BEFORE THE GREAT MALICE, the kings of Elfaivar held power to rival all the other nations of Lanjyr. Commanding legions of slave armies from the far east and fielding battalions of fey mages and monsters, the longlived high elf monarchs were able to ensure the security and prosperity of the mightiest nation in the world.
Today, only ruins survive.
The Great Malice slew every elf woman in the empire and beyond, with only the rarest and most unlikely survivors: women currently polymorphed, on other planes, or who had forsaken the Elfaivaran faith entirely. Within weeks the once-glorious empire, which had been poised to crush the impudent Clergy who had twice launched a holy war against it, descended into chaos. Within decades the population had collapsed to the tiniest sliver of its original number.
A stirring eulogy of the poet Vekesh convinced a few elves to seek harmony, to endure, and to prosper—and above all else, to find and free elf women from bondage so the race could heal. But for millions of grief-stricken elven men, the aftermath of the Great Malice was a time of constant battle.
Those few women who had survived were quickly claimed as property, and anyone who could keep ownership of a wife against a hundred thousand other suitors could command enclaves of desperate followers. Whole cities of despairing men would fight to the death for the chance of winning their lord another wife. Mages laid curses upon swaths of cropland, but some enclaves chose to starve rather than hand over their “queen.” Slavers brought ships of human, half-elf, and drow women, sorcerously transmuted to pass as elves, who were sold into servitude, and often slain horribly once the truth was discovered.
Many elf men fled to other lands, seeking wives of other races. As attrition whittled down survivors, and too few children were born to keep society alive, ever more wealth and magical relics pooled in the hands of fewer and fewer men. When foreigners from Crisillyir or the distant east tried to claim Elfaivaran land they were driven back by fearsome elf warriors. Trained by constant battles for survival, and possessed of the finest arms and armor of entire cities, each man was match for a hundred normal soldiers.
Elves are long-lived, but old age eventually claims even them. Some made pacts with the powers of the Dreaming or other planes, but after two centuries, Elfaivar was practically a ghost nation. It took nearly a century more for Crisillyir and other nations to defeat the few vengeful hold-outs and begin to colonize the empty landscape. Jungle had reclaimed cities. Mighty magical effects had lost their cohesion, spilling strange enchantments into the land. In some places the material world had blended and merged with the Dreaming. It was in these confusing borderlands that a handful of Vekesh-inspired enclaves survived.
Early on, the freed women of Vekesh enclaves gained great power, both politically and magically, for they came to embody the hopes of hundreds if not thousands of survivors. New daughters were fiercely guarded and intensely trained so they could defend themselves and someday lead their own enclaves. Despite this, sometimes foreign mercenaries would manage to abduct an elf woman, for they became prized status symbols in the rest of Lanjyr.
These abductions led to the first Vekeshi retributions, as mystics undertook daring missions to rescue lost women or at least punish those who would steal them. In general, though, the enclaves stay hidden. They’ll deploy spies to keep eyes on human activity in nearby lands, and will make bargains with fey to scare off those who get too close, but they realize that they cannot risk antagonizing the human nations.
A rare few elves seek to integrate with human society. They wear as much gold as they can, placing a metaphorical barrier between themselves and the Dreaming, in an effort to cut themselves off from
their fey heritage. By contrast, some Vekeshi mystics also adorn themselves in gold, but only as a ritual of self-flagellation, to meditate on their distance from their people’s history so they can ponder how best to reclaim their birthright.