Sunday, 9 August 2015

5e Setting Building: The Gray Elves of Nil

The Underworld of the Bordermarches is home to ruins long lost to the living, and native horrors which have never lived. Perhaps strangest of all, is the city of Nil and it's elfin inhabitants.

Nil, is a beautiful, deceptively vast city; though from a distance it appears to be little more than a few towers, an explorer quickly discovers that the city is in fact huge. While it is large city, it is also a near empty one. Only a few thousand of its inhabitants live within the city, with a few thousand more travelling abroad at any one time. Reaching Nil is a task few save it's inhabitants take lightly, as it requires travelling across the the Bleak Moor, following the light of the Widow's Star. Because the night of the underworld is a time of danger and creeping fear, few risk the journey.

The city is built of empty towers, long, covered arcades, and beautiful monochrome gardens. During the day, the low grey clouds scrape the top of the towers as they scud across the sky, and the towers sing with sonorous tones, like giant pipes, as the wind plays across their tops.  At night, the towers appear to reach towards the few stars in the inky sky. The Grey Elves dwell as nomads within the city, living in isolated camps beneath the arcades or at the base of one of the singing towers.

The Grey Elves of Nil
The Grey Elves of Nil are a strange lot. They make their living in the underworld as crafts people, herders and hunters. Outsiders who have observed them, are often puzzled as to how it is that the grey elves are able to support what appears to be an advanced culture. In the rest of the borderlands their economy would mean a culture of hunter-gatherers. The Grey Elves do not farm, yet their tables are laid with bread. They do not gather firewood, yet their fires burn ever brightly. When asked about this, the Grey Elves have no answers for their questioner, for it is simply the way of things in their experience. Indeed, in human lands they struggle, for concepts such as trade, money and labour are entirely alien to them.

Despite this, the grey elves are a people who have elevated their crafts to the highest levels of excellence; they are capable of weaving complex geometric patterns so finely that they appear to be blocks of pure darkness and light, while their furniture has a fluidity and grace, found nowhere else.

The grey elves dress exclusively in black, white and shades between, though despite the lack of colour in their fashion, their is great care and beauty in their garments. Both males and females tend to wear floor length robes, a tight sash to hold the robe closed, with a shorter, loose fitting coat over them.The lower layers of clothing are patterned with complex tessellating shapes in black and white. Outer layers are exquisitely fabric painted with pictorial scenes from the myths of the Elves of Nil or with beautiful star fields.

The Grey Elves of Nil have thousands of stories, and an oral tradition that no other culture can compare. This is strange, for all evidence suggests that if they are not immortal, then they are so long lived as to make no difference to the mayfly species of the borderland. Many of the subjects of the tales must still live, and certainly members of their kind who share the names and appearances of those mentioned in the tales can be found in the city of Nil.

Grey Elves have a memory of experience and events which erodes in a matter of years, but they have a profound capacity to remember stories. So it is, that the grey elf who tells the tale of a great hero slaying of a hoard of hungry ghosts, maybe said hero. They may have neither memory of the event, nor realization that they are the subject of the story, despite it having happened but a human lifetime ago. Skills that a grey elf neglects are also quickly eroded, meaning that said elf may also be an apprentice weaver, with no idea how to swing a sword or cast a spell. Despite their inability understand this aspect of themselves, the Grey Elves are gripped by a profound and lasting sorrow at all they have lost. This sorrow is lessened only through creation and the forging of new stories in the role of hero.

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