Snow Elf

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The following is the only Amia-applicable SnowElf lore you will find. Information from outside sources concerns Snow Elves of other campaign settings, not Amia.

Overview

Snow elves are among the lesser known of elven subraces, along with avariel, lythari, shadow elves and star elves. While their population is probably larger than any of the former, their homes in the endless glacial wasteland of High Ice, the forbidding Great Glacier and the backwater island of Forstakkr are remote enough for any but the most dedicated scholars and the elves' few neighbours to be clueless about this fabled race.

Snow elves are, as the generally accepted theory goes, some kind of an offshoot of wild elves. Both races share the somewhat short and stocky build, heavily muscled but not as graceful as their civilized brethren. Snow elf skin and hair colours vary from ashen shades of gray to crispy white, sometimes even taking on a blue tint. Their eyes are typically blue, gray or silver. They never grow facial hair. Unlike other elves, snow elves aren't particularly beautiful: their facial features are rough and grim, their small eyes deep in their skulls, their jaws more human in shape. You couldn't say they're exactly unattractive, for they are elves, but they seem to lack a certain delicate grace that's made elves across the Realms so envied. Perhaps this is the doing of Fenmaril, a reminder that they are outcasts and different than the rest, or perhaps it is a biological coincidence.

Snow elves live a nomadic life centered on hunting and protecting their territories. They do not have villages or stable meeting points. They're a hard and unrefined folk who care little for outsiders or the trivial pastime activities other elves so fondly refer to as ”culture”. Eating and avoiding being eaten are the two favorite hobbies of a snow elf.

Even if they are naturally resistant to cold, snow elves still wear warm furs and leathers to cover their legs and torso, though they usually leave their arms bare for better mobility in combat. The exception to this are the clergy of Auril who, due to a divine boon, don't seem to be affected by natural cold at all and often wear light leather clothing so as to display the power of their faith. The elves wield crude weapons made of bone, wood and stone, designed for hunting: bows, spears, knives, light axes and clubs. Many tribes do have a small assortment of steel weapons, taken from those unfortunate travellers who intruded upon their territory. Very rarely do they trade with other races for weapons.


History

There is no certainty as to the origins of snow elves, but there are those fair elves in the Moonshaes and Ardeep Forest who still tell a legend that might have some truth in it. During the Crown Wars, the green elven nation of Illefarn had succeeded in staying relatively detached from the worst conflicts. An end to this came a little before Aryvandaar's fall, when coronal Giilvas Vyshaan attacked Illefarn. The nation was almost destroyed and the surviving sylvan elves fled to weakened Shantel Othreier and the unsettled islands of Moonshae. This is well-known history, but the Ardhavian and Moonshavian descendants of Illefarn, and its northern colony of Llewyrr, say it is not the whole truth: there were those tribes in both Illefarn and the Llewyrrwood who refused to flee, and spent years fighting the sun elves with fierce guerilla tactics. Eventually they were pushed further north by the superior Aryvandaarans, whose mages would scry the locations of these rebels and burn their homes with magical fire.

Years later, when the Vyshaanti were defeated and Illefarn was being re-settled, some wild elves came looking for their lost kin. They travelled north along the Spine of the World and all the way to the glacial ice sheet known as Anauroch, today called the High Ice. There they found something that took them by surprise: elves clad in primitive furs, their hair and skin tinted in shades of gray, white and pale blue. Feasting over a still-warm corpse of a huge yeti, the creatures didn't react to their approaching sylvan cousins. Suddenly, ice cracked under the feet of the expedition and they tumbled down into a pit. As they shook off the disorientation, a pale face twisted by anger appeared above the pit, and said: ”We have been exiled from your lands, and so shall you be exiled from ours. You are the ones who left, do not come looking for us.” That was the last this expedition ever saw of the snow elves. When they had managed to climb out of the trap, their shaman attempted divinations to locate the snow elves again, but his vision was blocked by a pair of stern eyes that stared at him from the darkness. That convinced the expedition that the exiles were under Fenmarel's protection, and they returned home.

That is the legend, as told by sages of today's Ardeep and Moonshae. How much of it really happened is unclear, though, and the story is not well-known among other elves around Faerûn and Evermeet. The snow elves themselves do not know this legend, as they don't keep records of history. In fact, they are widely an illiterate race. However, something similar is told among many tribes: snow elves say their lands were taken by other elves, their homes burned and food eaten, and they were driven into the cold North to die. There, Fenmarel Mestarine came to them when no other god would. He made them strong and resiliant to the cold, taught them the lore of the land and showed them how to find food. Many snow elves still believe they are Fenmarel's People, created and protected by the Lone Wolf. They do not know how long ago this exodus and transformation happened, though.

The more recent centuries of snow elven history are slightly better documented by human scholars, surprisingly enough. In -2250 DR, the Great Glacier began to form north of what are today known as the Cold Lands, eventually swallowing the lands encompassing today's Vaasa and Damara. This meant new opportunities for the weak and scattered tribes of snow elves, and many migrated east. Despite competition with the human Ulutiun people, the snow elves were able to find sustenance and territory aplenty in the new magically-born glacier. This resulted in a population boom, spreading snow elves wider and diversifying their culture more than ever before. As they made contact with the Ulutiun, some turned to the worship of Ulutiu, The Eternal Sleeper. Others were lured by Auril the Icedawn. It is unknown which of the snow elves' gods desired to strengthen their people even further, but from some divine source came a vision to the snow elves living on the unhospitable western shores of the High Ice: they would build a ship and sail west, to an uninhabited paradise island rich in food and shelter. Two tribes did, building ships of poor design but good enough to keep them afloat. As soon as they stepped onboard, a mighty blizzard caught their sails and carried them far beyond the Sea of Moving Ice, to the south and west, until they stranded on the shores of a forest-covered island. They named it Ipiutaq'atui, and prospered (in comparison to the even harder life in the glacier) for centuries. This story, as well, is likely coloured by myth. Eventually, human arrived to settle the island, naming it Forstakkr. They built a town with walls and drove the wandering elven tribes deeper into the woods and up the cold mountainside of Firth. There they have dwelled in relatively small numbers up to this day, keeping to themselves, rarely visible to human eyes.


Snow Elf Society

Snow elves are organized into tribes, generally the size of a dozen to two-score elves. These tribes are ruled by a chieftain, the First, who may also be referred to as Eldest if he's the tribe's spiritual leader at the same time. Oftentimes these two are different positions, though. Apart from that, there is very little in the form of social hierarchy among the elves. The tribe is essentially an egalitarian structure, and no difference is made between male and female. Children are raised and cared for collectively, though there is understandably a stronger bond between child and parent. The transition from childhood to maturity happens when the child kills his or her first prey on a hunt. Traditionally, eating the heart of one's first kill is an important ritual that almost all tribes still practice. Upon reaching adulthood, a snow elf gains the right to challenge the chieftain for tribe leadership. The tribe shaman will study omens and speak to gods. If the signs are favourable the challenge must be accepted. While it's no rule, often a newly-ascended chieftain will get to keep his or her position for at least a decade or two, because losing too many of the tribe's best warriors in a short period of time would compromise the success of the whole tribe.

Considering their habitat doesn't particularly facilitate farming, the snow elves are primarily hunters and gatherers. In fact, it is the basis of their culture and the primary activity of their day. Unlike other elves, they have no respect for the arts, songs or stories. The only trace of culture remaining in snow elven society is the host of religious practices and rituals they so revere. When snow elves aren't looking food, they're either preparing for a hunt, eating, sleeping or fighting off intruders to their territory. While the tribes have no stable territories, the elves can still be very territorial: any outsiders are be killed or driven off, and if the elves aren't strong enough to do that, they will move themselves until the intrusion is over with. Elusive as they are, they rarely interact with other races by choice or in a peaceful manner. Outsiders are hated, feared, or at best, distrusted, and anyone who is not of the tribe is an outsider. This even extends to other snow elven tribes, though they're not uncapable of agreements and co-operation if it proves absolutely necessary. A snow elf who leaves his tribe is thereafter considered an outsider, and will not be welcome back without the chieftain's approval. This doesn't apply to individuals on a particular mission for the tribe, of course, but such quests are unusual.


The snow elves make little difference between outsiders of various races, though they too hold a special contempt for the drow. They have long since forgotten why this is, but it is an established tradition or perhaps a biological urge. They react to the races of their habitat with due pragmatism, which often means responding to hostility in kind. The humans of Forstakkr they despise, but the ones in the Great Glacier have some understanding for the Ulutiun peoples. Old legends still remind them of the violence elves acted upon them, so many consider the Fair Folk little better than drow. In fact, the snow elves don't generally think of themselves as elves at all. Other races know little about snow elves, and therefore there's no commonly accepted attitude towards the individuals that might be encountered outside of their tribal society. Elves are often suspicious of these mutated outcasts who despise elven tradition, but the prejudice is rarely strong enough not to be overcome by snow elven individuals who wish to prove otherwise. Few snow elves have any desire to make that effort, though. They prefer to be left alone and have little reason not to give other races the same courtesy.


Language

The Snow Elves speak enough Common and Elven to be understandable, and a language called "In'innatuin". The latter is near uncomprehensible to most other races, completely verbal, and not teached to anyone but Snow Elves. A few words are known (the translation in parentheses is what the Snow Elves say, but other races don't know):

  • Forrstakkr: Ipiutaq'atui (the Island)
  • Howness, Thordstein, town: Nun'vut (our land)
  • Human: Inuq (parasite found in Snow Bear stomachs)
  • Pelt, skin: Amiq'la (rubbish)
  • Snow: Apush


Religion

The nomadic lifestyle of snow elves doesn't favour the construction of large temples, and neither does their tribal organization facilitate organized religion. Fortunately, their usual patron deities don't demand such tribute, anyhow. Snow elven tribes usually have one chief spiritual leader: either a cleric, shaman or a druid. Sometimes he or she is also the tribe chieftain, othertimes simply an advisor. In tribes that follow the latter model, the godspeaker is typically known as Eldest, whereas the mundane leader is called the First. The Eldest is responsible for reading omens and consulting the gods in regards to important decisions, appeasing animal spirits after great hunts, guiding the spirits of the dead into the afterlife and, of course, healing whatever wounds and illnesses the tribe suffers from. On Forstakkr, the snow elves are particularly skilled at interpreting the Aurora Borealis in the sky. It is believed the spirits of the dead, if probably guided, will arise into the heavens and shine their guiding light on future generations. Communing with the ancestors directly is rarely done, as a skilled reader can learn an answer to most questions simply by interpreting the northern lights. Under the Eldest, any number of apprentices and lesser healers partake in the tribe's daily life with their own talents. Even if the tribes don't build regular temples or shrines, every tribe Eldest maintains some form of a shrine to the tribe patron, whether it's a portable altar or a different blessed rock, hill or grove in every new place they travel to. Particularly devoted individuals may have their own private shrines, as is particularly typical among the faithful of Fenmaril.

Snow elves worship various animal and nature spirits, some of them actual divine entities and others merely imagined. However, there are three real deities that serve as the snow elves' typical patrons: Fenmarel Mestarine, Auril and Ulutiu. Snow elves learned the worship of the Eternal Sleeper from the human tribes of the Great Glacier, and very few individuals revere him in the High Ice and farther west. The tribes in Anauroch and Forstakkr are roughly seperated in two: those who remain loyal to the Lone Wolf and those who've succumbed to the worship of the Frostmaiden. Sometimes, entire tribes change their allegiance as their spiritual leader is killed and one of the opposing faith manages to seize the position. The snow elves have a very practical attitude towards religion, and generally respect the clergy of both deities, provided they serve the tribe and their rivalry doesn't but the community to risk. Both deities, along with an assortment of other ones from Umberlee and Akadi to Malar and Mielikki (depending on which ones the tribe knows of) are given due respect and appeasement, either way. Curiously, with perhaps the occasional exception of Solonor Thelandira, Fenmaril is the only elven deity the snow elves pay their respects to.


Snow Elves as PCs

Snow elves rarely wander out of their freezing homelands. Those who do are either tribeless outcasts or on some sort of a quest for their tribe. The latter return home as soon as the task is complete, but the former can have any number of motives for adventuring. Snow elven society does not cherish goodly intent, and therefore they are virtually always neutral or evil in alignment. Every snow elf is taught the basic skills of survival so that they might benefit the tribe. That's why they all have at least some levels in ranger, fighter, barbarian or druid. Those who wander out into the world or pursue a career in the clergy may take on other classes. Arcane magic isn't practiced among snow elves.

Snow elves are normally illiterate, for their tradition is passed on by word of mouth. They speak both Common and Elven, but during their interaction with the Ulutiun of the Great Glacier they also picked up the language of those humans. Eventually it evolved into a unique verbal language, called In'innatuin. It's known only to snow elves, but the vocabulary is quite similar to that of the original speech.


Racial Traits

  • Abilities: +1 Strength, +1 Dexterity, +1 Constitution, -2 Wisdom;
  • Resistance: Cold 5;
  • Favoured Class; Ranger