Dark elves, or Charneldar in Eldarin, are an ancient and twisted people that have a history of surviving in the least hospitable of conditions, all the while evolving and developing their society. They are best characterized by their extreme and excessive approach to all things. Cynical and egoistic beyond understanding, they have achieved much of their success at the severe expense of other civilisations, and are universally hated like no other race. In the eyes of other peoples, they have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Their intrigues and machinations gave birth too many unjust wars and disasters in the old world - the dark elves do not hesitate to sacrifice any number of "lesser creatures" to further the pettiest of their own interests. Even though Malekith's time as a superpower is long past, the sinister Charneldar will not soon be forgotten.
- Dark, purple-black skin
- Signature pointed ears of Elves
- Black and Silver hair
- Grey, yellow or red eyes
- Lithe, slender body type
- Tattoos and piercings are commonplace
The dark elves' most distinguishing feature is their purple skin, which is usually of a very dark, almost black hue. Warlocks spend most of their lives indoors, so their skin is usually much bleaker. Like all elves, Charneldar have pointed ears of wildly varying length. Their facial features are slightly, but visibly sharper than those of other elves, and they usually have a more "angry" brow curve, which in combination with their blade-sharp, carnivorous teeth gives them a rather savage and predatory appearance. Common eye colors include grey, yellow and red; their hair is black, silver, and rarely red. A blonde dark elf is most certainly a vampire, who then would also have pale skin and look almost like a moon elf to the untrained eye.
Charneldar build muscle much slower than humans, and since their society does not allow couch potatoes, they are all very lithe, with only Warriors being more on the fit side. Because symbolism and imagery plays an important role in dark elven culture, tattoos and piercings are highly abundant. Every single dark elf has at least one tattoo displaying the kabal they belong to, but many choose to imprint other meaningful marks on their skin, ranging from icons of a deity to runes with actual magical enchantments. Dark elf fashion is less about clothing and more about these marks and various piercings - you can create any symbol from any material and put it anywhere on your body, so the variety is literally unending. Yet, a Charneldar must think carefully about the meaning of the imagery he or she employs, because symbols are never just for show - they attract very real spiritual influence from the Dreaming.
Magic Affinity: The dark elves' most important power is the ease with which they can tap into the Web of Dreaming. While talent alone is worthless without practice, it is this gift that ensures their survival to this day. All dark elves can use magic to some degree - Sybarites, which usually don't study magic at all, can learn basic spells in a very short time if necessary. Warriors can become deadly battle mages in a matter of months, something that would take decades for a human. But most notable in this regard are the Warlocks, which devote their entire existences to studying magic - their own achievements have put common sense in question so many times that sanity has become a rare trait among them.
Intellect: Charneldar have a rather high average brain capacity by human standards. This has a subtle, but noticeable influence on their everyday lives, allowing them to learn and perform all things faster and more efficiently. It is applied to different ends in different kabals - Warriors can learn more combat skills; more amusing are the Sybarites who make full use of their natural wit by playing chess on ten boards at once, for example. Of course, it is also the premise of their financial and political shrewdness that a member of another species would have to study long and hard for. It is Warlocks that use their expanded minds in the most productive way – research. It is through this biological superiority, coupled with an unshakeable thirst for knowledge, that the Warlocks could elevate Malekith to such heights both magically and technologically. This trait is also the primary reason for the racist attitude towards the "dumb cattle" of humanity that makes up the majority of world's population.
Agility: Like all elves, Charneldar are blessed with a certain degree of grace in their movements, though to a lesser extent than the wood elves are. Their bodies are not made for endurance, such as manual labour or distance running, but for high-performance short-term action such as leaping and sprinting. Dark elves tire quickly when exerted, but when they're still full of vigour, conditioned Warriors can move faster, aim better and strike truer than what most other races can physically achieve, even with rigorous training. Dexterity is not only useful for combat - Sybarites make bewitching dancers and skilled jewel crafters, for example. Because Warlocks neglect physical training of any kind, they are not as agile as their counterparts, but the innate grace and flow is still evident in their motions.
Dark elven cuisine makes major use of soul essence, which has become their main source of nourishment. The glowing, gaseous purple substance is solved in a grass of water and then ingested. It tastes like strong alcohol and has an invigorating effect that lasts for about six hours. However, this alone is not enough to sustain a person indefinitely. At least once a week, they need to eat some biological food to keep their bodies running. Since Malekith is build on a bare mountain, cultivating things like cattle and vegetables is impossible, and considering the current Malkian state of diplomacy, import is out of the question.
One organic commodity that the dark elves have ready access to are slaves, which are regularly abducted from outlying human settlements. Slaves that have expended their usefulness can be prepared in a variety of ways - a Charneldar cookbook will always be filled at least to half with recipes for human flesh. This is especially important for young individuals who are still growing and need tangible food to develop properly. Whenever they can be obtained, other meats are also appreciated - dragon and angel flesh, for example, are coveted delicacies
Compared to most other races, the dark elven menu is rather spartan: meat, water and soul essence; though Sybarites often get their hands on fancier food by infiltrating foreign markets. The foundation of the Charneldarin national health is the soul essence they ingest on a regular basis, as it provides a sort of magical metabolism and omits the need for as much biological nutrition. No one yet understands exactly how that works and what the long-term effects are, but time will show.
Dark elves live 300 years on average, with males being slightly more persistent than females. Their physical development is about as fast as that of humans, up until around 25 when their visual aging slows down to almost nothing. Their mental development is more rapid – they can already speak and read fluently at the age of 3, and become exponentially more clever afterwards. After they reach 25, their age can be determined through conversation – even if they look about the same, a 100 year old Charneldar will sound far more eloquent and insightful than a 40 year old one. After they hit around 200, their physical aging resumes at the same rate as that of humans. This means that dark elves wither very ungracefully in their later years – a 300 year old dark elf will look like a 125 year old human. Not to mention that many Warlocks have found ways to prolong their life spans further... this might explain why they always wear masks.
Perhaps the biggest racial weakness of dark elves is that it takes ten years to bear a child. Females are fertile for most of their lives, from around 20 to 200, but it is very rare for a woman to have more than one child since pregnancy is so bothersome and makes performing kabal duties harder. Females are advised to have a child as early in life as possible, because as a Charneldar gets older, it becomes more and more psychologically difficult to interrupt their life routine. In order to actually grow the Malkian population, the government invented entire "motherly" employments where the woman's only task is to bear and raise children, though it takes some serious convincing to make a dark elf choose such a boring route in life. Males are fertile for the same period of time as females, but don't suffer from any real difficulties since they don't have to be pregnant for ten years at a time.
The dark elven race can be described in one word: extreme. Whenever they're doing something, anything at all, Charneldar feel the need to take it beyond the brink of common sense. Moderation and restraint are weaknesses that blemish the lesser races; a dark elf will suffer no boundaries. Initially a philosophy, this type of behaviour has integrated itself on a genetic level. It has given rise to such cruelty, madness and perversion that other races even find hard to believe. It is also more or less the reason of their success as a society: to relish what others reject, to thread where others dare not.
Habitat & Architecture:
Malekith is situated high in the mountains, where the average air temperature is below 0° C outside of the walls. This place was chosen because of its inaccessibility, and living in an environment others would find uninhabitable is nothing new to this race. Dark elves fancy jagged edges, and it is evident in their constructions. The most prominent characteristic of their city, however, is the massive, multi-layered wall that divides the streets. Seeming claustrophobic at first, it gives the paranoid Charneldar a sense of security, as well as keeping out the cold mountain winds.
The dark elves have a number of slave-driven manufacturing facilities in their city, but mass production of anything is not nearly as evident as in human cities. Only necessary industrial commodities such as furniture, electronics and armaments are produced at factories. Anywhere personal flair can be applied, such as clothing, is hand-made by Sybarite craftsmen. Though dark elves have their own highly advanced branch of technology, it cannot account for all the needs of life - much of the mundane technology, such as electric light and radio, was originally stolen from other races.
Malekith doesn't produce anything for export - at least not anything that a self-respecting human merchant would want to buy. In good faith for the ancient Arcadian ways, the Sybarites bring a large part of the income through the black markets they establish in other cities. Of course, not all of their business is illegal - the art of buying a piece of soap for one coin and selling it for ten is something they are also well versed in. In summary, most of their efforts consist of breaking into foreign markets rather than making their own... although there are darker clients interested in the wondrous soul essence, and they will pay very, very much for it.
For more details about soul essence, see Soul Essence.
The Malkian society is divided into three kabals, according to the philosphy of Arcanum, the dark elven religion. For more details, see Dark Elf Kabal.
Family life as such does not exist in Malekith. Children share their parents' home until the age of 6, but are not raised by them. During their very first years of life, they are taken care of by professional "mothers" until they develop enough to have rational thought. Afterwards, they choose an adult as a mentor in a particular kabal that they like. If accepted as an apprentice by that person, they will learn their craft until they are ready to practice it on their own. For example, a little boy is interested in mechanics. He seeks out a Warrior who specializes in mechanical engineering and convinces him to take him as an apprentice. Once the Warrior agrees, the boy officially becomes a part of the Murder kabal and moves in with his mentor. He stays with him until he feels that he has nothing more to learn, upon which moment he is free to leave and make his own craft. There are no emotional attachments between parents and children. Children can becomes their own parents' apprentices, but that only happens on coincidence.
There is no concept of marriage in the dark elven society, and "romantic love" is viewed very loosely. You can have ten lovers if you want; it's unusual for anyone to get jealous because each of your lovers probably has ten lovers of their own. Some kabals place more emphasis on it than others - Warlocks, for example, concern themselves very little with romance in the first place, while the relationship web of a Sybarite can have truly mind-bending complexity. Most people choose to build relationships with people of their own kabal, because it means common interests and regular contact. There's no concept of "spending quality time with your family". because that would mean less time for kabalite practices, and that's the single best way to spend time if you ask any dark elf.
Malekith lacks any form of organized schools. Instead, the smallest children are taught the basic values of life by "mothers" at kindergarten-like facilities. Once they develop conscious thought and awareness of the world around them, they experiment with different things and choose an adult of their liking to be their mentor. The basic idea is that nobody knows better than yourself what you want in life, and only you can choose a teacher that will suit your demands and will teach you what you want to know. Apprentices are obliged to follow their mentor's instructions, while mentors are obliged to spend time with their apprentices and actually instruct them. Any violations on both parts are easily noticed by the surroundings and punished.
Of course, not all adults accept apprentices in the first place. It's generally hardest to find a willing Warlock - nothing's worse than a runt who always butts in and interrupts your research with silly questions. To encourage people to accept apprentices, the government offers various benefits to a mentor, including things like additional rations of soul essence and better equipment for their work. If a child remains mentor-less by the age of 6, it is considered a serious emergency and he or she is forcibly placed in someone's care. But such cases are rare - idleness is uncommon among the Charneldar, and everyone tends to strive for something.
Culture & Arts:
Culture in the conventional sense is prominent among the hedonistic Sybarites. They are very interested in painting, music, tailoring, sculpture and poetry among other things. Any way to express yourself attracts a dark elf who follows the path of Passion, and the customs of other races have any amount of ways to do it - the reason why Sybarites are much more cosmopolitan than other dark elves. But like with all things, they take an extreme approach to it - their paintings are be both breathtakingly beautiful and absolutely repulsive, while their music can bring both joy and depression the listener, all of that at the same time in a wild torrent of emotion.
They are obsessed with night life, and spend much time at night clubs drinking, dancing and doing other things. Some even open their own night clubs in other cities. Probably due to the influence of their succubus Archon, much of what they do has a sexual undertone. In summary, Sybarites practice mostly foreign culture, but warp and pervert to their own tastes.
Warriors are addicted to adrenaline, and smearing a canvas with paint brings them no joy. Instead they engage in sports: the more dangerous, the better. Hunting savage beasts and racing on horses or hoverbikes are the most popular things Warriors like to do when they're off work and "resting". They are fond of great events, and have two yearly festivals - the Wild Race in winter and the Wild Hunt in summer. The Wild Race is a hoverbike marathon, with a 400km course that stretches through the mountains, woods and plains all around Malekith. The course is deadly and the survival odds are low, but it is in lethal danger that a true Warrior feels safest.
The Wild Hunt is an event where a group of slaves are released into the wilderness at dawn, and the competitors must hunt them down before the day is up. Those slaves who managed to survive until dusk have earned their freedom, as it would take a truly extraordinary human to outrun and outwit a Wild Hunter. Warriors also employ more mundane forms of sport that they borrow from other races, such as athletics, acrobatics and ball games, but it is the Hunt and the Race where they can prove their skills in full. A passtime unique to Warrior culture is the refinement of torture techniques to be used on slaves and enemies.
Recreation has no place in the life of a Warlock - anything not related to studying is simply a waste of time. They are only concerned with knowledge and its pursuit, and take it so seriously that even other dark elves find them silly sometimes. If they eat dinner with one hand, they will hold a book in the other. If they have to go somewhere, they will practice some sort of spell long the way or have a telepathic discussion with another Warlock about some theory. Torture is both an art and a science, and one of Warlocks' main line of duty in the dark elven society, unlike as for the Warriors who only see it as a hobby. Inflicting pain, both physical and psychological, is necessary to extract soul essence from victims - the greater their suffering, the more essence can be harvested. Therefore, torture is a craft you can never get too good at. Their rune inscriptions can also be seen as a form of art, because some of the more advanced runes look absurdly complex and are rather stimulating to the eye.
Because of their cold and utilitarian mindset, romance and sexuality is seen as something necessary rather than something enjoyable, and sports don't interest them at all. Though many Warlocks wear very elaborate outfits, they have nothing to do with fashion, as every piece of their dress has some sort of magical function. As far as conventional culture is concerned, followers of Grief do not allow any pointless customs to obstruct their main path, and are therefore viewed as quite boring. Not that they have time to care about anyone else's opinion, of course.
Charneldar speak Eldarin, the common elven tongue, with a subtle Noldor accent. Male names usually have two syllables and often end with -al, -il or -ir, like Sandral and Vanhir. Common female names end with -ana -en and -in and often have two vocals in a row, like Lealin and Daerana. Family names are not granted at birth, but upon joining a clan - if, for example, Sandral joined the Bloodletter clan, he would then be named Sandral the Bloodletter. Clanless individuals have no last name and are considered second-rate, unless they have achieved something spectacular, in which case they're granted a title according to their accomplishment. Titles are issued by the monarch, and only to clanless persons to distinguish them from the "rabble".
Let's say our Sandral mastered lightning magic to an extraordinary degree, he would be dubbed Sandral the Stormcaller; if he became an unparallelled virtuoso on a hoverbike he would be dubbed Sandral the Windstrider, and so on. Titles are only given to the most oustanding individuals and command great respect. These individuals face no lack of willing apprentices and often start their own clans - the Windstrider clan of the Murder kabal that specializes in hoverbike piloting, in this case.
It is worth noting that members of different kabals use very different vocabularies. Sybarites tend to sound more eloquent, varied and poetic. Warriors have many technical terms for their weapons and technologies, but use a rather simple and unembellished language in mundane situations.Warlocks tend to be highly laconic, because putting their unfathomable mass of thoughts into flowery terms would take forever.
Charneldar follow Arcanum, an ancient religion that predates Malekith itself and even the rise of the dark elven civilisation as such. The original Arcanum was a shamanistic practice related to communion with the dead, but has changed and evolved over three millennia into something more complete. According to modern Arcanum, when a sentient creature is born, it is born on three planes at once: physical, astral and mental. Their bodies are born on the physical plane, and give them the ability to interact with the world. Their emotions are born on the astral plane, and give them the ability to feel the world. Lastly, their minds are born on the mental plane and allow them to understand the world. Because life is too short to do everything, one must choose what they want to focus on and strive to perfect their interaction, feeling or understanding of the universe as much as they can - there are no restraints. There is no final goal, no absolute purpose, only eternal movement and eternal change.
Deities and worship are not central in Arcanum, but it's viable to request the aid of a powerful being to further your own needs. Warriors give praise to Legion, the god of murder and omnicide. Warlocks sometime attune to Nagash, the daeva of secrets and mystery, along with a number of other intellectual gods. Sybarites don't have any particular deity they worship, though they have been known to adapt some idols and rituals from other cultures, mainly those related to pleasure. All Charneldar follow Arcanum, for it stems from their fundamental nature that cannot be denied by any one of them. Ironically, it is not a dark elf that has put the modern Arcanum into words, but a succubus, who has succeded in formulating the primal instincts of a race into an actual codex to live by.
Immigration & Emigration:
The dark elven population numbers in only 100 thousand - just enough to be considered a major race. Their single notable community is the city-state of Malekith, which is demographically almost completely isolated. Due to their abysmal reputation with other peoples, it's not practically possible for a dark elf to move out into some other city - most races attack them on sight. There's no particular desire to leave, either - dark elves consider their society to be the only sensible one, all other cities are just cattle farms to be raided for slaves.
Because of this mutual alienation and disrespect, Charneldar have virtually no friendly interaction with other races, let alone any interchargeable communities. Therefore, no dark elf would seek to go out in the world and "seek their fortune". Exceptions include industrious Sybarites who through guile, charisma and some minor disguising perhaps, have wormed their way into the social and economical fabric of various cities. The occasional Warlock might feel the need to travel incognito in order to pursue a specific field of knowledge. Other than that, dark elves live only in their true home of Malekith, and intend to keep it that way.