Discover Dungeon 10/07/2014 | 836 comments

Kaspar
Well met, my fellow Shadow Councillors. Since I gave you information about the Elves of Irollan and the Dwarves of Grimheim, it feels natural to also share what I know of the mysterious Dark Elves of Ygg-Chall. The providence is indeed with this Council, as I am one of the few lucky surface-dwellers to have visited their capital city of Konos in the past and lived – or, well, you know – to tell about it. I think this was around 660 YSD, give or take a few years. Back then, it was not even an actual kingdom yet – only the burgeoning seed of a future nation.
I was one of the scholars accompanying Archon Belketh, who had been granted safe passage to the Faceless Library. We were hoping to find a cure to a mysterious disease that was spreading among the Namtarus, Liches and Vampires in Heresh. We were suspecting this disease was linked to the use of Void magic, of the same kind I had observed nearly a century before, in the pirate city of the Crag. As I discovered, this knowledge of Void curses is the reason Belketh had thought of me for this mission. The fact Hierophant Anastasya, whom I consider a friend, was among the sick was reason enough for me to abandon my studies and join Belketh on his trip.

But I digress already, and surely you’re not here to listen to the story of my life. Let me read you some excerpts from my diary, dealing with the Dark Elves and their mysterious mentors, the Faceless.

On the Dark Elves

1. Ygg-Chall, The Dark Below

Most of the Dark Elf kingdom is located underground, and more than once the Dwarves have found tunnels snaking out beneath the borders of other kingdoms. On the surface, the Dark Elves claim wastelands and inhospitable stretches of barren landscape, with little sign on the surface that they are there.

I should add that entrances to the underground realm are usually carefully hidden. Malassa’s magic, the magic of illusions and obfuscation, is a great asset to prevent outsiders from entering Ygg-Chall uninvited.

No one, not even the Dark elves themselves, know all of the creatures that dwell in the caves. Plant life is rare - more common are vast mushroom forests and other fungi. The Dark Elves have cultivated these, and use them for everything from illumination to food to fuel. All of their cities are lit with the soft glow of bioluminescent fungi, tinged blue or yellow here or there by rarer species. Nothing is wasted in the tunnels, and the Dark Elves give their dead over to the fungi as compost.

Most of the tunnel-dwelling creatures in the dark elven domain are blind. Bats, blind fish, pale snakes with their eyes filmed shut and other suchlike creatures skitter back and forth in the darkness. Deeper down are more dangerous beasts, things that look like stone but aren’t, giant spiders, and other ambush predators.

The motile wildlife in the Dark Elf domain is mainly reptilian in nature. Black Dragons bellow in the deepest caverns, while serpents ooze their way through the passages, searching for prey. Most have had their coloration fade to ghostly pallor; the rest long ago turned the colour of shadow. 

There are many strange things lurking in the dark, for sure. Grim Stalkers for instance – strange, feral creatures of equally feline and reptilian appearance, that the Dark Elves sometimes use as mounts. I also heard stories about tribes of blind “Troglodytes” that are sometimes described as reptilian, sometimes compared to living fungi. If they do exist, I suppose they are probably minor Earth spirits, but it’s just as likely they are just an old folktale.

In its own way, the entire Dark Elven kingdom is one massive city: Konos, the maze. That being said, there are denser clutches of population here and there, each of which views itself as its own city.

Well, that was true then. I believe we can safely assume that the Dark Elves have expanded their territory and have founded new settlements, deeper under the mountains – and possibly under the Empire. 

Dungeon Cities

2. Dark Elf Society

The founders of the Dark Elf nation have made a pact with Malassa, the Dragon Goddess of Darkness. One of the consequences is that all Dark Elves are imprinted by Malassa’s mark and constantly forced to hear the constant whispers carried away by the shadows.

There are those who can channel this permanent flow of information, and those who can’t, and this divides the Dark Elf society into two classes.

The Dark Elves that can’t bear the constant whispers imposed by Malassa’s mark are forced to erect a barrier to shield themselves from the rest of the world, lest they turn insane. To help them live with Malassa’s gift, thev burn specific varieties of mushrooms and inhale the vapours. The medicine is like an anaesthetic that shuts their mind away from the ceaseless noise.

On the other hand, the Dark Elves who successfully process the voices from the Darkness without losing their mind hold great power.

Young Dark Elves who demonstrate this gift are selected for the priesthood. Taken from their families as children, they are raised in the temples of Malassa as seekers of forbidden lore and masters of Dark Magic. They grow up utterly dedicated, utterly loyal and utterly fanatical to the aims of the Dragon of Darkness. Those who rise to the highest ranks undergo a secret ritual that lets them commune with Malassa, making them capable of dreamwalking. When the ritual is complete, their eyes become black and pupiless, and they never blink again.

Joining the priesthood is the highest goal to which a Dark Elf can aspire, and competition for an elevated place in the temple is fierce.

The priesthood of Malassa maintains temples in every city and altars in every outpost. These sacred places are open to all, as the Dragon of Darkness will speak to any who call her, but public observances are few. This is possibly due to the fact that Malassa’s teachings are esoteric and poorly understood, even by most of the Dark Elves themselves.

What unites the Dark Elves as clans is not blood relationships, but a common interest for a specific message found in Malassa’s whispers. There are three major clans – Nightshard, Shadowbrand and Soulscar, the ones founded by the sons of the legendary Queen Tuidhana – that rule over the smaller clans.

This information might be tragically out of date, but it is my understanding that the members of the Soulscar clan are fascinated by pain, suffering and madness, the members of the Shadowbrand clan listen for secrets of the soul, and the members of the Nightshard clan are passionate about emotions like sadness or happiness.

The political implications of these differences are that the Nightshards are usually in favour of trade and neutrality, the Shadowbrands are for secrecy and non-interference with the surface world, and the Soulscars are the most aggressive and revenge-driven of all clans – and I remember they had somewhat fallen out of grace when I was visiting Konos.

In any case, this triumvirate somehow “elects” a common leader, known as the Lord of the Clans. Whereas it is done with ballots or blades I can’t say, nor do I know in what circumstances a Lord of the Clans leaves his position.

What I do know is that Menan of the Nightshards has been Lord of the Clans since the end of the War under the Mountain. I can’t quite remember who was ruling back in 660.

Dungeon People

3. Blades in the Dark

Only Dwarves could give an accurate report of the current state of the Dark Elves’ military. However, what I witnessed back in 660 can hopefully give you a first taste.

Dark Elf generals believe that a war is better won with persuasive words, devious stratagems, and poisoned daggers than with an army in the field, and as such they have no hesitation about sending out spies, saboteurs and assassins as instruments of policy. They are a pragmatic people, and bribery and assassination are often cheaper than raising an army. If needed, their Shadow Priests also master various mind-control and life-draining spells.

Dark Elves can use other tactics as well, like sending out waves of fast-moving skirmishers to distract the enemy and soften up their flanks, before hitting with better and stronger forces: Beasts from the darkness and Elite troops equipped with armours and weapons crafted from Shadowsteel, believed by some to be imbued with the blood of the Faceless.

If forced to fight in the open, Dark Elves prefer to strike under cover of darkness. If forced to fight in daylight, they can stand their ground, but they’re more inclined to retreat and wait for nightfall.

Mmm, I think I am forgetting a big topic... But of course! The Faceless!

The children of Malassa are often said to be extinct, but the ones I saw in Konos were pretty spry. Faceless are fascinating winged creatures, wearing mysterious masks allowing them to take any shape or appearance. Like their mother Goddess, they have a tendency to talk in riddles and metaphors, and it should always be assumed that for each secret he reveals, a Faceless is actually keeping two more. While I can confirm Faceless are not extinct, I can’t say if there are whole legions of them or only a handful of survivors left to mentor Malassa’s new protégés before passing into the Darkness themselves.


That’s it -- all I could share about the Dark Elves. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about the infernal denizens of Sheogh.

But for tonight, I need to find some ingredients and reagents. All this reminiscing actually gave me an idea for a new experiment I had not thought about before. It could possibly be the first step towards a true remedy against Void curses, one that doesn’t require dangerous trips to the Spirit World to re-enact ancient wars. I’ll let you know about the results!

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