Elves at War

Elves rarely go to war as a people. There is no Elven nation or even single kingdom. Immortal grief makes Elves an inward focused people. Entanglements in the affairs of Men, Dwarves and even other Elves lead inexorably to tragedy. It is better to remain aloof in petty dealings than to risk becoming ensnared.

However, they are not without a moral center. When their great enemy rises, so too do they rise. And the Elven people at war is a fearsome sight.
In body they are hale, in mind sharp. And every one of them capable of wielding powerful magic.
While not as skilled in craft as Dwarves, they are well armed and harnessed.

In the art of battle, they are unmatched:
The young bend bow-staves and let loose cloth-yard shafts.
The daring, the grief-wracked and the strong take their ranks among the spear-bearers, sword-singers and lancers.
The cunning and the fleet of foot wear the gray mantles.
Their heralds rally their friends and send terror into the hearts of their enemies.
Their spies know what lies within every door.
Their leaders communicate through dreams, look into the hearts of traitors, and lead from the front with crushing pugnacity.
And every Elf that is too grief-stricken, or too young, to fight becomes a potent healer, an enchanter of blades, a weaver of magics.

Pitched battle
On the field, Elves stand in proud regiments: Sword-singers, lancers, spear-bearers and bowyers comprise the main body, while rangers and outriders protect the wings.
At dawn, one of princes rides up and down the ranks reciting the Anthem of Courage, ensuring that no Elf in the army leaves his or her place in rank.
Meanwhile, aided by their Seconds and Attendants, Sword Singers chant fell litanies over their blades, preparing for battle.
The lancers give their mounts the Gift of Speed, and then slowly channel their grief into rage…
Grey mantles filter out to the flanks, singing softly, working their way to the enemy rear.
Another prince, the most fearsome, mounts his steed in the first rank of the lancers, invoking the Ballad of Rage.

The bowyers are given the sign to shower the enemy with their deadly darts. The outriders canter forth, feeling out the edges of the enemy position.

And then, a pause falls on the ranks. A hush floats over their mithril clad forms, and dread fills the hearts of the enemies. Cantering to the fore, come the proudest, fiercest Elven warriors, lead by a puissant prince. Desperate, the enemy turns his archers and artillery toward this deadly phalanx. But to no avail. As one with a cry, the lancers launch themselves into the fray, bursting into lambent flames, hurtling across the pitch…their enemies, unable to bear the sight, flee and are run down.

The clever prince signals to his captains, who then sing forth the Hymn of Victory. As the cavalry wheels and reforms for a second charge, the Hymn transfixes their opponent. He cannot run, he can only stand horrified as he is cut down by the marauding horsemen. Thus the enemy center falls.

As the shock of the cavalry still reverberates in the enemy ranks, sword singers and spear-bears advance in support of one another. There is no match for an Elven sword singer in all of his glory. Protected on his flanks by redoubtable spears, they undertake the grim labor of cutting through the enemy rank and file. It’s bloody, but necessary work.

And as Elves fall in the press as is inevitable, Seconds rush unflinching to their aid—to stand in their place and hold while their bonded master makes his way to the rear.

Outriders and bowyers thwart attempts on the flanks.

Gray mantles assault the artillery crews, assassinate leaders and burn supply.

Any Elves who are wounded are conducted to the care of a soother who sings over them the Song of Soothing, Lyric of Healing and Doom of Strength, and plies them with Elven mirror-wine. Already fortified by their ration of Elven bread and fresh from the Monody of the March, the wounded are quickly ready for the fight again.

Thus, even few in number, the Elven force is more than equal to a host many times its number.

Siege
Eschewing the main force of artillery and war-machinery, Elves do not siege. They take fortifications by assault and infiltration. Grey mantles move unseen across the field, and enter into defended positions either assassinating leadership or throwing wide the gates for the main force.

Navy
While they are clearly formidable on land, Elves are also incomparable sailors. The weather is ever in their favor, and their navigators and pilots are the most skilled. Thus supplies, transport and reinforcements are delivered efficiently. Their navy grants them the ability to choose the time and place of battle, making their magic and force all the more potent.

Downfall
Of course, their greatest strength in war is also their downfall. Grief fuels their prowess, but it also takes its toll. Some cannot bear the toll of carnage and, as their friends and loved ones are cut down, so too do they die with them under the burden of immortal grief. But worse are those who succumb to the lure of rage and hate, channeling their wrath into spite—falling to darkness. These fell creatures become the enemy within, and are inevitably the undoing of the Elves.

2 Likes

Great stuff. It was all there the whole time in the lifepaths, but to see it assembled in such a way is thrilling. Makes me want to play an Elf War campaign!

Effin’ elves, problems arise when their pointy shoe’d legions rub up against dwarven siege engines and crossbows, orc great wolf cav and humans led into battle with Faithful holy knights.

Fun post, Luke!

Grey Perception + Strategy + Wises.

Immune to natural cold, heat and sickness.

(shudder)

Chris

Song of Burning Bright (“bursting into lambent flames”).

One of my current campaigns takes place in the aftermath of a war between two human nations, that the Elves got drawn into. While the Elven hosts were away, the Orcs sacked the unguarded Elven homeland. One of the PCs is an Elven soldier who’s grief-stricken over the destruction of his homeland, but doesn’t have any real ill-will towards the humans. The same can not be said for a Dark Elf NPC whose bitter as hell over the whole affair.

Awesome.

I’m going to print this.

Thinking about the music and internal beauty in Elves and their songs sold me on them. Just walking into a town should be overwhelming.

If Elves are slow to anger and rarely mustered to war, whence comes their military tradition? Herein is another benefit of their immortality. Traditions run long and deep in the Elves. A host that fought a battle in the last age may impart its wisdom to fresh recruits training today. And since their magic is egalitarian, their most potent traditions may be shared as needs warrant.

I’m reminded of the way in which trees have extremely large amounts of DNA, far more than humans - a vast library of protein recipes for dealing with threats of all kinds. You need that when you can’t run away, or even scratch yourself.

I used to play High Elves in GW’s Warmaster. When it occurred to me that each death was the death of someone who had lived hundreds of years. For elves, individuals have been parts of their community so long they must be as much like institutions or traditions as they are people. When they die, a whole way of life could be changed.

Or as my friend Paula put it while playing an elven bodyguard to a princess, “Killing a human is destroying a house; killing an elf is destroying a cathedral.”

Your strategy looks good on paper, but falls apart when your prince is ripped apart by balrogs wielding flame whips or smashed on the head by Melkor’s black mace.

Balrog still gotta pass his Steel test…

Touche, LC.

Your post was freaking SICK Luke! Love it.

I especially like the last sentence. For all their aloofness, they get dragged along the path of destruction by Dark Elves in their ranks. I had always thought of the Paths of Spite as an Outcast-type sub-setting for elves, but it seems much cooler if they are still members of society, corrupting it from within.