The Blood of Færie: Half-elfs

RoM is dedicated to ferreting out the traditions and bringing the original tales and folklore back to medieval-based fantasy roleplay. Crossbreeding was possible between elfs and humans in the Old Norse belief. Half-human, half-elfin children have the appearance of humans of surpassing beauty, but extraordinarily intuitive and having an inclination towards the arts of magick. One case appears in Hrólf Kraki’s saga, where the Danish king Helgi finds an elf-woman clad in silk who is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. He rapes her and later she bears the daughter Skuld, who married Hjörvard, Hrólf Kraki’s killer. Another case was the hero Högni, whose mother was a human queen, and whose father, according to the Thidrekssaga, was an elf by the name of Aldrian.

There are also in the Heimskringla and in Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar accounts of a line of local kings who ruled over a mortal Álfheim, whose borders corresponded to the modern Swedish province Bohuslän, and since they had elfin blood they were said to be more beautiful than most men.

The land governed by King Alf was called Alfheim, and all his offspring are related to the elfs. They were reputed to be fairer than any other people. The last of their kings was named Gandalf.

Half-elfs are not truly a race unto themselves.

Origins

Half-elfs are not truly a race unto themselves, but represent the result of an occasional occurrence between elfs and humans, whom Fate has decreed shall bear fertile fruit, as is true of a few other races hailing from Faerie. One could say that the origins of the half-elfs starts with the elf, since they roamed the Mortal World before any other race (that they could see, although the dwarfs were awake and busy in the earth below).

The elfs of Realms of Myth are drawn from the iron-age Nordic sagas of ancient and powerful spirits called alfar – specifically the ljøs alfar (“light elfs”) – from the tales compiled later in the sagas and histories as the oral traditions were eventually composed and put down in writing. They stand in contrast to the “Svartalfar” or “Dark Elfs”, also known as the dvergar, who became the dwarfs.

In the Beginning of Days, the borders between the Spheres (Nine Worlds to the Norse) into which all that is Spirit and all that is Flesh were divided were still amorphous, without defined boundaries, each flowing back and forth into one another. Gradually they separated, matter precipitating out of Spirit and the Mind of the All-Father. The world as it is now known was created by the gods in the place where Fire meets Ice, and was adrift between Spirit and the Flesh of the Mortal Coil for untold ages.

The many races of Spirit became accustomed to being able to shift from Spirit to Flesh and back again at will, so thin was the barrier between worlds, mingling freely and largely unknown with those of Flesh. This was simply the way of things. The elfs were one of the first races to descend from the heights of Light in Spirit through the border realms of Spirit that became known as Faerie and cross the Mortal Veil into Flesh.

Fire was brought to heel under the reign of Leo, among the Races of Man in the world of Flesh, the veriest medium by which matter of the world of Flesh was returned to Spirit.

Spirit and Flesh dwelt side by side through the reign of Taurus, under the rule of Bronze, and the Races of Men flourished.

But in the Age of Ares, the power of iron was discovered and did grow, inimical to creatures of Spirit.

The Races of Men prospered and grew so that they overwhelmed the homelands of the creatures of Spirit and set forth in great waves, migrating ever outwards, flooding the world. Bringing with them their iron, and later steel, they gradually pinned the mortal world in place. As time passed, especially as the power of the Light grew and spread to rival the scattered traditions of many gods, of gods almost without number, Spirit and Flesh drew further apart from one another. The majority of the Spirit creatures were not prepared for the harshness that the Mortal Coil took on under the rule of poisonous iron and the relentless march of the faith of the Light.

The threshold between Spirit and Flesh grew more distinct, more sharply defined. It took on characteristics of its own, becoming a border region in its own right lying between them which came to be known as “Færie.”

The peal of the churches’ great bronze bells chased the Spirits away into the incontinent mists, into the gray light of dawn and dusk or into the darkness of Night, all places where Faerie lay hidden. Rules for passing between the worlds made themselves known. Many of the spirits refused to surrender entirely their right and ability to walk in the world of Flesh as well as the spheres of Spirit and made their stand in those borderlands. These spirit folk gradually grew into solitary habits, haunting lonely places on the Mortal World, far from the habitations of human folk. These places were commonly dangerous in some way – sheer cliffs, in or by deep and/or swift waters, marshes and unstable boglands. As time passed, such beings were seen in the Mortal world more and more rarely, and eventually never in any numbers even in those remote environs.

This is the age during which the entire race of the lios alfar became sundered. Many retreated into Færie, where they could still pass into the Spirit Spheres and/or the Mortal World of Flesh freely, as desired. Others chose to remain in the hardening Mortal World, refusing to be beaten back and, as a result, completed their descent into matter. As it stands now, the elfin host has been divided between Faerie and the Mortal World for time immemorial. The two kindreds remain closely tied to their cousins of Faerie to the current day, but their histories unfolded along different paths.

The dwarfs/dvergar, based on the Norse svartalfar or “Black Elfs,” are the “cousins” of the ljosalfar, but they traditionally have little to do with one another.

English folktales surviving from the early modern period typically portray elfs as small, elusive people with mischievous personalities. They are not evil but might annoy humans or interfere in their affairs, especially if provoked. They are sometimes said to be invisible. In this tradition, elfs became more or less synonymous with the fairies that originated from native British mythology, the Welsh Ellyllon and Y Dynon Bach Têg, for example. For the purposes of the game, these are posited as relatives of the alfar or elfs that retreated to and dwell still in Faerie.

Half-elfs may be the result of an ultimately ill-fated marriage (so rare as to be legendary among the elfs) or of an affair or casual liaison (much more common), or any number of other circumstances, depending on the players’ creativity. Which community had his/her raising, human or elfin, determines much of the character’s basic point of view.

Description

Half-elfs show the stamp of their elfin kin in the varying degrees of the length and pointedness of their ears, their fair and youthful complexions, and the almond shape of their eyes, a bit larger than human, rounder and tilted upwards at the outer corners. Half-elfin hair is generally fine and silky like that of an elf, but this and all other similar racial markers can vary in degree, typified as either “more human“ or “more elfin,” as each player desires. Among the “more elfin” a decent mustache is still possible if desired, maybe a goatee as well, where full-elfin blood precludes either. Half-elfs intent on emphasizing their elfin features commonly shave regularly as close as they can.

This description is based on the assumption of a mortal-born elf lay with a human. If it were of of the alfar, still tied to Faerie, the half-elf resulting is likely to be quite fair to be hold, but would not otherwise appear any different from a human, as the fey bound to dwell in Faerie appear the same.

The player must work out the specific details in his own mind. STA and beauty should be used to express the player’s preference – higher BTY and less STA being more elfin, less BTY and greater STA being more human.

The average half-elfin life expectancy is 100 years. Characters with above average CND can expect a longer life, barring any unforeseen injuries or accidents, a shorter span for those with below average CND.

Point of View

In human communities, half-elfs are often treated with jealousy and mistrust – jealousy of their “magickal” elfin blood, and mistrust of the strange elfin heritage they cannot fathom. The half-elfs’ lot is not an easy one. He is constantly faced with the inability of those around him to separate him, with his (more or less) exotic appearance, from the folk tales of the alfar and their kindred peoples of Faerie – never realizing that the folk of Faerie he is descended from look no different than they when they come to call, only far fairer. His allegiance often comes into question in troubled times. Is he more elf, or human? If it comes to a conflict between his peoples, which side does he claim? Although expressed in much more calm and easy ways, similar difficulties can arise for the half-elf raised among the elfin folk. When among elfin kind, their humanesque need for company, to be gregarious and socialize, is highlighted. When among humankind, they eventually miss the calm, gentle solitude of Nature.

While an elf might follow his instinctive reactions more readily, trusting the purity of their source, half-elfs tends to doubt and hesitate, unable to trust in Spirit as readily as the elfs do, but tend to be as fearful as any human.

To the elfs, humans are fiery and violent, not in control of their passions, and their very natures tragic. The judgement of the elf who found such an extraordinary human to lay with grants the child of that union the benefit of the doubt, merely. They may yet be reluctant to take those who share such a dangerous heritage to their breasts. If their human passions should gain control of them, what havoc might they not wreak?

Among the elfin folk among whom he was raised, the half-elf is generally be accepted as a true part of the community. Among the elfs a wandering lifestyle is far more easily identified with and accepted, even expected. As long as the half-elf continues to contribute to the well-being of the community he remains a part of it, and that does not necessarily mean materially. Attaining the goodwill of neighbors and bringing others around to living in harmony with the world is much more important to elfin folk.

It is when the character is apparently without roots, however, a vagabond traveller, a drifter, an unknown quantity as people of dual natures can sometimes be, that the peoples’ trust issues and fears can come into play – whether human or elfin.

Such strange folk as they must either integrate with a community, keep wandering, or live far enough away from society not to stir their imaginations.

The quality of the elf character’s relationships with the humans and the elfs depend largely on which people raised him and how he feels he was treated by them. As for the other races, the halfelf will obviously lean towards the points of view of the people who raised him, but his unique status will leave him free to make up his own mind. A foot in each of two worlds can bring a special insight in dealing with those still further afield.

If raised among the elfs, all half-elfin Huntsmen (Mariners or Boatmen among the sea elf or water elfs, as applicable) move almost like ghosts through their native terrain, raising the normal DV their skills provide against being heard or seen when being stealthy, tracked or tailed outdoors from just their att. mod. to the elf’s full (AGL). This same bonus is applied when determining the elf’s AV for losing a Tail and for exercising any of the Stealth skills in their native environs, as well.

Due to the close bonds of their people with the alfar of Færie, all mortal-born elfs share the Færie Sight so they may recognize their cousins when encountered on their visits to the mortal world, even when cloaked by Glamourie. 

Any færie Glamour of altered image or invisibility (which usually cloaks them and their habitations) of a POT equal to or less than the mortal elf’s AWA is considered ineffective, the elf seeing right through it at distances up to (MSS) yards. The POT of færie Glamourie the mortal elf can see through is diminished by one (1) for every yard it is located beyond that distance from him.

In addition, the elf character has an AV to sense and see any other spirits with the Spirit Sight within the same range, as if the character had the Sight at SL equal to his MSS, by means of an AWA check. 

IF the character is a practitioner of magick and equipped with the Spirit Sight skill, this is added to his AV as a bonus. 

It is quite possible that an elf feel the presence of such a spirit rather than see it if it wishes to remain hidden.

If raised among humans, only the elfin sight abilities manifest. Otherwise in regards to skills and abilities, the character will be as human.

I am so grateful for the great information I was able to pull together from these websites in writing this race description:

https://levigilant.com/Bulfinch_Mythology/bulfinch.englishatheist.org/b/Elves.html

http://www.timelessmyths.com/norse/beings.html#Elves

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elf