The elves say they were the first primates on Tygan to master tools, according to the testimony of wyrms and the fossil record. According to elven legend, they were blessed by one of Tygan’s elder wyrms, helping them to master untapped potential in their minds and to better exploit their surroundings. Even many elven scholars point out that while the elves have a complete biography for every prominent noble going back to the first cities, there’s no mention of which elder dragon was supposed to have given this blessing. No dragon ever backed up this story, and most of those willing to discuss the idea openly mock it.
Tygan’s modern archaeologists mostly agree that elves owe their survival to their natural agility. The lighter build of an elf allows her to more easily and more quietly move over any kind of terrain, and even a few seconds’ lead was vital to escape Tygan’s many apex predators. This also allowed early elves to swoop in rapidly and snatch meals from under the noses of animals they could not or would not face directly, helping to pad out their diet. This ‘scavenger’ narrative is often used by revisionist elves to argue for their people’s greater resourcefulness. Humans and dwarves counter that it simply shows elves have a long history of taking things they haven’t earned.
Elves soon associated more closely with other budding humanoids, primarily humans and dwarves, whose own survival strategies centered on cooperation between groups and made them more inclined to use diplomacy before fighting. The elves purposely avoided any contact with orcs until long after the rise of civilization. While the common idea of orcs as mindless barbarians is entirely unfair, they were much more individualist in early history and no elves wanted to build a society with a species known for being antisocial.
The vainer elves of Tygan still credit their people with uplifting both themselves and other primates to civilization. These elves claim credit for just about every invention in history from flint knapping to create basic tools to the wheel, pottery, writing and harnessing and studying magic. They argue that humans and dwarves learned everything, usually appended with ‘what little they know,’ from benevolent elves, and that neither species would have gotten anywhere otherwise. The fossil records from any given part of Tygan in this timeframe show these claims are mistaken at best and malicious lies at worst. There are many dig sites from the period identified as dwarven or human where equally advanced tools are found. Archaeologists note that humans showed a preference for harder, more brittle stones that hold a finer edge but are more prone to snapping, where the dwarves experimented with a broad array of options, and that both species used different types of wood; oak for humans, pine for the dwarves. This distinguishes their tools from those of elves, which tended to be lightly constructed from shatter-resistant rocks or bones.
Many of the first cities were built through partnerships between elves, humans and dwarves, proven by the huge variety of different tool marks present on the oldest levels of these cities. Many of these marks fit styles exclusive to either humans or dwarves. Two examples are the human Ulmonna-style hammer, made from one of several extremely hard rocks and then carefully shaped to produce somewhat narrowed front used for cracking large blocks , and the dwarven-originated Mitrian chisel, made from a length of quartz reinforced with bark and fur wrapping and used for fine engraving. In spite of these partnerships, elves quickly became the dominant citizens in almost all of these cities, perhaps due to a population explosion they experienced around this time. At best humans and dwarves became second-class citizens, limited to middling jobs and often ignored when it came to government. Far more common however were humans and dwarves being exploited as slave labor, exploited to build increasingly extravagant elven cities.
Many elven elitists use the discrepancy between literature, art and history provided by elves versus those provided by humans and dwarves as a sign of greater elven intelligence, but the records show that many human and dwarven contributions were confiscated, destroyed, or falsely attributed to an elf or part-elf.
Elves now controlled the vast majority of civilized Tygan, and they began the construction of their capital city Reuel on the south-west coast of Haiden. They used the treasure gained by centuries of slave labor to negotiate with two great wyrms to help build the city. Reuel swelled within a few years to become the largest and most prosperous city of its time. Its elven population lived in truly remarkable splendor; elves often said that ‘There is no royalty in Reuel, for everyone lives like a king!” The city’s human and dwarven population, as always, were not so fortunate. Life as a slave in Reuel was both cheap and very brief except in the case of slaves lucky enough to be bought by a humane elf, but they were still unprotected from any number of crimes committed against them in such a large city. Reuel’s elven courts ignored anything that happened to a slave except in the rare instance that his owner was both very powerful and extremely offended at the loss of there property. Reuel turned out to be the breaking point which triggered the First Great War between the elven hierarchs and their underlings, a war which the elves lost.
With the rebel ranks swelling and their own recruiting pools suddenly empty after the defeat, the elven hierarchs had no choice but to agree to a treaty freeing all slaves and banning further slavery in order to preserve Reuel. But even after the war, humans and dwarves remained second-class citizens in elven cities. While most of them simply chose to leave elven cities to build their own, those who stayed faced ongoing stigma. There was a drive to amend the treaty to exploit orcs as slaves a few centuries later, but the human and dwarven leaders unilaterally condemned the idea, and even some of the elves opposed the measure, which quickly died.
But it wasn’t until the destruction of Reuel that elven society and the way they viewed their fellow ape castes began to change. A human geologist under the employment of Haiden’s rulers warned that the ground beneath Reuel was unstable due to millennia of seawater infiltration, and one large quake along Reuel’s nearby fault-line would drop the city into the sea. Many other scientists and some of the general public were concerned by his evidence and requested money for a full-scale survey and a team to draft an evacuation plan. Reuel’s magistrates balked, pointing out that the geologist was human and on that basis alone he couldn’t possibly be correct. Those elves who sided with him as evidence mounted were accused of being corrupted or naive, duped by the human’s ‘shifting verbal sands,’ as one magistrate pompously said.
The human refused to be silent, and he stepped up his protests when he found evidence that the quake was coming within a few months and the evacuation needed to begin immediately. His warnings went unheeded save for a few dozen of the city’s residents, who packed up and left rather than trying to persuade others to leave. On the day the quake came, the geologist and his friends finally gave up and left the city. Hours later, a quake felt even on the opposite side of Tygan snapped Reuel’s worn foundations and drowned the entire city in less than ten minutes. Only about a few people escaped, but a number of Reuel’s leaders were attending trade hearings in other cities at the time, leaving them to face the backlash just days later. The geologist was hailed as a hero struggling in vain against the ignorance of those around him, and the hierarchs were subject to merciless (figurative) evisceration by those who once revered them.
Many stepped forward to accuse the hierarchs of not only taking the science too lightly, but of allowing their prejudices to cloud their minds to the point where it took the death of a city to clear them. Reuel’s hierarchs were exiled from civilization to live out the rest of their days in shame, separated even from each other. The destruction of Reuel killed millions and shattered Haiden’s economy as the millennia of wealth in its banks were drowned by saltwater; it took over a century for the country to fully recover. The one good thing to come from the city’s annihilation was the Renaissance of Reflection. Faced with this final proof that humans were no less capable than elves, many elven leaders began a broad movement to soften their views of humans and dwarves. To this day the destruction of Reuel is one of the signature events in elven history and that of greater Tygan. The elves since relocated their capitol to the city of Gilliam, named after the elven founder of the Paladins, a prosperous city sculpted into the ice fields across the sea from Haiden.
The Renaissance of Reflection is still ongoing, though elves still hold the majority of authority positions on Haiden. Nobility for example is still a class that is predominantly elven. Many of those lineages survive to this day, and still occupy positions of government. Elves also have a large presence in academics, occupying teaching positions at many of the most sought after universities on the planet, most of which are elven run on their current continent. There has been some concern for scholars and students of other races that there are not a lot of opportunities to achieve positions of authority in these schools, which is why the majority of non-elves seeking an education immigrate to Haiden, where opportunity is richer. Elves also hold positions in finance, running banks and treasuries.
In spite of this, changes are being made, especially in the academic field. Works are currently being restored to their original authors in most elven-run colleges, much to the disdain of more elitist elves. In most schools, this is also a requirement to achieve a passing grade, refusal to do so being marked as bias against other creeds. This is an especially serious offense in the most up to date of schools considering such biases were responsible for the destruction of Reuel. Students who hold such views can often only achieve passing grades by transferring their credits to some of the more regressive elven run schools on Tygan. This fortunately is not the case the majority of the time, and such restoration projects have been shown to have positive effects on students.
In spite of their unsavory history, elves do have a fascinating culture that is revered by even their most harsh critics. For example while they did not found the art of arcana, they did perfect it. Though this is due to humans and dwarves being excluded from the efforts no doubt, credit is still extended where it is due. As such, elves have a greater natural understanding of magic that most humans and dwarves do not.
Elves also have a greater reverence for nature than humans, dwarves or orcs. This has been attributed to overall being more educated but the truth may be it is more closely related to their biology. Given their body structure, they are excellent runners and climbers, allowing them to more quickly climb and traverse trees than humans and certainly better than bulky dwarves and orcs. Due to this, as a society they spend much of their time away from cities and around nature, versing themselves well in the workings of the natural world. A favorite form of transportation for elves is the art of tree hopping, which while easy for an elf, is much more difficult for other creeds to master.
Given their connection with nature, elves for the most part do not purchase produce once they have settled down, instead tending to and caring for their own gardens, specifically designated for the lushest most rich fruits and vegetables to be found in any climate. It is not uncommon to find elves selling their own produce for extra coin should they require it, and in especially large elven populations, they are often paid by the local royalty to hand over some of their crop for worldwide distribution.
As such, much of elven culture has to do with nature, from their art to their cities. Even the oldest of elven cities have been noted to be constructed as to not interfere with whatever local ecosystem they inhabit. Reuel for example was built in such a way that it would not inhibit the runoff from the local mountains and rivers from reaching the ocean. Though Reuel and Gilliam are noteworthy exceptions, most elven cities can be found in more temperate forest settings. When constructing a city, elves do not cut down the trees, but rather construct their buildings around them as to use the trees as supports, with the roofs specially designed to provide the trees wit as much water and sun as they require.
Another focus of elven culture is academia and intelligence. Great understanding of history, science and literature are highly revered in elven circles, with teaching considered the most prestigious position outside of royalty or nobility. Often those who have shown great success in academic professions are enlisted to assist or inhabit positions of government. As such, some of the greatest of elven professors and teachers can find themselves a second home amongst their hierarchs, where they are treated with as much respect and courtesy as their fellow royals. Such elves are known to be very cultured and well mannered, though some critics have referred to such individuals as stuck up and pretentious.
Given their status, elves were among the hardest hit when Assylyl first set foot on Tygan. During this time, some of the largest cities on the planet still were run and populated, for the most part, by elves, causing their population to take several severe hits whenever Assylyl desired to feast. Being more modest cities overall, human, dwarven and orcish cities, while still attacked, it was not nearly to the extent that the elves suffered in terms of loss of life. The only silver lining for the elves was that Gilliam, their largest most prosperous city, was spared. Assylyl was defeated shortly before he crossed the water to consume it.
Though elves remain one of the driving forces on Tygan, they are gradually being matched, after all this time, by humans, dwarves and orcs. The setbacks since the destruction of Reuel have set them to equal footing with their former slaves, and Assylyl’s rampage hit the elves hardest of all. The elves’ own prejudices stifled civilization for millennia, hurting not only themselves but the whole of Tygan. After Assylyl’s downfall the rest of the world views the elves in a more sympathetic light; whether the elves will use their handful of opportunities well remains to be seen.