Chronicles of Adar
Many millennia ago, elves and dwarves ruled Adar side by side, with massive kingdoms spanning from the eastern to the western seas. Extensive ruins still testify to this Mythic Era, a period whose beginnings are long forgotten but which lasted until about fifteen thousand years before humans first arrived on the southern coast. What caused the Mythic Era Collapse is a matter of great debate, but its effects are well known. Prior to the collapse, elves are claimed to have been for all intents and purposes immortal. Magic was an intrinsic part of daily life, and all elves were not only capable of magical talent but adept in its use. Great feats of magical engineering and arcane enchantment were created by these ancient elven civilizations, often alongside the unmatched skill in materials and technology of the ancient dwarves with whom they lived in harmony.
Those cities are long gone, for the most part, though their marks are left scattered across the wide grasslands of the central Adarian mainland. It is rare now for an elf to live longer than a thousand years, and each successive generation is shorter lived than the ones before. While elves (and especially high elves) are still more prone to magical talent than humans, fewer adepts are born each generation as well—and the once common ability to invest magic in physical objects has been all but lost. Memories of how this decline began have been either lost or intentionally suppressed over the generations. Most elves accept their gradual fading as a culture, and wood elves in particular see it as merely part of the natural cycle; nothing lasts forever, and death is needed to bring about new life. Some recent generations of elves, however, have rebelled against the notion that the days of elvendom are over. Thus, the Fellowship of the Vale was born.
About a hundred years ago, a group of likeminded elves (mostly high elves, but with a significant minority of wood elves among them) reclaimed the ruins of Sarthiriel, an ancient elven city in the Carenethi Forest. They hung their banners and began to rebuild a new city in the ruins. The Valefolk are a magocracy, ruled by a council of the most powerful magic users from among their ranks. They seek to reclaim the magical power and immortality of their ancestors by rediscovering its sources; scouts and riders are sent out all across the land to gather magical artifacts and ancient writings which may lead them to the answers they seek.
High elves are often stereotyped as arrogant and aloof to the other races. While there are elements of truth in this image, high elves do not generally consider themselves intrinsically superior beings; they do, however, believe that all the other races would benefit from a touch of the refinement and austerity common among their kind. They believe themselves to be in more direct lineage from their immortal ancestors than their wood elven brethren, and cite as evidence for this view the fact that nearly all high elves are still born with some degree of magical talent, although it is still true that few of them become fully adept in the arcane.
While high elves do not live deep in the forests, they do still live in close harmony with nature. They tend to have a slightly more utilitarian relationship with nature than wood elves, however, gently manipulating it to serve their ends rather than simply weaving their lives around the natural world. Thus a typical high elven settlement might have elegant stone structures surrounded by gardens and carefully tended waterways, rather than the woven branch homes common to wood elves.
High elves often build high observatory towers and never settle in places where they cannot see the stars. The movements of stars are believed to hint at the deepest truths of the world, and perhaps because of this the noblest form of magic in the mind of a typical high elf is that of divination.
Wood elves share the long (by human standards) life, slender frames, and pointed ears of their high elven counterparts; this, however, is where most of the similarities cease. While they are both elves, they chose different paths long ago and their appearances and lifestyles reflect those distinct paths. Wood elves have chosen to attune their lives almost entirely to nature, living in the hearts of the deep forests. They build no stone structures, mine no metal, and write no books; while most can both read and write the same elvish script as their high elven brethren, they have chosen a life of oral tradition and history rather than consigning the truth to physical objects which can be destroyed or lost. The have a strong belief in the power of words, nonetheless, and guard their use carefully.
Wood elves have a deeply held belief in the principle of balance. The harmony they achieve with nature is won not by peaceful contemplation of the natural world, however, but through careful application of force. Just as wolves strengthen the deer by culling out the old, sick, and weak, so wood elves interact with the world around them. They hunt as needed, using their powerful longbows to bring down a wide variety of game, and make use of every part of the animals they kill—turning the skins into leather clothing and armor, the sinews into bowstrings or bindings for arrows, the bones into instruments, tools, and jewelry. Humans may see a wood elven shaman wearing a cloak of feathers and a crown of bones and shudder at the elven “savages,” but the elves see human wastefulness as true savagery.
While high elves are typically austere and contemplative, wood elves embrace the passions. They feel almost everything strongly, whether love or hatred, sorrow or rage. This makes them fast friends and allies to those who win their trust, but terrifying enemies to those who betray them. Barbarians, bards, clerics of nature, and druids are all highly respected in wood elven society.