To believe the humans - any human, in fact - is owed anything other than kind words is a sign our people have fallen far from their ideals. I bear them no malice, but I will give them no love either. The world is not ready, and they are not ready. It was not so long ago they served the dragons and giants as willing pawns! No. It falls to us to rule, it falls to us to rise to the challenge before us, and we would be fools to step aside and let any lesser people have a chance to claim primacy! If this Council agrees to this measure, then we shall no longer abide by the Council's decisions.
OverviewLong ago, in the ages before the Rhyliss Empire, the elves held sway over much of Erisdaire. After the chaos following the wars between Titans and dragons, they followed the guidance of the Samerine to prosperity. Yet there were dissidents who wished to remove the Samerine and stirring up a new round of wars on the "lesser peoples of the world". These forces had been gathering allies and support for many generations, and when one considers this means elven generations the amount of time laying the foundation for this assault must have been considerable.
Several kingdoms of humans which had been neighbors to the Alodel region thus were convinced to strike in concert along the frontier fortifications. Furthermore, some of the rebels stirred up the gnoll and goblin tribes on the eastern frontier to keep attention divided. Lastly, the rebels were mindful at the rumored presence of a dragon acting as defender for the capital. Thus they made an agreement with Malsheril, the Crimson Death, promising great treasures from the vault should the dragon perform one simple task: draw off any opposing dragon, or otherwise destroy the defenders in the capital. It took many years of negotiating the finer details before a deal was struck. Only then was the last piece prepared for the day.
But to understand just how this had come to pass, it is necessary to understand the two forces at play: the rebellion, and the Samerine's faithful.
The architects of the Fall were numerous, ancient, and - above all else - patient. They knew there would be only one chance to enact their plan, and that meant the short-lived peoples of the world could only do so much for the cause. We, too, have a share in the blame. Compromise was impossible, we thought. It was unthinkable to behave with such arrogance to try to rule the world, when the dragons failed to do so. By the end of that day, we would understand what our arrogance bought us.
The RebellionDeep in history, there was a time when the elves stood on Erisdaire and realized the dragons and giants had ceased their great war of extermination against each other. What remained needed to be restored, it needed to be tended, and it needed a firm hand to do so. Powerful families among the elves soon took up the cause, always intending to take the reins of the world from the elders who had mishandled it. But with so many people involved, disagreements were bound to occur.
It started peacefully enough, with quiet dissent amidst a circle of equals. A council formed to meet and discuss the state of the world and how to best work to tend it. Some thought merely 'tending' was not enough, and the world needed to be treated as a garden rife with weeds. These latter sentiments soon became louder in council, until peaceful disagreement became a troubling divide. At last, when the decision was made to gift a portion of cleansed lands to allied humans, the "Dissenters" issued an ultimatum.
Thus did the Dissenters stake their claim on history. After the vote went in favor of the motion, the Dissenters pleaded to those who had voted with them to see reason. In total, fifteen noble houses chose to pull their support from the council and then leave the elven lands. They traveled into the Faeweald, and none were quite sure of what became of them. The truth was simpler, as the Dissenters chose to watch with the expectation the elves left behind would fail and require aid to stand tall and powerful again. The emergence of the Samerine changed the course of events, and the Dissenters went from observers to active enemies.
Plans were made, checked, and adapted over many centuries to outsmart, overpower, or simply get around the defenses of the capital. Then, to be absolutely certain the defenses would be occupied a number of gnoll and goblin tribes were promised rewards should they assist. Denizens of the Faeweald who objected to the presence of elves making order out of chaos were asked to assist, in exchange for various boons and oaths. A dragon known to covet the prizes in the elven treasury was also approached, and a deal arranged. Lastly, to be sure the Dissenters could claim complete success they had trained an assassin from among the humans given land so long ago. In doing this, the Dissenters could claim they had been correct in their assessment... and the humans must be brought back to heel. And so the stage was set...
Malsheril, the Crimson DeathThe great red dragon Malsheril was known as a foe to be reckoned with, being merciless to enemies and quite good at understanding what he was up against. Among dragons, he was one of the few who managed to destroy a Titan in combat. However, the elves were able to chip away at his territory until he retained only a tall peak known then as 'The Dragon's Domain' to the elves. Few sought to challenge Malsheril for the mountain, mostly because there was nothing left there of interest.
The Dissidents had a difficult time convincing Malsheril to join their cause, until they mentioned the presence of another dragon at the capital. They could not verify exactly who this dragon was, but Malsheril did not care. The negotiations were still quite difficult, but finally the red dragon was offered a selection of any one item from the treasurey. Malsheril already had an object in mind, but he made the negotiations drawn out in order to learn more about his would-be-allies. It was not until he satisfied himself with their lack of threat to him individually, the dragon agreed to the terms of the negotiation.
The LoyalistsThose elves who remained slowly began to close ranks, nervous of any Dissenters hiding among their number. Suspicion and fear drove the elves to lose faith in each other, as the Loyalist house focused on gathering power to themselves. Nobles entered into rivalries and vendettas openly, while commoners were often left to make their own way. The Samerine's arrival changed this slightly, as she convinced many of the houses to put aside their feuds and work together. The commoners who had become self-reliant were allowed extra latitude, with some families among them given seats on the Council. These acts helped secure loyalty to the Samerine and her leadership.
At the time the Fall was happening, the bulk of the Loyalist forces were out of the capital. The number of smaller frontier conflicts had multipled beyond their ability to handle, and the only defenders left were small groups of bodyguards for the House leaders. Despite the small number, these warriors had exceptional training and equipment, and thus would be one of the reasons the Fall took almost a full day from initial skirmish to its final end. In addition to this, there were diplomatic delegations belonging to other realms which were present for various reasons. Most of these opted to join the fray without second thought, and those who did not immediately fight chose instead to create areas where noncombatants were protected, or the injured could be mended.
Ruari Auricama, the Dragon SageUnknown to the Dissenters, the dragon working with the Samerine was one who had long been helping the elves. For many centuries, Ruari Auricama had been learning about the elves' connections to the Faeweald while helping improve their understanding of arcane magic. At the time of the Fall, he had come to the capital to discuss the Tree of Knowledge. Specifically, he requested a seed or cutting to grow another one - in the interests of helping others make use of its divine potential. The Loyalist Houses were balking on this, as they still were wary of what plans a dragon might have in mind.
Ruari was no fool, and was very much aware of what skepticism his kindred had caused in others. He had come alone, offering "knowledge for knowledge" - the bargain was to exchange the understanding of working adamantine. He had even brought samples of the ore and refined metal, to demonstrate what the elves could do with such material. So it came to pass Ruari was addressing the Council when the Fall came.
The Day of Fire
We did not expect anyone would be so bold as to attack the capital. Not until the border sentries' reports failed to reach the Council chamber. By then it was too late, the dragon had come...
The First ClashesOnce the border skirmishes had reached an intensity the Dissenters thought would be suitable, they quietly dropped the entry wards. It did not take long for both the guards of the capital gates to realize there were Dissenters hiding inside the city, and for Malsheril to give them a bigger problem to worry about. Ruari joined the battle with a righteous fury, almost ending Malsheril's involvement in one minute of claws and fangs. The two then were dueling in the skies above, with fire and magic, with the battle below falling to the rest.
The battles between the Dissenter and Loyalist factions was fierce, with dragonfire preventing easy passage through the city. Civilians were not considered as a target, but the flames were not very discerning about who they harmed or which buildings were set ablaze. Collateral damage was swiftly turning the whole city into a battleground, yet the defenders of the Inner City were able to keep the Samerine and Council safe for several hours.
This was why the Dissenters had made pacts with several allies, to make use of their talents. Some denizens of the Faeweald had taken on many aspects of elves in order to fight against them, being known to scholars in later years as 'Dark Elves'. These denizens could utilize their connection to the Faeweald to bypass many wards the Loyalists had set up, and so they breached the Inner City quickly. With them were shapeshifters, commonly known as 'lycanthropes', eager to see the city fall. It was necessary to employ enchanted weapons or raw magic to fight back, and the Loyalists had never quite embraced the idea of arcane magic as an offensive tool. Thus the Autumn Gates came under attack, and defenders could no longer maintain the defenses in the rest of the city.
Battle at the Autumn GatesAs the fighting proceeded into the heart of the city, the Dawn Quarter, Loyalist forces had been fighting for almost ten hours. Attrition had reduced their numbers, but lifecrafters had been hard at work bolstering what remained. Dissidents were also significantly reduced in number, and had changed their tactics to prevent reinforcements from reaching the Dawn Quarter. But the worst was yet to come - Malsheril had seen the fighting break the defenses and saw his own goal before him. He broke from his duel with Ruari and dove to set the Tree of Knowledge ablaze, suffering grievous wounds in the process. Ruari was outraged, and abandoned all concern of mercy on his foe or the safety of others. Elves had never before seen dragons fight with all their being, and the survivors of the Fall claim they never wish to see it again.
At this, many Loyalists felt their hopes for the future die - yet they refused to give any more ground. Instead of embracing despair as had been hoped, they chose resolve instead. Any citizen who could fight picked up a weapon from the fallen, and they managed to regain control of the city's entries. The Dissenters no longer had an escape, and thus many realized it was a matter of how much damage they could do before they were finally defeated. Ruari and Malsheril took their duel elsewhere, the red dragon attempting to disengage while Ruari refused to allow his enemy to escape. The Dissenters were putting their efforts into reaching the Council, while there were other plans to deal with their other major goal.
The AssassinsAmidst the chaotic ebb and flow of battle, the Loyalists had come to believe the Dissenters only interested in destroying the Council. In truth, the Dissenters were attempting to distract the defenders from the last possible victory they could acquire now: killing the Samerine herself. This had always been a goal, but one to worry about after the battle had been won. Now it was the only hope for achieving any goals the Dissidents started this war for. The Tree of Knowledge was a pile of smoldering wood and ash, and too much damage had been done to the capital for it to be useful for many centuries. The death of the Samerine was the only thing which remained to be done.
A small group of human assassins had been quietly working through the edges of the fighting, avoiding contact when possible and dispatching their enemies quickly when they had to. They had been contacted for the singular purpose of murder, and had been promised a most valuable prize for their trouble: jewels and jewelry from the Samerine's regalia. To carry out their task, they were given a special dagger made of mithril and wrapped in lethal magic. The leader of the assassins did not trust magic, and thus also treated the blade with a swift-acting paralytic. They did not want to risk mere magic not being capable of the task, nor the idea of poison being insufficient. Thus both would be used.
As the Samerine's bodyguard were drawn away to fight the advance of the Dissidents, the assassins were able to gain access to her chambers. Only a handful had survived the journey, but it was quite enough to finish their task. All Loyalists and Dissidents were aware of the Samerine's death cry, wailing over the capital. The fighting paused briefly before the two sides returned to fighting with the fierce focus of those with nothing left to lose. The Dissidents no longer needed to survive, as the Loyalists had lost everything they had been trying to protect. Reportedly, none of the assassins who were present for the Samerine's death escaped the palace. No Dissidents escaped the capital after this point, and no prisoners were taken. The whole battle did not last from dawn of one day to the dawn of the next, but the world had forever been changed.
The Break of Dawn
For us, the losses of that day were not merely in people or buildings. The very soul of the people was lost, snuffed out brutally by those who could not stand being... unimportant. Their arrogance ensured none of us could ever reach the heights we once had as a people. But not even they can claim victory, only mourn what could have been.In the aftermath of the battle, there were many weeks of trying to assess the death toll and damages in the capital alone. It took almost a year for the whole scope of events to come to light, with several border settlements having completely been destroyed. Between the Loyalists and Dissidents, almost seventy percent of those in the capital perished. Only a half-dozen noble houses still could claim to have a leader and enough members to be active, while others would survive in name only. House Amerastacia, long held in great esteem by both sides for their devotion to the elven ideal, who had seen the end of the dragons' hold on Erisdaire, had been slaughtered to all but one individual. Incredible works of artwork, buildings holding the sum of all lessons from the Tree of Knowledge, cultural icons which resonated to the core of elven society, all had been lost to the fires of war and dragons.
The Loyalist survivors rebuilt the Dawn District as a shrine for the fallen Samerine, before the ruin was quietly abandoned as a city. The body of the Samerine was preserved by lifecrafters, and taken to a location which would become the new heart of elven culture. They sundered completely as a people, with 'high elves' choosing to safeguard memories of what they once were, and 'wild elves' choosing to devote themselves to protecting the wild. The high elves retreated to cities which straddled the boundaries between Erisdaire and the Faeweald, largely withdrawing from being an active force in Erisdaire's development. The wild elves sought out places which reminded them of what they had fought for during the early stages of the Fall, and chose those places to serve as their new homes.
The Dissidents are reported to have all perished in the Fall, but there are always rumors of small clusters who are now coteries seeking to continue a battle against their brothers and sisters. Their allies remain as bitter enemies for elvenkind, with goblinoids and gnolls being marked by wild elves for extermination for their part in the Fall. Humans are not seen as particularly trustworthy, even though the majority of elves understand the participants are long since dead and their cultures buried. Relations with dragons have suffered similarly, as they are no longer permitted to enter elven cities and only begrudgingly allowed to enter elven territories. Even dragons who could claim to be allies are kept at arm's length, with that arm holding a sword just as a reminder of how hard it is to keep the elves' trust.
The ancient dragons Ruari and Malsheril both are treated as enemies of elvenkind for their part, as the devastation of the capital could not have been as dire as it was without their part in matters. Reportedly, Malsheril took this as a challenge to burn out elves wherever he finds them. Ruari sent a token of apology which was accepted, but has since accepted the need to distance himself from any further official contact.
And most importantly, the Fall introduced a power vacuum on Erisdaire which needed to be filled... and it was, in time. The humans the Dissidents were so dismissive of saw the opportunity to take hold of the course of history, and it may be said they have kept that grip ever since.