Legends of Belariath

Prehistory of the Elves

Creation Myth

The Elves believe that in the beginning, the only thing in the universe was a single nameless being of total perfection and absolute power. Then, for reasons we might never know, it split into two halves, a male and a female one. Great love and desire grew between those primal beings, and they coupled in the void before creation. So great was their power, so burning their passion, and so intense their love-making, that as they reached their climax, they shattered, filling the universe with matter and energy.

And a new form of existence also began then. From fragments of the primal beings' minds were born the gods and goddesses. Joining their power, they shaped the whirling chaos around them and made the world. Now these deities had been made both from the light and the dark sides of the primal beings, so there was soon war and conflict amid the gods, but finally they separated and decided to each make and rule their own race.

The goddess Alarea, together with her mate Eldon and many other gods and goddesses (who all together were called the Elahil), brought forth one of the first sentient races. These were the Elves, Eldest and Fairest as their creators fondly called them.

The Starwell

The Elves embraced the life and land given to them, loving especially the forests, and tending to them, building beautiful cities in the branches of the trees as well as in large clearings and the plains between forests. They loved most of the other races, especially the Tathren, the only ones that were not younger than they. Against dwarves and humans they sometimes had misgivings, but never hatred. Only against races that threatened them or the forests, such as the goblins or trolls, did they fight ruthlessly with magic and weapons.

One night, a bright star fell from the dark sky and into the holy grove in the middle of Elhar, the Elves' home forest. The Elves saw in wonder that a deep pool of liquid light was to be found there now... and that mystic water bore incredible magical powers.

They called that pool the Starwell. But before they could use its potency, the Elahil appeared, warning them of the great danger lying in the Well's powers. They chose ten Elves to be the Astral Council, an office to be passed to their heirs, and declared by holy decree that the Starwell's water might not be used for any action that did not have the unanimous consent of the Council. The Elves all swore to abide by that decree, and in time, the Astral Council also became the central ruling body of all Elvendom.

As years went on, the Elves flourished and grew, embellishing their forests and creating many marvels and wonders with the Starwell's power, bringing prosperity to themselves and other races. And eventually the Elahil saw that their children could now govern themselves and their land, and they retired to the heavens. Still they watched upon the Elves, but they seldom directly interfered with their doings anymore--for such is the way of all deities when they believe their race ready for the test of the ages.

Veldrin's Betrayal

As time went on further, Elven society began to change. Many Elves became proud, saying that as one of the greatest and eldest races, they should be allowed to rule the others and be most supreme of all living beings. These called themselves the Exalted. They took to wearing rich clothes and jewelry, building luxurious houses and even cities of stone. The other Elves, who named themselves Preservers, continued to cherish and tend to the forests, gladly sharing their prosperity with other races. They adamantly opposed the Exalted's prideful goals.

Some Exalted went as far as saying that other races should be driven out of their lands so the Elves could enjoy them, if needed with the power of the Starwell. But as there was always at least one Preserver and one Exalted in the Astral Council, it did not come to that. Still for the first time, the peace became uneasy among the Elves.

Now there was a proud elven woman named Veldrin. She was one of the most powerful leaders of the Exalted, and the most arrogant of them all. In a madness-like dream for power she believed herself to be part of those chosen to rule the world, and she longed to use the Starwell's magic to achieve her goals. But always the Astral Council prevented her. Her frustration and fury at those whom she believed to suppress her rightful place grew until she conceived the unthinkable--using the Starwell's powers without the Council's approval.

But the Council discovered her as she secretly crept to the Well. Enraged and shocked that one of their kind might break the Elahil's decree, the council members attacked her. Yet before they could harm her, Veldrin managed to fill a phial with the Starwell's waters. It would later come to be known as the Wellglass. Using its power, she succeeded in escaping the Council. Pursued by almost all elven mages and warriors, Veldrin fled, finally seeking refuge in the system of subterranean caves and tunnels known as the Nethergloom, where no sunlight had ever shone. She knew that the Elves would not pursue her there.

The Creation of the Dark Elves

It is surprising that Veldrin was not killed by the monsters lurking in the eternal darkness. Possibly they fled from the power of the Wellglass, and from her spell casting light where no light had ever been. She ventured deeper into the Nethergloom, brooding upon what she considered to be a vile betrayal. Her already prideful mind darkened, spawning hatred and thoughts of revenge.

A long while she wandered, until she suddenly sensed a mind vastly larger and more powerful than herself. So it was that that Veldrin found the goddess Kirva. Long ago she had ruled upon a shadowy race of intelligent spiders that had woven their dark webs and evil plots in the darkness of the Nethergloom. But another god named Baldon had sacrificed his power and existence to wipe out that evil race, and chain Kirva in a deep chamber, powerless while her prison endured... and few things short of a deity's power could set her free.

But now Kirva sensed the phial filled with the Starwell's powerful water, and knew her time had come. Feeling the bitterness and hatred in Veldrin's mind, she spoke to her, promising her revenge and might if she freed her with the power of the Wellglass. Overpowered by the voice whispering dark promises, Veldrin accepted. Kirva's chains were broken, and the spider goddess arose in full power again, ready to build a new kingdom beneath the earth, crushing any who would oppose her and her new chosen.

One night, a large image of Veldrin appeared in the sky above the elven lands. The traitor smirked down at those who had expulsed her, and spoke of her fate. She spoke of the powerful Goddess that had arisen anew, and that she needed a chosen people. She said that those chosen ones would be above all other races, as was their right. For a long time she spoke thus, calling upon the Elves to join her in the Nethergloom and worship Kirva.

As the vision disappeared, a hushed silence lay on the elven cities and forests. The corruptive power of Kirva crept into the mind of those who had listened, and many of the more prideful Exalted found themselves as if under a spell. Despite pleadings and commands from the other Elves to remain, many men and women left for the Nethergloom, seeking out Veldrin and Kirva. The evil goddess welcomed them with her dark embrace, changing their bodies so that they would be more adapted to the Nethergloom. Dark skin they had all, and silvery-white hair, as well as eyes that could see in the dark, most frequently red in shade. Kirva smiled evilly and named them Moriel, most supreme of all races.

The Elven Kin War

In the next months, Moriel messengers often came to the Elven leaders, always at night, for they found they could now bear the sunlight only with difficulty. They tried to convince more Elves to join them, speaking of the great power the Dark Mother Kirva would give them, saying that this was their destiny, to become rulers of the world by the dark goddess' hand. A few joined them to become Moriel themselves, but most shunned these Dark Elves as traitors. Even many Exalted said that the Elves should become the ruling race not under Kirva, but under the Elahil.

As no more Elves left for the Nethergloom, the Moriel emissaries started to threaten, saying that Kirva might well wish to take the surface lands for her people, and devise a cruel end for those who resisted her call. At this, Exalted and Preservers both were so affronted that they chased the emissaries away, forbidding them to come back.

Less than a week later, the Moriel began attacking the surface Elves. It was a brutal and tragic war, all the more so for being the first one the Elves fought among themselves. Tough they were fewer in numbers, the Moriel had the advantage when fighting at night, and Kirva also seemed to have cast some enchantment of strength upon them. They never managed to actually establish themselves on the surface, but they caused many a bloodbath among their former cousins. After several bloody battles in which the Moriel were just barely driven off, all but one member of the Astral Council were dead with no heir.

The remaining member was a proud Exalted named Jalar, of whom it was sometimes whispered that his sanity was not what it once had been. With no other members to oppose him, he claimed the Starwell for himself. Having thus become the most powerful of all Elves, he declared himself their leader and said that he would crush the Moriel with the Starwell's magic, and mobilize all able-bodied surface Elves against them. Many Exalted welcomed this strict measure in such desperate times, but others frowned upon him taking such a high position, fearing he would not surrender it afterwards.

As for the Preservers, they were simply enraged by what they considered to be just a more subtle way to violate the Elahil's decree. As sign of their protest, they refused to join Jalar's campaign. Jalar ruthlessly answered by having Preservers dragged into the army, slaughtering any who resisted. This caused shock in both camps, but with the impending Moriel threat, there was no time for discussion, and the Preservers retaliated by forming an army of their own.

Thus the Kin War began. Preservers and Exalted both concentrated on defending against the Moriel assaults, but also were weakened by constantly warring with each other. Jalar had to divide his attention between two fronts, and besides, he had not yet fully mastered the Starwell. Too suspicious to let anyone help him, he was not yet able to cause massive damage with the Well's power. Both Preservers and Exalted suffered terrible losses, and although the Moriel found their campaign easier now, they still did not manage to fully establish themselves on the surface, especially as they were still weakened by the sun during the day.

Battle of Ken'Las

One day, terrible news reached Jalar and Sirila, the leader of the Preservers. Veldrin, first among the Moriel and Kirva's High Priestess, had emerged from the Nethergloom, carrying the Wellglass. Having learnt from Kirva how to fully use its power, she wielded it with terrible result, cutting a swath of destruction towards the Elven heartlands. Knowing that they would be doomed if they kept fighting each other, Exalted and Preservers called a truce, joining their army to march against Veldrin.

They met the Dark Elven army upon the great plain of Ken'Las. There, Veldrin cast forth spells of destruction powered by the Wellglass, and Jalar channeled power from the distant Starwell, hurling it towards the Moriel. Then, disaster struck, for the Well's water had never been meant to fight itself, and forcing it to do so could only bring about its annihilation.

The Wellglass burst, consuming Veldrin in a blast of magic fire. Then Jalar's body was torn apart, unable to withstand the wild magic currents flowing through it. The backlash reached the Starwell, which exploded, destroying forests and cities for miles around (though never harming life) and bathing all Elven lands in blinding magic light.

This light was three times as bright as the sun, and the Moriel were weakened utterly in its glare. Soon they had been driven back to the Nethergloom, and though the light faded shortly afterwards, they never tried to fully claim the surface again, making only outposts, and otherwise satisfying themselves with the vastness of the Nethergloom, migrating through its dark tunnels to other caverns, away from the site of their defeat. Yet many said this retreat from the surface was only until the day they would be strong enough to conquer the entire world.

With both Jalar and the Starwell gone, the war between Exalted and Preservers did not begin anew. However, it was clear that these two groups of Elves had become too different to live together in harmony, and so they separated, each going their own way as they left their destroyed homelands to find a new home.

The Exalted built many great cities on the land of Belariath, astounding many of the more primitive races with their splendor and luxury. They gave up their dream of ruling the world, but they looked disdainfully at all other races, behaving like the aristocracy among all lifeforms--which is why they were called High Elves, a name which they liked and henceforth also used themselves.

The Preservers, on the other hand, had learnt the price of arrogance and lust for power. They became a quiet people, living simply but happily in small villages and cities that they built deep in the woods, thus soon coming to be called Sylvan Elves.