Height: Average: 5'6"/165cm Range: 5'/150cm to 6'/180cm
Life stages: Puberty 20
Marriage 30-50, average 40
Life Expectancy 130 (M), 135 (F). A few live to 150.
Appearance: Slim, pale; pointed ears; no facial hair. Metallic-coloured hair after which their groups are named: Silver Elves (mainly northern), Gold Elves (mainly southern), Copper Elves (mainly central). Originally, these were marks of social class.
Relations with Other Races:
Dwarves: Often in conflict over pollution, etc. in the past; now little contact
Humans: Were former slaves; trade with very occasionally, Copper Elves raid humans when they think they can get away with it.
Merpeople: Trade with.
Elves look down on all other races as inferior. Since the Fall of the Elven Empire, they have had reduced contact with other races.
Origin: Ancient race
Location: Northern archipelago, Southern peninsula, central jungles and forests.
Elves use their considerable magical abilities to shape their living environment, such as enormous trees which they encourage to grow into houses. Their historic fights with the dwarves generally involved a dwarvish mine emitting polluted water into the forest. Up to about 500 years ago, when they were more numerous, the Elven Empire extended its hegemony throughout the continent, though its rule was not universally acknowledged (by the dwarves, for example). There was a strong streak of cruelty running through the Empire, including human (and we do mean human) sacrifice to the Moon and stars. This is officially denied by the remaining present-day civilized elves, namely the Silvers of the far north and the Golds of the far south, though it's suspected that some of the tribal Coppers of the central jungles still practice it on occasion.
The Empire elves were divided into three castes, marked by the colour of their hair and other, subtler differences. The Gold Elves, the tallest, constituted the ruling class. The Silver Elves, who had the greatest manual dexterity and sensory acuity and often slightly larger heads in proportion to their bodies, took care of skilled work such as advanced magic, the shaping of plants and animals, the arts and intellectual pursuits, administration of the Empire, manufacturing and trade. The Copper Elves, the strongest and heaviest, formed the labouring class and the bulk of the army (under Silver officers).
The caste divisions were deliberately magically engineered from the base elf stock, and it was possible (though uncommon) to be taken up, or under shameful circumstances sent down, to another caste. This involved a magical ceremony and the ingestion of special preparations which transformed the hair colour, though it did not give the other physical markers. However, this was not just a transformation of the individual; the changed hair colour bred true in descendants.
Interbreeding between castes was strictly forbidden. Occasionally, for the sake of love an elf would go down into a lower caste in order to marry someone of that caste. Any children of the illegitimate mingling of castes who were discovered were sent down to the lower of the two castes.
There is only one historical example of an elf taken up twice, that is, one who began his life as a Copper and ended up Gold (in fact, ended up as the Empiregold). In a time of civil strife, the elf later known as the Red General was promoted from Sergeant to officer, and hence taken up to Silver, when he led his unit back largely intact from where an incompetent Silver lieutenant had stranded them behind enemy lines. (The exact fate of the lieutenant was not closely inquired into under the press of events, otherwise he might have been court-martialled instead of promoted.) He rose rapidly through the ranks because of his tactical brilliance, became a general, and seized the opportunity to become Empiregold, whereupon he was taken up to Gold.
At the breakup of the Empire, the elves withdrew to the forests of the Northern Archipelago and the far South, and the jungles of the equator, with the three castes largely going their separate ways. The Southern contingent was made up of Golds, the escaping remnant of the Imperial aristocracy, with a few supporting Silvers and Coppers. Most of the Silvers elected to go north, taking a larger number of Coppers with them but stranding most of the rest. The remaining Coppers, with a few Silvers left behind in the panic, were either killed by humans or took refuge in the equatorial jungles, where the Silvers became their leaders and the keepers of tradition and magic.
The equatorial elves have lost most, and the southern elves much, of their high culture; the elves of the north preserve the greatest remnant, since the Silvers were always the keepers of culture in any case. The elves tend to interact with other races as little as they can manage. When they do, they are shocking snobs, but not actually malicious; their snobbery is completely unconscious, part and parcel of their disconnection from other people's realities.
Elves in ancient times were extremely hierarchical, and it was considered quite usual for two elves of approximately equal rank to spend several hours indirectly maneuvering to establish which of them outranked the other, based on a complicated code of relationship and attainment, meanwhile avoiding the use of any pronouns for each other since all the available second-person pronouns conveyed hierarchy. The Silvers retain a remnant of this elaborate etiquette, but keep it for formal occasions. There are few enough Silver Elves that everyone knows who outranks whom, so the dances of protocol are a thing of the past, but notable ones are still celebrated in story and occasionally re-enacted.
Elven Magic differs from dwarven in both style and substance, and is rather theatrical, involving a lot of chanting and gesturing. It is strongly bound by tradition; elves do not often create new spells, but the ones they have are very reliable. They are particularly skilled with living plants and animals, though only the northern Silvers retain enough knowledge to create entirely new forms.
Elves, in contrast to dwarves, can see some way into the ultraviolet but can't distinguish colours much below orangey-red. The colours of their clothing and decorations frequently look somewhat "off" to human eyes as a result and may be decorated with patterns that are not distinguishable to humans (or dwarves, even more so). An ancient elven method of keeping information from human slaves was to write in ultraviolet ink, as Hope at Merrybourne discovered. They have 27 named colours, three of which are not perceptible by humans.