With loyalty that is not easily won or lost, Elves carry an immortal sense of how fleeting life is, born of their own brushes with total extinction. But far more than frail survivors, they are unrivaled artists from architecture to agriculture, with arcane and physical prowesses as natural as the wind, rain and storm. Sibling hearts divide the race into two distinct groups: Ashen Elves steward Faerthale from within, eternally vigilant in watch and guard, while their Ember brethren cast an aggressive eye toward the surrounding lands, rooting out evil where it resides.
To understand the Elves of Faerthale rightly, one must walk among the pages of their ancestors. It is a thick opus, full with triumphs and tragedies, begun long before their kind set upon Terminus. On the planet S'iolaen, the Elves lived as one great host for a thousand years, mastering battle, trade and the arcane. Power was concentrated into the Three Realms: Guardian North, Fertile West and Archestral South. Yet an age of unmitigated pestilence fractured their unity, and in a climax of unrest the militant cities of the North laid waste to the richer lands in the West.
"For the north deemed themselves suffering unequally. Any disparity was owed to their own mishandlings and greedy authorities, yet they prodded themselves with false rumors of the West's secret provisions. Unifying with the demonic Beasts of Tohr they had so long protected our Three Realms against, the Northern Elves marched upon their brothers without mercy. Thus they are now the Tohr'mentirii, a Severed Host, cut off from Elvenhood for all of time."
- Taken from the Sepher S'iolaen
Under this calamity, the Elven gods Aellos and Dythiir led survivors to a lush valley far in the East, the forgotten hallow of race's birth. The sight which greeted the refugees melted their sorrow like a radiant dawn: a tree of such enormous size it was at first mistaken for a mountain, laden with clouds. Up from the heart of the teeming valley the regal tree soared, arrayed in animal and vegetative life, prismatic rainbows and falling streams. The base was half a day's journey around, even upon the swiftest horse. So powerful was the trunk in its ascent, that slabs of great rocks from far below the valley soil had been pulled up into sired ridges. The four highest branches stretched out like bridges in the sky, though they did not altogether span the chasm of the valley.
"From each of the four chief limbs fell the fruit of a season: leaves made of snow; blossoms of drifting rain; blooms of tangible heat; drifts of reds and golds that swirled like sands on the valley floor. There was a storm cloud caught between two branches, flashing glints within its folds. Through the knuckles of the cavernous roots below flowed the emerald river N'yleen, anchoring the four resplendent regions in fertility. This was Lumos, the Second Dawn."
- Sepher S'iolaen
Yet in short decades the ravenous Tohr'mentirii tracked their divorced brothers to this bountiful new home. Hollowed by hatred and joining indistinguishable ranks with the Beasts of Tohr, they razed the valley with infernal flame. By the end of their siege even Lumos was scorched and dying. The Elves took flight into the lands of pestilence as desperate nomads. In this mourning hour they took as their namesake "The Ashen", painting their faces from elder to infant with cinders of Lumos itself. Yet Dythiir pulled the Heartseed of Lumos from the desecrated tree and gave it to the Ashen Elves, while Aellos bestowed a two-fold prophecy, declaring that the seed would be planted anew in foreign lands. Thus, the Elven era of Terminus began with promise. Once a home was secured in the clefts of the Roan mountains, the Heartseed was planted with solemn ceremony. This tree they named Lucent, the Third Light.
"In these first months upon the land, a new government was formed. There would now be a Council of Nine Branches, each with equal authority, with one from the Nine to oversee impartially. Thus there could be no reprise of the solitary Guardian North, nor a West unaccounted for. Yet so winnowed were our ranks in the first years that some barely older than children served on Council for their trade."
- Sepher Terminus
Over the hundreds of interweaving years, the Ashen Elves grew alongside the mountain and the Lucent. Yet fate did not abide this sanctuary, and with the Deicide War the Revenant ravaged Kingsreach much like the Tohr'mentirii of old did the Eastern Valley. Once more the Elves were forced to flee, once more their holy tree was burned alive. When the battle turned in their favor, the whole of the nation ran from the Silent Sanctum to their tortured giant, placing innumerable hands upon the trunk. There they felt a soft warmth, not from smoldering husk, but the deepest part within --
"From the posture of lament we erupted, snatched from grief over to joy. It was felt the glow of the Heartseed, drawing up through the fissures of ax heads, below the skin curled by the departed Revenant flames. The Tree was wounded but alive, and thus was Faerthale herself. This day became the chief holiday on our calendar, with feasts running a week prior and after the date."
- Sepher Terminus
In that hour a new branch of Elf sprung from the Ashen. These are the Ember, a vibrant class who seek to return their people to the ancient days of promise on S'iolaem, before the age of pestilence. These contrast with the Ashen, who seek only to prosper within the Five Forests around Faerthale, ambitions counterweighted by memories of the many Elven sorrows. The two veins of Elvenhood coexist even now, though days may be drawing near that will bond them further or tear them apart. For there is the second half to Aellos' prophecy, which warned of a Third Inferno for the Elven race. The Ashen believe the Revenant fulfilled that requirement, in blood and flame. Ember disciples aggressively protest that interpretation, claiming the third crucible is yet to come...