The shadow elves of Arak, also known as the fey, are a race of sylvan creatures who live in the Shadow Rift. The true nature of the Arak has long been a subject of much debate. Although many travelers call these strange beings
drow, a term imported from Toril and Oerth, this is not accurate. The inhabitants of Arak are no kin to the dark elves and in fact are not elves at all but children of the mysterious Demiplane of Shadow. Throughout this and the following nine pages the terms
shadow elf, and
fey are used interchangeably.
The Shadow Rift is a strange and fantastic place that stands like a gaping wound in the center of Ravenloft’s Core, a mystery to all outsiders. It acts as a counterpart to the Border Ethereal, which insulates Ravenloft from the Ethereal Plane. The Rift serves as the membrane between the Demiplane of Dread and the Demiplane of shadow. Thus, while still a part of the Land of Mists, it has much in common with the dark regions of shadow.
The Arak are a diverse people who run the gamut of the ethical spectrum, ranging from good to evil and lawful to chaotic. They are divided into two main power groups, the Seelie Court (primarily neutral) and the Unseelie Court (primarily evil). Most Arak belong to one of the socalled Nine Breeds: alven, brag, fir, muryan, portune, powrie, shee, sith, and teg. While each breed is unique and has its own traditions and beliefs, all Arak have a few common characteristics.
The Law of Arak: All shadow elves honor the great fallen leader whose name they took, Arak the Erlking, making periodic pilgrimages to his tomb. The Law of Arak states that no shadow elf will deliberately kill another; those who break this law are shunned and driven into exile. The fey also honor Arak’s children, Loht the Prince of Shadows (ruler of the Unseelie Court) and Maeve the Faerie Queen (ruler of the Seelie Court) and will obey the direct commands of one, even if their allegiance is given to the other. All Arak hate and fear Gwydion, their former master, to such an extent that they find Ravenloft less dreadful than the home they fled to reach here.
Mischief: All Arak have keen senses of humor and are prone to make mischief from time to time. The form this humor takes depends on the personality of the individual, ranging from harmless practical jokes to dangerous and even deadly. The type of Arak involved is also relevant: For example, sith have a morbid sense of humor and portune a very dry wit; shee love to mess with peoples’ emotions, while fir have such a strange sense of humor that other fey do not understand it, much less mortals.
Dependence: While the Arak have adapted well to their new home. they remain unaccustomed to the ways of humans. As such, they watch the affairs aboveground with great interest. The long centuries bring with them a sense of unendurable boredom and sameness, which the fey often seek to escape by amusing themselves through interacting with short-lived unpredictable mortals.
In addition to watching men, the shadow elves often raid their homes and villages for supplies, tools, and other things. These raids are seldom violent in nature; they generally involve sneaking into a place and stealing what is needed in the dead of night. Good fey often try to pay for what they have taken, leaving behind a gem or repairing something. Evil Arak, on the other hand, often make mischief to cover their crimes.
Secret Names: All shadow elves have two names, a common one that they use in daily life and a secret one that they use only with their closest friends. Using a shadow elf’s secret name when casting a spell on him or her imposes a -2 penalty on the fey’s saving throw. Finding out a shadow elf’s secret name is a difficult task, one that often requires an adventure in and of itself. Powerful spells, like wish and limited wish might reveal an Arak’s true name, but any such attempt must overcome the creature’s natural magic resistance. Naturally, the shadow elf in question will do all it can to prevent knowledge of its true name from spreading.
Changelings: When the Arak come upon mortals who particularly fascinate them, they often take their shadows back into the Shadow Rift and transform them into changelings. Changelings have no desire to leave the realm of shadows and retain little of their self-will, although their ability in the practice of their craft greatly magnifies. In the domains of Tepest and Nova Vaasa, the physical bodies that are left behind are said to have been
elf-shot, which is also used to describe someone prone to daydreaming or inattentiveness.
Shadow elves cannot create a changeling unless the participant gives his or her consent through eating faerie food. It is worth noting that almost all Arak believe they are doing these folk a favor by transforming them and cannot understand why anyone would pass up the chance to leave their dull, brief mortal lives behind to come and live with the shadow elves. They look upon the process as a means of making a master craftsman even more skillful. While this is certainly true, the cost generally outweighs the benefits.
Longevity: The Arak are an incredibly long-lived, if not immortal, race. Loht and his sister Maeve are over five thousand years old, and the oldest known shadow elf is nearly three times that age. They do not age or die of natural causes, although they can be killed by violence. The longevity of the shadow elf race affects their culture in many ways, as might be expected. The most important of these is the attitude of Arak to marriage and children. Arak do not mate for life, although a shadow elf union may last for several centuries. An Arak couple usually has about one child each century. Arak also often take human lovers, and these arrangements are similarly temporary.
Heredity: The race of shadow elves ranges from tiny faerielike creatures like the alven and powrie to the sith and shee, who are as tall or taller than the average man. Children need not be of the same type as the parent, as a fey’s appearance is determined by its personality and not the other way around. Thus, for example, a teg might give birth to a child who as she grows comes to resemble, and eventually become, a powrie, sith, or shee.
Last Modified: June 10, 2010, 11:51:59 GMT
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