Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Races of Arden: Elves

The five major civilized races found in the Northlands are Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Human, and Gnome. None of these five are a single ethnic identity. Within each are multiple "subraces" that further define where their ancestors came from originally. Over the past five ages the human races have scattered across the lands and frequently interbred with one another. There are few places where a pure strain of any ethnicity can be found and humans pay little heed to another human's skin color. It is the behavior of another person that concerns most people. Are they an ally of Chaos? Do they adhere to the strict tenets of Law? Are they truly just a simple merchant trying to sell their wares or a brigand spy scouting out possible victims? These are the things that most people consider when meeting others.

Elf Subraces

Compared to humans, all elves are slight in build appearing both slender and graceful. Even the strongest of elves look deceptively thin when measured against a human of equal power. Their height and weight varies depending on the particular subrace.

Astali. Also known as The Noble Children. Among humans, they simply call themselves High Elves. They are the descendants of the elven clans who served the gods directly in the First Age. They are also the most numerous and friendliest of all elvish subraces. Astali complexions are all very fair but do have some range from a near alabaster with a faintly golden hue to a fair, slightly bronzed appearance. Their hair comes in a wide range of colors including silver, white, blond, golden, and amber, but no darker than a dark ginger. The only hair grown on elves is on their heads and eyebrows. Elves grow no other body hair or beards. Astali stand between 50" and 64" and weigh between  70 and 120 lbs. Astali have the signature pointed ears of elves, but theirs tend to be only the length of human ears and grow close against their heads.

The Astali were the highborn of the elves and the first to make their home along the rivers and coasts, exchanging the dark forests for spring-fed glades and horses for traveling across the plains or stepped terraces constructed along steep hillsides. Where human culture has drifted and shifted as new regions were explored and lands settled, the high elves maintained a similar culture across the Northlands. Elves explain this similarity in their legend of the Dreaming Lands. A magical sylvan land that no longer exists in mortal realms. There are few who know the arcane paths one must traverse to reach it now, but once upon a time all elves traveled there when they slept.  Sharing rumors, stories, their collective history. This connection kept them linked in a very special way throughout the first two ages. It was during the Age of Legend that the Shadow Lord destroyed this special connection, severing the elves from the Dreaming Lands making all elves truly mortal forever more.

Lethlorn. Also known as Children of the Summer. Humans know them as Wood Elves. The second most populous of the elvish races, they are tolerant of others but have little use for dwarves, never fully trusting any race that prefers to live its life solely under stone. Other elves consider Lethlorn to be more boisterous and crass than any other elf. The Lethlorn are also well known for their love of tricks and stunts they love to pull on others; these pranks may be dangerous but are only very rarely potentially lethal in nature. The complexions of Lethlorn take some shading of light bronze to a soft golden-hue with their hair ranging from dark blonde to shades of brown or rust. They are slightly smaller in stature than high elves, ranging in height from 50" to 61" while also having that slight build with a weight range of 68 to 110 lbs. Their ears grow longer than those of high elves and tend to stick out a bit more from their heads.

Wood elf communities live in the thick forests and heavily covered hillsides of the Northlands. The wood elf culture has maintained a strong connection to one another by sharing a communion with their forests and the animals that live along side them. This bonding doesn't replace their lost link to the Dreaming Lands, but it does work to keep them connected in a more subconscious way. And while it doesn't make them immortal, Lethlorn typically live 25% longer than other elves and seem to know on an intuitive level when their forest is in pain or danger.

Nathron. Also known as Children of the Grey. Commonly called Mountain Elves by humans. The Nathron are less numerous than the Astali and Lethlorn, but what they lack in numbers they make up for in arrogance and scheming. Elvish lore traces this subrace back to a great clan of elves that forsook the will of their gods in favor of arcane power. This so angered their divine benefactors the clan had to flee their forest homes seeking refuge high up in the mountains. In time they their mastery of the arcane attracted new powers who saw value in forging a compact with the elusive elves hidden among the tall peaks. During the Age of Legend the Nathron did ally with their elvish brethren in the struggle against the Shadow Lord. While unable to sustain their connection to the Dreaming Lands, even the Astali acknowledge that without the powerful magic of the Nathron the elvish race might have been reduced to the level of humans, if not obliterated all together. This doesn't mean the other elves easily trust the often cruel cunning of the Nathron as their natural genius and long view of things make them master manipulators. For this reason many human lords have sought out the grey elves to serve as advisors at great cost.

The Nathron are the tallest of all elvish races, standing between 54" and 69", but also the most slender weighing in between 70 and 120 lbs. Their complexion reflects their adopted stone homeland ranging from a chalk-tinted ivory to slate gray and hair ranging from white to black through a series of gray tones with silver being the most common and a rare few sporting brilliant golden locks. Grey elves naturally live no longer than high elves, but many of the more powerful become consumed with researching magics to extend their lives to an unnaturally long, sometimes near-immortal, lifespan.   

Gauren. Also known as Children of the Wilding. Humans call them Brier Elves. The Gauren are the most reclusive of the elvish races, preferring to avoid contact with all others; including other elves. They live in small communities of 5 to 30 families in the deepest, darkest, parts of the forest. They are most commonly found in southern forests, on large islands, and deep in secluded valleys. They revere both the elvish gods and powerful fey spirits, often putting the powerful ancient fey first in veneration. Legends say the Gauren once had a grand, beautiful city they called home that was unmatched anywhere in the world. Their seclusion stems back to the time of legend when the Neharans unleashed the orchish menace on the world and the dwarves drove the beastmen from their mountain fastnesses. Turning to their own for aid, the Gauren found themselves swept up in the struggle against the Shadow Lord. With the many clashes going on about them it was their city that paid the ultimate price. In a nine day long battle their majestic city was trapped between four different armies, and thus utterly destroyed. The Gauren were scattered into small bands and have lived that way ever since, refusing to make what they now consider to be the same mistake twice.

Gauren are the shortest and stockiest of the elvish races, standing between 47" and 58" but weighing between 80 and 130 lbs. This stark difference compared to other elves has led to one ribald human ballad attributing the brier elf's origin as the natural outcome of a shared night of passion between a dwarf maiden and a lonely wood elf. Brier elves do not find the ballad particularly humourous. The complexion of gauren are earth tones, ranging from a gold-tinted pale bronze to a dark earthen tone. Their hair is normally some shading of brown to near black, often  with green or blue highlights naturally occuring in it. Their ears are also the longest of all elves with a natural curl in them near the tip.

Duinor. Also known as The Twilight Children. Human legends refer to them as Shadow Elves. The Duinor traced their ancestry back to a clan of Nathron and Astali that mingled together under the shadow of the Dawnspire Peaks at the start of the second age. Unfortunately, legends say the tallest of these peaks was home to the Shadow Lord's tower, Nuirleth. When his dark power rose across the midland forests, the youngest elvish race found themselves directly in the path of the dark lord's quest for power. It was through the Duinor that he first learned the secrets of the Dreaming Lands. The mithril armor of the Duinor's greatest warriors became the source of power used to by the Shadow Lord to craft the feared Twilight Guard. The Duinor were enslaved by the powerful sorcerer, their natures twisted to obey, and later enforce, his harsh will. In the final days of that dark struggle the Duinor were able to break free from their master's yoke and in that moment give their brethren the chance to work the potent rituals needed to bind the Shadow Lord with an echo of his tower in the Dreaming Lands; thereby saving all races of elves. After the conflict ended the Duinor pulled back from the world. Some say they died out, cursed by the Shadow Lord to be unable to have anymore children. Others say they simply retreated from the world, out of a mixture of shame at their dishonor and to avoid retaliation from those who felt the Duinor betrayal was so grievous that it could never be forgiven.

Duinor stand only slightly taller than Astali ranging from 52" to 66" but weighing somewhat more with a range of 85 lbs to 135 lbs with their physiques showing more clearly defined muscle-tone much like that seen in athletic humans. Their skin complexion ranges from a pale, frost-tinted violet to near solid charcoal while their hair is normally a shade of silver to white with a rare occurence of some deep shade of red. Many Duinor are also born with one or more birthmarks of a light purple color that take on an intricate pattern or oddly beautiful styling.

Imladrin. Also known as Children of the Vale. Humans know them as Mithril Elves. In Age of Gods the Imladrin held a special place among the elves, they were the craftsmen the gods turned to when wanting masterwork items created. Their gift when using the forge was without equal. Their ability to seemingly carve anything from wood earned them the highest regard among all elves, but all their skills and natural talents didn't save them from being swept up by the Shadow Lord's lust for conquest. Unlike the other elvish races, the Imladrin turned away from the conflict entirely, attempting to exchange their connection to the Dreaming Lands with that of the Elysium Wilds to maintain their link to immortality. Despite their best efforts the ritual failed and they were the first of the elves to be made wholy mortal. There are ancient elvish ballads that hint of Nathron magic being responsible for the ritual's failure. No elf took the abandonment by the greatest of their craftsmen lightly, sages even speculate that the elven gods turned their backs on these disgraced children.

Few Imladrin now remain in the Northlands, those that do live in small isolated communities hidden in hard to reach mountain valleys. They stand as tall as Nathron and so range from 54" to 69" but are not quite as slender as their grey brethren with weights ranging from 90 to 145 lbs. Their skin tone ranges from a faint rose-bronze tone to a pale bronze while their hair ranges from pale gold to auburn in color. The ears of Inladrin grow short and close to their heads much like those of Astali. Of all elves, Imladrin find it easiest to blend into human society solely on physical appearance when the need arises. 

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