This entry is part 17 in the series Orcs & Elves

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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I got asked the other day why I don’t take a break from this series to post something else. It’s a valid question, and deserves an answer. There are two reasons; first, the time pressure – since the campaign is on hold until this work gets done, both the players and myself are naturally eager to complete the story and get back to the game! Second, and equally importantly, writing this sort of article takes an entirely separate set of mental and literary “Muscles” as I suggested when the series started. I’ve learned from hard experience that if I drop it for more than a week, it will take me twice as long to get back into stride when I resume it. (Actually, I find this to be true of interrupting almost any project, though most are usually not as sensitive to interruption, and you can get away with a slightly longer delay. But the principle stands).

Chapters 42 and 43 were partially unfinished when I started this series, and needed some expansion to achieve full first-draft status. Chapter 41 existed only as three lines of extremely rough notes – and those were contradictory.

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Chapter 41

Branches Of Lore: Demonkind & Devilry

Human theology states that in the beginning, there was only the Dark Powers (later to become known as the Chaos Powers) and the void, and that the Dark Powers could not be contained within the Void, which expelled them. But in their wake, debris and detritus remained from the violence of that passage, and amongst it were the Gods, who created everything else. The Dark Powers, resenting the perversion of the Void into reality, tried to undo it by force, each in their own way; some became the Dark Impulses that corrupt Mortals, others became Devils and Demons, and some became the Chaos Powers.

Elvish theology holds that all begins with the rise to self-awareness of Nature herself, and that she had begun the acts of creation, numbering amongst the first fruits of that effort Corellan and those who would become known as Chaos Powers; and that while Corellan saw himself as Guardian and Assistant to Nature, the Chaos Powers sought to dominate it. Acting in concert, the two cast the rebellious Dark Powers out and created lesser Godlings to take their places. Some of these protested this treatment of the Elders, which had cost Corellan much of his magnificence and power; he was unable to dispense with them as he was the Dark Powers, and these became bastions of evil in their hatred of all that lived, the Infelstreta and Magfelstreta, named in Common ‘Demons’ and ‘Devils’ respectively.

Dwarven theology contends that the world was made of stone, but stone cracks and breaks as it grows, and so the acts of creation that structured the world divided it into first the void that was not material and the void that was material, and then subdivided those. From the void came forth air, water, and fire, and when these met the material they became life. “Dust to Dust, but Deeds are Eternal” is central to the Dwarven ethos. Life spread throughout existence, but everywhere it went it encountered the Void, which hungered for the destruction of the things that had been taken from it that it could be made complete once again; in time, this desire gave rise to intelligence, and the Dark Powers were born to the Void even as the Elder Races emerged apon the material. And these Elder Races numbered amongst them Gods, who created the structure that separates the void from the planes of existence, binding them together with the sinew of the Ethereal and the structure of the Astral, each incomplete without the other, in the process driving out the Void and the Dark Powers it contained. This effort cost the Gods much of their power, for the infinite cannot exist within a place defined as finite; they had to either lessen themselves or be cast out, as were the Dark Powers. Mortals were created to replace the lost powers of the Gods. And there were those of the Gods who resented this choice being made for them without their consultation, and these became Hrazzt (Devils and Demons).

Events within the Third Great Dwarfwar forced the Huyundaltha to reexamine their beliefs and attempt to reconcile their mythology with that of the other races, for Elvish Lore had proven wanting. In the centuries that followed that conflict, they undertook this difficult task, despite being (of all the Elves) perhaps the least-suited to the task. Both before and after the absorption of their place of refuge into what became known as The Golden Empire, they were afforded opportunities to learn much, and indeed, to learn more of the truth behind these matters than any other living beings. Although those discoveries lie centuries into the future relative to this point in our narrative, this is an opportune time to step outside a strict continuity, for what they learned would provide a context, perspective, and explanation to that conflict that is indispensible in understanding the course of the Dwarfwar.

The Humans got part of it right. The Elves got part of it right. The Dwarves got part of it right. None achieved a full understanding; nor would the Huyundaltha claim to understand completely what they divined through logic and their own experience of the world.

Chaos powers came into existence at a time of anarchy throughout existence. Pure anarchy leads to chance arrangements that are ordered, and order cannot abide chaos, it structures it into more order. From these seeds of chance order, the chaos collapsed into one of an infinite number of possible orderly states. Even as the chaos powers were awakening, the entirety of existence was becoming intolerable to their kind. They were driven out as much by an instinctive revulsion for what was occurring around them as by anything else.

The act of that expulsion left behind them voids into which the excess order, made paramount over nature by the loss of Chaos, flowed and gathered, and became the Celestials, who would one day become the Gods; but these were not the only beings so created. Sentient creatures emerged with coalescing of chaos into order throughout the newly-emerging planes of existence, from the Elementals to the Illithid to the Tana’ari.

When the Chaos Powers returned, they initially corrupted some of the Celestials, fomenting rebellion and disunity amongst them, who had not yet grown to civilization and their full birthrights of power. This gave rise to a civil war in the heavens, and capabilities always grow more rapidly in times of conflict. Both sides had inherently equal potential for intelligence and metaphysical abilities, but the differences between them ensured that these developments proceeded along different lines. Eventually, though broken and scattered into different clans and groups, and having even forgotten that the other groups even existed, the Gods nevertheless managed to unite sufficiently to drive their estranged kinfolk out, who found a new home in the multitudinous layers of the abyss and became Magfelstreta (Devils) to plague all other races.

While these events played themselves out, the Chaos Powers were corrupting many within the other elder races and rousing them into a howling mob with which to assault the true antithesis of their natures, the Celestials. These were now unleashed, leading the Celestials to assume that the rest of existence was now arrayed against them. Once again they engaged in a desperate battle for survival, which gave the Devils the breathing space to establish their new homes through the conquest of those elder races already present, and to reshape the layers of the Abyss to reflect their nature. This conflict also gave the Chaos Powers the opportunity to educate and instruct their natural successors, the Tana’ari. Some of the Chaos Powers were so bewitched by these prize pupils that they broke themselves apart in an orgy of sheer anarchic violence and infused a part of their very being into those Tana’ari that they found most pleasing, elevating them in power and potential to make them true heirs to the Chaos Powers.

The Celestials, recognizing that they could never inflict a final defeat apon the assembled hordes of the Chaos Powers alone, outnumbered as they were by millions to one, undertook to liberate members of one of the races corrupted by the Chaos Powers. These became the first Metallic Dragons, and with the aid of these assistants, they created the various Mortal Species within the Prime Material plane, the most orderly point within the planes of existence, to transform it into a stronghold to stand against the Chaos Powers. But this act of creation, when opposed and corrupted by the Chaos Powers, triggered others. Nature itself, catalyzed into awareness by these acts of creation, gave rise to the ultimate being of perfection, Corellan.

There is still more that is not clearly understood about the Gods’ reasons for the creation of mortals, and about the relationship between the Gods and their creations. In some manner not yet understood by any, this act of creation elevated those Celestials who had undertaken this activity into Gods by a reordering of reality into a still more structured form. Some Huyundaltha have speculated that this merely accelerated the growth in power of the Gods to a standard that they would have achieved eventually anyway; others believe that the mortals were intended to be a weapon that the Gods would hurl against the Chaos Powers when the time was right, while still others consider the mortal races to be the Gods’ answer to the perceived corruption of the other Elder races, intended to free the Gods to focus their attention on the Chaos Powers without distraction. None of these speculations can be proven by logic alone.

In the process of elevating themselves to Divine Beings, they inadvertently elevated Corellan in kind, and completed the imbuing of awareness to the symbolic spirit of Nature, who would serve as his Queen and Mistress. With his assistance, Nature created the Elves to combat the destructive intent of the Chaos Powers as though the Lords Of Anarchy were a disease against which Nature needed to protect itself.

The mortal species were then discovered by the Tana’ari and by the Devils, who learned that they were able to partake of the same bond between Gods and Mortals if they redirected the faith of the Mortals in question. It is generally believed, but not proven, that one of the Chaos Powers saw to it that the information came to hand to these beings of Evil so as to undermine the powers of their natural enemies, the Gods. A minority opinion contends that the Chaos Powers learned to corrupt and entice Mortal Worship from the Devils, and passed the knowledge on to the Tana’ari. This truth, also, might never be known.

On occasions throughout their history, Devils and Demons had attempted to corrupt the Elves, but the gifts of Corellan enabled them to see to the hidden truth beneath their camouflages and deceptions, and the Elves had come to think of these forces of evil as inherently inferior to themselves in most respects. They considered that the trouble that various mortal species experienced from time to time with Infelstreta were proof of the inferiority of those mortal species, making them doubly-inferior to the Elves, who were the pinnacle of creation. The Third Great Dwarfwar brought them face to face with the unpleasant truth of just how corruptive the Infelstreta could be, and the dangers to which this corruptive influence could expose the society that had considered itself to be all-but-immune to such depravities.

Click the icon to download Tooth & Dagger – Rationalizing Orcs (LT & A4 sizes) 179K

Editor’s note

To an outside observer, it seems obvious how much this Eleven creation mythology parallels their own history. The Gods have Rebellious Kinfolk who corrupt the weak-minded, but to whose influence Elves are naturally immune? The Gods are always attacked by surprise, and are never (or nearly so) in the wrong – always the innocent victims, and never at fault? The real truth lies buried in the mists of antiquity, and may bear very little resemblance to this formulation by the Huyundaltha.

Candor also compels the scholar to note on trait all four origin stories have in common: they place their respective races at the pinnacle and centre of creation, the closest to being ‘pure’ of all the races. So, for that matter, does the theology of the Orcs, which the Huyundaltha did not know, but which was described in “Tooth & Dagger” which I made available as a download in the introductory parts of this series. Grab it now if you missed it back then :).

Chapter 42

Dwarfwar III: Revelations

Arrogantly certain of his victory, Molgoth was in a boastful mood. He sought to humiliate the Elves who had trespassed into his domain, and claimed that it was their destiny to create the this weapon (referring to the Circle Of Harmony) against all existence. He had witnessed their creation, and even then dimly sensed their potential to create an artifact of unknowable destructive force; to give them the capacity to fulfill this promise, he subtly meddled in their creation, sowing their still-inchoate forms with the strands of arcane energy that permit spellweaving, and whose resonances granted Elves the ability they now know as Elven Sight. He also sang a soft dissonance into their subconscious minds at the time, a subtle corruption which in time would sow the seeds of their self-destruction. Much to his chagrin, most of that dissonance was drawn off in the final act of creation into that which the elves term “The Other” but a seed remained, a flaw that in time manifested itself as The Drow.

In fact, according to his boasting, that flaw was responsible for the creation of one of the greatest non-divine powers, and an unwitting ally to the Chaos Powers; for the Totem spirits of nature are shaped by their blending with the Elves as much as the Elves are shaped by the Totem Spirits, and it was this dissonance that became the central focus, the point of union, between the Spider-Totems, enabling them to coalesce into a single being, Lolth. In a way, she could be thought of as the bastard half-sister of Corellan and Molgoth himself.

Since time began, He claimed to have meddled with the Elves for His own amusement, encouraging them to grow in the nature and direction He desired. He whispered in the mind of the Spider-Queen, Lolth, who He always found receptive to His suggestions because of the Kinship about which even she was ignorant. He had encouraged the independence of the Verdonne to grow to the point of overriding their sense of duty in order to strip His playthings of their defenders. When the Dwarves discovered the Black Gems of Harmony, he knew that the time toward which he had been guiding the Elves had come.

He had encouraged the Drow to begin a pointless war between Dwarves and Elves, all for the explicit purpose of placing those Gems in the hands of the Elven Spellweavers, that they would do what he always knew they were capable of doing. He had fed and nurtured the arrogant self-confidence and curiosity of the Elven Spellweavers, blinding them to any need to emplace safeguards and limits apon the power of their creation, and ensuring that it was as powerful as they could make it, without restraint. All that he needs now to achieve total victory over the self-proclaimed Gods was to twist the Spellweaving Of Destruction that the Elves were even now preparing for use through the Circle as a fallback counterstrike against the Dwarves; this would alter the dissonances within the circle so that it targeted the Gods instead, and creation would be left defenseless against He and His brothers.

Naturally, he would see to it that the Elvish Spellweavers would find it necessary to employ that final desperate last-resort, and in the process would corrupt the oh-so-sanctimonious Elves far more thoroughly than the petty defilements that had set the Drow apart. More, since so vast an act of corruption and destruction would liberate energies of Necromancy so vast as to be virtually incalculable for his consumption, he would be instantly elevated to become the most powerful single being in existence, easily the equal of the puffed-up Deities, the whining & petulant Chaos Powers, and the scheming perfectionists the elves knew as Magfelstreta. As the Supreme Being over all, he would rule over all, sacrificing entire races to his greatness and grinding the survivors beneath his heel. And he owed it all to his “most beloved creation”, the Elves, he roared through his crazed laughter.

Chapter 43

Dwarfwar III: A Costly Victory

These revelations staggered the Huyundaltha. No matter how much Molgoth twisted his retelling, filtering this skewed version of history through the warped perspective of an Elder Tana’ari and the essence of Chaos Power within, their ability to discern truth and penetrate deception told them that ultimately his tale was unvarnished truth, no doubt because the Perverse Defilement knew that it would be more painful than any deception.

Within their souls, a great fury grew at the humiliation and shattering of illusions, the compounding of resentment over every act of abuse that they and their people had endured. The memory of every Elf whose life had been spilled in the Dwarfwars was a part of it. Their abhorrence for the perversion of the Drow was another part of the noxious emotions, as was the humiliation that they felt every time they were forced to acknowledge kinship and hence partial responsibility for their actions. And, at its heart, lay the potential for nihilistic love of destruction that Molgoth himself had placed within the first Elves. And, rather than fight it, the Huyundaltha reveled in this rising tide of blind fury, and lashed out with all the force at their disposal against the architect of their racial shaming, venting the full force of the capacity for brutality that lay within them against the manipulative and wily Magfelstreta, knowing even as they did so that they were drawing apon that part of their nature that droves the Drow and made them what they were. Knowing that with this act the Chaos-Kin was corrupting them no less surely than he had the Dwarves and Drow, and embracing that corruption as a tool, a weapon, against its architect. Knowing that once tapped, that vein of madness could never be entirely suppressed; that forever after, they would lust for the orgiastic release of sheer destructiveness and malevolence.

Invoking in unison the power of both Corellan and Lolth to exact their respective revenges for all the wrong done to them and to their subjects by Molgoth, the succeeded in dispelling the boastful and arrogant Molgoth, and layed waste to the Temple of the Cult Of Stone, ceasing only when rubble was all that remained, despoiling willfully all beauty therein. Angry, humiliated, and grief-stricken, they then returned to Elvarheim where they learned that the desperate defense had been successful, but has cost the lives of many elves. Three in five Elves were dead. The Halfling survivors had attacked like rabid dogs and had fallen to the last member of their race, as had nine in ten of the Dwarven attackers, who had seemed to care not whether they lived or died if it brought their remaining armies but one step closer to the Circle Of Harmony. To the returning Huyundaltha, that name was the bitterest and most ironic term possible for this weapon of mass slaughter; if there was one thing that it had wrought, it was dis-harmony.

At the height of the battle, even as the suicidal attackers threatened to overrun the defenders and the Spellweavers prepared to release their final solution, the Dwarves had hesitated, and the suicidal mania had gone out of their attack. This could only have been the result of the hold of Molgoth being broken by the desperate raid into the Dwarven Tunnels. At the last, they had quailed and fallen back, and Elvarheim had survived.

An armistice had been decreed to discuss each side’s grievances, but was already fraying; the Dwarves remembered everything that they had done, and still thought it their own idea and a justified response to the Elvish Belligerence, dismissing as nonsense any suggestion that they could be manipulated by a “Chaos Being”, even if such a thing truly existed, which it didn’t. The Elves were demanding reparations, and the dissolution of the Cult Of Stone, both of which the Dwarves were refusing to countenance. The atmosphere remained tense, verging on hostile; both forces were taking advantage of the lull to regroup and battle could break out anew at any time. Many on the council continued to push for a ‘final solution’ through the use of the Circle Of Harmony.

Into this atmosphere of tension and mistrust, the victorious Huyundaltha made their report to the Gilandthor, who were rocked to the core by the revelations carried by the Huyundaltha. The knowledge was immediately made a state secret, to be preserved by the Huyundaltha only as a safeguard against further acts of manipulation; many on the Gilandthor felt such overwhelming despair and humiliation that they were uncertain how they could live with the knowledge, as did the returning Huyundaltha. In fact, death by act of suicide would eventually claim nine in ten of those who made, or received, this unhappy news.

In light of this report, many of those who had been demanding reparations lost passion for the arguement, and a swell of sentiment grew for a return to a negotiated peace. Those pressing for a final ending of the Dwarves also lost much of their backing, but they remained in favor of letting the Dwarves think the hostilities were at an end whether it was to be so or not. “Let the final stroke, if and when it comes, be mercifully without warning,” they argued.

A revised peace proposal was duly offered to the Dwarves; while it barred them entrance to Elvarheim for all eternity, for any reason, listed a number of other restrictions whose violation would be regarded as an act of War, and insisted that the Dwarves free any Halflings who still survived, it was (in most respects) a return to the status quo prior to the commencement of War. Perhaps by oversight, the Elves neglected to inform the Dwarves of the destruction of the Temple Of Stone.

The Dwarves grumbled, but acceded to the new accord, and returned to their tunnels beneath the mountain, sealing the passages behind them. When the last Dwarven foot crossed that threshold, the Huyundaltha who had participated in the raid (and survived) attended a reconvened Gilandthor, and announced their stated intention of exiling themselves forever. In their own minds, they had become Drow, and while they would never bend the knee to Lolth against their own kind, they knew that they had to abandon their forest homes and Kin or eventually turn against them. The council, feeling the strain quite as strongly as these emotionally-wounded war veterans, were reluctant to agree. “In times of war, acts of barbarity that would in other times be unthinkable become desirable, and even necessary,” argued one member, but the Huyundaltha were resolute. They would take a month or two to wrap up their worldly affairs and say their farewells, and would then take their leave of Elven Society.

The Huyundaltha survivors, remnants of the hand-chosen elite within that group, then withdrew from the Council, who began to consider the deferred question of a final destruction of the Dwarves. Three times, they had been used as cats-paws in plots of destruction aimed at the Elven people; and that was twice too-many. It was intolerable, a threat that needed to be ended once and for all, argued one council member.

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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
  • Comesdhail Osfadara­ Litrithe Congress Of Spellweavers
  • 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.
  • Illvayssor: “The Other”, a mythical race
  • Infelstreta: “Demon” in Hithainduil.
  • 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.
  • Lesiatrame: “Bright Ego”, a deprecating term used to describe Human Gods, rendered suspect during the commencement of the third Great Dwarfwar.
  • Magi: A corruption of the Zamiel word “Machus”, which means “of the wise.”
  • Magfelstreta: “Devil” in Hithainduil.
  • 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
  • Ondaltha: A two-weapon combat style based apon Elvish Dance, practiced exclusively by Huyundaltha.
  • Osfadara­ Litrithe Spellweaver, literally ‘Weaver of Harmony’.
  • 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
  • Thonsutriane: “Dark Egos”, a deprecating term used to describe Chaos Powers, rendered suspect during the commencement of the third Great Dwarfwar.
  • 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: The Elves have won a costly victory, but will that be enough – or will they engage in their own act of Genocide? Chapters 44-45!

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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