The Secret of the Elven Retreat
"The elves are one of the major races of the world, and once ruled large sections of the world during the time of dragons and before the coming of humankind. Now the majority of these long-lived beings have retreated from the onslaught of humankind, seeking quieter forests, and their numbers in the world are a fraction of those even a thousand years ago."
From 'A Grand Tour of Otara'
The Retreat is a phenomenon that has baffled human sages since the Retreat officially began. It is usually thought that the majority of elves withdrew from the mainland to escape from the influence and swords of humanity and goblinkind. With the fall of Miryth Dragkor, and the ever-shrinking forested areas and encroaching humans, this was thought of as natural. This is partly true, but only the elves themselves know the genuine reasons.
Of the 2,000 or so prophecies within the Arcanum, only about 1/4 have come to pass. Among the prophecies, one stands out as the most important to the elves. Foretold Alestria Tirandiel who wrote the prophecies, is the ending of the world and its rebirth:
"And signs will come to herald the ending of all that now is known,
brought about by the Seven.
When comes the call to Raise the standard of War,
Only the People will be ready to stand against them,
and Man will deliver the verdict,
that will destroy all that is,
and cause, in Light or Dark the world to be reborn.
If darkness is the way of the verdict, only the people may give light a final chance.
Send then to the Island strongholds and safeguard the people,
that light may yet hold a glimmer over the dark.
Bide well this time and fall not to false calls else all is lost and darkness shall ever prevail."
King Endar Gil`Celduin, who was a decendent of Rhysal Starweaver and Alestria Tirandiel also had a prophetic vision confirming this very prophecy.
Commonly called the Finale by the elves, This prophecy, is perhaps the most straight-forward of the many prophecies. The common interpretation of it by elven sages is that the world as most on Otara know it will end someday. The exact date is unknown, except for the Finale to come to pass, all the other prophecies must be fulfilled.
Apparently the Seven are evil beings, of which race is unknown. Elven scholars claim they are foul planar creatures like fiends, others say they are the eldest living wyrms on Otara. They will arise from various parts of Otara. The Seven will gather armies of orcs, giants, dragons and other evil creatures to make war.
The Finale makes it clear that the elves will form the backbone of the forces of Light that are arrayed against the forces of Darkness. The elves will marshal their armies in the defense of all that is good on Otara.
The part about Man "delivering the Verdict" leads many elven sages to believe that the humans will be the lynchpin in the war against Darkness, either destroying the world or saving it from destruction. But which side will the majority of humanity support?
At first the Finale was believed by the elves to be false. In fact, all the portents in the Arcanum were cast aside. But when the first prophecies began coming true thousands of years ago, the elves took more stock in the words laid down in the Arcanum. Various elven councils began to discuss possible solutions to the Finale during the time of Myraletch supremacy. When the human kingdoms began to rise up and challenge the elves for supremacy for Otara, the elves feared the worst. The cruel archwizards of Myraletch had control of mighty magics, the likes of which have not been seen since. It did not help matters that Myraletch was lead by the council of seven. With the Myral encroaching upon the High Forest, some of the elven clans there began a migration elsewhere. Other elves in other parts of the World slowly began to follow their brethren in the High Forest.
This plan of eventual Retreat was formally adopted by the elven race on Otara. After considering ways to consolidate elven power, and to ensure enough elves would be around by the time of the Finale to make a difference, over the next several hundred years of secret preparation, many elves left the mainland of Otara. Elven settlements that were indefensible or too near encroaching humans would be moved off the mainland to secured areas such as Arethane or Lorien.
Still, Lorien, Arethane and other secure elven settlements could not handle all the migrating elves in comfort. For centuries, elven nobles had vacationed in the realm of the Seelie Court, that magical land of sylvan creatues. The Seldarine contacted Aphrael, the Faerie Queen, on behalf of their people to allow a number of elves to dwell within Seelie until such a time it was necessary for them to return to Otara. The Faerie Queen and her fellow sylvan gods had always had close relations with the elves, and their request was granted. In return, the elves would tend the forests and groves in the lands of Faerie. The bountiful plane would provide whatever the elves needed, and their numbers would not put a strain on the land here. Elven High Mages raised a modest city with their magic, and the elven population moved in. They named the city Elil-Avelorn, and the nearby lake Tith-Olordel.
Since then the elves living in Elil-Avelorn have seen a slight increase in their population. Perhaps it is because of the nature of Faerie, in that the elven being is at peace. Or because the elves have noticed a slowing of the aging process once they reach the Adulthood. Whatever the reason, the elves are thriving, and there is talk of creating a sister city to Elil-Avelorn in Faerie. According to the elven plans, the elves here will be part of a relief force during the fulfillment of the Finale. To that end, the elves undergo training to sharpen their swordplay, and study the ancient art of elven magic. Elven magi work to craft magic items and elf smiths hammer out elven mail and swords. Horse handlers breed moon horses to serve as cavalry mounts, while bowyers and fletchers craft bows and arrow shafts. Even in Arethane, Lorien and the other elf lands, similar preparations are underway, although on a smaller scale.
Elil-Avelorn is ruled by the Council of Savroniell, a group of elves with noble blood, that answer only to the Elven King in Arethane. The Council meets in the Tower of Fey'brith, located in the center of the city. They ensure that things in the elven portion of Faerie runs smoothly. In Elil-Avelorn, their decrees are law.
The city itself is a wonder to behold, as it is laid out in a circular pattern. The center of the city is the Tower of Fey'brith, and all roads lead to it. The Tower is surrounded by a ring of ancient oak trees, a dozen of which are actually elder treants. They are virtually indistinguishable from the normal oaks, and can animate the other trees to attack enemies.
The elven dwellings are built via Tel'Quessir magic, and common building types are towers, mansions, and tree-homes. Each dwelling has an expansive yard, dominated by lush gardens, complete with magical fountains. A typical elven home has numerous rooms, decorated in woodland tones and often sculpted with magic to allow rare plant life to flourish. Elven children play with their friends along the crystal flagstone-paved roads, gawking at strange visitors from the court of the Faerie Queen.
Every elven god is represented here, including Araleth Letheranil, Kirith Sotheril, and Melira Taralen. The largest temple is the Cathedral of Corellon, which lies to the right of the Tower of Fey'brith. It is made largely of marble, and the front of the temple is dominated by a hundred marble steps which lead into the temple itself, and an impressive garden, where temple clergy lounge about.
The population of Elil-Avelorn is currently 55% grey elves, 30% high elves, 10% wood elves, and 5% of the other elven subtypes. No half-elves live in the city and very few drow, and under no circumstances will such creatures be allowed within Elil-Avelorn, save for proven followers of the seldarine drow gods.
Younger elves living in Faerie often return to Otara, the place of their or their parent's birth. They stay for a few years adventuring, and when they tire of it they return to Faerie. The elven elders believe it is important that the young elves see the importance and beauty of the World, as they have no desire to completely abandon Otara.
There have been instances of elven communities ignoring the call for the Retreat or being unprepared. In the case of the elves of Kael, they were nearly overwhelmed by the bugbear hordes arrayed against them. The elves believe that some malignant force is directing a coordinated effort to destroy their brethren still living in the World. What that force is remains to be seen, but there are whispers of alliances between Darakian and Lolth to name but a few.
To counter these evil influences, the King of Arethane has ordered the formation of the Phoenix Guard. The Phoenix Guard's primary purpose is the defense of the remaining elven communities on the mainlands of Otara. Should any elven kingdom be severely threatened, the Phoenix Guard will be dispatched. If the settlement cannot be saved, then the elves living there must go into Retreat. The Guard will not come to the aid of non-elven communities. The elves believe the existence of the Phoenix Guard must remain a secret for as long as possible. To this end, when they are deployed, they will use the camouflage of the forest to conceal their presence, and not announce who they are to any non-elves who may be nearby.
As things stand now, the elves are unsure as to where the majority of humanity will stand when the Finale comes to pass. The elves are trying to formulate a plan of action in their dealings with humans, and are perplexed by human nature. They don't understand the other races and their need to throw away logic and emotion when making choices. The elves believe that emotions are important, but they shouldn't let these emotions govern their decision-making. So for the time being the elves will watch and observe the humans, hoping that when the time comes, humanity will fight for the side of Light. Arethane has now gathered in all the elves in retreat and currently gathers all elven artifacts. Groups of elven adventurers seek out ancient elven sites, to locate and then bring home all that is elven to Arethane. The Kingdom of Arethane now encompasses all of the elven settlments, and the few remaining elven settlements of the mainland prepare for the retreat under the protection of the Phoenix Guard and remain only to serve as staging points for the gathering, although the completion of this may yet take several hundred years.