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The Secret of the Elven Retreat
By Toby Mekelburg
"The elves are one of the major races of the Realms, and once ruled large sections of the Realms after the time of dragons and before the coming of humankind. Now the majority of these long-lived beings have retreated from the onslaught of humankind, seeking quieter forests, and their numbers in the Realms are a fraction of those even a thousand years ago." -- From 'A Grand Tour of the Realms'
"Aye then; this is where ye went" --Thelgar Steelshanks, dwarf and startled patron of the Elfstone Tavern, Waterdeep.
"Just because you don't see the People in great numbers on Faerun, that doesn't mean we are in any sort of decline..." --Albaraen Silvershade, elven adventurer to a party of human adventurers.
The Retreat is a phenomenon that has baffled human sages since the Retreat officially began in 1344 DR. It is usually thought that the majority of elves withdrew from the mainland to escape from the influence and swords of humanity and goblinkind. With the fall of Myth Drannor, and the ever-shrinking forested areas and encroaching humans, this was thought of as natural. This is partly true, but only the elves themselves know the genuine reasons.
The elves have many prophecies among their ancient lore. Some correspond to those set down by Alaundo and the other prophets, but most relate specifically to elves. The elves have some 2,000 prophecies set down in the Tirandiel Arcanum, an ancient tome bound with blue dragon hide. The book is held within the Hall of the Ancients, in the city of Leuthilspar on Evermeet. The existence of this tome is a closely guarded secret, and shrouded in mystery. Human sages have argued for centuries, doubting the Arcanum exists at all. Only a handful of non-elves has seen it, including Elminster the Sage.
Of the 2,000 or so prophecies within the Arcanum, only about 1/4 have come to pass. Among the prophecies, one stands out as the most important to the elves. Foretold by the sage Galaralith Durothil, who wrote many of the prophecies, is the ending of the world and its rebirth:
the Ending shall come,
Brought about by the Seven
Raise the standard of War
Only the People to stand against Them
With Man to deliver the Verdict
In Light or Dark the world reborn"
This prophecy, commonly called the Finale by the elves, is perhaps the most straight-forward of Galaralith's prophecies. The common interpretation of it by elven sages is that the world as most on Toril know it will end someday. The exact date is unknown, except for the Coming of the Seven, as mentioned in another prophecy. For the Finale to come to pass, all the other prophecies must be fulfilled.
Apparently the Seven are evil beings, of which race is unknown. Elven scholars claim they are foul planar creatures like fiends, others say they are the eldest living wyrms on Toril. They will arise from various parts of Toril; 1 from the North, 1 from the South, 2 from Kara-Tur, 1 from Zhakara, 1 from Maztica, and one from "beyond the Great Sea". The Seven will gather armies of orcs, giants, dragons and other evil creatures to make war.
The Finale makes it clear that the elves will form the backbone of the forces of Light that are arrayed against the forces of Darkness. The elves will marshal their armies in the defense of all that is good on Toril.
The part about Man "delivering the Verdict" leads many elven sages to believe that the humans will be the lynchpin in the war against Darkness, either destroying the world or saving it from destruction. But which side will the majority of humanity support?
At first the Finale was believed by the elves to be false. In fact, all the portents in the Arcanum were cast aside. But when the first prophecies began coming true thousands of years ago, the elves took more stock in the words laid down in the Arcanum. Various elven councils began to discuss possible solutions to the Finale during the time of Netheril. When the human kingdoms began to rise up and challenge the elves for supremacy for Faerun, the elves feared the worst. The cruel archwizards of Netheril had control of mighty magics, the likes of which have not been seen since. With the Neth encroaching upon the High Forest, some of the elven clans there began a migration elsewhere. Other elves in other parts of the Realms slowly began to follow their brethren in the High Forest.
This plan of eventual Retreat was formally adopted by the elven race on Faerun in 837 DR. After considering ways to consolidate elven power, and to ensure enough elves would be around by the time of the Finale to make a difference, large numbers of elves would join the Retreat in 1343 DR. After the initial agreement in 837 DR and years of secret preparation, many elves left the mainland of Faerun. Elven settlements that were indefensible or too near encroaching humans would be moved to other areas such as Evermeet or Evereska. Rich mithril lodes and caches of Netherese magic were found beneath the Greycloak Hills, as well as and even greater secrets, enhancing the importance of that area.
Still, Evereska, Evermeet and other secure elven settlements would not handle the migrating elves in comfort. For centuries, elven nobles had vacationed in the realm of the Seelie Court, that magical land of sylvan creatues. The Seldarine contacted Titania, the Faerie Queen, on behalf of their people to allow a number of elves to dwell within Seelie until such a time it was necessary for them to return to Toril. The Faerie Queen and her fellow sylvan gods had always had close relations with the elves, and their request was granted. In return, the elves would tend the forests and groves in the lands of Faerie. The bountiful plane would provide whatever the elves needed, and their numbers would not put a strain on the land here. Elven High Mages raised a modest city with their magic, and the elven population moved in. They named the city Elil-Avelorn, and the nearby lake Tith-Olordel.
Since then the elves living in Elil-Avelorn have seen a slight increase in their population. Perhaps it is because of the nature of Faerie, in that the elven being is at peace. Or because the elves have noticed a slowing of the aging process once they reach the Adult age category. Whatever the reason, the elves are thriving, and there is talk of creating a sister city to Elil-Avelorn in Faerie. According to the elven plans, the elves here will be part of a relief force during the fulfillment of the Finale. To that end, the elves undergo training to sharpen their swordplay, and study the ancient art of elven magic. Elven magi work to craft magic items and elf smiths hammer out elven mail and swords. Horse handlers breed moon horses to serve as cavalry mounts, while bowyers and fletchers craft bows and arrow shafts. Even on Evermeet, Evereska and the other elf realms, similar preparations are underway, although on a smaller scale.
Elil-Avelorn is ruled by the Council of the Seven, a group of elves with noble blood. The Council meets in the Tower of Fey'brith, located in the center of the city. They ensure that things in the elven portion of Faerie runs smoothly. In Elil-Avelorn, their decrees are law.
The city itself is a wonder to behold, as it is laid out in a circular pattern. The center of the city is the Tower of Fey'brith, and all roads lead to it. The Tower is surrounded by a ring of ancient oak trees, a dozen of which are actually elder treants. They are virtually indistinguishable from the normal oaks, and can animate the other trees to attack enemies.
The elven dwellings are built via Tel'Quessir magic, and common building types are towers, mansions, and tree-homes. Each dwelling has an expansive yard, dominated by lush gardens, complete with magical fountains. A typical elven home has numerous rooms, decorated in woodland tones and often sculpted with magic to allow rare plant life to flourish. Elven children play with their friends along the crystal flagstone-paved roads, gawking at strange visitors from the court of the Faerie Queen.
Every elven god is represented here, including Araleth Letheranil, Kirith Sotheril, and Melira Taralen. The largest temple is the Cathedral of Corellon, which lies to the right of the Tower of Fey'brith. It is made largely of marble, and the front of the temple is dominated by a hundred marble steps which lead into the temple itself, and an impressive garden, where temple clergy lounge about.
The population of Elil-Avelorn is currently 60% gold elves, 30% moon elves, and 10% green elves. No half-elves or drow live in the city, and under no circumstances will such creatures be allowed within Elil-Avelorn.
Younger elves living in Faerie often return to Faerun, the place of their or their parent's birth. They stay for a few years adventuring, and when they tire of it they return to Faerie. The elven elders believe it is important that the young elves see the importance and beauty of the Realms, as they have no desire to completely abandon Toril.
There have been instances of elven communities ignoring the call for the Retreat(Forest of Tethir) or being unprepared(Forest of Shilmista). In the case of the elves of Shilmista, they were nearly overwhelmed by the humanoid hordes arrayed against them. The elves believe that some malignant force is directing a coordinated effort to destroy their brethren still living in the Realms. What that force is remains to be seen, but there are whispers of alliances between Malar and Talos to name but a few.
To counter these evil influences, the Council of the Seven has ordered the formation of the Phoenix Guard. The Phoenix Guard's primary purpose is the defense of the remaining elven communities on the mainland of Faerun. Should any elven kingdom be severely threatened, the Phoenix Guard will be dispatched. If the settlement cannot be saved, then the elves living there must go into Retreat. Under no circumstances will Evereska or the Greycloak Hills be abandoned. Also, the Guard will not come to the aid of non-elven communities. The elves believe the existence of the Phoenix Guard must remain a secret for as long as possible. To this end, when they are deployed, they will use the camouflage of the forest to conceal their presence, and not announce who they are to any non-elves who may be nearby.
As things stand now, the elves are unsure as to where the majority of humanity will stand when the Finale comes to pass. The elves are trying to formulate a plan of action in their dealings with humans, and are perplexed by human nature. They don't understand the other races and their need to throw away logic and emotion when making choices. The elves believe that emotions are important, but they shouldn't let these emotions govern their decision-making. So for the time being the elves will watch and observe the humans, hoping that when the time comes, humanity will fight for the side of Light.
Rarandel Silversong (LG em M28); Lord High Mage of Elil-Avelorn, Lord Protector of Elil-Avelorn
This ancient gold elf is perhaps the oldest elf in the Known Spheres. He is reputed to have the blood of Corellon in him, which explains his age and power. Legends also say he is one of the first elves to walk Toril when the world was young. Whatever his origins, Rarandel is a mighty sorcerer, and was appointed as leader of the Council by agreement of Corellon and Titania. He oversees the daily operations of the Council, and in his spare time teaches young elven mages the Art.
Rarandel is just a shade over six feet in height, and his long silver hair is now gray with age. Wrinkles line his slender face, and his green eyes carefully measure one's worth. He has a large collection of magical items and scrolls, and numerous rare spells. He always wears purple robes of the archmagi and a staff of power wherever he goes.
Eriaen Moonmeadow (CG ef M12/C9); First Councilor of Elil-Avelorn
Eriaen serves as the First Councilor behind Rarandel, who is her father. This copper-haired elf woman often runs the Council when her father is absent(which is quite frequent), and settles disputes whenever they arise. Together with the rest of the Council she oversees the affairs of Elil-Avelorn, and coordinates activities with the other elves of Faerun. She is the elf who usually meets with the ambassadors of the sylvan gods, and ensures the elves and faerie folk live together in harmony.
Dae'uthil Autumnsong (CG em F12); Second Councilor of Elil-Avelorn
Dae'uthil is a black-haired moon elf, and overall commander of the Phoenix Guard. He is still a relatively young elf, and hopes to make a difference saving the remaining elven communities on the mainland of Faerun. To that end he pressed for the formation of the Phoenix Guard, which will defend those same elven communities. Dae'uthil plans on expanding the activities of the Phoenix Guard to include the use of force to clear Myth Drannor and other lost elf realms of their evil inhabitants. Rarandel and the other Council members are cautioning the young moon elf not to act too hastily, as there are risks to resettle a large number of elves without clear plans. Dae'uthil is passionate about his cause, but so far has managed to keep his unusual youthful emotions in check.
Elobreryn Goldmantle (CG ef P19); Third Councilor of Elil-Avelorn
Elobreryn is in charge of the temples to the Seldarine, and ensures the growth of religion in Elil-Avelorn.. Elobreryn is the high priestess of Corellon, and has much standing in the community. She is most often found on Faerun, communicating with the scattered temples of Corellon's faith. The gold elf priestess also has ties to Mielikki's faith among the Savage North, and is currently working to establish an alliance with those of Lurue's faith.
Elves of Evermeet
Complete Book of Elves
Dragon #236 'The Seldarine Revisited'
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