Elves of Liminal
The elven people - a people whose lineage traces back to the lands of the Feywild - come in two strains. The first are most-often called simply "elves" or "wood elves" when they are being compared with their "high elf" cousins, who are also called "eladrin." Where wood elves are considered native to the mortal plane, high elves are at best a generation or so removed from the Feywild, and more than half of them come directly from the Feywild themselves.
They are a tall and graceful people, a folk of grace and beauty in a world that is all too often grim and horrible. They are a quiet, introspective folk, not given to making emotional connections readily, for their lifespans are quite lengthy, and they feel the melancholy of others' mortality too keenly to risk their spirits in such ways.
- High Elf: High elves use the High Elf traits from the Player's Handbook. They call themselves the galendhrim, or "people of the light." They sometimes describe themselves as eladrin, which means "starry-eyed" after the particularly luminous quality of their eyes.
- Wood Elf: Wood elves use the Wood Elf traits from the Player's Handbook. They call themselves the elendhrim, or "people of the trees."
- Language: Both high and wood elves speak the Elvish tongue.
- 1 Arthîr and Rhaweryn (Appearance)
- 2 Andrannir, Gwanath and Gwaedh (Lifespans)
- 3 Bain and Elo!
- 4 Harmalidil and Lovers of Root of Blossom (Sexuality & Relationships)
- 5 Elves in Rinhony
- 6 Wood Elven Enclaves
- 7 High Elf Cities
- 8 Elven Crafts
Arthîr and Rhaweryn (Appearance)
As a whole, elves are tall and beautiful, with a thin graceful beauty considered androgynous by many non-elves. Their hair grows quickly and well, so most elves have beautiful heads of sleek, flowing hair. Their builds are always lithe and thin, with enough muscle to provide a thin definition, but never resulting in bulk of any kind - whether fat or muscle - no matter the personal strength or fitness of the elf in question.
- High Elves: High elves are pale complexioned, with tones that range from literal milk white to light pale tan in hue. Their eyes are considered uncanny by most folk, with strange shimmering colors that are opal-like in quality, and usually light in hue: pale greens, light to deep blues, violets and even oranges. As they age, high elves become more ethereal-seeming, their skin gaining a slight pearlescent luminescence in the dark, and their eyes become more and more uncanny the older they become. It is said that each of the Courts has a specific token appearance, a combination of hair-and-eye hues that mark those imbued with their power.
- Wood Elves: Wood elves discuss their own appearances by the poetic notion of rhaweryn - the "body of trees." All wood elves have a tone of skin that is best compared to woods, from the paleness of pine-heart to a lustrous dark ebon. Wood elven hair changes over the years, a trait they call lassfindel, or "leaf haired" among themselves: in the first quarter of a wood elf's life, their hair is often very light colored, from a pale blonde to a light nut brown (ethuilfindel, or "spring-haired"), deepening to a darker version of itself in the second quarter of an elf's life (laerfindel, or "summer-haired). All wood elven hair reddens as they enter the third quarter of their lives, taking on coppery-to-ginger hues (lhasbelinfindel, or "autumn-haired"), and all wood elves nearing the end of their lifespans take on pale, frosted hues of white, grey and silver (rhîwfindel, or "winter-haired"). Hair color is literally the only indicator of a wood elf's age, their appearances remaining the vigorously youthful demeanors they achieved in young adulthood.
Andrannir, Gwanath and Gwaedh (Lifespans)
Elf-folk measure lifespans in andrannir (singular andrann), or "cycles" of one hundred years. Wood elves tend to live between three and four andrannir, and high elves as many as five or six andrannir. Though elves reach maturity in most ways by their fourtieth year, the rest of their first andrann are still considered a sort of immaturity roughly analogous to late adolescence.
In truth, the thing that mostly separates the high elven and wood elven folk is what the folk of the Feywild call gwanath - the act of dying, or the moment of mortality. Elven folklore believes that the mortal world is tainted, to some degree, by its connection with the Shadowfell, and the forces of death have seeped past the gates. The elven people, part of the vibrance that is the Feywild's life-emanations, are particularly susceptible to its touch.
The high elven people are those who have been less-touched by gwanath. They live for many hundreds of years, especially if they dwell in the Feywild, where their service to the Courts can result in such an infusion of the powers of the Feywild that they become functionally immortal. Those high elves who spend a great amount of time in the mortal world have noticeably reduce lifespans - some elven sages claim that each year in the mortal world is worth two in the Feywild.
In contrast, the lore of the Feywild teaches that the wood elves are what becomes of the elven folk who become comfortable with the touch of gwanath, living in its emanations. Their lifespan is significantly shorter than that of their high elven kin, a measure of three-to-four hundred years for wood elves, compared to the nearly six hundred of the high elves.
Many wood elves cast aside the notion of gwanath, however, and believe there is another factor responsible for their differences: they term this philosophy gwaedh, which means "bond" or "connection". The wood elves believe that it is in the nature of the elven people to form strong bonds of spirit to the prevailing powers of the lands in which they dwell. In the Feywild, this is the Archfey, the masters of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, creatures of sylvan enchantment and powerful magic. In the mortal world, however, the native spirits are the Primal Spirits, which is why the elves who dwell in the woodlands are closer to the natural cycles of the mortal world, altering in appearance as they do.
Bain and Elo!
If there can be said to be a central philsophy that drives elven nature and feeds elven spirits, it is that of bain - "fairness," used to mean beauty and the wonder that comes of gazing upon beauty. One sage of old Liminal once noted: "As hard work is central to dwarven nature, freedom and innovation to mankind, and the comforts of hearth and home are to the shirefolk, so the wonder of beauty in the world is to elvenkind."
Elves are comforted and made content at a soul-deep level by the presence of beauty in their lives, and what to some others is a decadent or silly preoccupation with aesthetics is essential to the nature of elves. Elves who are denied the presence of beauty in their lives are known to have their lifespans dramatically reduced, as their spirits wither, and it is an elven ideal to dwell in the world in such a way that they are never separated from beauty. Where shorter-lived races may grow tire of a beautiful sight or taste and come to take it for granted, the elvenfolk never do; they are capable of enjoying the same vista or sweet scent of a garden in bloom for the whole of their long existences, and never is their joy diminished in the future by the experiences they have in the present.
These moments of wonder serve as the touchstones for the elven ôlarin (as the reverie is called among the elves). When elves enter their trances in place of sleep, they re-experience these moments of bain, one after another, seeking them out like guideposts upon a road. In remembering these moments of wonder, they also recall everything that was going on in their lives at that time. As a result, elves remember a great deal about periods of their lives when they are surrounded by beauty, and their memories fade in periods where there is too little wonder in their world.
Elves often experience a small shudder of pleasure - a joy of the soul, rather than something physical - upon encountering beauty. There is an exclamation from elves - the small cry of "Elo!" - that reflects that sudden experience. It is anathema among elvenkind to use the elo cry facetiously or casually.
Harmalidil and Lovers of Root of Blossom (Sexuality & Relationships)
The feyborn races tend to view love as the most noble of expressions. They are not open and free with their affection - it is a precious gift, given to a rare few. Thus, they aren't as openly affectionate as others are; they don't casually hug or kiss someone like some humans might. Rather, each caress is seen as a precious gift to be bestowed upon those one is enamored with (whether that love is "blossom love" or "root love"). Bisexuality is usually the norm among the feyborn. Though they have individuals in their midst who prefer only a single gender or the other (usually referred to as arthadil, or "half-lovers", referring to their preference for only half of those they encounter), most are bisexual (called aodil, or "true lovers"). One-quarters of the feyborn tend to be arthadil, with slightly fewer of them among eladrin, and slightly more among gnomes.
Young feyborn often form small groups of close compatriots and lovers. The term harmalidil roughly means "treasured lovers", and it describes these small social groups perfectly. They often evolve their own miniature traditions and cultures within the group, and most are formed by similar-aged feyborn and last until responsibilities and simple age cause them to drift apart. Even so, the fond memories and lingering affection usually maintain long-standing bonds between those members, and often inform how they interact, even later in life. Many eladrin tales are written of those political or magical rivals who were once lovers in the same harmalidil. Among those outside the Feywild who have adopted this tradition, they are called "love-pacts," and sometimes embraced as life-long groups (understandable to Feywild sensibilities, for most pacts among the feyborn last about the average span of humans).
- Harmalidil'en: There are a few pacts called harmalidil'en, or "great harmlidil" - these are groups that have existed for multiple generations, older members taking their leave, and younger members joining over the decades. Such "great pacts" invariably have their own very powerful memberships, and those who once belonged to them actively sometimes arrange to "come home" to be among sweet lovers who welcome them back, sheltering them from the weight of their responsibilities for a time.
Blossom Lovers and Root Lovers
Among the feyborn, who by and large tend to be long-lived, lovers speak of "blossom loves" and "root loves." Blossom love is an infatuation, crush or other intensely emotional, passionate affair. Blossom loves are almost never assumed to last for very long (a few years at most), and almost never involve the merging of the lives of those involved. This is not the love of building a household together; it is the love of midnight rendezvous in secluded glades, of passionate lovemaking in woodland bowers, of candle-lit dinners of sumptuous extravagance. Root loves are about community building, marriage and children. Though the feyborn do not hold to rites of marriage, they do settle down with one another to form families, to bear children (for those who can) or to support their lineages in some ways. The love of harmalidil are usually considered blossom loves, although root loves have developed out of them. While most root loves are traditionally between only two, it is considered perfectly appropriate for both to also foster blossom loves - indeed, sometimes root lovers will both take the same person as their blossom lover. A rare few have been known to take more than one root lover at a time, such family units are usually viewed as childish and myopic, children who demand a greater importance to their personal harmalidil than is warranted.
The Seeding Rite
The feyborn do not conceive casually...nor indeed, accidentally. A feyborn female who would bear a child from her union with a feyborn male must perform a simple ritual act. It is instinctive and simple, performed under the light of the full moon. Until the moon is full again, she has a fair chance of becoming pregnant after an act of coitus that might result in pregnancy in other races. There is clearly some mystical element in this, for feyborn women can become pregnant after coitus with a non-feyborn male, and feyborn males may impregnate women of other races without the use of such a rite.
- It is worth noting that this rite can be performed at any time, regardless of the moon phase, in the Feywild.
Elves in Rinhony
- Almanni Theocracy: Though the Almanni Theocracy originated as the elven Kingdom of Almann, there are few elves left in its reaches these days. A few small elven steads within the Forest of Almann yet remain, but only those that are either reclusive and small enough to have escaped notice over the years, or those that have sworn allegiance to the king of Almanni. Their status in the new Theocratic government of the nation is unknown, for they do not worship the gods.
- Delannwood: The only remaining nation of elves in Rinhony, the elves of the Delannwood are based around their capital city of River Star, in the center of the wood. They have been at war with the Empire of Tamous of late, and so have become quite reclusive, not trusting most humans they encounter.
- Empire of Tamous: Elves are virtually unheard-of in Tamous, and those that are found there are usually assumed to be Delannwood spies.
- Empire of the Nine: With a long-standing peace treaty with the elves of the Delannwood, the sorcerer-kings called the Nine have made their nation a peaceful place for elven folk. As such, wood elven folk can be found in its cold northern forests, as well as the section of woods from the Delannwood that bleeds into its central provinces. There is also said to be at least two high elven cities found occasionally in the Empire: the Dragon-Tower of the East, called Baradlug which appears only on rare dawn days when the morning mists shroud an island off the coast of the Wyrmisle; and the city of Mallos Nestarad, the Bower of the Golden Flowers, a beautiful garden-city said to have great power to heal mortal afflictions.
- Frostfells: Though there are no known or confirmed wood elves within the desolate cold reaches of the Frostfells, the orcs of the Hordemarch have stories of what they call the Fatofsan Kutotaz, or "Frost Citadel," an eladrin city of icy towers, surrounded by a blizzard, which fades in and out at different places along the icy expanses of the Frostfells. Sidhe knights and other high elves associated with archfey powers of frost and winter.
- Hordemarch: Elves are almost never found in the Hordemarch, save as slaves or adventurers.
- Liminal Plains: Though Liminal once hosted a significant population of elves of both wood and high lineages, those times are past. Those who survived the Shattering of Liminal fled either into the Feywild, to the River Kingdoms, Empire of the Nine or the Delannwood.
- River Kingdoms: Many elves have come to live in the River Kingdoms following the Shattering, although there have always been a few drawn to its beauty. There are even a few small holds of wood elves in its western forests.
Wood Elven Enclaves
Of the utmost importance to the wood elven people is the taurelen, the "great wood," which is the name for the whole of a forest. The wood elves have a unique relationship with the forest in which they dwell, finding in it great peace and the fulfillment of all their worldly needs. Many elves simply wander these forests, stopping occasionally to reverie in places of great natural beauty, and then continuing their wandering, stopping into enclaves occasionally to rest and share their experiences.
Wood elven settlements are built of two main building materials: the great trees that surround them, and the vine they call celegalo, or "swift growing." Wood elves use specific trees for specific functions, believing in constructing structures whose intended purpose is aligned with the nature of the wood from which it is wrought. Trees of a great size are interwrapped with celegalo, which continues to grow and be shaped over decades as the tree itself grows and flourishes. Wood elven architects are more like gardeners, carefully shipping and pruning and shaping the tree-cities. Such buildings are called galadhremmen ("tree-tangled"), for they often seem to be tangled clusters of tree branches from afar, the platforms high off the ground made up of branches and interwoven celegalo are called talan.
Types of Buildings
The tree that makes up the galadhremmir determines the function of the structure. Each tree type has a specific "spirit" (or thelyn, which also means "purpose") that wood elves honor in the construction of their enclaves. Such buildings are named for the type of tree, with the suffix -thamas, or "hall". Thus, a doronthamas is an "oaken hall."
- Alorthamas: Halls of alder are more tightly constructed than other wood elven structures, for they are intended for visitors. These halls are usually intended to provide rooms for sleeping and other dwelling needs for non-wood elven folk, for the alter's spirit is one that provides shelter. They are sometimes used to construct singular shelters and waypoints away from enclaves, particularly because alder roots favor a depth of water, meaning they are guaranteed to have water nearby as well.
- Brethilthamas: Halls crafted of birch serve as nurseries and places where the young are kept, as retreats before significant rites of passage, and where those who are passing into death go to await. Birch enables transformation and growth.
- Doronthamas: Halls of oak are always massive affairs, serving as guardian-citadels and defensive towers. Oak is also the most common tree used in the making of a nothorn, for their foundational power is believed to bring connection the deep roots to a family unit.
- Fêrthamas: Halls crafted of beech are intended as meeting places where conflicts are resolves, deals are made, and treaties are wrought. The nature of the beech reminds those within to practice wisdom and patience.
- Lalventhamas: Halls crafted of elm are rare, for it is the power of the elm to instill devotion and loyalty, as well as rigid structure. The rare temples of the elven folk are often constructed of elm, as are the halls where elven war leaders gather to discuss war on a scale beyond the single enclave.
- Luisthamas: The small shelters crafted of rowan serve as houses of healing, drawing on the thelyn of rowan, which provides balance and healing.
- Nionthamas: The halls of the mighty ash tree stand quite tall, and with good reason: the ash's thelyn brings awareness and a long perspective. Thus, ash halls are used as scriptora and libraries in the center of wood elven enclaves, and as watch-towers at its edges.
- Tatharthamas: Halls of willow are rare, and usually found beside water-ways or bodies of water. This is no mistake, for they are intended to provide solitary contemplation and a place to explore melancholy memories, for willow connects one to deep grief and sadness. As a result, they are also retreats where the wood elven folk escape to deal with their griefs.
- Thônthamas: Halls of fir and pine stand straight and tall, often with a single talan halfway up its height. Such structures are the storehouses of the wood elven folk, as well as memorials and vaults, for these evergreens are imbued with a power of preservation and cause things associated with them to last a long time.
Wood elves live in small forest enclaves of no more than a hundred families, and more often fewer than that. Their society is divided into small family units called nothrim, usually made up of multiple generations of family. Each such clan is centered around a clan-tree, or nothorn (literally, family-tree). Nearly any of the thamas trees above might be crafted to serve as a nothorn, with each tree containing a symbol of the clan's emphasis. A nothorn often has other small structures at its base, also crafted of celegalo, to serve as public and guest areas of the household, for the heights of its talanim are for family and close friends alone.
High Elf Cities
- ithildin: A strange metal, the provenance of which is unknown, crafted by elves. It is dull and lead-like in firelight or sunlight, but reflects moonlight and starlight like a mirrored surface.
Wood Elf Crafts
- hithlain: The silvery-grey cloth and rope created from reeds harvested on the shores of the River Mithonnen. They are remarkably strong, and aid their wearer to blend into twilight or misty conditions.