In the elven tongue Issalonian Elves are called the Eseriwy Gjen, the Secret Keepers. Little is known about these elves and they keep any information about their culture and lives hidden from all they meet. Issalonian elves are also the most worldly of races, and easily get along with people from all walks of life. Their talent for songs and poetry make them prized assets in the courts of man, and their strategic knowledge of other races places them in high standing with many other cultures.
Issalonian elves are well known for being two steps ahead of their opponents and are treated with caution. To naïve individuals, the elves are easy to trust and get along with. They are prized friends, always ready to lend an ear. Others fear them for their ability to be trusted, often placing them in the same league as the dreaded Othar. The elves of Issalon are ever vigilant, always ready to take the secrets of others and add them to their bounty of knowledge.
It is unknown how extensive the Issalonian knowledge base is toward other societies, but it is certain that they have a leg up in most situations. Issalonian Elves make excellent spies and assassins. As such, most are wary of their intentions but quickly come to trust them (which has proven to be the downfall of many). Despite the dangers of associating with them, Issalonians are by and far the most well received race in Saratta.
Issalonian elves are very easy to get along with. They are often effortless conversationalists and revel in being the center of a crowd. They tend to act frivolously, and enjoy cracking light hearted jokes or acting as the entertainment for random pubs and inns along their journeys. As children (typically 20 to 40 years of age) they depart from their homelands and go among the peoples and races of the world, getting to know them and their cultures (the journey is called Gjanyai ~ pronounce jan-e-eye). Most elves will extend their journey into multiple centuries before finally returning home. It is speculated by some that they return home with the secrets they coaxed out of other races, but since few have been allowed into Issalonian territories no one will ever know for certain.
Issalonians take little for granted, and do their best to enjoy life to the fullest. This leads them to take up many roles throughout the course of their lives. Some are found wandering among the downtrodden dregs of society, while others are found throwing large, lavish parties for Nobles and Kings. They seek to learn as much about how other races function on a day to day basis. This worldwide knowledge serves them well, allowing them to associate themselves with others quickly.
Issalonians are also well known for being tight lipped when it comes to their culture and homelands, rarely telling anyone about their early years aside from other Issalonians. Most give very generic answers when their homes are brought up, or tell companions that all the world is their home, craftily dodging the questions. As such, most other races know very little about their lives that do not come from their time during their Gjanyai. Those who have had the unique opportunity to study Issalonian lore attest that the elves silence is the result of betrayal and countless changes to their society.
*Issalonian elves keep their past hidden from others to ensure the preservation of their culture and ways without direct influence from other races. The <i>Gjanyai</i> is designed to force an elf out of their environment to learn of the world. When they return home, they apply what they have learned to make subtle changes to their societies based on their findings from interactions with others. It also gives them a leg up against the other races if they should ever come into conflict with them. Knowledge of the societies, high rollers, and how to topple infrastructure are all built upon during the Gjanyai. Issalonians prefer psychological combat, demoralization, and causing internal breakdowns in the houses of their enemies rather than direct confrontation.
Issalonian elves are thin and often quite petite with well toned muscle. Their thin form makes them very lightweight, varying from 85 lbs to 115 lbs. They stand between 4 ½ to 5 ½ feet tall. Many of their elven traits are much more pronounced, including well defined olive eyes and sharp pointed ears that are usually tucked beneath their hair. Their eye color varies in light and dark green to sky blue.
Issalonians allow their hair to be kept natural and usually unkempt. Surprisingly this does not lead to greasy or knotted hair. Instead their hair is soft and smooth like silk, which many presume is the result of magic (which in fact it is. Overexposure to the Feylus has caused Issalonian magics to be far more potent in nature, to the point where it effects them physically. Additionally, their worship of the lost god Kantoram also lends to natural perfection without effort). Issalonians tend not to bother with the things that catch in their hair either (like sticks and grass), believing that Kantoram gives them those things in preparation of future events.
When the elves do decide to maintain their hair it is usually bound by flowers and vines. The vines allow the elves to shape their hair, and the flowers are used for incense and perfumes. These styles are typically reserved for ceremonies, but is also done by many Issalonian women as a way of relaxing and allowing themselves to feel beautiful. Hair color is often light brown to black.
Vanity holds a strong place in elven society, and they often strive to fit in perfectly with whatever culture they are part of at any given time. They will typically seek out form fitting and colorful matching cloths (artistic but not flamboyant). The elves take pride in their looks which can occasionally put them at odds with other cultures.
Issalonian elves often live 400 to 500 years and are regarded as the shortest lived of the Elven races. Once they reach their twilight years, Issalonians return to their homelands where they are rarely heard from in the outside world again. It is rumored that once an elf has gone home they become immortal. While the rumor is general well received by the rest of the world, Issalonians regard it as Esytt (Ess-It), roughly translating to Hogwash or Absurd. They contest that the longest lived Issalonian elf was only 617 years old. Despite Issalonian claims, the Esytt told by other races may have some merit, as tablets dating back the the Vygn era indicate several Issalonian bloodlines where an ancestor outlived 3 generations of their family before finally passing. Scholars generally agree that these elves could easily have been older than 1200 years, but none remain (of come forward) to prove the claim.
The elves of Issalon hold their strongest ties to the natural world. Unlike the other races, the elves follow traditions more closely related to Druidism, making their homes among the trees, in natural caves or massive hollow logs. They maintain a symbiosis with the natural world, giving back to the lands and carefully preserving the world around them. In return, the land presents them with shelter, food, and other needs. The result is chaotic looking villages made in age old fallen forests or tucked into natural caves with easy access to sunlight. Unlike the druids, the elves craft some of the things they require out of the natural world, creating staircases in the husks of old trees and crafting goods out of what nature has given them (ie. druids opt to ask the natural world to yield these things to them, shaping wood rather than breaking it down to make it into something else).
Between other Issalonians they are relaxed and act as family units without boundaries. A family unit consists of the entire elven village and does not constitute blood relation; everyone is treated as a brother or sister if they are in the same age group, or parents and elders. Families watch out for each other, but their overall cohesion tends to be lacking. If an elf decides to strike out on their own, the family unit bids them farewell and the blessings of the gods and simply sees them off safely. Watching out for each others back is not viewed in as high a regard as the elf who gets back up on their feet when the going gets rough.
Conflict is resolved between individuals often in face to face confrontations. Having others intervene or act on anothers behalf is viewed as insulting and extremely bad form. These conflicts occasionally become violent, and in such instances the family unit will prevent the fight, but it usually does little to stave off animosity. Elves in conflict with each other usually don't go head to head again after that, preferring to avoid one another while subtly sabotaging each others reputations until they decide either party has suffered long enough. Fortunately grudges are short lived in Issalonian family units.
When conflicts escalate too far, an Elder tribunal is called, gathering the 3 eldest elves in the Family unit to preside over the issues. Both parties are allowed a brief statement of grievances, followed by the statements from elves who have witnessed the conflict as it blew out of proportion. The elder tribunal then determines the best course of action or punishment, which is doled out to each party based upon their contributions to the issue. The punishments range from minor (further separation) to severe (excommunication from the family unit).
In the case of crimes committed, the elves of Issalon do not use capital punishment. Instead offenders are banished into Nighthaven, which can be far more dire.
Relations between the other races of Saratta are quite civil and open to an extent. Issalonian elves are well accepted in most lands, and even the Elves of Tyr will begrudgingly bend to accept their presence. Humans are the most welcoming to the elves since they come across to them as far less aloof and detached from the world. Likewise, Issalonian elves enjoy the lavishness and diversity that comes along with human societies, though they do not agree with some of the severe measures that humans take toward themselves and others.
Around Orcs the Issalonian elves are extremely cautious. Years of conflicts with the Tyran elves have made the orcs weary of all elves, and the carefree, seemingly open armed Issalonians give rise to their hackles even more. Orcs think that Issalonians are attempting to poach their secrets to gain the upper edge in combat against them, and few Issalonians would disagree with them.
Additionally, Issalonian elves tend not to get along with dwarves either. Long ago in their past, the dwarves attempted to crack the secrets of the Issalonians and bore tunnels into their realms, stripping as many minerals out of the ground as possible. The elves contest that this angered their Sleeping god, and they took up arms against the dwarves driving them out of their tunnels and from the land of Issalon. This is one of the few grudges that Issalonian elves maintain. According to them, the dwarves continue to draw the ire of the Sleeping god even today*.
Issalonian elves are bitter enemies of the Othar. When they drove the dwarves back into their caves they touched upon the realm of Nighthaven and the Othar. The Othar quickly infiltrated their ranks and unveiled their carefully kept secrets. They learned of the God's Heart, called Feylus; kept in the fortress Balerenar. After years of peaceful mingling they fell upon with Balerenar in force. Rising up from Nightand they stole the Feylus from under the noses of the elves and vanished back into the depth, using the power of the Feylus to seal the way behind them. The losses to the Issalonians were small but the damage to their elven pride was great. They were entrusted with the God's Heart to protect for all time, and it was lost to them.
- The dwarves proclaim that the Sleeping god is a pagan god who doesn't exist. They say the elves made up the god to help protect their tenants and ways of life from the outsiders. The dwarves are wrong in this case, for the Sleeping god is Kantoram and the god really does commune with the Issalonian elves. His resting place is on of the greater secrets that they keep.
Lush tropical forests and great rising mountains fill the terrain of the elven homeland Issalon. Issalon is known as the Cradle of Life, and according to legend all life originated in this wondrous land. It is a strange and alien world for those who did not grow up in it. Ancient plants still grow bountifully within its borders, and age old primordial creatures still roam within. The Cult of Aesivr (an organization dedicated to the worship of Elementals) believe that the land is one of the few where the Prime Elements are willing to show themselves, and many others think it is a land where blessings of fertility can be bestowed.
The elves allow few into Issalon, protecting the borders from those who would enter with force. Their homeland is one of the few places that Issalonian elves become openly aggressive toward other races in. Those caught trespassing inside its borders and bound and placed into a magical sleep. They are then brought before Issalonian Haeliseers (priests of Kantoram who commune with the spirits of the “true” world – Chaotic Nature). If the Haeliseer finds the individuals are blessed by the gods, or guided by Aelluwen (fate or destiny in a rough translation) they are allowed to live. All others are dispatched swiftly and returned to the earth.
Requests can be brought to the elves for entry into their land by approaching a seaside village or walking the borders until an elf discovers a person. If the elf agrees to allow one of another race into the borders, the lands whisper to the other elves and let them know the blessing (Oin'hamet). Most elves will honor the blessing, but if one does anything to break the elves trust, they break the blessing too.
In 982 LD the Lost Temple of Estridae was discovered within Lake Chilaseen and magically raised above its waters. In the years since then, knowledge of the temple has spread prompting pilgrims to come from all corners of the world attempting to breach Issalon and gain access to the Temple. So far the Issalonian elves have refused entry to most, subjecting them to the age old Oin'hamet. This act has embittered them to many followers of Estridae, but it remains to be seen just how drastic of a change the Temple's presence will bring to the elven homelands.
Issalonian elves worship the god of Primal Chaos, more commonly known as the Sleeping god, or Kantoram. As such, they are well attuned to the natural world, believing in the spirit essence of all natural things. To the Issalonian elves the earth has a mother's embrace and sleeping on the ground without a bed or cushion is required for full rest (the natural world seems to soften for Issalonian elves, forming a perfect bed – a blessing from Kantoram for those who still believe). The wind whispers and the trees tell tales of long ago times when even the elves were young.
Nature keeps the elves, and they in turn help keep nature. They may not damage the natural world without first gaining the blessing of the element from which they take. Drawing minerals from the soil, like Iron or Silver first requires the blessing of earth. Elves pray to Kantoram and his children (in this case, children refers to the Prime Elementals, not Kantoram's offspring) to grant them what they need. Once the prayer is given, barring the intervention of beast or natural danger the elves may take from the land what they need to survive and grow. This limits cutting down trees simply for the sake of vanity in ones home.
The elves also believe in the other gods as well, worshiping them equally; even the few who are least remembered, though they are called upon far less frequently. The elves pass down tales of each of the gods and their aspects through tales told from memory, so the portrayal of the gods does vary depending on the family unit's Abwyjin (prounced Ob-Way-Gin), or Lorekeeper, responsible for telling the tale. Kantoram is held in the highest regard, followed by Telraedye, for he is their keeper of secrets. Without the god of Shadows to rely on, there would be no place to conceal the things that should not be known to the younger races of Saratta.
The offspring of Kantoram (Moratem, Ivandris, and Zamikye) are viewed in the least regard by the Issalonian elves, who prefer not to associate themselves with them.
Issalonian elves speak elven in its original form and the language has changed very little in all the time that has passed since the elven nations split apart. The other elven nations view the Issalonian language as a derelict of the past but envy the lack of change at the same time.
Notable Issalonian Elves
+2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, -2 Constitution: Issalonian Elves are nimble of body, patient and cunning of mind, but tend to be frail.
- Medium: Elves are Medium creatures and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
- Normal Speed: Elves have a base speed of 30 feet.
- Low-Light Vision: Elves can see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.
- Curiosity: Issalonian Elves gain a +4 bonus on Diplomacy checks to gather information, and Knowledge (history) and Knowledge (local) become class skills for them. IF they choose a class that has either of these Knowledge skills as a class skill, they gain a +2 racial bonus on those skills instead.
- Keen Senses: Elves receive a +2 racial bonus on Perception checks.
- Trackless Step: Issalonian Elves are blessed by the god of Nature. They leave no trail in natural surroundings and cannot be tracked. They may choose to leave a trail if so desired.
- Weapon Familiarity: Elves are proficient with glaives (polearm), longbows (including composite longbows), longswords, and shortbows (including composite shortbows), and treat any weapon with “elven” in the name as a martial weapon.
Languages: Elves begin play speaking Common and Elven. Elves with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Celestial, Draconic, Ephryn, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.