One of the founders of our hobby and one of the most unsung contributors to Dungeons & Dragons, Len Lakofka has passed away at the age of 76.
Along with the many adventures, classes, spells, and rules he created, Len was also father of the Suel in Greyhawk, designer of their gods, and namesake of the Lendore Isles.
The value of his work goes without saying, but his presence will be sorely missed. The adventures of Leomund go on.
Elves keep their secrets close, especially in the halls of Enstad and the Lendore Isles, and seldom share what they know with those not of their race. The lore in this document comes primarily from the College of Antiquity at the Silver Consortium in Verbobonc, a university founded 1,000 years ago by the high elven wizard Thanmar. Leopold, the half-elven chancellor of the College of Antiquity, has been very forthcoming in exchange for certain services.
Our other major source is the devotees of Eliandra Solmeydis, a famed elven poet and storyteller remembered at a single shrine in the Gnarley Forest whose keepers preserve in their memories as much of the lore of the elven people as they can. The acolytes of Eliandra Solmeydis preserve all their stories orally, and these tales tend to be more poetic and fanciful than the analytic and matter-of-fact records of the College of Antiquity in Verbobonc.
Notes: Leopold and the College of Antiquity are from "Thiondar's Legacy" from Dungeon Magazine #30. Eliandra Solmeydis is from "Small Gods" in Dragon #293.
Most elven myths speak of a primary creator, a god of magic and art called Corellon Larethian. After a mighty battle with the Elder Elemental God (worshiped by many fell races, including the giants, drow, and orcs), the blood of Corellon mingled with the tears of a moon goddess and quickened the still bodies of the elder elves. Other elven myths, perhaps of older derivation, tell of a council of gods, wild fragments of a primordial whole, sacrificing their blood to bring to life a race to work their will on the mortal plane.
Elvish myth tends to be allegorical in nature, and it's not clear if the story of elves being brought to life by blood spilled by Corellon Larethian and tears shed by the moon goddess Sehanine is intended to be taken literally. Some elves—the priests, mostly, and only the priests in Celene—will tell you that Enstad was built over the site where it happened and even claim the inner sanctum in the Temple of Corellon in Enstad marks the literal spot the elven race was born. Even if that were true, though, all extant and publically available information has elven history beginning with the landfall of elven refugees on the shores of Lendore Isle, many thousands of years ago.
Landfall in the Spindrifts
Of what inspired the original migration of the elves to the western shores of the Solnor we know little. Myths tell of a kingdom called Ladinion and a black gem, a shard of pure evil associated with the dark god Tharizdun, that corrupted its ruler and transformed her into the Queen of Air and Darkness, monarch of the Unseelie Court and unleashed a cloud of darkness that rendered the ancient sylvan land uninhabitable. Ladinion may have been located in what is now known as the Fading Lands, perhaps on some other world or sphere, or perhaps in the lands across the Solnor where the Aqua-Oeridians settled millennia later. Leopold of Verbobonc has unearthed cryptic references to powers once held by the priests of Sehanine Moonbow to open a gate between worlds, the so-called Moonarch of Sehanine.
Notes: Ladinion and the story of the corruption of the Queen of Air and Darkness are from Monster Mythology.
Between Two Empires
Many thousands of years ago elves came to Oerth through a gate somewhere in the Spindrift Isles, fleeing some terrible war on another plane.
They arrived to find the eastern coast of the Solnor already dominated by advanced empires. To the north, roughly corresponding to the modern-day Sea Barons, was an empire of the Ur-Flan, possibly identifiable with the people known as the "Vasharan" in forbidden occult texts. To the south, roughly corresponding to the modern-day Lordship of the Isles, was an empire of serpent men, possibly the one remembered as "Valossa" by the nagas, medusae, lamiae, and other mutant or atavistic remnants of that squamous people.
Deep beneath the ocean, in the abyss between the two island chains, was the empire of the anguiliians, eel-like people with an advanced biotechnology. They kept their own council, having plans that had nothing to do with the surface races.
Across the sea, eastern Oerik was divided between troglodytes, lizard folk, quaggoths and kuo-toas. Most of these races paid tribute to the empire of the serpent people and made war on the Ur-Flannae.
The empires of Vasharan and Valossa were not friends. They competed for the resources of the mainland, and reptiles and mammals have ever had trouble finding much in common. Occasionally there would be times of peace and they even traded with each other, though most commonly through middlemen. Other times they would fight skirmishes and wars over control over some valuable trade route or profitable mine, wars that might last for years or decades before once again affairs returned to a sullen detente.
The presence of these empires made the world a more hostile place than the elves had hoped. But the path they took to this world went only one way; the gate to the elven homeland would not open again for an age of the world and more. Oerth was their home now.
Elven diviners knew that on the mainland there were great wild forests, towering mountains, swift rivers, and vast freshwater lakes where they might found a new homeland once they had tamed the hostile kuo-toas and quaggoths. But Vasharan and Valossa blocked their way, and both peoples were aggressive and territorial and practiced dark arts. The serpent men worshiped, for the most part, gods whose names have been long forgotten excepting Merrshaulk who remains, coiled in his ancient torpor, deep in the Abyss. Some of their gods represented creation, or magic, or the sun, or the wide green Oerth, and might even have been early aspects of the gods worshiped today. But one subversive, dangerously powerful cult revered a dark god of entropy and madness, said to have been bound by the other gods long ago but who his deranged worshipers sought to release. It was these the elves had the misfortune of encountering first.
The Vasharan were no better. They worshiped no gods at all, but instead made pacts with infernal princes and performed rites that stole power from the gods and reality itself. But they did not seek the release of the Dark God, and at least they were mammals.
Although they had magic of their own, the elves knew they could not hope to defeat both empires. They took sides. In the end, the decision wasn't difficult: mammals and reptiles have ever had trouble finding much in common.
Ambassadors came from the elven ports in the Spindrifts to the courts of the Ur-Flan on what was then known as the Isle of Olefin (now simply the Sinking Isle). They offered alliance against the serpent men of the south, offered elven swords and elven magic. The Vasharan were in desperate straits, already having lost one of their southern islands (known as "Serpent Isle" today) and much of the mainland to their foes. Never ones for turning down potential advantages in any case, they accepted the elven alliance.
To cement their treaty, the two peoples exchanged magical secrets. The elves taught the Vasharan the secret of opening gates to other worlds. The Vasharan taught the elves the secrets of stealing power from dark, hungry forces. These the elves made the mistake of not destroying; much later, their descendants would use them against the Vasharans' Ur-Flannae descendants, and the City of the Summer Stars would be lost.
The Vasharan, for their part, put their new magic to immediate use. They traveled far to the north, to the Isle of Lost Souls, and raised a causeway from the sea. On the island they created a great gate to the Lower Planes. They made pacts with Belial and Moloch and Malkizid, selling their souls and the souls of their descendants in exchange for a diabolic army with which to crush their foes.
This might have gone better for them if the serpent men didn't have shape-changing agents within the Vasharan, agents who brought back the secrets of planar gates, allowing the serpents to open a gate of their own on the mainland. The serpent people made pacts with Sch'theraqpasstt and Abraxas and Shaktari and unloosed hordes of demons into the world.
The elves were horrified by both actions, but especially concerned that their allies would bargain with Malkizid, who in their myths was once the brightest of Corellon Larethian's solars before he fell to the seduction of Lolth and was cast out by the elven creator only to rise again in the service of Hell.
Notes: A lot of this is inspired by Erik Mona's "The Great Embarkation." The Vasharan are from the Book of Vile Darkness. Valossa is from Green Ronin's Freeport setting. Olefin is mentioned in several Bruce Cordell modules, including The Gates of Firestorm Peak, Night of the Shark, and The Illithiad. Malkizid is in Champions of Ruin and plays a bigger part in the history of the Forgotten Realms.
The construction of Caelestis
Caelestis was the first settlement founded by the elves when they made landfall in the Spindrifts, an architectural marvel designed by its architect, Malissin Ariessus, to blend perfectly with the trees it was constructed in. For centuries it would serve as the capital of the elven race until the destruction of Olefin and Valossa doomed it as well. Caelestis would be remembered as a cautionary tale for those elven artisans who failed to prepare their work for eternity, but in truth additional protective magics would have done Malissin Ariessus little good in the face of the overwhelming elemental destruction that accompanied the demise of the Ur-Flan and serpent empires.
Notes: Caelestis and Malissin are from The Complete Book of Elves.
The Council of Five
The Spindrifts have traditionally been led by a council of five elves, and this was true even at the time of its founding. With the corruption of the Queen of Air and Darkness, the elven race was without a single ruler. The greatest of the five, however, was Princess Amaranthe, who even then was said to be over 2,000 years old.
Other prominent leaders among the elves included Thiondar, prince of the Ch'thar clan; the artificer Halimath Arnuanna; Doresain, a powerful priest of Sehanine Moonbow; and the sorcerer Pyorrhoea.
As the war against the serpent people and their allies began to heat up, the elven race would begin to schism, producing new factions. Most prominent among these were the People of the Testing, who believed in returning the elves to their original home, and the Adherents of Vitality, who believed in using magic to help the elves better adapt to their new world.
Notes: The Adherents of Vitality are from Sea of Blood by Bruce Cordell. Amaranthe is from Erik Mona's "The Great Embarkation." Doresain is from Wolfgang Baur's "Kingdom of the Ghouls." Pyorrhoea is from The Shattered Circle by Bruce Cordell. Thiondar is from "Thiondar's Legacy." Halimath Arnuanna is from The Complete Book of Elves.
Of all the mages of Caelestis, Halimath Arnuanna was most renowned as a creator of magical weapons and armor, and many of his apprentices became legendary crafters in their own right. Some myths even credit him with the forging of the Crown, Sceptre, and Orb of Good. Darker myths say that as the wars dragged on, Halimath forged the regalia of neutrality and evil as well. His most notorious creation was the Sword of Justice, a blade that crumbled to dust when he tried to wield it against another elf. Much later, some of his secrets would be used to forge Hunger, the sword whose corruption destroyed the City of Summer Stars.
The Southern Front
Lafarillinn, a ranger who had proved himself in countless battles against evil, was sent to the south in command of the elven navy to confront the serpent people on their home ground. He was away for years, winning victory after victory against the serpent folk and their demonic allies.
Notes: Lafarillinn is from Monster Mythology.
A faction among the People of the Testing secluded themselves in Firestorm Peak, a volcanic mountain within the Mountains of Frost (likely the Griff Mountains, though some suggest the Crystalmists). Using rites preserved by the priesthood of Sehanine, knowledge of the Language Primeval, and secrets learned from the Ur-Flannae they empowered portals with the Dragon's Tear Comet that manifested in the sky every 27 years. Three times in 81 years the portal opened into new strange worlds, until the fourth time when it opened, seemingly, outside the multiverse and time itself, allowing an entity called Father Llymic to enter the world, killing most of the elves under Firestorm Peak and bringing a time of bitter cold into the world of Oerth.
The sorcerer Pyorrhoea, who had been the leader of the sect, fled south of Rift Canyon and broke into a vault in the heart of White Plume Mountain, stealing forbidden relics from the elder druids ensconced within.
Notes: See The Gates of Firestorm Peak, The Shattered Circle, and Return to White Plume Mountain. Father Llymic is from Elder Evils.
The Great Embarkation
A sect among the Adherents of Vitality stole magic from the anguiliians, eel-like people native to the undersea lands between the serpent folk and the Ur-Flannae. Correctly seeing them as a threat to elven dominance, they imprisoned the demigod ruler of the anguiliians and used anguiliian magic to help spawn the race of aquatic elves, who joined Lafarallinn in battling the serpent people as well as engaging their allies, the kuo-toas of the Flanaess.
Notes: This is from Sea of Blood, combined with Erik Mona's The Great Embarkation.
The Northern Front
Doresain, a warrior-priest dedicated to Sehanine Moonbow, was sent to the north to the lands drained by the Flanmi River to war against the troglodyte allies of the serpent empire. An unusually cold winter, brought about by the emergence of the alien entity Father Llymic through the Vast Gate in the Griff Mountains, left Doresain and his troops trapped by snow and frost, his entrapment aggravated by a blockade by quaggoths. The elves resorted to cannibalism to survive, roasting and eating their own dead as they died of starvation, eating their flesh raw when they ran out of wood to build fires. With even those grisly rations rapidly diminishing, Doresain at last took the advice of an Ur-Flannae sorcerer and twisted the rites of Sehanine Moonbow with blasphemies the Ur-Flannae taught him to summon a dark creature from the Abyss, a balor called Glyphimhor. Glyphimhor promised him that with the aid of his patron, the demon prince Orcus, Doresain would not need to fear that any more of his troops would starve. Trusting a demon lord led to a predictable result: Glyphimhor unleashed a pack of nabassu and Doresain and his army were transformed into ghouls, perhaps the first of that fell race to exist on Oerth. Perhaps it was Orcus's perverse idea of a reward to his new servant that led to the paralyzing touch of a ghoul having no effect on elves. Perhaps Doresain was even canny enough to bargain for that small indulgence.
Amaranthe received reports of Doresain's appalling corruption and sent word to Lafarillin to delay his assault on the serpent peoples' capital, instead turning his forces to destroy Doresain before the plague of undeath spread to other elven communities. Lafarallinn confronted his former colleague in the heart of the Adri Forest (or perhaps the Fellreev, where Dahlvier's County is now), and during a terrible battle that left hundreds of casualties among both the living and the hungry dead, he faced Doresain personally, his sword of wounding against Doresain's staff, and banished Doresain's spirit to the Negative Energy Plane.
Lafarallinn discovered hiding in the woods, dying of a respiratory illness, a young elven maiden named Lauriel (a common enough name). She had been a camp follower of Doresain's army, surviving by stealing food from the soldiers. When the soldiers had no more rations, she stole the corpse-meat they were subsisting on and when that became scarce she snuck up behind unwary soldiers and made a few more corpses. When Doresain performed the dark rite that summoned Glyphimhor, however, she fled, and she managed to escape having her death stolen by Orcus's nabassus, and even after that she had managed to eke out a semblance of life by eating the flesh of the undead. Lafarallinn's magic ring detected her sin and he nearly killed her out of hand, seeing her as little better than the ghouls, but Corellon Larethian granted him insight into her heart, to see the poverty and starvation that had driven her to such extremes. He attempted to heal her, but she died in his arms.
When Lafarallinn returned to Caelestis, his colleagues discovered his hands were withered and black from some curse or eldritch disease. He was now unable to hold a sword.
With both Doresain and Lafarallinn unfit to lead the elven armies, Amaranthe took the duty upon herself. Leaving the Adri Forest to her nephew Rachleach, Amaranthe moved her troops north to confront the quaggoths, allies of the serpent folk and the kuo-toas of the Isles of Woe, who were supplying the kuo-toas and their allies with food, lumber, and a metal previously unknown to the elves known as iron.
It was in this campaign that Amaranthe was killed, and the elves wreaked vengeance upon the quaggoths a hundred fold. Under the command of Thiondar the elves began a campaign of extermination, driving most of the quaggoth race underground. Thiondar and his followers drove the remaining quaggoths far into the north, where they became lost in the northern forests.
It was during the war against the quaggoths that hobgoblins and bugbears first appeared to harass the elves. Elves believed they had been created from base goblin stock by quaggoth sorcerers, who used their own blood to enhance their goblin troops and inspire them with eternal hatred against elvenkind. As the hordes of hobgoblins grew they cut off Thiondar and his followers from returning to the elven lands. Bugbear guerillas harried the elves and pursued them further and further north until they disappeared in the wilds of Telchuria.
Notes: Glyphimhor is from Throne of Bloodstone and Dead Gods. Rachleach is from the City of Greyhawk boxed set.
The Drowning of Olefin
What exactly precipitated the sinking of Olefin and the end of the age of the elder elves is a mystery. Some say a star fell from the sky, called down by the serpent people or pulled from the heavens by the opening of the Vast Gate beneath Firestorm Peak. Some claim the cultists of Tharizdun among the serpent people, in a last desperate stand against the aquatic elves or their own betrayed kind, summoned an avatar of their dark deity who swallowed their empire and erased them from memory. Some say it was the imprisonment of the demigod Anguilleusis by the Adherents of Vitality and the subsequent destruction of the anguiliian empire that caused the seas to rise. Perhaps all of these things precipitated local cataclysms, cumulating in the slow destruction of the old world and the birth of the new. What is known is that, whether in a single cataclysm or many, tidal waves devastated the eastern islands and destroyed the elven capital of Caelestis, shattering the archipelagos, raising the Gull Cliffs, and transforming Olefin into what is now the eldritch, weed-haunted Sinking Isle.
The possibility of a connection between the words "Olefin" and "olve," an older name for the elven race, has intrigued etymologists for centuries. Little enough is remembered about the island that it is sometimes thought of as an ancient elven empire.
After the death of Amaranthe, her successor Andriana tried in vain to hold the elven race together. With no capital city and with the elven armies decimated by centuries of war, Andriana's efforts were of little use. What's more, the enemies of the elves were largely broken: the serpent people, the quaggoths, the anguiliians and kuo-toas were gone, transformed, or banished to the depths beneath the earth. The hobgoblins were still new to the world and with the quaggoths gone had no powerful magic or leaders. The troglodytes, with their allies destroyed, became more insular or put themselves into states of magical hibernation. The Ur-Flannae, with the loss of Olefin, moved south and west, many of them founding a new kingdom in the Dragonshead Peninsula or the lands watered by the Flanmi River.
Notes: The name "The Fractioning" to describe the creation of the elven subraces is from The Complete Book of Elves, as is Andriana. The Ur-Flannae kingdom in the Dragonshead Peninsula is Caerdiralor.
The Sylvan Elves, Treants, and Grugach
Gadhelyn the Archer led the ancestors of the sylvan elves/grugach to the western Flanaess, refusing to take a side in the war between the Ur-Flannae and the Empire of the Serpents, Valossa. After absconding with a sacred relic of Rillifane Rallathil, the Tree of Life, he and his followers fled into the west, where they settled in the Misty Vale, a largely unexplored, thickly overgrown forest tucked between the Misty Hills and the Southern Lorriages in what is now the eastern part of the March of Bissel.
Jarsali Oaklimbs was one of the first settlers who came to the Misty Vale with Gadhelyn the Archer. She fell in love with the treant Suthurithidan; she was transformed into a treant herself by Hanali Celanil, and so cemented the alliance between treants and sylvan elves. Her would-be suitor, Azalarer, was driven to violence by jealousy and bigotry and perhaps his story continued, for some say that the followers of Azalarer became the grugach, and inspired by xenophobia and an insistence on racial purity they split from those who accepted Jarsali Oaklimbs and the alliance she had made with the treants.
Notes: Gadhelyn is a hero-deity from the Living Greyhawk Journal #3. Jarsali and Azalarer are from The Complete Book of Elves.
The Grey Elves
Far to the north, in a valley said to be supernaturally warmed by a sun that never set, Thiondar and his followers, the Ch'thar, encountered something they refused to speak of. The Ch'thar emerged from the valley without Thiondar and renamed themselves grey elves in honor of their lost prince. Following decades of wandering, the grey elves at last ceased their long journeys, founding the city of Dar-Kesh Anan in a valley in the Sulhaut Mountains, near the ancient dragon citadel of Arthanath. The grey elves began teaching magic to the local humans to the south of their valley, who called themselves the Su-El.
The next elven land, perhaps, was the Vale in the Barrier Peaks, whose inhabitants may have been initially grey elves. Within their valley they kept their own council and grew tall and strange. For many years the only elves who would trade with the valley elves were the elves of the Dim Forest that obscured the valley's entrance.
Closely related to the valley elves were the snow elves of the Crystalmists. Other grey elven citadels were created, one by one, in the Crystalmist Mountains. For those few privileged enough to see them, they were said to be of singular beauty.
Notes: Arthanath is from the Book of Eldritch Might III. Dar-Kesh Anan is from the Living Greyhawk Journal #1. The story of the grey elves tutoring the early Suel is from the Oerth Journal #1.
The Al Karak Elam
The ancient Adherents of Vitality did not disappear after the creation of the aquatic elves. The Al Kalak Elam, also called the Winged Folk and avariel, are a race of elves shaped for flight just as the aquatic elves are shaped to dwell under the sea. Giant eagles have been allies of the elves ever since they first appeared to rescue elven migrants from hobgoblins and dragons in the early centuries of the Fractioning.
The exact rites used to gift elves with wings are now forgotten, and they may have involved aid from the simurghs or some other primal avian race, and magical breeding with the aarakocra or raptorans, or even air elementals and the mythical Wind Dukes of Aaqa. Most avariel dwell in the Lortmil Mountains, where they founded the city of Myrravin.
Notes: Dragon #51, The Complete Book of Elves.
The origin of the drow
Leopold claims the drow aren't true elves at all, but (like the valley and snow elves, he says disdainfully) a mockery of true elves crafted by dark gods; furthermore, he claims they are invaders from another world that he calls Abeir-Toril. If pressed, he may acknowledge, grudgingly, that the drow might have been descended from surviving, non-undead followers of Doresain, first king of the ghouls, who fled first to the Isle of Night after the fall of their leader.
The priests of Eliandra say otherwise. According to them, the drow split from the grey elves after the disappearance of Dar-Kesh Anan, journeying north into the Tyurzian lands (what is now called the Baklunish Basin) and then across the Crystalmists, where some remained and became the frost elves. Some traveled further, some settling in the Dim Forest and some in a valley in the Barrier Peaks. The Barrier Peaks elves became the valley elves, and the Dim Forest elves called themselves the Duaral, meaning "Hunters of the Crescent" (a word later corrupted to drow). The Duaral worshiped Sehanine Moonbow and Solonor Thelandira above all other gods, though they gave due honor to all of the Seldarine.
The Dim Forest became a prime trade route between the realm of the snow elves, who guarded the pass to the Tyurzian lands, and the realm of the valley elves and beyond, to the high elven kingdom of Celene. The Duaral became wealthy, expanding their realm through the Rushmoors and to the western edge of the Lortmils and, on the other side of the Lortmil Mountains, the elves of Celene grew envious.
Notes: The name "Duaral" to describe the ancient pre-Drow is from 3rd edition's Drow of the Underdark hardcover.
The founding of Celene
It was the high elven survivors of Caelestis who founded the Kingdom of Celene. Guided, they claimed, by visions from Sehanine Moonbow, they built the city of Enstad where the Handmaiden River poured from the Lortmil Mountains, near a winding pass that transversed the mountain peaks, a spot that took advantage of trade between the Lortmils and lands further west to the faerie lands of the Welkwood and the Azure Sea. Priests of Sehanine claimed the land where Enstad stood was particularly blessed by the aquamarine moon, even that it was the site where Sehanine's tears brought life to the elven race after the battle between Corellon Larethian and his brutish foe before the Moonarch brought the newborn elves to the Fading Lands and now-lost Ladinion. With control of a land so holy, the fey queen of Celene declared herself Lady Rhalta of All Elvenkind, rightful ruler of elven race. In practical terms, her writ extended from the Yatils to the Wild Coast. East of the Lorridges and Lortmils was Celene, while to the west was the expanding realm of the Duaral.
Seeds of Conflict
Besides the sense of manifest destiny held by the elves of Celene and the increasing wealth and power of the Duaral, philosophical differences began to widen between the two elven peoples. The Duaral were influenced by the esoteric investigations of the valley elves, by the shadows of the Dim Forest, by the dark magic and secrets of the nagas of the Rushmoors, while the Celenians were obsessed with light and their ever-widening caste distinctions. While the world of the Duaral was one of shades of grey, the world of Celene grew ever more black and white. The Duaral became the inheritors of the Adherents of Vitality, using alchemy and sorcery to change their own bodies and those of those who served them, while Celene became the inheritor of the People of the Testing, obsessed with finding ways to leave Oerth behind. The Duaral became renowned for their working of adamantine while the Celenians preferred mithral. The Duaral were ambitious and expansionist while the Celenians were unforgiving in their righteous judgement.
Conflict between the two became inevitable.
The Alignment Wars
This series of conflicts became known as the Alignment Wars because they determined how the races of the world would be aligned for all time, and sometimes known as the Crown Wars because of the significance of the Regalia of Might in this conflict, particularly the Crown of Good and Crown of Evil. They were also known as (particularly among the Baklunish) the War of Light and Darkness as the strife spread to other races and peoples.
It's not as if peace wasn't attempted. Queen Eniarrol of the Duaral was pledged to marry Prince Aubron Lumi of Celene, a younger son of the Lady Rhalta. If Prince Aubron hadn't died under mysterious circumstances, who is to say what might have happened?
The first time the two elven nations fought was, perhaps, an accident. Some say that Lolth, a demon banished by Corellon Larethian millennia before, used her arts to fog the eyes of a Celenian patrol and cause them to mistake a group of Duaral for a platoon of hobgoblins. Others say it was no mistake: the Duaral had been trespassing on Celenian lands and the penalty for that was clear.
Notes: The name Alignment Wars is from the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide.
The betrayal of the snow elves
One tale says that a clan of snow elves, considered to be a neutral party in the rising tensions between the Duaral and Celene, were given control of the Fals Gap between the Lorridges and the Yatils, and the snow elves granted the Duaral passage in exchange for a vast amount of wealth. They intended to cross on a mission of peace, they claimed, but instead poured through the gap with a vast army under cover of darkness, annexing the Vale of Luna into their empire, and slaughtering the inhabitants of the high elven city of Verbobonc. The high elves have never forgiven the snow elves for this lapse in guardianship and the snow elves, feeling betrayed, have never forgiven the drow.
Notes: The story of the snow elves and their betrayal is from Dragon #155.
The corruption of the Duaral
When did the Duaral fall completely into evil? Most tales say that the betrayal of the snow elves was the first step. Eniarrol may have believed it a necessary subterfuge at the time, but the priests of Sehanine and Solonor turned against her, and she in turn banished them from her court. The talesingers of Eliandra suggest it was then that the balor Wendonai arrived as an emmisary from Lolth, offering her new power to replace what had been lost when the Seldarine rejected her, and Queen Eniarrol became the first elven priestess of the Spider Queen, keeping her new faith a secret at first but eventually proclaiming it openly.
The sylvan elves and grugachs, for the most part, were a neutral party in the early stages of the war. They had no great love for the Duaral, who they viewed as overly ambitious and modern, but they had traded with them, inasmuch as those isolationist elves traded with anyone, for centuries, seeing them as middlemen between the snow elves and valley elves. They had little love for Celene either, which they saw as distant and haughty. Perhaps it was Eniarrol's rejection of the gods that first piqued their suspicion. Perhaps it was the centaurs, the wood elves' confederates in the worship of Skerrit, who convinced them to take sides. Before the end of the war, Celene had captured the Lortmils and the Ulek lands on their far side and the sylvan and valley elves (as well as the Winged Folk of the Lortmils) willingly helped them fight the corruption that the Duaral had become. Only the snow elves, who were distrusted by Celene, and the valley elves, whose king had sold them to some eldritch otherworldly power, remained neutral throughout the war, and neither side as forgiven them for it.
Wooing the valley elf king
Tales say that each side sought to woo the valley elves to aid them in the war. Three times the Lady Rhalta of Celene begged their king to help them. The Duaral conquered the Axewood, the Silverwood, the Dreadwood, and still they refused, still they did nothing. And so the Lady Rhalta begged the gods to curse the elves of the Vale for their cowardice.
A humanoid with skin like silver came to the valley elves and presented the king with a crown—the Crown of Neutrality. And the valley elves did not take part in the war.
The orcs and dwarves
Orcs were first seen emerging from the junction of the Sulhauts and Crystalmist Mountains at the same time as the dwarves. The first king of the dwarves, Silvervein Moradinson, drove them from his city, whereupon the horde split and founded the orcish settlements of Turrosh-Gir and Garum. Turrosh-Gir, it is said, was once an elven city before the orcs razed it to the ground under the command of their first king, Gerdreg.
Orcs at the time, though conquest-minded and believing in their divine right to take from every other race, had little reason to dislike elves in particular, as they had no memory of interacting with them. They had spent many centuries beneath the earth, warring against the dwarves. Their creation myth claimed they had been born from the blood of their god Gruumsh after a great battle with a rival deity, but most commonly this was Pelor in their myths; if Corellon had ever been part of their mythology, they did not remember it. This would change in centuries to come; particularly as the war dragged on with orcs on the front line against Celene, orcs and elves would learn to hate each other.
Queen Eniarrol met with Gerdreg soon after the founding of Turrosh-Gir and proposed an alliance, sealing their bargain with a magical elven-forged ring. Distrusting magic, Gerdreg gave the ring to his tribal shaman. Perhaps this was wise, as the shaman Morgothra was thereafter utterly in the thrall of the Duaral, as were those who wore the ring after him.
On the other hand, Morgothra outlived Gerdreg by decades. Orcs believe that Gerdreg went on to kill Silvervein Moradinson in single combat, thereafter either dying of his own wounds or from being stabbed in the back by his own ambitious son.
Notes: Gerdreg and his ring are from Monster Mythology. Silvervein Moradinson is mentioned in The Book of Artifacts and Axe of the Dwarvish Lords.
In -5,775 CY the high elves traveled to the realm of the Su-El and begged help from the grey elves there, and the grey elves answered the call, abandoning the humans they had raised partly into civilization to join their cousins in war. The Suel humans let their lingering feelings of rejection fester, and this would play a role in their eventual decision to ally with the Duaral against the other elven races.
Notes: Straight from the Oerth Journal #1 timeline.
The massacre at Tergorom
The dwarves, newly arrived on the surface from their origin deep within the bowels of the oerth, had their first encounter with elves in the worst possible way: a legion of Duaral invaded the mines of Tergorom the Fire City, capital of the dwarven kingdom of Holgereth in what is now called the Hellfurnace Mountains. Abetted by orc mercenaries, the Duaral were searching for adamantine and slaves, and the dwarves became their victims, only surviving thanks to the faith and sacrifice of the hero Gnarldan Steelshield. The dwarves might have become allies of Celene at that moment, but instead they blamed all elves for the attack and shut the gates of their lands.
Notes: This is from the Runes of the Dwur timeline. Gnarldan Steelshield is from Monster Mythology.
Tilorop and the Regalia of Evil
Tilorop-b-Nan, a distant descendant of a deposed Suel regent, unearthed the Regalia of Evil from a forgotten temple in the Yatil Mountains, artifacts of an ancient prehuman race. Keeping the orb and rod for himself, he gifted the Crown of Evil to Arinanin-b-Korin in -5026 CY. In -5010 CY the two were defeated in an attempted coup, and Tilorop transformed a dying Arinanin into the first Suel lich, a being of negative energy who hops from body to body to survive.
In -5,003 CY the Suel lich Arinanin took control of the Suel lands and agreed to an alliance with the Duaral, with Eniarrol accepting the Orb of Evil as the price of her aid in Arinanin's conquest. Meanwhile the elves of Celene gained the alliance of the centaurs from the lands north of Lake Quag, bringing many centaur warriors into their forests to fight on the front lines against the Duaral.
Notes: Oerth Journal #1.
The tainting of the Suss
The Duaral invaded the Celenian lands from the south, crossing the Poor March to erect fortresses in the Suss, beginning the corruption of a forest that had until then been indistinguishable from the Welkwood to the north. Their general is said to have discovered something in the heart of the fortress, an evil artifact that transformed most of his troops into ettercaps and forced him to flee back to the Duaral lands.
The Regalia of Good
A robed wizard with azure skin appeared in the last grey elf city in the Hellfurnaces, offering a crown and orb and scepter that would counter the Regalia of Evil.
"We're trapped here," said the grey elven prince. "Under siege on one side by the corrupted Suel and on the other by the accursed Duaral and their fiendish orcs. How will we help Celene?"
"They will come to you," said Philidor. And they did, the armies of Good converging on the last city before the Duaral and Suel could tear it down.
The Descent of the Drow
In -4,666 CY, Queen Eniarrol fought with Arinanin and his Suloise armies against the last city of grey elves of the Southern Crystalmists, known as the Hellfurnaces in later ages. Some say the dwarves finally roused themselves from their fastness to aid the light elves against the Duaral, and the dwarven king possessed the Orb of Good for a time after the battle. Lolth herself is said to have manifested in a material form, covering the land in magical clouds (or a bubble, some accounts say) of blackness. At that moment, an entire legion or more of grey elves, said to have hailed from what is now the Yeomanry, broke, their courage leaving them, and they fled the battle and into the darkness where they remain today, calling themselves the rockseers. Those who remained prayed, and their high priests cast a spell that called forth Corellon Larethian. After a battle of magic, chiton, and steel, Corellon struck Lolth in the heart with his sword and banished her back to the Abyss. The dark clouds lifted, but as the Duaral turned their faces from the light, it is said that Corellon marked them forever with the darkness they had chosen. With the Duaral's demon-goddess gone and their morale crumbled, the Celenian coalition shattered the dark elven armies, pursuing them beneath the earth where the rockseers had fled shortly before. With both sides of the battle decimated and the Suel armies destroyed to a man, the surviving grey elves fled to the east while the armies of Duaral fled into the Underdark.
Or, at least, that's one version of the story. Some drow insist that they had left voluntarily, that there was no battle, even that it was they who had banished the light elves to the surface.
Notes: Oerth Journal #1 and Complete Book of Elves. The rockseers are from the Night Below boxed set.
Exile in the Underdark
For decades the drow wandered in the darkness, prey to mind flayers and worse, harried by dwarves and svirfneblin, struggling to learn how to survive in a realm without sun or green. What faith they had in their alien, manipulative demon-goddess was sorely tested, and many turned to other demons and to the mysterious Elder Elemental God revered by so many subterranean aberrations. Graz'zt, Baphomet, Orcus, Socothbenoth, Nocticula, Kiaransalee, even Malkizid gleefully accepted drow into their covens and cults. Some drow rejected the gods entirely. Slowly, over years of effort, they began to rebuild their race, founding a city hidden enough and defensible enough that their rivals could not erase it.
The doom that came to Erenira
The first settlement founded by the drow was Erenira, beneath the Hellfurnaces where the Amedio Jungle is today. A city of majestic terraces, it was constructed on the shores of the subterranean River Ghal, one of the tributaries of the Kingfish River in the Amedio, or perhaps the River Bodal. With clean water and plentiful fungi and prey animals, the drow at last had a refuge. Security soon transformed into lust for conquest, and the drow began launching raids on the dwarf kingdom of Holgereth and other neighboring realms, including the troglodytes and the aboleth.
Perhaps it was the troglodytes who summoned the thing that destroyed them: some legends recall a "abhorrent toad/lizard thing covered in oozing, dead flesh" resembling the troglodyte god Laogzed that entered the city and began devouring everything in its path. Other tales describe something more like a cross between a squid and a centipede leaving a trail of sticky, fiery blackness in its wake, which resembles more the elder evil Holashner, one of the entities revered by the aboleths. Some believe the agent of Erenira's destruction was no less than the Elder Elemental God itself. The city's terraces were destroyed, its temples smashed, and the once-pristine River Ghal was transformed a foul, stagnant lake.
Today Erenira is in ruins, a twisted labyrinth ruled by yuan-ti and renamed a word meaning Anathema in their sibilant Tlaman language, so called for the multi-headed yuan-ti anathemas who reign there. They worship their own scaly god, but also sacrifice to the abomination who ended the reign of the drow for fear that it might return.
Refugees from Erenira would go on to found the city of Erelhei-Cinlu. Erelhei-Cinlu, a glowing jewel in the Vault of the Drow, is a today a pulsing center of trade and intrigue in the Underdark, a shining spider in the heart of a vast, dark web, perhaps the greatest drow settlement on Oerth.
Notes: Erenira is from the 4th edition Underdark sourcebook.
The death of Queen Eniarrol
The drow queen Eniarrol finally expired; some say she died of poison served to her by a junior priestess, while others aver that it was a mundane respiratory infection from decades of life in the dank underoerth. The city disintegrated into chaos, rival noble houses scheming for supremacy, but eventually it was brought together by a powerful house imposing once again the worship of the spider goddess Lolth. Heretics were cast out of the city to found other settlements elsewhere.
The Elf War
After centuries below ground, the drow had recovered in numbers and returned to strike at the Kingdom of Celene in their heart. For years they harried the surface elves with nighttime raids, emerging from tunnels to disappear again with the rise of the sun. The final battle of the war was fought in -4,403 CY, when the host of orcs, goblins, trolls, ogres, and drow were matched against a coalition of high, grey, and sylvan elves, centaurs, humans, and halflings in the meadows near the Kron Hills. Once again, Lolth manifested in material form and enshrouded the land with clouds of blackness. The lesser god Araleth Letheranil, thought to be still a mortal hero at the time, fought Lolth single-handedly with, it is said, the Rod of Seven Parts, the ancient weapon of the Wind Dukes, which he had painstakingly assembled after an epic quest. Lolth pounced on Araleth, biting into his shoulder and pumping venom into his wound as simultaneously he dealt Lolth a death-blow with his sword, banishing Lolth back into the Abyss and shattering the drow coalition. Araleth still bears a dark scar on his shoulder, even as a god.
This was far from the last time the drow would pose a threat to the Flanaess, but it was the last great war between the elves and drow.
Notes: The Elf War and Araleth Letharanil are from Dragon #155, but this last battle between the elves and drow is also from Oerth Journal #1.
Last edited by rasgon on Sat Mar 12, 2016 4:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
Very impressive research, thank you. I don't suppose you would take requests for other races of Oerth, beginning with humans? _________________ Eileen of Greyhawk, Prophet of Istus, Messenger of the Gods
Thanks. To be clear, I'm not claiming all of that is canon. I used names and events from official (and unofficial) sources, but there's a lot that I expanded on, and completely different takes would be equally valid, or perhaps more valid.
I've been working on similar histories for dwarves, orcs, halflings, humans, and others, but I have further to go on those. I also want to bring the elven timeline up to the present day.
I do have a curious question.... (or two or three as I get time to post hehe)
IS the mention of Yolande's offspring canon? or your creation?
For my own Campaign, I created siblings (2 sisters for Yolande) so back to referencing offspring.. would the one you suggest be from which consort?
I'm not aware of any canonical offspring for Yolande, and I haven't created any. Melf is her cousin, and close enough in the line of succession that some of the more radical Knights of Luna believe they could make him king, skipping over any other candidates. Yolande herself seems to have been given the throne more in recognition of her deeds than inheritance, though Celene has nobles ("princes, dukes, counts, and barons") and Yolande is surely of noble birth.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if Yolande has sisters; it seems unlikely that she's the only member of the House of Bellmeadow. Any children she might have are, I think, most likely to be Triserron's. She seems a bit like Queen Victoria grieving for Albert, and I think it's unlikely any of her subsequent relationships are very serious. The LGG says she "took a series of consorts with whom she might practice the Faerie Mysteries," which looks to me like her subsequent royal consorts were comparatively flighty relationships falling short of the human definition of marriage, undertaken primarily for ceremonial purposes. She might take a new consort every year to play Oberon to her Titania in the mystery play and discard him once the ceremonies are over.
Excellent work and major task to connect all those sources. Well done.
(I just wish Erenira hadn't been invented in 4th ed. Erelhei-Cinlu is a surface city plopped into an immense cavern - a cavern reminiscent of the surface in a weird way. As such, it always struck me as the most appropriate first city of the banished drow.)
(I just wish Erenira hadn't been invented in 4th ed.
Well, that's easy to ignore. I think it makes for an interesting dungeon idea, but there are other explanations for its existence other than "it's where the drow lived before Erelhei-Cinlu." It doesn't even have to be connected to the drow.
This helps with my Elven Campaign at the beginning of the Greyhawk Wars. Five young Elves recruited by Prince Melf Brightblade to aid the the forces of good in subtle ways? About to send them to do patriots of Ulek.
This helps with my Elven Campaign at the beginning of the Greyhawk Wars. Five young Elves recruited by Prince Melf Brightblade to aid the the forces of good in subtle ways? About to send them to do patriots of Ulek.
This helps with my Elven Campaign at the beginning of the Greyhawk Wars. Five young Elves recruited by Prince Melf Brightblade to aid the the forces of good in subtle ways? About to send them to do patriots of Ulek.
Sounds like a fun campaign, Yasir.
I think it is Prince Melf Brightflame, however.
Correct you are Sir, see what happens when you are bored at work!
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