Section I: Sapient Races
Section II: Beastly Races
Forest Eternal, Oh Aionios Dasos,
you are behind the veil of eons,
shades of cool relief,
glades, your clearings,
trees reaching for the bluest of skies,
branches, your leaves,
fruits that nourished thousands,
home that you gave to us who are your children.
Aionios Dasos, oh dream of our outcast lives,
should we turn?
can we find the solace your leaf’d branches offered?
is the home that gave birth to elvendom,
home of peace, of eternal union?
Aionios Dasos, where are you?
“Once there was a time of peace for Elvendom, a time when none knew the word stratiotis – soldier – or a word for war. There was no need, for all desires of an elf were amply provided by the majestic Aionios Dasos, the Eternal Forest, where the ancestors lived and thrived. Elftrees grew everywhere, their roots, their trunks larger and wider than any known today. Birches, yews, ashtrees, elmtrees, apple and pear trees, they all grew there, dwarfed by the elftree but still granted the light to reach great heights and ages.
“The ancestors were born of the forest, were one with the forest. The Aionios Dasos, the elf, there was no difference. And thus the ancestors found their homes within the trees, altering the shape of the hardened elfwood with the touch of their hands and forming rooms, a house within the trunk. Their tables were grown from the tree, as were their chairs and their beds – softly covered by sweetly scented leaves -, and their clothes were of wood softened by the ancestors’ touch.
“They ate of the trees’ fruits that were ever plentiful. No winter chilled their bones, no autumn robbed the trees of their leaves or their fruits. Hunger was unknown, as was thirst, or any kind of want. The ancestors sang in joy at how blessed they were by the gods, they crafted tales of greatness, and in their union with their forest, they shaped the Aionios Dasos to their pleasure. Trees that were statues, that depicted scenes of elven history, that were beauty in its purest essence.
“Theirs was a time of eternal joy, of eternal peace.
“But one day, ranging through their forest, the ancestors came to a place of horrors. The trees that once had grown to majestic heights were gone, and in their place only stumps remained, bearing the awful tracks of metal saws.
“Saws! Metal! Cutting trees!
“A path had been torn into the forest, and the ancestors followed it – and found more terror than they had ever thought possible. The Eternal Forest had an end! There was emptiness beyond it, just plain grass, hills, rocks. Dreadful the sight was to them, but not as dreadful as what they saw further in the terrible wasteland. There were the remains of the trees, brutally savaged into bits and pieces and rearranged into shacks and huts. Even worse, there was smoke rising from the huts, from chimneys built into their roofs – precious wood was willfully burned!
“The ancestors saw creatures walking between the shacks. They had two legs, two arms, heads with one mouth, one nose, two ears, with hair – but still they were clearly unelven. Their ears weren’t pointed, and their skin was ugly pink or brown rather than the beautiful blue a proper being should have. The creatures were stocky, unfinished – as if the gods had started working on them, but discarded the disgusting products before wasting any more time on them.
“And those creatures had raped the Eternal Forest. They had raped Elvendom! Fury burned in the ancestors, but they knew not what to do. Anger was a foreign emotion, as foreign as the thought of revenge or the thought of killing.
“Their blood boiling with the alien feelings, the ancestors returned to their people and related the tale. Councils of the elders were called, to ponder what to do. None could find an answer. The pain of what had happened to the forest was an open wound, but the ancestors could not understand how to heal the wound.
“There had been disease before, plagues that befell the Aionios Dasos. Care and love had cured the trees most of the time. In some cases, though, the pests had been so severe that the trees and the germs had to be exterminated. The ancestors had done so in the most caring way they knew, through their union with the forest, willing the trees to die and wither quickly lest their brethren be infected.
“None of those methods could be applied to this new danger. The ancestors had no connection with the creatures outside – and they would have rather perished than know any such connection!
“Time passed, and more trees fell to the cruel savagery of the creatures. There were more kinds than just the pink and brown sort they had encountered at first. In fact, the pink ones were quite rare. More numerous were the small, bearded creatures that loved metal – unholy through their union with the metal alone, but worsened by how they treated the Forest. Where the pink ones built their shacks and burned just a few trees to keep warm, the bearded ones never cared about building anything with the wood they robbed from the Forest. Instead they fed all the wood into furnaces to melt their demonic metal. The trees were used to further the bearded ones’ worship of metal – sacrilege that enfuriated the ancestors. Other creatures abounded, each of them more terrible in their disregard of the Eternal Forest’s sacred nature.
“And the ancestors learned of yet another emotion: hatred.
“They watched in helpless terror how the creatures ravaged the forest every day, and they observed the ways of the aliens. None of the races seemed to be connected in any way – except for one that was almost as cruel as what happened to the trees. Whenever the races – be it the bearded ones or the pink ones or any of the others – met, they fought. They killed.
“They cut each other as they did the trees, using the evil metal – but also they abused wood as they crafted arrows that they shot at each other.
“The ancestors watched, and they learned. Here was a way to exterminate the plague. What the union with the forest could not achieve, the alien ways perhaps could.
“With determination the ancestors set to imitate the creatures. But never would they touch metal – no, the forest provided better means for them, as the Aionios Dasos always had. From the elftrees they harvested swords sharper and harder than any of metal, shields that could never be pierced by metal blades. They harvested arrows that were straighter and truer than any of the creatures’ make.
“And the ancestors trained with their wooden weapons, inventing skills and honing them. The forest had to be protected, the hatred had to be stilled – that was the single purpose to which they dedicated their lives.
“Some excluded themselves from the holy task. They said that it was wrong to do as the creatures did. The gods had never intended for elvendom to stoop to such cruelties. The ancestors laughed. ‘Do you not feel the pain of the trees?’ they asked. ‘Do you not feel the need to save them?’
“The fearful ones shook their heads. ‘It is not the right way. Remember the union! Remember the true path!’ Their silly ideas never shook the ancestors from their dedication, and the frightful ones withdrew from the community, moving further into the Aionios Dasos, not to be heard from again.
“Then the day of vengeance came. It had been five thousand six hundred and twenty-one days since the first discovery of the raped Forest, each passing day a further wound in Elvendom’s soul. But now payment would be demanded, and the price would be harsh.
“The elves put on their wooden armors, their wooden shields and swords, they strung their bows. With a cry to the Aionios Dasos, the people set out to exterminate the plague. And none of the creatures could withstand their holy fury. They fell before their swords in dozens, in hundreds, in thousands.
“And the elves learned yet another emotion: satisfaction at a deed well done. Each creature’s death was a joy, each drop of blood spilled – it raised the spirits of the elves and cried out with glee! Never would another tree be harmed! No, the elves carried the destruction back to their originators, and they paid back with all the might they could!
“Ravaged were the evildoers now, their blood spilled, their evil contraptions destroyed, and finally the elves decided that none would ever return to the Eternal Forest again. Thus satisfied they returned to where they came from – but they did not find the Aionios Dasos.
“None understood. They found the markings of their way, just as they had left it – just as their scouts had done during the years of observing the creatures, yet the wasteland of grass continued where the edge of the Forest should have been.
“Aionios Dasos was gone. The elves sheathed their bloodied swords and sent prayers to the heavens, to ask the gods for an explanation and for the guidance back home. No answer came, but the elves stayed and kept asking. Days passed, weeks, months, until finally – the elftrees of home appeared before their eyes!
“But no elf could move a limb. By means unknown their bodies were frozen, and they could only stare as one of their brethren – one of the frightful ones – left the trees and stood before them. ‘You have followed the wrong path,’ she said calmly. ‘You have chosen the ways of the creatures, and thus you have become as they are. Your union with the Forest has been severed, and never shall you return. Thus the Fair ones speak.’ With that she turned back, walked back into the Forest – and the sight of Aionios Dasos vanished.
“Movement returned to the elves’ limbs. But what for? The Eternal Forest was closed to them, home was taken from them – the home they had left to protect! Honest rage fueled the elves, rage at the injustice leveled against them. One rose and cried, ‘If that is what those fairies,’ he spat at the word, ‘think, let us show them how silly they are. We are elves, we are superior! The creatures took from us our home, and we will pay them back. Once all of them are destroyed, the Forest will see that we are its best protectors. Then we shall be welcomed back – because we are elves!’
“His voice rose to a fervent shout, and all the others echoed it. Then blades were again drawn from scabbards, and once more the elves moved out to exact their rightful revenge!”
Duro’traeh (ca. 2422 A.E.),
“It was the beginning of time. What came before is unknown; only the legends of paradise remain, a time when mankind was at perfect peace. Then sin soiled our souls, and we were cast from paradise into the world of Gushémal where our punishment was waiting for us – the elves.
“Their armies came from nowhere. Suddenly they were upon us, upon all the people of Gushémal, and they were unstoppable. Killing, ravaging, murdering, they rampaged across the land, and all they left were ruins. Heores rose in their path – but they fell, lamented by the survivors. Legends began but were destroyed before coming to fruition.
“Peoples, nations died in the onslaught of the elves. Entire races were exterminated in the unholy fury of the blue-skinned invaders. And the people cried out to the gods for salvation. For all that they had sinned in paradise, was this just punishment?
“Blessed be the gods for they decided that the suffering was enough. After years the fury of the elves was diminished, and some survived their assault. Some few who clung to hope and to their faith; they were rescued by the gods, brought to a salvation that was poor relief but a beginning.
“As the elves tired of eternal bloodshed, at least for a while, they began to build cities of their own, to forge empires for their clans. There were thousands and thousands of elves, but spread over all of Gushémal, there were only few of them in each place. Destroying their enemies, all the good people of the world, that was a task too ambitious even for them. And perhaps, the gods had instilled in them some good sense, some understanding that there had to be life after the destruction.
“And so they created their own empires. Injustly robbed from the people, injustly ruled by the arrogant new masters, but there was still life for the good peoples. Life that was slavery, eternally chained to the commands of the elves, but life. And life means hope.
“With time the elves came to understand that they could not control all their realms by themselves. Too few of them there were, too many of the other races. Assistants were needed, aides in their conquest and cruel rule – and for that they chose humans. Perhaps they thought that humans were so weak – weaker than all the other races – that they never could pose a danger to elven rule. Whatever the new masters thought, it was done thus.
“At first, the assistants – the mandrins – chosen by the elves were considered collaborators by the others, more evil than the unholy blue-skinned aliens themselves. After all did they not execute the orders? Did they not aid in conquest, in destruction, in the slavery?
“Yes, they did, but the mandrins were human. True humans, true children of the gods! They pleased the elves, did all that was requested of them – but in truth, they helped their human brothers and sisters to grow stronger all the time. More and more supplies were given to them, as the elven trust in their mandrins grew.
“And the humans learned of the elven ways, their fighting skills. The mandrins made sure of that. Over generations they gathered knowledge and imparted it to their brethren, while the elves believed the mandrins to be fervent slaves. As the other races were slowly driven from the land, humans remained. They planted fields, they grew crops, they harvested – and they lived. Lived and learned.
“Finally the days of vengeance came! First the elves called to their mandrins to execute their orders, but none could be found. None were left in the fortresses, none were left in the cities.
“The elves searched, but it took them little time to find the mandrins for they made themselves noticed quickly. At the front of human armies, all equipped with swords in the elven style, with fighting tactics as furious and effective as the elven troops, the mandrins and the human rebels streamed back into the fortresses and took back what was rightfully theirs!
“Heroes fought during those days, and legends rose that will never be stilled, for those were the days that mankind reconquered Gushémal! The elves were scattered, they were destroyed, and those that were left to survive, they will never threaten us again. For now they are facing mankind – the greatest race ever to live on the face of the world!”
The term “mercenary elf” is a creation of my own. As this is the
largest group of this race, they are commonly referred to as simply
“elves”. Still, there is a term that they use amongst themselves: stratiotoi.
The word (singular) stratiotis translates into meantongue as
“soldier” – but I find that to be quite misleading. Elves still
consider themselves part of the great armies of the time of the Flood, the
force that “protected the Aionios Dasos”. In fact they offer their
services to whichever warlord pays the most; as such, they are indeed
is certainly not wise to call any elf you meet a mercenary to his or her
face. They consider themselves creatures of honor and would be deeply
insulted. In all likelihood they would immediately attack you.
course this is only a generalization. I call several elves friends of
mine, and they have agreed that this term is a proper description – even
though their ears are twitching nervously whenever they hear the word
“I am stratiotis. My sword belongs to First Citizen Róbspyar of Ibrollene, my shield belongs to the Revolution, my strength belongs to the land of Ibrollene.
“My allegiance belongs to elvendom. Never could an inferior creature such as a human claim to own the allegiance of a stratiotis! They are weak, of infirm minds – and their lives are so ridiculously short it is difficult for an elf to remember their names. Any time you have grown accustomed to one of them in power anywhere, the human will already have died. Thirty years at best a human will remain important. Blink, and they’re gone.
“But they infest the world nonetheless. One could even go so far as to say they rule. One could, but I won’t. Having observed their proceedings for a while these past two and a half centuries, it is they who are ruled by their silly emotions. Nature commands them, and they follow without any will of their own. They cannot see the future, no matter how plainly it is shown to them. They aren’t interested in preparing the ground for the next century, even though their children are liable to still plague the world.
“Why do not we elves close our ranks once more and rid Gushémal of this pest? Why do we fight their idiotic wars, their petty feuds?
“Well, if you should find yourself trapped in a cellar full of rats, you can kill the rodents for hours, and there will still be more. Some will nip at your legs and arms before you can dispatch them. After hours, after days, you will find yourself growing weaker, and the tiny wounds from those tiny rats will overcome your strength.
“That is what humans are to elvendom. Lowly creatures, incapable of putting up a good fight, but there are too many of them, and they reproduce too fast for us to stand much of a chance.
“Not to mention that there are fools undeserving of their beautiful blue skin! They actually believe that humans are intelligent beings! They take humans for their mates, soiling their bodies by touching the creatures with anything but the point of a blade.
“Those aren’t elves, those aren’t stratiotoi. They are as inferior as the human pests that they care about so much. And they should be exterminated along with them!
“I am biding my time at the court of these worthless creatures. I fight for them, and I am paid well. At least in their wars, I can kill their brethren. And they believe that I would not as gladly stab my blade into their breasts!
“One day that will change. One day…”
“Take a cursory look at an elf, and you’ll see beauty. Blue skin, purple eyes, prominent cheekbones, cyan hair, ears that taper elegantly. Graceful movements, lithe bodies that may seem frail but always convey the sense of strength exceeding a human’s.
“Take a closer look, and you’ll see the emptiness in the eyes. You will see the disregard for life, the supercilious nature. You will see that all that gives pleasure to an elf is to kill.
“And killing is what they do best. I’ve been a soldier in Cayaboré’s army for more than twenty-five years, and I’ve seen my share of fighting. I know what it means to go into battle against humans, how the mélée develops and how people will die.
“But fighting elves, that is a different affair. Their bloodlust drives them further than a human, it erases all regard for their own lives. And that is because death is no firm boundary to them. If they die, and there is no other elf around – why, yes, they will stay dead, as they should.
“Yet some of them know how to pull their brethren back from the land of the dead. The resurrector elves – you couldn’t possibly tell them by their looks, and they sure won’t tell you – can revive those that have died, and in the process, the formerly dead are returned to perfect health. Now can you imagine what it means to fight a group of elves, an elite troop of an enemy army? As long as one remains alive, all of them will return to the mélée quickly, as fresh as if they had never taken a killing blow.
“Well, come to think of it, there is one way to guess who the resurrector elf in such a troop is. That’s the one who will always stay back from the front lines, so he doesn’t get killed. Then again, any one of the actual fighters might also possess that ability so it won’t do to just shoot an arrow into the one in the back and think the troubles are over. No, elves are smarter than that. You can’t trust them.
“Speaking of trust, there have been discussions whether Cayaboré should hire some elves of their own. Many races have been incorporated into our army successfully, so why should we not use their fighting strength as well? I say that you’d only be fooling yourself. My own company has dwarven soldiers, and I know that they will fight with all their might to protect our nation – because they love Cayaboré as much as I do.
“Elves do not understand the love for a nation. All they know is killing, and they’ll do it for any who pay them well. If we would hire some elves, how long would they stay in our employ? After a while – and for them decades pass quickly -, they would leave, and then they might wind up on the enemy side, having learned the secrets of our defenses, how we fight, how we think. Not to mention that they might turn against you on the battlefield. I’ve seen it happen before, when both sides of a battle have hired elves. They usually don’t fight each other anyway, and in that one case, one group convinced the other that their side’s pay was better.
“Hiring elf mercenaries only hurts yourself. Any way you look at it, you’re better off sticking to the good and reliable races.”