Elf Culture

Meditation

Elven culture is in many ways (but not all) diametrically opposed to Human culture. Unlike Humans, who need food in quantity, Elves have almost no need to eat but do need to Trance daily, usually called Meditation by the elves themselves. It is traditional for everyone in Elfhome to trance at the same time, immediately after awakening from slumber. This is viewed as a ceremonial communion of sorts and failure to do so except in extremely pressing circumstances is frowned on. It is considered rude in the highest degree to make public noise or otherwise interrupt Meditation. During this time, Elfhome is nearly silent and almost seems abandoned. The tolling of the Evening Chimes signals the end of Meditation and the beginning of, weirdly, the active, public part of the day, just when most humans are finishing up work and heading home for a meal and rest.

Eating in public is considered extremely uncouth, much like defecating or fornicating. There are establishments that sell food and drink, but they are considered base indulgences much like a brothel, and the food and drink on offer is aimed at refined presentation and exotic flavor than sustenance. Most establishments serve a select clientele by appointment only, with food prepared tableside with great fanfare by an artist who produces only one meal at a time. Elven food is also nearly always prepared with intoxicants to heighten the experience, making Elven dining a risky proposition for an Eater who just wants a meal. The Elves do not farm on a large scale and generally crop foods and herd animals are not served unless they are imported from Human lands. Small-garden vegetables, fungi, small-batch potables, fish, and game comprise the Elven diet. Eater travelers would be considered wise to bring along their own supplies when visiting Elfhome, lest they inadvertently go on a diet.

Intoxicants of all kinds are highly prized in Elven society as “consciousness-expanding” and might even be considered their primary form of recreation. Dance, sex, hunting, martial arts, and gymnastics are considered a species of intoxicant, producing an altered mental state and an expanded consciousness. There is no real concept of “addiction”, it is merely an expanded Meditation and even a sign of a rarified character detached from worldly concerns. Being able to afford the purest, rarest, and most transporting intoxicants is considered a sign of high status and prestige, with some varieties restricted to nobles, priests, or even to royals.

Exquisite crafts and magical toys made during Meditation are also highly prized, but manual labor of any kind outside Meditation is considered low-class. Almost all elves study magic simply to rid themselves of the need for any labor of any kind. The very highest nobles do no work at all, not even writing, and simply dictate their wishes to servitors of varying kinds. Some sages will turn their efforts toward learning their spells so effectively that they dispense with spellbooks and other arcane aids and become functionally illiterate. Virtually all Elven wealth derives from the work of magical servants and often has rather a mercurial quality, as the Elves are generally more concerned with its beauty and inspirational qualities than its utility. Elves in general are wealthy in human terms, as they are long-lived and have few offspring, and little need to spend what they acquire.

Elven society is a stratified monarchy, with class and rank defined primarily by inheritance and, a distant second, by age. Rank determines everything about an elf—what intoxicants they are permitted to consume, what kind of work they may do (or whether they need to do any), their attendance at court, and the services they must provide to higher-status elves. The lower the status, the more service—usually magical in nature—is required. Even how much one is allowed to speak in a gathering or defer to other speakers is dictated by rank.

Fertility is a constant problem for Elven society. Extreme rank-consciousness and a low population has led to a high degree of inbreeding. Most elven couples have difficulty producing even a single viable offpsring. Marriages are hotly negotiated and children are treasured and indulged while young. A history of fertility is nearly the only trait that can persuade a higher-ranking family to permit a marriage with a lower-ranking one—evidence of the fertility often desired before the marriage contract is finalized. Extramarital affairs are constant, but if no marriage is agreed to by the families the offspring inherits the status of their lower-ranking parent.

Religion

While many elves have a mystical bent and will gladly spend decades contemplating the infinite, dedication to the religious discipline that yields divine power is rare and considered an odd personal choice, like devoting oneself forever to a single sexual position or a single drink. It’s not even a respected oddity, as it is considered a distraction from proper fulfillment of the duties of one’s rank. There are rarely enough elven devotees to form an actual church, so elven religion is mostly a matter of single teachers with one or at most a few students engaged in esoteric studies and strange rites. The elves hold no public religious festivals and do not consider their clerics to speak for the gods, which they view as simply aspects of the natural world worthy of reverence and contemplation, but not obedience.

Outsiders

Many younger elves leave Elfhome to join other societies and live apart from their people, often taking on completely non-Elven lives while doing so. It is generally regarded as a sort of vision quest and all questions of rank are suspended while the elf remains an Outsider, even if they return to Elfhome. Those who wish to resume their place in elven society undergo a formal ceremony where they undergo a year-long quarantine before being welcomed by their family, who act as if the returnee has come back from the dead. While an elf remains an Outsider, no one in their family will admit any connection with them in public, and nothing they do is considered to reflect on their family.

Study of the Moon

For the most part, the text is an extremely dry account of the author’s detailed construction of a far-seeing device and observations of the Moon, which are tedious in the extreme. However, after approximately six decades of observations, the author seems to have struck up a relationship with an extraplanar creature of some kind that was able to provide alternate observations and further information that appears to have flummoxed the author.

“…can only conclude, assuming that Isserlial is honest and accurate, that the Moon appears to, in fact, be a separate celestial body outside the known world, traversing the heavens on a path about this mysterious fiery body that is all-but-impossible to observe directly. The only part of the celestial fire that comes into view from any part of the world is the light that it sheds, which illuminates the Moon at regular intervals and makes it possible to descry faint patterns of light and dark on the Moon’s surface, constantly changing. From this, I conclude that they are not terrain features, which one would expect to have a more permanent character, but represent some kind of ethereal or perhaps watery motion. While the patterns are never exactly the same, they do seem to have repeating features which suggest a system possessing the kind of natural regularity known to occur in wind and water, both.

Although I cannot observe this directly, the fiery body appears to sometimes pass in direct opposition to my observation, producing a brilliant circular orange glow around all edges of the Moon, which must be placed in the Void in between my observation point and the fiery body. With great care, the angularity of this occurrence could be measured . . ."

Many more pages of dizzying calculations follow.

“. . . appears to be a sphere roughly 10,000 ardesh in diameter, at approximately a distance of 80,000 ardesh. As you can see from the calculations, I was in great difficulty until I was forced to discard the assumption that the Known Lands are of a flat nature. Instead, they possess a curvature of their own, invisible to the eye due to great distance, but I was eventually able to calculate that the Known Lands must be the interior surface of a sphere some 1500 ardesh across, although this may be in error depending on the thickness of ground that forms the outer surface of this sphere.”

Study of the Void

“While making my many observations of the Moon, detailed in the previous volume of this series, I became interested in the exact nature of the substance through which the Moon, the Fiery Body, and the Known Lands appear to travel. However, observations of this substance proved all-but-impossible to obtain, as neither myself nor Isserlial is able to travel past the ring of the planes, which act, not as a supporting structure as is commonly supposed, but as a sort of barrier to transit that even planar creatures cannot overcome.”

Many pages of notes on attempts to bypass the Planar Ring follow, including entirely new transportation spells passing through every known plane and some, you suspect, the author may have made up. All failed.

“Finally, out of desperation, I hit upon the idea of attempting to seize or grasp a portion of the Void and bring it into a specially-constructed chamber within my laboratory for study. I am embarrassed at how long this possibility took to occur to me, but in my defense this sort of conjuration is nearly unknown to the arcane world, which mostly seeks to draw conscious or even intelligent creatures that can assist in bridging the gap out of their own will or with magical suasion. Such conjuration will require a new avenue of experimental efforts . . .”

Many more pages of experiments until the author devises an extremely complex ritual spell that allows the caster to reach out and transport a body of substance from an extremely distant location to the author’s location.

“Being cautious, I devised a force enclosure that could be emptied of all substance and have measuring sensors included within . . .”

A lengthy description of this enclosure follows.

“At first appeared to be entirely a failure, as no substance of any kind was registered by my sensors. However, further attempts eventually yielded occasional grains of rock and ice which I was able to analyze, and the presence of very large amounts of energy. I was very glad, then, for what may be described as the overbuilt nature of my enclosure, as these spicules of celestial dust were moving at an utterly fantastic velocity and without the barrier of pure force, would certainly have destroyed my laboratory and all of its contents, including myself.”

“Conclude that the Void is, in fact, exactly that, a region of near-emptiness that will almost instantly destroy any unshielded creature entering it. Since this appears to be impossible to accomplish, anyway, I do not know whether to be disappointed at this discovery or not. I have posited some devices that may be capable of providing such shielding, but, of course, I cannot know their efficacy for certain.”

Many pages of designs for a “Void Ship” follow.

“. . . now know of the existence of small objects within the void, moving at great velocity, I was able to observe some of them colliding with the Moon. I was expecting a blast of some kind, but instead the object seemed to catch fire. Most were entirely annihilated. I hope, someday, to witness a larger object impact, but I do not know when or even if this may occur. However, should I wish to traverse the void in my ship, it must have sufficient protection against the fires to allow it to reach the surface of the Moon intact.”

Soul Slavery

Unilke the previous books, this is not a technical volume but a personal journal. Sections of it seem to have been removed, but the parts that remain give an account of the author’s meeting and developing friendship with an extraplanar creature known as Isserlial. Most of it is simple trivia, but then the writing takes a sudden turn:

“. . . becoming convinced that Isserlial is deliberately sabotaging my researches into these celestial subjects, for reasons I cannot begin to guess at. Many times, when I was on the verge of an important breakthrough, I would discover critical notes lost or experience the failure of my equipment in a way that, at the time, seemed inexplicable . . .”

“. . . confronted Isserlial today about its behavior, but it simply seemed baffled at my accusations. Of course it was merely assisting me in my researches. I almost believed it, but for having witnessed through my sensors the creature creating a flaw in my shielding device that would have doubtless led to my death only moments after the confrontation. Enraged and horrified, I placed Isserlial in a holding cell while I repaired my equipment.”

“. . . does not even seem aware of its own actions. Even on telepathic exploration, no evidence of the crimes could be discovered, even though I witnessed them directly. This can only be the result of some extraneous, forcible control of my friend’s actions, but the source of that control continues to elude me.”

“The purpose is clearly to prevent me from continuing the line of my research, as Isserlial retains full control of its behavior and intellect at all other times. However, being discovered seems to have made the poor creature increasingly violent and desperate in its attempts to stop my further advance. Someone or some thing very clearly wants to prevent me from learning whatever I may learn, an occurrence that only makes me more determined to learn it. Invaluable though its assistance has been, I have decided to dismiss Isserlial back to its plane of origin and continue on alone.”

“My distress cannot be described, as Isserlial was found among my notes today, destroying them with reckless abandon. How it was able to return, unaided, to the Known Lands is a mystery to me . . .”

“The control being exercised here has nothing to do with body or mind, and cannot be detected in any arcane way. It pertains only to the murky realm of the soul, which only the gods are believed to have power over.”

“I survived the attack of the gnomish warlocks only by pure luck and the fact that Isserlial was present. My magical shielding alerted me in time to blunt the main thrust of their attack and escape. I have left Elfhome for fear that I am too easy to find there, but I have learned that whatever power keeps Isserlial in its grip also works upon warlocks, leading me to suspect it is of Wyrmish origin. I have determined both to conclude my research and to hide it from discovery in such a way that it may be of use to someone attempting to follow my path and in danger of their lives from unknown assailants acting through creatures that may appear utterly innocent.”

Beneath the Ice

“. . . come to this desolate expanse because the most ancient information on the creation of the world seems to be preserved here. Many ancient and monstrous creatures are frozen within, but my Orc guide insists there is a path beneath where even more wondrous phenomenae may be witnessed.”

“Forced, at last, to use magic to enter what I detect is a cavern of some sort far beneath the icewall. My guide insists that this is too dangerous to contemplate, but I am determined, as I seek answers to the forces that have driven me from my home and seem inextricably tied with the origins of the world.”

“Discovered much ancient macihinery, working away without any apparent direction from any creature. The monsters in the ice are not, as everyone seems to believe, trapped there, but are actively being grown, a process directed by machinery too vast and complex for me to begin to understand. The magic used here is so complex and many-layered that I can hardly begin to unravel it, but perhaps, in time, . . .”

“. . . attacked by monsters from within the ice as I sought to study the magics. I was forced to flee for my life, but not before I succeeded in liberating a mechanical construct that I believe will enable me to continue my studies elsewhere. However, a laboratory must be the uttermost secret and utterly impregnable if I am to continue this line of study to its end.”

“The construct is missing some vital piece enabling it to function, and my efforts to supply the lack have been in vain. Should I attempt to obtain another? It could very well be lethal this time. I will study best how to do battle with the creatures I am certain to face should I return.”

Elemental Dragons

This volume is an in-depth account of the author’s studies of draconic creatures, their strengths, their weaknesses, and the best ways to defeat them.

“As I may perish in this attempt, I am leaving my notebooks at the Royal Archives with a spell that will render them concealed from any attempt at discovery except by one who has been forced to tread the same path and do battle with the Wyrms that seem to be the only true rulers of these lands. May my efforts be of some use to them, should this prove the end of my life.”

Elf Culture

Soulstones Jennifer