Iron Empire

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The Iron Empire of the High Elves was the predominant nation of the eastern continent. Neighbours of the Realm of humanity, the two nations were locked in conflict of some form or another for the majority of their several-century contact. With the troll tribes who lived in the wilds of the eastern forests and regularly raided the borders of the Empire, this meant the Elves were no stranger to conflict, and their culture has developed around a strong sense of unity and loyalty.

The Empire was the first nation to come under attack from the Legion, which swept across the continent in short order. An Alliance with the Realm was formed at the last minute to no avail, and the combined armies were pushed back across the sea to human lands. The elven refugees fled to whatever safety humanity could offer, while the surviving soldiers of the Empire combined forced with the Realm's armies.

The survivors now live in the nation of Andermark, attempting peaceful co-existence with their hosts and the refugees of the other destroyed nations. With a place on the King's advisory council, a close integration with the military, and a populace who are productive and peaceful, the Government-in-Exile of the Iron Empire pursue a policy of cooperation and aid in the rebuilding process, in the hope this will someday lead to the rediscovery and resettlement of their old lands.

History

Birth of the Empire

The emergence of the High Elves as a notable power is marked as the beginning of elven history being recorded with any degree of consistency, compared to scattered pre-Imperial accounts. History as they recalled it states that towards the end of these so-called Dark Ages, the High Elves of the Iron Tower of Leyroth, favoured by the God Thoron, emerged foremost of their compatriots and brought with them peace and unity.

The formation of the Iron Empire was incredibly swift by the standards of politics, both human and even elven. The disunity of the many other elven states, tribes, or isolated villages was such that they found themselves welcoming the expansion of the High Elves and the stability that they could offer - or could simply not stand up in opposition to them.

It was the forces to the east of the continent who found themselves first swayed by the argument of the Iron Tower. The forests deeper eastwards were the realm of the trolls, aggressive and dangerous, and so the notion of unity was appealing to those who found themselves in constant warfare. Once the new Empire had successfully brought the eastern elves together, and with this unity sent the trolls running back deeper into the forest, it turned its eye to the rest of the continent.

Many respected their success, and saw the security that the Empire could bring. The elves of the west had found fleeting contact with the humans across the Narrow Sea, and had heard rumours of the greenskins of Sahradia. Deciding that the security of the Empire was wisest, they joined - for being ruled by other elves was still preferable to being conquered by short-lived lesser races.

The rest of the continent would join swiftly. Those who opposed directly were conquered in short order; most of the smaller pockets who just peacefully refused either eventually joined through a sense of unity, or found themselves so economically strangled as to have no choice.

First Contact with Humanity

When humanity were still little more than bickering tribes living in mud houses, the Elven Empire spanned a continent. Before Calavria had built its first universities, they had established their own ethos of using magic. Before Andermark had constructed its finest, sturdiest castles, they were fortified from capital to coast. And before Damryn had even conceived of dominating the Realm of humanity, the Empire already claimed the allegiance of the whole of the elven people.

It was shortly before the unity of the Realm that the elves and humanity established any formal contact. There had previously been some brief interactions between the coastal elves and the humans of Calavria, mostly in matters of simple trade, but the first diplomatic communication was from an elven ambassador landing at Damryn.

Two proud races with ancient traditions were never likely to get on when they were so different. With that the elves considered themselves superior with their Empire, and that Damryn had aspirations of rulership over the rest of the human kingdoms, neither side would back down and show acquiescence. The elven ambassador expected deference at the very least; the High King expected to be treated as at least an equal. Neither were satisfied.

Outbreak of War

Relations would remain cool after this meeting until the formation of the Realm. At this stage, tensions between the Empire and Calavria had begun to buzz in their competition for trade. But the High Queen Guinnear of Damryn found herself the head of a new people who had been united mostly by war. And as they chafed under their new leadership, she was canny enough to know the best way to stabilise the Realm.

Damryn hurried with strength of arms to the defence and support of Calavria. Calavrian ships were reinforced with soldiers from the Realm, and were supplemented by subtly-funded privateers. The Calavrians defended themselves and the privateers hounded the Imperial vessels, poking and prodding for a counter-strike. They were rewarded within months when proof came back of elven pirates having sunk a Calavrian trade ship.

The Realm was an unsteady alliance, but the notion of elven aggression was enough to have them set aside their differences for now. The Empire inevitably viewed the Realm as the upstart land of short-lived, impetuous people; humanity, in turn, interpreted the elven arrogance as a desire that the Realm just be added as a corner of their Empire.

Additionally, most of the elven military strength remained far to the east, in conflict with the trolls of the wilds. So when the human army, battle-hardened from the formation of the Realm, landed on the elven coast, the Empire was not only taken by surprise, but unprepared. By the time the Iron Tower had recalled its troops from the east, the Realm had taken significant parts of the western coast of the Empire, in a region known as Carnthor.

The War of the Narrow Sea

Carnthor would be the battleground for several centuries. High Queen Guinnear declared these captured lands to be a part of the Realm, and even appointed a duke to rule in her stead. The human duchy of Carnthor would not last more than fifty years before the elves of the contested land, downtrodden and treated as second-class citizens compared to the human ruling class who had established themselves, arranged the assassination of their ‘monarch’.

Chaos would rule the region from then on. Carnthor became a battleground as the elves and the humans fought bitterly over territory. The humans were firmly entrenched and well-fortified in the region, but the elves were fighting on their own turf, and there were massive rebellious movements from the elves in conquered land.

It was merely seventy-five years before the arrival of the Legion that the elves finally expunged humanity from their shores. The death of the High King Shiel and many of his generals in one decisive battle crippled the Realm, as the heir was nothing but a youth and the majority of the best advisors had perished. As the elves began to march decisively across the contested territory, the new young High King Aedest, anticipating the Empire not stopping at the sea, in a panic offered that all humans would withdraw from elven shores, in exchange for a cease fire.

Due to the elven life-span, it was within the memory of recent generations that these territories had been unarguably in the hands of the Empire. On the other hand, a human’s short life-span meant that the first fifty years' stable securing of a region was considered a sufficient claim of ownership. As such, it was a massive blow to human pride that the Realm withdrew its settlers and troops, and the elves were gleeful to retrieve land they considered rightfully theirs.

After the War

Although the war officially ended this was hardly the conclusion of all hostilities between men and elves. Even High King Aedest did not adhere to his oath of peace. His political rivals, especially in Lancereaux, would perpetually hold his retreat from the Empire against him, and the traders of Calavria who had lost considerable options with the surrender opposed him at every turn. This left him politically and economically weak, and so within fifteen years of the signing of the treaty the forces of King Aedest were marching on the shores of the Empire once again. They were soundly defeated, but the elves swore that they would never forget what they saw as dishonourable treachery.

Spats would continue throughout the decades. Many were by sea, though the Norls, sharing a land-border, continued their conflict in the north. Although trade would open up again, and the exchange of knowledge, such that humans would visit the Empire peaceably and elves the Realm, tensions would remain. It was not uncommon for an elf visiting the wrong part of the Realm to find themselves attacked, however peaceful their intentions.

Both sides would regard the other as the Old Enemy, and between the war and the Fall, much of the Empire’s focus was upon rebuilding and securing its borders.

Before the Fall

Five years before the first soldier of the Legion was ever seen by civilised eyes, elven soldiers of the north-east found the trolls they fought to be considerably agitated. This first manifested itself as attacks on their lands, but it became apparent very quickly that this was a less disciplined and more desperate affair than any past trollish campaigns. Reports also suggested that large bodies of the trolls were beginning to move southwards.

Trollish shaman prisoners began to rant, when questioned, about the end of the world, and even elven seers asked expressed certain vague, but ominous portents for the future. Eventually a trollish army the size of which had not been seen in centuries appeared before the gates of the outermost holding, headed by a huge troll professing to be one of the rarely-seen chieftains of the east, renowned for staying within the depths of the forest and sending forth raiders rather than marching out themselves.

The trolls inexplicably requested the right to enter the Empire, along with the women and children they said were at the nearest of the large troll settlements. They gave no reason, and in usual trollish manner issued threats at the notion of being denied entry. Inevitably the elves refused, and in a bloody conflict the trolls dashed themselves upon the elven defences.

When the dust settled, a group of elven rangers were sent forth to the known settlement where it was believed the families of these thousands of trolls were.

The settlement remained intact, barring the ravages of the weather. It had clearly been recently inhabited, and there remained supplies in the village, with absolutely no signs that any trolls had moved on.

But not a single soul was found, and the shamans continued to howl of the coming of the end of the world.

The Fall of the Iron Tower

It was five years later when these fortifications were first assaulted. All that was known initially was that some of the outermost fortresses defending against the trolls went silent, as did the surrounding villages and towns, and when the nearest city sent forth a search party, nothing came from them.

The Legion came from the north-east and burst their way down through the border. Devastating as many of the strong border fortifications as possible before the cities hundreds of miles away knew what was happening, at first the Empire did not grasp the magnitude of the threat against them. When they sent a small force to deal with what they assumed were some particularly strange trolls, that force was absolutely eviscerated.

It was only then that the Empire realised they were not fighting woodland savages and began to unify its forces. But by then it was too late. The Empire, huge but sparsely populated, could not gather the full force of its army before the Legion had swept across half the continent. The Emperor Ainion was urged to ask the Realm for aid, but pride saw him refuse. The elven army massed at the gates of the Iron Tower of Leyroth, the city that had never been conquered, and were either massacred or driven away as the Legion cut through their forces and burnt the capital.

The Alliance of Carnthor

Emperor Ainion himself died at that battle; General Bregolien of the army assumed leadership of the Empire and the defences and, a far less proud man now the Iron Tower had fallen, turned to the Realm for aid. But the High King Riagon refused, insisting the troubles of the Old Enemy were no concern of humanity. Calavria, however, began to accept elven refugees that started to flood across the sea after the fall of the Iron Tower.

The elves retreated the length of the continent, prepared to abandon huge regions of land they deemed indefensible so long as they could make it to the great Imperial Fortresses with as much time to spare and as many men as possible. This also meant that the Legion found themselves opening up a new front in the north-west as they encountered the warriors of Norlundar.

As the Legion poured into Norlundar, again General Bregolien asked King Riagon for aid, and with this new threat now facing the Realm, Riagon agreed. The General and the High King met on the shores of Carnthor, where the two nations had fought for generations, and this time, hammered out a treaty for war not against one another, but together against a foe. As Norlundar and much of Damryn reinforced against the northern threat, the armies of Andermark, Lancereaux, Ibarran, and Calavria, with Damryn’s finest in command and at the van, crossed the Narrow Sea to join with the elven army.

For the first time in history, humans and elves fought side by side on the shores of the Empire against the pitiless march of the Legion. These enemies who had done battle so long they knew intimately how the other waged war, finally used this knowledge and expertise for the defence of both of their homes.

The Legion crushed the alliance utterly. Desperate remnants of both the Realm’s army and the smattering of the elven forces fled across the Narrow Sea, but with the death of all the major military and political leaders, most of the elves who were left were refugees, cowards, not notable enough to have been given an important posting, or simply very lucky.

Flight Across the Realm

Humanity continued to wage war against the Legion as it marched onwards, but the elves were all but done in their role at this juncture. The civilian refugees quickly found themselves integrating with the human ones as Calavria was abandoned, the first land of the Realm to fall to the Legion. Governess Orthoria had been a minor administrator of a small southern region of the Empire, but as one of the few surviving government officials, she quickly assumed leadership of what she called the ‘government-in-exile’ of the Empire, and politically became presumed and accepted as the leader of the civilian refugees.

The highest ranking survivor of the military was one General Tirithon, whose origins were similarly humble - he was a logistics officer in the army. But the military genius of the Empire was spent before the flight to the Realm, and he found himself with the de facto command of the several thousand elven troops who were all that survived of the once-magnificent army. Orthoria urged him to fall back with the refugees, for the elves to stick together and to defend each other, that they were all that was left of the Empire. Tirithon, however, refused, and marshaled the demoralised elven troops with the proclamation that, just as the Realm had fought and bled to try to save their Empire, so would soldiers of the Empire fight to defend the Realm.

Governess Orthoria was keen to move the refugees back at every opportunity; since they had no homes to be displaced from, elves were often amongst the first to leave when a settlement was deemed doomed. This did not foster an especially positive impression of the elven civilians amongst the observers in humanity, and when the refugees’ flight finally came to its end at Starkholm, the elves remained in similar number to those who first reached the shores of the Realm.

General Tirithon attempted to make the most of what remained of his soldiers. However, the dim view of the elves by the Realm meant that this was hard work. On the one hand, they fought tooth and nail as much as any human, and those who witnessed the campaign would attest to this. Tirithon was no genius, but he listened to those around him, including the humans, and clearly was intent on putting the survival of his men above his prideful disdain for humanity. Although lacking any genius of initiative, he nevertheless followed orders effectively, and experience alone granted him more solidness of nature than many human commanders.

But at first the elven army was pushed to one side in the war, never granted any seriously important tasks. This did mean their numbers remained high, but this disregard faded upon the fall of Lancereaux. The army was split, but Tirithon’s men ended up in the forces fighting in Damryn. The war there was a desperate and bloody affair. Prejudice faded quickly in the face of determination to survive, and the elves stood their ground alongside all Realm soldiers. Together they fled to Andermark when the High Kingdom fell, and when High King Riagon fell in battle against the Legion, morale collapsed in the retreating Damryan Army. This was where the elves truly showed their mettle, for it was they who oversaw the flight through the mountains, the defence of the army, and shored up the determination of the survivors.

It was not enough to turn the tide, but it is presumed to have saved lives and meant that there was a significant enough army that made it out of Damryn to defend Andermark and, eventually, reinforce Starkholm. The elves played their part in the Last Stand, and many took the sight of Thoron, the Iron Father, in and amongst the ranks of the Gods descending from heaven to wage war on the Legion as a sign that they were not yet undone.

When the dust settled, General Tirithon seemed happy to declare himself at the disposal of the military officers who had survived and seemed intent on continuing the defence of the Alliance.

Governess Orthoria, on the other hand, turned to the elven people and declared that there was work to be done.

Cultural Overview

Before the Fall

  • Capital: The Iron Tower of Leyroth
  • Head of State: Emperor Ainion
  • Legislative Body: The Imperial Council
  • Former Population Density: Medium
  • Religions: Thoron; some worship of non-United Church deities
  • Primary Language: Imperial Elven
  • Demonym: Elven (an Elf)

The elves of the Iron Empire were an upright and proud people. All were sworn in undivided devotion to the Iron Tower of Leyroth, and the Emperor who sat upon the throne. He was considered the chosen of the God Thoron, the father of the elven people, his entire bloodline blessed. As such it was not only treason to stand against the emperor, but heresy.

They were once a very disparate people before the elves homogenised, an event which is rather lost from the annals of history. All that is known is that there were more elves than just the High Elves or Wild Elves, and then the majority became the former. External scholars suspect High Elves either actively wiped this history, or allowed it to fade from knowledge, as the uniting of the elven people and the formation of the Empire is almost more legend than history.

Much of elven society revolves around the idea of service. Service to the Emperor, or to his chosen representatives. It was considered the highest honour to give one's all to their superiors, and death in pursuit of service was certainly the best end of a life. Military service was a well-regarded form of dedication to the Empire, but politicians and businessmen were by no means disregarded. Very proud of their heritage, scholars and historians held a respected place in society. Movement between the social classes was not especially opposed so long as it was considered earned - a which, in itself, was a personal assessment.

The Empire was divided into regions, which were overseen by governors. These governors were technically selected by the Emperor, but it was considered quite a gaffe for them to not be appointed along family lines, usually to the eldest child. Often the selection was nothing but a matter of formality, and it took severe transgressions for the governorship to be stripped from an individual. There were dozens of regional governors, which was a testament to the size of the Empire itself - even if some regions were rather small by even the standards of a Lord of the Realm.

Due to their longevity, the elven people appear patient by the standards of humanity. Certainly they encourage their people to be methodical thinkers and to be prepared for tasks ahead. Since they have so much time to grow and live their lives, child-bearing is less of an impediment to elven women than human ones - an elven woman can have a child and still be able to live and work for a hundred years after the child is adequately self-sufficient. As such, women could aspire to and attain the same achievements of men, and an elven woman could become Empress if she is the eldest child.

After the Fall

  • National Leader: Governess Orthoria
  • Advisory Council Representative(s): Governess Orthoria; General Tirithon
  • Religions: Thoron, almost exclusively
  • Primary Language: Imperial Elven, Common
  • Demonym: Elven (an Elf)

The elven refugees of the Empire are a major proportion of the populace of surviving Andermark. There are only tens of thousands of elves left alive, the majority of which are civilians. They live and work within Starkholm and the other settlements, most of them still with the skills to be able to contribute to society. Rather devoid of their pride after the collapse of the Empire, they are inclined to take any work, and appear to resent the idea of being reliant upon any of humanity’s kindness to survive.

Above all, the elves are something of a broken people. They have lost more than any other race, any other nation. Their Empire stood for a thousand years and they have seen it come crashing down in one human lifetime. It has been enough to drive many elves to madness and despair, and plenty have given up and allowed themselves to waste away, or be killed in war, or taken their own lives. Only the minority of refugees have a single family member alive. Thus amongst the survivors there is a sense of such grim dedication as to make them sometimes seem utterly humourless. It is unclear if elves wish to rebuild their Empire, or are simply convinced that they are trying to hang on until the inevitable end, still.

Elves seem to be very intent on trying to preserve their way of life, at the least. They have erected churches to Thoron, and try to stay together as communities in an area, makeshift and rag-tag families forming amongst the survivors. Although it is not an especially exclusive atmosphere, they are clearly very desperate for the history and heritage of an Empire which stood for a thousand years to not be forgotten, and so this can make elven districts occasionally quite unfriendly for a non-elven visitor.

Their sense of honour is, if anything, even more prickly. Although they are grateful to humanity for their aid, they still remember that it took the Realm being at risk before they would send troops, and many wonder if the Empire might have been defended - or, at least, more lives saved - if had not been for High King Riagon’s haughty pride. As such, even the friendliest elves tend to utterly resent any implication that they ought to be subservient in their gratitude to the Realm, and will tersely point out that elven soldiers fought and died for human lands, when they had every reason to save themselves.

Relations between humanity and elves are complex. Some, especially older humans, see the elves still as the Old Enemy and are inclined to treat them as such, and there will be many elves who are much the same. Nevertheless, the Fall is fresher in the minds of many humans than a war some seventy-five years ago, and Andermark has very little history of contact with the Empire. A Calavrian, a Damryan or a Norl are all more likely to take umbrage at the presence of an elf than a native Anderman. Despite the tense history between the people, there are plenty of places within Starkholm and Andermark where the elves are treated as no more foreign than anyone else from outside of the country. Plenty of Andermen will even espouse the idea that they’d still rather fight or drink next to an elf then a Lancesian

Governess Orthoria is considered the head of the government-in-exile, as she insists upon it being called. She has a place on the council of King Constantin, and is a politician very much interested in looking after elven interests. She is, however, too pragmatic and cautious to try to pursue such interests at the expense of her stability, or even at too much risk to the elven people. As such, although she is eager for the recovery of elven territory, at the same time she knows that such an endeavour will require her to win enough favour and support, and so she has settled into the role of a canny politician ready to make deals.

General Tirithon remains the head of the elven army. Having always been a humble man by his people’s standards, he is a more moderate element. Considerably more in favour of cooperation with humanity than the Governess, he has come to the belief that the rebuilding of Andermark and eventually the Realm are both necessary if the Empire is ever going to be reconstructed. As such, his soldiers train and serve alongside the military of the Realm, for now fighting to defend Andermark. However, he is fiercely defensive of his people, and though he might be more tolerant of the xenophobia from humanity than other elves, he makes no pretenses that he will not put their safety before that of humanity.

Although the two elves tend to cooperate, Orthoria knowing nothing of military and with little support from soldiers, and Tirithon having no idea of how to wade into politics, they still represent two of the more sensible extremes of elven ideals, and so just as there are plenty of civilians who support Tirithon’s attitudes of integration, there are stubborn soldiers who think Orthoria defends the Empire’s pride and honour better than their General.

Lifestyle

Peasant Class

The lifestyle of a peasant of the Iron Empire depended upon where they were born. In the cities they would find themselves densely packed, in the lower echelons of an urban landscape that valued height, in houses made of grey solid stone that was sturdy, but cold. That far down the swirling engravings and sweeping lines considered synonymous with elven architecture were absent.

The poorest were overlooked by much of society, scraping for whatever simple work they could find or perhaps falling into begging or crime. Most would live and die in the same city, often of disease or just the results of a poor quality of life. Education was all but non-existent barring whatever training might be given by parents, or the more generous of employers. Technically these elves were led by their district governors, but more often than not small city communities would spring up. Some might be led by a benevolent elder or charismatic leader; others might just find themselves under the boots of the desperate criminal elements. This still led to a strong sense of community spirit, because most who struck out alone did not tend to survive.

Rural areas were a little more forgiving. An elven peasant in the countryside would likely do the same work their parents had done - farming, logging - and simply by being less densely packed in would have a better quality of life. But some regional governors were more benevolent than others; the worst might be inclined to lean on their vassals for more taxation money and deny them financial comfort, making life hard. Most elven villages were made of stone, and many of them were ancient pre-Imperial settlements. As such the architecture of elven villages and local towns varies from region to region, though the High Elves endeavoured to expunge too much of the variety between areas.

Religion bound these simple communities together; most worshipped Thoron, and came together for church. Entry into the clergy was considered a good means for a young elf to widen their prospects, as was joining the army, although some physical aptitude was necessary for the latter, and permission from the local governor. Otherwise an elven peasant would likely remain in their social sphere until death.

These are the people that suffered most in the Fall. The vast majority did not have the capacity to so much as flee, and when they did, they were the last ones to be given food or shelter, by their own people or by the host nations they were refugees on - simply because their superiors did not have anything to give, and the humans were loath to give anything to elves.

They have flourished in Andermark, however. Those used to city life are no strangers to the situation in Starkholm, and either have found ways to cope with the dense city living, or are dominating. A disproportionate number of the criminal element in Starkholm are elves, for they are the people most accustomed to urban life. Out of the cities they tend to work well with the Lancesian peasants, for both have a culture of hard work for nothing in return - and no matter what your state in life, it is easy to look down on a Lancesian peasant.

Merchant Class

The merchant class of the Iron Empire lived rather simply. They tended to inherit their businesses and do their best to sustain them in life, but they were not held in the highest regard. They did not make a contribution to society like politicians, they were not keepers of lore like scholars, or defenders of the Empire like soldiers. Thus they had to make their impact upon society more subtly. Wandering traders could find themselves well received as they dispensed news and gossip from city or town. Most lived comfortably enough, and though governors would take a hefty tax, they could move about the Empire unimpeded.

Merchants who could salvage their goods or their wealth have done quite well for themselves since the Fall. Those who had some means of transport, a ship or a caravan, could save people or produce. The first might win the merchant a loyal following; the latter, currency when it is all the rarer. Some have strived to set up their shops within Andermark and the villages, but the majority have lent their service to hauling cargo. In their desperation, the caravan which undertakes the most dangerous journey to bring back or deliver necessary goods is more likely to be an Imperial elf than someone of any other nation.

Warrior Class

The knights of the Iron Empire are warriors venerated by their own people easily as much as knights of Damryn or Lancereaux. They consider themselves peerless servants of the Emperor, prepared to lay down their life for the Iron Tower. The biggest differentiation between them and their human counterparts is that they held very little power or influence in their own right; knights were not rulers of any land, nor were they expected to be administrators. They were almost all younger sons and daughters of noble families, or sometimes drawn from the ranks of the military and elevated.

A knight would be respected by other elves, but any authority he had was from social expectations rather than any right vested in them by the Emperor. Their true power lay in the military. Every officer of the Iron Army was a knight, the ceremony conducted the same time as they were commissioned. But with the Empire maintaining a standing army, unlike anywhere else in the world, this was not an inconsequential amount of power and influence in society or politics, for military officers could be found anywhere and everywhere.

Knights were usually noble offspring, or perhaps the offspring of the more notable merchants or scholars if they had won favour. Otherwise, a soldier would be drawn from the lower echelons of society. Some regional governors would gladly give permission for a young elf to join the military; others might keep a tighter grip upon their vassals. Some elves might run away to the city to join the army, for that was where nobody asked any questions. From that point a competent elf could go quite far in the army. Even the lowest-born individual might be elevated to being a knight, through enough excellence in dangerous situations.

Though most died in the dangerous situations first.

Most knights would die in service or in comfortable retirement, cared for by the wealthy army. A very small number might, after extreme bravery and competence, be granted a title and some land, but this usually required exceptional service.

The majority of soldiers have remained in service since the Fall. As most of them would have been engaged in conflict across the Empire, very few were fortunate enough for their families, left behind at home, to have survived. Many of those lucky enough have retired. During the war, the elves were dismissed, disregarded, and beaten by the Legion and their own allies, only grudgingly winning respect in the flight from Damryn to Andermark, where they displayed peerless bravery after the Damryan morale was shattered, and buoyed up the remaining forces with their determination. But these many losses, and the utter lack of respect, have turned the majority of fighting elves into a sombre, dedicated fighting unit, with a curious fondness for suicide missions.

Noble Class

The nobility of the Iron Empire were born to their position, as it is with humans. Most are considered descended from the first High Elves, those who were High Elves since before the Dark Ages, though there have of course been bloodlines that died out and individuals who were elevated over the thousand years - enough that any claims of 'purity' are impossible to prove, or take seriously.

As a rule a family would have rulership over a region of the Empire. Technically, the governor ruled at the pleasure of the Emperor and may be dismissed at any point and anyone at all appointed in their place. In practice, the eldest child of the ruling family took on the governorship - even if a governor was so inept as to be removed, the position usually stayed within the family. It took high treason for a governorship to be stripped from a family, though in times of political upheaval elder children might have been overlooked so as to avoid corruption and foster allies.

An elven noble child wanted for nothing. They enjoyed the best of the resources and wealth of the Empire, and had the lifespans to learn and develop as they wished. Politicians, scholars, or warriors were the most popular professions for noble offspring to enter, especially younger children who had fewer expectations of inheritance. Some might enter the clergy, though it was a little unusual in the higher echelons of nobility.

A noble elven household was considered more important, as a rule, the closer their lands were to Leyroth. There were some exceptions - rulership of the coast of the Narrow Sea was entrusted to traditionally tough military families, whose achievements demanded respect - but generally the outlying regions were overlooked. This was poor for political influence - but it did mean that these governors answered effectively to nobody, and many took advantage.

The best and brightest of the nobility, as it was for the army, died in the destruction of Leyroth, fleeing from the Legion far too late. What has been left are a smattering of usually western governors and their families. Most of these have very little wealth, and are incredibly poorly regarded by their human hosts - grudging respect for the military has not passed on to civilians, especially useless civilians. They have banded together within Starkholm, managing to use what remains of their wealth to live in luxury - but it is a shared luxury. Although there are pretences of this crowded, mingled way of noble living to be affected, to be a display of the closeness of elvenkind, in truth it is nothing but desperation making them so tightly-knit.

Arts and Entertainment

The culture of elves would suggest much of their arts would revolve around their history and government. It is found as much of an oddity to outsiders that this is not the case. The elves have a large interest in their own history, but for such a calm people their arts tend to focus an inordinate amount on emotions - platonic concepts thereof and how even grand, powerful individuals can fall sway to them.

In contrast, their theater revolves more around static dialogues and monologues than dynamic movement, sometimes compared to poetry recitals than theater in a sense the Calavrians, for instance, would understand. Actual poetry recitals are quite popular, though tend to be smaller affairs than the playhouses, which tended to be packed upon performances.

Sculpture is especially popular in elven society, as evidenced by its use in architecture. Engravings are considered an elven artistic specialty. Their physical art tends to be a little more abstract than the nearest comparable culture, again the Calavrians, and there is much use of symbolism rather than precise depiction of events and people. This is also the same for the painting.

The lower classes of elven society enjoyed rather more dynamic affairs for entertainment. In the rural areas their preference was for storytellers, though travelling shows of small plays and theatrical displays of talent were enjoyed. This was nothing compared to the shows put on in the streets of the cities, however, where dreary existence would be utterly transformed by the arrival of an elven troupe of entertainers. Brightly coloured lights and cloths, loud music, and theatrical displays would for an evening uplift dreary spirits. But the art of these elven troupes has been all but lost since the Fall.

Fashion

Elven fashion, for rich or poor, tends to favour long, flowing lines. Shades of green, as the colour of the Empire and the God Thoron, are favoured by society.

The rich wear robes of multiple pieces, each of different shades and different fabrics. Larger variety implies more wealth, though elves are not inclined towards being ostentatious and so this is intended to be a discreet display which only those informed could identify. Silk is considered the richest of the fabrics. Wool is utterly eschewed by the wealthy, though cashmere in cold conditions is a sign of status. Velvets, linens, and cottons are the most common. The robes tend to be worn to wrap around the upper body and midriff, and then flow more loosely behind the wearer around their legs.

The poor will dress with a simplicity comparable to human peasantry, though the flowing lines remain. Long tunics that allow the tug of wind while still being form-fitting are favoured, and again cheap linen is much preferred to wool outside of the cold east. The poor, unlike the rich, have a fashion of covering their heads to keep their hair out of the way.

Hair, conversely, is worn long. It is a sign of status to keep it uncovered because it suggests a lack of practical work. It is the purview of warriors to be able to tie one's hair back, and so many warriors will wear tight, intricate braids. Some will let their hair down at formal events, but those who consider themselves to always be warriors will always tie their hair back.

The armour of elves is sleek and tight, even plate, but undoubtedly sturdy. Some elves tint their armour a faint green; others keep it at such a bright shine as to make it appear almost silver, bearing the colours of the empire. Armour tends to be in as few pieces as possible, decoration worked into the very metal itself. A warrior who has won great victories may have etchings worked into the metal in commemoration, and so a soldier wearing well-decorated armour is almost certainly highly skilled. Such men are commonly tested in duels and on the battlefield, however, and so this is not a boast to take lightly.

Economy

The Iron Empire was primarily self-sufficient before it came across the kingdom of Calavria. It spread across a continent and so, somewhere in the Empire, there was something that the people needed. The southern lowlands bore soil rich for agriculture; the west boasted land perfect for grazing animals. Towards the north and the borders of Norlundar were mountains rich in minerals, and the thick forests to the east provided all the lumber the Empire might have needed.

Ultimately it was its food that was its primary export. When Calavria was a large kingdom, it was the product of elven agriculture that kept its dense population alive. And when that kingdom crumbled, it was to Ibarran that the elves sold their goods.

As conflict with the Realm sprung up, much external trade came to a halt. Commerce with Calavria would resume as the War of the Narrow Sea came to an end, but much diminished. Overall the elves found themselves shipping out luxury goods to those for whom owning something elvish was a mark of pride and culture. Artwork, swords, and clothes would be amongst the goods that would provide the bulk of the elven international economy before the Fall.

Internally, it was the responsibility of the regional Governors to ensure that they communicated with one another and brought in the goods necessary for their people. Hypothetically this was a balanced arrangement where bartering would be as fair as commerce, though in practice this led to a situation where the Governors of the farming holdings were considerably richer than the Governors of, for instance, the eastern borders.

Such greed, which weakened the eastern defences, has since been considered to be a cause of the downfall of the Empire, since a fairer distribution might have buoyed up fortifications and slowed down the Legion.

Naming Conventions

Elves have only single names, which tend to be old elvish words for virtues, colours, or aspects of nature. The old elven language is lyrical and gentle. Outsiders are confused at the lack of differentiation between family lines or longer, more formal introductions, but elven attitudes suggest that one will be able to tell two elves of the same name from one another simply by their deeds or reputations - and if one cannot, then they are hardly missing out.

Sample Male Names: Arandur, Locien, Talathion Sample Female Names: Caladwen, Manathiel, Tuarwen

Geography

The Empire was so huge that it was impossible to define the territory as being any one thing. From frosty mountains to the north, to the cold forests to the east, to the temperate southlands of rolling green fields moving towards even arid conditions, the Iron Empire had much to offer. In some ways it would be swifter to define what sort of land could not be found in the Iron Empire: there was very little swampland, though some could be found to the south-west, and the southern plains were arid but did not make way yet for desert. Since the Empire was the size of the whole of the Realm put together, it enjoyed a huge range of climate, from as cold as Norlundar to as temperate as Calavria.

Religion

The state religion, and religion of most of the elves, was the worship of Thoron, the one elven God. It is considered possible there were other elven deities during the Dark Ages, but that their power waxed and collapsed upon the rise of the High Elves and the Empire.

Worship of him was not exclusive, however. Although all were expected to give deference to Thoron, and worship of foreign Gods such as those of the United Church was specifically frowned upon, Ferodir, Olcan, Ryniss, Saralyne, and even Zartosht were worshipped in small groups across the Empire. There were, however, no unified churches of these Gods within the Iron Empire, and so any church stood alone in terms of its teachings and its infrastructure. As such, it was often a matter of regional coincidence on where one might find such worshippers; Ferodir, for instance, was more popular in the outlying regions of the Empire; Olcan, Saralyne, and Ryniss in the city, and Zartosht was most popular to the far north and the far east, on the furthest borders.

Military

The Imperial Army

The elven military was one of the largest and finest in the world, and it was a tribute to the forces of Damryn that they could stand against it. Their numbers were an undeniable advantage, and perhaps the most notable reason why the Empire stood undefeated for a thousand years; they could simply marshal more soldiers than anyone else.

Their officers were usually of a dedication and competence that could not be challenged. It was traditional for officers to spend several years in their study before they were knighted and commissioned, and all had to have some form of military experience before they were granted command. But once in place they were highly respected individuals within Imperial society.

Elven society was, however, curious in that it held a standing army. Unlike other nations, which simply drew upon the populace when trouble was upon them, the elves hired and recruited individuals to be a perpetual force ready for battle, defending the borders or garrisoned in trouble towns. With the history of conflict with humanity and the perpetual threat from the Trolls, there was always somebody for the elven military to fight. This led to an organisation of better training and experience than most.

The soldiers were drawn from all echelons of society. A local governor technically had to give permission for an elven youth to leave their land and join the military, but this was only rarely refused, and was usually an aspect of a governor exerting political control across the board than some indication of disapproval of the individual or the army. Soldiers from the same areas tended to be assigned to the same units, ostensibly to maintain a strict esprit de corps. In reality this dated back to the tradition of the scouts from the east all coming from the same land they defended - it theoretically strengthened their resolve to fight, and meant they were more familiar with the land itself.

Elven infantry and cavalry were as competent as any, but the places where the elven military excelled were in their scouts, most of whom were hardened by campaigns in cold climes against trolls or Norls. They also boasted a navy which could easily rival anything the Calavrians could bring to bear, and would even be a match for an Anderian warship. These vessels were sturdy and swift, and tended to out-manoeuvre their enemies, making an elvish ship captain a wily and competent being.

Magic

Elves have no tradition of being any more adept at magic than any other race. It was seen as a dangerous and powerful tool by the government and the church, however, and though its use was not restricted it was certainly monitored. A mage was considered more powerful than those around them, and so was expected and urged to use these powers for the good of the Empire rather than personal gain. Criminal mages tended to be put down with impunity in the Empire.

Of all the schools of magic, elves are particularly adept at artificing. The skills of infusing items or objects with magic come naturally to elvenkind, perhaps because they can take these tremendous powers and give them to others, make a contribution to a group at large rather than just making use of personal power.

This did lead to quite a use of magically-enchanted conveniences within the echelons of richer society of the Empire, leading to the impression that the elves were more inclined towards using magic than they actually were. Otherwise the biggest use of magic was in the military, where the pragmatic elves would make whatever use of the skills they had to hand in order to aid their armies, and would even form units of battle-mages for those who had the talents.

Perspectives on other Races and Nations

Although no two people from any one race will think entirely alike, there remain certain expectations and cultural perspectives upon the other races and nations of the world. The following is a broad guideline on what your average elf is likely to think of the people and government of the below nations and races.

Andermark

"They are truly the best of all humans. They have no quarrel with us and our kind, being on the far side of the Realm. But they have not allowed the opinions of their fellows to sour their view of us, and they treat us as much as they treat anyone else - we are accepted so long as we pull our weight. It is easy to respect their serious, dutiful manners. Perhaps with them at our head there is some chance for us."

Damryn

"Their High Kingdom is gone and still they strut about as if nothing had happened. Truly this shows them to be the mockery of nobility that we always knew them to be; their self-obsession is based upon air and dust, not deeds and the weight of ages. Perhaps elven and Damryan soldiers might find respect for one another now they fight side by side, instead of against one another, but they were the ones who sought war when we were happy for peace. It is just telling that they remember their long-gone glory days with ease, but cannot recall how soundly we beat them."

Lancereaux

"They are a quite fanciful people. Rather more interested in how they look and how they sound than what they do and what they say. It is easy for us to understand pride, but they do not seem to realise that, in this day and age, actions and words are everything. They remain curiously divided despite their losses; it is almost impossible to tell a peasant and a noble are from the same land. Almost it is as if they expect that they will return to their castles and their fields and all will be as it was. They are a curious - and self-important."

Calavria

"We know the Calavrians well. We have traded with them, lived with them, and fought bitterly against them. We know they had no desire to save us when we required salvation; we shall remember this. Still are they obsessed with wealth, as if this matters. They have, at least, begun to learn to band together in these dark times. We know they have the capacity for sense and understanding. Perhaps there is hope for them."

Ibarran

"The Ibarriards never did us wrong; they were too fixated upon the greenskins to the south. Their people have suffered so many hardships over and over that it is tempting to think of them as weak - and yet, they are still here. Perhaps, instead, we have more in common than we think; perhaps we have both been tempered by hardship and yet not broken. Who knows? Maybe we are best off learning from them instead of looking down on them."

Norlundar

"They were barbarians who raided our northern borders, and we gave them no more thought than the trolls to the east. Now they are treated with the same respect as noble kings and lords and warriors. They are but savages - and when even the thuggish Damryans share that opinion, it is difficult to argue with it."

Dwarves of Kordurren

"They are steadfast, they are competent. But people who would turn on their own rulers cannot ever be considered trustworthy, and in their fight to survive they would probably be happy to doom everyone else. We should keep them at arms' length until they make some demonstration that they have changed their ways and are ready to risk their own safety for the whole world."

Sahradia

"Vagrants and cowards living as desert dogs. We ignored them when they were a continent away, but we do not doubt that they will strike against us if they think they can win. We should not let ourselves be distracted by them from what is important, but we cannot afford to ignore them. And if they wish to make themselves a threat we should crush them with everything we have."

Trolls

"These westerners might think they know and understand the trolls - they are wrong. For millennia they attacked our borders, and for millennia we drove them back. They might be different out here, on this continent, but at their heart, they are trolls. Beasts with no mercy, no compassion, but equally very little brain. Don't turn your back on them. Run them through."

Beastkin

"They remind us of our kindred. Wild. Uncontrolled. Beasts who might succumb to their darker instincts at any moment. They have done us a good turn, and honour and necessity demands that we respect them for that. Perhaps we can learn something from one another - or perhaps we can teach them discipline, at least. But we will not take our eyes off them just yet."