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Tom Noon's Tale  |  Puck's Tale  |  JT's Tale  |  Adventures in Babysitting
Of the Races of Earth  |  Faerie Geography  |  A Dialogue on the Demi-Spirits
Elves and Dwarves  |  Petty-Fays  |  Nymphs and Elementals

Elves and Dwarves

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Lanthil & Beyond


High Elves

They are the most magical of fay races, sprung directly from the blood of Time, according to legend.

They are adept at shapeshifting, almost as much as djinn. Their true form may be itself inherently flexible, so that changes of coloration, hair length and texture, and fatty tissue of the face, are as trivial for them as changes of posture and facial expression. Stable sub-types include:

  • "Noldorin" - fair skin, dark hair, grey eyes
  • "dusky" - blending mediterranean/polynesian/amerind, occasionally point-eared
  • Asian
  • African
  • blond - sometimes point-eared, sometimes with blankly shining blue eyes
  • white - snow white, platinum blond and silver-eyed, sometimes luminous
  • black - like tar, even palms and nails, with blue or violet teeth and sclera
  • green
  • blue

Whatever their habitual or true appearance, it is always tall, slender, and beautiful. The skin is delicate and flawless, the hair fine and thick, the eyes large and slightly almond, due to underlying bone structure rather than to any optional epicanthic fold.

They live widely scattered among other fays. The rare exceptions, cities of the High Elves, are places of intense power, both magical and political. Most live singly or in small courts or households, with other fays in attendance.

Faerie is mostly "ruled" (lightly) by rather flat hierarchies of High Elf courts, served by staffs of other fays. These courts are generally very something -- very dreamy & whimsical, or very Byzantine & Machiavellian, or very boisterous & chivalrous.

Solitary high elves are often wholly obsessed by the pursuit of some activity or theme. New races of fay have often arisen this way, when such an elf coins a new shape and adopts it as its true form.

They often live by their magic, conjuring all or most of their needs. They use glamour a great deal. Some fays use glamour as a substitute for real riches they lack, but High Elves usually use it to create enchanted, beautiful, or curious objects that could not readily be done any other way.

Their dwellings are often very magical, e.g.:

  • bilocated with a hill, grove, lake, etc., so that now one, now the other, manifests
  • levitated (castles in the air)
  • shrunk (as a toy, or in a flower, hive, or tree)
  • invisible

High elves are over-represented among the great mages of Faerie.

Middle Elves

These are hybrids of High Elves with some other (usually called "lesser") stock, e.g. human, dwarf, or Wer-House. There is usually nothing bizarre in their true form, nor are they superhumanly beautiful; they look like handsome -- sometimes very handsome -- humans. Those with a lot of dwarf blood are short, but still well-proportioned and beautiful. Those with a lot of some Wer-House blood have something of their House totem about their appearance, so that an elf with connections to a feline House might be slender, lithe, green-eyed, and aloof; they might even have slit pupils or pointed ears.

They are not as magical as the High Elves. A middle-elven mage may be just as skilled as a high-elven one, but they will have needed more time to reach that level, and generally will not have as much raw power.

Middle elves are the working gentry of Faerie, and can be found anywhere in the social structure. Some live in isolation. Some keep courts, like High Elves, and are considerable powers in their regions. Some serve as courtiers to High or other Middle Elves. Many wander in small family bands, living nomad lives softened with plentiful, if minor, magics. Sometimes, as with dwarves and unlike the High Elves, there are entire (small) nations of elves, Middle and Low. Even then, they are more like nations of plains Amerinds or bedouin, living by hunting, gathering, and pastoralism; Middle Elves rarely farm or work in industry, though they may live among those who do.

Middle Elves are more likely than High to live in unmagical dwellings. The cave, cottage, mansion, or castle is not shrunken, bilocated, or levitated. It may be invisible or otherwise glamoured, though, and it is often well-hidden by ordinary means.

Low Elves

Low Elves have no blood of the High Elves in them. They look like ordinary humans. They are usually the result of mixing Wer-Houses, or of intermarriage among dwarves, humans, and Wer-Houses. The same family may produce "elves" (who look human), "goblins" (who look grotesque in some way), and folk on the borderline. Thus, whether or not someone is an "elf" (low, middle, or high) is likely to be a sore point with the Low Elves and their kin. They refer to themselves simply as "fays," or more often, by particular name of tribe or family.

Even Low Elves are immune to aging, but they may look old from weathering, or because of some goblin-leaning grotesquery.

They can do magic, but learn it more slowly and have less raw power than Middle or High Elves.

Low Elves can be found anywhere in Faerie, in any occupation, though they are not often mage-lords. They are not as ready to go into industry as dwarves are, or as ready to go into farming as halflings are, but they will do both. Commonest of all, of course, is the life of a hunter-gatherer, supplemented with some ESP and a little glamour.


Dwarves are set apart from other fays. As recounted in "The Races of Earth," they sprang where the blood of Eth struck stone and soil, not from any kind of flesh. They are also psychologically different from other fays:

If you tried to measure fays on the scales of human psychology, you would first find that they tended to extremes of the ranges, rather than to the middles. Next, you would note that most fays are Feeling types. Dwarves are the exception; they are most usually Thinking types. As a result, dwarves and other fays are almost more alien to each other than either is to humans.

Dwarven Technology

While any fay breed can produce great crafters, dwarves are famous for it. They are also the technologists of Faerie. But dwarves did not go in for a lot of machinery until humans began to do so. They got the idea from us. Before that, dwarven crafts were centered on low-tech items such as swords, armor, shields, jewelry, garments, all made with superhuman skill and quality, and very possibly enchanted.

Most dwarvish magic is enchantment of their artifacts, or is ESP directed toward craftsmanship, e.g. various forms of dowsing and the Knack of Tools. Direct TK is usually craft-useful stuff like Tempering, Alchemy, or Firekey. Otherwise, TK is generally tied to an artifact -- glamour is bound to a ring, necklace, or cloak; levitation is bound to a cloak or boots; Fleshkey is bound into potions; Shapeshift is bound to skins; and so on.

Dwarves did not move out of this basic pattern until relatively recently, about the time of Greece and Rome, because of the massive inertia of fay immortality. When they saw human-made mechanisms, though, they immediately perceived two great advantages:

  1. In so far as an effect was achieved mechanically, you could save on magical effort and reduce vulnerability to disenchantment and magical detection.
  2. You could immediately show off your ingenuity just by displaying the artifact. You would eventually have to prove it worked, but it could be admired before it ever operated, or even before it was finished. Spells aren't like that.

Dwarven Technology took two great strides forward. The first was inspired when a book describing the works of Heron of Alexandria fell into the hands of the recently retired Steward of Northkeep, Barazurak of Aundoar. He was so fascinated by this book that he made a clandestine trip to the Earthly Plane, travelling from the Alps to Rome and thence to Alexandria. He returned with a wealth of classical Engineering, and for the next several centuries his folk designed and built complex and hugely powerful siege engines, immensely complicated locks, extremely clever cog-based calculators, magnificently plumbed caves and huge warships.

It was not until the time of the European Renaisance and the human invention of scientific engineering that high technology was embraced by dwarves in general.

Dwarven machinery often looks more primitive even when it is more effective than the human counterpart. Because of dwarven skill and enchantment, they do not fear moving parts; their moving parts do not break, rust, or jam, but are as reliable as chips, almost as reliable as atoms. Not that they dislike electricity; they especially like it if it glows.

A dwarven automobile or motorcycle is a thing you pedal but which nonetheless reaches 60 mph with negligible effort.

A dwarven airplane is a glider, hang-glider, ornithopter, or biplane that often looks like a bird or insect, and is faster and safer (and much quieter) than a jet.

A dwarven computer is a mass of radio tubes in an openwork cage of wood and brass filigree; each tube is equivalent to a brain lobe, and the interface is a brazen mask or a mirror alive with little lightning bolts around the edges.

A dwarven laser gun is a brass frame laden with gems and lenses and a magical flint.

A dwarven robot is a lifesized windup toy, full of gears and possibly radio tubes.

A dwarven antigravity drive, hyperdrive, or time machine resembles the "temporal precession drive" of A. Betram Chandler -- a large, multi-dimensional cross between a gyroscope and an armillary sphere, with some Jacob's-ladders thrown in.

Dwarven Reproduction

People always wonder about dwarf women and whether there are any. Among the dwarves of Old Faerie, there are certainly women, though not many. Only one birth in a dozen or so is female.

Dwarf women are plump and stocky and look, on the whole, like the gnome women drawn by Poortvliet, only bigger, being about three or four feet high, like the men. They are NOT bearded, but, because they are so rare, they are guarded carefully when they travel abroad and usually go disguised as males, with false beards.

They are nearly as strong as the males, certainly tougher, often more magical, and have much the same temperaments. They are not especially fertile and usually take a husband for a century of marriage at a time, during which there is only an even chance they will have a child.

This low birth rate does not mean dwarves are an endangered species. For one thing, their resurrection habits are regular and vigorous; a slain dwarf comes back sooner than most other kinds of fay, always reappears among his kin, materializes quickly after first manifestation (often in just a year), and recovers full embodiement with his emotions still fully engaged on whatever his cause of death was. This last feature has resulted in grudge matches stretching over geological epochs.

Besides being very hard to get rid of on a long time scale, dwarves use alternate ways of increasing their numbers, if they are magically powerful. They may take babies (by fostering, purchase, or theft) from other fays or humans; they may adopt animals; they may marry a non-dwarf; they may carve a son from rock or forge one from metal. Then, by powerful and repeated spelling, they not only transform (and, if necessary, animate) the child, but transubstantiate him, so that his true form is now dwarven.

By no means can all dwarf mages perform such major magics, but the ones who can, do so fairly often. The result is a fair number of manufactured dwarves accumulating over the ages.

The manufactures are not always perfect. A stone-made dwarf may petrify when exposed to sunlight. (He may also re-animate after sundown.) A beast-made dwarf may retain the ears, tail, or feet of its original form. Either by mischance or because the mother counters the father's efforts, hybrids with other fays may show mixed nature rather than pure dwarvish nature.

Hybridization is the origin of some tribes of halflings, and of kobolds, gnomes, and gremlins, these last three being hybrids of dwarf and petty fay. It may also be the origin of some tribes of trolls, but don't discuss that with dwarves.

Dwarven Communities

Dwarves are the most urban and industrialized fays. Most dwarves live in towns or cities carved into mountains. These form city-states, often grouped together in leagues or under a high king, but seldom forming nation-states.

Dwarven society is theoretically organized into a magarchy. Magical talent is a prerequisite for high position, but in practice, military prowess is just as good and political talent is generally even more important. On the other hand, as you reach the top of the ladder, magic comes to the fore again, and most dwarf-kings are able magicians AND warriors AND politicians.

Most dwarf cities are ruled by a king, who may be answerable to a high king. The High King of High Dwarrowgard, in Faerie, is theoretically chief of all dwarves everywhere, but he has not found it expedient to insist on the point.

Mountain cities are not good places to raise crops. Dwarves get their foodstuffs by trading with hunting and agricultural people, human or fay. They have an extensive system of underground canals running through Faerie and even into other realms.

If trade fails, many dwarves know a specialized spell or have a specialized charm to conjure dwarf-bread from gravel or sand, but it is notoriously unpalatable.

Dwarves willingly share cities with urban humans. Dwarven cities may include minorities of goblins, kobolds, and gnomes.

Updated: 7-Oct-06
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.
The Pantope Campaign  |  Stickers On Our Luggage  |  New Blood Logs
Tom Noon's Tale  |  Puck's Tale  |  JT's Tale  |  Adventures in Babysitting
Of the Races of Earth  |  Faerie Geography  |  A Dialogue on the Demi-Spirits
Elves and Dwarves  |  Petty-Fays  |  Nymphs and Elementals