The Elven, Houses and ArmysAuthor: Excelsior Entertainment © 2003
HistoryPower and wealth are everything in Elven society. An ancient system of noble Houses makes up what passes for their domain, an vast expanse of land that knows no borders as we have come to know them. Elves rarely acknowledge national boundaries believing they have the right to travel anywhere they desire and rule where they pause to rest. For centuries two Houses were dominant among the Elves: The House of Helios and the House of the Crystal Lotus. In recent times, a third, the House of the Obsidian Serpent has come to the fore and established itself as a major power.
The dark rumors spreading about the Obsidian Court harkens back to the early days of Elven history when another House was dominant, one no longer spoken of; one whose deeds were so foul, their very existence was erased from the Elven histories. The House was known by many names, The Shadow House, The House of the Great Lord and others unspeakable in any mortal tongue. All their kin for one simple reason cursed these Elves; they openly worshipped the Dark One. It was only after years of terror that the other houses acted together. Duke Zazenís distant forefather lost his daughter to Duke Remoran, Head of the Shadow House, and raised his banner to take on his rival even though such an act seemed doomed. In those days the Crystal Lotusí power was far less than it is today. Other Houses rallied to the Dukeís standard and marched on Remoranís dark citadel in the heart of what later became known as the Dreadlands. In its day this was a vibrant and healthy realm, lush with exotic flora and fauna. The sorcery used by the Lotus-Eaters from both sides of the conflict ravaged the land around the citadel and created the lifeless Dreadlands as we know them today.
The forces of the unified Houses were victorious and every last member of Remoranís army was killed. Their home cities were razed to the ground, the invaders making sure not one stone was left standing that could remind them of this Dark House. It was thought all were killed during the subsequent year of the purge. Now it said that some fled and lived concealed in Elven society, waiting for a day when they could rebuild their House. These same sources suggest that Duke Valimyrís mother was directly descended from those vile Elves and seeks to rebuild their ancient House and dedicate it once more to the Dark One.
For their part, Valimyr and his sister are careful not to be associated with the Dark One, at least in public, and the forces of the Obsidian Serpent have taken up arms against the Devout on numerous occasions. Unverifiable rumors persist though that the Duke has been sighted paying homage to the Prophets and their Dark Master. As none can offer proof to these charges, the rumors linger and dance about the idle tongues of the other Houses eager for gossip and scandal.
The House system used to mark boundaries in Elven societies is something most of the other races find difficult to understand. The basic problem is that the Elves refuse to accept national boundaries, at least until someone forces them to through warfare. Even then, they hold onto their belief that they should be able to move across the world unrestrained. For a while it was like that, the Elven Houses going where they willed, taking what they deemed necessary and ignoring the furtive pleas of those that stood in their way.
Following the death of the One King and the dissolution of the Triad, the Elves found themselves in control of the largest kingdom in the world. Their cities shone like beacons in the wilderness and all the other races were forced to pay them homage and more importantly taxes for if one was to have access to the ports and trade routes of the Elves, then one must pay. Vast sky barges could be seen over all the major cities carrying exotic goods across the lands. It is a matter of serious debate amongst the Firstborn Chronomancers that this very expansion led directly to the Elven downfall.
Some Elven scholars believe the spread of the Lotus plants during this period helped create the Chronomancers penetrating visions and allowed the Firstborn to rise up and also allowed the Four Prophets to shake off the yoke of the One King. It is however, something that will never be able to be proven but allows the defeated Elves to believe that the Firstborn were only victorious because of their very occasional use of the sacred lotus plants; flowers that granted them powers not dissimilar to those of their own Lotus-Eaters.
By contrast, a fourth Great House was born out of the need for and discovery of a new type of Lotus. The Spiral City located upon the Rim of the World grew steadily in power and prestige as the news of the new Lotus they refined spread throughout the Elven Kingdoms. Isolated from the other Houses, it took time for the other Dukes to organize and attempt to assert themselves over the cityís leadership. Unfortunately for the Dukes, the Spiral City had grown to massive proportions over the years, its population swelling with the disenfranchised and banished. The Yellow Lotus that is refined by these Elves has provided their Lotus Eaters with great power, enough to challenge the powers of the other races.
Since setting up the Jade House, the ruling Duke has not concerned the city with the affairs of the outer world. In fact, the Jade House is the only one not currently practicing the Elven rights of eminent domain. Content to provide mercenary support to the Swamp Goblins of the Fallen Lands, the Jade Elves are paid with the Yellow Lotus Flower that their economy is based upon. Though they have occasionally clashed with the Blackbloods, the worst of Chronopiaís wars have passed them by. This isolation and relative safety has left the Jade Elves content to remain indolent, fighting only when they must and then only when their interests are threatened.
It wasnít long after the One Kingís return that Duke Valimyr rose to power in the House of the Obsidian Serpent. His treacherous massacre of the Dragon Clan has been well recorded elsewhere and did help to create a new and powerful force in Elven society.
Elves are capable of living for over two hundred years - longer when the mysterious Lotus flowers are ingested as it seems to slow down the aging process. Duke Zazen, head of the Crystal Lotus, is rumored to be over three hundred years old and while he is only now showing the physical signs of old age; his keen political mind is still as sharp and quick as ever. His house controls the majority of the production of the magical Lotus plants that form the basis of Elven society. Used for a variety of medicinal purposes, they are also utilized for sorcery by the Lotus-Eaters. Zazenís half brother was Duke Chropus who started the House of the Obsidian Order and was instrumental in the massacre of the Firstborn following the death of the One King.
Zazenís rival and sometimes ally was the Duke of Helios, whose house has the noblest military tradition of all the Elven houses. Placing honor above life itself, it is a grim irony that his own bastard son, Valimyr, poisoned him. The death of Helios indirectly led to the rise in power of the House of the Obsidian Serpent now led by Valimyr and his sister, the manipulative and cruel Lady Scyllia. These three Houses are the power in Elven society and constantly struggle with each other for overall control, with smaller Houses maneuvering for increased power below them. If ever they were to unify under one ruler, as they did under Duke Chropus, they would surely be able to control the whole world again.
Duke Zazen appreciates the importance of cooperation between the races in order to combat the Devout. To this end he presides over a permanent council of war in his palace at Elymris that is open to all representatives of the four races. He is actively supporting the One King and the Blackbloods against Negralís invading Black Fleet and aids Duke Heliac in his struggle against Lokoth and, in several instances, has pulled Valimyr inline to aid his fellow Elves.
His own fleet is on constant alert patrolling the Dragonís Teeth archipelago. But despite all his efforts he has still lost the majestic trading port of Myrema to Alehaís horde and is likewise involved in minor skirmishes on the Blackblood western sea board with the over zealous Satraps of Bezek and Azaghur. However, the garden island of Yynn is heavily defended and a large force is stationed at Ophir, the second city of his realm.
Heliac, Duke Helios son, fights alongside the Blood-Bone and Wolf Clan Dwarves against Lokoth, whose forces are now stationed in the burnt out remains of the Jackal Clans hold of Keraak Ket. Heliac still distrusts his bastard half-brother and keeps a large force on permanent alert in his western coastal fortresses to watch his shores for possible treachery from Valimyr and invasion by the One King.
Valimyr in the meantime has the luxury of sitting back, as no force directly threatens him, and choosing which conflicts he involves himself in. His actions on the surface do seem petty but they are bound to have some far reaching and sinister purpose.
MilitaryThe Elven army is one of the most sophisticated in the world. Centuries of warfare have molded them into a tight and deadly force. The main stay of every Elven army is its foot soldiers. These can be broken down into four basic categories. The most basic troops are the swordsmen, these are formed from the younger recruits of the lesser houses. These units are seen as a testing ground for the Elven Armiesí future leaders. They are reasonably well armored in plate and chain and carry oval shields and long, slender swords.
Archers form the support units for the army and while they wear less armor than their brethren, they carry powerful longbows. Behind the swordsmen, spearmen make up the bulk of the foot soldiers and are heavily armored and carry long thrusting spears and oval shields. Finally the axemen are the cream of the basic infantry of the Elven host. They are better armored than the rest of the infantry, some wearing additional spiked shoulder pads and wielding deadly two-handed axes or two single-handed axes.
All the basic foot soldiers wear surcoats depicting their house symbol and colors. The House of the Crystal Lotus wear blues and white, House of Helios greens and yellows, the Obsidian Serpents favor reds and blacks and the Jade Elves favor shades of green and white.
The Dragonbane are the cavalry of the Elven army. All the Houses have Dragonbane among their number. These fierce bipedal creatures are bred for battle and come in two basic forms, the land-bound and the flying. These highly regarded soldiers wear more elaborate helmets and armor than those of the foot soldiers, though they still retain the symbols and colors of their house. Also, each House paints their Dragonbane in their own colors. These beasts gained their name from the destruction of the ancient dragons in the early days of recorded history when the Elves corrupted the unhatched Dragons and bred them to prey on their sires.
Apart from the differing house colors and symbols, what other features distinguish the different houses in battle are their specialist troops. The House of the Crystal Lotusí most common elite troops are the Crystal Knights and the Lotus Guard.
The Crystal Knights are given lotus plants before battle and exude a cold aura that is carried through their crystal spears. Their armor is heavy and bulky and is embellished with lots of precious and semi-precious gems. They wear skirts of royal purple over golden scale. These Knights are the best of all the warriors to be found in the House of the Crystal Lotus, if not in all the Elven domains. The Lotus Guard form the special units assigned to dignitaries and commanders within the house. They are armed with twin long swords, which they wield with deadly efficiency.
Supporting these units are the Dream Warriors, the plane shifting special forces of Duke Zazen. Moving in between dimensions, these warriors appear almost as if they werenít real, shifting in and out of perception with little predictability.
The House of Helios has a number of special warrior types that pervade its armies. There are two however that the army will always field, they are the Keepers of the Flame and the Warriors of the Sun.
The Keepers of the Flame are an elite warrior class made up of entirely females. They are armed with the mystical swords of the Phoenix and deadly sun-disk daggers. Their persistence and ferocity in battle is renowned and is said at times to rival that of the Crystal Knights.
The greatest warriors of Helios are the fabled Warriors of the Sun who have proven themselves in countless battles. These Warriors fight with Fire-swords, forged in the Elemental planes, and with specially prepared longbows with shafts imbued with the power of Elven fire runes. These soldiers are the favored troops of Duke Heliac and he has a special guard unit that accompanies him everywhere. They are said to be the most ďtrusted and honorableĒ soldiers in all the Elven lands though like all things Elven, honor and trust are relative concepts.
Through the alliance of Helios with the Golden Mask, Heliac has also been able to augment his forces with the famed Warriors of the Golden Mask, the elite soldiers of Duke Amar-Ra of Sun Peak. With the rise of the Stygian menace, Heliac has paid many visits to his dear friend to discuss the affairs of the world. A contingent of Golden Mask Warriors has been assigned to Heliac at all times by his friend and ally.
The rise of the Obsidian Serpent as a House can be credited to the brutal army at Valimyrís disposal. When their elite Obsidian Guard enter the field, their sable two-handed blades bringing death to all, it is not hard to believe the legends that suggest a link between them and the ancient lost house of the Great Lord. They have the look of the Dark Warriors who used to serve in that cursed army. Supporting the Obsidian Guard are the Dragon Skull warriors. Renamed after the massacre of the Dragon Clan, these knights wear the skulls of the dead beasts as adornments and often go into battle with the enslaved remnants of the Dragon Clan fighting before them. Their two-handed swords are carved from the skeletal remains of the old Dragon Clan deities.
With a sense of mocking humor fathomable only to Elves, Duke Valimyr also fields units of broken Dragon Clan Dwarves against his enemies. With the judicious use of black lotus and torturous indoctrination, Valimyr has turned these once noble Dwarves against their own kind. These fallen warriors while competent fighters are but shadows of their former selves and a source of great controversy among the Dwarven Clans who hate Valimyr even more for his sustained contempt for the Dwarven people.
The Jade Elves have the distinction of having the largest force of Flying Dragonbane of all the Elven Houses. Unlike the other Houses, the Jade House fields elite troops that are expressly augmented by the Yellow Lotus. The Ascended for example are transformed elves that barely resemble their brethren; the Yellow Lotus having warped their bodies into powerful frames that can match that of an Ogreís strength.
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House of Helios Sun-Peak is a great acropolis built on a mesa in the far east of the Elven lands. It is ruled by the House of the Golden Mask, a special religious order dedicated to the observance of rituals set down a thousand years ago by the Red Lotus Eaters of the time. However, the House has become less influential in court since the rise of the Obsidian Serpent, and in order to prevent themselves from becoming tainted by its intrigues, they moved and built the monastic citadel in the southern deserts.
It is a simple construction, a single tapering tower with a spiral walkway winding to its summit. It is very remote and isolated among the craggy mountains of the area. Sun-Peak can only be accessed from the air or by a series of secret, catacomb-like pathways carved deep within the mountains themselves. Amar-Ra is the ruling Duke of this house. An honorable man by Elven standards, he has a good relationship with the young Duke Heliac. Duke Heliac holds Amar-Ra in very high esteem and has deep respect for the code by which he lives. Amar-Ra has sent warriors from his order to aid the young Duke on a number of occasions. Since the onslaught of the Devout and the great stirring of the Stygian, Duke Heliac has paid many visits to his ally in his mountainous citadel, to discuss the present state of the world in which they find themselves.
The forces at Sun-Peak are small but are highly trained in the martial arts, as this forms part of their teachings, along with the study of the ancient texts laid down by their ancestors.
The House of Helios has troops stationed at Opis, as well as in a number of the smaller mercantile cities. These troops are augmented by the stoic Warriors of the Golden Mask.
The Warriors of the Golden Mask are heavily armored in ornately decorated plate with high curving shoulder pads inset with gold. They have no helmets but instead wear elaborately embossed masks of gold. They wield mighty lances, which are not only used to impale their enemies but also can blast huge gouts of searing fire from their points, burning and killing anything caught in the flames.
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Jade Helios The Elves of the elusive Jade House have an open policy towards trade and travel in their domain so long as their borders and laws are respected. As the haven for the disenfranchised, the Jade House draws numerous immigrants from the other greater and lesser Houses equally. Though their close affiliation with the Goblins of the Fallen Lands has earned them the enmity of the Blood Throne, the Jade House maintains diplomatic relations with the other races and does not carry over any of the older traditional Elven biases. Their major concerns focus on the cultivation of their precious lotus.
The largest contingent of Jade Warriors is garrisoned at Khal Adrien. Here, amid the former fortress used against the Blackbloods, the Jade Militia trains and hones their craft. This a somewhat deceptive claim however as the Jade House fields dozens of substantial mobile forces which move through the Fallen Lands on routine patrols. It is said that they can field a sizable army in less than a days time from the warbands patrolling the swamps of the Fallen Lands and that the city itself can muster faster than any other noble house; a disputed claim to be sure.
House of Crystal Lotus
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House of Crystal Lotus The House of the Crystal Lotus has by far the greatest presence in the Southern Elven lands. Zazen has a great palace built of quartz among the tallest spires of Opis. However, he has not attended court there for several decades. His loyal servant, Duke Dracon, from the Sapphire House presides over the court in Zazenís absence. Dracon has lost both his younger brothers in the wars with the Devout and has since taken to making wild and bold attacks against the Dark Prophets. Now that the Stygian are threatening the Elven lands his resolve appears to be stronger than ever. He has led a series of campaigns against the serpent-men and his courage and experience played a large part in capturing the Tablets of Destiny from the ziggurat at Hathor. In addition, Zazen has been mobilizing support from the other trading houses in the south in order to consolidate the Elven lands against the onslaught of the Stygian. He more than the other ruling Dukes appreciates the serious threat that the Stygian now pose to the races of Chronopia.
Zazen has sent his elite Dream Warriors to the land of Two Rivers led by contingents of Blue Lotus Eaters to bolster the beleaguered southern colonies. To the delight of these Elves, the Dream Warriors seem unaffected by the harsh desert climate and march tirelessly against their objectives. Ashurvadur and Eliam are two of Zazenís most heavily fortified garrisons.
House of Obsidian Serpent
The emblem from House
of Obsidian Serpent The Obsidian Duke has been content to sit back and watch the development in the Land of Two Rivers and keep the majority of his forces operating around the Inner Sea. Valimyr does however; have a small coastal outpost called Malach, on the most northern edge of the deserts. As with Baal-Hazor it is a dark and brooding place, a jet-black shard set amongst the shattered cliff faces of the northern seaboard.
Lord Crassus sits on the throne at Malach. Until recently Crassus was a lowly noble in the House of the Obsidian Serpent. However, he had been an ardent supporter of Valimyr in the Elven court, and has been rewarded for his loyalty to the Obsidian Duke. Some intrigues in the Elven courts blame Crassus for overseeing the poisoning of Duke Helios. Whether this is true, he has Valimyrís confidence and carries out his Dukeís commands ruthlessly. Crassus is reported to be overseeing ambushes against the trading caravans run by the other Elven Houses.
Valimyr has deployed several elements of his army in his citadel at Malach. However, there are some new troops, which he has employed in the Land of Two Rivers. The Rogue Duke has very cleverly stationed several battalions of Dragon Clan Slaves here to use against his enemies. Armed with the large, single-handed hammers of the Dragon Clan, they still wear their traditional dragon-crested helms but carry bronze-faced shields bearing the symbol of the Obsidian House. Valimyr has employed them with particular effect on the fringes of the Vulture Clan lands and against the Dwarven raider parties further south on the banks of the river Psamtik.
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