"We are the last of the elvhenan, and never again shall we submit." -Gisharel
The elvhenan, also called forest elves, wood elves, wild elves, sylvan elves, and kagonesti, are nomadic wild fey that seek to recover, inherit and preserve the knowledge and sacred treasures of the unraveled Feywild. They lead nomadic lives, wandering throughout the Mortal Realm. Their tribes date back to the children of Cylia, and the Elves themselves are their descendants. They consider themselves to have the "purest" blood from the Feywild. They still revere the Seldarine, and in a ritual to commemorate reaching adulthood each member of a tribe will tattoo their faces with vallaslin, or blood writing.
The Elves travel around the more remote reaches of the Mortal Realm in aravels, special wagons with large triangular sails and rudder-like devices on the back. In addition to being pulled by Halla and Harts, aravels use magic to move through the forests quickly and easily. The Elves are familiar with many natural remedies humans have forgotten or ignored.
The Elves’ version of marriage is referred to as “bonding.” Roles among each tribe are stringent and clearly defined. A keeper serves as a leader and spiritual guide, and working in tandem with them is a hahren, who reiterates the Elven lore and tends to the children. Other important positions are being the designated warleader, hearthmistress and crafter. There is also a designated Halla Keeper. Elves can also be hunters, called Sylvan Rangers. Each position has an apprenticeship stage, an example being how an elf must kill and present a beast of the forest all by themselves to become a fully-fledged hunter.
Along with their telltale aravels, the Elves are also known for being the only race capable of forging ironbark, a unique substance stronger and lighter than steel, used to make their weapons and certain other items of clothing. For a typical hunter's armor, ironbark plates are combined with leather, and the material can be enchanted. For weapons, Elves use daggers, arrows and nets. Ironbark weapons, along with carved halla horns, are highly valued and are used to trade with humans for things they cannot make on their own.
Elves tend to keep to their own and avoid humans whenever they can, but will occasionally encounter human travelers, or venture near human settlements to trade. At the threat of these encounters becoming violent, a tribe will likely withdraw before any real force of humans gets involved, but they will often still be willing to stand their ground. In the long run, hostilities with humans will likely end badly for the elves, especially if a human settlement decides that a certain tribe has become more trouble than it is worth. The tribes themselves can also be quite different from each other. Some tribes will get along fairly well with humans, and might even camp outside of settlements for long periods of time. Other tribes are more infamous, living by banditry and hiding like guerrillas in the mountain passes.
When Elves die, their tribe will bury them and plant a tree over their remains. The dead are provided with an oak staff to help them along the path of the afterlife, and a cedar branch to scatter the birds of fear and deceit. If a tribe is able to, they will bury their dead in a sacred burial site known as Var Bellanaris, which is located in Eternia.
Elves have an oral tradition in which much of their knowledge and tradition is passed along, but never actually written down. Hahrens instruct through the use of lore and storytelling. However, there are some books to preserve history, few and precious. Children are highly valued among the tribes. Tribes rarely encounter each other in order to protect themselves; their diaspora is as much of a blessing as is a curse. Only once every decade or so do the Elves tribes all meet together, and their keepers, the elders and leaders who are responsible in keeping elven lore and magic alive, will meet together and exchange knowledge in a meeting called the Arlathvhen.
During such a time, the tribes will recall and record any lore they have re-learned since the past meeting, along with reiterating what lore they know already to keep their traditions as accurate and alive as possible. Also at this time, the tribes will exchange relics dating from the Feywild for safekeeping. The Elves believe that all the relics they've preserved belong to all the Elves; such trades are seen as much of an act of sharing as it is a matter of trade, and the same is true even for talented elves. A tribe's “First," an apprentice mage under a Keeper, studies history and magic and attempts to preserve elven lore. These mages can be shuffled around to other tribes that are desperate for mages.
A rite of passage for hunters is to bring back the pelt of a creature the hunter has killed. Many Elves live by the code known as the Vir Tanadhal, meaning Way of Three Trees or the Ways of the Hunter. It is made of three parts, which are Vir Assan, or Way of the Arrow: “fly straight and do not waver. Be swift and silent. Strike true, do not waver. And let not your prey suffer." Vir Bor'Assan, or Way of the Bow: “bend but never break. As the sapling bends, so must you. In yielding, find resilience; in pliancy, find strength." And Vir Adahlen, Way of the Forest, or Way of the Wood: “together we are stronger than the one. Receive the gifts of the hunt with mindfulness. Respect the sacrifice of your prey. Know that your passing shall nourish them in turn." The three parts of the philosophy are often strung together as a sort of mantra, which the Elves will often end with the phrase: "We are the last of the elvhenan, and never again shall we submit."
Seldom spoken of, however, is a fourth way. The Vir Banal'ras, meaning Way of Shadow. Elf hunters assume it when a debt of blood must be repaid. Such hunters dedicate themselves to vengeance and nothing else. Thus the stories of Elf assassins have a modicum of truth to them. A few follow a different path, another code known as Vir Atish'an, meaning The Way of Peace. Elves following this calling learn the arts of the healer and the mender.
Second Era Edit
Cylia was a shaman of the wild fey plagued by dreams. She was the last animist, and she was the only one to still have visions. During the Unraveling, she tried to stop the end of the world. Although she was blinded by it, Cylia managed to cast pieces of the feywild to the mortal realm, which formed the island continent of Eternia, and saved many of her people. As a consequence of her actions, she gained connections with the land and to the spirits. These connections were passed on to all of her descendants, and that is why some call the elvhenan 'Cylian Elves.'
Third Era Edit
The cylian elf descendants later divided into many separate tribes - Joraga, Kazandu, Mul Daya, and Tajuru are the largest - and scattered to the four corners of the mortal realm. The Joraga tribe did not go far, choosing to wander the Lost Forest in the Kingdom of Eternia. The Kazandu tribe split off from the Tajuru tribe, and journeyed to make their home in the Morkrut in the Kingdom of Avathar. Meanwhile, the Mul Daya tribe settled in Somberwald, in the Kingdom of Istan, and the Tajuru tribe roam through Wittal near Estwald, in the Kingdom of Kryta. Smaller tribes of elves can be found in forests all over the world, such as the sidhelien tribe of the Elirgut Wood in the Inchorri Kingdoms.