For a long time, I railed against the inclusion of elves in any of my fantasy works. The worlds I created were big and weird enough without a them jumping into the mix. Not that I don’t love my elven characters, because if you tell me there’s an elf in the story, I’m very likely to get my nose out of whatever book I’m currently reading to check it out (more so with dragons).
I guess it was inevitable that they’d appear, but I still wanted to avoid the long-living godlike beings as it really doesn’t fit in with my worldbuilding. Instead, I got… Well, it’s more fun for me if I let my hedgewitch, Katarina, explain how she sees elves stacking up against humans…
Little is known of the land from which elves originated, even the natives of Heimat, people who are far removed from the Udynea Empire and their toxic environment, and those who still live according to the nomadic practice of their wandering forebears have fragments of their past. Beyond these clans, there is little concern expressed with this cultural gap in their heritage. This disinterest is almost unanimous, but admitted only if pressed.
Much of the tangible facts can be found in the Udynea Empire and their old slave records. These state that the elves arrived en masse in vast ships—vessels that, reputedly, carried several thousand each and were sadly dismantled on site for their wood—on the shores of what is now Obuzan. Of course, this was some centuries back, when the current empire was but a third of its size. If the question of how these people managed the journey or why was ever asked of them, then such information is lost save a few scattered clans speaking of a great terror.
Having landed on land that freely exploits its own, much of the elven population wound up in slavery. Those who escaped, whether through the initial catch or later, fled to form Heimat. Those who live there are, to this day, suspicious to overtures made by outsiders, human or dwarf. They trade via the nomadic clans who wander between this elven country and the place of their original berth, wildly skirting the Udynean border in the process.
The elven language did manage to survive the initial meeting of humans, although it has suffered greatly. Beyond the population of Heimat and most of the nomadic clans, finding an elf capable of understanding the tongue of their ancestors is incredibly rare.
Whilst relations between human and elf are more common than between elf and dwarf—this being rather due to the spread of both races across the continent than any avoidance by either party—there is a common human bias towards elves. Few gain notable status and are far likelier to be the target of bigotry. The degree of this alienation is, largely, dependent on the country. Where one elf might suffer harsh looks and the occasional slur, others will be forced into lives as beggars, if not taken and sold.
It can also be gleaned from the old slave records that the diverse colouration and features of current elves came not from the addition of human blood, but were already in effect. This leads to the possibility of a continent not unlike this one that hosts only elves. But, seeing there have been no new sightings of other gigantic vessels, it must be presumed that, if the original elves were fleeing, whatever they fled from has not given chase.
Of the current elves, they have several peculiarities not seen amongst either dwarf or human. Still, as if one were to speak of humans or fellow dwarves, the point must be made that these generalities do not encompass every individual. There can, naturally, be discrepancies, more so with the addition of human (and the occasional bit of dwarven) blood.
This is, sadly, to be expected as dilution was an unfortunate fact of a relatively low starting population and the old Udynean trend of captured elves becoming pleasure slaves—a trend that disturbing rumours suggest is not dead. Given current levels of elven/human interaction, the likelihood of a 100% full-blooded elf is slim. Even so, the human population vastly outnumbers them.
If one is curious, and quite possibly suicidal, observation of the canine definition is a useful tool to denote dilution of blood. The more prominent an elf’s canines are, the more elven an elf’s blood is. Speculation leans towards the supposition that their ancestors subsisted on a meat-heavy diet.
Their rate of healing is twice that of a human’s and somewhere between a third and a quarter faster than dwarven abilities. This may be linked to a faster metabolism and is, perhaps, in direct correlation to their natural leanness.
A male elf that claims either half or more of elven ancestry is not capable of growing facial hair. In fact, hair on all elves is largely lighter than human or dwarven counterparts of similar age. Past scholars have given several theories on why; the wider accepted lean being that their ancestral climate negated the necessity of such dense hair.
Their bodies put out more heat than even the average dwarven male, this is despite being shorter than either sentient counterpart (sometimes by several feet). They likewise display a dexterity incomparable to a human of similar size. Through observation of trained warriors, it can be determined that muscle can be bulked via an intense regimen, just not to the extent of a human in the same position. However, overall stamina doesn’t seem to be vastly different to other races.
Their sight is better than that of a human’s, almost on par with dwarven vision in distance and tracking. It is not certain if their night vision is superior or whether they use their enhanced hearing to pinpoint attacks. A lesser quality is their long fingers, wherein each digit is between half to a full inch longer than those of the average human.
The ears are, of course, a rather large defining quality to an elf and often become the target of the small-minded. Observational recording suggests they are twice the length of a human’s from lobe to tip and, whilst they exhibit some flexibility, are somewhat just as rigid as human and dwarven ears. Any elven ear that is recorded as suggesting movement is likely more due to abuse of the cartilage than a natural ability.
Slicing or breaking the ear has become an all too commonly used assault in Udynea. When such an attack happens, the ear is often not completely removed, but rather just the pointed half.
Their ears have long been rumoured as extremely sensitive to the touch and most elves will allow only their partners this privilege. Whilst the elf’s reaction to such a touch is not instant arousal as in the stipulated rumours, testing done by a willing couple rather suggests that it encourages such thoughts.
It is puzzling then, why some elves choose to pierce such a sensitive organ. One much wonders if this wilful modification alters the ear’s sensation, although whether to negative or positive respects is uncertain. More research is required on this topic to fully understand this conduct.
Like humans, spellsters and their nullifying counterparts are present in all elven communities. Early records of multiple elves being subjected to infitialis leashing suggests the power a natural occurrence rather than to the introduction of human blood. There appears to be a relatively equal ratio of magically sensitive to the non-magically inclined as displayed in the overall human populous. Ratios for the nulled ones are less certain, but speculation would deem it as less owing to new understandings of circumstances leading to a nulled one’s birth.
They possess, of all things, the ability to purr. Not the occasional rumbling of a pleased dwarf or human, but a consistent thrum much similar to that of a domesticated feline. Unlike cats, who purr in all manner of situations, this phenomenon only occurs if the elf in question is content. Queries have lead to this behaviour being common knowledge amongst elf-dense populations.
Currently, only two opportunities to observe such behaviour have presented themselves (although it is noted that the human half of the above couple reports his husband often purrs in his sleep, such an observation has not been officially recorded). Suggestion of more extensive research in this factor has been reported to the coven.
And there you have it, all I know about my elves. To top it off, this started out as a list of traits that morphed itself into this little piece.
Is there any particular species (of any speculative genre, doesn’t have to be fantasy) that you’ve a certain weakness for?