The Elves of the Ice Mountains are a fierce and warlike people, with dreadful tempers, and long memories. Their world is one of blood and pain, with death all around, while the cold winds howl at night. To cross them is to make a lifelong enemy, but to befriend them is to gain a permanent staunch supporter.
Many years ago, before men came to the continent, a hardy fleet of ships appeared on the horizon, flying a white flag with a black eagle emblazoned upon it. After probing along the coastline for sometime, a storm which not even the hardy elven mariners could match wrecked the fleet, casting them upon the pitiless northern shore. The survivors dragged themselves out of the wreckage, building huts along the edge, huddling against the fires burning from their destroyed ships to escape the cold.
That winter, the small village exploded into violence. With little food, and beasts that stalked the snowy wastes, not to mention the terrible cold, the elves fell upon each other, fighting desperately for survival. By spring, only a fifth of the original fleet’s travelers had survived, scattered all about the the ice-blasted shores and mountains.
From there, the tiny settlements grew over time, with slightly more ease as they now were able to roam and hunt for food. Despite this, the infighting between groups created a society built and bred on war. Village fought village, with the winner claiming the loot, land, and hunting grounds for themselves. The elves never bothered to journey farther south however, as the snowy lands seem vast and endless to the tiny groups, who were too caught up in fighting for their lives to journey. Those who did attempt to leave, vanished forever.
For the next several hundred years, the pattern of conquest, pillage, and expansion continued. Larger tribes formed, and eventually moved slightly more south, building hold-fasts and fortresses in and on the large mountain ranges that towered into the clouds. Wars became slightly less frequent, as larger groups created more bloody and costly battles, and gave the elves the manpower to further explore their home. They delved deep into the mountains, and learned the music of the hammer, working metal in a manner both beautiful and terrible.
The Elves formed into three great clans. The Narmani, who dwell along the sea; the Angoni, who live in a large series of tunnels and halls built into a mountain; and the Sorni, who reside in a vast castle built atop a massive mountain and who look down upon the rest from their lofty abode. Other tribes there are, but none so powerful as these.
Half a century after the forming of these clans, the lord of the Angoni, Fara Fareyes, called a great council of all the chieftains. There, he spoke stirring words of strength and unity to them, calling for ONE leader to rule the Helcelen, as the elves were called in their own tongue.
“If we are all one tribe, one clan, then will our lands be forever safe, from outside attackers, and from internal raids.” he spoke.
The elves listened, as chieftains argued over who should be the leader of such a clan. All expected Fara to nominate himself. Instead, the young elfling turned to the chieftain sitting beside him, who had not yet spoken or weighed the words that had been said. The chieftain was Torna Sornion, was a elf of few words, and he refused the offer. But Fara took the chieftain of the Narmani, and Torna into a secret council, and after some debate, they returned, and the Helcelen had a Teranor, or High-King, whose name was Torna. The elves made
him a crown of black steel, with points as sharp as daggers, with series of jewels the color of ice set about the circlet.
From that day forward, the elves were far less disjointed as they had been in previous years. Wars between tribes and clans still raged, but whenever an outside threat appeared, the Clan Lord would send out the call, and a Great Hosting would be held, during which all elves put aside their grievances to battle the common enemy. This was only done once, several generations after the Great Council, and a brief war was raged against an enemy who while certainly threatened the elves with grave danger, was never mentioned again in the histories that were written later. Torna perished at this time ,and his son took up the title of High-King.
It was under the eighth Teranor, that the elves first discovered that there was in fact an end to the snow and ice. After expanding a great deal further since the Great Council, what with the newfound unity of the elves, the Helcelen came across a final mountain range, that when crossed, revealed a unending green world, where grass grew thick and the snow almost never fell. But after thousands of years in the cold, the elves could no longer endure the heat, and so few of the discoverers returned home.
The Teranor decided that the Helcelen must know what lay beyond their borders however, and so the elves journeyed south, west, and east again. After a time, they learned to cloth themselves to prevent their demise at the hands of the heat, wearing layer upon layer of thin white clothes, with their ever present grey cloaks and hoods covering them from head to toe. It was thus that the elves learned of the other races of the continent, traveling at night whenever possible,and staying in the shade during the day. And because of their garb, none learned of the species of the white and grey travelers who remained as aloof as could be during their journeys to avoid unnecessary confrontations. This was done by the order of the Teranor, who decreed that only elves of even and measured temper would go abroad.
At this time, the Helcelen were at their strongest, one people with one purpose, and it was during this time period that the great city of Helkar was built, as a refuge for all elves in their time of need. Inscribed over the gates were the words:
A haven for elves, and a harbor from strife
No blood was to be shed in anger inside the city, on pain of banishment and death, giving refuge to any who would journey hither.
After a time however, the unity between the clans once again wavered, for the office of the Teranor became weaker as lesser elves ascended to the Frozen Throne. The clans ceased their exploration and expansion, and fell again to war and bloodshed. Such it has been for two hundred years, while the world changed and kingdoms rose. Now the elves are wracked by internal strife and the flames of war melt the snow. But perhaps they could be united, if one of the elves could once again reform them into something other than violent and erratic warriors.
While originally High Elves, the Helcelen have since become greatly diminished from their nigh-angelic kin. Their once golden hair has turned white, while their dark blue eyes have grown pale or become a white gold. Their immortality has likewise vanished, although the lives of the ‘snow elves’ still spans a length greater than that of other species, roughly 200 years by the reckoning of men. They are hardened to the cold, and feel at home in sub-zero temperatures, but quite literally wither away in heats greater than 85 degrees Fahrenheit. In warmer climates, they grow weaker, more sluggish, and sleep for longer periods than usual, but in winter or fall are strong, fast, and resilient. An exception to this, is that the Helcelen survive without trouble when they are near mountains, particularly when they are covered in snow or ice. Excellent eyesight, and have good hearing.
The Snow Elves have extremely touchy tempers, and while a few choose to attempt to hold it in check, most give in to anger at the slightest sign of insult, perceived or otherwise. Long memories of previous grudges are also provide a high contribution to the never-ending blood wars that rage back and forth between tribes. Most elves will solve their problems with their blades, so far have they fallen from their original ways of peace and enlightened thought among the stars. However, despite their unforgiving nature and eternal hatred of enemies, once a friend has been made of the Helcelen, they will never forget it, just as to make them an enemy is to make a permanent foe. To top off their charming demeanor, a species-wide bluntness pervades them as a nation, without exception and often bordering on rudeness.
The normal attire of a Snow Elf is typically fur-skins, and leather, often held together with numerous belts and buckles, both retaining heat and mobility, although a well-clothed elf can survive over night in the freezing temperatures, provided he is in good health. Between the furs and the leather, is a grey cloak that is presented to each newborn elf on their birth in a special ceremony. All elves wear such cloaks, which often have large hoods attached, depending on the wearer’s preference.
When in warmer temperatures, Snow Elves bundle themselves in many thin layers of white and grey clothes, with their faces always covered by a grey hooded cloak that protects their heads from the heat. They can travel in many places in this manner, but it is not healthy for them to remain for more than a year without feeling the cold. It is possible to wear armor over the robes, allowing them to wage war abroad in times other than winter or fall, but by necessity it is lighter thinner than their normal gear. Rarely does this occur however, as any wars fought against the Helcelen normally take place in areas that are cool enough to wear their accustomed equipment, or are near mountains.
Clans live in hold-fasts and protected villages, always wary for danger. While the wolves and polar bears that dwell in the North are also a danger, it is from other Elves that the attack is expected. Clans war with one another over the most petty of disputes are waged quickly and often. Sometimes blood wars will rage for so long that the original source of the violence is forgotten. Such disputes can be resolved before the Teranor, or by a joining of the two sides, usually through marriage or an exchange of land or gifts, but most of the time the fighting will continue even into the second generation before peace is achieved.
Outside of the rugged and chaotic warfare, each clan has its chieftain, who can be displaced by anyone who can best him in single combat. After a chieftain has won a few combats however, challengers rarely arise, or are dealt with quietly, as a clan must have an experienced leader at it’s helm, not a continual change of rulers.
Clans hunt game in the pine and oak forests that cover the slopes of their mountains, storing up salted meat for the winter, along with fish from the rivers and seas, while vegetables are farmed from the areas around the rivers when possible. Wheat and barley are among the most common types of plants grown, and are also highly prized, as they must be bought from the Narmani, who hold exclusive control of the farmable lands.
The currency of the Helcelen is silver coins, with either an Eagle, Dragon, or Wolf inscribed on the sides, denoting each coins value, with the order from lowest to highest being eagles, wolves, and then dragons. Trade between tribes consists of stone, furs, leathers, weapons, and armor, along with other types of metalworking. Each year at a specified time, each Clan will send a delegation to purchase goods for the rest of the group from the great mountain-city which is the seat of the Teranor, which is where all buying and selling of good occurs, although smaller merchants will occasionally attempt to market their goods in the war-torn lands between clans. To prevent ease of trade and to provide a haven from strife, all weapons are forbidden in the Clan-Lord’s city, the nominal capitol of Helkar, along with fighting on pain of permanent expulsion from the city and potentially death.
In theory, the Teranor calls upon all the tribes whenever he sees fit, uniting them under one banner, to create a mighty warforce. In practice however, he can only rely upon his own Sorni warriors, and those clans nearest him to respond to the call, defending themselves from all attackers with vicious ferocity.
Each clan follows their chieftain into battle, who is expected to lead from the front, or not at all, unless he is needed elsewhere. Warriors are highly disciplined, and have an strong knowledge of fighting in formations, using tower shields of thin design, spears, axes, bows, and swords. Only in large wars are such tactics used however, as smaller clans, who can often muster a few dozen soldiers at best, will decide the winner in a uncoordinated all out assault upon each other. The larger clans have mandatory training to ensure the warriors always are able to work together as a unit, and the constant warfare both keeps the soldiers experienced at fighting in formations, and without them. Clan Chieftains keep an extremely tight grip on their warriors, with the ever present threat of banishment hanging over disobedient soldiers, and few elves can survive without a tribe.
The weapons of the elves are their greatest accomplishment, for all metal worked by the Helcelen is always cold to the touch, and has a faintly bluish color, no matter the temperature. It is unknown whence this phenomena comes, unless from the ice that is said to run like veins of gold through the freezing ground. Nonetheless, it is a curiosity, nothing more, for the blades are as normal as any other, although legends hold that in past ages, the Elven weapons could freeze anything they touched. This is said to be nothing more than an ancient rumor of the Heroes’ Age, however.
Weapons range from large battle axes, to spears of various length, and from longbows to slings. Their swords are quite long, about five and a half feet in length, and are slightly curved with broad blades.
Armor is usually white or grey, occasionally black. Steel is in abundance, for the Helcelen are voracious miners and smiths, along with furs and leather. The armor is often somewhat bulky in appearance, as the combination of layer upon layer of cloth, leather jerkins, boiled leather pauldrons, steel breastplates, greeves, steel pauldrons, and furs forms quite a bundle. In past years, when all the elves were united into one clan, they also bore great helms bearing a white plume, along with matching armor, but much has changed since then.
But now every clan has its own patterns and designs, ranging from the Dragon of the Angoni to the Bear of the Vlagar, and there is no longer any one specified uniform, just as there is no united legion of elven warriors.
Warriors earn their equipment through one of three ways: by stripping it from a fallen foe, buying it from sellers at Helcar, or as a gift. Chieftains are eager to dispense weapons to all who follow them, seeking to gain more combatants in this manner, and so the hands of the Elves are said to run with steel instead of gold. Note that despite whatever colors their armor and gear possesses, over it all goes the great grey cloak that every elf wears, hiding them in the snow and blending better into the stone of the mountains.
Despite their race, the elves posses no known magic, and other than the coldness of their metal remain ordinary in that respect. They are not opposed to mages, wizards, and the like, but rarely come into contact with such.
However, instead of magic, the elves have managed to master the art of breeding horses in snowy climates. Their horses are fast and lightweight, and in deep snows are equipped with over sized snowshoes to aid their passage over the white fluff. Roughly one in every three of all every warrior is mounted, although in mountainous combat they are usually dispensed with to travel on foot.
THE GREAT CLANS
Those who dwell on the mountain, the Eagle People. Their insignia is a black eagle on a white banner, and are renowned for their discipline and more measured tempers than their rougher kin. They control the capitol of Helcar, and answer directly to the Teranor, who is also their chieftain. Due to their mountainous habitation, their troops are composed mainly of spearmen armed with curved tower shields, and longbowmen, with very few horsemen. Color scheme is white with blue trimming, with silver inlay.
The Sea-Dwellers, the Wolf People, led by Verel Narmanion. A wolf is their sign, with a color scheme of green and white. They build ships to sail upon the sea, and roam farther than the other tribes in search of anything that catches their fancy. Armed with whatever weapons they choose, but likewise are well organized in time of wars that go beyond the normal headlong rush of small raids. Horses are in great supply, as the Narmani hold the most fertile lands that are best suited to raising horses.
The Dragon-People, led by Berel Angonion, also known as MightyFist… A Red Dragon with wings outstretched is their symbol, and are as reckless in their speech as they are in their wars. More violent than the other elves, and more swift to anger, although also quicker to forgive and forget. Color scheme is white with black trim, with the ever present grey cloak of the Helcelen.
The Helcelen are a people of the cold, the frost and the ice are their constant companions. Their deity reflects this. The elves do not remember why they came to the new continent, but they do remember who called them. Or rather, they know someone who does.
Atop the highest peak of the Ice Mountains, in a place where to linger means death, there is a small heap of snow. Beneath that snow, is an elf.
He is old beyond counting, his hair white as fresh snow, his eyes likewise dim and pale with age. His face is lined with care and worry, and in his hand forever lies a sword of true Ice Steel, that freezes all it touches. It is the prophet of the nation, the only elf who was there when the Helecelen first were wrecked upon the frozen shore, and the only elf to have seen the God of Winter.
He described him to the elves directly after his vision, but his eyes were pale and the moment he finished speaking his tongue froze. But what he said was recorded, preserved, and furthermore, believed, as the elf spoke with such force that it quite convinced the Helcelen of the truth of his words. The elf then took his blade, and journeyed once again to the mountain where he had seen the god, and has since been waiting, slowly turning to ice ever since. A unit of warriors guards the mountain at all times, and none but the Teranor is allowed to make the perilous climb to the top.
The words concerning the deity are written here:
And after we had fled from our ships to be cast upon this new land, I felt in the depths of my soul a stirring. The mountain called me, and so I answered.
I made the terrible climb. I scaled the cliffs, and walked the slopes. And upon the pinnacle, on the edge of a sheer cliff that sank down into nothingness before me, I saw him.
All in white was he clothed, and white was his armor, and white was his lofty helm. Eyes of blue beneath a crown of pale ice. It was cold when I arrived at the summit of the mountain, but when he looked at me, it grew yet colder still.
And he said unto me: Son of The Sea, will you serve the Father of the Cold? And I said to him, ye lord.
And he said unto me again: If ye would serve, say unto thy people, keep well the marches of winter. For there shall be two great tests. The first ye shall overcome, and all will tremble in the hour of your triumph over that test. But the second shall come, when elves fight elves in a land that snoweth not, and the stars are strange.
And I rejoiced, that we should succeed in the test of the god. But he said to me, Son of the Sea, did ye not hear? If your people tarry in my domain, then shall the second test be all the harder, for those who receive my gifts must pay a price.
An lo, I looked again, and I saw that the god had left me.
The Elves count the forgotten war that was raged against an ancient forgotten enemy to be the first test, but choose to forget the full message of the prophet’s words. Every year, on the first day of Winter, as many elves can get themselves thither make a pilgrimage to the foot of the Wintermount, each giving an offering to the deity who appeared to the elven prophet, who was last seen one hundred and eighty seven years ago, when Macil Sornion’s Father, the thirty first Teranor made the dangerous trip to the top.
The most common form of worship however, is to the insignia of each clan. Dragons, bears, wolves, eagles, serpents, fish, all are granted respect on certain days of the year. On such days, the clan will hold a special gathering of all the newly made warriors who are ready for the trial of whatever animal their clan holds dear. The Trial of the Dragon Clan requires the elf to perform a series of fire related feats, the Fish clan requires feats of swimming and diving, the Eagle Clan demands that the warrior capture a feather from a great Iron Eagle, a creature of gigantic wing size and ferocious temper. But besides these, the Helcelen are a not particularily religious people, although they do invoke the name of their god in battle, Olosse.
Macil Sornion, the elder of the two Sword-Brothers, and the current High-King. He is forty-three years old.
Magor Sornion, the younger of the two Sword-Brothers. Thirty seven years old.
Verel Narmanion, the Hungry Wolf. He is one hundred and thirty four years old, and holds a grudge against Macil’s deceased father, Maekar. Rides a enormous black wolf instead of a horse.
Berel Angonian, MightyFist. Won his nickname by killing a wolf with his bare hands in his youth. Eighty-nine years of age, a renowned warrior who desires glory for himself and for the Helcelen as a whole. Gigantic in size, and uses a battle axe alongside his ever-armored left fist.