Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Spires of the Elven Lords

Iron is poison. Iron is inescapable. Iron kills.

Since their coming to Ore, the elven people have fought a losing battle, to escape the effects of Ore's poisonous, iron-rich environment. Or, if not escape it (for this thing truly is not possible in the long term), to delay the onset of iron poisoning. There are several ways to do this, but today I will speak only of the first: The elven enclaves.

Elven culture on Ore has attempted, wherever possible, to find new ways to seal the elven people away from the outside environment, and from the the poison that saps their vitality, warps their magic, and corrodes their very souls. The most notable places where this has occurred are the Spires of Ur-Hadad. Though Man conquered the elves in His rebellion, lo these many years ago, the elves never surrendered their Spires. They still stand, a testament and a monument to elven persistence in their quixotic fight against the inevitable. In the end, there is only metal. Ore's very core spins malignantly beneath their feet, and its arteries pump iron rich magma. There is no escape, no surcease, only the long, bitter struggle against the inevitable. Then, there is death, or there is madness, or there is the choice to "sail into the West," a cryptic reference to Elfland that no elf has ever explained to outsiders. All we know is that sometimes elves return to elfland, and they don't come back.

The Spires were built to combat the iron threat, and consist of what, for lack of a better description, are the bones of ancient creatures. Though their arts are not now practiced (and are forbidden by decree), the ancient elves of the Dominion were masters of technomancy, and could create life through processes now forbidden (though it is rumored that some elven factions still follow this path). They "bred" homes, aether ships, fortresses, fell constructs bred for battle, and all manner of other things. These creatures were grown from a single seed and developed over time into the mature works of elven master artisans of this craft. Over what amounted to many generations of the lives of Men, five elven Spires grew from such seeds, rising thousands of feet into the skies above Ur-Hadad, each unique and yet the same as the others.

In appearance, the Spires look like the bleached, blue-white bones of great creatures (actually a complex diamond-like substance), shining unsullied by time under the sun and moons of Ore. Their surfaces are near-impregnable, with few windows or portals, and these well guarded. The rise, with insectile grace, into the sky, sharp points skewering the clouds layers above, disappearing from sight, far, far above. They look just a little bit like gigantic vines and fronds, laden with buds and studded with thorns, climbing toward eternity.

No non-elven person has ever entered the Spires. In fact, not even every elf has done so. They are sealed off to most, and guarded jealously against unauthorized entry. Cloistered within are the elite of elven society, whose faces are masked in strange helms and concealing armors and robes, and whose voices emerge, strange and discordant, like a chorus of angels, from the places where their mouths must be. No living human has ever seen the faces of the elven nobility, at least not in life.

Each Spire has a name Anuch-Dar (the Collective Mind), Morgath-Ka'ak (the Bloody Hand), Morgath-Gur (the Sinister Hand), Morgath-Noriel (the Adroit Hand), and Anuch-Ur (the Singular Mind). No one is quite sure what these names mean, and the elves aren't inclined to answer questions about them. In fact, the Spires are not spoken of in the hearing of non-elves, and even those elves who walk among Men refuse any attempt to discuss them, going so far as to fight duels to avoid doing so. As a result, we have little to go on but rumors. Here are a few.

  • The elves are preparing an army to reconquer Ore.
  • The elves are using their arcane knowledge to build a bridge to the the moons.
  • The elven females are the true rulers, and use the Spires to keep their breeding stock of pure-blooded mates in harem.
  • The Spires descend miles into the depths of Ore, and are just the tips of a far vaster structure that spans the entire world.
  • The Spires are great ships, and could leave the surface of Ore to climb among the moons and stars.
  • The creatures living in the Spires are not elves at all, but demonic creatures, and wear their concealing raiment to hide their true natures.
  • The elves are attempting to cross-breed with Men, and the Spires are full of vast slave pens, technomantic laboratories, and mad elves bent on fiendish experiments, lusting after human women. 
  • The Spires are great libraries of lost knowledge, jealously guarded by powerful elven mages.
  • The Spires are portals to other planes, where the elves still rule great empires of cruelty and despair.

None of these rumors has been substantiated, but neither have they been disproved. And there are many more than these, each wilder than the last, each speaking to the greatest hopes and deepest fears of the Men of Ore, and each underlining the great rift that still exists between the two races.

In their enclaves, the elves are safe, and keep themselves pure from the taint of iron, for a time.

Outside of the enclaves, Men gaze suspiciously upon the Spires, pondering their threat and their promise, at the same time filled with dread and with avarice.

Outside the Spires, there also are elves. They are not the elite of elven society. They do not share in its bounty. They are not privy to its secrets. Their lives are too short, and too many of them are corrupted by iron. Their misery grows, generation by generation, as they are warped and corroded from within. They, too, gaze at the Spires. And their hatred grows a little each day, like the shoots of a thorn bush rising from blackened ground, growing from sentiment, to philosophy, to vocation. Their hatred is spreading and becoming organized, and it has a name: Morgath'ak-Lugash, the Iron Fist.