In the citadels of the Aman, when an elf dies the whole city mourns. All trade is set aside, councils delayed.
Bards come forth and sing laments to help the bereaved with their loss. The grieving lasts for months, perhaps years. But as each lament is song, so too is a story told. Elves and their long lives build strong passions, unshakeable attachments. So each elf in turn tells his or her tale of the fallen one. The sad tales are told soon after the death, so as to let the grief flow along with the tears. Tales of all of the great works left undone… But after a time, the happier songs are sung, and this elf is recorded in history by his or her lineage and by all that he or she has wrought, all that will live on past this immortal life cut short.
Such is how the immortal deal with what is inevitable for the mortal.
One can imagine elven citadels cloaked in black for long centuries after war has bled them.
One can imagine such a grand funeral turned into something else, when the bards too cannot bear this loss and in the laments they sing of vengeance or worse—of spite.
And one can imagine that one death is cause enough for grief, but two lovers dying in each others arms or two sisters dying on each other’s swords, can turn grief to wrath…
cue epic death metal track…
I just had an image of an entire citadel so racked with grief that its inhabitants descend through spite and into the clutches of hatred. Transgressions mount upon transgressions, as each and all turn upon one another in an orgy of self-destruction and cannibalism until Those That Were Left now fear the light of the sun they once embraced and slink off to the deep dark places of the world.
Elves die of neither age nor sickness. That leaves three ways for them to depart from the world: accidents, grief, and at another’s hands.
The first takes but a small, slow toll, for the Elves are graceful and resilient; they do not stumble as Men would, and they do not succumb to many injuries that might fell those tainted by mortality.
Those who find the burden of their grief too great to bear are the outcasts and travelers who have deep ties among the less long-lived, but they are also the greatest, wisest, and most powerful among the Elves, for those are they who have seen the most and struggled hardest under the heaviest burdens. Each loss, be it into the west or into the halls of the afterlife, is a blow to the entire Elven people. The fall of loremaster is itself a matter of lore; the departure of the etharch echoes down through ages.
But it is death brought by war, by malice, and by hate that leave the deepest tracks in the long lives of the Elves, for these are the sources of grief and untimely death alike. Elves fall in battle, and those who knew them fall into the despair of grief, and so on in an outward ripple of loss. Every skirmish is a tragedy that plays out over centuries; a war clouds the hearts of every elf for millennia.
To understand Elves, you must understand that almost every Elf’s end comes as a direct or indirect consequence of violence. At the scale humans perceive, they live serene lives; to the Elves, however, the world is far more dark and dangerous a place than we can credit. They revel in the beauty of the slow turn of years knowing that sooner or later axe and claw will rend the beauty they live asunder. To us their years of grace are eternal; to them each year is an ephemeral moment of peace before the inevitable darkness.
“When a human dies it is as if a house is destroyed. When an elf dies it is like destroying a cathedral.” - Paula playing an elf during one of my first BW games
I imagine it drives neighboring humans crazy. “Damn citadel is still hung in black bunting and they still won’t trade. Wagons of expensive food brought up from the South sit rotting on the road. There’s no warehouse space left for other goods, and with no trade, no money, some are turning to banditry and it’s impossible to protect everything we’re waiting to bring to market. All this because one damn elf got itself shot? Hell, fourteen people have been killed out here since they closed their gates, and Tobias is like to die any day. Shows a man exactly what he means to an elf, don’t it?”