Monday, August 12, 2013

Elves: An Overview

By Dominic Ford

Directly descended from Maries, the Elves claim their divine lineage passionately, and his influence in their bloodline shines through. Beautiful and delicate winter flowers, the Elves are elegant and refined yet brutally cruel and vain. The Kindred warn, "When an Elf smiles, flee." Unfortunately for the Kindred, the entirety of Desylinn couldn't simply move away when the Elves landed their ships from a distant Northern continent. Under the harsh rule of the Mariean Empire, the old barriers were broken down and replaced with roads and trade routes, walls and citadels. The Elves, convinced of their own superiority, attempted to reforge Desylinn in their own image, to tame the rough and wild land. Their failure was marked by the death of the Empress Arcadia.
In the world today, there are three kinds of Elves: the Northern Elves, who make their home in the far North, beyond Desylinn; the Imperial Elves, who once ruled across Desylinn and now suffer as shadows of their former selves; and the Human-blooded Elves, born of parents who were Half-Elves themselves. Although these three groups are all the same race, they are culturally distinct from each other.
Imperial Elves are the most common to find throughout Desylinn, as their rule over the continent was almost total. With the Mariean Empire fallen, these Elves have been forced to cope with their own inferiority, something that is rare for the race as a whole. Some of the survivors have sworn loyalty to local barbaric tribes, while others have become born again among the Kindred, serve among the Dwarves, or risen to power in the burgeoning city of Hub. Many simply wander from town to town, itinerant beggars who had once been courtiers, money changers, or poets. Deep in the Northern Dragon Mountains, though, a large group of Imperial Elves has begun to gather, attempting to rebuild and establish a mighty Empire once again. The city of Tarn Modeshi has a significant Imperial Elven population, primarily composed of Elves who were minor nobility or with mercantile interests. The Modeshi Elves have utilized the collapse to gain power for themselves.
All Imperial Elves bear Kadie's Kiss, a small star-shaped mark on their cheek which appeared as Empress Arcadia died. Those who remain loyal to the Empire (or at least the idea of the Empire) wear Kadie's Kiss with pride, although they have great difficulty doing business, or even buying bread, throughout most of Desylinn. Most Imperial Elves destroy the kiss somehow, from tattooing over it or slicing it off with a blade to searing it with flame or taking Orckhan marks when they join the Kindred.
Human Blooded Elves, born of Half-Elf parents, are seen as corrupted and lost souls by the Imperial Elves. During the Empire these offspring happened occasionally, as human slaves had children who had children, but the Fall of the Empire has increased the potential dramatically. Hub in particular is home to a high number of Half-Elves, as the red light districts are frequented by many Imperials seeking escape from their misery. These Elves do not see themselves as corrupt or lost souls, they see their luck as a divine blessing directly from Mar, proving their worth in his eyes. As a result, they often abandon their families even before their inevitable orphanhood takes place, joining brutally violent street gangs which control vast portions of Hub's underbelly. Organized, calculating, and elaborate, these gangs are hindered primarily by their inability to work together, as their memory's are long and their grudges never go unpunished.
Beyond Desylinn, far to the North, above the frozen form of Mar, live the Northern Elves. Very little is known about these Elves, save for the stories told by the Imperials. Long ago, there was a great council to determine what should be done about the continent of unruly barbarians they had discovered to the South. One group sought to establish trade outposts in order to acquire luxury items they couldn't grow in their frozen city, while another wished to simply ignore them. A third group, led by an oracular prophetess, claimed Maries wished them to conquer the foreign lands and claim them for the Ice. The council failed to make a decision due to internal corruption. The prophetess left the frozen city in a rage, gathered up her followers and sailed south. The Imperial Elves believe the Northern Elves are still arguing today, unable to find consensus and unwilling to simply act, lost in their corruption and folly.
Immediately after landing in Desylinn, the Elves began to expand rapidly. Their capital, Salastria, was constructed in a few short years of hardship and hunger, but the Elves immediately sought for solutions through their oracular prophetess Chaliki. Her animal sacrifices were pathetic and the augurs they brought led to dim prospects, so Chaliki immediately called for a true sacrifice, the pure warriors of a Vok-lyn tribe to the south. After draining their blood into a mighty cauldron and reading their souls in their intestines, Chaliki poured a cup of bloody life force for each Elf, and together they drank. The Elves began to conquer the Vok-lyn rapidly, pitting them against each other, sowing mistrust, using mind control to manipulate whole clans, and buying the loyalty of weaker tribes. They expanded rapidly, swallowing up their barbaric enemies. The great Prophetess Chaliki died before Desylinn was conquered, but with her last breath she taught her commander, the first Sorcerer King, how to send the Dragons into eternal slumber. Given to her by Mar, the Draconic slumber was a critical key to the success of the Mariean Empire.
The Imperial Elves continued to practice bloody auguries, profane magic, and harsh, demanding slavery, particularly for the Vok-lyn. They spread across the remainder of Desylinn rapidly, conquering the Dwarves, the central plain, and the Fertile Lands with ease. The Elves built great cities, including Salastria and Icehome in the frozen North, and innumerable towers, fortresses, castles, strongholds, and outposts, all to project the martial and mercantile interests of the Empire. The Elves conquered most of Desylinn, with a few exceptions: First, the land of the Snakes, whom they allied with instead. Second, the Blackfire Mountains, deep in the East, which was too unpopulated and full of bizarre oddities to be worthwhile. Third, the Great Southern Forest, where the Elves suffered their greatest defeat before the fall of the Empire.
Once a strong and mighty culture in Desylinn, the Elves are now a broken and shattered remnant. With only six hundred years since their fall, many older Elves remember the Empire as it once was, and despair. The rest, fueled by stories and their still strong sense of superiority, long for the Golden Age of the Mariean Empire.