The Undead War is considered to be the greatest war in contemporary Elanthian history. The war was fought primarily between the undead, led by Despana, and the elves, although nearly every major sentient race took part in the war. The war itself was won by the elves, but it was so catastrophic that it seriously altered the course of history for many races, ending the Elven Empire, fracturing the Halfling race and devastating the Dwarven populace.
Before the War
Rumors of Despana first began to appear in the centuries after the year -20,000. Who she was or where she came from was never discovered by even the Elven scholars. What is known is that somewhere in the wastelands of Rhoska-Tor, she found the Book of Tormtor. While this tome was lost in the war, it is believed to have held secrets of horrible and arcane magic, including that of necromancy, or the creation of the undead. Despana quickly took advantage of the art of necromancy, and swiftly generated an entire horde of the undead, completely subservient to her. Her first major use for them was to build a fortress for her. It took nearly a millenia, but the undead hordes finally completed the keep of Maelshyve somewhere around the year -18,756.
At this same time, the second major goal, the conquest of Elanthia, was being brought about by Despana's general, the arch-lich Dharthiir. Rumors about to the true relationship between Despana and Dharthiir, though some say Dharthiir may have been Despana's consort. Regardless of the relationship between the two, Dharthiir was in immediate control of Despana's undead legions. He was a brilliant general, well suited to his role. Dharthiir sought to increase his army's strength and versatility, so he went on to recruit entire tribes of orcs with promises of wealth and conquest. These orcs went on to make up entire hordes serving under the name of Despana. As usual, the orcs also brought along their historical allies, the trolls, making up another powerful force within the army. Even some humans joined the ranks, though their was no singular reason for this as a whole, each one joining for individual reasons. Over the course of three thousand years, Despana bided her time, all the while her armies growing ever larger.
Course of War
Despana finally made her move in the year -15,186, striking at the southernmost provinces of the Elven Empire, particularly those of the Nalfein and Vaalor. Aside from local resistance, little defense was made against the undead armies. This was due to political rivalry and desire for prestige. Each of the houses wanted to boast that it had defeated the armies by itself, and none of the houses wanted to help out any of the others. While the Elven Houses quibbled and hesitated over bragging rights, Despana's legions carved a swathe through the Elven Empire within a month, bringing the battle to the doorsteps of Ta'Vaalor itself. While the rest of the houses did little at this point, House Vaalor took immediate steps to eliminate this threat.
Battle of ShadowGuard
- Main article: Battle of ShadowGuard
The strongest of the Vaalorian armies were led by Taki Rassien, a legendary warrior considerered to be the most powerful of his time. In addition to this, an elite force of knights known as the Sabrar accompanied the armies. Taki Rassien led the armies to the Vaalorian fortress of ShadowGuard. He had the highest expectations, having full confidence that he and the Vaalorian forces would stop Despana's forces. Taki was wrong. In less than a day, the battle of Shadowguard was over. The undead crushed the Vaalorian forces, leaving a handful of survivors. Taki Rassien, a legend in his time, was slain that day, and with him the elite Sabrar. Historians consider the battle of Shadowguard to have been the greatest defeat in Elven history, and the high point of Despana's war against Elanthia. Fortunately, this was a turning point in the war. The utter defeat at Shadowguard shocked the other six Houses into working together. The Faendryl were able to organize an appropriate army, made up of and capable of defending the entire Empire. In addition to this, Dharthiir was never seen again. His true fate has never been revealed by history, but some hopeful elves say that Taki, knowing that defeat was coming, led the Sabrar in a suicidal death charge into the heart of the armies and slew the arch-lich.
The final benefit gained from this battle was the recruitment of new allies. The shocking news of this defeat was felt all over the continent, and garnered the support of various races and cultures. The Dwarven Overking Gerfroth Khazar sent two thousand five hundred heavy infantry dwarves. Warmaster T'Syrinal of the Giantkin sent forces of berserkers and archers comprised of giantkin from all existing clans. The Sylvankind sent an force of skilled rangers and infantry to support their elven cousins. The elves even managed to secure the support of Halfling cavalry. Even some Humans, long time enemies of the elves, joined the elven allied forces, although their reasons were as varied as those who fought on the side of the undead. As such, the humans were the only race to fight on both sides of this war. This addition of sheer numbers and incredible versatility benefited the elven forces.
With the organization of the Elven armies, and the support of the other races, the undead hordes were finally stopped, but it was not enough to push them back. After years of a stalemate, the Faendryl proposed a swift strike at Maelshyve, crippling the armies and defeating Despana in the process. Supporting their argument, the Faendryl claimed to have come upon a new sort of magic which would allow them to crush Despana once and for all. While they would not share the nature of this magic, they guaranteed it would be enough. The other Houses accepted this option, and planning began for the final battle.
Battle of Maelshyve
The powerful Elven armies, and the allied forces of the other races made their strike at Maelshyve. The powerful Giantkin Berserkers carved their way through the front lines of the undead. The Dwarven Infantry, historically trained in combating orcs, held off the vast orcish hordes and their troll supporters. The versatility of the Elven allied forces allowed each force to find its purpose, and strategically, the Despana's forces were at a severe disadvantage. The undead were pushed back all the way to the keep before Despana tried a new strategy. Despana released the banshees, terrifying female ghosts, capable of devastating screams. The banshee's screams devastated the elven allied forces.
At this point, it seemed as if Despana was on the verge of victory. With no other choice, the Faendryl released their secret magic. A host of Faendryl sorcerers drew magical circles upon the ground, and from them, summoned a number of fiery lesser demons to do battle with the undead. The lesser demons were far more than enough, devouring the living and dead forces of Despana with gusto. They were so powerful that they demolished the undead armies singlehandedly. The few that were not killed by the demons retreated into Maelshyve. Once the crippled army was inside of the keep, the Faendryl sorcerers chanted their final spell, and destroyed the keep, Despana, and her armies once and for all.
During the battle, a few of the sorcerers, unpracticed in the art of summoning, lost control of their demons. These demons went on a rampage, killing those on both sides, and the trauma of this horrified the elven allied races. Though they were eventually sent back across the veil or destroyed, the damage was done; in the eyes of elves, the Faendryl had commit an atrocious act.
The elven allied forces, weary, battered, and exhausted, limped back from the wasted battlefield to regroup, finally having ended the greatest war their people had ever had to fight in.
While all those involved celebrated the end of the war, it was a bittersweet victory. Every race involved lost vast quantities of their warriors. The survivors mourned the loss of their brethren, so many dead that the loss of any individual seemed to be nothing. In addition to those who died, many were traumatized by the years of war and the final battle. The undead were a horrible foe to behold, and the terror instilled by the burning lesser demons was equally horrifying. The sylvans and the giantkin returned to their homes to tell the tales of victory, but also to convey the message that so many of their number had been lost. The dwarves returned to their home of Kalaza with songs of victory, but bore with them a plague known as the Red Rot, which took the lives of over half of their race, as well as bringing about the end of their city. The halflings in particular were morally and emotionally devastated by the sight of the demons. They felt that the horror had been so great that it corrupted them as well. A third of their number were so guilt-stricken that they decided never returned to their homes.
The elves themselves were appalled by the Faendryl's use of demonic summoning, and held it against them for several years, until the death of the Faendryl Patriarch was used as a catalyst to exile House Faendryl to the ruined land of Rhoska-Tor. But the Faendryl had historically led and unified the Elven houses, and without their leadership, the other houses fell to political infighting and bickering. While the politicians fought, the empire crumbled. Instead of working together, the houses withdrew their forces from the outlying territories and served only themselves. Having protected the lesser races for many thousands of years, the lack of support through the continent into disorder, and within a century, chaos fell upon the lands. For ten thousand years, this dark age reigned, known as the Age of Chaos.
Even though the Undead War brought nothing but horror upon the world, in the backs of the minds of those involved in this war, there was a sense that it all could have been worse if Despana had won. The thought that if this terrible dark age was victory, that losing the war would have been unimaginably worse. The heroes of the Undead War would be hailed for the rest of history for preventing such a terrible fate from occurring.
- The Official History of Elanthia, on Play.net