Elves in Bretonia
Elves are natives of the Otherworld. Not many choose to live in our world, though more choose to visit it. They are creatures of grace and beauty, and often – of power. They are treated with respect when seen in the human world, even though their otherworldly natures are not often well understood.
In the Otherworld, there are four kindgoms that rule over all the fey. And it is believed that the seasons of earth change based on which kingdom of Otherworld is most in alignment with earth. These four kingdoms hold a council together, and rule the Otherworld as one theocracy. Each kingdom’s nobles are born of a subrace of elves, founded and altered by the magic of Otherworld.
The high elves rule over the Spring Kingdom, known as Tuile. Ruled by Ogma and Gwyndolien. One of the smaller kingdoms.
The great eladrin rule over the Summer Kingdom, known as Laire. Ruled by Aine and Niamh. One of the larger kingdoms.
The wood elves rule over the Autumn Kingdom, known as Coire. Ruled by Cerridwen and Lir. One of the smaller kingdoms.
The dark elves rule over the Winter Kingdom, known as Yeline. Ruled by Finn and Babd Catha. One of the larger kingdoms.
To an outsider, the elves of Tuile and Laire might seem nicer, friendlier, and nobler than the elves of Coire and Yeline, but they are just as alien to mankind’s understanding as any other elf of Otherworld.
There are elven settlements from Otherworld in this world, few and far between. Some are older even than Citadelion, others are newer, fresher, pioneers of a kind looking for new knowledge or new lives for one reason or another.
The elves in the world of Bretonia are descendants of magic, and hail from the Otherworld. There is this world, and the world beside it, which men know as Otherworld and the elves know as Orbalien. It is said that in very beginning of this world, all the worlds were one, and there was little difference between them, but all were indistinguishable from one another. The elves believe that their gods, known as the Eight, separated these worlds from one another to bestow order amidst the chaos. This created the planes of the cosmos.
Whether this is true, or merely an elven legend, only the gods know for sure.
For thousands of years the elves lived in peace in the Otherworld, studying, and learning, detached from the baser needs and able to sustain themselves on the energy of magic alone. They are an exceedingly magical race, and their life-forces are intrinsically intertwined with the energies of magic. Extremely long lived, and perhaps even immortal, the elves soon looked to the other planes to find adventure and to further expand their understanding.
Thus they came to this world, and seeing the story state of the men of that age, base, and not much better than beasts, but seeing in them the spark of the soul that the elves bore themselves, they decided to raise men up, to teach them, to help them. Thus the empire of Citadelion was founded on earth and a utopian society of men and elves was formed.
Man remembers very little from this time in history, for them it was countless generations ago, while for the elves it was only a few, and the elven records in Otherworld remain intact while man’s empires and civilizations have been destroyed many times over.
In the end, the elves of Otherworld realized that their good-will was ill-met. The race of men began to resent the elves and their natural talents. They bickered with one another, and made war amongst themselves, each trying to use the Elves as weapons against their fellow men. The elves withdrew. Though some say that they withdrew too late, and the nature of man corrupted the elves who sometimes show human-like qualities all too well.
The great empire of Citadelion with its gardens, libraries, markets, and all its vast resources of knowledge and power were gone in a single night. Removed from the world by the gods and returned to Otherworld – there to remain. Only the stone was left behind, and a few trinkets that men or elves had stolen away and protected. The result was a devastating descent of mankind into barbarous warfare the likes of which the world had not seen for an age. The elves still feel some guilt for this, but in the end all have come to realize that although mankind is highly adaptable to the elements of their world, they are unchanging in their nature.
Thus the elves remained in Otherworld for millenia, and only a few have recently, from the elve’s perspective, turned their eyes and attentions back to the mortal world.
High Elf Culture
High Elves in Otherworld live mainly within the kingdom of Tuile, which is a smaller kingdom than Laire and Yeline, and is made up of over 6,000 islands that dot the landscape across the Western Sea in Otherworld. Many of the islands are unsettled by the elves, who build their cities of glass, crystal, paper, and other elements strengthened and reinforced by magic to be usable as building materials.
Their dialect of the elven language is referred to as ‘High Elven’ or ‘Quothari’. It is a formalized pitch-accent based version of elven, with a more complicated writing system using a calligraphic cursive form of an expanded elvish alphabet to accommodate the greater range of phonetic tones implemented in their language. It is complex, but beautiful to hear and beautiful to see – even if you cannot read it.
High elves focus greatly on the beauty of the world around them, and strive to contribute beauty to the world in the things they do. Thus a great many celebrations, practices, and trades focus on the arts, and even those trades not typically considered arts by other races, will have concepts of artistic form attributed to them by the high elves. Many high elves spend centuries studying and perfecting one art form after the other. Creation of beauty is their highest moral imperative.
They appreciate the finer things in life, and often dress in the most comfortable and colorful silks available.
Their bond with nature, while not as strong as the wood elves’, lies mainly with the sea. They are excellent ship builders, and excellent sailors. They have a knack for exploring seas they have never sailed before, navigation by the sun during the day and the stars at night, and other secrets not widely known by men.
Their martial arts are distinct in that they often mirror the flow of water, the pulling and pushing of the tides. Monks, students of various martial arts among them are sometimes called Monks because of the solitary meditation they practice, are common among them. And while they are a very numerous people, they often isolate themselves for years, decades, at a time, as they dedicate themselves to the mastery of a particular craft.
Ogma, the god of knowledge is their king, and as such they highly value the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Learning, for the adventure of encountering something new, whether or not one may ever use the knowledge.
Gwyndolien, the goddess of magic is their queen, and as such they highly value the arcane arts. They truly consider magic to be an art form, and will often undertake the practice of it as a means of artistic expression rather than utilitarian manipulation.
They do not have many cities, but when they do build, they build up rather than out. Their towers stand titanic, as tall as the mountain tops and lost within the fog of the clouds. Their capital city is called “Immenor” and is known as the city of glass.
High Elves in this world may be in Bretonia or the rest of the world because they chose to travel there seeking knowledge, or seeking to explore new areas, or experience new beauty. There are many reasons an individual or a family group of high elves might traverse from Otherworld to this world, but they are keen not to interfere with the affairs of men. At least, not to the point that Citadelion did. They remember its lesson.
There are at least two high elf settlements in this world that predate Citadelion, and one ‘collective’. Though they all keep themselves well hidden from the world of men at large, and do not seek to interfere.
The Eladrin kingdom of Laire is one of the larger kingdoms of Otherworld, and is made up of a large single continent, that ranges from temperate to tropical. Its geography varies wildly, from mountains to plains, from forests to jungles. The kingdom of the High Elves is to the West of Laire, and the kingdom of the Wood Elves is to the East. Their architecture varies, but in most places they build out of magically crafted white stone, with ornate designs resembling romanticized imagery of nature and its animals.
Their dialect of the elven language is referred to as ‘Eladrin’ or ‘Elder-Tongue’. It is a classical form of elven that uses the elven script with accent and notation marks throughout. It is not exceedingly complex, and was once spoken by all elves, but has since deviated from the main elvish language in that the elvish language has grown and adapted, while the Eladrin language has not. It is unchanging. With new words being formed only by new combinations of old words.
Eladrin tend to focus on growth and development of their kingdom and their society. Like humans, they are civilization minded, and they look to the growth of the many in addition to any subsequent personal growth. They are romantic creatures, not in the sensual or erotic sense, but in the classical sense of ideals. They believe they know what the world ought to be, and what they ought to be, and how they ought to be, and they strive toward those ideals. Realization of the ideal is their highest moral imperative.
They appreciate the finer things in life that are brought about through the development of society, like artistic portraiture, wine, and music. They often dress ornately, and as comfortably as they can, though they are not afraid of wearing leather or metals as opposed to silks and cloth.
Their bond with nature is a complex one, and essentially it boils down to the arcane. They are intrinsically connected with the arcane forces that suffuse the worlds, more-so than their fellow elven kin. They are more naturally magical than their fellow elves, and they bear that responsibility with pride. They continually pursue more advanced magics, greater complexities of the weave, until their final day.
Their martial arts often mirror the animals in nature, or the bursts of strength and speed found in fire. Students of their martial arts are few and far between among the Eladrin, though they are not unknown to warfare. An Eladrin usually prefers a blade to a fist when fighting, but only because they consider advancement of their technologies to be ideal. Most Eladrin would look at unarmed fighting as ‘traditional’ and ‘old fashioned’, but that wouldn’t stop one of them from dedicating themselves to it.
Aine, goddess of life, is their queen. As such, they highly value the production and continuation of life. The healing arts are practiced among them from an early age, and they continually study the use of herbs and medicines and their affects on the various races. To them, a birth is a momentous occasion, to be celebrated by all.
Niamh, wife of Aine and goddess of light, is their queen. As such, they value the concepts of light, goodness, and other such aspects. The sun is a common Eladrin symbol, and they often consider the concept of ‘bringing light’ to others to be the same as ‘bringing understanding’ – which is to say their romantic philosophies.
They have many cities scattered throughout their continent, but their chief city is Aelfaelon, the golden city of the sun. Their cities are mainly comprised of castles that are interwoven with the landscapes, and all seem to be cut from the same stone, or magically linked to the same metal. Gold and silver plating and trimmings are not uncommon sights in their cities. It is said that wealth of an Eladrin city makes even the richest man on earth seem a pauper.
Eladrin may be in Bretonia or the rest of the world because they chose to travel there, seeking out new philosophies or ways of understanding, or seeking to educate those who seek such things. They are careful not to force their learning on those that do not want it, but they will often answer when someone asks. They are the most keen to interfere in the course of human affairs, but their kingdom must tread lightly, or risk war with Yeline.
There are no Eladrin cities in this world, though there are several ruins of once-flourishing cities and trading posts from Citadelion. Though it is said that due to the magical nature of their cities, sometimes an entire city crosses over into this world from Otherworld through unknown circumstances.
Wood Elf Culture
The forest of Coire is across the narrow sea and spreads over a small continent in the temperate zone between Laire and Yeline. Many swaths of the forest are wild places, but the wood elves are the masters of all that live within the wood. They build no true buildings, not like the eladrin or the high elves, but instead dwell mostly within trees, or within their branches, by the use of great platforms and shelters built of magically shaped and reinforced wood and leaf.
Their dialect of the elven language is called Sylvan, and is widely spoken within Coire. It is a strange language to humans, but natural to the fey, and besides the elvish common, it is considered the easiest elvish tongue to learn. Though they do not teach it is quickly to men of the mortal world. They use the standard elvish script for their writing.
Wood Elves focus on the preservation of nature, its beauty, and its power. To them, the green life of the forest is sacred, and equal in worth to their own. This has often brought them into conflict with the humans and other races of earth, whom they refer to as ‘the mortal races’. Indeed, wood elves when encountered in the material world are often antagonistic, especially in the stories, and are quite often feared because of it. If they claim a wood in the world as their own, most humans do their best to avoid it.
They are the most primitive of the elves, but their primitive nature is not for lack of learning or understanding – but rather driven by it. A conscious choice. With that understood, they do enjoy revelry to a greater extent than most of the other elves. They enjoy songs, and pranks, ‘base humor’, wine, ale, tobacco, and other smoke-able herbs. They often dress in greens and browns, made of cotton, wood bark, leaves, and other such natural decorations. They have even been known to tattoo their skin in blue tribal patterns with product derived from the crushed leaves of the Glastien flower.
Their bond with nature is perhaps the strongest of the elves’, and is to the forests and jungles, its plants and animals. They are deeply connected to the primal pulse of the world and the ‘natural magics’ that suffuse the environments. They continually pursue a deeper connection with the natural world, and a greater understanding of it. Their herbology, and consequently their alchemy, is unmatched by elves or men. A double edged sword, as a wood elf trained in these arts can kill you with poisons far deadlier than a blade, or heal you with herbs more potent than faith, and sometimes the only way to know which flask is which is to trust. They are known for coating their weapons in poisons that cause illness and hasten death, as such most men fear an arrow from a wood elf with greater terror than an arrow from a fellow human.
Their martial arts mirror the flexibility and movement of the wind, evasive, tricky, fast, and hitting hard when it counts. Most wood elves study martial arts of one aspect or another, and though they are known for their use of bows and their skill at archery, their skill in hand to hand combat is not to be underestimated.
Finn, god of Trickery, is their king. Which explains their mercurial nature and the reputation they have among other races as tricksters and cunning folk. Their senses of humor can be juvenile, but that does not make the average wood elf immature. Rather, they can be deadly and jocular in the same breath. And most wood elves will respect someone who can out-wit them.
Cerridwen, goddess of Nature, is their queen. This should not be surprising to anyone with a knowledge of the deeply rooted connection between nature and the wood elves. The dichotomy between this marriage, the wild trickster and the peaceful nature, lies within every wood elf, and often leads to division, as the two have many things in common, but have a great many principles in opposition to one another.
The wood elves have many dwellings throughout the forest of Coire, but their central and most sacred site of dwelling is the grove of Laurelinden, which holds the sacred first tree. It is believed that the roots and branches of this tree connect and encircle all things in Otherworld and in the material world. Wood elves bury their dead in the earth, and believe that the bodies of good elves become great trees in the fashion of Laurelinden. Thus it is believed that the great tree grew from the death of Laurelinden, the first elf, long before the division of the planes. Its seeds are planted with reverence, and the sons and daughters of the Laurelinden tree are sacred to the wood elves.
Wood Elves have many domains in the material world. Forests and other natural places that feel ‘homey’ are defended by the wood elves. As well as any site where a Laurelinden tree was planted by pilgrim or ceremony in the days of Citadelion. They are the most ‘common’ type of elf a human may encounter, though they may not relish to visitation. They are known by humans as troublesome pranksters at best, poisonous murderers at worst. Hence most of the mortal races will go out of their way to appease them, and treat them kindly if encountered, even if they secretly hate them. Thus humans have come to call them ‘the good folk’ or ‘the kind folk’ for fear of angering them by calling them something less flattering.
A wood elf might leave its grove and tribe to seek out the world and learn from it, or to travel to new places and find lost Laurelinden trees. Or to take seeds of the Laurelinden tree to new homes. Or to sate their curiosity as to the ways of the mortal world. Or perhaps even just because it seems like it might be fun to ‘slum it’ for a while with the mortal races.
Dark Elf Culture
The elves of the kingdom of Yeline are darker than their other kin. Their skin tone varies from light purple to gray to alabaster black, and their hair is silver or white. While the elves of Tuile, Laire, and Coire are known for their revelry and their passions, the elves of Yeline are known for their cold brutality and their stoicism. They do not celebrate the world as the other elves do, but they master it, and move on. They are called Dark Elves, or gray elves, because the kingdom of Yeline is under a constant blanket of clouds, ever swirling and storming. It snows, but it only ever rains in their seas.
Their dialect of the elven language is called Trovan, a harsh constant heavy form of elvish. It uses a blockish varient of the elvish script, with symbols above the constants to denote the vowels rather than actual letters. There is a varient of Trovan used by the dark elves called Sinali, which is a ‘silent’ language, using hand gestures and other body movements to convey words and tone. It started as a means of communication in high risk avalanche areas, and swept through the royal courts as a sensation several centuries ago. Thus it has come into common practice among the dark elves and the other denizens of Yeline.
Dark elves focus mostly on survival, and its various side-benefits, like war and conquest. They are the most war-minded of the Elves, and sometimes the most arrogant. They believe themselves to be better than other beings. And if they can kill that other being, well then that proves it. All of their ‘art’ revolves around this then. The jewelry and sculpture is the most likely to be made of bone, among the crafts of elves, and most of their crafts have been developed for the purpose of making greater war upon one another.
Apparently the dark-elves were not always this way. And many say that they were the most corrupted of the Elves when Citadelion shone its light upon the mortal world. They do not speak of it.
For all of that, they are not an evil race. The natural environment of their kingdom is harsh, and they are a harsh people, but they do not pursue evil any more or less than other elves, and often fight against it with better efficacy than their other brethren. They have codes of honor, which they maintain and to which they hold each other accountable. The betterment of oneself, the increasing of one’s strength and power (physical, political, or otherwise) is their highest moral imperative.
They do not appreciate the ‘finer’ things in life like their elven brethren. They drink ‘burning ice’ a liquid alcohol that warms the blood. They dress in dark clothing in times of peace, but favor leathers and furs over silks and cottons.
Their bond with nature is not well understood, even among many of their own people. But they are the people of the storm, and the people of the ice, the cold, and the darkness. They have been known to survive well in conditions that others could never stand, and they often wield the powers of darkness in their magic.
Their martial arts are eclectic, taking whatever maneuvers, fighting techniques, or weapons work well, and putting them to good use. They make good use of the shadows, of camouflage in their natural environment and they are not above ‘underhanded’ methods if it gets the job done. Their is no honor in survival, there is only success or failure. They favor the ways of crossbows, shuriken, shadows, and poisons. They will use whatever tools necessary to achieve their goals.
Lir, god of the tempest, is their king. According to the tales it is he who makes it to snow and storm upon their lands and seas almost constantly. They follow in his way through strength and endurance, and laud boldness when it succeeds. They do not often hold back their words for such petty things as feelings, or etiquette they often speak the truth even if it hurts another. In this they are at least fair to all things. They do not hate one race or one faith or one creed more than any other. Instead they consider that all things are equal, even if all things are beneath them – just as they are equal beneath the blows of the storm.
Babd, goddess of war, is their queen. She is called the Raven Queen by some, but it is meant as a term of respect and familiarity. Following in her footsteps they encourage strength through contest of arms. They respect prowess, and they respect conquest. They have a fascination with the procurement and development of arms and armor, and will often talk strategy or go over the history of various battles and wars for as long as others are able to discuss it with them.
They have few cities in Otherworld, but many smaller cities and settlements. Their capital city, Minrokul, is far in-land, in the heart of their country; dug, shaped, and built into a mountain of red stone. Snow does not rest upon the stone, as it is warmed through ancient enchantment, and no sooner does the snow touch the stone than it melts away in to water. This makes the city a place of respite and comfort for many, though the crossing of the tundras to arrive in the city is a perilous one.
In the material world, dark elves are rare, and rarer still as allies. There are a few however who travel the world or who keep outposts dark and hidden away, in case the need arises to invade the world. Or to protect gateways that may lead mortals to Yeline. More popular however, are descendants of an off-shoot branch of the dark elves, called the Drow.
Long ago, Lolth, the daughter of Babd, sought to gain immortality for herself and supplant her mother. She brought with her an army of dark elves who laid siege to Babd’s fortress, the Tower of Latherna. The battle lasted for months, with Lolth and her generals seeking other forms to climb the Tower of Latherna and grant them entry. They finally gained entry in the form of spiders, and sought to kill Babd, but they did not succeed.
For their affront, they were changed, cursed, and cast down. These dark elves who took arms against their queen were banished to Annwn, the world below. Lolth and her generals were banished even lower still. Over the millennia the people descended from those rebellious dark elves have become known as the Drow, (with statistics identical to Dark Elves, and as demonstrated in the PHB). The Drow have built their homes, cities, and kingdoms in the world below, and there they dwell – for now.
The term Drow is known to a few mortals of the world who have encountered their kind before. Those who know anything of elves no never to mistakenly call a dark elf from Otherworld a Drow. They may look the same, but to a Dark Elf being called a Drow is a derogatory insult of the highest fashion.
Other Denizens of Otherworld
There are many other creatures of Otherworld than just the elves, but the Elves and their kingdoms rule over the other races within Otherworld. Some, like the Wood Elves, do so in name only, with the many ‘subjects’ of their kingdom free to rule themselves. Others, like the High Elves and the Dark Elves, take a more direct approach to the ruling of those within their kingdom’s borders.
Some of these other creatures include Satyrs, Centaurs, Shadow-Kai, Genasai, Tritons, and even more.