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Elves are fearsome fighters, particularly known for cat-like bursts of speed and strength. Their ability to perform feats that lie far beyond their apparent physical limits is generally attributed to magic.

That depends, of course,  upon one’s definition of magic.

Elves and humans are different in many fundamental ways. One of these is among the most carefully guarded secrets of the elven people.

They understand that all bones are composed of minerals. The human skeleton  is  largely made up of calcium and phosphates, while an elf’s is primarily a rare form of quartz, the mineral that is commonly known as crystal.

Elves have always been secretive, but the recent flowering of alchemy among humans has made this secrecy imperative.  Alchemists have been experimenting with new uses for crystals, seeking ways to utilize two important properties:  Crystals vibrate when exposed to sources of energy, and they don’t expand much when heated, which means the resulting pitch remains true.

All crystals have a natural pitch, or frequency of vibration.  When crystal is exposed to something that vibrates at the same frequency, the two will resonate.  An elf’s bones sing in silent harmony with the natural world, and an elf’s body is designed to absorb, store, and utilize the energy that results from these “duets.”

Humans have long told tales of elves dancing beneath the stars. They do not realize that stars emit sounds–complex music that is highly congenial to the living crystal of the elven people.  The changing night sky produces different songs, each of which requires a specific dance by a specific number of elves.

Sometimes the effect of these rituals is universal, giving all the elves participating in the dance a reserve of additional strength and energy. These are commonly performed before battles, hunts, and harvests. Other dances raise energy that flows to a single elf–the designated Starsinger.

This energy can be used to heal, to amplify spells and potions, or to focus the energy into a burst of power.  Humans do not know the term “starsinger,” but they assume elves who wield this power are wizards and sorcerers.

There may indeed be some similarities, but no elf has yet expressed an opinion on this topic.

SEVRIN LORE: Pharimen the Red

Many centuries have passed since dragons last flew over the islands of Sevrin. Most people believe them to be extinct, or perhaps withdrawn into the fey realm from whence they came.

The old races know better. Elves and dwarves know that dragons live in the deep forests and high mountain passes, but the few humans who venture into their lands seldom return to bring tales.  These creatures tend to be young and adventurous–deadly foes, but far smaller and less dangerous than the ancient dragons that sleep in mountain caverns and in the vast sea caves hidden in the most impassible of the mainland fyords.

One of the most infamous of these ancient dragons is Pharimen the Red.  Several centuries past, an elven sorceress who later became known as Red Kordessa awoke the dragon and struck a bargain:  If Pharimen joined the fight against the fey army besieging an elven stronghold, Kordessa would lead him to the mint where humans turned locally mined gold into coin.

This was an act of desperation on Kordessa’s part, a hidden pact that carried high risk.  Pharimen played his part in breaking the siege, but with a gleeful brutality that created a deep rift between the elves and all the creatures of the fey realm, not just the trollkin involved in the attack. 

Kordessa and Pharimen agreed that the elf would acquire the gold through sorcerous means. The dragon violated the terms of this agreement and destroyed the entire walled town surrounding the mint.  The few survivors assumed that the elf woman riding the fire-spewing dragon directed the attack, or was at the very least a willing participant.  This tale spread, creating lasting enmity between Kordessa’s clan and the humans whose wealth Pharimen stole. 

Today the elven stronghold stands in ruins. The location of the lost town is unknown. No human is entirely certain whether the ruler whose face was imprinted on those lost coins was one of a dozen heroes or villians, a compilation of several such men, or a complete fabrication.

Pharimen’s attack was one of those rare incidents that captures human imagination and scatters storytelling seed by the handful.  In some of the tales, the king (or warlord, or prince who aspired to the hand of the king’s daughter, or a rogue seeking to redeem his reputation) marched against the red dragon (and sometimes the elf, as well) and reclaimed the treasure.  In some tales, the gold was lost in a lake or river; in others, it had been elf-crafted into various works of art with magical properties.  Scores of tales deal with this goldmagic treasure.  Many more address the beautiful elven “villain” who allied herself with the dragon.

This event lingers in human speech as well as legend. A “red dream” is a portent of disaster or, by extension, a feeling of unease.  If a situation feels dangerous or simply out of the ordinary, a human of the northlands is likely to say, “I had a red dream that started out like this…”

The elves remember this event far more accurately, and with none of the heroic trappings humans have created over the centuries.  They know that Pharimen the Red sleeps atop a pile of treasure that includes coins bearing the image of a minor warlord.  They remember that Kordessa broke ancient taboos when she dealt with an evil, powerful dragon.  They remember years of fighting that resulted in the decimation of a human kingdom, and the centuries of fey retribution that led to the downfall of the elves’ mountain stronghold. They remember the forest fires Pharimen started when he attacked the trollkin hoard and again when he leveled the human town.  And even though Kordessa’s action broke the siege and no doubt saved elven lives, she is remembered as an elf who started a long and ruinous war.

To the elves, there is no surer definition of treachery.

SEVRIN LORE: The Greening

No elves have ever lived on the multi-island city of Sevrin, and few of Sevrin’s inhabitants venture into the mainland forests. So if you were to ask a citizen of Sevrin about the Greening, you’d likely get a puzzled look and perhaps an inquiry as to whether this was some type of apple.

The forest elves are not humans with pointed ears.  There are no half-elves, for the fey are too different from humans to permit offspring.  One of the most conspicuous differences is the elven ability to change coloring with the seasons.

The Greening is exactly what it sounds like:  A gradual shift from winter hues of white, silvery and brown to spring green.  The shift typically starts with eye color, which changes from pale silvery grey to woodland shades of green and brown.  Hair and skin darken, taking on tints of green and brown and gold.

A few human alchemists are aware of this phenomenon but so far no one has come up with a satisfying explanation.  The alchemist Avidan believes that elves and plants share certain complex chemicals that are sensitive to sunlight and temperature, and he suspects that elves can use sunlight as a source of sustenance and energy.

Though most people who meet Avidan consider him to be as crazy as three caged squirrels, they might reconsider this opinion if they saw elves before and after a summertime battle or spellcasting.  The green in their skin and hair lightens considerably, suggesting that energy gathered from sunlight can be stored and spent. 

Since a sudden, overall change in color can make elves conspicuous, some elves have devised ways to gather sunstrength in small, concentrated areas of their skin, resulting in dappled patterns or stylized tattoos.  Humans who have a superficial knowledge of elves believe they paint themselves with plant dyes. A few whispered tales suggest that elves wear spells that can be unleashed with a word or thought.  This story, though superstitious and simplistic, is actually a fairly good description of the sudden bursts of strength or speed of which elves are capable.