Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Elves

There are several known elven subraces in the Forgotten Realms, and most of them live in relative harmony. Crossbreeding is possible between the subraces, but in the case of the elves, the child will either take after the male or female parent's race (there are no drow-moon elf mongrels, and the child of such an unlikely union would have either all the traits of a dark elf or of a moon elf).

Gold elves, Silver elves, and Green elves all live in relative harmony. In Semberholme and presumably in other area sea elves and land elves live side by side. Wild elves are somewhat separate but there is no conflict or animosity with the other land elves. Avariel are rarely seen, but are beginning to establish contacts with the world outside their secret homes.

The dark elves are almost all banished to the Underdark as drow, but a few followers of Eilestraee are good aligned and dwell on the surface. Sadly the drow attack their surface dwelling brethren and communities are frequently wiped out.


Sun Elves

Also called Ar’Tel’Quessir, sunrise elves, gold elves

Typifying Quote: The elven ideals are the only thing we need; the elves are the only company worth seeking. All else is fleeting.

Appearance: They are an exotic and beautiful race with skin: of bronze or amber; and hair of copper, golden blond or black; and rarely red. Their eyes are usually gold or green and very occasionally copper, silver, black, or hazel. They are also taller than non Toril elves, closer in height to humans, but as they value study over combat they are a little less robust than moon elves.

Gold elves dress in garments that are of simple, flowing lines in cool greens and blues, but of exotic and magnificent cut richly decorated with subtle but intricate embroidery. Likewise their jewelry is deceptively simple, but intricately and exquisitely crafted.

History: Sun elves arrived in the second wave of elven migration, but in smaller numbers that the moon and dark elves. Ever since then they have always been a smaller population. Prior to the Crown Wars gold elves founded several great nations, all of which were deeply involved in these turbulent and lengthy wars.

In the post Crown War era gold elves undertook to build a realm based on compassion, knowledge and subtle, learned magic - the empire of Cormanthyr with its wondrous city of Myth Drannor. This became a mighty empire with great influence over the rest of Faerun and a rich storehouse for the arts. However it was the sun elves own arrogance and contempt of the other races that was the biggest stumbling block to the full realization of Eltargrim's dream - a city where all goodly races were welcome and all art and lore valued no matter the source.

More than any other race sun elves have embraced the Retreat to Evermeet, and the majority of gold elves live on the Island of the Elves. Gold elves from Aryvander were the first to inhabit Evermeet. It is the great tragedy of the elves that even here antipathy and rivalry arose between the elven races - fuelled (so say many) by the arrogance and superiority of the sun elves.

Cculture and Outlook: The key to understanding sun elven culture is their belief that Corellon chose them to be the keepers and defenders of all that is the finest in elven lore, art and magic; and their belief in their " special relationship" with Corellon. Many sun elves believe they were created to be more noble and more intrinsically worthy than the other elves. They thus look down on other elves races, and view the other races of Faerun with contempt.

Gold elves are a solemn and dignified people, who place great value on bloodlines and tradition. Their society is based on the rule of noble families, and the honour of a family name. While they do not rule a majority of the elven colonies across the Realms, gold elves often take it upon themselves to act as the conservative arbiters of elven civilization, firm in their beliefs that they know what “true elven culture" is. Many gold elves still resent the fact that the Elven Royal family is moon elven - however the majority hold the Moonflowers to be above racial divisions and truly honor their Queen.

Sun elves are isolative and aloof, preferring to keep themselves apart from the other inhabitants of Faerun. They disdain the arts and knowledge of other races, and therefore have a much narrower range of artistry and lore. However it can be truly said that in those areas the sun elves choose to work, they are consummate masters. Those who gather wizardly knowledge are held in great esteem, and sun elven wizards purse their craft with single minded intensity. The fine arts such as music, metal work and sculpture are dear to the heart of Corellon and "his" sun elves. Combat and the arts of war hold lesser value - and it may be true that in their assurance of their superiority sun elves are not truly aware of the danger posed top them by the other races and creatures living in Faerun.

Sun elves are common in Evermeet, and can also be found in the woodlands of the North, in the cities of Silverymoon and Everska, and in the western heartlands. Sun elves seldom interact with other races, and confine their search for knowledge to elven tradition. They very rarely take the path of an adventurer.

Moon Elves

Teu’Tel’Quessir, silver elves

Typifying Quote: Life is for the living and is best spent among the lively. Revel in variety and laughter, for all living things can learn and laugh with each other.

Appearance: Moon elves are tall and elegant and often extremely beautiful. Their skin is ivory-white, often with blue tints, with white, silver-white, sapphire blue, or black hair. Very rarely, they can be blond. Their eyes are blue or green with gold flecks; and occasionally gray. Both males and females wear their hair long - often plaited in intricate or simple braids, or pulled back into a ponytail. Moon elves prefer garb that may be simple and even rustic in style, but is exquisitely made and adorned with embroidery, bead work and other decoration. They also deck their bodies and their hair with adornment, and often use body paint and tattoos. When feasting or living in a place of comfort and safety their clothes are bright and cheerful - like the moon elves themselves.

History: The moon elves came to Toril with the second wave of elven migration, and came in the greatest numbers of any elven race. From the very start they tended to be explorers and wanderers, and only one moon elven realm was founded before the time of the Crown Wars. Orishaar fell to the Ilythiiri. Following the Wars, silver elves helped raise many of the new realms, especially those of Evereska and Cormanthyr.

Many lived in Myth Drannor. At the height of this great city the silver elves were among the only nobles outside of the Coronal’s circle who accepted N’Tel’Quess at parties. Though the Coronal was a gold elf, the moon elves were the ones doing the most to make Eltargrim’s dream of racial equality come true.

The moon elves were the slowest to answer the call, and retreat to Evermeet, and they left in smaller numbers than the other elves. Despite this, and despite the fact moon elves are often considered less noble than gold elves (a view especially common among the gold elves), the royal family of Evermeet come from the Moonflower clan - an ancient Moon elf family.

Culture and Outlook: They are both the most common of elves on this world, and the variety most often seen by non-elves. Silver elves remain a race whose inquisitive nature, curiosity and hunger to see and to know has led them to be wanderers and explorers, and also to be the elves most in contact with the other races. Many silver elves lives in nomadic groups made up of ten or more extended families that wander Faerun and seldom settle in one place for long. However this is measured in elven terms and many a town or city may see moon elves living there for much of a human’s short life span.

Moon elves thrive on change and on passions, often seeming like young elves throughout their lives. They enjoy laughter and revelry and tend to be more light hearted than the other elves. Though on the surface it may seem they live for the thrills of the moment, these elves see the future of all the races grimly: they must all learn to get along, or they will all be overcome. They are keen practitioners of the arts of battle, and a moon elven warrior is a truly dangerous foe.

Silver elves love of beautiful handiwork, music and tales and their thirst for knowledge has led them to admire and adopt much of the learning, skills and music of the other races. It is this and their love of friendship and feasting that has made them closest of all the elves to the other races. They are especially close to halflings, humans and gnomes; sometimes living alongside them. Their relationship with the dwarves is a little less close but they still admire these consummate workers in metal and stone. However they have a great enmity for the evil races such the goblinkin, and they reserve a deep and abiding hatred for the drow.

Moon elves have the affinity for wizardly magic seen in the other elves, but they often lack the single minded pursuit of these arts. Moon elves often combine their wizardy with the art of the blade or the more secretive arts and knowledge of a rogue.

Silver elves can be found in almost every region of the realms. Due to their higher tolerance for other races, the moon elves are more likely to become adventurers than are the other elves. Likewise, most half-elves in the Realms are descended from moon elves.

Wood Elves

Sy’Tel’Quessir, copper elves

Typifying Quote: Life beyond the green is hostile and harsh. Only under the shade of the Life trees, in harmony with nature, is life of any value. Only those who understand that are true elf-friends.

Appearances: Like other Toril elves, Wood elves are tall. The rough dangerous world of the deep forest has bred a race that is more heavily built than other elven races. Their skin is copper often with green tints, and brown or black hair; rarely copper or blond. Their eyes are green, brown, hazel; and rarely blue.

Wood elven garb is of simple cut, in the natural shades of earth, wood and leaf. These are decorated with understated embroidery in natural designs. Copper elves often wear their leather armor, even if there is no apparent threat. These suits of armor are beautifully made, and the leather may be lovingly tooled.

History The ancestors of the wood elves were among the first to travel to Faerun from the Realms of Faerie. These early races built great cities and powerful realms. The turmoil and devastation of the Crown Wars utterly destroyed these nations. In their wake several of the early races roamed Faerun, homeless and hunted in the Wandering Years. Gradually these disparate races coalesced to form the wood elves - the only race of elves to have been truly formed on Faerun.

Following the Years of Wandering wood elves raised the nation of Earlann as a great realm in the eastern High Forest. They watched the growth of Netheril with trepidation, and tried to curb the excesses of the Netherese. Following the spectacular and devastating fall of Netheril, the wood elves welcomed survivors and refugees into the city of Ascalorn, within the borders of Earlann. This city also fell as a result of prideful meddling in magic, and this time the catastrophe also destroyed Earlann as Ascalorn became Hellgate Keep.

Since then copper elves have turned away from the dubious safety of walls and fortification, preferring to rely upon stealth and the secret, hidden refuge of the deep forest

Culture: The story of the wood elves is one of repeated devastation, loss and destruction. Tales and songs of woe have passed down through the generations, leaving the wood elves wary of other elves and distrustful of the other races. Copper elves are fervently committed to preventing war among the elves, and have also come to realize that their fate and their safety are bound up with the attitudes and the actions of the other races. In order to preserve their safety they deal almost exclusively with other elves, keeping any contact with other races to a minimum especially the humans with their history of disastrous magic, and their destruction of the forest. Since they try to live far from humankind, they are one of the least-seen races of the elves. Copper elves tolerate their rare contact with the N’Tel’Quess simply to lessen the enemies against which they must guard. They keep to themselves, only allowing contact with N’Tel’Quess rangers or druids.

Copper elves have built up a powerful affinity with the deep forest - seeing the life of the trees as more permanent that that of brick and stone buildings. Towns and cities are transitory places that will inevitably fall into ruin, but the great forests endure. Many are nomadic, eschewing all possessions they cannot carry with them. However, the majority live in small but permanent villages, deep within the forest. These are built of wood, fieldstone and even the living trees themselves. They are so skillfully blended in to their surroundings even a highly skilled human hunter can pass right through a village without ever seeing it.

Wood elves value skills in combat and hunting above study. They have a great deal of knowledge about the ways of the forest, but have little book learning and little knowledge of the behaviour and culture of other races. Very few wood elves delve into arcane magic, and there are also very few clerics - which is not surprising in a culture that does not value study and learning.

Wood elves are common in the ancient forests of Faerun - especially Cormanthor. They can also be found in the other forests of the Dalelands, Tethyr, the north and the Great Dale.

Wild Elves

Green elves

Appearance: Wild (or green) elves have skin of dark brown, and their hair is also brown - ranging from light brown through to nearly black. In extreme age their hair turns silver or white. They are graceful in their movements, and like Wood elves they are stockier and hardier than other elves. However as they place more value on physical fitness and prowess than learning they have less knowledge and tend to be less cerebral.

Green elves wear a minimum of clothing, especially those that live in the sweltering south. These are of simple fibers or animal skins. Unlike the other elven races they do not decorate their clothing, rather they decorate their hair and their actual skin with tattoos, body paint, beads and feathers worked into intricate and beautiful patterns.

History: The wild elves were the first of the elves to arrive on Toril. They loved this beautiful new world and spread widely, building great cities and mighty realms where they lived in a peaceful and cultured existence. The Crown Wars shattered this way of life. Miyeritar, the greatest of the green elven realms, was utterly destroyed and the other realms were broken - their survivors left scattered and homeless.

During The Wandering wild elves saw many of the other elven races built new nations and cities, but they preferred the sanctuary and safety of the isolated wilderness. In time wild elves neglected their traditional learning for the lore of the wilderness and of survival. They became increasingly distrustful of other races and even other elves. Their clans splintered into smaller and smaller groups who led increasingly isolated lives. In short the once learned and skilful green elves became the feral and barbaric wild elves.

Culture and Outlook: Green elves are by far the most isolative and reclusive of the elves. They avoid contact with all outsiders - even other elves, and are seldom seen. The skills and lore of their past are long since gone, but they still retain much magic. Some enables them to remain hidden. Those who stumble into a wild elven enclave are mazed and enchanted - returned back where they came from with no dangerous memories and usually without even seeing a wild elf. Other magic is present in the form of druid spells and sorcery rather than the clerical and wizardly magics of scholarship and learning.

The hunt is the lynch pin of wild elven society, and is surrounded with ritual and festivity. The inherent joy and creativity of the elves is expressed in music and dance, which often reflects the theme of the hunt. They disdain permanent art other than tattoos, and have only simple crafts. Great value is placed in hunting skills, and green elves are adept at moving unseen through the forest while tracking their prey and are fierce fighters. Many of the tribes are nomadic, but others live in simple permanent homes - whichever is best suited to survival in their particular wilderness.

They favor the warmer woodlands of the south - the Chondalwood, the Methwood, the Forest of Amtar and the Misty Vale. There have also been reports of wild elves in the forest of Tethir but their numbers are small. However as they are so seldom seen it is difficult to know for certain where they really are. They are almost never seen as adventurers.

Aquatic Elves

Sea elves

Typifying Quote: The mere community of the elves and races above is camaraderie and convenience against loneliness. Beneath the waters’ edge, community is survival, and individuality is death.

Appearance: Although they are of the same subrace, aquatic elves from the Great Sea have a different appearance to those from the Sea of Fallen Stars. The former have deep green skin, mottled and striped with brown. The latter have blue skin with white strips and patches. Both groups are robust and tall with long limbs, and long, thickly webbed digits. Their hair is usually thick and somewhat stringy, and can be blue, black silver or even occasionally red. The most unusual feature is the gills visible in their necks and over their ribs.

Sea elves are either lightly clad or wear no clothes at all. Their clothes are formed from underwater plants, in blacks, browns and greens. Warriors clip their hair, but other sea elves wear it long and flowing.

History: Aquatic elves were the last of the elven races to reach Faerun, and have always kept themselves somewhat apart from their land bound kin.

At first they were nomadic wanderers but gradually they began to form separate communities. Sea elves have had a somewhat warlike history. They attempted to stay aloof from the Crown Wars, but this failed and the destruction and turbulence spread to their homes, driving some of the Great Sea elves north into the Sea of Fallen Stars. They have repeatedly battled with the evil underwater races, especially the sahuagin, but at times they have also fought against merfolk, and other goodly races. One such war led to a group of refugees forming the colony in Lake Sember.

Culture and Outlook Aquatic: Elves are isolationist by their physical nature, and by choice – though they are not quite as reclusive as the wild elves. They trust only themselves, their clan, and no others. They cannot understand why the surface elves cannot see the simple truth all water elves know: alliance and community means survival, while factionalism means death. Their alliances with other elves are not based on racial affinity but on gain. A clear example of this is the alliance between the sea elves of Lake Sember and the land elves of Semberhome. The aquatic elves merely want to maintain their colony in Lake Sember and protect Semberholme as part of the deal. However this caution is tempered with curiosity and sea elves can spend much time secretly observing the land bound races.

Sea elves are the least magical of the elven races, although they still have as many mages as human realms. Those who are spellcasters devote their long life spans to study and become extremely skilled. They have developed a range of waterproof magical items, and a system of writing underwater.

Aquatic elven society is based on family and clan – and alth0ugh females can and do wield power they are patriarchal. Noble families rule, but in a benign and loose fashion rather than with an iron fist. Families or individuals may own their dwelling but most other property is held in common. Such communal ownership means theft is almost unknown.

The special acoustics of a watery environment lend themselves to music, and sea elves are exposed to the eerie and beautiful songs of the whales and other denizens of the deep. It is not surprising that aquatic elven bards have a range of powerful and evocative songs.

The majority of aquatic elves live in the Sea of Fallen Stars, and the Great Sea. However smaller communities can be found along the western coast and in Lake Sember.


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