History of the Elder Drow
A chronicle of the very first war between the elven families. It details how the original dark elves came to be, their flight to Felnova, and the death of the prince Agarwath.
Thousands of years ago, before the great dragons of Evylon established themselves in Clans across the world, the elves were very different than they are known to be in the present age. None were known as 'high elf', 'light elf', or 'wood elf' - the 'dark elf' was unknown to all, and it had never been considered that their kind could be split asunder so. Instead there existed two distinct families, wealthy and proud. The Lor’kai elves were what is now the high elves; light of hair and dark of eyes. The Fi’aor were those now known as dark elves - a people of dark hair and pale eyes.
Both families were ruled in the land of Shi'vrann'aeli by a single King: a tall elf of Lor’kai blood, with golden hair and bright green eyes, who had pairbonded with a Fi'aor woman after his original Queen died in childbirth. His eldest son, Syleev, was thus purebred Lor’kai with similar looks; named the crown prince and heir, he was beloved by his people and those races that lived within their borders. The younger was half Fi’aor, with black hair and icy blue eyes, named Agarwath - a swordsman who sought little more than a quiet life away from the troubles of royalty. Both were old enough to be pairbonded, and both had children of their own: Syleev had a young son, and Agarwath had two twin daughters.
However, the King had contracted a wasting illness; he could no longer lead as he needed to, and set the brothers to rule in his stead until the crown passed completely to Prince Syleev. Suddenly forced to work together, the brothers disagreed on a great many things - where Syleev was ambitious and forceful, Agarwath rarely moved without consideration or care. As their arguments became more and more heated, the King grew ever worse in his illness.
On the eve of the King’s death, Agarwath and Syleev were discussing what to do about an encroachment of orc clans along their eastern border. While the eldest brother wished to destroy them outright, the younger cautioned against such a radical act. Growing angry, their argument grew tense and dangerous - until Syleev knocked his brother to the floor, sword drawn in warning. “I will be King,” he stated, “and you have no say. We will attack and drive the orcs from our lands now, before they can raise an assault upon the forest!”
“Our father told us to rule together until his death,” Agarwath replied angrily. “You must take my counsel into consideration. Lives will be lost!”
“No, brother,” the eldest said darkly. “Only one.”
He swung the sword at his sibling, missing by inches as Agarwath scrambled out of the way. Armed with only a dagger, the younger sibling drew it and backed out of Syleev’s reach, parrying a blow that would have taken off his head as he did. "Brother, no!" he shouted, ducking under another swing as the elder elf pressed forward. The two exchanged a flurry of blows until the crown prince had Agarwath pinned against the wall, knocking his dagger from his hand.
But as Syleev took it up and raised it to slash his younger brother's throat, Agarwath shoved him forward in a last attempt to get away. The heir stumbled, knocked backwards, a look of surprise on his face. However, Fate would turn his head away from the future king that day. A beautiful stained glass window depicting one of the Old Gods, a cherished and beautiful piece crafted by masters ancient and honored, stood at his back and the shimmering picture shattered as he crashed through, momentum sending him out over open air.
Three stories he fell; three stories above a round, stone courtyard decorated with the image of a blazing sun. His body was dashed across the sun's spiral center, broken and yet still alive. He still breathed when his horrified brother reached him, shouting desperately for healers to come - but despite his pleas for help, Syleev died then in his arms.
Suspicion arises as Syleev's body was taken away; the crown prince's supporters cried that they had seen Agarwath run from the room the heir had fallen from, and claimed that it was murder. Captured by palace guards, he was imprisoned in the dungeons, his silence and lack of denial used as proof of his guilty conscience. The King, then bedridden due to his illness, died the following morning.
A cousin to Syleev named Curain, rising as regent, demanded that Agarwath be put to death. He gave no resistance to the demand; lost in his grief, he had curled up in a corner of the cruelly-lightless dungeons beneath Heartwood City, ignoring all who came to see him. Princeslayer they called him; the Betrayer. Kinkiller.
It didn't matter to him.
Late in the night, his mother came to see him; a beautiful Fi'aor woman with black hair and silver eyes, who he had taken after in both looks and personality. She was allowed to enter the cell with him, and embraced her grieving son. "Everything will be alright," she said, as he wept in her arms. "All will be well."
Unbeknownst to the guard, the former Queen's magic specialized in invisibility and illusion; a magic she had kept secret from all but her beloved King, now gone to the Realm of spirits. In an instant, she had crafted two likenesses to them and cloaked both her son and herself in shadow, before leading him out past the oblivious soldier. She spirited him away to a stronghold of her people, an estate far from the City hidden deep within the woods.
Meanwhile, the regent to Syleev's young son - acting in his stead until the prince could take the crown - upended the city searching for Agarwath once the ruse had been found out. The Fi'aor were accused of hiding him, and the Lor'kai harried them mercilessly for answers. Tensions rose between the two peoples as calls for justice were met with outrage and indignation. These tensions led to bloodshed that the regent elf could not control.
The regent ordered the Fi'aor out of the great city of Heartwood - forced all those with dark hair and light eyes into the woods beyond. Inter-wed families were torn asunder; Fi'aor mothers or fathers were separated from their pairbonds and children, and any child displaying the features of the darker parent was cast out as well. Disgruntled and upset, they cried out against such oppression and set up camps around the gates, demanding that they be let back in. Guards were sent to drive them away, and the resulting skirmish turned into a massacre as the exiles were forced to flee or die.
The Fi'aor were then branded 'dark elves' - individuals shunned by the light of the Lor'kai, who took the name 'high elves' some years later. A royal decree was announced: any who claimed the life of a traitor dark elf would be hailed as a hero, and the one that brought the regent Agarwath's head would be made a noble for the rest of his or her days. War had been borne on the wings of bloodshed, and nothing would stop its advance.
Meanwhile, Agarwath's mother had taken him and his family to an ancient temple to the Old Gods that had been long-ago forgotten, seeking to protect him from the ravages of the battle outside. So deep in his grief was he that he didn't know of the bloodshed that ravaged his people, or the vengeance the regent had ordered. He mourned for many nights, accompanied only by his mother, pairbond and daughters. It was only when a close friend - a dark elf named Mallahr - arrived, heavily wounded, that he realized his grief had blinded him to the plight of his people.
Mallahr was able to pass to him an amulet enchanted to hold the souls of the dead, formed of a small leaf forged in shimmering silver. Before he died, he entrusted to Agarwath the spell to activate it, and told him to use it to capture his soul so that he could continue serving the Fi'aor after he succumbed. When his body failed him, the amulet - called the Aurtha - shone brightly… and he passed away.
His soul spoke as new grief filled Agarwath, emanating from the glimmering leaf. "You must save your people from the ravages of the Lor'kai's rage," he said, and his image appeared, fragile and fleeting, as it did not have much energy being so newly dead. "You must lead them to safety. It can only be you, my Prince... and no other."
When his exhausted spirit blinked out of sight and was reabsorbed by the Aurtha, Agarwath took the amulet and clasped it about his neck. Swearing on the pendant - and thus the soul of his best friend - the former prince vowed not to take the vengeance that his heart suddenly desired. Pushing away the grief-spun anger, he steeled himself to lead his people away from this place, bring them to safety, and save as many lives as he could.
He took Mallahr's horse and rode away as swiftly as he could while his family moved into the tunnels beneath the abandoned temple. All dark elves he could find, he sent there with a promise of sanctuary and escape. He fought to repel the Lor'kai forces as best he could without killing them, and sought to dissuade his own people from fighting back.
Back in the ancient home of the elves, the regent Curain signed a decree that would forever banish the Fi'aor people and give the freedom of hunting them down to the people. Their lands were taken and titles stripped, and any dark elf hiding within the city was slain where he or she had been found. "Prince Syleev will be avenged," he cried as the decree was pronounced, "when all of those protecting his killer are scrubbed from this world!" This riled the Lor'kai - the high elves - beyond the anger and grief that they had felt. Armies were marshalled and a true hunt was born; the elves of the Light drove after the dark elves who sought escape underground.
The tunnels became a death trap. The temple was found and burned, and high elven forces poured in after the dark elves, killing all that they found. Desperate, Agarwath ordered his mages to create a mass portal that led to Felnova and promised to follow once the last of his people had gone through. He kissed his pairbond and children goodbye with a pang of worry and regret, wishing he could pass through with them into their haven. Once they were through, he took his place beside both his mother and a older Fi'aor seneschal who had been exiled when they had been driven from the city initially.
"I am proud of you, my son," his mother said, taking his hand in hers. "And I believe you will become a fine King. You have my blessing, and we will await you in Felnova. Stay safe, and be well. I will love you always."
As she left, Agarwath looked to his former seneschal. He was nearly as tall as his prince, with black hair that had a touch of silver around his face; his eyes were a pale gold. He had served the King before his death for many years, and his loyalty was absolute. "Go, my friend," he told the older elf, who was called Wilfeln. "Protect them. Guide them until I may follow."
"No, my liege," he replied, drawing his sword. The earth rumbled around them, and they both looked towards where the tunnel swept upwards towards the only entrance. "I am here to protect you. The others are moving; they will have time, and they will be safe. I will stand beside you to make sure that they come to no harm, and my oath binds me to make sure you may return to your family safe and alive."
Surprise flickered in the younger elf's icy blue eyes. He regarded his friend somewhat sadly, and looked away. "They're coming," he warned. "If the others..."
"They will all get through, and you as well," the seneschal returned. "You and I both have a reason to fight, and you've many reasons to survive. Never give up, my prince. I would stand with you until the end, but..." A smile crossed his face. "I would rather watch you rule your people as the kind and just king I know you will be."
At that moment, Agarwath had no time to respond - an arrow whistled past them and Wilfeln was forced to raise a barrier as two more streaked towards them. As the shafts shattered against the shield of magic, the prince drew his own sword and readied his magic. The thunder of approaching footfalls drew ever nearer, accompanied by the sounds of clattering armor and shouting soldiers who had found their quarry.
As soon as the archers came into the light, Wilfeln dispelled the barrier and Agarwath stepped forward, brandishing his sword in an arc before their opponents could ready their bows once more. A crescent of fire sprang from the blade, growing larger as it flashed towards the hapless archers. Panic overcame them as they scrambled out of the way, the magic fire exploding over their heads in the tunnel's arched entryway.
A sudden flicker of hope glinted in the prince's eyes; perhaps there was a way to get through this yet. The ground shook and there was a large crack as the fire's explosion dissipated. "Wilfeln," he said quickly, watching as more soldiers - along with a man on a horse - appeared in the tunnel's entrance. "Attack the tunnel's arch. If we can bring it down..."
The older elf smiled. "We can stop their army before it overtakes us."
Agarwath spared a glance behind him - almost all of his people had made it through the portal. The sustaining mages were there, holding it open, and there were only a few families hurrying to gather their things and flee to safety. Emboldened, he threw another blast of fire at the tunnel's entrance as Wilfeln crafted shards of ice and flung them at their attackers, sending them into a chaotic, confused mob ducking and dodging in an attempt to stay clear.
The cracking grew louder, and visible damage began to show upon the blackened stone. Several soldiers had fled back the way they had come, and the horse bucked and bolted, terrified as its rider struggled to control it. Three more strikes was all it took before there was a lurch in the earth, a jarring sound, and a terrible roar -
- as the arch suddenly, violently gave way as the stone supporting it finally failed.
A wall of rock and stone and earth crashed down on whatever and whoever still lingered beneath it; at least fifteen had been caught in the fall. Agarwath threw an arm up to shield his face from the cloud of dust and debris that assailed them moments after, before his companion raised a barrier to further protect them.
Three were left; three faces that he immediately recognized.
Ulathria, a ranger with golden hair and green eyes; one of the best elven women to ever grace the Order with her skill. Next to her stood Ainosa, a knight of the court with white hair and dark blue eyes the color of starlit midnight. With a shock, Agarwath looked upon the last - the very elf who had sentenced him to death. Thrown from his horse, disheveled and covered in dust, hatred and fury radiated from him like a visible aura. It was Curain, golden armor dented and dirty, white-blond hair hanging about his face. The regent of the future King looked nothing of the courtly man he'd once been, violet eyes half crazed with rage.
"I will hold them, my liege," Wilfeln said quietly. "The mages are moving through now. As the portal shrinks, you must go through with them."
Agarwath nodded. However, he did not plan to go through without Wilfeln - he knew exactly what he had to do, and how he was going to do it. As his opponents regrouped, he quickly turned to the last two mages who waited for them to come through. "I've got it," he said, reaching out with his power to take the portal's stability himself. "Go through; we will be along swiftly." Both nodded thankfully, their exhaustion clear, and moved through the much-smaller portal. Now, it was only tall and wide enough for one to pass through at a time.
Turning back, he readied his sword. "We will fight together," he said to Wilfeln, who gave him a resigned look. "And then, once they are unable to follow, we may escape."
They engaged the three warriors as their enemy charged; standing their ground, the prince and his companion repelled their attacks, swords flashing brightly. Sparks flew from the blades as they clashed against one another, glowing in the illumination of the portal. Finally, Wilfeln was able to disable Ainosa, breaking both of her wrists as he violently disarmed her. Her sword clattered upon the ground as she retreated with a cry - and thus it was two against two.
Both were very fast. Agarwath was hard pressed to block Curain's blows as the enraged elf drove against his defenses. He heard a cry beside him and gasped as Wilfeln staggered a step backwards, a deep gash running from shoulder to wrist deep enough to show bone. "No!" the prince cried, and pushed back at Curain to defend his wounded friend. Thoughts racing, he knew it was time...
...and he shoved Wilfeln through the portal, ignoring the seneschal's cry of protest. By doing so, he had no time to twist out of the way or block, couldn't stop Curain's flashing blade, but he was no longer afraid and no longer concerned. The sword pierced his chest, through armor and flesh alike, sliding between ribs and through to the other side. Pain made him stagger and gasp, face contorting in a grimace of torment. A second burst of horrible, burning, maddening agony came as Ulathria ran him through as well, sinking her sword deep into his stomach.
The portal wavered, and his sword slipped from his fingers to clatter upon the ground. He heard a cry behind him and struggled to call upon the magic that was swiftly sliding away; he could not - would not - allow Wilfeln to come back through only to die. With a jerk of his hand, he spread a shield of glimmering light across the portal, just as the former seneschal threw himself against it in an attempt to get back through. A smile crossed the prince's face, and his hand dropped to his side. He no longer had the strength to visibly hold it up, but now he had to focus on dispelling the portal, pushing his friend back through.
Curain sank the blade to the hilt, bitter rage burning in his eyes mere inches from Agarwath's face. A shudder passed through the prince, and his vision blurred, ice-blue eyes dull with pain. "We will hunt every one of your betrayers down," the regent spat. "Syleev's blood is on all of your hands. Murderer!"
"N-No," Agarwath whispered. He slumped against Curain, struggling to speak as his lungs began to fail him. "I w-will… rejoin my- my brother. I s-see… him… He w-waits..."
With a noise of disgust, the regent shoved Agarwath away and pulled his sword free as Ulathria did the same. Deaf to the shouts of Wilfeln and the wails behind the blocked portal, the prince crumpled to the ground, the world spinning around him. His fingers scraped across the bloodied stone as he struggled to reach for the pendant around his throat. Pain was a distant thing now as blood pooled beneath him; he let the hold of magic on the portal slide away, and it silently closed. Finally, the barrier spiraled away...
...and he was left alone.
Save only for the two that stood over him, speaking words he could no longer hear.
Look after them, Wilfeln, he thought, letting his eyes slip shut. I pray you… do this for me. Look after my family, my people… keep them safe, and… and…
Then, all ceased to matter. His tortured struggle for breath faded and stopped, and he finally relaxed as a feeling of peace washed over him. There was nothing but darkness, and the soft, glowing warmth of the tiny silver leaf he clasped in one hand.
It is said that the Lor'kai regent waited for Agarwath to die, watching dispassionately as his companions tended their injuries. He took the Aurtha, the leaf pendant, and sought to clear the rubble enough so that his soldiers and mages might break through. When they tried to follow the portal, however, they found it untraceable; a void met their senses, a lack of direction that they were never able to follow. After gathering their wounded and dead, the high elves left the prince's body where it lay, refusing to grant him a proper burial. Instead, the tunnels were resealed; spells were laced around the rocks, and so his unmarked tomb was left alone.
None of the high elves knew what lay within the small amulet. The source of light that glowed now and again from the gilt leaf's core went unquestioned. None knew of the souls sleeping within, or of the slain prince's dormant presence within the gleaming silver.
When Curain returned to the ancient city, he gave the Aurtha to Syleev's son, clasping the small silver leaf about the boy's slender neck. For many years, it lay in the possession of the high elves; for centuries, it was a token trinket passed from father to son, mother to daughter. Finally, one night, it is said that a dark elven thief stole into the palace and recovered the pendant -
- but that is a tale for another time.