Perhaps the youngest of the elven kindreds, dark elves are the most isolationist of a race famed for its reticence. Their kingdom in the Deth Forest is difficult to penetrate and navigate. The forest itself is perhaps the most dangerous in the world, full of dangerous beasts and hostile plants. Even should a traveler penetrate the forest to the city of Talashtar, the dark elven city at the heart of the forest, there is no guarantee of admittance. The entrances to the city are well hidden, and its guardians are content to let passers-by expire through thirst or hunger, or at the claws or teeth of an animal. Sympathy and empathy are not high on the dark elves' list of worthwhile virtues.
While their home is difficult for others to enter, they are able to come and go essentially at will, as long as they first obtain permission. Dark elves, therefore, might be found anywhere in the Kingdom. They might be on some private errand, or dispatched on a mission by their High Priestess, or on behalf of one of their House families. A sighting of a dark elf in the wider world is perhaps worthy of remark, but not a prodigy.
Within Talashtar, and among the dark elves, power and rank are the most important things. Wood elves are frivolous, and noble elves are busybodies. Dark elves see things the way they truly are, a never ending game for supremacy in which there are no winners, but which we all eventually lose. There are few lengths that they won't go to, and in the past their schemes have included poison, back stabbing, curses, and lies. Betrayal is so common among their noble families it is hardly worth mentioning. As a result, dark elves, while perhaps not as physically imposing as minotaurs or barbarians, might be the best assassins and killers in Calibran.
Dark elves are truly elves, and share their physical characteristics. They are taller and slimmer than the more common humans, and generally are less physically imposing. They invariably have gray, ashen skin, though the precise shade might vary slightly from individual to individual. Their hair is a stark, bone white, and straight. The fashion of wearing long, unbound hair has not changed in thousands of years.
Spirit makes up a large proportion of their being, as it does with their elven cousins of the other kindreds. Older dark elves become almost luminous, though it is a black light that does little to illuminate the darkness in which they live. Dark elves might also, therefore, be effectively immortal. However, their culture being as violent and unforgiving as it is, lifespans tend to be shorter. The rate at which dark elves die through murder or misadventure is higher than among the noble or wood elves.
There are cavern cities inhabited by dark elves scattered around Deth Forest. However, the largest city is the capital, Talashtar.
The dark elven city has grown large in the stories of the other races as a place of danger and peril. It often serves as someplace the hero of a story must venture to rescue a maiden, or retrieve some necessary artifact. It was immortalized in a popular singing rhyme, the lyrics of which run:
All you who venture through the trackless wild,
and the blackest forest, dark and dead, beguiled
by beautiful and graceful elves, ought know,
the darkest elves reside here. All is woe.
This is the city that kills: Talashtar.
Murder and mayhem, lies, deceit. They are
pitiless. Flee, you traveler, should you
meet a huntress collecting heads. The few
who do escape bring tales of terror. Dread
this place where even dragons fear to tread.This city stretches as high into the upper reaches of Deth Forest as it does into the depths of the earth below it. The dark elves have, over the centuries of their lifespan, cultivated the Ash Oak, a particular variety of the hardwood tree that grows only in Talashtar and the areas surrounding. The wood of the Ash Oak is black, and straight grained, while the leaves of the tree are a green so faded that it verges on gray, with veins of bright crimson that make for a startling contrast. Under the somewhat rough and pragmatic care of the dark elves, Ash Oaks have grown as high as a hundred paces, with the tallest even higher. These serve as the homes, mansions, and halls of the dark elves. The Noble Houses that make up the highest rank in dark elf society inhabit the oldest and tallest trees, or often more than one in close proximity, linked by delicate bridges of black iron and steel above, and labyrinthian passages below.
The Ash Oaks are hollowed out, and kept alive purely through the magic of the dark elven wizards, giving rise to their name. Stairways lead up and down the trees, halls and rooms and secret passages nested within the wide trunks. However, the forest around the trees is, for the most part, bare and abandoned. While it is unlikely the dark elves would allow such a thing, it would be possible for a stranger to wander through Talashtar at ground level and be entirely unaware of the city. The lowest cast and exiled are ejected onto the forest floor. They usually either die quickly, or leave the area, as there is little food or life to sustain them there.
Below the ground is the rest of the city: the common areas, trade markets, and the homes of the workers and servants. The tunnels extend deep into the earth, and spread out below the roots of the Ash Oaks. These passages are poorly lit and dizzying in their complexity. The dark elves are a quiet race, and rarely can anything be heard above a quiet murmur, with the occasional exception of the marketplaces. Other races would find the tunnels strange, ethereal places, scarcely less dangerous than a dragon’s lair.
The public spaces of the city lay in a great cavern, thousands of paces across. At the very center of the great cavern is a huge stalagmite, carved and excavated to serve as the temple of the goddess Houriel, and the headquarters of the High Priestess. To the west of the temple is the largest marketplace, and where the craftsmen have their homes and shops. Most of the buildings in this area are made from the wood of old Ash Oaks and Reaver trees.
Much of the rest of the city is in tunnels that ramble through the earth surrounding the cavern. With few exceptions, the tunnels and hallways curve and turn constantly, so that those who pass through them can never see more than a dozen paces ahead. They are only ever sparsely lit with candles and magical globes. The lack of illumination makes no difference to an elf’s ability to see. The point is to create a pattern of shadows and light, making it appear as if there are turns and openings where there are none, concealing other doorways from a casual glance. Deception is the point of these flourishes, an aspect of dark elf culture as central as dominance. These tunnels are as thick with secret doors and passages as it is with the pale white moss and lichen that cover the walls and ceiling.
The city, and the nation of dark elves as a whole, are ruled by the High Priestess of Houriel. However, many of the functions of government are carried out by the noble Houses of the dark elves. These Houses are constantly competing for power and influence, and it is this tension that creates much of the violence among the dark elves.
The elves worship a trio of goddesses.
The mother goddess, Asteriel, is the chief god of the elven pantheon. She is the oldest of three sister goddess, having been born first, from the loam of the forest floor. She reigns over the forests and woods, as well as the oceans and rivers, and all the natural world. Taking pity on the elves as they first found their way, she adopted them and took them all as her children. As with any mother, she cares for and worries about the elves, sometimes seeming overbearing and controlling. But she always has their best interests at heart. Also known as Mother, Great Mother, etc. Associated with deer, sparrows, owls, etc. The noble elves favor her worship.
Houriel was the next sister born, from the rocks and metals of the mountains. She saw the need to protect the elves, and so she created the arts of war and violent magic. While her goal is always to protect the elves, she can be savage and ruthless, sometimes abandoning the weak in favor of the strong, and destroying her enemies in a wild and reckless manner. With elves living so long, death is an unusual and frequently violent thing and so Houriel is the protector of the dead and their spirits. She is associated with the darker places of the world, and also with animals such as wolves, crows, and big cats. Also known as the the Warrior, the Dark One, the Guardian, etc. The dark elves favor her worship.
Alanah is the youngest of the sisters, born last and rising from the banks of the Serpent River. Provided for and protected by her older sisters, Alanah has never known the care and worries that motivated Asteriel and Houriel. She is carefree and joyful, and spends her time in revelry. She is also a huntress of skill. Associated with foxes, hawks and other raptors, otters, and similar animals. Also known as the Joyful Child, the Huntress, etc. The wood elves favor her worship.
The dark elves have a number of languages, many of them particular to a family, guild, or society. These groups usually keep these languages secret, and use them to communicate among themselves. There is a language common to the dark elves, but they are as likely to use the King's Speech.
Like all elves, magic is an innate part of dark elves' lives, culture, and craftsmanship. Many of their clothes, tools, and weapons have magic bound in their makeup as a matter of course, and what may have been a wondrous thing elsewhere can seem commonplace among the elves. Their sorcerers are able to manipulate the stuff of magic directly, and have little need of the elaborate mental gymnastics of a human wizard.
Dark elves also see the world in terms of servants and masters, and so some among them also find ways to call the spirits of nature that inhabit their world, and chain those spirits to their will. They are able to work elemental magic that often goes beyond what their sorcerous counterparts are able to match, which is a true advantage among the woods of the forest and cavernous cities.
Rule of the Dragons Edit
Dark elves might have had as much or more success hiding from the depredations of the dragons as any race in the world. They lived not only in thick and dangerous forests, but in caverns deep below those forests. However, the dark elf lust for power and dominance often led them into alliances with a variety of dragons. At different times the High Priestess of Houriel made pacts with one dragon or another, or one of the families might form an alliance to gain advantage over another, or an individual would find a place in a dragon's service. As with orcs, they were seen as one of the dragons' chief servants, and their reputation still suffers because of it.
Some dark elves were as in favor of freedom from the dragons as anyone, and for the same reason their fellows pledged their loyalty to the great winged masters. They sought another way to power thereby. However, for all their scrabbling, the dark elves made little mark, either way, in the history of the world.
The Dragon Wars Edit
There is little recorded of dark elf involvement in the Dragon Wars. Undoubtedly, they had some part to play both for and against. They did not fight on the side of the dragons at the Battle of Farsalon, so they did indeed break from their frequent masters, but there is no record of a great contingent of dark elves fighting against the dragons either. Many assume the dark elves sat out of the battle, waiting to see which side was triumphant so they might give their loyalty to the victor.
After Farsalon Edit
The dark elves walk a fine line with the Dragon Throne. On the one hand, they are often impudent, and frequently withhold taxes and tribute. On the other, they have been content to stay, for the most part, in their own country and kill each other rather than their neighbors. The Kings have, therefore, handled them delicately, allowing them a certain amount of rebelliousness while trying to find ways to bring them more fully into the kingdom. One dark elf did sit the Dragon Throne, and while he was a wise and competent ruler, his court was also plagued by intrigue and influence seeking. The preferred solution for many of the problems the dark elf King faced was to play opposing factions off against each other, which was an effective, if occasionally brutal, tactic.
Named and Important Characters Edit
None so far.
Naming Conventions Edit
Many male names end in “O, R or SH”. Many female names end in “I, R, E”. Names contain “O”, “G”, “Q”, “H”, “N”, “R”, “K”, “J”. in huge amounts. Examples: Quotho, Irrik, Hagosh, Jhiquo, Belesh, Halakash, Magor, Thesh, Kovash, Zakesh, Rokharo, Emi, Cohollo, Erinai.
Notable Skills and Traits Edit
Magic and elves go together, and like their cousins dark elves are masterful at its use. Their magic tends not to be as sophisticated as that the noble elves' use, or have the underlying harmony with nature of the magic of wood elves. It is more brutal, more ruthless in nature, taking dangerous shortcuts in favor of faster results.
Dark elves are also the world's masters in the manufacture and use of poisons, as well as antidotes, salves, and potions that increase stamina and fortitude.
Their warriors are also some of the best in the world, but their hunters are almost without peer. Wood elf rangers are as much guardians as hunters. Dark elves are less interested in guarding their forest than in merely surviving it, and this selfishness gives them an edge in some respects.
They are, in general, ruthless, self serving, and lack empathy for the plights' of others. This is not the same thing as saying they are completely without mercy or gentler virtues, but rather that they tend to reserve those aspects for those that are very close, and that they consider absolutely trustworthy. However, the constant betrayal rampant among their rival families makes earning that trust extremely difficult.
Cultural notes Edit
The Blooding Edit
A traditional ritual that dark elves training as rangers go through as a final trial before being considered an adult. The elf must go out into the forest surrounding their home, and return bearing the head of some animal. The more dangerous the animal, the greater the prestige and respect earned.
Noble Houses Edit
The dark elven noble houses are similar to the human version. However, the dark elven houses are limited in power and influence to Talashtar and Deth Forest, as that is the only places they have any interest in. There are many noble houses, and while one may gain in influence and power, others will inevitably form an alliance to cut it back down to size, meaning that each is more or less as powerful as all the others. While Houriel's High Priestess rules the dark elves, many of government's functions are fulfilled by various houses. Competing for the most profitable and influential of these duties is the major preoccupation of dark elven nobility.