About the Elves of Panzoasia
An Elf’s hair, skin, and eyes can be any shade of any hue – including pink, purple, green, and blue. Elves of the Ultimate West, however, tend towards either pastel shades or Human-like tones in their skin colors – while those of the Ultimate East often have skin that is deep blue, green, or red. In the Ultimate North, the Elves often have skin and hair that is the palest blue, or even pure white, with deep blue or purple eyes. Elves of the Ultimate South tend towards dark reddish brown, deep amber, and golden hues in their skin tones – and can actually have hair that glitters like metallic gold!
Panzoasian Elves of either sex tend toward a slim, lithe build, and stand just over 5 feet tall. Both males and females are of the same height and general build. Elven women tend to have only slightly wider hips than males. Elven faces are androgynously attractive and usually heart-shaped, with high cheekbones and relatively large, almond-shaped eyes. Elves cannot grow beards. While the hair of most Elves is straight or only slightly wavy, very curly hair is sometimes seen on those from the Ultimate South. The ears of Panzoasian Elves resemble those of deer, and are similarly mobile. Elven ears are always in motion – pitching forward to express interest, sweeping back in anger, standing up in joy, or drooping in sorrow.
While Elves can live for a thousand years or more, they can only actually remember the last 30 years (or so) of their own life. A five-hundred year old Elf knows how old she is, and may be surrounded by mementos of her previous exploits, but cannot consciously recall what she did, or where she was, two hundred years ago. An Elf can even forget their own parents, siblings, or children. One of the best known Elven songs, “The Wheel of the Wind”, concerns a triad of Elven lovers whose life journeys cause them to constantly become separated and forget each other – only for the three of them to be repeatedly reunited so they can fall in love all over again.
Elves completely stop aging around the age of eighteen and don’t age any more until the last decade of their natural lives. A thousand-year-old Elf dying of extreme old age would have a face no more wrinkled than a Human of about thirty. With their ever-youthful bodies and short memories, Elves never experience the world-weariness or emotional trauma that can affect aged members of the other Peoples. Perhaps for that same reason, however, Elves are often dismissed as impulsive and emotionally volatile.
Traditionalist Elves tend to wear the most colorful, frivolous, and diaphanous version of the local costume, and prefer silk and lace as fabrics. They often wrap themselves in capes patterned after the wings of butterflies, moths, or dragonflies. In colder weather, the capes will be of fur, feathers, or velvet. Elves in every region of Panzaoasia love to decorate their faces with glued-on spangles of precious stones and metals, often wear body glitter, and like to wear feathers, ribbons, and insect wings in their hair. Elves feel completely free to dress in typically “masculine” or “feminine” manner as they desire – a male Elf is apt to wear a silken gown while lounging in his home, while a female Elf will often cut her hair into a short “pixie” style and don trousers when she goes off to adventure.
Before the Invasions, the Elves lived as semi-nomadic bands that frequently raided the other Peoples, and periodically retreated to the the vitrified forts which still lie in ruins atop hills across Panzoasia. Large geoglyphs were carved from the turf on the sides of those hills, in the shapes of people and animals. Sometimes the geoglyphs were actually the symbols for rude and insulting words in the local Elven language.
During the Reign of the Monsters, most of the surviving Elves fled to the woods and jungles, where they allied (and occasionally intermarried) with the Saganic Sylphs who dwell in the clouds. In the Ultimate West, the massive Zoswood Trees (or Beharbres) were hollowed out and turned into refuges. Some Elves, however, actually took the fight to the Underworld itself, and settled in the caverns they captured from their enemies. These lost Chthonic Elves are effectively a fifth division of the Elven People, but are almost never seen by surface dwellers.
All Elven cultures allow any number and combination of adults to be married to each other. Traditional Elven marriages last only a year, unless renewed. There is no expectation of monogamy, even among those who consider themselves married. Traditionally, Elven children are raised communally, and most never know the identity of their biological father. A Good-aligned or urban-dwelling Elf who who loves someone from another People will probably make an effort to conform to that person’s expectations about proper behavior in a relationship, but most other Elves will become indignant if told that they must remain faithful to single partner for more than a month.
Panzoasian Elves prefer to practice sky burial of their dead. A deceased Elf is places on a platform in the highest tree, (or else atop a tower or pole), and scavenging birds are allowed to devour them. The remaining bones are pulverized and scattered (a job traditionally done by Elf-kin Halflings). Elves value change and renewal, so fixed monuments naming the dead are considered to be in extreme bad taste.
The worship of the Lord and Lady of Light was completely unknown to the Elves of Panzoasia before the Reign of the Monsters. Now, however, many Elves are of Good Alignment – although most are still Neutral or Chaotic. Lawful Elves are social misfits who usually live away from others of their own kind. Only about 1% of surface-dwelling Elves are actually Evil. The Chthonic Elves of the Underworld, on the other hand, are rumored to be largely Evil – but that might just be a baseless slander.
Elves enjoy mushrooms and fungi of all sorts, both as food, and as sources of intoxicants. Elves can safely eat species of fungi that are lethal to other Peoples – even such deadly mushrooms as the Death Cap and Destroying Angel. They can also derive nourishment from tree leaves, and eat ferns that would be indigestible to others. Traditionalist Elves have no prejudices against consuming any kind of animal meat – and particularly relish insects such as grasshoppers, wood-grubs, cicadas, and caterpillars.
Fencing and archery are the the great Elven pastimes, but Elves also love to play variations of “Hide-and-Seek”. Also widely popular is a sport called “Nêbata” in the Western Elven language, generally similar to Lacrosse.
Elves prefer special breeds of deer, elk, and antelopes as mounts and beasts of burden. They have also domesticated the giant Zoswood Cicada as a flying mount. Sylvan Unicorns and Winged Unicorns will sometimes allow Good-Aligned Elves to ride them, and some Elves of the Ultimate North even ride polar bears into battle! Birds and foxes are popular pets, as is the green Elven Dog (or Cooshee). They especially love the phosphorescent Hercinia bird, whose glowing plumage illuminates many Elven communities.
To a traveler from our Earth, the Western Elven language sounds vaguely like a strange mixture of French and Irish; Southern Elven seems to somewhat resemble a combination of Yoruban and Taino; Eastern Elven is oddly evocative of Vietnamese; and Northern Elven mildly suggests Sami. All Elven languages are tonal, and those who lack perfect pitch can find them hard to understand or speak properly. Additionally, the vocabularies of Elven languages are very fluid, with new words constantly being invented, and old words changing meaning. Elves are apt to ridicule those who cannot pronounce their languages properly, or use outdated words. Each of the four known Elven languages is written with its own variety of pictograms.
A traditional Elven Commune is nominally led by an elected Princess (who can actually be of either biological sex), who chooses a Prince (of either biological sex) to be responsible for the security of the group. A group of Communes will collectively elect a Queen, who then selects a King to oversee the security of all the Communes who accept her leadership. As with Princesses and Princes, Queens and Kings can be of either biological sex. All Elven leaders must be reelected every year, and are often chosen on the basis of their good-looks and fashion sense. Their actual power is extremely limited, and most of what they do in modern times involves organizing games and parties. Princesses and Queens wear attire and cosmetics that look very “feminine” to Human eyes while attending to their governmental duties, while Princes and Kings wear more “masculine”-appearing attire.
In mixed communities, Elves will predominate in the fine arts, perfumery, the making of cosmetics, the crafting of luxury goods, silk and lace production, music, mushroom gathering, fine carpentry, and the cultivation of tree crops. Many realms of the ultimate West have special orders for knighthood for Elves sworn to use both sword and spell in defense of the nation. These include the “Order of the Unicorn” in Corthis, the “Order of the Griffin” in the Free March, the “Order of the Golden Stag” in Maeland, and the “Order of the Dragonfly” in Ombratia.