Sidebar: Elves of Eberron

While I’m dealing with deadlines, I’ve reached out to my Patreon supporters for questions that can be addressed in short articles, and I’ll be addressing these as time allows. To begin with, I want to take a quick look at the Elves of Eberron.

Elven civilization began on Xen’drik. It’s said that the giants sacked one of the great Feyspires of Thelanis, severing its ties to the Faerie Court and scattering and enslaving its people—and that over generations, these refugees became the elves. Many elves served as slaves of the giants, and this continued for thousands of years. But when the conflict with the Quori weakened the nations of the giants, the elves rose up against them. This was a long and bitter struggle fought over the course of generations. The elves lacked the resources or raw power of the giants, and couldn’t face them in the field; for the most part it was driven by guerrilla war, with heroic bands of elven champions striking against the giants and disappearing into the wilds. The Sulat giants created the Drow to hunt the elves, following them into places giants couldn’t go. There was never a point at which the elves truly stood a chance of defeating the giants, but the escalating cost of the war (both financially and in lives) eventually became unbearable. The Cul’sir giants prepared to unleash devastating, epic magic against the elves—magic on the same scale as they’d employed against the Quori, forces that destroyed a moon and threw a plane off its orbit. And in so doing, they went too far. The dragons of Argonnessen didn’t care about the elves, but they would not allow the giants to threaten Eberron itself. Flights of dragons devastated Xen’drik—giant and elf alike—and employed epic magics to ensure that no great civilization would ever rise again in the shattered land.

The prophet Aeren is known not for their deeds during the war, but for foreseeing how it would end. Aeren gathered together elves of many different clans and traditions, and convinced them to abandon Xen’drik and escape this coming apocalypse. This rag-tag fleet eventually reached a massive island, but Aeren did not survive the journey. Aeren was interred in soil of the new land, which was named Aerenal—”Aeren’s Rest.”

One of the key points in understanding the elves is that the description of their history is often simplified.The common story is Elves were enslaved by giants. Elves rebeled and eventually fled. The mistake is in thinking that “elf” and “giant” describe singular, monolithic cultures—that ALL elves were slaves of the giants, or that “the giants” were themselves a single monolithic force. Neither of these things are true. The giants had three major nations—the Sulat League, the Cul’sir Dominion, and the Group of Eleven—along with many lesser nations. There were elves who labored as slaves of the giants, but there were others who were never directly under giant rule. The Qabalrin elves maintained a city-state in the Ring of Storms that was a match for even the Cul’sir; it was destroyed not by giants, but by the cataclysmic fall of a giant Siberys dragonshard. The ancestors of the Tairnadal elves were largely nomadic tribes, fleeing further into the wilds as the giants expanded. The “Elven Uprising” involved an alliance of the nomadic tribes, seeing the vulnerabilities following the Quori conflict, combined with an internal uprising and acts of sabotage among the slaves. It was vast and long, fought on many different fronts and between many different nations, and was properly less a war and more an extended period of upheaval. It’s quite possible that the giants themselves fought one another during this time; it may well be that the Sulat League created the Drow not merely to hunt other elves, but also to strike against rivals in the Cul’sir Dominion.

The point is that the elves that followed Aeren were drawn from different nations and traditions. The elves now known as the Aereni were largely those enslaved by the giants, while the Tairnadal are descended from the nomadic warriors. This is one reason that the Aereni have a stronger arcane tradition (inherited from their giant oppressors) while the Tairnadal have a stronger role for druids and rangers. Meanwhile, the line of Vol could trace its roots back to the Qabalrin, and clung to some of their necromantic secrets. Aeren’s vision united them, but with Aeren’s death they split apart… and each pursued their own path to ensure they never lost their greatest champions. The Tairnadal preserve their heroes by serving as mortal avatars for their spirits. The Aereni learned to use the Irian manifest zones of Aerenal to create the deathless, preserving their greatest champions as positive undead; as it took thousands of years to accomplish this, it was far too late to use these techniques on Aeren. And the line of Vol and its allies perfected their techniques of Mabaran necromancy, preserving their greatest as vampires, liches, and mummies. A bitter rivalry built between the Aereni and Vol, culminating in the utter destruction of the Line of Vol—a conflict justified by their attempts to perfect the Mark of Death. Meanwhile, the Tairnadal and the Aereni have continued to exist side by side, following different paths without hostility.

If you’d like to know more about any of this, here’s a number of articles:

General Q&A

GENERAL QUESTIONS

In general, Darwinian evolution doesn’t play a major role in Eberron. How did the eladrin become elves?

The ancestors of the elves were the eladrin of Shae Tirias Tolai, and they didn’t become elves through a process of natural evolution. When the giants sacked the Feyspire, they did something to prevent the Eladrin from escaping. Remember that the giants wielded epic level magic and have been shown on multiple occasions to be able to sever planar bonds—on a small scale with the Citadel of the Fading Dream, and on a larger scale with Dal Quor itself. So they somehow severed the eladrin from Thelanis. We don’t know exactly what they did, but the result was that the children of those surviving eladrin were born as elves.

Due to the conflict of lore regarding Aeren’s pronouns between the Dragonshard (and 4E Eberron Campaign Guide) and Magic of Eberron, would it be plausible to say they’re both right, in a way, and that Aeren was genderfluid?

Sure! That seems entirely plausible. With that said, there’s a few larger issues with the MoE depiction of history. It focuses solely on those elves enslaved by the giants, and depicts the entire struggle as being about escape from Xen’drik. It’s depicted as a prison break on a massive scale—”But secrecy… was vital, lest betrayal ruin all their years of hidden labor.” There’s no mention of the active conflict between elves and giants, the struggles that established the legends of the Tairnadal ancestors. Compare this to the original ECS description of the Age of Giants…

The remaining giant kingdoms never quite recover from the events of the quori invasion. Horrible curses and plagues sweep through the land, and the elves use the opportunity to rebel. In desperation, the giants again turn to the same magic they used to stop the quori. Before they can unleash such destruction a second time, the dragons attack. Giant civilization crumbles, the drow go into hiding in the Xen’drik countryside, and the elves flee to the island-continent of Aerenal.

By contrast, Magic of Eberron says nothing about giant civilization being crippled from the quori conflict. It doesn’t present an active war between elves and giants, the conflict that gave birth to the patron ancestors of the Tairnadal. The rebel elves launch a single massive attack and then immediately flee. There’s no mention of the Tairnadal and no mention of what causes the apocalyptic attack of the dragons. It’s fairly easy to resolve this; look to the MoE account as describing sabotage going on within the Cul’sir Dominion at the same time as the Tairnandal attacks, and something that further pushed the giants to that point f desperation. But the point is that the rebellious elves weren’t originally planning to flee; Aeren is noteworthy for foreseeing the actions of the dragons and for bringing together elves of many traditions—not just the Cul’sir slaves—and convincing them to join the exodus.

Magic of Eberron then goes on to say that Aeren became the first of the deathless, developing the techniques while on Xen’drik. The other canon sources maintain that the rituals required to develop the deathless were developed on Aerenal thousands of years after the exodus, in part because they required the powerful Irian manifest zones in that land and in part because this work was driven by the loss of Aeren—and a determination never to lose so great a soul again.

TAIRNADAL AND VALENAR ELVES

What do the Talenta halflings and the Valenar elves have to fight about? They’re both pastoral herding cultures separated by an inhospitable desert. Numerous sources mention Valenar incursions looking for a good fight. I understand why players would want to deal with a culture like that, but why would a culture encourage it on one side, and the other side, not discourage it ‘with extreme predjudice’?

It’s a mistake to think of the elves of Valenar as a “pastoral herding culture.” They are an army, in Khorvaire for the sole purpose of fighting a war that has not yet begun.

As described above, the ancestors of the Tairnadal fought against the giants of Xen’drik. It was a daring conflict against impossible odds, but through remarkable skill, strategy, and cunning the elves won remarkable victories and ultimately drove the giants to the rash actions that brought about their doom. Later the Tairnadal came to Khorvaire, where they fought the Dhakaani goblins at the height of their power. Once again, the elves performed heroic deeds in battle against an overpowering foe. In the end, they weren’t defeated; they were forced to retreat from Khorvaire to run towards an even greater battle, fighting the dragons that were attacking their homeland.

The Tairnadal elves are driven by these ancient conflicts. They believe that every Tairnadal elf is chosen by the spirit of a patron ancestor, a legendary hero tied to these wars with the giants, goblins, or dragons. The mortal elf serves as an avatar of the ancient hero. The more closely the elf emulates the ancestor, the stronger this bond becomes. This is both a duty—preserving the spirit of the ancestor from being lost to Dolurrh—and a privilege, as they believe that through the bond the elf inherits the skills and wisdom of the ancestor. And the greatest aspiration of all is to perform such glorious deeds that the living elf will be venerated as a patron ancestor by the generations yet to come.

The Tairnadal made a pledge to Dhakaan, a promise that they would not return to Khorvaire in force unless invited. During the Last War, Cyre issued that invitation. The elves didn’t come to Khorvaire because they wanted land in which to herd horses. They didn’t come because they wanted or needed the wages Cyre was paying them. They returned in search of a glorious battle, a conflict that would allow them to match the deeds of their ancestors. But they soon concluded that their work as mercenaries wouldn’t give them that. So Shaeras Vadallia seized what is now Valenar as an intentional provocation. Since the Treaty of Thronehold, these Valenar elves have been breaking the terms of the treaty and raiding their neighbors. Why? In part it’s to keep the skills of their warriors fresh. In part it’s because the members of those individual warbands seek opportunities to strengthen their bond to their ancestors in battle. But most of all, it’s because the elves want someone to attack them. Their ancestors weren’t conquerors or mercenaries; they were guerrilla warriors fighting against an overpowering foe. The Valenar want to provoke a mighty enemy—perhaps Karrnath, or a resurgent Dhakaan—into attacking them in Valenar. As elves, they are perfectly happy to wait a century for this plan to play out, and in the meantime they are learning the lay of the land in Valenar, finding ambush points, laying traps. The Tairnadal don’t care about Valenar as a colony; for them it’s a killing ground, and they are just kicking hornet’s nests and waiting for someone to take the bait.

So why raid the halflings? Largely, because they’re there. The Valenar forces in the Talenta Plains aren’t acting on Vadallia’s orders. These warbands are self-sufficient units sent off on their own recognizance. They are searching for worthy foes and violating the Treaty of Thronehold… again, provoking the other nations. These warbands aren’t primarily interested in plunder, and they generally avoid attacking civilian populations; whenever possible they are looking for WORTHY opponents. They’re also attacking swordtooth titans and other deadly dinosaurs. And some are even crossing the Plains to launch attacks into Karrnath… as that’s one of the forces they’d really like to provoke to attack Valenar.

For their part, the halflings have no interest in conflict with the Valenar. The tribes are only loosely aligned and aren’t driven by war. They seek to defend themselves against raiding warbands, but they aren’t prepared to go to war with Valenar. Now again, for this very reason, this is why the Valenar AREN’T particularly interested in fighting the halflings. They provoke them in order to try to draw out their best warriors and hunters, to try to have a challenging fight. But they would RATHER battle the full might of Karrnath, or something similar. The halflings just have the misfortune of being between the two.

So in part, bear in mind that the Valenar elves aren’t a culture as such; they are a Tairnadal army in the field, biding their time as they wait for a more powerful foe to take the bait and attack them in Valenar.

Do the Tairnadal take the namesake of the ancestor they emulate?

Many do, though not all. For example, High King Shaeras Vadallia is an avatar of Vadallia, who was described in the Eye on Eberron article in Dragon #407. But it’s not a requirement, and some consider it to be pretentious.

Are the Tairnadal ancestor spirits literally biological ancestors of the elves that they choose? Or is it more of a cultural line of descent?

It’s more of a cultural line of descent. As noted in the previous question, Tairnadal families are very fluid to begin with. Plus, the original ancestors lived around forty thousand years ago. The lifespan of an elf is about ten times that of a human; can you trace your ancestors back four thousand years? So it’s largely assumed that MOST Tairnadal are related to many of the patron ancestors, and there’s no particular fear of a bloodline dying out. UNLESS, of course, that’s a story you want to explore in your campaign!

Tairnadal ancestors choose their heirs – Why do they pick who they pick? Can there be conflicts between multiple ancestors for one heir?

By default, the patron ancestors move in mysterious ways, and mortals don’t get to know the answers to these questions. It’s up to you as a DM to decide if you want to personify the ancestors more concretely and allow PCs to find these things out. In one campaign I DM’d, one of the PCs was a Valenar ranger. His idea was that he always believed he was going to be chosen by a legendary swordsman, and he’d instead been picked by a champion archer. Furious, he’d stolen the blade of his ancestors and deserted, determined to find his own path… in spite of the fact that he had a bond to the archer and couldn’t force a bond to the swordsman. While we never completed the campaign, the idea of the story was to explore whether he would eventually choose to embrace the archer… or whether he could find some way to change his stars and forge a bond to the swordsman. Had this continued, it would have likely involved a deeper interaction with the spirits themselves and an exploration of why the archer chose him.

It’s also been mentioned that ancestors are chosen for the elf, not by the elf. I’d assume there are some cases of rejection among them, elves who do not want to follow this particular ancestor for whatever reason. What do the Valenar do about these cases?

See the previous answer! This is covered in detail in this article under the heading “Why Should I Do It?” Bear in mind that it’s not that your ancestor is chosen for you, it’s that you are chosen BY an ancestorThe spirit of a champion of legend says “This one’s mine.” You are a soldier in an army being given a command by the highest authority, and you’re a follower of a religion devoted to honoring these spirits. But yes: this means that you could be someone who believes in honor and chivalry, and then you could be chosen by the Butcher and told you must not only be ruthless and cruel, but you must do your best to EXCEL at it. If you say no, you’re a soldier refusing a command and an acolyte turning your back on your faith. So you can expect to be discharged from the army—which means being severed from your culture—and shunned by former people.

In short, it’s a great path for a player character who needs to explain why they are out adventuring instead of serving with a warband. Will you reconcile and accept the spirit that chose you? Will you find a way to forge a bond with a different ancestor? Or will you remain an outcast?

Are there any actions the Valenar do not tolerate in warfare? Things they would consider war crimes? If their patron ancestor would do things considered by society to be immoral, even in war, would they share any of those views?

The Valenar believe it is their duty to emulate the patron ancestors. If you compare it to the Sovereign Host, some of the ancestors are more like Dol Arrah, some closer to Dol Arrah, and a few could be compared to the Mockery. The elves of Xen’drik fought a guerilla war against a vastly superior foe, and there were many who relied on cunning, deception, and terror to accomplish their goals. So there are Valenar who believe in absolute chivalry and honor on the battlefield, and there are ruthless Valenar feel that deception and terror are necessarily tools—who feel they have a religious duty to strike fear into their foes. The point is that a Valenar commander KNOWS what behavior to expect from their troops. They’ll use the Dol Arrahs on the open battlefield, and they’ll use the Mockeries as commandoes and skirmishers… and they definitely won’t put the two side by side. The honorable Valenar are disgusted by the butchers, but they know that the butchers are required to be butchers.

So for example, MOST Valenar won’t kill civilians. But there are then there are a few who will specifically target civilian populations, because that’s something their ancestor was known for doing. The commander knows this, and won’t put that unit in the field unless that’s what they expect of them.

Three subgroups of Tairnadal have been described. The Valaes Tairn believe that glory in battle is the highest goal, regardless of the nature of the foe. The Silaes Tairn are determined to return to Xen’drik and reclaim the ancient realm of the elves, and the Draleus Tairn wish to destroy the dragons of Argonnessen. Do Tairnadal elves choose which group to be in or do they all grow up and stay with their group?

The Valaes Tairn are by far the largest of these three groups. They also receive the most attention because they’re the only ones who generally come to Khorvaire. The Silaes are focused on Xen’drik, and the only reason for a member of the Draleus Tairn to come to Khorvaire is a dragon hunt… and the dragons of Khorvaire generally keep a very low profile.

The first and primary factor in which group you follow is your patron ancestor. If your patron is a legendary dragon hunter, you’re likely to join the Draleus Tairn. Otherwise, the default is the Valaes Tairn, but it’s largely about what you feel your patron ancestor is calling you to do, which is something you might discuss with one of the Keepers of the Past. If you have the support of a Keeper, people will respect your decision.

Bear in mind that you won’t generally “grow up” with one of these groups. They’re all essentially military units, and until you’ve reached adulthood and the Keepers have identified your patron ancestor, you’re essentially not equipped to travel with a warband.

Why aren’t the Silaes Tairn the major sect? Obviously, dragon-slayer heir would want to fight dragons, but aren’t the majority of the ancestors giant-slayers (or drow slayers)? And are the Valaes Tairn the largest sect historically?

Because Xen’drik is a cursed ruin; the giants and the drow aren’t the same as those the ancestors fought. The Valaes Tairn believe that it doesn’t matter WHAT you fight or WHERE you fight; what matters is that you act as your ancestor would act if they were in your place. This is inherently more flexible, and that’s why it’s the most widespread belief. Someone who’s ancestor is legendary for fighting drow COULD feel drawn to the Sileus Tairn, because they want to fight drow; but they could easily say “What defines my ancestor is her courage and her techniques for fighting multiple enemies at once, and I can demonstrate both of those fighting goblins.” Essentially, most see the Silaes Tairn as slightly crazy extremists; the Valaes are the most moderate sect.

ELVES OF KHORVAIRE

What are the religious views of the elves of House Phiarlan? Did they follow the path of Vol, the Undying Court, or the Tairnadal? Do they still follow these traditions? 

Excellent question. This is covered in this Dragonshard article. Here’s part of the relevant text.

The houses of shadow can trace their roots back to the Elven Uprising, the ancient war between the giants of Xen’drik and the ancestors of the modern elves. Many assume that this was a conflict between two monolithic entities, but neither elves nor giants were unified forces. Many different giant nations existed, and there were dozens of sects of elves, ranging from former slaves to guerillas who had fought the giants for millennia. Over the course of the uprising, some elves served as liaisons between the many different tribes. These travelers saw their role in war as being more spiritual than physical: Their task was to uphold morale and maintain the alliances between the scattered soldiers. They called themselves phiarlans, or “spirit keepers.” These phiarlans learned the traditions and customs of all elven sects, and a phiarlan bard could inspire warriors from any tribe. The phiarlans were not generals or military strategists, but their motivational work and the intelligence they carried from place to place was an invaluable part of the military effort.

The article goes on to describe how the Phiarlans continued to serve this role in Aerenal—serving as envoys and mediators for elves of all lines and cultures. In essence, they acknowledged and understood all of the traditions, but they never fully embraced them. A Phiarlan bard knows the stories of the Tairnadal ancestors, but doesn’t seek to embody an ancestor. And looking to the Undying Court, the Phiarlans acknowledge that exists, but they turned their back on it when they left Aerenal; they don’t believe it watches over them and they aren’t aspiring to join it.

Overall, the elves of the House of Shadow typically aren’t very religious. They seek to understand all faiths but rarely commit to one. There are some who embrace the Sovereign Host or the Dark Six, but in general they are a pragmatic people devoted more to their work and their traditions than to abstract forces.

Is there a particular culture and history for Khorvaire elves among other regions, such as in cities or the Five Nations? How did it come to be that those elves left their Valenar and Aerenal roots, to the point that half-elves were in large enough numbers to be considered their own distinct race (Khoravar)?

As the Undying Court rose to power, there were always elves who opposed it and chose to leave Aerenal to explore other opportunities. There was a greater wave of migration following the eradication of the Line of Vol. The Vol bloodline was the only one that was exterminated; her allies had to choose exile or to swear oaths to the Court, and many chose exile. While others, like the Phiarlans, were disturbed by the conflict and left of their own accord. That was 2,600 years ago. So there are places like House Phiarlan and the Bloodsail Principality where elves maintain a unique culture, but many of these immigrants fully integrated into their nations. A typical Brelish elf is Brelish first, elf second. Elves in Thrane are likely to be devoted to the Silver Flame; it’s just that an elf elder devoted to the Flame might have personally known Tira Miron. But the short form is that elves in Khorvaire could trace their roots back to followers of Vol or immigrants driven by curiosity, but for most those roots are long buried and they have assimilated into the local culture.

Meanwhile. the reason half-elves are considered their own distinct race is because they ARE their own distinct race. Most Khoravar are children of Khoravar, and their original elven ancestors could be buried so deeply in their family trees that they don’t even know who they were. Khoravar are more fertile than elves, and so over the course of thousands of years, they’ve spread more rapidly.

Do elves still constitute a sizable portion of the Blood of Vol’s faithful and if so do they have a different take on the religion as they are only a few generations separated from the initial mixing with humans in Lhazaar?

It’s important to recognize that the religion known as “The Blood of Vol” was never practiced by the line of Vol. This is a critical point about Erandis, because she doesn’t follow the faith. The Blood of Vol is a religion that emerged over the course of centuries, inspired by the words of Vol’s allies who settled in the Lhazaar Principalities, but interpreted and adapted by the humans… and then continuing to evolve as it traveled into Karrnath, which became its heart. So no, elves don’t constitute a sizeable portion of the Seekers. Some of these refugee elves fully integrated with the cultures they joined. The place where they’ve held to their traditions—and where they still practice the ORIGINAL teachings of the line of Vol—is in the Bloodsail Principality in Lhazaar, based on the island of Farlnen. The Bloodsails were described in detail in the Eye on Eberron article in Dragon 410.

With that said, it’s been more than just a few generations. An elf can live up to 750 years, but by the 3.5 tables they are considered “Venerable” — the most extreme age category — at 350. It’s been 2,600 years since the line of Vol was wiped out. If we set the generational length at 350 (which is somewhat generous, as the human equivalent of venerable is 70, but we typically set human generations at around 25), we’re still talking over seven generations. The issue is that in following the traditions of Vol, Farlnen is home to many vampires and liches who have unliving memory of the past and maintain those ancient traditions.

 

If you have questions or thoughts about the elves of Eberron, post them here!

46 thoughts on “Sidebar: Elves of Eberron

  1. Phiarlann came from Aerenal, and no religious background is tied to them in any sourcebook I know: tairnadal, undying court or vol-like. I imagine it was the undying court one. Unlike lyrandar Lyrandar, for example, whose unique perpective on their founders is detailed.
    So, how do you imagine phiarlan’s religious views tonbe like, taking into account that they come from an ancient aereni culture mixed in khorvaire for a long time?
    I guess it could be an interesting one and that they didn’t just swap religions.

    • Good question, and I’ve added my answer to the start of the Q&A section. Short form: the Phiarlans never fully embraced any single one of the Elven religions, and any loyalty to the Undying Court was abandoned when they chose to leave Aerenal. As a house, Phiarlan isn’t committed to any religion, and most Phiarlans are pragmatic people driven more by work and tradition than faith.

  2. Your treatment of the elves reminds me, sometime it would be nice if you could discuss goblinoid history and culture before the Dhakanni Empire; pre-Galifar orcish culure, especially in respect of their relationship with the goblinoids; and elaborate on pre-Galifar human history in Khorvaire.

    • Sure, these are all interesting questions and could be a foundation for future articles. As a side note, my personal thought is that goblins as we know them didn’t exist too far before Dhakaan; it’s been suggested that the goblins are a magebred race, and that this ties to the eusocial bond of the Dhakaani. So there was a previous civilization, but goblins as we know them appeared in the Age of Monsters. But obviously that’s the tip of a very big iceberg…

  3. Is there a particular culture and history for Khorvaire elves among other regions, such as in cities or the Five Nations? How did it come to be that those elves left their Valenar and Aerenal roots, to the point that half-elves were in large enough numbers to be considered their own distinct race (Khoravar)?

    How much of this was involved with the Houses of Phiarlan and Vol operating in Khorvaire for fear of their dragonmarks from other elves?

    • How much of this was involved with the Houses of Phiarlan and Vol operating in Khorvaire for fear of their dragonmarks from other elves?

      The line of Vol was eradicated before any of the dragonmarked houses were formed, and they weren’t especially interested in Khorvaire. They were deeply entrenched in Aerenal, and the powerful Mabaran manifest zones on the island were crucial for their work.

  4. Why are the houses Thurrani and Phiarlan unwelcome in Valenar while Lyrander is welcome? Is it because of their Dragonmarked status, their role as spies in Aerenal historically (which might compromise the attempt to bait a fight)?

    Do the occasional marked members of the Cairdal Blades of Aerenal ever get used to usurp items keyed to the Mark of Shadow or would that be too extreme an action for the Court?

    Do elves still constitute a sizable portion of the Blood of Vol’s faithful and if so do they have a different take on the religion as they are only a few generations separated from the initial mixing with humans in Lhazaar?

    • Why are the houses Thurrani and Phiarlan unwelcome in Valenar while Lyrander is welcome?
      To the Valenar, the Phiarlan are essentially deserters. They turned their back on Aerenal two millennia ago and went to make money among humanity. Add to that their role as spies, something that nations generally set aside because they wish to use their services; the Valenar have no interest in making that compromise.

      Do the occasional marked members of the Cairdal Blades of Aerenal ever get used to usurp items keyed to the Mark of Shadow or would that be too extreme an action for the Court?

      They may definitely use focus items created by House Phiarlan. The Houses generally only worry about this sort of thing if it actively threatens their monopoly and will impact the profits of their business. They don’t care if a few members of the Cairdal Blades are using their tools unless the Cairdal Blades suddenly start selling their services to the people of the Five Nations. As with Lyrandar: one non-house person piloting an airship isn’t a problem. Someone mass-producing airships anyone can fly or starting a rival airship travel service? That’s a problem.

      I’ll answer the BoV question in the Q&A.

  5. Are there any actions the Valenar do not tolerate in warfare? Things they would consider war crimes? If their patron ancestor would do things considered by society to be immoral, even in war, would they share any of those views? It’s also been mentioned that ancestors are chosen for the elf, not by the elf. I’d assume there are some cases of rejection among them, elves who do not want to follow this particular ancestor for whatever reason. What do the Valenar do about these cases?

  6. Between the long lives of the elves and the short time Valenar has been occupied, how many “young” (child) elves of the Valaes Tairn are on Valenar? Did they bring them from Aerenal?

    Related, do Tairnadal elves choose which group to be in or do they all grow up and stay with their group, whether Valaes Tairn or the other two that receive much less attention?

    • Between the long lives of the elves and the short time Valenar has been occupied, how many “young” (child) elves of the Valaes Tairn are on Valenar? Did they bring them from Aerenal?

      Almost none. This is covered in more detail in the Dragonmark article, but the critical point is: the civic infrastructure of the Tairnadal… the teachers, the children, the breeders of horses… are all still in Aerenal. For the elves, Valenar isn’t a home; it’s a military beachhead.

      I’ll answer the other question in the Q&A section.

    • It depends what you mean by “die hards” – remnants of the Cyran ruling class (often called “Thrones” by the peasants), or peasants (largely ethnically Khunan humans). Thrones will refer to it as “Eastern Cyre” or “The True Kingdom.” Peasants largely don’t care about the name of the country, because most aren’t interested in anything beyond their villages; if you ask a farmer from Ariolan where she’s from, she’ll say “Ariolan,” and that hasn’t changed.

      • Meant military refugees from what was still Cyre at the end of the war, forming some kind of society dedicated to (somehow) taking it back to restore Cyre.

  7. What was the cause of dead of Aeren?
    Is there a short list of elven heroes that you use as ancestors?
    What Tairnadal elves believes about The Mourning? Don´t they fear that re ignating the war would repeat the effects?

  8. Are the Tairnadal ancestor spirits literally biological ancestors of the elves that they choose? Or is it more of a cultural line of descent? If the former, does that mean that an ancient warrior who died childless is lost forever? Also, if the former, does this mean that Tairnadal not only have an obligation to emulate their ancestor, but also to sire/bear at least one offspring to ensure the continuance of the line? If so, this would further imply that a dutiful Tairnadal, after their upbrining on Aerenal, would be expected to find a mate and sire/bear children, who would be feft behind on Aerenal to bre raised and taught there before the parent departs for Valenar to begin emulating the ancestor. If so (and the chair of logic is getting stretched pretty thin here!), does a Tairnadal parent spend any significant length of time raising their child(ren) before turning them over to the teachers and heading off to their warrior destiny?

  9. Alright, so I have probably too many questions:

    Tairnadal ancestors choose their heirs – Why do they pick who they pick? Can there be conflicts between multiple ancestors for one heir?

    Why aren’t the Silaes Tairn the major sect? Obviously, dragon-slayer heir would want to fight dragons, but aren’t the majority of the ancestors giant-slayers (or drow slayers)? And are the Valaes Tairn the largest sect historically?

    How do the elves feel about the drow, particularly the history oriented Tairnadal?

  10. Can you expand on the Cairdal Blades? I envision them as the Aereni version of the King’s Citadel, loyal to the Sibling Kings. What is their relationship with the Vigilant Sentinels of Aerenal (from Magic of Eberron)? The described roles seem to overlap.

    I find it interesting that an organization besides the Dragonmarked Houses actively recruits members who manifest a Mark of Shadow. Besides the Cairdal Blades, the Eladrin of Taer Syraen also represent another organization with the Mark of Shadow that is not beholden to the Dragonmarked Houses (not to mention the remnants of House Paelion). Such intrigue seems fitting for the House of Shadow…but are there any other similar (true) Dragonmarked organizations that do not fall under the auspices of The Twelve?

  11. What is the political relationship between the Sibling Kings and the Tairnadal?

    What is the hierarchy of the Tairnadal houses/war bands? Do they participate in the selection of the Sibling Kings?

    How do the Tairnadal war bands interact with the Army of Aerenal?

    • The basic issue here is that “Aerenal” is a VAST SIMPLIFICATION that is driven by the fact that the people of the Five Nations know very little about it. Each of the elven “lines”—such as the Line of Vol or the Line of Jhaelian—is a city-state. The Tairnadal are effectively an entirely separate nation. However, the Tairnadal don’t care about being identified as a nation, and don’t maintain much of the infrastructure people associate with a nation> The primary unit is the mobile warband. There are Tairnadal cities, where the Keepers of the Past and the Siyal Marrain oversee the services the warclans rely upon.

      In terms of politics, the “kings” of the Tairnadal (the title is actually close to “war leader”, with “high king” being the “leader of leaders”) recognize the Sibling Kings are allies but aren’t their subjects and don’t participate in their selection. The Tairnadal have a pact with the Sibling Kings to act in joint defense of Aerenal itself in the face of great threats, but they don’t train with the armies of the lines. It is also the case that Aereni can apply to join the Tairnadal… and that Tairnadal sometimes settle and join a line.

  12. A Drow from Stormreach was converted to the Silver Flame by missionaries has decided to make a pilgrimage to Flamekeep now that the war is over. What kind of reaction is he going to get in Thrane?

    • A Drow from Stormreach was converted to the Silver Flame by missionaries has decided to make a pilgrimage to Flamekeep now that the war is over. What kind of reaction is he going to get in Thrane?
      He’d be a curiosity, certainly, but not much more than that. You can encounter medusas and gargoyles on the streets of Sharn. Warforged are stranger than drow, and people deal with them every day. People definitely know adventure stories about Xen’drik, so some people may recognize them as one of the “savage elves of Xen’drik”; others might assume they’re some sort of Mabaran tiefling. So they’d definitely draw curiosity, but the people of Eberron are generally used to the idea that there’s a lot of things in the world they’ve never seen before.

  13. Question that came up recently – When do Elves with the Mark of Shadow tend to manifest? You’ve mentioned that adulthood is at 100 for culture, not biological reasons, so would it manifest in an elf’s 20’s?

    • Question that came up recently – When do Elves with the Mark of Shadow tend to manifest? You’ve mentioned that adulthood is at 100 for culture, not biological reasons, so would it manifest in an elf’s 20’s?

      Correct; probably late twenties or early thirties. The 100-years-to-adulthood is more of an artifact of Aereni and Tairnadal culture; Phiarlan elves it’s probably closer to 40-50, and elves fully integrated into a human culture can function as adults in their twenties.

  14. Question about Aerenal governance – do the Tairnadal answer to the Sibling Kings, just like the main Aereni tradition? Or do they have their own thing going on?

    • I addressed this in an answer to another comment. They recognize the Sibling Kings as allies, but have their own thing going on.

  15. Hi Keith, and thanks for that new post. Always loved your approach on the culture of the Elves, and both my longest-running Eberron PC and the one I’m currently playing the more frequently are Elves: respectively an adventurer / sword-for-hire originating from Valenar and a Phiarlan spy and assassin. So of course I have a few questions too. ^^’

    I’ll sort them by continents. Thanks by advance for your time and the thoughts you’ll share!

  16. Hi Keith, and thanks for that new post. Always loved your approach on the culture of the Elves, and both my longest-running Eberron PC and the one I’m currently playing the more frequently are Elves: respectively an adventurer / sword-for-hire originating from Valenar and a Phiarlan spy and assassin. So of course I have a few questions too. ^^’

    I’ll sort them by continents. Thanks by advance for your time and the thoughts you’ll share!

    – XEN’DRIK:
    Sources uniformly refer to the remaining aboriginal Elves in Xen’drik as “Drow”. But a recurring defining element of Drow through the editions is their discomfort with a sunlit environment. It makes perfect sense to apply that to the subterranean Umbragen, but perhaps less, I feel, to their (arguably more numerous) counterparts above the surface – the jungle canopy can’t be *that* dense everywhere, to say nothing of the desert parts… What is your view on that?

    My take, a couple years ago, when I created a Qaltiar shaman PC, sent (to his dismay) out of the jungle and across the waters by the spirits, for the purpose of a 3.5 mini-campaign, was to agree with my DM that “Drow” would be a generic term –perhaps originally used out of contempt by the Elves who left the continent against those who didn’t, and then reused out of ignorance by Khorvairians–, but that things were actually more diverse; meaning my PC was actually, mechanically speaking and skin-tone-wise, a Wild Elf… But it feels a bit like a trick.

    – AERENAL:
    Canonically this continent never received more than a few pages of description so far. A few years back I had to sort through that and to work my own version of what things looks like there (#InMyEberron) to present it to a player. Since then, I am quite anxious –in both the “eager” and “worried” senses of the term– to see a full sourcebook come out, flesh out some probably wonderful ideas… and, also probably, ruin everything I built.

    In the sourcebooks, Shae Mordai is described as “the only city in Aerenal built from stone instead of densewood”, “cluttered with shrines and monuments dedicated to past heroes”. Another part mentions “the prevalence of monuments”, “scattered throughout every city or estate”, as the “one feature common to all Aereni communities”. Based on that, I tend to envision the typical Aereni scenery as a tropical version of the Lothlorien, with buildings and structures entirely made of different kinds of wood (magical or not) for the inhabitants, but also filled with numerous stone monuments, war memorials style. In my mind, I inferred that, in this culture, the wood is tied to the living, whereas the use of stone is strongly associated with the dead. Am I way off the mark? Close to something? Or is it just something you never really had any occasion to give much more though?

    – VALENAR:
    The “Races of Eberron” sourcebook is the only one to mention the increasingly growing heretic cult of the Dalan Rae, basically inciting warriors to die young in order to… return as a host of ghosts (“powerful spirits warriors” destined to “ride alongside the living champions of Valenar”): do I read that right?

    I used that as a part of my Tairnadal PC’s backstory, to explain why he left Valenar, so I’d be happy to hear any clarification and/or development you could provide about that cult, what were the thoughts behind his creation and why it isn’t mentioned anywhere else.

    Again, thanks!

    • a recurring defining element of Drow through the editions is their discomfort with a sunlit environment. It makes perfect sense to apply that to the subterranean Umbragen, but perhaps less, I feel, to their (arguably more numerous) counterparts above the surface – the jungle canopy can’t be *that* dense everywhere, to say nothing of the desert parts… What is your view on that?

      You’re assuming that their darkvision and light sensitivity is a product of environment and evolution. I’d counter that it could simply be an inherent part of what it means to be drow. It’s said that the Sulat League created the drow by “binding the essence of night” to elves. They were CREATED to kill in the darkness. So to me, it’s not that the jungles are all so dark that they CAUSE light sensitivity, it’s that the drow SEEK OUT places with heavy canopy because it’s most comforting to their sensitive eyes. In sunlit environs, they would either follow a nocturnal lifestyle or wear shaders, which are lenses introduced in 3.5 as a tool for races with light sensitivity. Or they’d just put up with the sensitivity when they have to.

      So *I* would leave it as is. However, it’s a simple enough change if 5E to remove both Superior Darkvision and Sunlight Sensitivity, reducing their vision to normal elf levels.

      In my mind, I inferred that, in this culture, the wood is tied to the living, whereas the use of stone is strongly associated with the dead. Am I way off the mark?

      You’re not way off the mark; that’s a reasonable assumption. I do hope to write more extensively about Aerenal in the future.

      The “Races of Eberron” sourcebook is the only one to mention the increasingly growing heretic cult of the Dalan Rae, basically inciting warriors to die young in order to… return as a host of ghosts (“powerful spirits warriors” destined to “ride alongside the living champions of Valenar”): do I read that right?

      You do. The idea of the Dalan Rae is that they believe the patron ancestors are preparing for an epic return and are amassing a host of ghosts… a sort of blend of Valhalla and the Second Coming. They aren’t concerned with living a long and epic life, as much as honing their skills sufficiently to earn their place in the host and then dying well. It’s supposed to be a very RECENT development—unlike the Silaes Tairn and the Draleus Tairn, which have been around since the beginning-but one that’s picking up steam.

      • Thanks!

        As for the drow, I wasn’t so much thinking “environnment and evolution” than just “how aren’t they dazzled all day”. But your answer makes sense and provides some quite fascinating perspectives. As always, I should add.

  17. In general, eberron doesn’y look like a world of Darwinian evolution. How does it come that gets became elves?

    Do we know something about the private culture of elves, like marriage, monogamy, polygamy, poliandria or whatever, education of children or whatever?

    • In general, eberron doesn’y look like a world of Darwinian evolution. How does it come that gets became elves?

      The ancestors of the elves were the eladrin of Shae Tirias Tolai, and they didn’t become elves through a process of natural evolution. When the giants sacked the Feyspire, they did something to prevent the Eladrin from escaping. Remember that the giants wielded epic level magic and have been shown on multiple occasions to be able to sever planar bonds—on a small scale with the Citadel of the Fading Dream, and on a larger scale with Dal Quor itself. So they somehow severed the eladrin from Thelanis. We don’t know exactly what they did, but the result was that the children of those surviving eladrin were born as elves.

      Do we know something about the private culture of elves, like marriage, monogamy, polygamy, poliandria or whatever, education of children or whatever?

      It’s not something that has been covered in great detail. The Tairnadal don’t place a strong emphasis on family. Children are raised communally in a program that could be seen as a fantasy equivalent of Battle School in Ender’s Game. As an adult with a martial ancestor, your most important social bond is your warband, and you will spend the vast majority of your life traveling and fighting with them. While it would DEFINITELY vary by warband, I think that there’s a reasonable chance that many Tairnadal are polyamorous with their warband; essentially, the warband is both a military unit and an extended family. With that said, Tairnadal know who their biological parents are and some may value that connection, but you’re not raised by your parents. Warbands are based on level of skill and on patron ancestors, so if you have compatible patron ancestors you could end up in a warband with siblings or parents, but it’s not a given.

      As for the Aereni, one of the critical things that has been called out about their society is that their noble lines are based on merit as opposed to being hereditary. Essentially, the “line” is a way of saying “city-state”, and anyone could be raised to the nobility if they prove their worth — and conversely, being the child of a noble doesn’t ensure that you will inherit their position. The lines themselves have very different traditions (note that the line of Vol was technically an Aereni line), and there are lines that practice monogamy, lines that practice polygamy, and lines that don’t actually practice marriage.

  18. You responded! Many thanks! I’d love to see more material on the origins of the various sects of elves or similar, but we’re probably not getting a prologue that old.

    One question though: If Aeren isn’t a deathless, fair enough, but why didn’t the Tairnadal pick them up as an ancestor? And did the Farnelen lack the power to necromantically preserve them or were they actively rejected by Aeren (or vice versa)?

    • One question though: If Aeren isn’t a deathless, fair enough, but why didn’t the Tairnadal pick them up as an ancestor?

      Because they weren’t one of their ancestors. The original patron ancestors WERE connected by blood to the first Tairnadal. Again, Aeren brought people together from multiple cultures. The Tairnadal were an existing culture; they came together under Aeren’s manner, but Aeren wasn’t one of them.

      And did the Farlnen lack the power to necromantically preserve them or were they actively rejected by Aeren (or vice versa)?

      The Mabaran necromantic techniques were also something that they perfected and developed over the course of millennia on Aerenal, in part due to the Mabaran manifest zones on the island. Their techniques were INSPIRED by their Qabalrin ancestors, but this wasn’t an unbroken chain; they had to gather together scraps of knowledge that had been preserved and slowly rebuild. At the time of Aeren’s exodus, they didn’t have the ability to create vampires, mummies, or liches.

  19. I’m actually pretty curious about the Iria Tairn (Illumine Souls) in elven culture. Given the Aereni focus on harnessing Irian’s energies, it seems like they would be main source of these elven psionics at first blush. The weaponization of these energies seems to have a fairly Tairnadal feel to it; the concept that “my awesome weapon is made up of both mine and my patron’s will” when considering a base soulknife even more so. Are the Iria Tairn exclusive or inclusive? How do each of these cultures approach their outlier psionics? Are there Deathless manifesters? Tairnadal patron spirits who were wilders or lurkers? Do kalashtar and Tairnadal elves have opinions about each other’s common ground of spiritual inheritance? In a campaign, how would you want to handle a kalashtar “recruiting” Tairnadal (intentionally or otherwise) for the war against the Dreaming Dark?

  20. Is there any chance we could get like, a sentence to a paragraph about each Giant nation? I feel like I know nothing about them.

    Also, thank you for they/them Aeren! I might toss that into Blessed of the Traveler if I ever need to update it.

  21. I looked at the map of Khorvaire and I noticed that Valenar is really close to Q’barra. Is there a significant Tairnadal presence in Q’barra? If not, why? If so, do the Elves of Valenar have a similarly tense relationship with the Scales that they do with the Talenta Halflings?

    • The Valenar don’t have what I’d call a significant presence in either the Talenta Plains or Q’barra. Individual warbands leave Valenar looking for trouble, and may make their way into the Talenta Plains, the Mournlands, the Karrnath, or indeed, Q’barra. The iconic cavalry unit is more likely to go to the Plains, as dense jungle isn’t ideal for horses. However, a band of Valenar guerilla-style rangers could definitely delve into Q’barra, and I could certainly see them clashing with the Poison Dusk or the Dragonborn. But again, we’re talking about a few isolated warbands following their own agendas, not a significant presence.

  22. In older editions of d&d elves were immune to ghoul paralysis, which was an relic of balance from Chainmail that carried over. From then on every setting tried to explain it in some way: because elves are creatures of positive energy and immune to negative energy in general; because ghoul paralysis is a sleep effect and elves are immune to magical sleep; because ghouls were created by ancient elves and designed that way; because the god/demigod/demon lord of ghouls was once a mortal elf; etc, etc. Regardless of the reason, in lore ghouls were always tied to elves in some way, whether as allies or ancient enemies.

    5e did away with this immunity so it’s probably no longer relevant, but I’m wondering if this was ever addressed in Eberron back in 3.5. Are ghouls a failed Qabalrin attempt at immortality? Are they weapons made by the line of Vol? Something else?

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