This entry is part 13 in the series Orcs & Elves

On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 27-28

I’ve got so much campaign prep to get done that if I don’t do it here, I’ll never get it done in time…

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Chapters 27 and 28 were partially unfinished when I started this series, which means they are presented in first-draft form and not the fully polished form of the early chapters.

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Chapter 27

The Second Great Dwarfwar: Aftermath: The Forging Of Mithral

The terms of the peace treaty meant that – for as long as it lasted – large quantities of the useless metal, Mithral, were going to pass into the possession of the Elves. Accordingly, while the primary focus of the Spellweavers would be the black gems for the foreseeable future, a smaller project got underway to try and tame this material and make something worthwhile from it.

This investigation soon learned that the metal was partly ethereal in nature, and that heating and working the material to forge it denatured and severed that connection, leaving the metal brittle and worthless. Melting it once and pouring it into a mould, then attaching it to another red-hot metal before it had fully cooled – the solution found by the Dwarves – avoided the worst of the problem, but left the material useful only for decoration. But it was a solution discovered by trial and error with no real understanding of the source of the problem, or of the properties of the metal in question; a better solution could almost certainly be found.

In due course, one was. Alloying Mithral with silver, platinum, and steel (the exact process remains a closely-held secret not even known generally amongst the elves) transformed Mithral into Mithryl (a name change so subtle that only elvish ears can detect it, which is not entirely an accident), a metal in which much of the weight is carried within the ethereal plane. The result was a metal only slightly softer than true steel but which could be much thinner and a fraction of the weight in attaining that strength – resulting in lighter armour and stronger weapons. It was also determined that the smaller and thinner the shapes forged, the greater the relative gain; to take maximum advantage, new weapons and armour forms would need to be designed. The more they investigated and the more they uncovered, the more highly they prioritized the effort.

As their understanding and experience of Mithryl grew, they used the material to create weapons of surpassing speed, bows of uncanny pull and accuracy (for their weight), mail of finer links than were dreamed possible that was just as effective as full steel chainmail but weighed one tenth as much. Heavier grades of the mail is second in resilience only to the Adamantium plate of the Dwarves, a material they had not yet discovered nor learned to work, but would weigh less than 1/4 as much even if cast in the same Dwarven moulds – not that the elves would ever contemplate doing so.

Only one mystery remained impenetrable; the origins of the raw ore. From whence had the Drow obtained it, and how, and for what intended purpose? This was a secret held only by Lolth, and perhaps a few elite members of her favoured families.

The secrets of forging Mithryl became one of the most closely-guarded state secrets of Elven Society. The reasoning is typically elvish: deep and subtle, and relates directly to the reasons why this research assumed a greater and greater priority within post-war Elvish Society.

With the benefits of perspective, Elvish society was collectively horrified by the extremity of the Huyundaltha plan for winning the war; for the first time, they had been forced to acknowledge that the darkness that drove the Drow was also a part of, a potential of, every Elf. While the Huyundaltha were the guardians of Elvishness from all threats, both foreign and domestic, it was the decision of the Elvish Council that engaging in a war was inherently corrupting, and was to be avoided in the future at all costs. (It is worth noting that similar conclusions are often reached by the survivors of any war, only to be forgotten when fresh justifications and imperatives present themselves).

Furthermore, the Huyundaltha suffered from a handicap that only an elf could fathom: it was not in their nature to do that which was not in their nature.

This statement was intended to express and codify a significant restriction on the effectiveness of the Huyundaltha: they, more than any other Elves, were bound to the narrowest, most pure, interpretation of the tenets, principles, and philosophies by which the Elves defined themselves. In many ways, they had less flexibility and free will even than the Drow, who Elvish society continued to believe had been corrupted by the ego and willfulness and arrogance of Llolth. There was an ongoing empathy for their lost brothers and sisters, and a new-found feeling within the members of Elven society that only good fortune had spared them from the same snare of self-deception.

(It might seem that this awareness would make the Elves less hostile toward the Drow; in fact, it had the opposite effect. No elf could look at a Drow without being aware of the seductive temptation of darkness, of their own weakness, their own imperfection; and, since their faith in themselves was the cornerstone of their existence, they became more rabidly anti-Drow than ever. And secretly ashamed of it).

Despite these limitations and restrictions, the Huyundaltha had to be regarded by outsiders as credible defenders. In order to be taken seriously, the prowess of each individual member of the order must be bolstered and reinforced. The easiest means of doing so would be through Spellweaving applied to the members of the Huyundaltha, but that would violate their natures, by which they qualify for their lofty responsibilities. Hence, external augmentation is the only viable solution. In essence, the outside world must be convinced that the Huyundaltha possess arms and training that make them the superior of any warrior who might challenge them – not by a small margin, but by a vast gulf. Only in this manner can the Huyundaltha be sheltered from the corrupting influence of actually being pressed into duty in war.

The Elvish mastery of the secrets of Mithryl, and of the forging of Elvish swords, bows, gloves, and mail were the solution to the need to make their defenders so seemingly-invincible that they would never be challenged – or so the Elves hoped.

Once that mastery had been achieved to a satisfactory standard, the Elves (and, in particular, their Spellweavers) turned their attention back to the black gems that had been so prized by Lolth for their ability to focus and contain arcane energies, and the way in which they loosened the bonds that set creatures and objects in the fixed forms and natures just enough to make those characteristics more amenable to manipulation. This was far more frustrating research, and progress was as markedly slow as progress had been remarkably fast in the research into Mithryl. But scarcely had the Elves begun when their social attention was diverted by the arrival of a trade delegation from the Human Kingdom of Zae’y’lish…

Chapter 28

The Rise Of The Elvish Merchants

Prior to the sweeping events of the Second Great Dwarfwar, Elvarheim had never contemplated the potentials of trade as being important to them; they were self-sufficient, needing nothing from outsiders. What they had not considered was that the decision not to trade held just as much potential impact as the decision to trade – but because it removed the non-trader from any position of influence over the relationship, it left the progress of consequences entirely in the hands of outsiders. This was unacceptable to the Elves; better by far to trade on their terms than to become embroiled in the consequences of the trading arrangements of others. Such was the thinking of the Elvish Council when ambitious traders from the Kingdom of Zae’y’lish arrived seeking exotic skills and craftsmanship.

The Elves had not previously contemplated the lessons held by the the recent conflict with the Dwarves, and had certainly never contemplated trade with Humans, but the two races had established amicable relations. Since this was clearly a question of relations with outsiders, it naturally fell under the purview of the Elvish King, as advised by the Royal Council; that advice, in a nutshell, was to find something – anything would do – that was not culturally sensitive, and that could be traded to the humans, and something – anything – that would be desirable in exchange.

That was not as straightforward a task as it might seem. The elves were not especially interested in exotic foodstuffs, and the greatest craftsman of a human empire could not compete with the product of an elvish mastercrafter – if no elf had mastered the craft, it was because the product held no value to Elvish society. While artistic and literary works, with their alien perspectives, might hold some limited attraction to a cultural subsection, they were not generally prized. Human advances in arcane theory were expensive and valuable, but again were only of interest to specialists. Ultimately, the only products of value to the Elvish people as a group were not products at all, but raw materials – and since Elvish workmanship was so self-evidently superior, only the best and most pure was suitable.

But it was King Endabberas – one of the wisest of the Elven monarchs – who best summed up the situation from the Elven perspective: “It matters not should we gain or not through these exchanges and others like them; the import is in the act itself, and the opportunity it imbues for the ongoing protection and goodwill toward our race that the act engenders in the perceptions of those who might otherwise become enemies or rivals. This gain more than counterbalances any minor inequality in trading terms.”

Naturally, the Elvish self-pride (some would say ego or arrogance), being what it was, immediately drove them to seek to perfect this new skill. While it may have been true that the first to trade with the Elves took shameless advantage of their new association, the Elves learned very quickly, and soon became recognized as some of the sharpest negotiators at any bargaining table. They were aided in this by the perspective lent them by the nature of their longevity, which enabled them to take a longer view than the humans.

Traders from Zae’y’lish were followed by representatives of the Kingdoms of Erilion, Casipodes, Horwitch, Asaorales, Visunia, and Garinath, and to each the Elves offered their services for a price they deemed fair (and that the merchants decried as exorbitant). But the craftsmanship was superior, if slow of completion, and in the end they begrudgingly agreed to the Elves terms.

Soon, Elvish craftsmen were regularly accepting commissions throughout the Human Kingdoms. Elvish mages became infrequent but regular visitors to their human counterparts (and ever thereafter it would be rumored that some taught the humans more than would have been permitted by the Council had the latter been consulted); Elvish woodworkers and metalsmiths were all over the place. At first, the latter were unwelcomed by their human counterparts, who saw the high-prestige commissions moving beyond their reach, and feared that they would be supplanted entirely; but as the Elves learned the finer points of trade, and as Human craftsmen united into trading guilds, it became clear that the elves prices were so high that the majority of work would always remain in human hands. A number of the Guilds demonstrated their perspicacity by travelling to Elvarheim to instruct the Elves in the finer points of trade negotiations, the better to ensure that both groups’ welfares were protected. It was not long before Elvish Craftsmen were considered de facto honorary members of the professional Guilds throughout the Kingdoms of man.

These events impacted human society as strongly as they did that of the elves. The security and protection of those Elves who undertook a Human commission was, for example, one area in which the Guilds played all sides against each other to enact social reform almost entirely unnoticed until it was too late. First, the Guilds taught the Elves to bargain for the protection of those craftsmen who undertook Human commissions, frontloading the costs of that protection into the bargains. They supplemented this with the concept of wergild and guarantees. With these principles established, they then demanded that the various Kingdoms to which their members belonged provide those members with equivalent protections. While forced to compromise on the value received, as they had expected, they nevertheless succeeded in providing all professional guildsmen with some level of security whilst “on the job”, and, should the worst occur, a token payment to ease the burdens of the family of the deceased.

It must be admitted that many of the consequences of the increased interaction levels between the various societies in question were unforeseen by anyone. And of these unforeseen consequences, by far the most vexing to the Elves was the rise of the Half-bloods.

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The Ongoing Elvish Glossary

  • Alkaith: Curved 14-inch dagger favored as a weapon and general cutting tool by Elvish Spellcasters and some High Elves.
  • Arnost: Simple Speech (Modern “Common”, a human tongue)
  • Arrunquessor: Plains Elves
  • Ayer: Nuthanori word meaning “Squat”. Mont Ayer is the name of one of the two peaks that define the traditional elvish lands.
  • Calquissir: High Elves
  • Corellan: The First
  • Drow: “Those Who Dwell Apart” (in Nuthanorl). Added to Ogre by the Drow with the meaning of “Smart”.
  • Ellessarune: The “Shining City” of the Tarquessir, home of the Elvish King and capital of the Elven Lands to this day.
  • Eltrhinast: “Guiding Spirit”
  • Elvarheim: “Blessed Leafy Home”: The Elven Forest, homeland of the Tarquessir and the centre of Elven Power in modern times
  • Gilandthor: “The Gathering”, the formal title of the Elvish Council.
  • Hithainduil: High Elven Language
  • Huyundaltha: “Masters Of The Ondaltha” (literal), “Bladedancers” (colloquial). Formerly Noletinechor, now Guardians Of Elvish Society.
  • Ondaltha: A two-weapon combat style based apon Elvish Dance, practiced exclusively by Huyundaltha.
  • Illvayssor: “The Other”, a mythical race
  • Isallithin: “The Sundered”, a name applied to Aquatic Elves
  • King: A human title interpreted by Elves as “speaker to others” and defined as such within their language.
  • Magi: A corruption of the Zamiel word “Machus”, which means “of the wise.”
  • Mithryl: the Elvish name of an extremely fragile metal given in trade by the Dwarves to the Elves. The word is imported from Dwarven, who in turn obtained it from the Zamiel Tongue name of the metal, “Mithral”. “Mithryl” means “Moonsilver” in Elven. The word also enjoys popular usage as a metaphor for a treasure found which appeared initially worthless.
  • Mithral: the Drow name for Mithryl. A literal translation from Zamiel is “Shadowsilver”.
  • Mont: Nuthanori word meaning “High Place”. Used human-style in the naming of Mountains.
  • Noletinechor: “Lore Shields”, an elvish historical vocation
  • Nuthanorl: Low Elven Language, Common Elven
  • Sarner: A human abbreviation of the Hithainduil word “Saranariuthenal” which means, literally, “Swift and Wide”. The River Sarner runs through the central valley of Elvarheim.
  • Tarquessir: Forest Elves
  • Thuyon: Nuthanori word meaning “Tall Spires”. Mont Thuyon is the name of the taller of the two peaks that define the traditional elvish lands; Modern Elvarheim lies between the foothills of Mont Thuyon and the River Sarner.
  • Verdonne: “Quickbranch”, an artificial race created by Elves to be “The Guardians Of The Forest”.
  • Zamiel: Drow Language

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Next time: Cults, Half-breeds, and The Circle Of Harmony; new complexities to vex the Elves and complicate their lives: Chapters 29, 30, and 31!

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Orcs & Elves Series:
  1. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 1
  2. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 2
  3. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 3
  4. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 4
  5. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 5
  6. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 1-4
  7. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 5-10
  8. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 11-14
  9. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 15-17
  10. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 18-20
  11. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 21-23
  12. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 24-26
  13. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 27-28
  14. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 29-31
  15. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 32-36
  16. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 37-40
  17. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 41-43
  18. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 44-46
  19. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 47-51
  20. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Orcish Mythology
  21. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 52-54
  22. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 55-58
  23. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 59-62
  24. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 63-65
  25. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 66-68
  26. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 69-70
  27. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 71-73
  28. Who Is “The Hidden Dragon”? – Behind the curtain of the Orcs and Elves Series
  29. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapter 74
  30. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 75-77
  31. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 78-85