Elves or Quendi as they call themselves (a word meaning "speakers" in the Elven tongue, called Quenya or "speech") are the First Children. They where the first sentient race on the world after the Cleansing, and are related to the Fay species by the nature of their creation. They are a long lived and peaceful, by preference, race that prefers its own company. They find short lived people a bit too noisy to suit them. Many elves adventure at least once in their life, but elves are so few in number, and they are so long lived, it doesn't seem that way. There are several variations in the Elven race.
The general viewpoint of the Elf is the long one. Any elf can expect a 800 year life-span on average, and they live and plan accordingly. They consider themselves blessed among the other races, as they are the special creation of the First Father. Religion and history are very much a part of everyday life. Elves boast a one million year recorded history, and do boast about it. The possible down side is that they do have a one million year history that can be read and recited from. The past is inescapable.
Each Elf will bear three or more names, a given name, and his mother's and father's surnames. The order that the surnames are listed is dependent on the social importance of the parents. The most Important being used last. An elf who undergoes a life changing experience may change their name to reflect that experience. In extreme instances, they will even create a new surname. In this manner new family lines are founded.
Elven society is based around the family. Larger social/political units are extensions of that family structure. Due to the long life of Elves a family may have as many as five generations living at once. (The Elven "generation" is considerably longer than the human equivalent. Elves born fifty years apart would be considered of the same generation). The eldest member of the family, still involved in family management, is the Patriarch or Matriarch, either is acceptable, but a preference for a Patriarch is present. There is after all no "First Mother". An Elf is expected to show deference to his elders, that is any family member of a generation older than himself. Brash, or disrespectful behavior before elders is a serious breach of manners in an Elven family.
Elves are not comfortable with being touched by strangers. Their idea of "personal space" would be a minimum of four feet among other elves, and more the less known or trusted members of other races might be. You can assume an extra foot for each minus in the reaction table. Only close family members are allowed inside that range. An Elf will sit touching another person only if that person is either a spouse or a lover. Elves greet each other by raising their hands and touching palms. They will tolerate the human handshaking custom as close enough to their own custom. Races or cultures that greet with open hugs or embraces are rebuffed. Kissing to any degree in public is right out. Kissing or being kissed by strangers is even more of an affront.
Elves are modest in their clothing. While young elves might wear skin revealing clothing, the married elf covers all but head and arms. Propriety of task is considered greater than property of dress, and an Elf will wear or not wear what is required for the task at hand. Butchering, for example, will be done in the nude, as blood comes off skin easier than out of cloth. In such circumstances is it impolite to notice someone is not clothed, or to stare, and they are treated as if they are clothed.
Elven gestation is nine months, and usually proceeds without difficulty. Single births are the rule, but twins are known. Triples or other multiple births are rare enough to attract notice from the Elven Patriarch. Children are raised by the entire extended family. Mother and Father have little to do, and no responsibility apart from their children. Childhood is not rushed. A child is tenderly disciplined and taught. They are allowed to make their own discoveries. Children are always under the watch of careful eyes. They are precious, and are not allowed to come to harm. The period of childhood is considered to extend until the Twentieth birthday.
Between the 18 and 21st year of age an Elf will come to partial physical maturity. They will reach their full height and adult proportions. Sexually they are capable, but infertile. This period of extended adolescence lasts until the Elf is 50 to 55. Youth is allowed its flings, and no elf is seriously pushed to choose a direction for their life unless they are over 75, and have not taken any interests. This is usually the time when Interest in adventure is the strongest.
Most Elven adventurers are between the ages of 25 and 50. This is also where the reputation of elves as flighty and frivolous originates. These "over-aged kids" are the Elves most other races have contact with. Thus the majority opinion about Elves is formed from association with "teenagers". They truly have no responsibilities, and none is expected of them until they are of age to have children. (DM's note: most Half-elves are the result of romantic unions near the end of the late adolescence. The Elf has become fertile, and they are unaware of it.)
Elven marriages are neither arranged, nor allowed to simply happen. Elders will subtly encourage young people (under 75) to meet, and arrange social parings, subtly, that they think will work. Elves do not engage in the practice of political marriages, and resent when the matter is forced on them by non-elves. Any pairing that is not working, is dropped without comment. It might as well not have happened. Spontaneous love matches are not encouraged. While they are not forbidden, the couple is urged to time and caution. Five to ten year betrothals are not uncommon in Elven society.
A betrothal is more than an engagement, less than a marriage. The couple is treated as a couple. They will, after the first few of years, share a house or a suite in the larger family house. In the olden times before the Holocaust, sex and the hopefully resulting children were saved until after marriage. In these later, and troubled times (yes, Elves still regard times as troubled 90,000 years after the event) the marriage will not be formalized until the couple has proved fertility. As a result some Elven couples spend their entire lives in a state of betrothal. This "half-marriage" has come to mean marriage for legal and social proposes. Once the happy event of conception and birth has happened, the marriage is formalized in a religious and social ceremony.
Once the marriage is consummated and formally recognized, the couple begin their married, and hopefully fruitful years. The burden of providing for the family is not placed on these parents, but is born by the older members of the family passed childbearing. The fertile time usually lasts from the age of from 50-55 till age 200 or there about. Little is expected of the parents than to have and raise their children. As this means about one child every ten years or so, for even the most fertile couples, they have plenty of time on their hands to pursue interests picked up during adolescence. These studies will aid them in the next stage of Elven life.
Around the age of 200 to 250 the Elf begins to lost fertility, and by 400 even much of a libido. Their own children will have matured to the point of bearing children, and the Elf begins the productive stage of their life. As two thirds or more of a family are in this stage of life even the poorest Elven family will seem rich to humans. Even if the family does nothing but farm and hunt, and few do, the number working the estates ensures than no one does without.
An Elf recognized for his wisdom may become the Patriarch of the family in his later years. This is not of necessity the oldest member of the family, but will be one of the elder. A new Patriarch seems chosen by whim to outsiders. The truth is that the failing of the old Patriarch is not an unforeseen event. While the Patriarch does not directly choose his successor, his influence, and the discussions of the elders of the family will reach an evident accord by the passing of the old Patriarch. The Patriarch is responsible for management of the family. He will handle disputes within the family,
Elves remain productive as long as they are able. Idleness is a burden to soul and body. They usually remain able up until the last few years of their life. Agarwaien comes swiftly when she comes. She is resented, often fought, and grudgingly accepted. The blood-stained Maiden will usually leave the aged Elf a few years to put in order the affairs of over a half millennium of life. The farewells said, the failing body is left, and the Elf joins the First Father and those that have gone before.
Disabled Elves are not cast out of the household. Whenever possible, the problem is corrected. In the rare cases when disability cannot be corrected the sense of family duty is so strong that unless the Elf can find productive work with their disabilities they will either leave the family, or lose the will to live.
Elven politics is the family extended even further. Where several families live in the same area the Patriarchs, or their appointed representatives, will meet to discuss matters of public Interest, and discuss is the operative word. Unless the matter is truly urgent, such as evacuation and defense before an invading army, all sides of an issue will be debated, investigated, and debated some more. The holders of opinions will switch sides, and debate the matter again to see if any new insight can be found. This matter finished to the satisfaction of all, and it will continue until all are satisfied with the debate. A decision is made by the leading Patriarch and implemented. Elves being long lived make no decision in haste that can be made at leisure. This manner of deciding things drives more literal minded races, such as Dwarves, and fast paced races, such as humans, to total and complete distraction. From this habit comes the saying "Ask not the Elves for advice, for they will say both yes, and no."
The top end of Elven politics is the Patriarch of the Elves. He is considered a living embodiment of the idea of the First Father. He is not a religious authority as clerics cannot hold a political position. In matters concerning the entire body of the Elven people he has authority to speak, and will often advise on lessor matters when asked. The Patriarch is also not a King in the human definition of the word. His proclamations do not carry the weight of law. Indeed, the only thing that makes anyone listen to him is the Elven respect for the elder. The Patriarch is always of the line that descends directly from the First Born, of the First Father. This is currently of the Elsoria family.
Elves continue this process even when other races claim control over the lands Elves hold. While they will treat with kings of other races, they will bow to no other race but Phoenixes. The Phoenixes where created for the purpose of giving a direction to younger races by the First Father himself. These beings have, if possible, a longer viewpoint than even Elves.
Elven Art & Culture
Elves love beautiful objects, and value the maker of said objects. Few if any Elves do not have some artistic skills.
Elven art tends to natural themes, either in as realistic as possible a representation, or a stylized and/or abstract rendering. There are as many, if not more "schools" of art in Elven culture as in human cultures. All the arts are highly prized, and Elves believe that a useful object should also be beautiful. Little escapes the decorative urge. Music and writing are also practiced daily. Historical plays can last for days, a concert for as much as a week. Daily necessary tasks are done in the morning, and the rest of the day spent at the concert or play.
Games of all kinds are enjoyed. The classic board games are played often with variations that extend the duration of a single game to weeks. Rhetorical debates are also a common game in Elven households.
Elves build to last. A common house is not considered well made unless it will long outlast its maker. Elves commonly use living plants in their construction, and incorporate magic that will extend the life of the tree for millennium. Elven architecture has an almost, accidental, appearance. It often looks random and frail to those use to human architecture that is based on stacking things. Buildings are designed to blend into the surroundings. To the unknowing, an Elven city teaming with thousands will look like an empty wood.
Elves likewise farm in a manner that has minimal impact on the land. A farm planted in the Elven fashion will not even look planted to the eye use to neat furrows, and orderly rows. A grain field looks like a meadow, a succulent field like ground cover on a forest floor.
Elven religion is an inherent but understated part of day to day life. The Elven attitude toward gods is that of adviser and elder. The gods are arch types, ideals, and inspirations. There is little sense of parental protection. They are regarded as beings willing to instruct those that wish to be instructed, and advise those that will accept advice. Occasionally a bargain for protection or aid in an endeavor will be made. In no case will the gods honor such a bargain if the mortal takes undue risks, or does not do their best.
Honor is given the gods on their days. Sometimes a sacrifice is made when the favor of a god is requested. The Elves never fear their gods.
Since the creation of the Elves the original race has split into five recognizable sub-groups. Each race of elves has its history and peculiarities. All will conform to the above outline unless otherwise noted.
Calaquendi: The "Elves of Light". These are the Elves that most people think of when thinking of Elves. The most common race of elves, and the Elves with the most contact with other races, so called "high Elves". (This appellation bothers other Elves, but they don't tell the humans that.)
Calaquendi stand 6 foot on average, with slender builds and fair complexions. Their hair is light brown to platinum blond. Their eye color is blue, green, or rarely amber, violet, or brown.
Erinquendi: The "Wood Elves" Erinquendi, other than an arboreal lifestyle are not that different from Calaquendi, although they are much shorter on average at 5'4". They have medium builds, and lightly tanned complexions. Hair color ranges from russet, and brown, to the more common blond and even red.
Mithquendi: The "Grey Elves". These Elves are the oldest division in the Elven race. A group of elves that departed from the main body in the first wars some 900,000 years ago. They retreated to high mountains. So great the divide, and lightly populated the world, that they where separated sufficient time to develop a recognizable language different from Quenya, called Sindarin. This language is recognized as the scholar's tongue among all Elves now.
Mithquendi are an average 5' 10" tall, and if anything even more slight and pale than Calaquendi. Their hair is either a light yellow blond, or more common platinum blond or even pure white. Their eye color is an ice blue, gray, or rarely, black.
Mroquendi: The "Drow". These are the "Dark Elves". A term that many humans miss interrupt to mean "black" or "evil". This race of elves was created when a body of the Elves, lead by the returned Morchaint Mormiron in the form of Loth made war on the rest of the Elves. This violation of the First Law caused the race as one to rise against them. The lawbreakers where driven into the caves beneath the earth.
Morquendi culture is a brutalized version of the surface Elves culture. Driven by a religion that emphasized strength, and an environment that is beastly hostile. All family leaders are Matriarchs.
Long years in this dark place, called the "Womb of the Mother" by the Morquendi has altered them more than most. Morquendi average 5' 6" in height. They have larger than normal eyes that see in near total darkness. Their skin, hair, and, eyes have no pigment what so ever.
Sulinarquendi: The Elves of "Wind and Fire". These Elves could rightfully be classed as half-elves. They are the result of cross breeding with Phoenixes in the last 7000 years. They have no culture apart from the normal Elven culture, and are distinguished by features and heritage alone.
Sulinarqunedi are tall, averaging 6' 6", and extremely slender. Their complexion is dark, almost swarthy. Their hair is always red, from fire red to a burnished copper. Their eyes are violet, amber, black or even red. Some Sulinarquendi have residue Avian traits. The "Avian eye", and the hand talons are common, as is a resistance to fire.