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A Comprehensive Look at Avariels
The most striking feature of the averiels is their soft, feathered wings. These wings have spans of anywhere from twelve to sixteen feet and are usually white, but may also be gray, brown, black, or speckled. Avariels take great pride in their wings and spend long hours grooming them. Their skin is pale, often porcelain white, with tinges of blue or faint silver. They have a silver-white or black hair, with other shades being rare but not unheard of. The avariel's eyes are rather large and more expressive than those of other elves are, and they tend to be brilliant shades of blue or green. A few avariel have scintillating violet eyes as pure as amethysts. Avariels stand 5'9” tall on average, with thin, graceful limbs and angular facial features.
The avariel are not merely "elves with wings"; their entire body has been developed to accommodate flight. Their torso is typically larger and stronger than that of their elvish brethren, designed as it is to bear wings. Furthermore, their skeletal structure, composed of light and hollow bones, helps reduce the burden of their weight while aloft. When in the air, they tend to be quite fast, mobile, and agile, due not to their lighter weight and to their graceful flight. On the ground however, they are almost burdened by their wings, sometimes appearing clumsy.
The avariel are possessed of an almost ethereal beauty. They are delicate, their movements quick, calculated, and graceful. By most, they are considered the most beautiful and striking of the elven races.
Avariels are free spirits who would like nothing better than to simply soar on the currents high above the ground, taking in the views Faerun has to offer. They posses an irrepressible zest for life. Even in the darkest, most desperate situation, an avariel remains cheerful. Unfortunately, while friendly to those they consider their equals, avariels also tend to be condescending and even downright rude to landbound races. The avariels are usually unaware of this; it's just their natural reaction to treat landbound races as lesser creatures. Given time and enough exposure to other cultures, avariels can overcome their natural bias. At heart they are contemplative and philosophical, religion playing an important role in their daily lives. Even those who spend their lives studying the martial path often set aside these pursuits in order to return to a holier calling. Lastly, avariel are notoriously claustrophobic; confined places, particularly subterranean ones, are decidedly painful to them.
During the Time of Dragons (Unknown to –24,000 DR), Toril, is dominated by dragons far more powerful than those on Faerûn today. Isolated pockets of territory fall under giant control, and these grow toward the end of this age. This is when the Aril-tel-quessir (avariel), along with the Sy-tel-quessir (green elves), and the Ly-tel-quessir (lythari), first came to Aber Toril as immigrants from the realm of Faerie, passing through the fey crossroads and backroads.
Upon first migrating to Faerun, they found the world to be a vast, beautiful place. Unfortunately, vicious dragons ruled the skies. The newly arrived avariels were nearly wiped out by the dragons before the First Flowering. In their tenacity they were able to establish a foothold though. Of these, the largest was the temple-city of Aerie, located in the Star Mountains at the heart of the High Forest. By the time the second wave of elven immigrants, the terrible wars with the dragons had driven them to near extinction.
The martial strength and magical prowess of the peoples in this second wave brought the Time of Dragons to a close. All that's left now of this time are legendary epics and songs of elves overthrowing and slaying dragon and giant overlords, and carving nations for themselves.
During the First Flowering (-24000 to –12000 DR) the elves colonized the islands of Evermeet and parts of the future Moonshaes, taking the first steps towards what would someday be known as elven high magic. This powerful arcane knowledge allowed the elves to contest with and finally drive back the dragons for the first time in history. During these centuries, the elves held back the orc hordes, the dragons, and the giants, slaughtering them all and allowing the other races the chance to survive and thrive in safety. The only major loss to the elves at this time was their winged brethren, the aril-tel-quessir.
After all the avariel had gone through, only one major flock and a handful of smaller flights remained. The Convocation of Eagles flew east, seeking a new home. As the Convocation traveled through foreign and exotic lands they found their skills were greatly desired by those they met. It was not long before they found a surprising new home. An expansive human tribe formed an alliance with the avariels. The human barbarians provided land and peace within their own territory and in return the avariels would provide some of their number to act as scouts and messengers. Under this treaty both people prospered and the avariel began to grow in number.
After many human generations, the barbarian lord Imruk of the city-state of Erlacor (now in ruins) sought to overthrow the barbarian-king of the land. The barbarian-king had turned to demon worship and Imruk intended to put a halt to this. The movement to oust the barbarian-king became nigh unstoppable when Raaman (meaning blessed wing in elven), the leader of the Convocation of Eagles, proclaimed that that because the barbarian-king had sacrificed several winged folk to the demons, the avariel warriors would gather and aid Imruk's effort.
With command of the air provided by the avariels, lmruk was able to crush the barbarian king's armies. The last battle of the uprising was fought on the plain to the north of the barbarian-king's capital. The winged folk holy-men called upon Aerdrie Faenya for aid, and their prayers were rewarded when the High King's demons were destroyed by her wrath. Seeing his demons and his army being destroyed, the barbarian-king called down a curse upon the avariel and upon Imruk, proclaiming that lmruk would become as he, but less than he, and would die for treachery. Seconds after proclaiming that curse, the barbarian-king fell dead with scores of arrows in his body as Imruk's warriors burst through the king's last defenses. lmruk was awed by, and apprehensive of, the power the winged folk had shown. He feared that unless he acted quickly, he would rule only by their sufferance. Therefore, lmruk invited Raaman to bring the winged folk army to Imruk's encampment the following day so he could give the avariel warriors great rewards for their part in winning the battle.
The following day the avariel warriors landed in the designated area in the center of Imruk's camp. As soon as the air was no longer stirred by the beating of wings, Imruk's archers fired upon the winged folk, and only a few of them again reached the safety of the sky. Raaman was one who escaped. Three days later he killed lmruk in a raid upon the camp, but was himself mortally wounded. Thus did lmruk die for his treachery, and was ruin wrought upon the winged folk, just as the barbarian-king's curse had prophesied. The winged folk lost half of their population in the ambush, even though many of Imruk's men were also slain. Most of the females and all of the children did not go to Imruk's camp and thus were spared. Before he died, Raaman charged his successor with the responsibility of removing the winged folk from their relationships with other human and demi-human beings. Raaman's successor followed this order, secreted the remaining avariel, and thus the winged folk began yet another long and slow recovery.
The Convocation of Eagles journeyed for many years, concealing their wings lest they attract too much attention. They took to the skies only when they had to, hiding on the ground like vermin and living terrible, dirty lives as nomads and scavengers. What exactly happened during the intervening millennia is unknown.
One thing that is worthy of note is that in –1531 DR a plague originated in Bandor Village on the eastern slopes of the Barren Mountains (Nether Mountains). This plague caused the death of all life in the village and swept east to Vandal Station, where it claimed 4,000 more lives before ceasing its deadly march. It is rumored that the plague was caused by contact with the winged humanoid race. Additionally, in –933 DR there were rumors of winged humans flying about the summits of the Barren Mountains (Nether Mountains). While a few expeditions were mounted to contact this new race, none were successful.
In their own myth's, the avariel claim that Aerdrie Faenya took her people to her realm in Arvandor. There they slumbered until Toril was safe enough for them to return. Regardless of the truth, they traveled as nomads, from one temporary home to another. They finally came to a land far from any which might harm or betray them, a land they could soar without fear. It was a cold and brutal land, but their magics were able to adapt them well to this environment. Therein they found majestic Mount Sundabar, the last dwarfhold of the kingdom of Dareth (established in –2600 DR by Orloebar Snowbeard).
The dwarves of the “Ice Kingdom” of Dareth had been warring with seemingly endless flights of white dragons and their bestial servants. With the help of the dwarves of Delzoun, they fled from the mountains of Dareth (now known as the Peaks of Cold Death), to a lone mountain that stood apart from the rest. They named it Mount Sundabar in honor of a city in the Northkingdom that they'd left behind.
There they founded a new citadel (circa 1000 DR), electing as King one Embryn Shattered-shield, who left his clan to take the name of Dareth. The white dragons soon attacked Mount Sundabar, employing magical items of great force and unknown, elder origin. In the end, the Mountain was shattered, the dwarven hold laid waste. The dwarves fought on, however, slaying dragons whenever they could reach them. They became skulking attackers who swarmed all over the Mountains of Dareth, until no dragon was safe in its lair, and the bones of both dwarves and dragons littered the mountain range. In the end, the dwarves and dragons destroyed each other, in a final confrontation on the broad mountaintop now known as Heroes' Height. This opened the way for humans to hunt and cut lumber in the rich lands that became Armridge and Sossal. The caverns of Dareth were explored and plundered of all valuables left by the dwarves, but recurring monster attacks made the mines too dangerous to work. And so they remain today, home to dangerous creatures that feed on the occasional humans or dwarves desperate or reckless enough to try mining the riches of lost Dareth again. Dareth's borders lay within the mountain range named for it, plus Mount Sundabar, Heroes' Height, and the high valleys between. The Sign of the Realm, almost unknown today, was a row of three peaks with a stone hammer, head to the right, horizontal above them.
Atop the demolished flat-peak, a small group of white dragons of Hoarfaern and a few of their beastial servants dwelled, most of their numbers having returned to their own lairs within the dwarf-carved halls of the Mountains of Dareth. These dragons were driven out and the Convocation claimed the mountain as their own, naming it the Aerie of the Snow Eagles.
Soon the wyrms returned, wishing the mountain back and renewed their ancient war with the avariels. Only in the last millennia has this war subsided. Whether it's due to losses on the dragon's side or simply lack of interest, it's unknown. The only other remaining threats in the area were the Sossarim to the north and the Ulutiuns to the west. Thankfully, neither sought out the avariels, both seemingly as cautious as the winged folk themselves. This suited everyone well and over the years they have come to a mutual, if cautious, understanding.
The past five hundred years have pest in peace and prosperity for the Aerie of the Snow Eagles and many have renewed hopes for their future as a people. It is with this renewed hope that recently contact was re-established with their elven kin and officials from Evermeet.
Avariels came dangerously close to extinction long ago, and it has taken thousands of years to recover to the point where they don't have to worry about the fate of their race. Only recently have they begun to expand back into the world, sending explorers, diplomats, and merchants south into Faerun proper.
The avariels have a unique model for their societies, separating into two groups when they congregate in large numbers: a warrior society of fighters and soldiers, and a peaceful society of thinkers and religious scholars. These two subcultures, as diametrically opposed as their separate philosophies may be, work together to forge a powerful symbiotic relationship.
Warlike avariels have a complex code of honor that they use to guide and temper their militaristic activities and training. These avariels spend their lives defending their kin. Their lives are geared towards war and power, and they answer to their war chiefs, who share responsibility for ruling the society with the religious leaders of the peaceful avariels. The martial avariels are proud and hearty, and they form eternal friendships with those who earn their respect and trust.
The peaceful avariels, unlike their warlike kin, focus mainly on arts and the intellectual aspects of life. When faced with conflict, a peaceful avariel relies on her brains and diplomatic abilities, and often on her magic power. Peaceful avariels are artists, philosophers, and researchers who spend their lives studying the world and its history and creating works of art simply for the sheer joy of creation. The peaceful avariels are also responsible for providing their society with food, entertainment and education. Many peaceful avariels are also very religious and spend much of their time contemplating the ways of Aerdrie Faenya.
Despite their divergent personalities, these two subcultures interact surprisingly well. Young avariels typically spend time immersed in each subculture, learning from both warriors and priests. These exchanges, which often last for a decade or longer, allow avariels raised in one subculture to learn how the other subculture lives. This results in a close-knit system that allows the two groups to work together very effectively. For example, peaceful avariels will closely study migration patterns of the fauna in the area and tell the warrior-hunters where to hunt, etc.
In combat, warlike avariels have little pity or remorse about cutting down their enemies. The concept of surrender is highly dishonorable to these avariels, both for themselves and for their enemies. Once lethal combat begins, few avariels break off until they or their enemies are dead. Drawing blood from an enemy is nothing less than a promise to honor the enemy with one's skill in combat and not humiliate him by leaving him alive to dwell on an embarrassing defeat. The act of slaying an enemy is viewed simply as delivering on that promise.
The warrior code supports the use of ranged weapons, which allows them to cut down an enemy from an unassailable distance in the skies above. Those who cannot defend themselves against an attack from the skies should know better than to make an enemy of a clearly superior foe.
Avariels acknowledge the Seldarine as a whole and pay lip service to most of the elven deities, but they hold a special reverence for a single member of that pantheon, Aerdrie Faenya, the elven goddess of the skies, weather, and avians of all sorts. Although they do not elevate their religious beliefs to the level of fanaticism, the avariels as a whole are deeply religious, and the thought of not venerating a deity is alien and unwholesome to most of them.
Avariels believe that it is due to Aerdrie Faenya's intervention that they are able to survive at all. Ages ago, Aerdrie Faenya gifted the avariels with their wings because she knew that they would face great trials and danger in the future and would need the advantage of flight if they were to have any hope of survival. Avariels also believe that she takes more of a direct hand in their lives then do the gods of the other elves. Avariels often attribute Aerdrie Faenya's intervention events that most other races would view as simply fortuitous coincidences.
The Dance of the Swirling Winds is a semiannual festival held on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes to celebrate the changing seasons and to honor the Winged Mother. The winds are always strong on such days, no matter where Aerdrie's followers gather. Celebrants make offerings of beautiful feathers and join in an aerial ballet danced to the music of wind instruments played by some of the participants.
Winged Father Aquilan Greatspan loosely governs the Avariel community on Mount Sundabar. Aquilan has led the last remaining major enclave of winged elves in Faerun for nearly five centuries, and his wise leadership has seen the avariel survive, if not exactly prosper, amidst the dwarven ruins.
Winged elves combine a tradition of vigilance and skill at arms with a joyous reverence for the sheer peaks and open skies of their homeland. Many become fighters, rangers or clerics. Avariels lean towards divine rather than the arcane, but a small number take up the study of wizardry and excel at it.
Members of the peaceful subculture are masters of divine and arcane magic. Unlike most other races though, the avariels have only recently (in elven terms) become re-established on Faerun. For most of their history, the avariels simply haven't had the luxury of experimenting and toying with magic; they were too focused on simply surviving. Avariels favor conjurations and transmutation magic for their versatility, and the miniature jungle world within the Aerie of the Snow Eagles is the culmination of their most potent conjurations and transtmuations. Avariels have also been focusing more on divinations spells of late, as they seek out their lost, and well-hidden, brethren.
Bladesingers: Some avariels practice the art of the bladesong and use it to protect their communities. Like other kinds of elves, winged elves greatly respect the skill needed to become a bladesinger.
Faithful of Aerdrie Faenya: The novice priests of Aerdrie Faenya are known as the Tethered. Winged Brothers or Sisters are full priests of Aerdrie Faenya. Within the order, Aerdrian priests have many titles, including Aquiline Hunter, Cloud Walker, Feathered Dancer, Halycon, Rain Bringer, Rising Thermal, Silent Screech, Sky Diver, Soaring Spirit, and Wind Chaser. Ceremonial garb for priests consists of sky-blue robes, with those of highest rank wearing the darkest shades. Feathers are used in decorating their clothing and armor, and at least one feather is worn in the hair. The holy symbol of their faith is a feather of great beauty, willingly given after molting by a sentient avian that venerates the winged mother. A new feather must be found at least once per year.
Skywardens: These avariels are self-appointed protectors of the skies, the mountaintops, and anywhere that the avariel might travel. They are also known to help wingless ones who are lost or injured while in their domains. The Skywardens are individualists, who feel compelled to live apart from their own people in order to protect their natural environment. Skywardens can never willingly allow anyone to suffer in their domain, provided they are aware of it. They minister to wounded animals as well as humans and humanoid visitors to their lands. While Skywardens may live for a while in the Aerie, they prefer isolated homes in the heart of their protected domains.
Talons: These elite warriors, trained in the defense of Aerie of the Snow Eagle. They are marked by their uniform appearance, wearing distinctive leather harnesses from which hang a number of weapons and at the center of which is a crest indicating rank and unit. They represent the ideal Avariel warrior, specialists in the military arts. Membership in the Talons is a common goal for many young warriors, but only the best are accepted as full members, rather than just employees. Their education is arduous, involving years of combat instruction and character-building exercises as the young Talons-in-training are forged into professional warriors. Talons are members of a guild that operated very much like a military force, and they are forced to obey the chain of command as well as a strict code of conduct. They can be rather difficult to work with, automatically expecting every group to function like a well-oiled fighting machine, which is simply not always the case.
The avariels take flight across the frigid skies of the cold lands for many of their needs. They fish in the freezing waters of Sossar Bay and the Great Ice Sea and hunt across the icy reaches of the Great Glacier.
They prefer to wear loose fitting diaphanous clothing that catches the wind in flight and ripples and weaves in the air. Armor is almost never worn, because it tends to weigh them down and hinder their graceful motions. Togas and other light, wraparound garments are preferred. They use no armor except for rare magical devices, relying on dexterity and ranged attacks to escape harm. Their weapons are traditionally made from glassteel or obsidian.
The avariels have taken the craft of glassblowing and elevated it to an art form. When most races turn to metal, wood, or stone to craft gear, the avariels have turned to the fragile and delicate medium of glass (part of this is simply out of a lack of resources in the area and the brittleness of metal in the extreme cold). In a way, their affinity for glass as medium reflects their very nature, for the avariels themselves are fragile and beautiful people.
While much avariel glass is delicate and decorative, the winged elves have also mastered glassteel, a form of glass as strong as metal. Many avariel outposts are made of glassteel, as are some armor, weapons, and tools. Warlike avariels often prefer to use ranged weapons, and they aren't above using wings to gain an advantage over landbound enemies.
Some unique items to avariels are eagle-claws and wing swords. An eagle-claw is a leather glove with a series of blades extending past the knuckle (same as a spiked gauntlet). A wing sword is, between the lengths of a short sword and a long sword, is a primary weapon for many winged Elves, because long swords are inherently dangerous to their wings (same as long sword, not different enough to warrant new stats).
Small, scattered bands of avariels still exist in the heartlands of Faerun, but these groups rarely number more than a dozen and usually avoid civilized areas.
The avariels are on good terms with other sentient, good-aligned avian races. They admire and respect giant eagles, a bond that survived the dark centuries of draconic persecution. The avariels are also fond of the aarakocras, but since the winged elves were driven from the Star Mounts, their interactions with these birdmen dropped off significantly. They get along well with air genasi as well, although they are often frustrated with the genasi's ambivalence and disinterest in good and evil.
The avariels have long had a close bond with the giant eagles of Faerun, and they settle in the same areas. Giant eagles are intelligent creatures and are considered allies, not pets.
Most avariels keep birds as companions or pets, though they are never caged, and can come and go as they please. Cages don't sit well with avariels. Avariels sometimes employ arrowhawks, griffons, and hippogriffs as guards for their aries. They adore rocs and think of them as magnificent beasts touched by Aerdrie Faenya. Rocs are admired from afar, however, as such massive creatures don't easily fit within avariel aeries.
Avariel relations with landbound races are not nearly as productive. The avariels have traditionally viewed those who can't fly as objects of pity (at best) or derision (more commonly). For most of their time at the Aerie of the Snow eagle, the avariel would sometimes meet small groups of Sossarim and Ulutiuns to trade goods and information. Recently, the avariels have begun to realize the error of their ways, the landlocked races, despite their lack of wings, can be powerful and helpful allies. Avariels from the Aerie of the Snow Eagle have recently sent diplomats to neighboring kingdoms (Narfell, Rashemen, Damara, and the Great Dale in particular) and have been doing their best to treat the ground races as equals.
The avariels are still hunted to this day by evil dragons, which view the winged elves and their magical aptitude as the greatest threat to their dominion over the skies of Faerun. Dragons have nowhere near the presence in the skies as they did in the ancient past, but their memories are long. In particular, the white dragons of Hoarfaern are particularly dedicated to the final destruction of the averiels and the Aerie of the Snow Eagles.
Towering immensely above the plains of Sossal to the north and the Great Glacier to the south is Mount Sundabar. The mountain rises like a monolith into the very heavens its peak forever lost in snowy clouds. If one were to rise above the clouds, the top of the mountain itself glistens like an enormous jewel in the bright sunlight. Its apex having been replaced by an enormous crystalline peak, and directly below that rings the Avariel community of the Aerie of the Snow Eagles.
Delicate glassteel spires and a honeycomb of open caves serve the avariels within. At the peak itself is the Temple of Aerdrie, which resembles an inverted glassteel cone built to replace the sheered off mountaintop of mount Sudnabar. The crystalline temple is nearly 3,000 feet in diameter at its base and 3,000 feet high at its peak. The structure is filled with small open-mouthed caves that connect to the tunnels within the mountain. This allows access to Aerdrie's glass enclosed chapels from within the Aerie itself. The caves bring a constant wind to whistle through the temple and glass chimes echo throughout, as endless zephyrs dance and tiny rain showers erupt out of thin air.
The floor of the temple is overgrown with tropical plants, many long extinct in other areas, nurtured by the brilliant sunshine and regular rainfall to create a jungle paradise. Rare birds from the reaches of Toril gambol and caw while young winged elves test out their wings overhead. Conjurations and transmutation magics are often used in this jungle paradise to bring in rare and wonderful species within.
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