Elves

Surion Maedhros

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New Hampshire Staff
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Elves of the Setverian Desert

Cradled within the Mists lies a Realm protected not by magical means, but by a natural environment inhospitable to the point that the Mists can not enter. The grand Setverian Desert spans several dozen leagues in length between its two closest borders, and almost twice that between its two farthest. With an arid climate and temperatures that regularly climb into three digits during the day the Mists of the Shattered Realms can not sustain themselves further than a mile or so inside its borders. Though the land is harsh and unforgiving, the meager resources it provides and the natural barrier to the Mists have allowed the Elves to find a home here.


Desert Survival

The Elves of the Setverian Desert are a rugged people who have built a life for themselves amongst the sand dunes and sun baked rocks of a unforgiving terrain. Most races would not have survived being forced into the desert by the Mists. The Elves’ ability to harmonize with nature and adapt to what the earth offers has allowed them to persevere through generations. Though the majority of the Setverian is nothing but sand and cracked rocks, pockets of life exist. Oases dot the landscape providing meager access to water, vegetation, and the occasional game. Elsewhere caverns in solitary mountains provide shade as well as stone and clay to build shelters. These are the locations where one will find the Elf tribes.

The Elves as a whole have learned to conserve to survive. Water and food are rationed and an Elf wasting resources of any kind is unthinkable. From a young age Elves are taught to think ahead to the long term. It may be tempting to gorge oneself on food and drink, but if the hunting party comes back with no lizard or giant insect meat, or worse not at all, that lack of reserves could spell disaster. That being said, the lives of the Elves are not a precarious balance of wondering if they will have what they need to survive the next day. Most tribes keep reserves of water and food enough to last them a month, and are constantly replenishing this supply. Nonetheless the life of an Elf is a long time and a month is almost nothing. A tribe that does not plan ahead often finds itself with only three options: raid, barter, or die.


Elven History

Despite being such a long lived race Elves do not have much in the way of an elaborate recorded history. In the absence of large amounts of vegetation, paper is a rarity, making Elven histories rely heavily on an oral tradition. That is not to say that Elves do not place any importance on reading and writing, however. Scholars are common, as Earth and Celestial Magics aid heavily in survival. The little that is written is usually carved in stone and clay, or written on the hides of sand wurms, which makes keeping a detailed record of their past impractical. Instead, the histories of one's tribe are passed down through stories by the tribe elders, usually around a campfire on a cold starry night. Sharing detailed stories of great skirmishes, harrowing feats of survival, or grandiose hunts are a favored activity of Elves.


Conflict and its Cost

The history of the Elves that is passed down through their stories is one of conflict and loss. Long ago before the clans came to be, the tribes of Elves were entirely insular and constantly at war with each other. If one tribe had an abundance of resources it was sure to be a target for other tribes to attack. Long lasting feuds between tribes were very common and contact with another tribe almost always meant a fight. Nowhere was this more true than the oasis known as Green Heart. In addition to being one of the largest oases in the Setverian Desert, Green Heart was also home to the only Earth Circle the Elves had. Tribes would fight long and hard to gain control of it, forcing all but those invested in the circle out. Once control of Green Heart was achieved, a tribe could exact payment of resources from other tribes in exchange for resurrection. For many tribes the control of Green Heart was something worth dying over, and a goal to be accomplished by any means. It was for this reason that when the tribe known as Red Wurm was assailed at Green Heart, no one came to help.

Approximately 900 years ago, at the time tribe Red Wurm controlled Green Heart, a figure clad in black was seen passing through the desert towards the oasis. Upon arriving a fight broke out as the figure began to slaughter Red Wurm, killing all that stood in his way. Scouting parties from nearby tribes saw the battle, and expectant that tribe Red Wurm’s fall would provide them with easy control of Green Heart, watched as Red Wurm was destroyed. If aid had been sent to Red Wurm, things may have turned out differently, but as the figure reached the Earth Circle and placed his hands upon it the circle flashed and shattered, leaving tribe Red Wurm nearly destroyed as the figure strode back out to the Mists.

The loss of their only Earth Circle was a blow to the Elven people as a whole. No longer could they resurrect, and life in the Setverian Desert often included death even without the tribal wars. Slowly word spread about what had happened at Green Heart. Tribes began to become more reluctant to engage in direct warfare, and bartering for resources became more common. Slowly over time tribes began to make alliances with each other for purposes of sharing resources and defense from enemy tribes. Eventually as the ally of one tribe allied with others, loose networks of alliances formed and developed into the clans of today.


Social Structure

Elves live scattered throughout the Setverian Desert in tribes that have remained largely unchanged for generations. Each tribe has its own way of living and tribes tend to be fairly self reliant. The ability to either grow or hunt for food, secure water, and defend themselves are all important tasks that a tribe needs to be able to do in order to survive. Most tribes have the means to accomplish all three of these tasks, though the ways that they do so may vary and often depend on that particular tribe's traditions. One tribe of the Green Heart clan, for example, may lay claim to an oasis that provides fresh water and vegetation for food, while defending their borders through a proficiency in Celestial magics. Similarly, a tribe of the Windrunner clan may hone their martial skills hunting sand wurms for meat and skins, and with no direct access to water, rely on raiding tribes from other clans to fill this gap. Other tribes may rely on communal trade with tribes of the same clan to survive. A tribe of the Stone Ant clan might make home in the caves of a desert mountain, drawing water from a subterranean aquifer, and using the ore they excavate to make weapons and armor. With no direct access to a sustainable food supply they might rely on trading these tools and weapons to other tribes of clan Stone Ant for provisions. While almost no tibe is entirely reliant on another tribe for resources, communal trading amongst the clan can be an excellent way to bolster the tribes strength.

Most governance on the laws and rules that Elves live by are made on a tribal level. While almost all tribes follow certain common laws, and theft and murder amongst your tribe and clan are almost universally forbidden, much of what is considered moral and immoral varies from tribe to tribe. One tribe might view the capturing and forced servitude of Elves from another clan as completely viable, while their neighbors consider such an act as wholly unacceptable. Likewise, a tribe might view Necromancy as a potent tool for survival if used in moderation, though they may keep that knowledge a secret so as not to upset the other tribes in their clan.

Ultimately these sort of tribal laws are determined by the Doyen, the selected leader of the tribe. The way a Doyen is chosen is as varied from tribe to tribe as their laws are. Some may hold contests of physical prowess or hunting capabilities to determine their Doyen, while others may default to whomever the eldest member of the tribe is. However an Elf becomes Doyen of their tribe, they do so for life, and considering the natural lifespan of an Elf a Doyen may stay in that position for a long time. While most Doyen regularly consult with other elders of the tribe, they are ultimately the ones who have final say in how a tribe behaves and what laws they follow. For this reason Doyen are also responsible for relations with other tribes when a parley is called. Most frequently in these cases the Doyen of the two or more tribes will meet face to face, usually with an escort of guards in case the meeting turns sour. It is not unheard of however for a Doyen to appoint another Elf to function as a representative in their stead in the event they are unable to act in such a capacity, such as due to illness or being away from the tribe attending a Clan Meet.


Clans

Every Elf is not just part of their tribe, but also a collection of alliances between tribes known as a clan. As alliances between tribes began to extend and interconnect it started to become complicated identifying what tribes were allied with each other. Concerns about raiding the ally of an ally became more and more important as tribes began working more closely together. It became increasingly necessary for the Doyen of a tribe to consult with the Doyen of each tribe they were allied with before taking any aggressive action against an enemy, so as not to put their alliance at risk. Eventually the three strongest tribes in the Setverian put out a call to the Doyen of each of their allies, inviting them and any Doyen they were on good terms with to a gathering with the intention of solidifying which tribes were allied and what the terms of those alliances were. What came from these meetings was the birth of the three clans: clan Stone Ant, clan Windrunner, and clan Green Heart.

In essence a clan is a name with which any given Elf can easily use to identify what network of alliances they belong to. Whereas a tribe is made up of anywhere from roughly one hundred to two hundred individuals, a clan is an organization made up of anywhere from ten to twenty tribes. Elves take these alliances very seriously, and even go so far as to include them in their names. Most Elf names consist of four parts: personal name, family name, tribe name, and clan name. When first introducing themselves it is common for Elves to use their full name, such as Lendric Setvaris of tribe Farstrider clan Windrunner. Since this full name is often a mouthful, most Elves will then only wish to be referred to by their personal name for brevity’s sake, except perhaps on formal occasions. By using their full name at introduction an Elf can both easily let others know if they are an ally, as well as identify if those they meet are friend or foe.

This emphasis on knowing who is their ally is particularly important on a tribal level. A tribe at any time may call on another tribe in their clan for aid of some capacity. The degree to which one tribe aids another is largely determined by the two tribes’ Doyen, and isn’t always given freely. This can often lead to one tribe feeling like they were not given the full help they had asked for, or feeling like they were asked to do more than they should have been, causing tension between tribes. To allow for these tensions to be discussed openly, and avoid smaller tribes in a clan from being abused, once per year during the week surrounding the winter solstice all Doyen in the clan gather for an event known as a Clan Meet. The way that these Clan Meets proceed is different in every clan, but they are always a combination of a platform to air grievances, an opportunity to discuss trade, and discussions of the clan alliance guidelines.

These clan alliance guidelines are of particular importance. The clans that each tribe joined was not by coincidence, as the overall agreements that tribes settled on in each of the three clans are significantly different. The help a tribe in clan Green Heart can request from its allies is fairly different for that of a tribe in clan Stone Ant or clan Windrunner. Largely it is these differences that separate the three clans from merging together into one.


Clan Stone Ant

The tribes of clan Stone Ant live in the more mountainous southwestern area of the Setverian Desert. Most tribes make their homes in cavernous tunnels dug into the sides of these mountains, drawing water from underground aquifers. They take their clan name from the fact that many of these homes were originally tunnels dug by actual stone ants before the Elves killed them.

Stone Ants place importance on the sharing of resources between tribes. With few oasis in the region vegetation is uncommon while crafting materials from the mountains are plenty. The flow of food gathered by tribes living in those oases and the sands proper to the mountain tribes is just as important to them as the flow of crafted weapons and armor from the mountain tribes out. Elves of clan Stone Ant are quick to share between themselves as well as come to the defense of other tribes when called. Grievances between tribes are often settled peaceably through the use of tithes placed on the offending party during a clan meet if enough Doyens feel there was an injustice done.

This focus on inter-tribe cooperation is often seen by the other clans as a failure of self reliance, but when asked any Stone Ant will be quick to point out that their tribes are some of the most defensible because of it.


Clan Windrunner

The tribes of clan Windrunner are located in the northern reaches of the Setverian desert. They take their name from the fact that most tribes of this clan are nomadic, largely in part due to a lack of oases within their region. The few tribes that do have stationary settlements are usually located around the few oases that do exist, and are often heavily fortified to avoid being raided.

The lack of natural resources in the area have given the tribes of clan Windrunner a long history of raiding and aggression. Of the three clans their alliance is the least resilient, mostly consisting of an agreement to not fight amongst themselves. Occasionally tribes will band together when attempting to raid a tribe from another clan for resources, but this often results in the two tribes disputing how to split the spoils. Grievances among clan Windrunner are often settled by combat between champions chosen from each tribe, and are usually violent affairs that often result in death.

There is a heavy focus in clan Windrunner on strength, in both martial prowess and magic, and most tribes sustain themselves through hunting the dangerous animals of the desert and monsters from the Mists, as well as raiding tribes from other clans. This has often earned them a reputation as bloodthirsty by the other clans, but they are just as capable of trading peaceably. The nomadic tribes of the clan often amicable trade their game and spoils with those tribes located at the few oases in the north for water and vegetation. The difference being that Elves of clan Windrunner hold respect for the strength of the other tribes in their clan, but not so much for clan Stone Ant, and Green Heart.


Clan Green Heart

The tribes of clan Green Heart are located in the southeastern reaches of the Setverian Desert, living amongst the many oases located there. The clan takes its name from the largest of these oases and the verdant spring of life it represents.

With an abundance of water and food from the oases, tribes of clan Green Heart need spend less time working towards survival than the other clans. Instead they focus much of their efforts on the pursuit of knowledge. Clan Green Heart boast some of the strongest practitioners of Earth and Celestial magics amongst all the Elves, delving as deep as possible into the ritual magics associated with them. An understanding of magic is not the only knowledge valued though and many tribes, particularly ones near enemy tribes, house many Elves who excel at scouting and spycraft. These tribes offer trade of the information they find out about the other clans to the rest of clan Green Heart for supplies and ritual knowledge.

The exchange of ideas and information between tribes is encouraged in clan Green Heart, but only if the other party has something to offer in return. If new knowledge is given, new knowledge is expected back in return, or at the very least, a sizable supplement of supplies. Disputes are often settled with duels similar to clan Windrunner, but much more tame and civilized. Instead of battles to the death, they are usually duels to incapacitation, and the losing party is tended to after.

The ease of life for clan Green Heart, comparatively to the other clans, and their focus on knowledge has led the other clans to view them as soft skinned and condescending. Most Green Heart Elves dismiss these views as pure envy, pointing out that they have to work hard for both their knowledge and maintaining the crops they grow through irrigation.


Philosophy

While the laws and practices of the Elves differ from clan to clan, there are certain behaviors and viewpoints that are common across their race. These philosophies are so ingrained to them that regardless of what tribe or clan an Elf belongs to, they will follow them.


Theft and Raiding

Every Elf is familiar with the concept of conflict with other tribes over resources, and knows it is an inevitable consequence due to the limited resources the Setverian Desert has to offer. Though clan Windrunner is most known for raiding, even tribes in clans Stone Ant and Green Heart will conduct raids against other clans to bolster their supplies. What many non-Elves find odd about this is it seems to fly in the face of the Elven beliefs about stealing. Given the circumstances they live in, most Elves abhor the idea of theft, and this baffles many people not familiar with their culture causing them to view the Elves as hypocrites, much to the Elves disagreement.

To understand an Elve’s indignation at this perception of hypocrisy, it is first necessary to understand how Elves view the difference between theft and raiding. When an Elf tribe raids another tribe they do so out of a need, albeit not necessarily immediate need, for resources for survival. Items of personal nature, or not needed by the tribe at that time are never taken. There is an implicit understanding amongst the Elves that the removal of too much of a vital resource would likely consign the raided tribe to their deaths. Given that there is a likely chance that their own tribe will be raided in turn, they do not want to set such an extreme precedent. As such there is an unspoken understanding about raiding amongst the Elves that even clan Windrunner adheres to. No more than half of a resource will be taken from a tribe during a raid, and any who surrender will not be killed. As such raiding is an action taken by a tribe and done to a tribe for the purpose of survival.

Theft on the other hand is an action taken by an individual, done to an individual, and usually not done for the purpose of survival. This difference may seem small to those from other cultures, but to an Elf this difference of need versus greed is significant. In cases where an individual, Elf or otherwise, does steal for the purpose of survival Elves tend to give a little more leeway in their judgment of that person. Even then though, questions of why the individual did not get the item in question from their tribe, or tribe equivalent, or why their tribe was unable to provide it arise.


Veiling the Mouth

Living in the Setverian Desert, violence is inevitable. Whether it be violence against an enemy tribe, or violence against monsters, it will happen. Elves understand this fact and they do not flinch away from it, but conflict costs energy, resources and lives. This creates an odd dichotomy for an Elf in which they understand that violence is inevitable but should be avoided if possible. This leads many Elves to attempt diplomatic approaches for as long as they can, but even then diplomacy takes its own toll. When time is of the essence or it has become clear that no agreement can be reached it is important to know that the time of diplomacy has ended and the time for conflict has begun. It is for this reason that the Elves have adopted the practice of Veiling the Mouth. Every Elf carries on them some manner to obscure their mouth, be it a scarf, a veil, a mask or some other means. Once an Elf has decided that violence is the only course left to take it is customary for them to obscure their mouth from view, a clear signal that they are no longer there to talk. This custom to do so before enacting any kind of aggression on another being is such a part of Elven culture that they do so even when fighting against animal and beast. Even outside their lands this tenet holds true. Any Elf that strikes at a foe with their mouth unobscured is considered by other Elves to be without honor and looked down upon.


Celebration of Rain

Though not very often, the occasional rainfall does occur in the Setverian Desert. Periods between precipitation are never consistent, with the longest and shortest intervals recorded being eight and two months respectively. Given the lack of large water sources, scholars of clan Green Heart believe the rain to be water evaporated off of the Mists that surround the desert. Wherever the rains come from, the Elves are thankful for them. On days of rain all tribes celebrate the blessing. As a symbolic act recognizing the gift of life that is being provided, no raids or other violent acts are enacted on a day of rainfall.

Though this practice is common across all tribes, this celebration becomes less common when Elves travel outside the Setverian. Elves who venture out past the Mists find that most other lands receive rainfall fairly regularly. To many the fact that the rain is common robs it of its significance and so they do not treat days when it rains any differently than any other day. Others choose to celebrate by avoiding violence only while the rain actively falls. Fewer still choose to celebrate by actively avoiding violence for the whole day as they would in the Setverian. It is all dependent on the Elf in question.


Outsiders and the Mists

During the day the heat of the Setverian Desert keeps the Mists from pressing in on those that dwell there. At night however, as temperatures drop drastically, the Mists are able to press inward a few miles before retreating again as the sun rises. This ebb and flow of the Mists have led the tribes of Elves to keep their distance from the edge of their Realm, so as not to be caught in the Mists at night. Those few Elves that ventured too close would often find nothing but the occasional monster emerging from the swirling wall to rend and kill. Legends speak of entire tribes that ventured into the Mists to explore, never to return. To the Elves, the Mists are death, and those who enter them will be lost forever. This perception has changed since the arrival of the Caligonauts. Since contact with the Caligonauts and learning that there are other Realms through the Mists, many elves have become more curious than intimidated, and have chosen to venture through the Mists. While some Elves don’t survive the Mists, those that do find that the Realms they reach are filled with opportunities not available to them in the Setverian.


Earth Circles and Resurrection

For approximately 900 years, Elves have been living without an Earth Circle. None forget what happened to it, or what the loss cost their people. Since the Earth Circle’s destruction at the hands of the being that Elves refer to as Life Taker, they’ve had no method of resurrection. It was assumed by the Elves that if other Earth Circles did exist in the Mists, then resurrection there would just lead to death again. This combined with the fact that no Elf whose body dissipated ever returned seemed to indicate to the Elves that they were correct, and anyone who dissipated was lost forever.

However, as Elves began to explore the other Realms, discovering that they had Earth Circles of their own, they noticed that Elven spirits began appearing at them in large numbers. As these spirits began to resurrect, the Elven people discovered that they were the spirits of Elves who had been dead since as far back as the destruction of their own Earth Circle. Spirits long thought lost forever began to come back dozens at a time. Even a year after the Elves first ventured into the other Realms, the spirits of the long dead are still arriving at any Earth Circles where Elves go, seemingly drawn to their presence. Some Elves have taken this as a sign and stay in foreign Realms solely to help guide the long lost dead spirits to the circles with their presence.


Other Clans outside the Desert


Inside the boundaries of the Setverian desert the tribes are constantly at odds. When two Elves from different clans meet it is seldom for peaceful purposes. Outside the Setverian however, things are different. The conflict between clans in the desert is largely one of survival and the acquisition of resources. Other Realms have bountiful resources and fighting with rival clans is not necessary there. That is not to say that Elves outside their home Realm do not fight with each other, just that it is usually over more than only a difference in clan.

That being said, long held feuds are hard to set aside, and when two Elves from different clans meet there is still a level of distrust that not all can overcome. A Green Heart outside the Setverian will still be a Green Heart if they return back home, and the same can be said about a Stone Ant or a Windrunner. Can they truly be trusted just because they are not with the rest of their tribe? Each individual Elf makes their own judgement on this matter..


Playing an Elf

Elves in Alliance Videa are a people who have been molded by a harsh unforgiving land. They lead lives that require them to balance their understanding of the natural violence of the world with the desire to live and prosper. Due to the violent nature of the lives they live, most do not live past two-hundred years despite their naturally long lifespan. Their loyalty to their tribe, as well as clan, and their rivalry with other clans shape the way they see the world.

You should consider playing an Elf if you wish to play a character that does not shy away from the violence of the world, but instead uses their understanding of it to help those they care about.
 
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