“Yes, it’s true. I am a first order scout of the southern reaches and I wear the black rose cluster. I took my first token of flesh at the battle of Areon plains and I wear it still, encased in silver around my left wrist as it is the fashion. They call me Imuril Derabel and the Zanimar labyrinth is my home, as it was my father’s and his before him. The markings you see on the wall, the intricate patterns and outlines, tell the story of when we first made these caves and others like them our home. This is our history, as place of beauty we have shared with the earth spirits for a thousand years. Do not believe this forest dweller, the pale-skinned wild elf, when he tells you that we were cast out of the forest. Hah! We were not cast out, we left by choice, stifled by the woods and leaves and animals! We knew that if we stayed with them we would never advance, never be a true power, so we headed out on our own to write our own destiny. A destiny of accomplishment and adventure! What hope did they have? Hiding in the trees, afraid of their own shadows and talking to men made of wood. Were we wrong to desire a more structured life, a world surrounded by the strength of impenetrable stone, a world of glorious darkness? I think not.
And their magic users, the Naru? What can they do if they have no wood to play with, no leaves from wich to make their poultices? Nothing! Our sorcerers can strip the flesh from a man’s bones and then reduce the bones to powder, all with a sideways glance and a flick of the wrist! They are nothing and we are everything!
You want to hear of our victories? They are many – have you the time? During the battle of Mal Yei we fought the Orcs of Goriath for the first time. That was a welcome challenge. The caves below Kirek ran bright scarlet that autumn morning, the ice and snow stained with orc blood, so we now wear a crimson crest upon our shields. That morning was like no other and while I feel great pride in having been there, our losses were great. I am positive that the Goriath knew we were coming! There is no other way they could have surprised us on the beach like that as we emerged from the cave mouth. If we ever find out who sold us over, they will feel a wrath like no other they have every experienced. But I cannot dwell on that. There is Voran to consider and we only have a few days to prepare. We are to accompany Lord Azarfar on what is referred to as a “diplomatic” mission. The mere thought of diplomacy is distasteful to my clique but we shall honor the assignment, riding the hidden, underground river to the meeting place so that no spies may report on our progress. There, Lord Azarfar will work on strengthening our alliance with the Hadab, supportend them in their fight against the Sun Elves. Although we appear to have similar goals, I still don’t fully trust them. They seem overly friendly and I feel they may have something up their sleeves. Or on those carpets their Sorcerers ride through the air. They spook me with their silent approach and I shall keep my hands near the hilt of my blade throughout the meeting.
I cannot say that I am entirely comfortable with these recent overtures at “friendship” with other races. We do not need them, they do not appreciate or respect us, so where do we go with this? It is better that we stay as we are, sequestered in our places of strength. Let them come to us, that’s what.”
Norlon – the Shadow Elves
With harsh features and a reputation to match, Shadow Elves are a particularly nasty race who believe that they are the only true elves. They do not see themselves as nasty or evil, their view is simply that it’s the other races which have strayed from the right path. A popular Shadow Elf saying which succinctly explains their philosophy is “those who allow others to pass will soon be left behind”. Suffice it to say that Shadow Elves are continually pushing forward.
The Norlon despise Humans and their ways and feel that the other elvish races are far too Human in their outlook, at times ignoring their elven heritage. This statement is actually not true, in any sense of the word, but that doesn’t stop the Shadow Elves from believing it. It is rumored that they cut the tips off the ears of elves they capture, “humanising” their appearance to match their actions, but this is believed to be apocryphal. While it is true that there are subtle and not-so-subtle color variations in the skin tone of every race, there are none so extreme as the difference between the Norlon of the south and those who live in the northern regions. Southern earldoms have deep-red skin like the color of molten lava while those of the north have blue skin and often dark-blue or purple hair. There is no clear reason for this regional difference but it is believed to date back to the time of the first age. No record exists which details what happened back then, but cave drawings and pictographs deep in the Zanimar cave system, as yet undeciphered, may hold the key.
When actively engaged in war, they enjoy inflicting as much terror and death as possible in their efforts to rout the enemy. Their Sacrificers follow them on every campagin to ensure regular offerings to the gods of war. They have been known to torture captured scouts and slaves en masse before a battle, using their terrified screams and agonising wails as the precursor to a disturbing battle chant of howls and shrieks. This caterwauling is sure to strike a nerve in even the most battle-hardened opponent.
Although they would better be classified as sadistic torturers, Shadow Elf scouts are very successful at finding out information from the other side, by whatever means necessary. They don’t bother to disguise their profession and will often have various implements of pain-infliction hanging from their belts, dangling from their saddles, or attached to an captive. Their arrogance is perceived to be one of their strengths as they exhibit no fear or dread regardless of the severity of the situation. They wear blackened chainmail and dulled partial plate, often adorned with bright red or blue flashes, and carry blackened scimitars and longbows. Norlon are proficient with a variety of contact poisons and paralyzing agents and their herbalists will pay highly for new plants and grains from distant places, hoping to create unique new potions of liquid wickedness.
Although Shadow Elves are known to use many different animals for their mounted troops, they tend to shy away from horses in favor of giant reptilian creatures manipulated and changed by their sorcerers. These beasts have been bred with a craving for human flesh and once they enter a battlefield, human opponents have as much to fear from the mounts as from the riders. Sorcery is a powerful element of Norlon culture and the several sects are highly revered. Witchcraft, although rare, is also practised by Shadow Elves, their Sorceresses and Witches are exceedingly beautiful, their spells making them irrestibile to males of all races, with two notable exceptions: Eszmerian Knight Templars and Undead.
As with all elven races, the strategies and tactics of the Norlon forces have been tried and tested over many centuries of constant war with most of the races which make up the world of Ascendallion. Thier standard formation will include a wall of warriors mixed with crossbowmen who fire home the charge when an enemy becomes disorganized. Labyrinth Guard will often leave their underground posts to either lay in ambush or to seize a dominant terrain feature. Beast Riders and Sacrificers are normally held in reserve and used to finish off a broken opponent.
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