"A Rollicking Band of Adventurers We"
Faerie elves are lithe, elegant creatures with pointed ears, thin limbs, and graceful movements. They stand about five feet tall. Most weigh between 90 and 100 pounds. They have no facial hair. Elves are considered adults from about the age of 30. The realm of Faerie (Tȋr inna áh: ‘land of youth’), between the Elphame Mountains on their northern border, and the Ben Tuireadh mountains in the south is a magical land where the influence of the Faerie Queen Sylvara preserves her children from illness or aging beyond childhood. Beyond the borders of Faerie, the beings of this realm immediately begin to feel the ravages of time. Reentering Faerie does not reverse the effects of the mortal realm, but provides respite from time and infirmity. Faerie who choose to remain among the mortals of Heled live between 150 and 200 years. As a consequence of being virtually immortal, the Faerie have a complex spoken language that is only barely accessible to mortals. Faerie is a language constructed with a bewildering set of genitive cases, often referring to objects, ideas, or individuals in terms of lineages, historical events, and famous places. Theirs is an agglutinative language. It consists of a complex system of honorific domains reflecting the nature of Faerie society, with verb forms and particular vocabulary to indicate the relative domains of the speaker, the listener, and persons mentioned in conversation. The lexicon of Faerie is immense, which requires centuries of immersion to fully acquire.
Tuatha Ben-Kesir (people of the high mountain) are fair-skinned. Their hair ranges from light brown to blonde-white, and their eyes are hazel. Both sexes prefer loose garments, flowing gowns, delicate jewelry, and billowing capes. Their clothes are silk, and they love embroidering it with metallic threads in iridescent colors. They are an urbane people who tend to be more loquatious than their lowland cousins, speaking in melodic tones and moving with a natural grace. The other Faerie, perhaps not entirely unfairly, stereotype them as irrepressible gossips.
The long years before the Demon Wars established the Ben-Kesir as a safe, settled, municipality with stratified crafts into a loose system of castes, or Houses. No one marries outside his or her House without permission, and permission is rarely granted. Ben-Kesir rarely communicate with the outside world, finding it far too transient for their liking. They also rarely marry outside their society. The mountain endured for over 3,000 years, and her inhabitants have become set in their ways. Tuatha Ben-Kesir abhor contact with humans or other races. Even their relationship with the Sylva-Gleann is distant.
Tuatha Sylva-Gleann (people of the beautiful valley) are smaller and darker than the Ben-Kesir, with eyes of blue or brown and hair ranging from honey-brown to blonde. They prefer rich hues and earth-toned clothing of velvet, linen, and supple leather. They have strong, pleasant voices and a quiet, yet open manner. Amongst the Faerie, the lowland folk have a reputation for being especially curious, yet shy. Elf-maids prefer long dresses, accented with floral embroidery, while men wear woven trousers and long tunics. Both sexes often wear garlands of wildflowers on their heads and ornament their clothing with ivy. Sylva-Gleann society is far less structured than that of the Ben-Kesir. They work to achieve harmony with nature for a full, happy life. They use the boughs of living trees for construction and camouflage, weaving green branches into latticeworks seamlessly integrated with artfully lain uncut native stone. Each village is home to a segmented lineage of several interrelated families.
Elves sleep at odd intervals, having the ability to stay awake for up to four days in a row. They can refresh themselves by sleeping for an appropriate amount of time, approximately six hours for each day they were awake, and comfortably slumber by day or night. Because elves are often active through the night, they have much better vision in the dark than humans. All Faerie inherit Sylvara’s passion for art and music. In fact, Faerie often find artistic expression more evocative and intelligible than their own language. Elves are not physiologically any more or less sensitive to the elements, but many feel a subtle, undefinable discomfort in even the most mild climates outside of their homeland. Being so long lived, Faerie accumulate vast wealths of knowledge derived solely from their own experiences. Elves are a gentle race, for the most part, who live in a comfortable environment and as a consequence are slightly more vulnerable to injury and disease beyond their borders. Despite many regional differences, all elves share some common philosophies:
Shaping: Elves believe in the perfection of nature; if they elaborate on the natural wonder of the world, its beauty will shine forth. Of course, they also believe themselves the creatures most capable of directing this shaping. They see Heled as a garden in need of tending and see themselves as the gardeners. Their cultural territorialism arises from this intense involvement in their lands. Sylvara’s protectiveness motivates her to close her queendom to strangers, as a mother protects her children from harm by preventing them from playing with their friends. Most elves grow bitterly homesick when removed from their lands. Every Faerie creature instantly knows when it is beyond their borders.
Foresight: Elves can live for millennia and plan accordingly. Rather than glorifying or dwelling on the past, they look to the future. Their long lifespans and patient pursuit of goals sometimes make them seem aloof, uncaring, or narcissistic to shorter-lived races. In fact, elves deliberately maintain a distance from other races, wanting to avoid the inevitable grief of watching generation upon generation of these mortals die.
Pride: Elves, conscious of their race’s achievements, take offense easily. Few other races appreciate the elven role in Heled’s preservation. Elves don’t despise other races, but they are painfully aware of mortals’ limited perception. Elves also see other races’ attempts at art as crude and transient. Because elven crafts attain high standards that allow them to withstand the ravages of time, elves point out shoddy craftsmanship whenever they find it. Tools and clothes made by other races cannot last the eternity of an elf’s life.
Life Eternal: Elves rarely brood over the past or deny themselves their appetites. Although they are capable of scrimping and sacrificing, toiling for irksome days as dwarves do, elves refuse to do so. If difficult work presents itself, elves engage it joyfully. Despite (or because of) their long lives, Faerie seize each day as a rare gift. Elves do feel sorrow, loss, and regret, but they don’t savor or dwell on these emotions. They spend life looking forward to the next day, the next joke, and the next new friend.
Trades: From the age of accountability into adulthood, an elf must enter his or her family’s domain and learn a trade. Elves generally do not think of this as limiting. They see skills as generational, handed down from father to son, mother to daughter. Most elves endeavor to spend eternity in pursuit of perfection of their respective art.
Most of the firstborn Faerie still yet live, but the effect of many millennia leads all of them to lives of seclusion, having lost their ability to relate to younger beings. It has been a very long time since they discussed what the world was like in the Elder Era. Legend has it, the firstborn lived far away, in the land of Muirthemne, but the coming of the Dragon-of-Shades brought ruin to their realm and they were forced to leave. Sylvara protected them for many years, but she became fearful that her children, already diminished in number, would perish without a home. So, she sought out the highest mountain in all of Heled, Ben-Kesir. Upon the summit, Sylvara held court and blessed her firstborn sons and daughters with eternal life if they would only hearken to her and remain close. A second generation of Faerie were born on the slopes of Ben-Kesir, and expanded into the foothills of Sylvara’s mountain. For approximately five hundred years after the Warlock Strife the firstborn and their children explored their new homeland and defended it from invading tribes of men and giants wandering the world after the great battle. While in the East the god Tyriel defended the people of Lavinia from the vestiges of Polhemus’ armies, and Scerad kept vigil for the return of the Elders, Sylvara preserved what little remained of the ancient magicks. She taught it to her people who used it to shape their new homeland into a mystical paradise.
In time, the Demon Wars threatened the Faerie people, but this time the coming of the five Dragon Scions was foretold and prepared for. Elf-kin crafted enchanted weapons and armor and prepared to defend their borders by mountaintop. What was not foretold was the vanguard of Kane’s armies in the west would not come from the sky, riding the winds of perdition. Orcs, the first children of Kane, attacked Faerie from below, dividing Sylvara’s people between summit and vale. The firstborn abandoned their posts at the summit to defend their young grandchildren in the lowlands of Faerie. So, it was in this way that the southern borders of Midhjard was left open to invasion when the Dragon Scions arrived.
The orcs were defeated in the south, driven back into the foul deep, their caverns sealed forever, and the elves withdrew from the rest of the world. The Faerie had summoned aid from the Katon tribes in defense of their homeland, but human kings were distrustful of Faerie, their magic, and their divine queen. So, no aid came until David the Dragonslayer rallied the scattered tribes of men to fight for his king. David rode with his knights to aid Tȋr inna áh, but the battle was nearly won. The honor shown by David and his knights earned the respect of Sylvara and her people, but from the kings of Midhjard and their subjects the Faerie felt only betrayal. By their blood and that of the dwarves, the orcs never reached the lands of men.