On the Elves of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
Date: Tue, May 20, 2003
Topic: Peoples & Culture
In the second part of his treatise on Flanaess demihumans, the Brother of the Cruel Summer examines those mysterious people known as the olve.
On the Elves of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
By Cruel Summer Lord Jared
Used with permission, do not repost or redistribute without the express consent of the author.
Respected Iquander and Respected Sir Pluffet:
I must note, that in gathering information upon our elven friends in the Flanaess, that their culture has proven to be more diverse than we could have otherwise expected. Not merely among "ethnic" elven lines, but indeed among the national lines of the Flanaess and beyond. To understand this, I shall explain further...
Social Mores and Practices
Elven society is much more loosely organized than that of the dwarves, as you might expect. Being one of some chaos, it is based on the belief that elves will willingly work with each other, as opposed to the belief that they should be required to do so, as in dwarven society.
In terms of social organization, elves are traditionally organized into a wide variety of different families, all of whom are loosely organized under a leader with varying titles: Duke, Prince, Count, etc., based upon his group's power.
Communal discussion is often used to reach political decisions when dealing with other races or other bands of elves, and so at the highest levels of elven politics, leaders often try to gain the greatest amount of community support for their decisions, as it is inherent that leaders cannot act unilaterally.
As concerns their treatment of women, elves are to be admired and respected. Many of the great elven rulers, both past and present, are women, and they are usually renowned for their fairness in judgement. Elven men and women serve with equal respect in authority at all levels of society, and this even extends to the military, where even the earliest tomes speak of female elven cavalry riding unicorns.
Everyday life for most elves consists of hunting, praying, patrolling, or teaching the young during the day. Elves in wilderness settings often care little for mineral wealth-they prefer to barter for objects they might need, and deal with wild Flan hunters rather than more civilized men. Those in urban settings, of course, use money to a much greater extent.
Their homes are often elaborately carved tree-houses or giant lodges, longhouses and cabins, (a custom likely borrowed from the Flan) in wilder areas, but with elaborate woodcarving techniques to create large houses and less rustic lodges in urban areas. Although most elves live in forests or wooded regions, they still conduct mining for metal, which they use to make swords, armor and jewelry.
As concerns their relations with other races, elves tend to have the best relations with humans and halflings. Gnomes are greeted cordially, and often they will partner with elves when it suits both races. Most elves, however, except in regions like Geoff, the southern Vesve, and Sunndi, prefer to live apart from dwarves. The elves of the Timberway, the Sable Wood, and other barbarian forests dwell completely separate from their Suel neighbors, preferring to live in mutual separation.
As concerns relations with humans, elves are either very friendly (Dim Forest, Hornwood, Rieuwood, Vesve) or distant, even to the point of being enemies (the Adri, the Fellreev, the Burneal, etc.) Elves either show respect for human progress and innovation, or blame humanity for many of the ills that plague the world at the moment-from Iuz and the evil in the north to the horrible suffering and misery caused by the Aerdi over the centuries.
What most humans do not know, and most canon only hints at, is that elves have their own great social problems. We know of the People of the Testing; they are suggested as having caused the death of the Prince Consort of Celene in the late 400s, leading to the Hateful Wars; they supported the seizing of the Spindrift Isles by the cult of Sehanine during the Wars, and so forth. We also know of the valley elves, and the enmity all other elves bear them. Then there are the bizarre creatures known as the drow, who nine out of every ten humans and elves dismiss as a myth.
The social problems here are very subtle: At the Grand Court of Celene, the People of the Testing seem to want to gain the support of elves to assert their birthright to dominate humanity and all other races, a creed not unlike that of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Despite the innate goodness of most elves, it seems that this branch of society either wants to subsume other races, or is uncaring as to their fates in advancing elven interests.
In ancient days, when the elven people were born of the tears of Sehanine Moonbow, and Corellon quarelled with Lolth over the fate of their people, the elves themselves argued and fought. Seeing other peoples and races coming into being, Sehanine urged the elves to come with her into a realm of dreams and solitude, to protect themselves against the Dark Lord Tharizdun and other evils at the time. The humans are of no importance, she urged. Let them fend for themselves!
Corellon himself disagreed with these beliefs, but he knew he could not stop her, for she was his betrothed, and he knew her heart was right; but many elves did not listen. Sehanine's advice for the elves to protect themselves from evil was thrown back in her face: Many elves thought her beliefs wrong and foolish, for there would come a time when Tharizdun would threaten all.
Thus, half the elven race made a journey over the Solnor, never to return. The elven kingdom of Miranda was forged, rejecting those of the Seldarine who seek to place the elves in a position higher than they deserve. Other elves pledged themselves to Law-a lawful society was to protect the people from the chaos of Tharizdun. Marching westwards, they eventually integrated themselves into the Sufang Empire, becoming a second aristocracy. The third group was pledged to Chaos, marching to the Valley of the Mage, where Chaos festered, falling into its worship.
Her people sundered, Sehanine wept bitterly, withdrawing into her own world of dreams and visions. Those elves who remained in the Flanaess did not all follow her vision, but they did wish to remain to console her.
The first kingdoms were founded in the central Flanaess, battling both the Flan Kingdom of the Five Ways to the south, which was eventually replaced by the Empire of Vecna, and worked with the mighty warriors of what is now Furyondy against the mad sorcerer Tzunk, who sought to dominate all the lands around the Nyr Dyv with the Codex.
These wars weakened most of the elven realms, causing them to withdraw into the forested regions they preferred, or to gather in the homeland of Celene. When the Suel and Oeridians arrived, most of the old Flan kingdoms were gone, their people having come to a completely "natural" existence after wars with enemies and each other finally ended the nations.
Many elves integrated peacefully with the new arrivals, with the principles of mutual friendship, acceptance and tolerance being formed by the many peoples who came to found Geoff. Similar bonds were made between the Suel who came to Sunndi and Idee and the elves already living there, and when the old Flan warrior-clans were absorbed into the duchy of Ferrond (later Furyondy), the elves of the southern Vesve were happy to continue the alliance against the more evil Ur-Flan of the north.
By this time, several distinct elven ethnic groups had emerged: The grugach, or wild elves, who hated humans and wanted nothing to do with them; the sylvan, or wood elves, who dominated the deepest forests, the gray, or faerie elves, who were thought to be the most connect to the Seldarine, and recognized as unofficial leaders of the whole elven people; and the high elves, who dominated dells, prairies and light forests, the most open to dealing with men.
Due to their long lifespans, elves may have evolved more slowly than us humans; but apparently, in the early 500s CY, the valley elves marched into Geoff, speaking to the Grand Duke of their renouncing the tenets of Chaos. However, what the scrolls and oaken chest the Duke of Geoff was given contained are uknown.
At this time, secret conferences between elves from across the Flanaess were being held in the Celene capital of Enstad. What happened there was uknown, but both priests of Sehanine and members of the People of the Testing, that group of elves meant to support the tenets of Sehanine, later began a long exodus to the Spindrift Isles of the Solnor. What became of them is not known.
Since then, the main focus of elven politics has been in Celene. The Knights of Luna want to fight evil in the Flanaess, the People of The Testing oppose any such action. Queen Yolande, however, appears to be waiting for something. Rumors spread of her proposing a "Song to Sehanine"; it is known that many priests of Sehanine are travelling to Celene.
Also, tall, snow-white albino elves have been appearing at the courts of surrounding states. They are asking for humanity's support in a "return to the past", for each family to send one child to Celene under their care for this to work. Needless to say, most humans consider these elves mad, ordering them out of their territory. Bearing swords of silver and pure-red robes, their eyes are unnerving-one is white, like the moon Luna, the other deep blue, like the moon Celene. What all this means, no one can say.
Individual Populations and Kingdoms
The Adri: The elves here are bound in a small kingdom ruled by a lord who wants nothing to do with either the gnomes of the Flinty Hills, the men of Ratik, the men of North Kingdom, or the dwarves of the Rakers, distrusting them all. Keeping his nation isolated, he believes, is the key to survival. While he trades with other peoples, he carefully watches them when they are in his territory.
Celene: Needless to say, the affairs I have described above in Celene are bizarre and without answer. Humans who dwell in Celene live well, but as a protected underclass. People who travel there report being well-received by most elves, though some treat them in a condescending manner. Some whisper that the People of the Testing are striving to gain influence over Yolande, and to defeat those other elves who are opposing them.
The Bramblewood Forest: How many elves live in this vast forest is uknown, as most of it is claimed and owned by Ket. It is thought, however, that the elves live in their own separate cities, away from the main Kettish populations.
The Dim Forest and the Oytwood: These elves are coming into increasingly unfriendly relations. Representatives of both groups travelled together to Celene over ten years ago; when they came back, the two groups came into a slowly rising, but defiintely troublesome, quarrel. Opposing viewpoints over what to do in the wake of the Geoff-Keoland situation are not the cause of the argument, but they are making things worse. Humans who visit are often pressured to take sides in the debate, or to act as impartial messengers, as the elves do not seem to want to go into each others' territory. In any case, however, visitors from Gran March, certain dwarves in the Lortmils, and even northenr Keoland are not well received.
The Burneal Forest: The elves of this region are wild, barbaric, and uncivilized. Some of them deal well with foreigners, while others hate and loath anyone not of their own race, and happily kill and eat them. Once every five years, however, the elves in the western region of the forest appear in the company of the same tall, albino elves I have mentioned previously, becoming much more accommodating and civilzed. This appearance is connected to the appearance of a mysterious palace in a certain area of the forest every five years, or so reports claim.
The Celadon Forest: The elves of this region have always preferred to maintain their independence from humans, and while they bear man no animosity, they would prefer to send him on his way as soon as possible. This city houses the largest elven city in the Flanaess, outside those of Celene. These elves deal well with the Urnstmen, but past and present injustices by the Nyrondese mean that they trade little and care even less for the people of that region. King Lynwerd has calmed tentions to prevent civil war, but he cannot calm the anti-Nyrondal flames of resentment boiling here.
Dreadwood: The elves of this region live in three different cities in the east, center and west of the forest. Half-orcs and dwarves are wise not to show their faces in this region, nor are citizens of the Yeomanry, the Sea Princes, or Gran March welcome in elven households.
Fellreev Forest: The elves within this region are savage and violent, as ready to fight each other as the local humanoids, monsters, or bandits. All attempts to tame the elves have failed, and indeed the grugach, who have many positions of power here, ceremonially kill men and dwarves.
The Gamboge Forest: The elves who dwell here are friendly and good, but fiercely independent. They trust no one of either the Pale or Nyrond, knowing well that both states could covet their territory. Luckily, with the Pale being occupied elsewhere and Nyrond having its own difficulties, they enjoy relative peace, except with the humanoids and monsters of the wood.
The Gnarley Forest: The elves of this region are the most classic version-rustic, green-clad people with pointy ears who are masters of the wilderness. While they treat well with the people of Verbobonc, they are wary of any attempts by Furyondy or Dyvers to intrude on their territory, gravely distrust most of Greyhawk, and outright hate the people of the Wild Coast.
Grandwood Forest: The elves here have a long tradition of being freebooting bands of raiders and heroes, packing up their tents, tipis and even collapsible treehouses, moving their towns to avoid being captured by enemies. They consider Ahlissa to be their greatest foe, though they have little love for the people of the Hestmark Highlands or Rel Astra either, only treating with their fellows in the Lone Heath.
Nutherwood/Phostwood: The elves here are suspicious of most outsiders except the Flan, with whom they are strong and brave friends. Strong allies of the Tenha, the two peopls have often aided each other in matters of war against their mutual enemies. The two peoples share many cultural and life elements as well, though the elves find the incorporation of Oeridian architechture and battle tactics into Tenha society to be somewhat annoying.
Rieuwood/Menowood: While allied with the Sunnd, and the dwarves of the Hollow and Hestmark Highlands, the elves of these regions are suspicious of Holgi Hirsute and his dealings with the Oeridians of Irongate and Onnwall. They deal/dealt well with Idee, often exchanging goods and information between peoples.
Spikey Forest/Sable Forest/Hraak Forest/Timberway: The elves in these forests, surrounded by barbarians, prefer to live apart from their neighbors, although they can reflect the tendencies of their human neighbors: The Hraak people are cruel and savage: the Sable people are cold and aloof, those of the Timberway friendly and jolly, and those of the Spikey Forest strong and brave.
Vesve: As part of the grand alliance of good that has flourished here for milennia, the elves of the southern Vesve are good, kind and honest. They worked with the brave Flan warriors in what is now Furyondy before the migrations, and they will continued to do so with the modern nations against Iuz, the Horned Society, or whoever else their foe is this day. Those of the north, however, are isolationist and almost xenophobic towards humanity, blaming men for the evils of Iuz and the Society, and bitter from the endless fighting they must endure against humanoids in that region.