Sylvaneth helps bind them together as a united people, stopping them from struggling against one another not based on oppression but genuine feelings of unity. There was danger, of course, from rampaging beasts and hostile barbarian tribes. However, there were various spirits, most notably the Kurnoth Hunters, who formed the warrior caste and dealt with these threats while the others, most of all the Dryads, could nurture the lands and live in peace.
Alarielle looked upon her creations and knew peace at last. During this time, Sigmar found her and invited her to be part of his Pantheon, which she accepted. Time passed, and the children of the Radiant Wood spread beyond the bounds of Ghyran. Whether by soulpod seeds carried through Realmgates, or by the staging of deliberate expeditions, Sylvaneth enclaves sprung up across all the Mortal Realms, even realms less conducive to life, such as metallic Chamon and deathly Shyish.
These lands proved more dangerous than Ghyran. Entire sylvaneth clans were lost to war and catastrophe. Still, the sylvaneth prevailed and spread. There was one hazard they could not have planned for though; once beyond the Realmgates,the sylvaneth found themselves cut off from the spirit-song of their mother. The sylvaneth who travelled to new realms could still perceive the spirit-song that echoed from within, but they found themselves islands of harmony amidst a terrible silence. Some went mad, while others fled back to the comfort of their heartglades. Tales are still told of the terrible season in which Silverthorn Glade was lost altogether. Those sylvaneth who endured sought out those places in the new lands where life magic flowed the strongest. In these places of power, they planted soulpod groves and sank their realmroots deep; the realmroots being magical paths to travel accessible only to them.
These were places of ethereal pulchritude. The vast Hunter’s Moon, the Singing Mountains, the Citycaverns of Briardell and countless others echoed the beautiful wonder of the sylvaneth homeland.
Age of Chaos
They suffered grievously at the hands of the forces of Chaos. Nurgle, with his fixation on life and Alarielle's similarity to Shallya from the World-That-Was, focused his efforts on Ghyran and directed nearly all of his forces there, also seeking to claim Alarielle for himself. So swiftly did Nurgle’s spawn multiply that tides of squirming terrors were soon sweeping across the lands at an unstoppable pace. The Queen of the Radiant Wood rose to repel this foul invasion, and a war began unlike any other. Renewal battled entropy, healing magic fought infection.
During the Age of Chaos the first appearances of the Outcasts among the Sylvaneth - the Spite-Revenants - occurred, in a period referred to as the "Shrouded Season". = No one but Alarielle knows the details, because she purposefully deleted this from the Sylvaneth's memory on a racial level, including the Outcasts themselves, and refused to talk about it ever since. No one knows why Alarielle did this but her, and it makes them uncomfortable to think about across the board.
All this time Alarielle had held onto Drycha's soulpod. She was conflicted about planting Drycha, fearing Drycha's madness and the harm she might wreak if freed but also concerned Drycha was a necessary darkness and that she was weakening the Sylvaneth by not including her. When she reached her lowest point during this Age, Alarielle headed to a hateful chasm and planted Drycha's soulpod there. Drycha emerged with a body of vines and thorn-root, torn between rage and depression, though she took the fight to the forces of Chaos, they were only slowed down, not stopped.
By the end of the Age of Chaos, all Sylvaneth had become warriors. Every Sylvaneth who wasn't a fighter had either taken up arms and learned to fight or been killed off.
Age of Sigmar
The Necroquake had less of an effect on the Sylvaneth than most of the other races, but they were still effected. The Gnarlroot Sylvaneth, who specialized in studying magic, devoted their efforts to studying the Necroquake and alleviating its effects where they could.
Recently, the events of the Stormvaults have revealed a new threat to Ghyran. There are objects called Black Seeds that sprout trees called Black Oaks that have a deterimental effect on the Realm of Life. Worse, the followers of Nurgle have found them and are starting to cultivate them all over Ghyran. It's mentioned Sigmar hid them in vaults in Ghyran for some reason and that Alarielle will be mad at him when/if she finds out what Sigmar did. It's hinted this could strain the Grand Alliance of Order, especially since Teclis is already mad at Sigmar for taking and repurposing some of his old tools from Hysh while Malerion and Morathi are plotting against Sigmar for their own gain.
- Oakenbrow: Said to be the First Glade, whose ancestors sprang from the very first soulpods planted by Alarielle. Have a strong sense of justice. Considered arrogant by some Sylvaneth - particularly Sylaneth from the Gnarlroot and Dreadwood wargroves, most see them as noble-minded.
- Gnarlroot: Old beyond mortal thought, strange and grim in thought and deed – they care only for lore and the hidden secrets of ancient things. The magic-heavy Sylvaneth. They're one of the more traditionalist wargroves, though they're more open to allying with non-Sylvaneth if they're wizards or scholars. Their leader, the Old King of Gnarlroot Glade AKA Grum King Ithil-spond, claims to have been podborn during Alarielle’s first sowing alongside the first Oakenbrow Sylvaneth.
- Heartwood: The clans of Heartwood Glade are said to be the most courageous and determined of all the Sylvaneth. They worship Kurnoth alongside Alarielle, and so have lots of Kurnoth Hunters. They're constantly at war with the enemies of the Sylvaneth as they see it as a disservice to Kurnoth to ever abandon the hunt. Despite this, they're very honorable and loyal and aren't cruel, just resolute.
- Ironbark: The Dorfiest Sylvaneth. Originating from Chamon, the Ironbark clans are known for their tenacity and resilience, and are famous for weathering the most extreme of circumstances without complaint. They are skilled at drawing up precious metals and ores from the soil. These traits and a familiar attitude have led to strong alliances between them and the Dwarfs, being the only trees that Dwarfs like.
- Winterleaf: The melancholy Sylvaneth. The spirits of Winterleaf Glade are fey and melancholy, given to fatalism and introspection. They had the most beautiful of places, but after Nurgles forces destroyed those places they got a major sad that's lasted ever since. But rather than making them lose hope, they fight for revenge against the forces of Chaos and will ally with anyone who can help them get revenge. They've also developed a strong affinity for and tolerance of cold temperatures, making their new homes in icy regions and glaciers.
- Dreadwood: The most sadistic Sylvaneth. More vengeful than the Winterleaf, more xenophobic than the Gnarlroot and fear is their primary weapon. Utterly merciless, they're suspected of being the source of the Outcasts and have more in their number than any other Wargrove. They get along well with Drycha.
- Harvestboon: The only ones born during the Age of Chaos, but surprisingly not unhappy about it. They're vibrant and optimistic, seeking to heal the damage done to Ghyran. The Branchwraiths of Harvestboon clans are known for the flowing beauty and power of their songs and spellcraft, and the Willowqueen sings strongest of all. Leading her kin to one deadly conflict after another, the warrior regent seeks a future free from Chaos, and she will lead Harvestboon through any danger to win that prize. Their numbers are growing rapidly, especially with Alarielle's rebirth. They likely have the largest amount of Arch-Revenants.
The Spirits of the Forest
There are more Sylvaneth than just the treespirits, sprites (spites in AOS) are Sylvaneth, the spirits that possess deadwood to forge bodies out of it (treekin) are Sylvaneth, the ghosts and fae creatures of the glades are Sylvaneth. They ARE good people overall, with most of them having noble desires and despise chaos. Even the sadistic and racist ones will side with the good guys to fight the bad guys. It's just that they're so alien to others that the alliance is always quite strained. They're difficult to interact with, not just because of the language barrier. They do not like you, they don't think like you and they don't live and die like you. Your concerns are extremely alien to them just like they are to you; Sylvaneth in general don't care for glory, expanding borders or making money but instead are mainly concerned with ensuring the safety and cycles of the natural world are upheld. Some things Sylvaneth do share with others is that they build cities, work metal and stone and create artworks, tapestries and furniture. They are also unfathomably long lived. It is likely they only die due to violence or specific diseases, and even then some of them even have their souls in a part of them called a "soulpod" that can undergo a sort of reincarnation.
Despite these alliances, most Sylvaneth do not like mortals/non-Sylvaneth, usually calling them "Quickbloods" (a category that includes daemons, despite them not being mortal). They consider the Quickbloods to be short sighted, flippant, brief and unable to comprehend the importance of their extremely long term plans and the real meaning of everything. Some of said mortals that they will treat with include the aelves of the Idoneth Deepkin, duardin and humans. One of the reasons is because some of them worship Alarielle even if some of the humans also worship Sigmar. They were close allies with the Wanderers. Now the Sylvaneth hate the Wanderers for chickening out and abandoning Alarielle and the Sylvaneth of Ghyran when the forces of Chaos attacked. Alarielle has yet to forgive them (or at least officially declare it). They're essentially living out a mission of repentance to Alarielle, planting waystones so that the forests of Ghyran can sprout in other mortal realms. This means that, ironically, the only remaining flesh and blood "wood (a)elves" are not a part of the new wood elf faction.
Also, the disparity in sentience can be pretty huge between different castes. For simplicity's sake, this will cover the ones who are playable in the game and any spites that hang out with them.
- Arch-Revenants are a new type of Sylvaneth. During the events that led to the Nercoquake, Alarielle looked at Nagash's designs and the undead ravaging Ghyran and got reminded of the ravages Nurgle and the followers of Chaos. However, this time she resolved not to dwindle or hide like last time and decided to go on the offensive against the threat. To this end she planted the soulpods that became Arch-Revenants, fusing each of them to a symbiotic Sprite called a Zephyrite so they can fly. They fuel the warlike parts of the Sylvaneth spirit song, but without the sadism or insanity that can be found among the Outcasts.
- Dryads are lead by the wraiths, who act as druidic spiritual leaders and chieftains. They are not a military caste. In the age of myth it was extremely rare for them to be called to war. The forest folk who were not capable of war were driven extinct more or less by the forces of nurgle, however. For many, life is very nomadic. Constant bouts of fleeing and hiding from the forces of chaos. They're VERY mercurial as positive qualities among the survivors, such as joy and cheer, faded as they fought to stay alive. Sing a lot. The more elitist of the clans look down on dryads quite harshly. They're considered by them to have ADHD, being petty. Most sylvaneth think this opinion is unfair.
- Branchwraiths are explicitly matriarchal and maternal figures. They carry an element of the Noble Spirits within their soulpod. They're the primary "nodes" of the sylvaneth's song. a sort of mass communication method of the race. Among these teeming armies stand the branchwraiths, sorcerers who can rouse the woods themselves to fight alongside the Sylvaneth. Enchanted oaks burst from the ground and vines move among the enemy like venomous snakes. To face the sylvaneth is to feel the wrath of nature set loose.
- Tree Revenants are sombre. They make up the primary Warrior Caste of the sylvaneth and are peace keepers, law enforcement, etc. They're generally lead in groups with a Treeman and a Branchwych.
- Branchwyches are powerful druidic figures whose sorcery and combat skill is highly respected. They are short-tempered, but keep it in check towards higher ranking Sylvaneth and Alarielle (though most subordinates give them due respect so rarely experience this temper). They have a special relationship with Sprites; in the eyes of the wyches, the little creatures can do no wrong and the Sprites are very fond of the wyches, coming to their aid en mass.
- Treelords make up the nobility of the clans. Treelords are the most well known of the Noble Spirits and serve purposes like Royal Guards, Librarians, lords and military captains. All sylvaneth love them as fathers/mothers and would only disobey one in extreme cases. Huge swarms of Sprites make their home among the branches of the Treelords, nestled in their bark hides. They're inherently compassionate. They have an extremely deep connection to the spirit song. They communicate with one another in songs made up of streams of color and sensation, made into language.
- Treelord Ancients are the Kings and Queens of the Sylvaneth. They're the most powerful mages, the masters of life magic, they have an inner serenity that persists no matter what it is they're doing, including while on the battlefield that they sing to other sylvaneth. They're extremely meticulous, every detail of their extremely long lives is committed to memory. They know the name of every sylvaneth they rule over and spend their lives amassing knowlege into their lamentiri to ensure that future generations can benefit from their experience.
- Treelords are seen as youthful and impulsive by ancients. Though the youngest treelord is older than any mortal by several times. Treelords act as the hired muscle of the Ancients and are far more violent and dynamic as individuals.
Both of these noble spirits are extremely prone to deeply exemplifying the eccentricities of their glade. EG harvestboon treelords and ancients are very slight and lithe, but extremely passionate quick to rage and mirth. Ironbark treelords tend to have veins of ore in their wood that makes them glitter while being unreasonably stubborn. Dreadwood treelords are vicious and untrustworthy even in the eyes of other sylvaneth.
The Free Spirits are much more directly administrated by Alarielle:
- Sons of Durthu were sired from Durthu, live every day trying to meet his stalwart example, they act as personal agents and guardians of Alarielle. When they speak they carry Alarielles authority with them. Extremely determined and loyal. They have an innate understanding with every other son of durthu that suggests a shared consciousness. Whilenot slavishly loyal they are trusted and valued advisors to Alarielle and the clans.
Another kind of "Free Spirit" Kurnoth Hunters are the "Hunter cult" of the Sylvaneth. While they're their own caste of treecreature (vast, hulking warriors much taller than a man) they worship Kurnoth as Alarielle's "Soul-Consort" and equal seeing themselves as embodiment of his wrath as the Sons are to Alarielle. They're the newest caste, they didn't arise until Alarielle picked up the spear of Kurnous well into the Age of Sigmar. Even the Spite Revenants are older than the eldest hunter. Hunters are purposeful, driven and almost single minded. They have none of the bipolar or capricious whimsy of other sylvaneth. They act as executioners for Alarielle. They're considered very strange creatures by other sylvaneth who have a hard time understanding their single minded and taciturn natures. Like treelords and branchwraiths the spiritsong is especially powerful in them and they reverberate with it. Most sylvaneth worship minor deities in addition to Alarielle, but Kurnoth Hunters are the only ones to do this openly in Kurnoth. This leaves other sylvaneth mistrustful of them. Alarielle says this is fine and that's enough for most sylvaneth. The heartwood clan does everything they can to accomodate the Hunters. The Hunt Master of Kurnoth is a recent addition to the Royal Moot. It's baffling for non sylvaneth to try and understand his purpose. Some sort of hybrid position of Spy Master, Martial Advisor, High Priest of Kurnoth and Captain of the Royal Guard.
Often times a completely random hunter will take his place with only Alarielle knowing if it's really the Huntmaster. It's unclear if the huntmaster is a spirit that temporarily possesses a hunter, or Kurnoth himself making individual hunters his avatar temporarily. The regents of the sylvaneth are very distrustful of the Hunt Master, especially dreadwood who consider him a clingy upstart.
The Outcasts are unsettling. Deeply so for mortals, but almost as much for the Sylvaneth. The Sylvaneth don't know where they come from, don't know how they're made, don't even know if they're not a reflection of the Sylvaneth made dark by Alarielle's vengeful desires. Many believe them to be Sylvaneth who caved into despair during the war in Ghyran against Nurgle. Outcasts are insane, literally. They're deaf to all but the darkest and most malevolent parts of the sylvaneth's song. They dwell in gloomy and unsettling glades. Some Sylvaneth fear the outcasts madness is infectious. Where Dryads and other Sylvaneth sing, Spite Revenants "Scream a sawing, nerve-shredding cacophony of horror and hate fit to drive mortal minds beyond the brink of sanity." Murderous butchers, they commonly soak themselves and their roots in blood and torture their enemies.
Drycha considers herself to be their regent, like the Willowqueen is the regent of harvestboon or the Old King is of Gnarlroot. Drycha and the Outcasts are far more than just racist. They want to purge all non-Sylvaneth, but they will ally with non-Sylvaneth in the short-term if it helps genocide them in the long term. The malevolent and cruel sprites love them. She and the spite revenants are warrior caste.
The Living City
Raised by Lady Alarielle the Everqueen from the stone and Ironoak of the Jade Kingdom, the Living City is a natural bulwark against the savage powers of the realms, a mighty woodland city ringed by thorn-studded towers and walls of choking vines. It was the first of three fortified cities that would find themselves under siege by the forces of brutality and disorder during the bloody season of war. After a vicious campaign, the battle was won, as the city itself stirred to life to crush and tear its foes apart. In the wake of this victory the boughs of the living city have continued to reach ever outwards, forming new perimeter walls of venom tipped thorns and canopy-districts of winding, oaken pathways. Artisans and craftsmen flock to the Living City, fashioning wondrous artifacts and weapons from its sturdy ironoak branches. The city's hunters are renowned as some of the finest woodsmen and trackers in the realms, and their ironoak longbows loose arrows with unerring accuracy.
The Living City stands as a symbol of the great alliance between the people of the God-King Sigmar and the Lady Alarielle, and its citizens are attuned like few others to the wonders - and dangers - of nature. From an early age, the wardens of the city learn the arts of woodcraft and tracking, mastering the ability to move at pace while leaving barely a sign of their passing. In the depths of the forest and upon the battlefield, the shadows are a powerful ally. Warriors of the Living City pass unseen until the moment they strike, cutting down their prey in a pinpoint storm of arrows. Graceful, inhuman forms lead the city's armies to battle: Sylvaneth, separate but always close to their mortal allies, honoring the alliance between Sigmar and the Lady Alarielle. Though the guardians of the Living City are fine trackers in their own right, they know little of the ancient places of the realms, the primordial paths through nature that the everqueen's children still recall. Should battle be joined, the Sylvaneth will willingly lay down their lives alongside humans, Duardin and Aelves, sacrificing themselves for the cause of order.
The Scoured Forest
A region of the Realm of Fire, once inhabited by Sylvaneth. A sprawling land of carboniferous forests, this place was the site of a cataclysmic battle against the Skaven of Clan Skyre. The conflict left the land its self scarred and seared for ages to come, as the ratmen's engines of destruction washed the forests in flames and ignited the volatile gasses that permeated the swampland. CLouds of ash billow across this land, so thick that one can barely see more than a few hundred yards ahead.
|Playable Factions in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar|