Myths tell of a time in the distant past when the elves were newcomers to the Flanaess, and great wars which raged across the landscape between the olvenfolk and those lizard-like species which lived here before them. During the final days of these wars, it is sometimes told of how the kuo-toa were driven from the land into the oceans about the subcontinent. Some of these tales go on to tell of elvish pleas to their gods to let them follow the kuo-toa into the watery depths to exterminate their enemies. Few even among the elves know the truth of these ancient tales, and they know better than to speak of them, espically to strangers. And, yet, the tales still spread. Maybe they are true...
Author: Erik "Iquander" Mona
The Great Embarkation
by Erik Mona (Iquander@aol.com) and Copyright by Wizards of the Coast
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author. Originally posted to the RPGA Living Greyhawk Message Board
Elven legends tell that, prior to the coming of their race, the lands of the Flanaess were overrun by the scaly races and their amphibious brethren. The elves viewed these creatures as abominations, leftovers of an ancient era in which the aboleth created foul spawn to take their evils from the seas and the underdark to the realm above. Whether fittingly or not, the elves saw many of the world’s oldest beings as servitors of the aboleth, and marked them for extermination. In this manner, the elves gained the enmity of dozens of races, including troglodytes, lizard men, grung, grippli, skum, bullywugs, firenewts, ingundi, blindheim, muckdwellers and kou-toa. These last were seen by the olvenfolk as the very worst of their kind – ambitious, industrious, fecund and supported by at least one god who sponsored potentially powerful clerics. For these reasons and more, the elves named the fish men their primary target.
Few records remain of the centuries of warfare between the two races. If the kuo-toa had any relations with the gloomy aboleth, nothing came of them during the conflict. Evil to their cores, they had enslaved or killed all races they had contacted in the early aeons, and thus enjoyed no allies. The olve, on the other hand, recruited many to their cause. Unable to rouse the dwarves from their underground lairs, they nonetheless enlisted many gnomes, as well as extremely early Flan and the dying race of the Rujari, primitive antecedents of human beings. These latter folk coined the name "gogglers" for the kuo-toa, an appellation that remains popular to this day.
Only one race of note defied the elves, the strange furred folk known as quaggoths. These creatures had profited much from their relations with the kuo-toa, and saw themselves as masters of the northern forests, near which most of the fighting in the final years of the War of Extermination took place. When the olve arrived, and claimed much the same territory, the quaggoths rebelled, attacking an elven encampment. The minor skirmish ended with the death of Amaranthe, a great olven princess thought to be more than 2000 years old. Her death is still heralded as the major loss of the war, and the violent retribution against the quaggoths defied both the elven reputation of goodness and all perceptions of scale. Thousands of quaggoths were put to death for each member of Amaranthe’s slain party. Though far fewer in number today than in those ancient times, the quaggoths of the Forlorn Forest remember still this slaughter at the hands of the olve, and they take every opportunity to return the favor in kind.
Eventually, the elven alliance defeated the kuo-toa, laying waste to their cities and culture and destroying vast hatcheries of kuo-toan young. Finally admitting defeat, the gogglers pulled back to the shores and took to the waters. Though the tide had been for the elves all along, losses numbered in the hundreds of thousands – unacceptable to the olvenfolk rulers. At a great war council near the front of the final battles, the elves entreated their gods, the Seldarine, for a means by which to follow the kuo-toa to the seas, and exact their vengeance upon them completely. Their mournful pleas found purchase in the ears and hearts of their gods, who instructed a fifth of all elves in the Flanaess to take to the ocean.
This event, known as the Great Embarkation, saw thousands of elves simply walk into the sea. These chosen olve found their hands and feet webbed, their necks marked by fully-functioning gills. Accepting this gift with great happiness, the newborn race of aquatic elves took to their task immediately. Within four centuries, every kuo-toa who had fled to the seas had been hunted down and destroyed. Within a millennia, the sea elves had spread to all the oceans bordering the Flanaess.
Today, the sea elves are as numerous as any of their kind, and can be found around the entire globe. Though the gogglers of the ocean were destroyed, those who fled underground survived, where they yet plot a return to their place in the surface world. The tale of the Great Embarkation remains a tightly guarded secret among the elves. Some decry it as myth. Others deny it completely, citing the brutality of the olvenfolk as an example of an attempt to make the race look much more violent than they actually are. The oral tradition of the quaggoths does not equivocate on the matter.