Of Mice and Men
Long ago, earlier even than the memories of the oldest Elves remaining in the world of Men (which is about 500-700 years), the Elves ruled all the land. They nurtured it and guarded it from the foul and dangerous beasts of the world, waiting for the time when a younger race would rise to prominence and free the Elves from their burden. This time came with the coming of Men to the desert. However, not all the Elves were eager to leave their charge in the hands of these obviously feeble and inferior creatures. (Many Elves still sort of feel that humans are feeble and inferior, but at this point it’s REALLY true. Humans were primitive hunter/gatherer types at this point.) Tensions rose, but eventually an agreement was reached. The Elves would remain and nurture the humans until they were ready for such a responsibility.
Unfortunately, once divided the Elves proved difficult to reunite. The coming of Men into their lands accelerated the tragedy of Elven life. As the Elves grew to love and respect these simple people, their short lives gave the Elves deeper insight into the nature of mortality and intensified their emotional connection to the mortal world. This inevitably lead to two outcomes, Grief or Spite.
Once again, Elven communities erupted in debate. While most of them wanted to protect the Humans from the dangers and sorrows of the mortal world, some believed that they were being too soft on the humans, that without strife and adversity the Humans would grow too weak to survive without the Elves. This faction was small, but they were also passionate and driven to action. In time they grew tired with debate and took matters into their own hands. They began to inflict pain, horror and strife on the Humans in what they felt was a healthy and manageable way. Some even took the philosophy further and turned their attention on Elven communities that they felt were becoming “soft” or “weak”.
When this became known, the lands of the Elves erupted in a civil war that resulted in the exile of this new breed of “Dark” Elves into the desert where they were consumed by their hate and twisted into the terrible people known as Orcs.
This all happened so long ago that Human historians have only the barest record that it happened (the Elves are too proud to admit their failings).
Since the war the Elves have been a shadow of their former glory.
The Elves are governed by a council of Etharchs, drawn from the nobility, with token representation of the Althings and the Protectors. A Prince sits as the head of the council, but does not hold absolute authority, resulting in a “crowned republic” similar to that of early Venice (although with a much smaller “Major Counsel”).
The Althings come from the common classes and act as mayors or elders to the remaining Elvish citadels.
The Protectors are a volunteer military organization sworn to the defense of the Elvish lands and people. The Protectors are lead by a Lord Protector, who is chosen from the ranks of the Sword Singers. The Protectors are often fiercely loyal to the Lord Protector and it is the highest position a common Elf can rise too, often being second in power only to the Prince himself.
The Sword Singers are an elite group of soldiers similar to a knightly order. Apprentice Sword Singers (called Seconds) are sworn to their teachers through a mystical bond, so the mentor/student relationship is very strong.
The Sword Singers are divided into two major groups. Those who are born Etharchs are traditionally sworn to Sword Singers who are members of the Prince’s bodyguard, and thus are sworn to the Prince himself. Those who were of more common birth form the elite foot troops of the Protectors and are sworn to the Lord Protector.
There are three major factions in Elvish politics; the Traditionalists, the Radicals and the Anti-Exodites (or just “The Opposition”).
The Traditionalists (occasionally called the Exodites) are currently in power as the Prince and the large majority of the Etharchs are members of the Traditionalist faction. The Traditionalists believe that the Elves purpose in this world is at an end and soon, within the next one to two hundred years, the Elves should completely withdraw from the continent and leave the Humans in charge, as it was meant to be.
The Opposition is composed largely of Protectors (particularly Rangers) who are unwilling to abandon their charges, and of civilians unwilling to give up their homes. They have a particularly large following amongst the “Wilder” Elves (those who live in the relative solitude of the wilderness) but they Wilders lack any significant political power.
The Radicals are not an overt political faction. They are a conspiracy composed mostly of fervent Anti-Exodites and converts to the Path of Spite. The Radicals current agenda involves starting a war to truly test the Human’s strength (the Humans have never really had a major war). They are divided as to weather this is a final test of humanity’s mettle or just another step in their efforts to shepherd the strength of Man, but this disagreement hardly effects their plans.