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Elf

Despite the fact that elves (or Fair Ones as they are sometimes known) are among the most common of Golarion's humanoid races, they are a people in decline. Their culture peaked thousands of years ago, and they have been unable to repopulate the many places they once called home. The remaining few are largely concentrated in the wholly elven nation of Kyonin, and to a lesser extent on the island of Mordant Spire in the Steaming Sea, in the jungles of the Mwangi Expanse, and in the wilds of the nation of Varisia.

Basic Information

Biological Traits

Elves are tall, slender humanoids who are taller but more slender in build than humans. Even though their natural lifespan is measured in centuries, they also tend to be frailer than humans. Elves are often elegant in both appearance and movement, possessing of almost supernatural grace.   Their coloration varies far less than humans', with most Avistani elves being quite pale and fair-skinned, and almost none possess freckles or blemishes. Eye color is generally bright green or dark blue, sometimes ranging to nearly black, but it is their irises that differentiate them from others. These are far larger than those of other humanoids, often making it seem like they have little or no white in their eyes. This trait can make elves seem alien and unreadable to humans and dwarves. Their hair, which is typically naturally straight and healthy, is generally fair, though some possess pure white hair. Neither elven males nor females go bald, and indeed they show little in the way of discernible signs of aging. Elven ears are generally between six to nine inches in length and point backward, angling upwards slightly to end usually parallel to the crown of the head.  

Sexual dimorphism

There isn't as much sexual dimorphism in elves as in other humanoids. Males tend to be taller and broader, though rarely broader than a human male. They tend to be naturally lean and fit, with inhumanly good metabolisms. Males do not grow facial hair, or indeed much body hair at all, and have at least shoulder-length hair. Female elves are slender and willowy, considered beautiful by most. They are almost as tall as human males, though lighter of frame and weight than most human females. Their faces tend to be austere and beautiful, with high cheekbones and delicate symmetrical features.  

Personality

Elves love laughing and pulling pranks. They are quite impetuous, always seeking new experiences, sometimes to the detriment of their own well-being. Some believe them to be thoughtless and callous, but this is not the case; they value friendship highly and make friends easily. These friendships often turn romantic, whether they be with their own kind or with others.   Most other races believe that elves are content to live out their lives in quiet contemplation in the same place they were born. Even though this is true for some, there are many others who naturally develop wanderlust and a wish to see the world and all of its differences.  

Dress

Elves maintain an otherworldly beauty, and whether found in their magnificent wilderness communities or cosmopolitan civilizations, are often well-dressed or even glamorous.

Civilization and Culture

Major Language Groups and Dialects

Elves speak Elven but have learned that being fluent in Taldane is quite useful. Elven is believed to be among the eldest, if not the eldest of the languages mortals speak on Golarion. Scholars conjecture that it was formed when elven speakers of Sylvan tried to introduce grammatical rules and vocabulary from both Celestial and Draconic. The elven alphabet contains 33 letters (24 consonants and nine vowels). It is a complex language but sounds poetic in tone and cadence.

Culture and Cultural Heritage

Professions

Elves are renowned for their beautiful artwork and crafts, and excel as tailors, herbalists, spice traders, perfumers, artists, cartographers, and beauticians. Most elves who live in non-elven communities earn their living as artisans.  

Religion

Although elves will worship any deity that strikes their fancy, the large majority worship the goddesses Calistria and Desna, and to a lesser extent, Nethys, Shelyn, or even more rarely, the various empyreal lords. They tend to have a less formal relationship with the divine, seeing the gods as general inspiration and are not tied down with the particulars of dogma. This does not mean that they are casual in their devotion, however: religious elves are just as passionate as any of the other major races of the Inner Sea region. Pharasma is a popular goddess among the forlorn (see below), most likely because of the number of deaths they witness during their long life among the shorter-lived races. The Mordant Spire elves also revere Gozreh, the deity of the sea and sky.  

Elven deities

In addition to the worship of the major deities, elves also have a number of minor elven gods who are almost only worshiped by their own kind. These include Alseta goddess of transitions and the magical elf gates, Findeladlara, the goddess of art and architecture, Ketephys, the god of the hunt, and Yuelral the Wise, goddess of crafting and magic.  

Burial customs

Most elves prefer to be buried in natural surroundings, such as being mummified in a bog or interred in a still forest beneath a small sapling. Because death among the elves is such a long-expected if an inevitable event, others prefer to elevate their death by being laid to rest in a stone tomb where others can remember them for all eternity.  

The Brightness

Elves believe that their current life is but one in a series and that upon death they are reincarnated as another creature. Their ultimate goal is to be reborn as a natural creature of the wild. In pursuit of this, they believe that they must find or follow the Brightness, signs, and portents which lead them to live a life leading them to their higher destiny.  

The Forlorn

While elves can be found not only in their own communities, such as the Mordant Spire and Kyonin but throughout the rest of the world, there are distinct differences between elves raised among their kind and those who grow to adulthood in non-elven communities. Life among shorter-lived races makes these elves aware of others' mortality in a way that is foreign to their more isolated kin, and the resulting melancholy outlook has given them their moniker: the Forlorn. Their lack of laughter and joy finds outlets in darker pursuits, such as trickery, cynicism, anger, and even brutality. Forlorn are generally pitied and looked down upon by other elves, who believe them to be emotionally scarred. Because of their lack of connection with their own kind, Forlorn elves tend to form much stronger friendships. A large portion of adventuring elves are in this group.

History

Early history

  The history of the elves is an ancient one. Elven historians debate whether their race originated on Golarion or on Sovyrian, a continent in southern Castrovel, but archaeological evidence points to El, the oldest city on Sovyrian, to be far older than any evidence of elves on Golarion; they likely emigrated from Castrovel to Golarion in the late Age of Serpents and had no contact with the declining serpentfolk empire that had once ruled a large part of Golarion. Their civilization on Golarion reached its peak during the Age of Legend, long before their human cousins founded their first settled communities. Little evidence remains of this prehistoric elven presence, although it is clear that they were among the first civilization to rise on Golarion. Early expansionist human cultures soon came into conflict with the elves in their reach to grasp ever more of the world. The elves knew that they would ultimately have to cede much of the world to humans, given the low elven birth rate, and so the elves turned their attention away from Golarion and focused on exploring the other nearby planets, traveling across vast distances through a series of interplanetary gates (known as elf gates).   When their diviners and astronomers discovered that Earthfall would soon destroy Golarion, they departed through these gates to their mysterious legendary homeland of Sovyrian, where they remained in isolation for thousands of years.  

Evolution of the drow

While most of their number were spared the turmoil of the Age of Darkness, those that remained on Golarion were not so lucky. These elves, seeking refuge from the horrors of the planet's surface, receded into the depths of the earth, establishing settlements there. Unbeknownst to them, this decision would alter them forever, and not positively. Over time the underground elves developed ember-black skin and sable-white hair and became corrupted by the powerful evils lurking in the darkness. The newly-formed drow, meaning "accursed," ruled the Darklands, gaining dominance over lesser races such as dero, duergar, troglodytes and worse, becoming one of the most powerful races in the world, even if they hid themselves from their above-ground rivals.    

The elves' return

In 2632 AR, elves began their return from Sovyrian, somehow sensing that their old human enemies had grown out of their barbaric origins and that the two races could share the world. Many of the elves' ancient holdings were reclaimed, causing tumult with human warlords who did not recognize their claims of ownership on these lands. More than just human inheritors posed problems for the elves, as they soon learned of their drow brethren. Beneath the Varisian city of Celwynvian in the Mierani Forest the elves confronted the drow, and fearing them, abandoned the city, collapsing the tunnels beneath is in the process. Many of these elves traveled across Avistan to the ancient kingdom of Kyonin, while others sailed west to the island chains off the Varisian coast, where they raised the Mordant Spire on the edge of the known world.

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