Elves/Sidhe: Elves hail from the Other World. They are the nobles of the Fey, called the Sidhe, the lords and ladies of the Other World, and the oldest of the races that deal with men. While other fey focus on crafting, on battle, or on the hunt, the elves are the essence of otherworldly nobility and grace. They are beautiful yet terrible, and a mystery to those not of their courts.
Sidhe, as the fey call them, are at once full of passion and life, and at the same time bound by their oaths and traditions. They eat and drink, and fight and die gloriously in battle, make music and have songs of their deeds sung by bards of the Other World. They do this because it is their duty, and because it is who they are. Elves do not merely follow the laws of their kind, as humans do, because Elven law does not bind them against their natures to codes of honour and justice. Rather, they are their own codes of honour and duty, their own natures playing out through their lives. Elves quest and hold court and love, write poetry and die in the same way that plants grow in the spring or wind blows through trees. They do this because it is their nature.
Elves come from the Other World of the Fey, but most of their population live not in the mortal world but in the Border Realms between it and the Other World. Since the dawn of time elves have existed, and at some point stepped into the mortal world to build cities and homes under the stars, which they love dearly. They built great cities in nature, and worked great wonders the mortal world had never seen, as for the most part mortals had experienced power but not the inspiration of dreams.
They taught magic, especially the art of Wizardry and enchantment, to other races, such as humans; and they mingled with these mortals, producing half-elves and humans with the magic of the fey in their blood. They also made war upon the dark creatures that infested the earth, such as the goblins and creatures of dark magic, and powerful dragons.
Yet at some point the elves left the world behind. Their cities were taken, or simply left behind, and the elves retreated to Border Realms, their hidden entrances deep within forests or guarded mountain valleys. The answer was simply that the mortal world aged them. Elves, like all Fey, are ageless only so long as they remain in a Border Realm or the Other World itself. Save for some great quest or a tour of the world while young, the elves would remain away from the fascinating world of mortals.
Elven culture revolves around their courts. All elves have noble title of some sort, which grants them the protection of and responsibilities to their liege, usually a very powerful Elven noble in one of several courts. The courts play games with one another, the rules of which are complex and understood fully only by other elves. Much like a fantastic game of chess, the game of courts is one of gaining prestige and losing face, of upholding ancient laws and oaths so powerful they could be said to be like laws of nature itself. To regain face, an elf undertakes some quest, often in the Other World or the world of mortals, such as finding a priceless magical item or revenging themselves upon an enemy of their lord or lady. Much the rest of the time is spent drinking and carousing, playing and writing music and poetry, and the study of swordplay and magic.
Elves are rarely exiled, especially for things mortals would expect like duelling and bloodshed, infidelity, or any number of acts the elves wave away with the suggestion that blood feuds were made to deal with that. When they are cast out, it is for serious crimes against their kind, specifically the use of dark magic, such as necromancy or summoning demons, or for betrayal of their courts and their people by dishonourable acts like breaking their word once given. Both are severe because they represent the Elf turning away from their own nature. The Dark Arts is obvious, as they corrupt nature and destroy the life that is the essence of the Elves. Disobedience against their courts, to the extent that exile occurs, is just as much a sign of the corruption of the elf, though in a very different way.
This is not the same as with humans, many of whose greatest kingdoms came about from slaves seeking freedom and a better way of life. In fact, many acts of elves are chaotic, irreverent and unpredictable, even downright fickle, as is the nature of Fey. However, to break their word goes against the fibre of their being, however onerous their end of the bargain. To that end elves speak very carefully, or say things that have two meanings, leave out important details from a promise, or simply never give their word at all, anything but to break their word once given. This includes only intentionally worded agreements, followed by “I give you my word” or “I promise”, usually with an oath of some sort. Banter between friends does not count, but promises made in a lie or casually still do. Elves are well-known for use of non-committal statements, like “so you say”.
Elves stand slightly taller than a human, and have pale skin and usually fair hair. All have pointed ears and large eyes that seem to see more than a human’s. They are fit but thin, with long limbs and strong muscles on a deceptively slender frame. All elves have some familiarity with swordplay, and tend to favour weapons requiring more finesse than power. Elves in their homelands are always dressed in the finest clothes, the sort mortal nobles envisage in their dreams.
Elven adventurers are not uncommon, and are the reason for so many half-elves in the world. Young elves are intentionally left free of commitments for the first century or two of their lives, and sent out into the world to learn of mortal ways and bring honour home for themselves and their families and courts. Those who survive are accepted alongside their peers, many of whom fought against armies of darkness eons ago. So long as an elf does not take up with the powers of evil, or break their word once given, they are free to do as they wish. Many dress with their own elven sense of style, while others adopt the local fashions. Whether they intend to use them or spells, Elves usually carry a longsword, which all are taught to use at an early age.
Whatever the reason, whenever most of the elves returned to live in the Border Realms, there were a few individuals, families and communities that remained in the mortal world. Since that time their numbers have been augmented by exiles or other traveling elves and while they have never been as numerous as any of the shorter lived races they have thrived and some maintain sizable settlements.