- For other uses, see Dark elf.
The dark elves or the Shadow-Marked are former Sylvan elves of Irollan but are now one of the three factions in Ashan that dwell underground. They live in the underground kingdom of Ygg-Chall and since the faceless are nearly extinct they are now the largest group of practitioners who worship the Dragon-Goddess of Darkness, Malassa.
The modern day dark elves were once Sylvan elves who lived in the forest of Tarlad under the rule of Queen Tuidhana, one of the local rulers who answered to the High King of Irollan. However, after High King Arniel usurped the powers of the local elven kings, stripped the druids of their authority, and made his own title hereditary, Tuidhana was among those who protested but the only one who rebelled. She declared her kingdom of Tarlad, located at the border with the Holy Falcon Empire, independent from the authority of the High King.
War of The Bitter Ashes
During this conflict, the ambitious and opportunistic knights of the Holy Emperor Liam Falcon seized the occasion to invade Tuidhana’s lands, thus beginning the War of the Bitter Ashes. Battered by the imperial armies, Tuidhana appealed to Irollan for help, but Arniel chose to let her land suffer and her people die. When the Falcon armies drew closer to Irollan's borders Arniel did intervene, not to aid Tuidhana but to claim her lands for himself. Both armies of the Holy Empire and Irollan clashed, unmindful of Tuidhana's people that were caught in the middle. In desperation to protect her people, Tuidhana turned to the few surviving Faceless. They were willing to help her for a price: in exchange for their help her people were to convert to Malassa, the Dragon Goddess of Darkness. Tuidhana accepted their offer, and the dark elves were born. With the powers of dark magic, Tuidhana reaffirmed her kingdom's independence, recognized by both Irollan and the Holy Empire. A new peace was formed, the "Peace of New Spring", but many doubted on how long that peace would last. Now relations between elves of Irollan and the humans of the empire became strained and both were distrustful of the new dark elves.
Over twenty years later, tensions between the dark elves and the Sylvan elves remained ever high. However, Brythigga, the mother of trees was suddenly burned to the ground, with High King Arniel caught in the fire. Tuidhana's people were blamed for the vile act.
Exile and War under the Mountains
After the burning of Brythigga and the death of Arniel, the dark elves were forced to leave their lands and the Faceless led them underground, on the Dwarf border. Tuidhana herself stayed behind to fend off the vengeful armies of Irollan but died as a martyr, however her death split the dark elves into separate clans. After the new High King, Vaniel, discovered the dark elves were framed by Demons he sent missives to them, offering them amnesty and to return. The dark elves however, angrily and unanimously rejected them, unable to forgive those who blamed them without proof.
Beneath the earth, local skirmishes against the Dwarves escalated into an open conflict, the so-called War under the Mountains, which left the dark elves on the fringe of extinction. The war was long and bloody and for the most part, the dwarves had the upper hand. However, the dark elves were able to turn the tide for a time thanks to their fortress Renekon which seemed impenetrable. However, the dwarf, Hathor, sacked the fortress and defeated the dark elves which forced them to accept terms of a truce to end the war. With little hope and facing the end of their race, the three main Dark Elf clans decided to put their differences aside and rally behind a common Lord of the Clans, founding the subterranean kingdom of Ygg-Chall, the Dark Below.
At around the time of the Second Eclipse, the Crimson Wizards, in a friendly and diplomatic gesture, made a gift of one thousand loyal Minotaur to the dark elves. This gesture, in turn, angered the remaining Wizards Houses' in the Silver Cities.
New Home and Kingdom
Needing a place to center their civilization, the dark elves planned to use a Tear of Asha that was in possession of the Naga traitor, Oshiro. However, others among the dark elves lost hope and began to consort with Demons as a means to achieve power and survive. Finally seeing how much his people need him, Raelag defeated the Demon traitors led by his brother, Sylsai, proved himself worthy to the shadow dragons and united the remaining loyal members of the clans, becoming the new Clan lord. Locating the Nagas near an underground lake under the Vantyr Mounstains, the dark elves led by Yrris and Raelag managed to defeat the Nagas and a mad Kirin, finally gained possession of the tear and used its power to summon the Invisible Library from Sheogh, fighting off any Demons who guarded it led by the Demon Prince, Kiril Griffin.
After the defeat of the Demons and the renegade Naga, the dark elves forced the Nagas into recognizing the Clanlords as their new leaders, namely their newly shadow-marked medusae, aiding them against the Dwarves. Though no one on the surface of Ashan really knows the outcome of the war other than the Dwarves were the victors and that the dark elves survived. With the Invisible Library finally in their possession, the dark elves had a realm they could call home, and therefore formed Konos, the Maze as the capital of their new civilization.
The dark elves are now a continually growing people and nation, adapting to their life in the Darkness and are currently trying to establish relations with the other nations albeit slowly and with great caution on both sides.
Dissension and Civil War
Around 833 YSD, Raelag stepped down as Clan Lord and disappeared. He was then succeeded by his younger brother Menan of the Nightshard Clan. Under Menan's fair and even rule, the dark elves experienced real peace between the clans for the first time in their lives. However, not everyone agreed with peace, namely the Blades of Erebos, who found peace a weakness and desired a return to conflict. The Blades led by Vayaron, schemed to assassinate Menan, release his warmongering brother Sylsai, return him to power in the Soulscar Clan and drive the other clans against each other. In Vayaron's mad beliefs, he believed he would be "restoring" the dark elves back to their backstabbing and survivalist ways.
To ensure his plan would succeed without intervention from the Faceless, Vayaron tracked down the Invisible Library and imprisoned the majority of the Faceless within. Ironically, the spell used to imprison the Faceless was the exact same spell the Faceless used to imprison Erebos. Only a handful of Faceless escaped, among them Jorgen, and fled into hiding.
With no one to interfere, Vayaron successfully forced the Clan Lord's friend, Sorshan, into poisoning Menan. With a Banshee's Tear, Menan was driven mad and committed suicide. In this, the Shadowbrand and Nigthshard Clans were severely weakened. With Menan's death chaos ensued, with Sylsai violently leading a campaign to take the mantle of Lord of the Clans. However, before his death, Sorshan sent word to his clan of the Blades' role which led to the first battle in which the Soulscars defended them. The bitter civil war between the clans began as the Blades vanished into the darkness. The full extent of the conflict is unknown to most of Ashan as the conflict was largely underground and didn't involve outsiders.
In end however, Sylsai was quick to seize control of Ygg-Chall and name himself Lord of the Clans. Under his rule, Sylsai began to make secret deals with the demons of Sheogh.
With Lord Agrael as the envoy of Kha-Beleth, Sylsai began a plan to undermine the Dwarves under the rule of King Hathor and bring an army of Demons into Ashan. Sylsai used the rebels under Kari and Vilma to get Hathor out into the open for him to kill and retrieve a runic key that opens one of the largest gates to Sheogh. Sylsai succeeded in murdering Hathor, leaving the Dwarves leaderless and confused, and with the key in his possession, he and Agrael began the ritual to open the gate and bring hordes of Demons into Ashan.
However, the Dwarves rallied under Vilma, Kari and Tolghar to stop them. Kari leaped into a molten pool of magma as a show of strength and faith to the Dragon-God of Fire, Arkath and returned as a powerful Einherjar, giving the Dwarves the power they needed. Kari and Vilma succeeded in stopping the ritual and capturing Sylsai but Agrael escaped. With one last act before returning to Arkath, Kari threw Sylsai into the inferno, killing him, leaving the Dark Elves leaderless once more and the demon gates secured.
Despite the loss of their leader, the Dark Elves were able to maintain themselves as a nation but it is unknown who currently rules as Lord of The Clans.
Near the end of the Ten Year War that engulfed the Holy Falcon Empire, the dark elf clans contacted Jorgen and agreed to aid Ivan, Duke of the Griffin Duchy in his struggle against the Stag Duke, Seamus. The reason for their aid was primarily because Seamus was being aided by the Blades of Erebos. A deal was made between Ivan and the clans; he would defeat the Blades for them and the clans would be in his good graces and they would provide a secret passage into the Stag Duchy.
Religion and Culture
Originally, like their Sylvan cousins, the dark elves once worshiped Sylanna, Dragon Goddess of Earth. That changed due to the pact they formed with the Faceless. They now turned to worship the Dragon of Darkness, Malassa, dedicating statues and other such monuments to her. The magic of the dark elves is actually sorcery, not that of the druids. Their magic is the same of the Faceless, the "alien" magic of Dark Magic.
After the death of Queen Tuidhana, the kingdom of Ygg-Chall was separated in numerous clans. The ruling clans are the Soulscar clan, the Nightshard clan, and the Shadowbrand clan, each led by one of the three sons of Tuidhana; Sylsai, Menan and Raelag respectively. All three clans follow a singular elected Lord of the Clans. Whether the position is for life or if the process of succession is through assassination is unknown but possibly likely.
The members of the Soulscar clan are fascinated by pain, suffering and madness, the members of the Shadowbrand clan listen for secrets of the soul, and the members of the Nightshard clan are passionate about emotions like sadness or happiness. The political implications of these differences are that the Nightshards are usually in favor of trade and neutrality, the Shadowbrands are for secrecy and non-interference with the surface world, and the Soulscars are the most aggressive and revenge-driven of all clans.
In terms of how the dark elves wage war, their generals believe that a war is better won with persuasive words, devious stratagems, and poisoned daggers than with an army in the field, and as such they have no hesitation about sending out spies, saboteurs and assassins as instruments of policy. The dark elves are capable of long-termed battles but are more in favor of hit and run tactics. In one-on-one fights, dark elves are more than willing to fight dirty, their stalkers are good reminders of this. Dark elves are overall, a pragmatic people, and bribery and assassination are often cheaper than raising an army. If needed, their shadow priests also master various mind-control and life-draining spells and are capable of summoning dark beasts that live within the caves of Ygg-Chall, like the hydras, shadow lurkers, troglodytes, manticores, Nightmares and the shadow dragon. Their Beast-men servants, the minotaurs, are used as shock troops and bodyguards while their Medusae use dark spells to confuse and terrorize their enemies. The Faceless themselves have the roles as assassins, spies or dark magic sorcerers but rarely enter the battlefield themselves as they lack the physical might and battle prowess to that of the other denizens of Ashan. The Faceless' shadowsteel constructs; the striders and soulless are used too negate and disrupt their enemies' magic, primarily efficient against those who utilize Light Magic, and to stand up against more formidable foes. As a form of Defense, the dark elves shroud the entries to their underground dwellings and usually carefully hide them with Dark Magic to prevent unwanted outsiders from entering Ygg-Chall uninvited.
Since the founders of the dark elves made a pact with the Dragon of Darkness, one of the consequences is that all dark elves are imprinted by Malassa’s mark and constantly forced to hear the constant whispers carried away by the shadows. There are those who can channel this permanent flow of information, and those who can’t, and this divides the dark elf society into two classes. The dark elves that can’t bear the constant whispers imposed by Malassa’s mark are forced to erect a barrier to shield themselves from the rest of the world, lest they turn insane. To help them live with Malassa’s gift, they burn specific varieties of mushrooms and inhale the vapors. The medicine is like an anesthetic that shuts their mind away from the ceaseless noise. On the other hand, the dark elves who successfully process the voices from the Darkness without losing their mind hold great power.
Young dark elves who demonstrate this gift are selected for the priesthood. Taken from their families as children, they are raised in the temples of Malassa as seekers of forbidden lore and masters of Dark Magic. They grow up utterly dedicated, utterly loyal and utterly fanatical to the aims of the Dragon of Darkness. Those who rise to the highest ranks undergo a secret ritual that lets them commune with Malassa, making them capable of dream-walking. When the ritual is complete, their eyes become black and pupil-less, and they never blink again. Joining the priesthood or becoming Sorcerers of Dark Magic is the highest goal to which a dark elf can aspire, and competition for an elevated place in the temples is fierce.
The dark elves also have always respected assassins, but they reserve particular esteem for those killers who are masters of stealth, capable of taking their unsuspecting victims by complete surprise. Those assassins are their Trackers who carry special crossbows, cut from the roots of a Treant, their trigger and mechanism forged from Shadowsteel. They shoot further, send quarrels truer, and inflict more grievous wounds than any regular bow or crossbow.
The priesthood of Malassa maintains temples in every city and altars in every outpost. These sacred places are open to all, as the Dragon of Darkness will speak to any who call her, but public observances are few. This is possibly due to the fact that Malassa’s teachings are esoteric and poorly understood, even by most of the dark elves themselves.
Plant life is rare in their underground realm, compared to their former forest homes - more common are vast mushroom forests and other fungi. The dark elves have cultivated these, and use them for everything from illumination to food to fuel. All of their cities are lit with the soft glow of bio-luminescent fungi, tinged blue or yellow here or there by rarer species. Nothing is wasted in their tunnels, and the dark elves give their dead over to the fungi as compost.
What unites the dark elves as clans is not blood relationships, but a common interest for a specific message found in Malassa’s whispers. There are three major clans – Nightshard, Shadowbrand and Soulscar, the ones founded by the sons of the legendary Queen Tuidhana – that rule over the smaller clans.
During their early years, the dark elves were given one thousand loyal minotaurs from the Crimson Wizards of Karthal as diplomatic gesture. In a short period of time, the minotaurs took oaths of loyalty to the dark elves and Malassa. While most dark elves appreciate the minotaurs’ strength and reliability and consider them valuable allies, a few clans, notably the Soulscars, tend to see them as little more than slaves. minotaurs often fight battles in gladiatorial arenas to prove their strength and impress future employers, mostly becoming bodyguards and protectors, which dark elves consider it wise to hire Minotuar bodyguards. Around the same time, during their quest to form their nation, the dark elves encountered a faction of renegade Nagas, led by Daimyo Oshiro the Accursed. After being conquered, Oshiro’s people became part of the Dark Elf kingdom, becoming shadow marked like themselves. medusa sorceresses in particular, had no issue finding their place in Ygg-Chall’s society, especially after they proved themselves during the final years of the War under the Mountains, becoming very proficient with Dark Magic.
The infamous shadow and black dragons, have a special place in dark elf Society. Though they are worshiped by the dark elves, shadow dragons tolerate their worshipers and occasionally ally with them. But there’s always a price to their help; whatever that price is, it is unknown but it is indeed severe to say the least. In fact, the shadow dragons, namely those of the Onyx Circle, are the ones who choose the dark elves who are worthy of becoming the Clan Lord.
The Faceless also have a unique position in dark elf society, almost similar to the angels' role in the Holy Empire, but even the dark elves themselves have a hard time understanding the Faceless as they tend to speak in riddles and metaphors. The children of Malassa are often said to be extinct, but the ones in Konos are pretty spry. The Faceless are considered fascinating winged creatures, wearing mysterious masks allowing them to take any shape or appearance. While it was confirmed that the Faceless are not extinct, no one knows if there are whole legions of them or only a handful of survivors left to mentor Malassa’s new protégés before passing into the Darkness themselves.
It is said that the best way to observe what kind of person someone is, is by observing, not how he treats his equals, but those who are "lower" than him. This is especially true with dark elves. The way other races are treated by dark elves usually depends on the individual dark elf. It is usually determined by who the current Lord/Lady of the Clans is, the clan they belong to, and the individual dark elf's personal agenda.
Since the dark elves civilization was born during and after the War of the Bitter Ashes, the dark elves have a burning hatred towards the elves of Irollan and a lingering dislike for the Holy Empire. Despite their pasts with the Holy Empire, being somewhat opposites in magic and nature and the Church of Light's branding, relations are slowly improving, mainly in trade and commerce, by the more open-minded nobles and dukes of the Empire and Dark Elf clan lords.
Dark elves and Sylvan elves however, ultimately despise or at least distrust each other as Arniel allowed Emperor Liam to invade Tarlad and later the elves of Irollan immediately blamed the dark elves for the destruction of Brythigga and Arniel's death, without proof. Though there are some individuals of both kingdoms who wish to reunite the two people and be at peace with each other, like Menan and Alaron. However, others simply want bloody revenge for the acts that were committed during the War of the Bitter Ashes and after the dark elves' banishment, like Sylsai.
The Nagas of the Lotus Empire have a complicated relation of the dark elves of Ygg-Chall to say the least. The Nagas of Oshiro, a traitor to the Eternal Empress, pledged allegiance to the dark elves and to Malassa thus creating the Medusae, therefore this created some friction between the two kingdoms. Though possibly due to the distance between the two kingdoms, relations are, most likely, at a minimum.
More prominently, the dark elves are rivals with the dwarves of Grimhiem as both are underground people and were once at war with each other, nearly driving the dark elves to extinction. Now they are at odds with each other, both expanding their subterranean kingdoms and the dwarves have more than once found dark elf tunnels snaking underneath their borders and even in the Holy Empire.
The Seven Cities, later the Silver Cities, have little relations with the dark elves, save for the Crimson Wizards, who gifted them the minotaurs, suggesting a good relation of some sort. Though this exchange had angered most of the wizards of the Silver Cities.
Dark elves have no real relations to the nomadic orcs, but its been suggested that they think of them as little more than primitive barbarians.
The Necromancers of Heresh have a unique relation to the dark elves; both use Dark Magic in their works and have aided each other in the past, mostly against a common enemy like the demons or against the Nethermaner Sandro, who stole precious knowledge from the Invisible Library.
Because other nations tend to distrust them, radical dark elves are sometimes forced to seek allies from places that others wouldn't seek out. Due to the Soulscar clan's tendency to ally with demons, dark elves of Ygg-Chall are one of three factions where it's most likely to find Demon Cultists, the others being the Silver Cities and, ironically, the Holy Empire. However, the demons of Sheogh see them as slaves and only "help" if it serves their needs.
Possibly due to their elvish immortality and bloody betrayal-filled past, they are not big for malcontent. This has lead to many conflicts with other races that can be hard to forget. Therefore, worshippers of Malassa ally with forces other don't, like demons, which adds to the distrust that pushes people of darkness towards those forces. Its a vicious cycle that more open-minded dark elf leaders have to struggle with.