The elves are a people apart, as they are quick to remind
others. They were not the first settlers of the forests and
fields, but they taught humans and dwarves and others
the arts arcane and the art of civilization. The empire they
founded at Thorn and in the Arbonesse, which later spread
as far east as Sephaya and south to Valera, was a wonder for
the ages. Its magical roads, its slim towers, and its speedy
and lethal armies maintained an age of peace that lasted
until a few centuries ago.
Now the elves are in retreat, and a splintered race. A few with mixed elven/human blood—the so-called elfmarked, who are dealt with in their own section— remain and can claim descent from the great elves of old, despite being as much human as elf. True elves are rarely seen, and are confined to three groups: the windrunner elves of the Rothenian steppes, who are so few in number and so reclusive that they may as well be myth; the shadow fey of the Realm of Shadow, who are discussed separately below; and the reclusive river elves of the Arbonesse, who are the strongest and wisest of the three groups.
On Elven NamesA true elf of the Arbonesse lineage has three names. The first is a birth name given by parents, the second is a common name adopted by the elf upon maturity, and the last is a lineage name, akin to a family name among the humans but taken from a list of a few hundred great heroes of the Elﬂands known as the Wild Hunt, who harrowed the demons back to their hells. The most common lineage names include Aynwyn, Sheoloss, Kalthania, Derina, Dammung, Rexthathus, and Larentil. Elves with the same lineage name might not be related at all, which leads to confusion among humans. Elves reveal their birth names to their own kind and trusted friends, and their common name to all others.
The Imperatrix was born Regia Kalthania, and took the name Moonthorn when she first adventured among the primitives. When she married she added her husband’s name Reln according to human custom, and upon her ascension to a noble state she took the vann Dornig title. Not all elves in Midgard maintain this tradition. The windrunner elves (whom the exiles of Arbonesse say were lower classes of Sephaya who ignored the Last Horn) adopt the naming conventions of the plains, and forget their lineages.
By Dornig law, only individuals with a clear elven heritage can take an elven lineage name. There is a brisk trade among up-and-coming gentry for genealogists who can provide such a link.
Elven Ritual MagicThe elves have powerful forms of ritual magic, and traditions that hand those rituals down to their descendants, and sometimes to the elfmarked.
Dead Courts and Abandoned HoldingsMidgard’s elves hold family and city dear, but its nobles traditionally organize around courts as well: the Royal Court of Dornig, the Summer Court of Silendora, the Moonlit Courts of the shadow fey, the Willow Court of the Winewood, the River Court of the Arbonesse, and others are remnants of this tradition. Others may be elven jokes, such as the Squirrel Court of Yggdrasil.
Just as many such courts were abandoned and left to ruin afer the Great Retreat. A few of these retain a handful of gnomes, elfmarked, or even a solitary elven caretaker; others are entirely left to ghosts, phantoms, banshees, or wild animals. A few of the more famous abandoned courts include the Court of Owls and the Court of Roses (both in the Arbonesse Forest), the Cloud Dragon Court in the Tomierran Forest, the Griﬀon Court in the Margreve, and the Summer Gardens in the Gennecka Forest.