Elves


Elves are magical people with an affinity for nature. But they don't live in some faraway magical kingdom - you'll find most of them much closer to home. Read to find out what elves are like, and how they came to be!



Basic Characteristics & Vulnerabilities

Elves are humans who have been imbued with a certain enchantment. Most of the elves the average person will see will have only very slightly pointed ears that are easy to overlook at a glance - which means that most people won't realize they're looking at an elf if they do see one. However, they are capable of shifting into a form that most would be more likely to recognize as an elf, with more prominently pointed ears. (Such are the shape and size that some elves have used them for budget Vulcan cosplays.)

They can also take a form that is approximately one twelfth their original size. (Thus, someone who usually stood six feet tall would be six inches; someone who was usually five feet tall would be five inches, and so on.) Any clothing item that sticks fairly close to the skin (EG, underwear, leggings, tank tops, and even form-fitting jeans) can be miniaturized with them. Any clothes that change with them, if taken off and discarded, will change back to their original size in a matter of seconds. Items that they wear frequently enough to absorb enough of their own personal magic (such as eyeglasses or prosthetics) will also miniaturize with them. (It usually takes a few weeks for this to happen on its own, but they can speed along the process by spending about forty five minutes deliberately imbuing it.) In their miniature state, they can also form a set of wings, which resemble those of a bee or an ant. Their wings might have markings similar to what one might find on some dragonflies, adult ant lions, or other insects with non-scaled wings. They can also have far more colorful wings than most insects have; just about every color has been observed at some point. They always have both forewings and hindwings. Elves who anticipate flying might wear tops that won't get in the way of their wings, possibly under another top if the situation calls for it.

Elves' magic helps protect them from the harsh effects of the elements, particularly the cold. This enables them to comfortably wear relatively light outfits in cool temperatures and avoid losing too much heat while they're small. (Because of this, elves are likely to be the ones wearing shorts in January, or the ones working long hours in cold temperatures that send others back home.) Their magic also prevents their voices from sounding high pitched when they're tiny.

Elves also have an ability to sense what is wrong with certain things and determine what needs to be done to fix them. Exactly what that is depends on the elf. Some have the ability to work with machines, some have the ability to work with animals, and some have the ability work it with plants. (Some elves even claim that they can even communicate telepathically with whatever they have an ability to work with thus - though for machines, it only applies if they've been owned and used regularly for awhile.) They are usually quite good at healing or repair magic, particularly where it relates to their personal affinities of this type.

Elves usually recover from injury a bit faster than non-elves, especially if they're magically strong. They don't heal instantaneously, but their magic can shave off a quarter to a third of the time they'd need to spend recovering otherwise. Because of their ability to heal, they tend to be healthier overall than most people, and their skin more easily resists sun damage. This can make them seem a bit young-looking and spry for their ages as they get older, though they don't actually age any slower than anyone else.

Elves can become mages, and becoming an elf will jumpstart one's magical field. Elves also have a magical affinity for lush, fertile land - the more verdant it is, the better. Because of this, elves often choose to live near wooded or other natural areas if they can. If they can't, they may try to at least live near a park, or someplace with a large yard they can plant trees or large shrubs in. They also have an affinity with the sun, so even a scrub desert can be a fairly hospitable place for them provided it's got a decent amount of healthy plant life.

On the other hand, elves cannot work magically with lead, a metal strongly associated with death. It's impossible for them to enchant or sense from anything made from, mixed, or coated with lead. (However, they can still work with something with a few lead components that is itself mostly not lead.)

Synthetic food additives and ingredients also dampen their ability to use magic. Eating a few ounces of artificially colored candies can render even a powerful elf mage unable to cast anything but extremely weak spells for over an hour, and it can take several hours to recover fully. Because of this, most elves will usually avoid eating anything that might have ingredients like hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors or sweeteners, or artificial preservatives. (But that's not to say they always will. Some don't find using magic worthwhile enough to avoid eating their favorite foods for, and some don't mind accepting temporary consequences for the occasional indulgence. One elf even reported that eating a few small candies every day spared her the agony of listening to her roommate's extremely judgmental MacBook make comments on everything.)

Children born to elf mothers will also be elves, having been imbued with the enchantment since conception. Those who are not born as elves can become elves through a fairly simple ritual. The prospective elf is taken out to a circle of trees, large shrubs, or even large stones, depending on what's available. This person will sit in the middle while at least three elves build a magical charge through song and dance. Just about any song can be used as long as it sets a good rhythm and helps the elves to focus on their intention. (Songs that have been popular at one time or another include Earth, Wind, & Fire's "Shining Star," Mama Cass's "Make Your Own Kind Of Music," and Peter Gabriel's "Down To Earth," though many initiations have been carried out with nothing more than "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow.") In about ten to fifteen minutes, the magical charge that the elves build up binds to the person sitting in the center of the circle, creating a new elf. This will also jumpstart the person's magical field, giving this person a boost in becoming a mage if so desired.

Elves usually have no trouble replenishing the spell that keeps them elves; all they need to do is spend some time out among plant life. Assuming they live out where plant life is abundant and with a reasonable amount of sunlight, they can easily maintain their tiny forms all the time. A well-charged elf put into an environment with no plant life or sunlight will be able to maintain a small form for a few days, assuming the elf doesn't doesn't spend significant extra energy through casting spells and thus run out of power. (If they run out of personal magic and start casting from their elf magic instead, they will quickly deplete it. Casting only a few spells that can be performed with a magic field of 4-5 will use up almost all of their elf magic, and trying to cast a 9-10 range spell will use up about two thirds. Many mages have noted that this is a common problem with trying to use magical power that's already been purposed for something else.) Furthermore, casting from their elf magic will make them physically tired (moreso than casting from their personal magic will). So for all of these reasons, elves will usually avoid that if they can.

Because items that they don't constantly wear won't miniaturize with them, they can't just put on a piece of jewelry that they barely ever use for extra magical power. So they might keep other items that don't require change if they wish to give themselves extra power. Small finger rings can work, with metals such as brass and gold being preferred due to their association with the sun. However, they might charge up an object with no intention of actually wearing it while small, and simply keep it around to draw from later if they can get to it. Natural crystals are often popular choices, and sometimes brass bullet cases might be used, possibly filled with small crystals or not.

Elf magic will fade away entirely if the elf spends 2-5 years away from nature, but since this isn't really feasible for most, those who wish to remove the enchantment will usually make a potion to strip their elf magic. The ingredients are variable but often include things like artificially-sweetened soda, propylene glycol, and dissolved candies. They usually drink a cupful of this every day for a month while avoiding sunlight and nature as much as possible.


History

The year was 1905, and eleven-year-old Irene Burrows saw Peter Pan on Broadway. The girl was absolutely enchanted with the marvelous world of Neverland and the colorful characters who lived in it. During the entire buggy ride home, her mind was buzzing with thoughts of pirates, Lost Boys, and tiny fairies with voices like bells. The idea of fairies in particular clung to her, and within days she was drawing pictures illustrating how she supposed they ought to look. She supposed that if Tinker Bell was a tinker, then there should be a fairy for every job there was, and soon she created the likes of Cook Florence, Carpenter Laura, and Tailor Danny. (That Tinker Bell was a girl doing a boy's job did not escape Irene's attention, and she quickly supposed that fairies didn't care about who did what.)

At the age of twelve Irene found a copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream and read the whole thing, and around that time she discovered Edgar Allan Poe's poem Fairy-Land, and eventually she found William Butler Yeats's Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry. When Irene didn't have anything else to do, she would put down her ideas into a journal, describing the characters who lived in her imagination and the places they lived in, sometimes changing things as she decided she liked something else better or as something old started to seem ridiculous.

She kept all of these mostly to herself, however. No one else really had interest in these topics, and some thought they were silly frivolities that ought to have been dismissed altogether. It wasn't until a couple of years later, at the age of fourteen, that Irene shared them. Often tasked with minding her younger siblings and cousins at her countryside home near the small town of Roseleaf, New York, she entertained them with stories of her fairies and how they lived. Naturally the children asked her all sorts of questions, and she found herself having to create even more details. Before long, they even began coming up with ideas of their own and insisting that they were true, too. Soon they'd decided that the fairies lived in the enormous old oak tree out behind the house. The fairies' occupational names were dropped and they were given surnames like "Cloud" and "Willowby." (The children thought it was just far too terrible to be named after one's job.) The children even began to play make-believe, casting themselves in the roles of these fantastic beings and conducting all sorts of dramas beneath the very oak tree that was supposed to be the fairies' home.

None of them knew that beneath this oak tree was a large deposit of viricite, which was slowly accumulating energy from the stories they told and played out. Every thought and word and pantomimed deed left its impression. Over the months that followed, the essence that accumulated here gained a sentience of its own, becoming the spirit embodiment of their stories. It was all at once the fairy king, the fairy queen, and all of their courtiers and their subjects; it was the noble knights and the scoundrel villains; and it was the hopes, dreams, and fears that they all held. This genius loci did not make itself known, however; it had no need. It was content to sit and listen and grow from the stories and characters they created and play-acted.

The years went on, and the children grew and naturally moved onto other things. But the tree was always known as the fairy tree, and occasionally the children couldn't help but feel it was just good manners to curtsy or salute. Even later, when Irene was married to a Mr. Edward Harrison, she couldn't help but but give a little nod now and then, and sometimes she'd stand under the oak tree to reminisce of her innocent childhood days. It was exposure to those thoughts that helped the genius loci itself grow up a little, learning how difficult and complicated life could be.

And then Irene and her little family of one husband and two small children fell into difficult times. Her husband's business ventures weren't going well, and so to save on expenses they went to live in Irene's childhood home with her parents. On some sunny afternoons Irene took the children out to the fairy oak and told them about the stories she and her siblings and cousins had invented. Her oldest child, a girl of seven, suggested that Irene write them into books and sell them to make money. Irene decided it wouldn't hurt, and so she set about writing a few short stories. Getting them published was difficult; little value was seen in silly stories about fairies. Irene re-wrote them to be more educational, and so she was able to get them published in 1925. The books sold reasonably well. When a local newspaper interviewed Irene, she revealed that the the oak tree featured in her stories was none other than the very tree near her parents' homes. Sometimes a few local children might come along wanting to see it, and Irene gladly showed it to them. Thus the genius loci continued to grow and become stronger.

Irene and her family never moved out; they continued to live there as Irene wrote books. She would continue to show the children the tree and occasionally hosted parties in the back yard - it was all good publicity. She continued to write more stories over the years, sometimes doing so under the fairy oak itself - it seemed ideas sometimes just came by better there. Years passed, and ultimately Irene's second child, her son Andrew, took over caring for the house and his now-aging parents. Andrew's father passed away in 1956, and his mother in 1959. Now forty years old himself, Andrew took to looking after the place and doing what he could to keep it in shape. It wasn't too hard, and he kept up his mother's tradition of allowing visitors to visit the fairy oak if they wanted - though he didn't host any parties. So it went on for the next several years. The genius loci of the tree was quite strong now, and sometimes it would summon the image of a fairy to flit about the forest where someone might see it. This helped keep people coming to visit the tree, which in turn helped sustain the genius loci.

In 1962, a mage named Clark Ballard visited the fairy tree. Though he had no small amount of money to his name, Ballard was also deeply in debt and owed far more than he felt comfortable paying. Upon coming to the tree, he could sense the incredible magical force there. He quickly realized that for such a powerful force to be present, it must have had a rich supply of viricite or mysteranium beneath it. Either one of those would sell for a fortune. Ballard approached Andrew Harrison, offering to buy the place from him. Andrew refused. He had no desire to leave his family home, let alone leave it in the hands of a stranger. Ballard wasn't willing to give up, however, and he came up with another plan. One night he slipped back to the house started a fire by magically overloading the wiring. It would look like a freak accident, and he doubted very much that whatever home insurance Andrew Harrison had on his antiquated home had would be enough to pay for all of the damage.

It went exactly as Ballard hoped. Andrew escaped unharmed, but the house itself was so damaged that the small amount of money the insurance company would provide would never cover it. All he could do was try to sell the place and move somewhere else.

But the fairy tree, who had sensed Ballard's intentions, wasn't about to let this happen if it could help it. It reached out to a few locals who lived nearby; youths who had visited the tree when they were children. A few were somewhat alarmed by the tiny sprites that appeared suddenly asking for help, but others accepted its plea for help. And so these ones were granted powers by the genius loci. They were given the ability to figure out what was wrong with things and magically repair them.

Their names were David Walker, Paula Smith, Susanne Larkin, Thomas Zheng, Dorothy Tyler, Emma Torres, and Tony Marino. Over the course of about a month, they sneaked in and worked their magic.

Andrew Harrison, who'd been staying with a friend out of town, received a call asking how he'd managed to get the house fixed. Having no idea what was going on, he went back to his childhood home to find it... well, not in perfect condition, but in a condition that he could actually fix. He soon moved back in and finished up fixing the house.

Clark Ballard, came along to see just what Andrew was up to now, was very shocked to find out that the house was fixed. But it didn't take him long to piece together why. The fairy oak had a powerful genius loci, the house now had traces of magic all over it - it added up. The tree must have played a role in this. Stymied, he withdrew to try to figure out something else - both in how to get the deposit, and how to deal with his debts in the meantime.

In the meantime, the attention brought to the place by the fire and the subsequent mysterious restoration of the house ended up in the news. A few people who were interested in the supernatural (and particularly in things like fairies and elves) took notice, and soon they came to pay a visit to the place itself. This new attention gave the tree more energy, and it realized: it could use this sort of thing to sustain itself. So rather than withdraw its power from its proctors, it decided to let them keep it and put it to work. They would go about fixing things without anyone's knowledge, often leaving behind little notes crediting the tree fairies. A dying car engine might start purring like a kitten again, a creaky door might start swinging soundlessly, or a dying rosebush might suddenly green up again. They began to playfully call themselves elves, as in "helper elves."

Although some believed that there was nothing magical at all, it worked nonetheless. The town and the fairy oak gained a fair amount of fame as stories of these strange incidents spread. The tree knew that all of this attention could attract the wrong sort of people, but it was confident that with all of the extra power it was getting, it would be no trouble to fend them off. And it was right on both counts. Sometimes mages came along with intentions no better than Ballard's. One tried to dig up the place with a magically-silenced digging machine, but the tree was able to summon its proctors to deal with the problem - first they called the police, then used their magic to reverse the damage to the tree that had been caused. Someone else tried to magically blast away dirt and rock, though all this one accomplished was injuring himself. And one simply tried to poison the tree, supposing that if it died, Andrew Harrison would move away. That one was a near disaster; the proctors had to clear out the contaminated soil and do their best to help the tree recover.

In the meantime, Clark Ballard spent several years snickering at these other mages' failed attempts to at the deposit - all the while failing to come up with any useful kind of plan himself. (He spent most of that time focusing on other, less lucrative illegal ventures.) It wasn't until 1970 that it occurred to him to try to contact some of these other mages and work with them. He didn't like the idea of having to share the profits, but even part of it would have been better than nothing at this point. Ballard placed ads in the newspapers, using local euphemisms of the day for those who practiced magic, and waited. In time people responded, and once he had contact with enough of them he called them all together so they could make their plans. He explained that they needed to be able to take the land and make sure the proctors couldn't do anything about it. And so they all agreed to work together to get to the deposit.

On the night of July 9th, 1971, they set their plan into motion. Ballard knocked on the door and got himself invited inside. After chatting with Harrison for awhile, he offered him a drink laced with a few drugs to make him more suggestible, plus a powerful potion created to put the idea of selling the house into his mind. Meanwhile, the tree had sent a call to its proctors, but they came there to find that other mages were blocking the entrances with shields. Try as they might to get in, they were unable to do so until Ballard came out, the signed contract concealed in his coat. Once inside, they found Harrison in a somewhat dazed state of mind. He explained to them that Ballard had gotten him to sign the contract, and although he was certain he'd signed it of his own free will, something felt incredibly wrong about the whole thing and he definitely regretted doing it.

David suggested tracking Ballard to his home and getting the contract from him and destroying it. Harrison immediately gave him Ballard's address, and David immediately realized that wouldn't work. They all knew the address from their trips about the town; it was a large old place surrounded by a heavy iron fence and guarded by large, vicious dogs. There'd be no sneaking in, not with the time and resources they had.

The fairy oak, then, was doomed to be destroyed. The tree that had so many good memories under it and had made people feel connected to the stories they loved in a way that nothing else could was going to be destroyed. The proctors at first didn't know what to do. But one suggested that they ought to at least go out to tell the tree and explain what was about to happen. It should, they supposed, at least have time to come to terms with everything and understand why it was happening.

So they all went out to the tree, and one of them stepped forward to explain what had happened, and to explain that they couldn't do anything about it at this point. At first, the tree did not respond at all. For several long minutes it did nothing. Some of the proctors wondered if they'd made the wrong choice by condemning it to suffer in anxiety up to the end, where it could have at least gone on blissfully ignorant awhile longer if they hadn't said anything at all.

At last, the tree spoke to them - not out loud, but in their minds, as most genii locorum do. "Isn't there anything that can be done?" it asked. It tried to hide its fear and sound calm, but the proctors could sense its real feelings.

The one who'd stepped forward explained that they had done their best, but now they were in a bind. Ballard would soon own the place and there was nothing anyone could do about it. The contract was very specific, and there was no way that Harrison could prove that he hadn't been in his right mind when he'd signed it.

The tree thought about this and tried to think of a way out, a way it could save itself. But it could think of nothing that wouldn't make things worse somehow. So it politely thanked the proctors for telling it, and tried to resign itself to its fate. It tried to tell itself that oblivion wouldn't be so bad; after all, it wouldn't be around anymore to know the difference, anyway. But that didn't stop it from feeling sour over how everyone else would still suffer. Andrew Harrison would no longer have his home, and children would no longer be able to visit and see the tree.

Then it had a thought. Maybe it was doomed, but maybe everything else could be saved. Just maybe. It called for its proctors to come a little closer, and it explained its idea to them. There was one thing it could do: it could use all of its strength to give the proctors powers they could use to fix the problem. It would itself be destroyed, but perhaps one day a new genius loci would be born here and take its place.

The proctors were at first shocked by this, but after discussing it among themselves they realized it was the best and only chance. And so they accepted the tree's suggestion. They all formed a circle around it, and the tree imbued them with its power and with the knowledge they needed to use it.

And the genius loci was gone.

Some of its former proctors left immediately, whether because they found it too painful to stay or because they believed they owed it to the fairy oak to get on as soon as possible. A few lingered, unable to tear themselves away, whether because they were too stunned to move yet or because they held onto a desperate hope that a tiny part of it remained alive and would call out to them to tell them that it was all right. But ultimately all of them left, and they gathered in the front yard to discuss their plans. They had been granted the ability to take a tiny, winged form. They soon determined that they could use this to sneak into Ballard's home, find the contract, and destroy it.

They arrived by car (as flying for several miles would take much longer and would be quite tiring besides), parking where they wouldn't be seen and changing to their smaller forms to get closer. It was a single broken window on the second floor that gave them access inside. A cautious inspection of the place revealed that Ballard was in his office, and the contract was sitting on his desk. His people were still around the place; most of them chatting about what they'd do with the money once they had it.

They decided that the best plan was to wait until everyone went to bed. It took awhile, but everyone did go off to sleep, whether it was in guest rooms or on the sofa. Once that happened, everyone else slipped into the office. The contract was no longer sitting on the desk, however; Ballard had put it away in the meantime. Dorothy Tyler, Thomas Zheng, and Susanne Larkin changed back from miniature form to find it. Susanne finally located it in a filing cabinet when one of Ballard's men stepped in. He was the one who'd been on the sofa, and he hadn't been quite as asleep as he'd seemed. When he heard noises coming from the office, he went to investigate. Seeing Susanne pulling the metal drawer open, he cast magic to drop the metal's temperature well below freezing. Susanne's hands were frozen to it immediately.

Thomas lunged and tackled him to the floor. He tried to freeze Thomas, but Thomas was prepared for this and willed up enough resistance that the magic was neutralized harmlessly. Dorothy went to the cabinet and found the contract, and Tony magically warmed Susanne's hands enough to remove them.

But the mage on the floor wasn't helpless. He closed his eyes and focused his magic into causing a tremor throughout the entire house. This woke everyone up. He gave a loud cry for help. Dorothy, Thomas, and Susanne immediately started to run out, and the others flew behind. But Clark Ballard and the others were already scrambling up to find out what was going on. By the time they reached the foyer, Ballard and the other mages were blocking the exits.

Ballard came forward and demanded they hand the contract back.

Dorothy threatened to rip it up then and there.

Ballard threatened to set them all on fire if she did that.

Dorothy ripped up the contract anyway.

For a few seconds Ballard was shocked. He hadn't expected that to happen. It was not supposed to happen. Rage built inside of him, and he threw a fireball at Dorothy. She dodged to the side, and the fireball hit a curtain behind her, which immediately caught fire. A few of the mages decided that now was the time to get out, and they rushed to get to the door. Dorothy picked up the remains of the contract, crumpled them up, and threw them at the burning curtain, just to stop anyone from possibly using magic to put the paper back together. Then she changed back to her miniature winged form and flew out the open door, and the others followed.

They flew back to the car and landed on the roof. Tony, Thomas, and Paula used healing magic to restore Susanne's frostbitten hands. David remarked that there'd be nothing to stop Ballard from trying to same thing again at some point.

Then Emma made a shocked noise, and declared that the car had just talked to her. After a few moments of confusion on everyone else's parts, Emma conveyed that yes, she and the car were actually communicating with each other. She suddenly grinned and flew back toward Ballard's home. After awhile she came back carrying an expensive pocket watch.

Along the whole drive home, Emma questioned the pocket watch. No one else could hear it, but Emma seemed to be getting information from it. When she was done, she announced that the pocket watch wasn't very bright, but it was happy to tell them what it knew in exchange for a good home (apparently, Ballard hadn't been very careful with it at all). She'd learned the names of other people that Ballard had been threatening or forcing into action, as well as fake names that tied into various illegal activities of his.

Once back at Harrison's home, they let him know that the contract had been destroyed and his home was safe. Emma went to call the FBI and offer them what she hoped would be be useful information.

Once that was done, they went home to get some well-needed rest. That night, they all dreamed that their patron told them how to pass on their gift to others, and explained to them how their new magical abilities worked. The next day, they phoned each other to tell each other about it. Then they decided to meet up again under the old oak tree the following weekend.

When they met, they sat down beneath the tree to discuss where they would go next. They decided they'd keep doing what they were doing before this had gone down - but with one difference: they'd find others to join them, since it was clearly what the fairy oak had wanted. They also decided to keep calling themselves elves - it seemed extra fitting with the pointed ears they all had now.

They gradually located people who were interested. Many of them were people concerned about the environment, or who generally wanted to be able to live more sustainable lives. Some were just wanted to be able to do nice things for others more.

Eventually, Ballard was caught by federal agents. Emma's information had helped link him to a few crimes. Emma also kept the pocket watch.

In 1987, Thomas Zheng bought the house and property. In addition to keeping the tours running, he taught magic classes out of his home to anyone who was willing to learn - elf or not. Thomas retired in 2013, and today his daughter Tamara continues in his stead, with help from her mage girlfriend Violet Crosetti. The tree also has a new genius loci, which usually stays quiet but occasionally creates an illusory fairy to amuse a child.

Between elves being born and made over time, they spread out across the world. Today, there are quite a few who still fit the "hippie elf" archetype, but they live all kinds of lifestyles and have all kinds of political standpoints. Elves have been artists, entertainers, soldiers, police officers, farmers, teachers, and many other things.

As of 2018, it's estimated that around 2000-7000 people worldwide are elves.



Related SoulMettle content:

Magic: An Overview
Genii Locorum



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