Eberron: Dawn of Heroes
Many elves are regal and aloof, concerned with plans that cover the sweep of centuries, not the petty day to day affairs that occupy the thoughts of other races. A few elves are rather more down to earth: The elves of the dragonmarked houses have lived among humans and other short lived races for centuries and have adjusted their sense of time to ccommodate, and the elves of Valenar have rejected many of the old ways of their kind in order to take a more active and expansionist place in the world.
Living among short-lived, ever-changing races such as humans and halflings, the elves of the Five Nations have learned to identify themselves more by nation and culture than by race. With a blend of the long lived perspective common to other elves and the quick, adaptable nature of other races, these elves are equally capable of long-term planning and quick, decisive action. The elves of the Five Nations do not have the numbers or national unity of those from the nations of Valenar or Aerenal, yet they are the elves most commonly encountered by other races. Almost all these elves put their national identity above their racial identity; for example, an elf from Breland has more in common (at least in terms of social and philosophical views) with other citizens of Breland than he does with elves from Aerenal or Valenar. Elves associated with either of the great elf dragonmarked houses, however, identify themselves first as members of the house rather than as citizens of a particular nation or members of a specific community.
Warriors seemingly born in the saddle, the elves of Valenar have taken the first steps along their epic quest to reclaim the lands of their ancestors. Although Valenar elves do not differ physically from the elves of Aerenal, their young culture and newborn aggression make them a race unto themselves in the eyes of the other nations of Khorvaire.
Undying soldiers move through jungles filled with ancient power, zealous elves strive to be worthy of joining their valiant ancestors, and the cities of Aerenal gather might unmatched in the outside world. Even the mighty dragons of Argonessen must guess at the long-reaching plans of Aerenal’s Undying Court, and only the elves have ever stood against the combined might of the dragon legions.
Aerenal is a land of magical forests and jungles, and the land itself resonates with powerful necromantic energy. Although it holds natural resources in abundance, including the sole sources of many magical timbers such as bronzewood and densewood, Aerenal’s true strength is the abundant flow of necromantic power that gave rise to the undying soldiers that protect the realm and the undying councilors that guide it. The presence of these powerful soldiers and advisers has protected Aerenal from even the strength of the dragons, allowing Aerenal’s culture to flourish for generation after elf generation.
Lands: Magical forests tower over much of the island continent of Aerenal, resonating with the mystical energies of the land. Filled with soarwood, livewood, and other magical timbers, the forests of Aerenal ripple with necromantic energy, hiding many of the elves’ ancient secrets.
The elves of Valenar declared their own sovereignty at the end of the last war, claiming a large portion of southern Cyre. As the fractured nations of Khorvaire struggle to recover from the war that ripped the kingdom of Galifar apart, the elves of Valenar gather their strength and prepare to strike out again. The lands they hold include many ruins from the Last War and other more ancient sites from the Age of Monsters, when elves first settled the lands that are now Valenar.
Settlements: Unlike the restless tribes of the younger, more aggressive elf nation of Valenar, the elves of Aerenal build great cities made of enchanted wood and magical power. Even the smaller single-family estates of Aerenal are things of beauty, housing as many as three thousand elves and a small contingent of undying warriors. While the great cities of Aerenal attract the attention of the outside world, these smaller settlements hold the heart of the elf race. Few outsiders are permitted beyond the port city of Pylas Talaear.
The war clans of the Valenar remain in near-constant motion unless assigned to guard a specific area by the high king. These roaming clans move throughout the kingdom, launching raids when near the border of the Talenta Plains or [[Q’barra]] and moving south during foaling season. Other than the city of Taer Valaestas where High King Vadallia keeps his seat, there are few elf settlements of any size within Valenar. Small clusters of ranches form the bulk of stationary residences within the kingdom.
Power Groups: Elves have lived on the continent for more than twenty-six thousand years. For most of that time, the Undying Court has ruled with a benign and guiding hand. With a long-reaching perspective rivaling that of the greatest dragons, the Undying Court carefully directs the elves of Aerenal through machinations that might take thousands of years to unfold. The Sibling Kings, the traditional living rulers of Aerenal, rule over the daily affairs of the elves while the Undying Court shapes the destiny of the race.
Many of Valenar’s forty-five war clans vie for attention and prestige within the kingdom, but this competition is hardly noticeable in light of the elves’ continued aggression against neighboring countries. Welcomed into Valenar to help with agriculture and administrative tasks, the half-elves of House Lyrandar have a great deal of sway within the country, as do the Keepers of the Past, the most prominent religious group in Valenar.
Beliefs: Religion in Aerenal begins and ends with ancestor worship, made an ever present facet of Aerenal’s culture through the presence of the undying. These ancient creatures,the spirits of great heroes and wise loremasters, are undead-like creatures filled with positive energy from the plane of Irian, the Eternal Day. Some of these creatures have been walking among the elves of Aerenal since the first days of their settlement on the island continent, and their godlike power serves both as the inspiration for elven veneration and protection for the kingdom itself. The elves live their beliefs by remaining devoted to their families, believing that this devotion continues to sustain and strengthen the spirits of the undying.
The Tairnadal elves of Valenar and northern Aerenal have a different focus, instead seeking to emulate their giant-fighting ancestors through deed rather than through prayer and devotion. Although these aggressive warriors are now more common in Valenar than in Aerenal, their dynamic presence is shaping the world outside Aerenal and changing many peoples’ perceptions of elves. It remains unclear whether the Tairnadal and the nation of Valenar are but a new ploy in the great schemes of the undying, or if instead these young elves are acting outside the [[Undying Court’s]] influence.
The Keepers of the Past, the priesthood of the Valenar elves, maintain the memory of the great elf heroes of [[Xen’drik]]. Keepers travel with war clans to ensure they honor the great ancestors of the elves. The Keepers share increasing concern over a rapidly growing warrior cult. This cult, known as the Dalan Rae, brings the idea of ancestor worship to a fanatical extreme. Its warriors, known as the Dalan Rael (or “near dead”), believe that death in battle is but the last step to assuming the true form of a warrior, an undying spirit. These fanatical warriors seek an early death at the hands of a powerful foe, for in their eyes such a death ensures their return as powerful spirit warriors. The cult hopes to build a host of such spirit warriors to ride alongside the living champions of Valenar.
Language: The elves of Aerenal speak Elven, and most speak Common and Draconic as well. The elves of Aerenal are often reserved in their speech, concealing their emotions and true intentions behind stoic masks. With the perspective of a long-lived race guided by undying ancestors, the elves of Aerenal choose their words as carefully as they form their opinions.
Valenar elves speak Elven, but they are more aggressive and straightforward in conversation than other elves are, even on simple topics.
Relations: Most of the elves in Aerenal give little thought to the outside world, focusing instead on the goals of their isolated family groups and their families’ roles in the far- reaching plans of the undying. While this makes much of Aerenal isolationist and impenetrable to outsiders,small parts of the elf nation deal directly with the outside world. Through the port city of Pylas Talaear the elves sell their magical timber and worked wooden goods to members of other races. Because of this commerce, and the fact that the elves of Aerenal have held their island continent for ten times the length of living memory, outsiders almost universally view the elves with a healthy mix of awe and indifference. All this is changing, though, as the young elves of Tairnadal continue to migrate to the kingdom of Valenar and practice policies of aggressive expansion.
The other races view the Valenar elves as dangerous aggressors, and few doubt that the elves of Valenar will soon go on the offensive again. Although respected for their peerless cavalry troops, the elves of Valenar receive an indifferent reaction at best from members of other races. While this problem is pronounced for any large group of elves, few see one elf as a threat. Those elves traveling in the company of other races still have an easy time moving through other cultures peacefully. Lands near the borders of Valenar are rightfully suspicious of military activity, however; this makes any sort of social interaction more difficult for elves in these regions.
Dragonmarks: The elven houses of Phiarlan and Thuranni, split during the Last War, together carry the Mark of Shadow with its powers of scrying and illusion. They control the business of espionage throughout Khorvaire, but they also operate more legitimate businesses related to art and entertainment. Since the split of the houses, Phiarlan and Thuranni have become ruthless competitors as each strives for dominance in the field.