The World of Aethis
When the elves were created many millennia ago the greatest of good dragons came to them and protected them. Seeing that they were a creation of beauty and eloquence, Garhaast loved these elves and taught them the crafts so that they could create works of beauty to further the beauty of the world. The elves learnt these crafts quickly and under the guidance of Garhaast also excelled in areas like philosophy and other academics. Soon the elves had formed their own unique and distinct society and Garhaast decided it was best to allow them to flourish on their own. Removing himself from their day to day life out of love, Garhaast sat back and watched them grow, secretly protecting and enjoying their progress.
Within centuries after his removal the elves began to become truly self sufficient. They formed strong religious beliefs and arcane foundations and began to worship different beings that they felt represented themselves best. Most of the elves turned to the goddess of the sun and moon, Yllimarin, and began to worship her and learn to understand the world which she looks over. Under her worship, there came a split in how she was worshiped. Some elves claimed that the moon was the source of all purity, casting pure white light on the world so that reality could be seen as it was intended, while others argued that the sun, the source of warmth and comfort, represented compassion which was the prime aspect of true learning. Although the two groups respected each other and worshipped the same goddess, they slowly began to fall away from each other and two distinct peoples began to form.
These two groups of elves are seen as the oldest and noblest of all elves, the Golden Elves (or Sun Elves) and the Grey Elves (or the Moon Elves), but there is one group of elves even older than these. When Garhaast allowed the elves to continue without him, not all the elves forgot about him. There were those who had been closest to him that never forgot his influence and who would love him for all eternity. These elves were very few and of the few children they had, fewer still recognized the significance of loving a patron now removed from the Elven people and so it was that very few elves would ever worship the great draconic god Garhaast.
There were those elves who never forgot Garhaast and who wished that Garhaast would return to them and continue the role of teacher and friend that he had played. These held on to the traditions of the past and continued to live their lives developing ideas and crafts but instead of worshipping a new power, they embraced their self sufficiently and revered the draconic god in silent respect with everything they did. Although they would thank and praise Garhaast in their daily lives, they did not pray for favours but maintained the idea that if he had relieved them of his presence it had been done so in his divine wisdom, something they could not yet comprehend.
Thousands of years went by and while the Sun and Moon elves had moved on and conquered new lands, growing tired of their homeland, Garhaast’s elves took to calling themselves Platinum Elves, in reverence to Garhaast, and never left their birth land. Eventually they were rewarded for their vigilance when Garhaast decided that these elves had come to truly understand the world and its magnificence. Satisfied with their benevolent nature, Garhaast came to them once again and thanked them for their immortal love. It was at this time that Garhaast decided that he would reward them by naming them the truest and purest of elves, and with the friendship and permission of Yllimarin, now titled the patron goddess of elves, Terinuliel, the birthplace of the Elven race, was granted its own planar domain and made the resting place of all those elves who had died in noble deeds and pursuits. The Platinum Elves were made its keeper and custodians and were blessed with divinity. Never did the Platinum Elves revile or protest the sun or moon elves, but instead welcomed them with open loving arms when they found Terinuliel again.
A time came when the Elven people split once more and Garhaast once again found his way into Elven life. A few thousand years after the Sun and Moon elves began living in their own places, an interesting split occurred when a certain sect of Sun elves and a certain sect of Moon Elves decided that Yllimarin had led them astray, allowing the once noble race of elves to be compromised and divided in themselves. The majority of both the Sun and Moon Elves found this new group of elves to be both foolish and distasteful and when the rebel elves decided to leave their respective societies and form a new one together, no love was lost on their leaving. These new elves used only that which they felt was truly Elven from their former societies. It was natural then, that they lived close to nature, that they continued to revere the earth and enjoyed perfecting the arts which they encountered. Unfortunately however, unlike their former societies, their new society would not be formed so easily. These new elves needed to fight to survive and were a society forged of warfare and strife. Although they still had a love for all things beautiful they learnt to be a far more practical people, constantly at war with lesser races who could not appreciate the wisdom and beauty that elves represented.
The new race of elves lived in cooler forests of the world and so had to learn to keep warm. The Sun elves had lived in tropical areas of the world rich with beasts whose fur had been used to keep warm when necessary, and the Moon elves had been rich with arcane conduits to supply magical heat when necessary. This new Elven group had neither richness in furs, nor enough arcane prowess to create magical conduits. Furthermore, with their traditional beliefs about the sanctity of the forest they were very reluctant to burn much wood. It was about this time that they came into contact with the Dwarven people. Through experimentation and collections of knowledge from their old societies, the elves found that there were certain minerals that would burn for longer and more cleanly than wood would burn. It was in experimenting that the elves encountered the dwarves who were masters of stone and metals and were incredulous at the fact that a people so ugly and rough could possibly make things of beauty to compare to the works of elves.
The friendship between the elves and dwarves was laborious at first as neither side had ever encountered another people as creative as themselves or so different from themselves. Differences aside, it did not take long for the two peoples to grow close and enjoy each other’s company. Before long, the elves had explained to the dwarves how they had come to this land and how there were other elves in other parts of the world. They then decided to call themselves Wood Elves in reverence for the natural world instead of abstract idealism toward the sun and moon. The alliance between Wood elves and Dwarves flourished and they shared their mysteries and arts so that the Wood Elves learnt to mine and use minerals with great prestige and the Dwarves learnt to weave natural magics into their smithing. It was with this new knowledge from the elves that the Dwarves were finally able to mine and smith mithril which had previously been too difficult to wield with any proficiency.
All was good for the Wood Elves until the Sun and Moon elves attempted to make contact again, hoping to resolve the differences and reunite their brethren as they had done after the first split so long ago. The Sun and Moon Elves were horrified to find that the Wood Elves had shared Elven secrets with such ugly and uncouth creatures and so condemned the Dwarves as petty creatures that were beneath the friendship of elves. The Dwarves, not known for their patience or tolerance for insults were overcome with anger for these new elves and demanded that their Elven allies cut their ties with these peers from the past. When the Sun and Moon Elves got word of this demand they immediately condemned the Dwarves as corrupters and beguilers and warned the Wood Elves that any elf who did not reject the Dwarves would be forfeiting his or her place in Terinuliel. The Wood Elves, who had no other link to their ancient brethren, were overcome with confusion and anger at such an ultimatum. They became tremendously conflicted when they found they had no choice but to annul their friendship with the Dwarves or give up eternal happiness in the afterlife. The Dwarves were even more upset when the Wood Elves turned their backs on the friendship they had forged, and declared elves dishonourable, untrustworthy, and betrayers, cheap and fickle allies that were worth less than rusted iron. This only served to pain the Wood Elves further and so they grew angry at the Dwarves for not understanding the situation that they had been forced into. The Wood Elves disavowed their Dwarven alliance and thus the short lived friendship came to a brutal and extremely bitter end.
It was shortly after this time that spawned the creation of two of the most elite groups of Elven warriors to ever exist. Tensions between the Dwarves and the Elves mounted and although the Wood Elves did not want to war with their former allies, the Moon Elves recognized the arcane potential that many of the Dwarven minerals held. The Sun Elves who were geographically quite far from the entire issue ignored the situation altogether and so the cold analytical nature of the Moon Elves was able to take hold and dictate the Elven course of action towards the Dwarves. In their arrogance the Moon Elves assumed that they had arcane superiority over the Dwarves as well as military expertise and thus decided they could demand anything they liked from this race of dirt farmers. The Moon Elves paid dearly for this assumption when they sent a small entourage of warrior mages to demand tribute in the form of mithril ore from the Dwarves. The Dwarves unsurprisingly outright refused to comply and when the Moon Elves threatened force the Dwarves harshly scorned the entourage for being so foolish. Tempers flared and the Elves, secure in their superiority, took the berating as a sign of ignorance and stupidity and so launched into a flurry of magical attacks. The Dwarves, however, were well prepared and responded with arcane warriors of their own, which not only outclassed the elves in arcane fury but were able stand in melee combat wearing heavy armours and brandishing deadly weaponry. These Dwarven arcane specialists infuriated the Moon Elves who believed that they were the most magically apt people in the world. It was seen as a blasphemy toward the arcane arts that a Dwarf might understand magic better than the Moon Elves who believed themselves to be the children of the arcane arts.
It was during this first war of Elves and Dwarves that the schools of the Duskblade and the Arcane Archer were formed. These elite classes of Elven warriors would serve an instrumental part in the victory achieved by the Moon Elves. Both designed to combat the strengths of Dwarven casters and warriors alike, this deadly combo helped to decimate Dwarven forces with brutal efficiency. The Dwarves, who were very well versed in the arts of war, were slow to change traditional tactics and could not keep up with the very versatile nature of Elven combat. Thus the war would have been won by the Moon Elves if not for The First Great Act of Delhm Mortorke; god of Dwarves and master of all metal craft. Delhm Mortorke brought the Dwarves the Gates of Barak Helm thus allowing the Dwarves to seal themselves within their iron halls and create a barricade to all incoming foreign magic. This was the beginning of the first disappearance of the dwarves and the first time that the Moon Elves would search desperately, with no luck, for the elusive mineral mithril. It was not, however, the end to either the Duskblades or the Arcane Archers and despite what the Moon Elves believed, Garhaast watched intently.
The two combat styles were separated as their creators went their separate ways. Talrain Oaktether, the first Arcane Archer lived within the forests of Tejkren and trained his men in secret. Talrain served as a scout commander during the Wars of Betrayal and before that had served the Moon Elves. Talrain was one of the elves who had walked away from the Moon Elves upon the great split and had become a Wood Elf. Once split from the Moon Elves, Talrain’s expertise with a bow was called upon everyday in both defence of his new homeland and for hunting. It was during this struggle that he began to experiment in augmenting his weaponry with the limited arcane knowledge that he possessed. Thus the Arcane Archer was created, out of necessity to survive rather than as a call to war. When the Wars of Betrayal erupted, Talrain began training other Wood elves his art. Like Talrain, new Arcane Archers were the finest of Elven bowmen, who were then taught arcane magic in order to augment their weaponry. This elite group became excellent long range warriors who quickly earned the extreme hatred of all heavy Dwarven infantry units, who despised the Arcane Archer’s ability to strike through obstacles.
Unlike the Arcane Archer, the Duskblade was created out of sheer malice towards the Dwarves and there was nothing improvised or accidental about their creation. When the Moon elves went to demand tribute from the dwarves and subsequently insulted a race as old as themselves they were met with a rude glimpse into reality. The elves were not the only ones who had learnt to harness the awesome power of arcana. In the short centuries that the Wood elves and the Dwarves had traded and shared their mysteries the Dwarves had watched the way that the Elves wielded the arcane. Before this, the Dwarves had understood the fundamentals of arcana but had used it in their crafts and never practiced it alone as a craft in itself. Watching the way that the Elves wielded magic the dwarves began adapting their own arts and soon they had created a new application of magic. In the Dwarven fashion, the new magic took the form of a craft and involved a creative aspect. Runists drew arcane symbols, called runes, onto surfaces and into the air which then evoked the same arcana that the Elven magi used. The only difference, because the Dwarves used runes as a conduit instead of themselves they didn’t need as much freedom in their movement, allowing them to still wear full armours. Thus, when the Elven “diplomats” demanded tribute alongside their war entourage the Dwarves flat out refused and further demanded that the Elves remove themselves from their land. It was an Elven mage that took the first action, hurling a fireball at the Dwarven group and receiving a horrible surprise when one of the heavily armoured Dwarves counterspelled him. The rest of the incident went poorly for the elves as only one left the Dwarven lands that day, spared in order to deliver a message to the elves.
After this incident the Elves set all their resources and best warriors, both arcane and melee, to devise a new method of combat that could stand against the Runists. During this time, the War of Betrayal broke out and the Elves were losing badly. It wasn’t until both the Arcane Archers, under the leadership of Talrain, and the Duskblades, led by High Commander Queos Illinar finally immerged on the battlefield that things turned around.
Neither the Arcane Archer nor the Duskblade was ever retired but instead they were made secret units that the Elves used only in the most dire of circumstances. Rarely did they work together. The Arcane Archers were a Wood Elf unit and the Duskblades were Moon Elves. The two held on to their dislike of each other and while the Moon Elves still thought of the Wood Elves as betrayers, the Wood Elves still thought of the Moon Elves as short sighted and arrogant hierophants, never forgiving the them for using access to Terinuliel against their own brethren.
Millennia passed and Elves grew alongside many other lesser races such as the Humans, Halflings, Orcs, and the Goblins. During this time, the elves honed their skills in their arts and put aside their differences with each other. The moon elves continued in their pursuits of arcane lore, amassing knowledge of Arcana. The sun elves continued their worship of Yllimarin, and the wood elves struggled to survive within foreign and harsh lands. The three old races lived in relative peace with each other while the Dwarves hid within their halls.
The Sun and Moon Elves lived happily and their warriors rested, the Duskblades hidden away in secret training exercises. The Wood Elves, however, were not so lucky. During the Wars of Betrayal the Wood Elves had already been pressed from their southern side by horrible creatures and bands of barbarian humanoids. Struggling to gain superiority against the other creatures of the forest, the Wood Elves had started many colonies, some of which prospered more than others. Their most southern colonies were the hardest to maintain and thus during the Wars of Betrayal, the Wood Elves were forced to divert forces from these lands to attack the Dwarves. This created a great deal of strife within the Wood Elf people and once the war with the Dwarves had ended, this issue flooded into open conflict as the southern Wood Elves began to accuse the northern Wood Elves of choosing the old allegiances over their own people and their new allies. Of course the northern Wood Elves tried to explain the ultimatum that was given about Terinuliel but the southern Wood Elves failed to see the issue, saying that no Elf could deny another Elf entrance to their final resting place. This was true, but the northern Wood Elves claimed that it was a matter of turning their backs on their fellow elf and that it could have earned the scorn of Yllimarin.
Debates degraded and insults were hurled back and forth. The southern elves claimed the northern elves still held on to the traditions of the old ways and that they had forgotten why they had split from the Sun and Moon followers. Soon the southern colonies split away from the northern colonies and the Wood Elves themselves became divided. The northern colonies had established themselves well and although they still needed to work to survive, they lived in relative comfort, while the southern colonies still toiled and fought for their homeland, resorting to a semi-nomadic lifestyle. The southern Elves now called themselves Sylvan Elves while the northern referred to them as Wild Elves not understanding their need to live in such a primal fashion.
The two groups stayed away from each other for awhile until the conflict settled and both sides resigned themselves to accepting yet another split. The Wild Elves rejected much of Elven tradition and embraced combat as their art as well as moving away from Yllimarin and embracing the gods of the wild. Their ability with the arcane turned to the divine and where they once loved subtle and smooth beauty they now embraced strength and austerity. It took many hundreds of years but eventually they found the arcane arts again, but it was in the form of evocation and divination. Although not as well versed as the mages of other Elven people, the evocationists quickly earned themselves a reputation for being formidable battle mages while the diviners became revered as soothsayers and prophets.
Another thousand or so years passed and all Elves lived in peace until the time of The Great Catastrophe. Humans now had a strong grip on the world and expanded across the continent and it was they who were indirectly responsible for The Great Catastrophe. With human greed and intolerance came the opportunity for evil to take its place within the world. Until this time Elves lived openly with humans and in one particular case, the Sun Elves and the nation of Zumpt, they even had open trading and alliances with the young race. This proved to have been a mistake, when the humans, in an attempt to gain power, opened a rift into the lower planes and summoned forth a great multitude of demons and devils into the world. When this rift was eventually closed again it created feedback which destroyed not only two human nations, but also the domain of the Sun Elves. For many many years it was thought that the only Sun Elves to have survived were the ones which had been away from their homeland at the time of closing of the rift but eventually this was proven to be untrue.
A small group of Sun Elves had actually been able to shield themselves from the horrible catastrophe which destroyed the two countries. At the very last second, the fifty odd Sun Elf elders had been able to channel their magic into the approaching wave of destruction and use it to planar travel into a lower plane where the energy had come from. It was a horrible alternative to death which left only 23 survivors of their spell in some unknown plane full of horrors they never could have imagined. The next 350 years was spent attempting to fight their way through the planes until they could find a means of reconnecting to their plane of existence. When at last they finally succeeded in returning home there were only 14 elders left, two of which died while closing the portal they had used to travel home.
These Sun Elves had lost everything they ever loved including their purity and idealism. While in the lower planes, these lost Elves could not draw on any of the divine power given to them by Yllimarin but instead found a wealth of latent negative energy. In order to survive they learnt to adapt to this energy for their use, casting the same divine spells but in negative forms. When they had returned home they no longer wished to reconnect with Yllimarin, her light too pure, burning on their souls and mind, and so the Blackblades were created.
The Blackblades are an elite group of clerics who acknowledge the greatness of Yllimarin but refuse to follow her in protest of her inability to acknowledge the darker side of life. Much of the time they walk the line between good and evil, trying to do as much good as they can but also trying to comprehend evil as best as possible. Their use and knowledge of negative energy keep other Elves at a distance and only those with great amounts of will power can be considered to become a Blackblade. It is for this reason that the Blackblades are as secretive as possible, only operating in places that they can keep themselves hidden. In most cases they will only reveal themselves as Blackblades to other Blackblades or other Elven operatives such as Arcane Archers or Duskblades.