The most ancient of the sentient humanoid races, the Elves have existed on Durnia for many millennia. The two most ancient Elven sub-groups are the Moon Elves and the Forest Elves. Each of these groups has had an additional sub-group develop. From the Moon Elves, the Sea Elves developed. From the Forest Elves, the Fire Elves developed. The Sea Elves developed about two thousand years ago. Fire Elves are the result of the Scourge, or “The Everburning” as the elves call the calamity. While they have different cultural traits, they all follow the Elven faith.
Regardless of elf sub-group, elves follow a religion where they venerate two divinities, The Soul-Oak (also called the Soul-Tree), and the Elven Queen. The Soul-Tree is a massive tree at the heart of the Great Forest. At the foot of the tree, among the giant roots sits the throne of the Elven Queen. The Elven Queen is the ruler of the Elves. She is the living incarnation of The Queen. While most humans believe her to be immortal, she is actually replaced every 500 years as her bodily form passes on. One of her daughters then undergoes a ceremony where the Elven Queen’s Soul inhabits the body of the new Elven Queen. The daughter’s soul-shard (see below) is sacrificed to the Soul-Tree (from which all Elven Souls are said to come from.
The Elven Queen is the absolute monarch and has an elaborate diplomatic corps that allows her to negotiate with other kingdoms without leaving the foot of the Soul-Tree.
Souls and The Shattering
Elves believe in reincarnation. They maintain the idea that all the elven souls there ever will be, have already been created. There will never be new elven souls. Elves believe the reincarnation started when The Shattering occurred. When elves are born, they are born with a Soul-Shard. According to Elven religion, long ago, when the world was still young, the Elves were a mighty people who lived around the Soul-Oak, the source of Elven souls. Then a mysterious event happened called the Shattering. Elven theologians have debated what happened but a common metaphor is that of a tree split by a lightning strike. It is said that all the souls the Soul-Oak produces have split in two. When an elf is born, it receives half of a soul, known as a Soul-Shard.
Soul-Shards and Soul-Twins
All elves believe that there exists another elf who has the second half of their soul. This is called a Soul-Twin. All elves desire to find their Soul-Twin. Finding your Soul-Twin is said to be the greatest achievement an elf can aspire to. Soul-Shards are yearning to be reunited. It is believed that once you find your Soul-Twin, your soul will be made whole again. Then, when you pass away, your soul goes to a final paradise. Many believe this is one reason why the elves have slowly had fewer and fewer children over the generations. Unfortunately, an elf’s Soul-Twin may not be alive when they are. So it is rare for an elf to find their Soul-Twin.
Because Elves believe in reincarnation, they believe their souls have occupied both male and female bodies. Thus, they tend to view gender as being an interesting but unimportant distinction between individuals. Elves have far more fluid understandings of gender and sexuality as a result. Also, due to the Elven Queen’s divine status, females are often held in high regard. Regarding the fluidity of gender, there is even a ritual called the Ir’namat Ceremony. In this ceremony, the elf can undergo a transformation from one sex to another. Sometimes Elves find their gender and/or sex changing over time and this ceremony marks that transformation. Humans, Dwarves, and others also often consider elves rather androgynous, to begin with, compared to their own people.
Birth of the Fire Elves
When the Scourge destroyed the Northern section of The Great Wood, many of the survivors were affected by the strange magics that came from The Everburning. Those Elves that survived the event became ashen grey in color (the grey ranging from dark graphite to pale greyish-white), with hair ranging from black, grey, silver, and white. Called by non-Elven people “Fire Elves” the term Elves uses is “Loh’Tiriloi” or and “Ashen Elf”.
The Fire Elves have taken on a far more pessimistic outlook than most other Elves and one can see why. They had their homes destroyed and their very natures somehow changed by the cataclysmic event. This passed to their children and their children’s children. While they are the smallest in number, their striking appearance makes them stand out in crowds of Elves and non-Elves alike.
The Four Elven Types
The four types of Elves include the Fire Elf, Forest Elf (sometimes called a Wood Elf), The Sea Elf, and the Moon Elf. The largest in number are the Moon Elves, followed by the Forest Elves, then Sea Elves, and lastly the Fire Elves. However, most human contact tends to be with Sea Elves first, followed by Moon Elves. Forest Elves are the less likely to be in human lands but are often found in territories that border The Great Forest. Fire Elves are less reclusive than their Forest Elven brethren and many have turned to more adventurous occupations.
Below is a chart discussing the typical appearance, mannerisms, and cultural differences that vary from group to group.