The Elves are graceful and patient souls who live in close harmony with the lands and forests. They are in tune with Sylanna, the Dragon of Earth. Her deliberate nature and ancient wisdom are reflected in their approach to life and worship. They view the forests and living things as their responsibilities, and do not shrink from punishing those who defile them.
A few years before the Second Eclipse, his head turned by a band of flatterers, High King Arniel decided that Elf power was too decentralized, and that the traditional way of electing the supreme ruler (through a vision shared by the Druids) was unreliable. His solution was to usurp the powers of the local Elf kings, strip the Druids of their authority, and make his own title hereditary.
Among the various rebels that clashed with him, the most tragically famous is Queen Tuidhana. The conflict between Arniel and Tuidhana escalated into open war, until Brythigga, the Mother of Trees and home of the original royal dwelling, was burned to the ground, leaving a blackened scar on the earth where nothing would ever grow again. High King Arniel was caught inside the conflagration and burned alive.
The place where Brythigga had stood was stricken from the maps, and to this day no Elf will go there. Another Mother of Trees has been consecrated, hidden deep within the forests, but no Elf will speak of her to outsiders.
Centuries have passed, but tensions remain high between the Elves and Tuidhana’s people, now known as the Dark Elves. The current High King, Alaron, is now slowly re-establishing stronger ties with the other nations.
Kaspar the Necromancer reads from the diary of his travels to Sylvan lands:
Graceful and patient souls who live in close harmony with the earth, the Elves are in tune with the Dragon of Earth. Her deliberate nature and ancient wisdom are reflected in their approach to life and worship. Distrustful of machinery and cities, they keep to their ancient ways and ally with others only rarely. It must be emphasized that Elven lands are not safe. Wild animals, the natural terrain, and the Elves themselves all pose formidable hazards for the incautious traveller…
…I took quite a lot of notes about the flora and fauna found in Irollan, but I guess that should be a topic for another time. Let’s focus on the Elves themselves, shall we? Oh wait, that part could be relevant to the matter at hand:
…The woodlands are rich in natural resources, so much so that the Elves rarely have to trade with outsiders unless they wish it. Other natural resources are plentiful as well. The rivers and lakes teem with fish, the woodlands abound with wild game, and herbs and fruiting plants grow wild in abundance. The Elves have learned to tend these crops in their own way, so that an outsider stumbling upon an Elven farm would scarcely recognize the difference from the surrounding woods.
Elven cities are more in the air than on the ground. The Elves long ago mastered the art of convincing trees to grow to their desires, and as such they have created great canopies above the forest floor upon which they build their cities. Ladders, rope bridges, and other such devices connect the various levels of these treeborne cities. Kings and nobles dwell on the higher levels, while the common folk live closer to the ground. Elven cities do have a ground component, primarily forges and the like, but the Elves rely on the trees to guard their cities better than any wall ever could…
More descriptions of trees and Elf houses follow... Ah! This is more like it:
…There are four major cities within the Elven realm, each serving as a seasonal capital for the King and his court. The capital changes at the solstices and equinoxes, and each city subtly tries to outdo the others. Syris Thalla (“New Green”) is the spring capital, located in the west. Syris Vaniel (“Golden Sun”) is the southern and summer capital. Syris Lothran (“Bloodleaf”) is the fall capital, and is located in the east, close to the Haven border. Syris Wynna (“White Wind”) is the northern capital, and it rules in winter. The changing of the capital is a major event in the Elven calendar, and the procession of the royal court from city to city is a magnificent sight to behold.
I have been lucky indeed, as an outsider, to witness the journey from Syris Wynna to Syris Thalla, at the end of my stay in Irollan.
…There is a King of the Elves, and there are many other Kings below him. The High-King rules from the central court, and once he is chosen his word is law. The process of choosing a King falls to the druids, who fast and endure the sweat lodge until all are given a vision of who the new ruler should be. The decision has to be unanimous, and the druids will stay in the sweat lodge without eating for as long as it takes.
The High King rules for life, which for Elves, is a very long time indeed. Around him circulates a court of soothsayers, druids, warriors, musicians, ladies in waiting, poets, jesters, sons of lesser Kings and the like, a whirlwind of chaos that somehow manages to be surprisingly efficient, especially compared to the Imperial court. Intrigues within the Elven court are less deadly than they are elegant - Elves do not like to kill other Elves. Rather, they will work to humiliate, exile and otherwise bring low their rivals. Enmities can last hundreds of years, for Elves do not forget slights, and they guard their honour fiercely.
There are those who say that the Elves’ entire language, known as Monlin, the Song of the Earth, is music. That may be the case, but the Elves themselves claim to be partial to poetry. The more extemporaneously it’s composed, the better, and the Elf who can rip off a sestina on the fly wins a great deal of renown from his fellows. All Elves have two names, the one they use with outsiders and the one they use among themselves. The outsider name is generally descriptive and in the common tongue. The true name is in Elven, and is more or less unpronounceable by anyone except an Elf…
But I suppose you’re not so much interested in poetry and Elven ballads, so let’s skip a few pages and go straight to what I noted about the Elven military.
…Elven armies are composed of a fluid array of smaller units, all of which seem to instinctively know what the army as a whole needs to do. The swiftest runners and best archers are scouts and skirmishers, reporting back to the nobles who command each unit. Usually Elves will screen their main force with a line of skirmishers who will serve to draw opponents into traps, where they can be pounded with arrows from three sides.
The main body of the army is more heavily armed and armoured. Elven cavalry is mostly light cavalry, again designed for speed and maneuverability over shocking power. Riders will fire arrows or throw spears from horseback, eschewing heavier weapons like lances.
The Elves also have a sizeable navy. Their riverboats are fast and light, with tall rigging to allow room for plenty of archers. These ships also have narrow construction, to make them more difficult to board and to use enemies’ numbers against them. On the ocean, the pattern is repeated. Few Elves like sailing beyond sight of land, but those who do range far and wide as both traders and pirates. Not even mentioning the Sea Elves, of course…
- Source: shadow council web site.