Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Races: The Shuu/True Elves

“You seem surprised that I know your tongue, human. Or perhaps it is because your...prayer...did not work? It does not matter. Neither you nor your friends belong here. What’s this? You cry out to your sky-mother for succor? Here, allow me to send you to her...”

Sunset’s Daughter, a ranger escorting an uninvited guest across the border between this world and the next

The Shuu, more commonly known as True Elves, are the original sylvan race of Wune. They are a reclusive people who reside in and viciously protect the pristine forest at the center of the continent they call the Yggdrasil. They claim not be created by the gods but to have sprung forth directly from that very same forest- born from its desire for companionship, no less- millennia before the deities that would comprise the Shattered Pantheon discovered this plane of existence. The Shuu served as the hands of the Great Forest for an age, living off its bounty, tending to the needs of its inhabitants, and searching for threats that lay beyond the tree line. It was on one of these excursions that a scouting party encountered humanoid-shaped beings of light they immediately dubbed the Shining Ones. Bearing these creatures no ill will and divining that they were strangers to this land, the elves introduced themselves as emissaries from the Yggdrasil, and wandered the plains with these for a time to observe them and determine their intentions. The Shining Ones made eager, friendly overtures towards their companions, and worked many impressive magics and a few genuine miracles in an attempt to awe and impress, but the elves remained distant, taken aback at their zeal. In the end, the Shuu determined that these strange creatures were of little threat and decided to return to the forest. Wroth at the idea of being dismissed, the Shining Ones attempted to press the elves into service through sorcery, but their will proved to be too great and they escaped slavery. Their pride stung, the Shining Ones (who the Shuu now referred to the Interlopers) decided that if they could not have the elves as servants, they would have to make their own, and created the other races, who worshipped them as gods. Few outside their race believe this creation story; partially due to its blasphemous nature, but also because it justifies the territorial nature of true elves, which has claimed more than a few lives in Wunian history.

During the Divine War, the Shuu reacted with characteristic indifference, preferring to keep their distance from the gods and their creations. When war began to spill into their beloved Yggdrasil, they used powerful magical rituals to close its borders. The enchantment caused any who entered to become terribly lost within a hallucinatory and terrifyingly bizarre landscape, wandering for hours and sometimes days until they returned from whence they came... assuming, of course, they survived the various pitfalls and snares set by the elves and the often deadly flora and fauna of the forest that lay underneath the illusion. Incensed that violence had come so close to their home, they avenged themselves upon the errant orcs, goblins, giantfolk, and even dragons that wandered into their protectorate. Initially halflings, humans and dwarves who found themselves trapped within the Yggdrasil were given no quarter, but after a few skirmishes the majority of this latter group proved to be backward, yet benign. Sympathetic elements among the Shuu showed these unfortunates how to survive in the woods until they could find their way to the egress, but by that time the Great Forest was rarely disturbed, having earned a reputation as no-man’s-land haunted violated only by fools and the desperate. However, this ersatz peace would be shattered at the end of the war as legions of undead, immune to the effects of the barrier by the very nature of their being, marched on the Yggdrasil. The undead proved to be more than a match for the elves, as they were invincible to the toxins that coated their arrowheads and undeterred by all but the most debilitating traps. The portion of the Yggdrasil they tainted by their passage turned into the Greywood: a cursed forest-within-a-forest where trees neither grew nor died, but remained a sickly grey year round, nourished by brackish rain in the summer and spring, and decorated with a light ash that fell from cloudless skies in winter and autumn. Eager for revenge, their war council dispatched scouts to track and assess this new threat. They returned with wild tales of draconic empires, dead things presiding over empty courts, and thralls of the Interlopers fighting to the death to determine who would hold the chains now that their masters were dead.

Unsure of how to proceed, yet just as angry as any of her people, the Matriarch of the elves decreed that in order for the Yggdrasil to be truly safe, its people would have to become involved in this new world. However, she stopped short of declaring actual war, leaving it up to the individual to define what role they would play in the lands outside their home. Some view the lesser races as nonentities and prefer to continue as they always have, with an eye towards protecting the forest proper. Others interpret this dictum to mean that they should educate and enlighten the naive to the truth about their so-called gods. Still others- particularly the young and hot-blooded- walk the path of war, citing the ancient belief that all forests on Wune are reflections of the original Yggdrasil, and eagerly raid rural areas, both cleansing and nourishing the land with blood.

Relations and Personality:
In the exceedingly rare social encounter with non-elves, True Elves are an awkward and distant people who cannot help but to view the other races with no small amount of contempt- after all, this land was their home long, long before these so-called gods spawned their minions. Perhaps a handful among the Second Races can be domesticated enough to be considered palatable, but the First Races have proven to be little more than rabid animals that need to be put down at the earliest opportunity. True Elves consider the Third Races abominations, even the half elves they bear, although they temper their feelings for common elves with pity: once they were elves, but now they are forever separate from the Yggdrasil and have become Something Else. That said, the average true elf does not draw undue pleasure from passing judgment upon their inferiors, nor do they slay them out-of-hand (although evil specimens hunt them for sport [and meat, if chaotic] on occasion). Their strong druidic traditions demand that they treat all living creatures with a modicum of respect.

Naming Conventions:
Before they reach the age of majority, Shuu children are referred to as their mother’s child in a fashion similar to that of the dwarves. Upon adulthood, an elf chooses a title, a combination deed name and declaration of their life path. It is normal for an elf to go through many titles in their considerable lifetime, but leaving one title behind to choose another is akin to dying and being reborn, and is always a moment of gravity.

For example, Sunset’s Daughter has decided to purge the Yggdrasil of outsiders once and for all. She takes the up the title of Farslayer, honoring both her skill with a bow and her attitude regarding non-elves. She serves her title well for many years, and when she feels the time is right to take her crusade beyond the forest’s borders, she takes up the title of Slavescourge to represent the harsh judgment she brings to those born of the arrogance of the Interlopers. This title strikes fear in the hearts of all who hear it until an axe blow almost shears her leg clean from her body, and her career as a raider comes to an end. She passes her title on to a more able-bodied warrior, and takes on the title of Arrowtongue, reflecting her advocacy for decisive and deadly action both at home and abroad.

True elves are usually neutral with respect to good and evil, as their primal (but not primitive!) lifestyle at one with nature makes moral speculation flippant. Law, chaos, and neutrality with respect to the two are important parts of the natural order and roughly equally represented within the true elf community.

True elves are lithe, small-bodied people with deeply tanned skin. They range in height from 4.5 to 5 feet tall, and weigh a little under a hundred pounds. Their hair worn long varies in color from yellow-blonde to honey-red to dark brown- much like leaves in autumn- and adorned with all sorts of trinkets, heirlooms and other prized possessions to tell their life story. Eyes are usually dark, but flecked with other brighter colors. They dress as nature provides and the weather demands, which has lead to lethal duels with bawdy humans in the summer months.

While the true elven preferred class is druid, as each true elf believes herself a child of the Yggdrasil in spirit if not body, not all take this path where defending the forest is concerned. Rangers are obviously of a more martial bent, while fighters, barbarians, and rogues are often individuals who are seeking vengeance against the First Races- and if they are evil or chaotic, the Second Races as well. Wizards and sorcerers are an important part of society not only for the magic they wield, but also because they serve as lore keepers and storytellers, respectively. Bards perform both of these services even better than the previous, but can also double as diplomats to the outside world due to the secret magic that all bards share. Paladins are rare, but tolerated as bizarre yet useful aberrations, especially where the undead are concerned. The respect that the former would enjoy in other societies is instead found with monks, who are seen as true champions- fighting with ancestral weapons in the Old Way. A true elf that deigns to become a cleric of any stripe has turned her back on her people.

True Elven Traits:
As Elves in the PHB except as noted above and follows:
+2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence: True elves are quick in body, and prefer instinct over reason as a result.

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