Elves and dwarves are the elder races in the Realm with origins lost in the myths of the early days of the First Age.
Elves are roughly the same size as humans, although they tend to be slighter in build - resembling the fey in many ways. Although they live to a great age, Elves are few in numbers with a single couple typically having one child in the course of their two hundred fifty year lifespan. More significant differences between elves and humans can be seen in their philosophy and social values. Elves value their privacy and traditions, and while they are often slow to make friends, once an outsider is accepted as a comrade, such alliances can last for generations. Some elves embark on adventures out of a desire to explore the world, leaving their secluded forest realms with the unfettered life of an adventurer holding a natural appeal.
Elves share a common bond with the forests, woods, and natural balance of the wilderness and find manipulating earth and stone to be distasteful, preferring instead to indulge in the finer arts, with their inborn patience making them particularly suited to scholarly pursuits. Most elves are, at their basic core, guardians of the elemental forests which are required to keep nature in balance. While elves are found in all professions throughout the Realm, the most common callings for elves are Druids of Oakentree and Rangers of the Wilderlands. Eldevira, the Tree of All Branches is held in reverence to all elves with its secret location in the Evenwild guarded by the Order of the Silver Acorn.
The elven society is divided into several factions created by two epic events - the Greater Sundering foretold by the First Dream of the Elven Queen which created the Dark Elves. The Lesser Sundering was foretold by the Second Dream of the Elven Queen and divided the nation into the Elves of the Shimmering Twilight and the Elves of the Radiant Dawn.
Council of the Wise
The Elves of the Shimmering Twilight and the Elves of the Radiant Dawn each maintain a Council of the Wise, while similar in function and composition, the two councils have operated separately at most times since the First Age. Communication does occur, and each maintains an Emissary to the other. The Emissary acts as an ambassador and diplomat fully authorized to represent their nation. In times of gathering threats, one leader is chosen to unify and lead the joint councils.
When military force is required, the councils will mobilize elite warriors to carry out their mission. The elite warriors of the Radiant Dawn are called Sun Warriors. Well-armed and well-armored, these fighters are unsurpassed in personal combat or in pitched battle. "With the sun glinting on their ornate armor and weapons, they are a glorious sight to behold, bringing joy to the hearts of friends and striking fear into the hearts of foes. The elite warriors of the Shimmering Twilight are called Moon Warriors. The Moon Warriors are silent, stealthy and deadly. The are nearly impossible to detect and equally difficult to elude. They are the unseen warrior to defeat the unseen foe.
The elite warriors are some of the few full-time soldiers amongst the Elves. Both groups are superbly trained, disciplined and organized; working effectively alone or in groups. They are intensely committed and loyal.
The Greater Sundering
The Greater Sundering of the Elves occurred in the eighth century FA when the ill-advised experiments of Asmodan caused the dire winter of the Elven Queen's dream, corrupting the early Forestals and establishing the alliance with Grumish of the Orcs. These corrupted elves are now called the Dark Elves with a homeland on the island of Dor Daedeloth.
The First Dream of the Elven Queen
In the early days of the First Age the elves lived in self-imposed isolationism in the great forest of Evenwild. At that time, the elves were content to protect their homeland, write their histories, and bring up their families in relative peace and comfort. This was the golden age of the elves. In the thousands of years that the Elven House of Evindale ruled, the race prospered in the capital tree city of Lindoluin. The city numbered almost ten thousand elves, about half of the race's population.
During this time, elven wizards created a number of legendary artifacts usually fashioned from wood taken from sacred silver oak groves. One of these artifacters, a master wizard named Zarinder, created a number of wooden rings, the Elven Hush, to allow scouts from the farthest ends of the forest to journey back to Lindoluin instantaneously. The rings were known as the Hush because of the momentary silence that fell over their wearers just before the ring's power was used. It is said that forty Rings of the Hush were created before a freak accident caused Zarinder's untimely demise.
According to the Elven Histories of Kurak, Fifth Volume, during the terrible winter of 787 FA, it is believed that the first snows fell in late August and continued almost unstopping until late May. During this time, the forest of the elves went through its most difficult challenge. Starvation and extinction ran rampant as the creatures of the forest were unable to find food, reproduce, or follow any of their regular cycles. Even the elves, whose code allowed them only to kill enough wild game to survive, were hard-pressed to weather the storm. It is thought that during this time, some of the elven scouts in outlying outposts resorted to cannibalism to survive. These tales, whether true or not, appear to be the source of the legends of the dark elves.
It was at the mid-winter elven festival of Har, that the Elven queen had a dream which would prove to be of paramount importance in the history of the elven folk. The dream started in a forest filled with dead, stunted, and malignant stumps, the remains of what was once a noble forest. The queen wandered through the carnage of this place, her heart feeling the pain of each tree's death. The land was not familiar to the elven monarch, but soon she found herself flying impossibly fast throughout the Realm. In a blurred haze, she visited dozens of other woods, both vast and small. These were in various stages of death or dying. At last, she reached the vast expanse of the Evenwild, its trees healthy and wildlife teeming. As the queen awoke from her dream, she was sitting in her throne staring at a small spot on its living boughs. A small spot of rot.
Shortly thereafter, the elven queen summoned her wisest followers for council. For almost twenty years the elves debated. A decision was reached that shook the elven people to their core. Emissaries were to be sent out in the Realm to act as Forestals in the woods of the land. Their mission would be to guard the forests of the Realm from harm. Forty forestals were chosen from among the elven people. Without a great knowledge of what the lands were beyond their borders, these first elves were hardly equipped to complete their tasks. Armed with simple bows and leather armor and a Ring of the Hush, many of these intrepid adventurers died shortly after leaving their homeland.
In the years that followed, the elves were dragged into the affairs of the Realm. Some of these encounters proved very valuable, furthering the cause of the elves. Others proved more sinister.
The foul Orcish King, Grumball, used two Rings of the Hush that had been stolen from the dead carcasses of their elven guardians to launch an assault upon Yabon. The second of these vicious assaults led to the extinction of the noble elves of the House of Evindale, and while unsuccessful at defeating the elven nation, it threw them into a period of unrest that would last several centuries.
Some of the Forestals fell in league with the forces of evil. Several of the elven histories state that these rogue elves had been corrupted by the temptations of the world at large. Others histories emphatically argue that these forestals were dark elves before they went into the queen's service, turned to evil by their taste for elven blood. Whatever their parentage, the Dark Elves, have throughout history acted to thwart the elven will, selling intelligence on their brethern to the highest bidder and acting as henchmen to some of history's greatest villans.
But all of the elven encounters did not end in death and corruption. It was during this time in the middle of the First Age that the elven forestals bonded with humans and the Druids of Oakentree and the Rangers of the Wildereland were founded. While following the principles of the elven order, the methods were radically different than those of the ancient race's monarchy.
Asmodan and the Dark Elves
In the eighth century of the First Age, there lived an elven arch-mage named Asmodan. Legend holds that Asmodan believed that the only way to combat the powers of evil was to understand them completely. And so he dedicated his life to the study of the dark arts and raw magical power. In the course of his studies, he discovered foul and dark magics that gave him power over death and immortality.
This knowledge was abhorred by the elves of the Collegium Magicium, and they tried to cast out Asmodan from their order. In retaliation, the fallen mage vowed revenge. In 787 FA, a terrible winter fell upon the Realm. Whether this was due to the magics of Asmodan or not is unknown. The elves and their forest wards were greatly tested. As the sun slowly melted the snows, many elves were found dead. However, not all had died from the elements. Many showed signs of cannabalism and other dark magics. Others simply disappeared, missing from their posts.
While most elves remained faithful to their ancient heritage, the following of Asmodan soon grew with promises of power and immortality. What followed was the great sundering of elven society and the creation of the Dark Elf race. In the years that followed, Asmodan and his followers were blamed for many catastrophes, both natural and unnatural. Asmodan spread his power through a number of magical devices, each turning its owner over to the power of Asmodan.
The elven queen declared Asmodan a traitor, and the Collegium Magicium was instructed to find and destroy the rogue wizard. Years passed. Suddenly, the Collegium Magicium declared Asmodan dead, defeated by a magical champion of good. Time proved out the claim, as Asmodan was no longer seen. The dark elves seemed scattered, leaderless. No longer a force to be reckoned with, the elven nation returned to its old ways, and the path of Asmodan was forgotten.
However, Asmodan was not defeated. He was simply imprisoned. Asmodan would fall in battle only to arise the next dawn to lead his legions again. Finally, Asmodan's immortality was turned against him, as a magical prison was created to trap and hold the mage in an infinite stasis. Asmodan remained locked up in his magical prison until 885 TA when he was released by the Brothers of the Dark Path.
The Lesser Sundering
The Lesser Sundering of the Elves occurred in the tenth century FA when the Collegium Magicium decided to share magical knowledge with the humans of the Old Kingdom of Rembia. The elves who supported this decisions became the Elves of the Radiant Dawn and remained in the Evenwild. About one-fifth of the Elves disagreed strongly with sharing this knowledge and left Elothian. They became the Elves of the Shimmering Twilight. The depth of this sundering, it should be noted, is but a tiny fraction of the that of the Greater Sundering.
After the Lesser Sundering, the Elves of the Shimmering Twilight removed to the Reaches which was then only lightly populated by elves. Their stronghold is Lindoluin - one of the most well-hidden and best-defend fortresses in the Realm. None but elves and their invited guests have ever seen it. Lady Laura is from Lindoluin. A significant part of the Elves of the Shimmering Twilight also settled in Ravenswood (later Haggelthorn Forest). Smaller numbers settled elsewhere in the Reaches - joining the earlier generations of elves that founded outposts outside the Evenwild.
An irony of the Lesser Sundering is that both sides soon had to rethink their choices. Within a few decades of sharing magical knowledge with humans, the Elves of the Radiant Dawn began to regret their action. While it may have been necessary to face the threat of the Army Magica, it turned out that humans could not all be trusted with this knowledge. The Elves withdrew their involvement in the Old Kingdom of Rembia and ceased training human wizards. Meanwhile, in the Reaches, threats from the orcs and others forced the Elves of the Shimmering Twilight to rethink their reluctance to become involved with humans. The Rangers and Druids proved to be strong allies, and the Ranger Kings and Paladin Kings of Tuefeldorf proved much more honorable allies that had the Overlord of Rembia.
The Second Dream of the Elven Queen
This legend is not widely known outside the elven nobility, the high druids of Oakentree, and the ranger lords.
According to the Elven Histories of Kurak, Sixth Volume, the elven queen had a second dream. This time is was upon her deathbed, all of her kin already buried from the treachery of Grumball, and this time it spoke of a greater elven need. This dream tells of the Weave, a ceremony which legend tells will allow the forty Rings of the Hush to be woven together to form a magical item, the Ring of Zarinder, which would allow the wearer to banish any defiler of the elven cause. While many within the elven intelligentsia dismiss this dream as a dying attempt of a failed queen to give her people hope that her wrongs could be undone, a small order of elves have spent the better part of the last three thousand years trying to gather all forty rings together and perform the Weave. The Order of the Weave have existed throughout that time. These quiet, secretive elves can be distinguished only by their simple woven wooden rings.