Before the Great Malice, the kings of Elfaivar held power to rival all the other nations of Lanjyr. Commanding legions of slave armies from the far east and fielding battalions of fey mages and monsters, the longlived high elf monarchs were able to ensure the security and prosperity of the mightiest nation in the world.

Today, only ruins survive.

The Great Malice slew every high elf woman in the empire and beyond, with only the rarest and most unlikely survivors: women currently polymorphed, on other planes, or who had forsaken the Elfaivaran faith entirely. Within weeks the once-glorious empire, which had been poised to crush the impudent Clergy who had twice launched a holy war against it, descended into chaos. Within decades the population had collapsed to the tiniest sliver of its original number.

A stirring eulogy of the poet Vekesh convinced a few high elves to seek harmony, to endure, and to prosper—and above all else, to find and free high elf women from bondage so the race could heal. But for millions of grief-stricken high elf men, the aftermath of the Great Malice was a time of constant battle. Those few women who had survived were quickly claimed as property, and anyone who could keep ownership of a wife against a hundred thousand other suitors could command enclaves of desperate followers.

Whole cities of despairing men would fight to the death for the chance of winning their lord another wife. Mages laid curses upon swaths of cropland, but some enclaves chose to starve rather than hand over their “queen.” Slaver brought ships of human and elf women, sorcerously transmuted to pass as high elves, who were sold into servitude, and often slain horribly once the truth was discovered.

Many high elf men fled to other lands, seeking wives of other races, but they could sire no children. As attrition whittled down survivors, and too few children were born to keep society alive, ever more wealth and magical relics pooled in the hands of fewer and fewer men. When foreigners from Crisillyir or the distant east tried to claim Elfaivaran land they were driven back by fearsome high elf warriors. Trained by constant battles for survival, and possessed of the finest arms and armor of entire cities, each man was match for a hundred normal soldiers.

High elves are long-lived, but old age eventually claims even them. Some made pacts with the powers of the Dreaming or other planes, but after two centuries, Elfaivar was practically a ghost nation. It took nearly a century more for Crisillyir and other nations to defeat the few vengeful hold-outs and begin to colonize the empty landscape. Jungle had reclaimed cities. Mighty magical effects had lost their cohesion, spilling strange enchantments into the land. In some places the material world had blended and merged with the Dreaming. It was in these confusing borderlands that a handful of Vekesh-inspired enclaves survived.

Modern Enclaves

Early on, the freed women of Vekesh enclaves gained great power, both politically and magically, for they came to embody the hopes of hundreds if not thousands of survivors. New daughters were fiercely guarded and intensely trained so they could defend themselves and someday lead their own enclaves. Despite this, sometimes foreign mercenaries would manage to abduct a high elf woman, for they became prized status symbols in the rest of Lanjyr.

These abductions led to the first Vekeshi retributions, as mystics undertook daring missions to rescue lost women or at least punish those who would steal them. In general, though, the enclaves stay hidden. They’ll deploy spies to keep eyes on human activity in nearby lands, and will make bargains with fey to scare off those who get too close, but they realize that they cannot risk antagonizing the human nations.

A rare few high elves seek to integrate with human society. They wear as much gold as they can, which prevents them from using fey step, in an effort to cut themselves off from their fey heritage. By contrast, some Vekeshi mystics also adorn themselves in gold, but only as rituals of selfflagellation, to meditate on their distance from their people’s history so they can ponder how best to reclaim their birthright.

The Fallen Goddess

Srasama was just one of dozens of prominent gods in the Elfaivar pantheon. Traditionally she was the six-armed sculptor who gave form to the raw creation discovered by her husband. She had dominion over the lives of women, and she particularly oversaw rituals of womanhood, marriage, and grief. For these, she would take three different forms of maiden, mother, and crone, but in all she was a fierce defender of the Elfaivar empire.

The famous adventurer Hamyd of the East once claimed to have witnessed a conclave of high elf matriarchs, wherein they performed the ancient rituals of Srasama. According to him, though, they cut short the rituals of the crone, and his guide alleged that this was because the matriarchs had forsworn grief, and so can never age.

The Arsenal of Dhebisu

High elves tell a tale of a god who turned against their pantheon and was transformed into a tiger that walked like a man: a rakshasa. As a god, no weapon in the world could harm him, and he ravaged the lands of Elfaivar, drowning villages and tearing entire cities free from the earth with a swipe of his clawed hands.

A warrior named Dhebisu, infamous for her incongruous brilliance as a poet and lewd sense of humor, was called upon to defeat the rakshasa. She befriended the cats of the jungle to learn of the monster’s weakness, and consulted with sages to learn when the next meteor shower would occur. That night she sang a mocking tune to lure out the rakshasa. The beast attacked her, but she pulled a falling star from the sky and wove it into her hair. Thenceforth any weapon she touched became infused with the powers of the heavens. They battled through the night, until finally, the rakshasa tried to slay her with a poisoned arrow. But Dhebisu snatched the bolt and plunged it into the fiend’s loins, destroying it so that it could never reincarnate.