The Elves

The Elves are the eldest children of the world, the first to awake and walk abroad in Astrom and the forerunners of all the Free Peoples. What follows is a summary of their history, after which there will be portraits of each different kindred. The rich mythology of the elves tells many tales of their origin in the stars, but the first uncontested fact that can be established is that which began their history: the StarFalls. In the First StarFall the six elder elves came down to Astrom in sleek star-capsules, and so their recorded history began.

The six elder elves were three pairs, the male and female progenitors of the three main kindreds. Avatar and Mírianna were the eldest of all, the first to emerge, and from them sprang the eponymous Avatar, the High-elves of the hills and open plains. Next came Firnar and Firána, the forebears of the Wood-elves, the Firnai, who emerged under the star-lit canopy and made the forest their home. Third, and youngest by a heartbeat, were Marintor and Ithíriel, whose awakening was on the coast and whose hearts from the first were filled with a love of the cliffs and the echo of the waves in their souls. From them came the Sea-elves, named Marintors after their first king.

Several centuries later there occurred the Second StarFall, in which thousands more star-capsules came crashing to Astrom. Well-nigh all of them fell within the bounds of what would become Kalimar, and the environment in which they awoke greatly influenced their character and disposition. Those who emerged onto open hillsides, plains, valleys and meadows joined the children of Avatar and Mírianna as the High-elves. The Wood-elves were those who awoke in the forests and took Firnar and Firána as their leaders. And all those who awoke on the shores or within sound of the sea were reckoned as Sea-elves, under the rule of Marintor and Ithíriel.

All three kindreds multiplied and prospered in the centuries that followed, and though each governed their own affairs, their gave their combined territories the name Kalimar, the ‘beautiful land’, for they loved it so much. At Prélan’s behest, Avatar was elected as High King and Mírianna as High Queen, with overall authority over the whole elven race. After a long time of peace known as the Great Bliss, the age of their innocence ended when they first discovered others living in the world. These others were the incarnate forms of fallen angels, mighty beings who had been cast out of Eluvatar, the Holy Star, for rebelling against the throne of Prélan. Some of these spirits repented of their insurrection and showed friendship to the elves, but others clung to their evil in pride and hatred. They became the first and greatest enemies of Elvendom, the nemesis of the ancient world. Their leader was Ráphoûrael, King of the Underworld.

After many adventures and deeds of legend, war broke out between the elves and the demons. In a titanic struggle, elven civilisation came close to destruction. Their salvation was magic, a divine gift bestowed by Prélan and mastered by an army of mages, without whom the elves would never have been able to withstand the dreadful power of the demons. Avatar the High King was given the greatest gift, which he wielded through the Star-amulet to devastating effect. In the final battle, when all seemed lost, he used this power to throw down Ráphoûrael himself and spell-bind him back in the Underworld, where he has remained imprisoned ever since. This one deed turned the tide and allowed the elves to achieve ultimate victory.

Yet though the demons were defeated, the world was scarred and never the same again. Different elements within elven society reacted to the aftermath of the wars in various ways. Some turned inward for healing and solace, fearing what lay beyond the horizon and remaining in mourning for millennia. Some relished their new-found strength and their valour turned to restlessness. It was this disquiet which sowed the seeds for the coming expansion of Elvendom, for many princes and chieftains arose to lead expeditions of discovery and migration. A succession of great journeys saw elves reach and colonise almost every part of Astrom.

Even before the demon wars, the exiled Avatar princes Eretholin and Faranor had established the new realms of Ciricen and Endomar, which lay to the north and north-west of Kalimar respectively. Then, after the Great Wars, Prince Lancearon, a great-grandson of Avatar, led a large migration of elves westward, following the long River Vanri all the way to the western seas. Crossing the River Elarim, he founded the kingdom of Ithrill in the west, though his march had also deposited many smaller settlements and principalities along the way, in what would one day become Aranar. The last great exodus was led by Prince Arvarion, a cousin of Lancearon’s. He led folk south and created the kingdom of Alanmar. Meanwhile, the Firnai were gradually colonising all the forests of Astrom, and the Marintors were voyaging along all its coasts and far across the oceans. No longer one great tree, Elvendom was now an expansive grove of many trees.  

Thus the elves were dispersed across Astrom, and thus were their different groups sundered from one another. For though there was trade and contact between them, it was limited, and for the most part these new realms and principalities grew in isolation from the motherland of Kalimar. Each country developed its own traits, customs and distinctive features, and though by and large they still revered the High King, the overlordship of Kalimar ceased to have any meaningful authority over the lesser monarchs.

Each nation followed its own path. Despite natural disasters and the discovery of other children of Prélan, the Second Chapter was mostly a time of peace, for the elves did not fight one another. Only much later did conflict come to the mainland of Astrom. The rulers, loremasters, mages and priests of Kalimar were unable to prevent dual catastrophes that slowly unfolded in the third millennium of the Second Chapter, one in the north of Astrom, one in the south.

The southern catastrophe was one of prejudice and racial bloodfeud. There were early warning signs of tension between the elves of Alanmar and the Oronámiri, the Children of the Mountains, whom they discovered at the dawn of the Second Chapter. For the most part the armists revered the elves, came to live among them and took on many of their customs and beliefs. Yet there was much greater distance between elves and dwarves, and amity was not so easy. They managed to dwell side by side in peace for millennia before their mutual growth brought them into increasing competition and uncomfortable proximity. Competition bred hostility, and hostility festered until it flared up in open war.

In the dreadful Carthaki Wars, elves fought dwarves and the hatred and atrocities on both sides ensured that it became a struggle to the death. Armists fought on both sides, though with greater fervour and in larger numbers under the banners of King Arvarion. After years of slaughter and devastation, the dwarves fled underground and the elves fell from grace. The elven kingdom of Alanmar was broken, its people scattered and diminished. Out of its ruins emerged the armist kingdom of Maristonia, a rump state in the midst of a kaleidoscope of elven city-states and wandering communities.  

The northern catastrophe was one of conscience and apostasy. In their isolation from Kalimar, strange ideas arose among the elves of Endomar and Ciricen that gradually perverted the truth of Prélan. Part of the legacy of their origin as exiles from Kalimar, these northern kingdoms delighted in establishing their own identities and beliefs, and in principle rejected every attempt by the elves of Kalimar to restore orthodoxy. What began merely as idiosyncratic styles of worship evolved into different worldviews and a toxic spectrum of divergent ideas about Prélan. Whole communities were divided as some forsook the faith of Prélan and some held true to His teachings. Elven families were divided and there was schism between the nations. Despite many prophetic warnings against their growing evil, the ruling elites of Endomar, Ciricen and Aranar persisted in worsening heresy until the judgement of Prélan fell upon them. Though not wholly unaffected, the elves of Ithrill watched in dismay as their neighbours fell into blasphemy, idolatry and even demon worship. Even the League of Wizardry, once such a united force for the good of Elvendom, was riven and shaken by betrayal and the abuse of magic by many mages. The Second Chapter ended with the Great Betrayal, a mass and final rejection of Prélan by millions of elves, which triggered the Curse of Mortality.

Such was the history of Elvendom in the Second Chapter. When the Third Chapter dawned, they found themselves shorn of three great kingdoms, for Mortals now ruled in Ciricen and Hendar (what had been Endomar), and the elves of Alanmar were scattered and disgraced. The enduring immortal kingdoms of Kalimar and Ithrill were separated from each other by the wide leagues of Aranar and Dorzand, in which many other Mortal communities sprang up and multiplied. At first both King Avalar of Kalimar and King Lancearon of Ithrill were united in their determination to punish the leaders of the Great Betrayal, and while their mortal neighbours were still adapting to the change they invaded and overthrew both King Eretholin and King Faranor. Yet when it became clear that they had no mandate from Prélan for extermination, they contented themselves with regime change, and then withdrew and left the Mortal nations to their fate.

Thereafter the attitude and stance of Kalimar and Ithrill became quite different. Kalimar shut its borders to the outside world and turned inward, content to manage its own affairs and pursue an existence of peaceful and near-complete isolation. Only the League of Wizardry, based at Oron Amular, maintained meaningful contact with the outside world. Ithrill, by contrast, was much more active in the world, trading enthusiastically with its neighbours and engaging in the politics and rivalry of the Ship-king Era.

Both Ithrill and Kalimar joined the coalition that defeated Kurundar in the First War of Kurundar, but afterwards both kingdoms resumed their previous postures. Lancearon of Ithrill was one of the architects of the Great Union, but when it fell apart, he found himself profoundly at odds with the Mortal kings of Hendar to the north. Their quarrel led to much of southwestern Hendar being annexed by Ithrill in a series of long and bitter wars. When Lancearon discovered that Kurundar had returned to Urunmar and was growing in power, he used these early conquests as the foundations of a great empire to oppose him. Having been unable to unite the Free Peoples in a voluntary alliance, he now forged them forcibly into an empire.

While Kalimar looked on in disapproving neutrality and the League of Wizardry worked in vain for peace, Lancearon gradually conquered all of Hendar and most of Aranar. Known as the Silver Wars, this long and bitter conquest stretched well into the third millennium of the Third Chapter. By this time Kurundar had indeed established himself again as the enemy of the Free Peoples, and Lancearon’s elven empire proved to be his nemesis. In the Second War of Kurundar a wave of destruction engulfed the entire northern half of Astrom. Eventually the power of Urunmar was again destroyed, but the Silver Empire was also broken in the process. As the Fourth Chapter entered its second century, the empire gradually loosened its grip and retreated to its former Ithrillian borders before dissolving formally.

In this same period Kalimar underwent a steady decline. For millennia its population had been gradually shrinking, but in the wake of the devastation of the Second War of Kurundar the exodus of its people to the mysterious Inner Isles, which were hidden from mortal sight by the power of Avatar, continued and increased. Thus, as Kurundar rose to power a third time in the middle of the Fourth Chapter, Elvendom seemed to be a spent force, its two remaining kingdoms greatly weakened and increasingly sidelined by growing Mortal realms that had recovered their self-confidence in the wake of the Second War.

Many believed that Elvendom was doomed to continual decline until it disappeared entirely, though how long it can retain its old heartlands in a Mortal-dominated world remains to be seen. Whether assimilating into the Mortal world, retreating to the hidden Inner Isles, or even, as some hold, returning to the stars whence they came, the true destiny of the elves lies on the far side of one more defining conflict with Kurundar.

This is the second in a new blog-series that will be exploring the different people groups of Astrom. The series opener was an introduction to the Free Peoples. If you’d like to read the whole series, please subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss any of the posts. Happy reading.

Photo by Michał Mancewicz on Unsplash

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