Races of Altherys – The Elves

Elves, also called Sylvaren, Elvenkind, or Quick Folk, are one of the first races (if not the first) to settle upon the continent of Altherys during the First Era.  Their kind have since spread across to its many nations and territories where they live in relative peace, though it has not always been so. Their lives have been one initially of constant turmoil and abandonment, being driven from one homeland to the next, though now since the Second Era they have entrenched themselves within their new homes with the intent to stay. While the hot-blooded race of Men continues to change, the melancholy and cold-hearted race of Dwarves continue to mine and crave for what was lost, the chaotic-minded race of Goblins continue to pillage, and the tragic race of Beastfolk continue to be driven out, the Elves continue their ancient traditions and cultures in a state of aloofness of the world at large, having long since left their mark upon it.

Elves come in a wide array of races, colors, and cultures, each as distinct as the last; though most Elves all keep to various similar creeds and codes as a result of their extended lifespans. Whereas a human would be lucky to live past sixty and is considered ancient at a hundred years, an Elf will live more than twice as long and be considered relatively young for his age. This increased lifespan comes at a cost, however, for though the Elves can live for many years their fertility rate is nearly half as potent as that of other races.

The Elven races have their own names for one another in their native tongue, but they are usually divided based on the lands where they tend to reside in rather than the color of their skin or their ancient heritage. These include: Gray Elves, Wood Elves, Drow/Ice Elves, Sand Elves, Sea Elves, and so on. All Elves are said to be descended from the High Elves who came north along the ancient land bridge that connected Altherys with the Undying Lands, the ancient homeland of all Elvenkind.

The term, “Knife-Ears,” tends to be a very rude slang directed at Elves, particularly Half-Elves, usually used by humans or goblins.


Etymology

The term Sylvaren in the Elven tongue literally means “Wanderer.” It is a term that most agree refers to the ancient Elven legend regarding their exile from their racial homeland. However, since High Elves are usually included in the name Sylvaren, it may also be a reference to the legend regarding the High Elves’ and their origins. In their tongue, Elves tend to use the term Sylv or Sylph in the same way humans tend to use the term ‘men.’


Origin

The exact origins of the Elven race is lost to us, though it is generally agreed that all Altherys-dwelling Elves are descended from a race called the High Elves (Sylvordain “Wandering Noble”). The High Elves came from a continent far to the south of Altherys, referred to by the Elves as the Undying Lands, which they left via a land bridge sometime during the beginning of the First Era. The Elves claim that those who left the Undying Lands were the defeated of a bloody civil war, called the First Kin War, which had nearly halved their race. These wanderers would steadily drift their way northward into the continent; establishing minor kingdoms and holdings throughout the-then Beastfolk controlled Altherys, which would later grow throughout the First Era. The exiles’ numbers flourished and grew roughly until the number of pilgrims stopped coming after the War of the Scaled Ones, which was a war between the elusive Swamp Elves and the Zharr, which saw the breaking of the land bridge and the forming of the island chain known as the Fracture in its place.

Some of the oldest legends among Elves suggests that the Elven race were exiles long before they came to Altherys, and that their race was not even native to Matyr at all. These legends speak of how the ancient elves once dwelt in a world of green woods and silver skies, and how they ruled over it all as mage kings. But, due to their pride and their lust for power, they were cast out by their creator, the Green Mother, and were left to dwell on their own in one of the many continents of Matyr. This continent, now the Undying Lands, was named after the first Elves who arrived there who were said to have been ageless.  Most scholars agree that this creation myth has little basis in actual fact, that it was simply a fancied retelling of the age-old legend regarding the Elven colonization of Altherys, though not enough facts exist to prove or disprove the legend regardless.

Ever since their arrival on Altherys, Elves have diversified greatly from their initial proto-race origins. Very little proof exists that the High Elves were real, or at the very least are still around, though each Elf race shows clear shared distinctions in their culture and appearance to one another that suggests a common background. Typically Gray Elves are the go-to when it comes to looking for references to ancient High-Elven culture, as they have changed little since their arrival on Altherys during the First Era.


Physiology

At first glance, Humans and Elves appear very similar to one another, perhaps even more than the gruff Dwarves. Elves and Humans share a similar height, with Elves being only slightly shorter on average depending on their race. Their skin tones have a much greater variety, ranging from a pale gray color to variations of copper, aquamarine, dark brown, and even midnight blues in the case of the Drow. Their faces are always angular with pointed chins and tight cheekbones, slightly slanted eyes, and their characteristic pointed ears. Elves of both sexes tend to grow their hair longer with the females in particular weaving their hair in great lengths; though besides their eyebrows Elves do not grow any other hair or fur on their body, and so it is impossible for a male elf to grow a beard (though some, such as the Drow and the Wood Elves, can grow small yet pronounced mustache hair and small goatees).

Elves tend to have an impressive affinity to magic, their bloodlines tying closely with the two magic Sources of Chaos and Order, Mythil (Arcane) and Anail (Spirit). They claim this is due to their ancient heritage, as their High Elven ancestors once dwelt in a realm of existence where magic was strong and deeply tied with the world. Regardless if this is true or not it is no secret that most Elves carry the gift of magical affinity.  A good 25% or more of the Elven population can touch either Mythil or Anail, while at least 30% of these can manipulate said source to perform feats of magic as Wizards or Druids. Compared to the averages of humans, whose population of magic users are anywhere between 1%-2% in total, and it isn’t hard to imagine that nearly all Elves are magically gifted.  It is believed that their magical prowess is what gives the Elves their added lifespan, though it almost certainly lowers their fertility rate as well, given that magic tends to mess with many aspects of the average function of mortals such as reproduction and emotion.

Elven lifespans tend to be impressive for most mortals. A human would be lucky to see his 60th nameday, and a Dwarf at about 220 is considered to be on the cusp of being ancient, but an Elf on average can outlive both. The youngest lived Elves can live to be in their 200’s, and some records indicate that in their prime some Elves could live to see a thousand years. Rarely, however, do Elves ever get to live this long due to the hazards of life and the misfortune of having many enemies, but when they do get old enough they often have had the experience to face over several lifetimes’ worth of foes in their path, so increasing their chances of survival. This often makes the older lived of their kind look upon the other races in contempt, seeing them as little more than children that need shepherded…or disciplined.  This is part of what adds to the general stereotype that Elves are arrogant creatures.


Altherys Elven Races

Altherys has several races of Elves that have called it home ever since the First Era when they passed north from the Undying Lands. Almost all of these are believed to be descended from the same ancestral race, and each have adapted almost perfectly to their respective environments. Some of the old groups of these races have died out, though a fair number of them still exist within Altherys proper.

Sylverynglad

Sylverynglad in the common tongue translates as “Wanderers of the Woodlands,” though they are commonly called Wood Elves. They are the most common of the Elf races currently on Altherys, numbering in their thousands, and largely exist in various wooded realms of their own such as in the Duskwood in Aredain or within the depths of Gladrevayl in the northeast. Though they once ruled much greater kingdoms most have fallen into decline since the aftermath of the Third Kin War and the closing of the First Era. Despite this they have managed to fare well compared to many of their other Elven brethren and the majority of their nations remain standing. Wood Elves tend to have pale, copper-colored skin and dark hair, brown or green in color, though rarely some can be born with dull blonde hair. Due to their sense of blood ties and courtly practices most agree that Wood Elves were the creators of chivalry, which was borrowed and adapted by their Human neighbors.

Sylverbësa

Though their name translates into “Lonely Wanderer,” the Sylverbësa are generally called Gray Elves due to their surprisingly pale gray skin tone. In culture they are believed to be most akin to their ancient High Elf ancestors due to being relatively unchanged for thousands of years.  However most of what can be gleaned from this is that the High Elves must have been xenophobic and isolationist, for Gray Elves rarely treat with outsiders when in their sanctuaries.  TGray Elves tend to live within the mountain ranges within Altherys, particularly in the Stonewall, Remes’ Crown, and Roof of the World mountain ranges as well as various mountain ranges within the realm of Fryslon. They have pale gray skin and silver-blonde hair of various shades, and their eye color tends to range from grays to blues to very pale gray-greens. They are the tallest of the elves and can match the height of a grown man. Not much else is known about them as what little knowledge of them is not permitted to leave their homelands.

Sylvorara

In the common tongue Sylvorara translate as “Wanderers of the Dunes,” which fits their more common name of Sand Elves. Dwelling within the various desert realms of Altherys, the Sand Elves are believed to be the least common of the Elven races native to the continent.  Their numbers had once been much greater, though many of their kingdoms fell to the Wood Elves during the Second Kin War, reducing their entire culture to that of nomads. Ruins in various deserts indicate that they once held great palaces and cities surrounding vast oases and even had their own pantheon of Elves.  Today, Sand Elves largely keep to themselves, though they will occasionally trade with merchant caravans and aid lost travelers if necessary.  Most, however, leave them alone regardless due to their people openly practicing slavery, often even aiding the slave trade in places. They tend to have darker skin color akin to the dark skin tone of the Ulmrozi and the Baerahln human peoples, with hair that ranges in different shades of blonde and red.

Sylvelca-durow

The name Sylvelca-durow is complex; most translate it as “Frozen wanderer,” though the suffix ‘durow’ is hard to translate from its form of ancient Elven, though some have chosen to translate it as ‘blood’ or ‘lost.’  Its strangeness when attached to the name has served to act as part of their common title, and so the Ice Elves are called Drow.  Among one of the longer-lived of the Elven races, the Drow reside almost exclusively beneath Drogoroth; the vast glacier realm to the east of Fryslon and and located north of the Icespine Mountains.  Drow are considered to be infamous due to their frequent surface raids, where they often take prisoners as slaves or otherwise butcher the local populace for sport.  This has granted them a considerably negative reputation especially in the Realms of Fryslon and Aredain where their raids are common.  They are also among the longest lived of the Elf races, the most ancient among them able to live to be 500 or so years of age, though the cost is they are also the least fertile of the Elven peoples.  Drow skin is dark like the Sand Elves but not from exposure to sunlight; instead their skin has a blue hue almost as if the surface has become frostbitten or like oily black obsidian. Their hair is usually a pale silver white in color (though black hair is not uncommon), and they are among the few Elves who can sport non-eyebrow facial hair; as such male Drow often have pronounced mustaches or goatees..


Further Reading:

The Five Races

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