"Their architecture is unmatched by anything in the Five Nations, and the Children of the ELF have been welcoming and kind. In the shadow of their impossible tower, erected to the glory of the Gods and that of the tower within, it is hard to relate them to the stories of feral ELFs from the Great War. I cannot imagine these timid people strapping the infants to their chest and rushing into battle with blade and bow."
The Children of the ELF, less formally known as elfs, are a lithe, slender species of people. They are slightly shorter than Adinites, but extremely strong and agile, created long ago for a world with higher gravity and harsher conditions than Adin. They are adept hunters, able to leap as much as eight meters vertically and easily travel between high branches of trees. Their ears are slightly elongated and come to a point at the top, and they are able to independently turn their ears in different directions to pinpoint sounds easily. As with all the species of Adin, their coloration may vary throughout their lifetime depending on their climate, gaining or losing melanin depending on the amount of UV radiation they are exposed to from Adin's suns.
The orphaned species began life on Adin as the others did, in a small city of 240 individuals keeping to themselves and awaiting the Gods' return. The Gods taught that they were the only people on Adin, but that the world was dangerous and they should not stray far from their colony. They were taught how to hunt and grow food, and the ways of venerating the Gods. There was a small system of caves nearby, and kursu of the species were placed in this tiny Underworld to tend to the sick and preserve the dead.
Their city was located a short distance from the Extremely Low Frequency, or ELF, tower that the Gods used to see through the world. The Gods told them stories about the tower, and they felt blessed and comforted by its presence. Once the Gods left Adin, they saw the tower as a reminder of the Gods' glory and power, and revered it as Godly. Elfs would travel to the base of the tower and throw rocks against the smooth surface to feel the strange vibrations it gave off.
After a couple of years, the elfs were thriving. The population was growing steadily, and they had prepared as instructed by the Gods for the second sun, Po Tolo, as it neared on its eight-year cycle. They stored food and sought shelter in the Underworld as the solar conjunction got closer.
Po Tolo brought earthquakes and strange magnetic disturbances to Adin. The people were terrified, but as promised the Underworld kept them safe. They spent the months underground improving the caves and trying to adapt to the dim light and close quarters. They ate meat preserved with salt, they baked with the grains they had stockpiled, and fresh water came from the rocks. Once the conjunction had ended, they returned the the surface and continued to thrive.
At the time of the next conjunction eight years later, the gods had still not returned as promised. Still, the people had prepared for this once before, and packed their larger numbers into the Underworld to endure another pass of the white dwarf star. The earthquakes returned, worse than before.
As Po Tolo started to recede further away into the sky, a final earthquake hit that collapsed more than half of the caves making up the elfen Underworld. Lugal Iltani and more than a hundred of her people were killed instantly.
Upon returning to the surface, they discovered that the earthquakes had also destroyed most of their city during the conjunction. Their city destroyed and their Lugal dead, the people turned to fervent prayer for guidance from the Gods. The only remaining sign of the Gods was the nearby tower reaching into the heavens, which emitted a low, rumbling tone as the last of the tremors shook Adin.
Picking Up the Pieces
The remaining people salvaged what they could from the city and moved away from the wreckage to the foot of the ELF tower. They prayed to it, cast stones at the surface, and struck it with hammers. Apart from the resonant hum of the metal vibrating, nothing happened. Mourning their losses, the people erected crude shelters around the tower and decided what to do next.
As the days dragged on, they began to treat the camp in the shadow of the ELF tower as their home. People began to snap out of their grief and frustration, and got to work gathering food and materials. Brick by brick, shapers pulled stone from the ground and assembled a ring of new buildings against the base of the tower. A small cave was discovered nearby, and they brought the kursu from their nearby Underworld to begin expanding below. The new city started to grow out in concentric circles from the tower as the people slowly rebuilt.
Learning from the mistakes of their previous buildings and the failed reinforcements in the Underworld, they changed their methods of shaping and fusing the bricks together. They reinforced their walls with bars of metal, adding supports and other features to prevent damage from future quakes.
While their new buildings were incredibly functional, they took great care to make them beautiful as well. Different stone types were shaped together into bricks, or inlaid to create stunning mosaics. Gilded statues, columns, and domed ceilings all became standard as shapers tried to outdo each other in their new, opulent Baroque style.
The Children of the ELF
They denounced the name the Gods had given them after some faraway world they had never seen, and named themselves Children of the ELF. The city grew to a fifth ring, then a sixth. The two innermost rings were torn out and rebuilt as a temple to the ELF tower, and began to climb up the sides of the hollow metal core. Other buildings soon began to mimic the tower and were built up into spires, but never to exceed the height of the temple.
Construction soon met the demands of the population, and all of the stone shapers began to concentrate on the temple. They had decided to build a glorious shell of stone around the entire thing, reaching up to the heavens. Careful excavations were done, a segment at a time, to build rooms and reinforce around the tower below the ground as well, and connected these deep chambers with their new Underworld.
Improved lifts and pulley systems were made to pull more bricks up to the top of the temple, and it soon passed the height of the tallest trees of the forest around them. They stopped bothering with functional rooms and focused on building up spiral stairs with periodic landings, with arches that looked out over the land. A layer of stone was set against the metal core, and an outer shell interspersed with these arches was raised right along with the stairs.
Far from the ELF tower, the Udug had just finished celebrating their victory over the city of the Netillim giants. The ELF tower had always been on their horizon, but the Gods had warned them to stay away from it. The Udug had realized the Gods had misled them already, and they were naturally curious creatures anyway. Now, as they were considering sending scouts to see what the great metal pillar was really all about, they noticed the elfen temple growing day by day above the treeline.
No longer angry with the Gods, just disappointed, the Udug began marching on the ELF tower to see what fun they could have. Enslaved Netillim now carried their supplies and would fight for the Udug to keep their captive families safe.
The strategy of stealth the Udug used to wear down the Netillim did not work for them against the elfs. Workers at the top of the temple easily tracked the Netillim and the Udug's nightly camps for several days before the army arrived. This allowed the elfs ample time to prepare as the Udug marched across the land towards them. However, the elfs had never encountered another intelligent species before, and the number of Netillim spotted by the elfs was roughly the same number of fires they saw every night. They assumed that a dozen or so giants were coming, and never imagined the Udug horde that was with them.
Underestimating the Enemy
A small group of the best elfen hunters set an ambush in the forest a few leagues from the tower. They would try to determine if the giants were hostile, and expected to be able to kill or at least cripple the giants with their bows and turn them away from the tower. When the Udug army marched past them, the hunters knew they weren't able to stop the hundreds of armed attackers on their own. They gestured to each other using hand signals they used for hunting, and opened fire on the two Netillim closest to the rear of the column, thinking the giants were the obvious leaders of this force.
The Netillim screams were heard from the elf city. The Udug army exploded into chaos, trying to get at the elusive elfs firing from the trees above. The hunters fired a few more shots, killing three of the Udug that were trying to climb up after them. They then retreated, leaping through the treetops back to the city to warn them of the approaching horde.
Lugal Sherdasu screamed at his Udug until they calmed down. The two wounded Netillim were slain rather than have the kursu try to heal them. Their burdens were added to the other Netillim. Having lost the element of surprise, the Udug army marched on to the cadence of their war drums.
The Darkest Day
The Children of the ELF had no experience in fighting, apart from a small number of hunters that never faced down something that could kill them back. The children were moved into the tower and down to the Underworld, and every adult that was not kursu climbed up into the tower or leapt between their tall buildings to get a better vantage point.
The Udug walked straight down one of the hub roads of the circular city and stopped in front of the tower. The drums went silent. The elfs were overwhelmed, with more Udug standing before them than they had arrows to fire. Lugal Sherdasu called out to them in the language of their Gods, and demanded the elfen Lugal step forward. They told him their Lugal was dead, and Sherdasu laughed. Udug spread out across the city and into the Underworld, with the elfs helpless to stop them.
The elfs surrendered to the Udug without a fight. Their faith in the Gods was already shaken, and the presence of the Udug and Netillim meant they had also been misled about being the only people on Adin.
Life Under the Udug
The Udug left a small occupying force to keep the tribute flowing and ordered the elfs to continue work on their temple. They took hostages back to the Udug city as slaves or victims for their kursu to study in depth.
The Children of the ELF continued their work on the temple under Udug whips, and after two more years of labor managed to reach the top. The air was thin, and supplies of food and bricks took more than a day to be moved to the top, even with the aid of Netillim loaned to speed construction. Seventeen elfs lost their lives during the project, though it is unclear how many of these were accidents, and how many were just tossed over by the sadistic Udug watching their work.
The Continuing Udug Campaign
Once the temple was completed, Lugal Sherdasu returned to admire the work of his servants. He was carried to the top by a Netillim attendant, and surveyed his lands from the rotunda built at the peak. From this vantage point, the cunning ruler and his attendants saw signs of two more colonies they had not discovered yet.
When the elfs refused to join the Udug march to attack these other people, Sherdasu ordered the elfen children to be rounded up and taken back to the Udug city. The elfs immediately agreed to send most of their hunters along, but the Udug still took the children away, holding them hostage until after they had finished unifying the land under Sherdasu's rule.
The Great War
When the Adinites were discovered, the elfs were once again pressed into service. They were incredible scouts and had never suffered a loss during the Sherdasan wars. Distrustful of the Udug though, many elfs carried their children with them to Adin, certain this would make them safer than leaving them under Udug care.
For the first time, the Udug forces were about to tackle an opponent with greater numbers. The elfs were perfect scouts for this, as they resembled the Adinites in appearance. Though smaller in stature, with their characteristic ears hidden from sight they were able to blend in and collect valuable information about the Adinites and their capabilities.
Life After Captivity
After the Great War, the elfs were freed from Udug chains and suddenly lived in a much larger world. Their city at the ELF tower remains their home, but many of the elfs emigrated to the Five Nations of the Adinites and never looked back. There is a custom now, not adopted by all the elfs, to visit the temple at least once in their life to hear the tower sing.
The original name given to the elfs is no longer spoken. Even under the harshest torture by the Udug kursu, the only answer an elf would provide was a low-pitched hum.