The dark elves live only to serve their dark goddess, rising from their subterranean cities to spread pain and terror in her name. Pain means nothing to them, it is but a sign of their loyalty to the goddess, and they embrace it as a mark of her favor. These fanatical warriors have quickly gained a reputation as brutally effective shock troops.
“I'd sooner trust a Dark Elf,” has become a common statement of mistrust among most of the races of the world. With good reason, too. The survival of most societies rely on the common support and cooperation of individuals within it(except maybe for the Orcs, who keep on thriving out of sheer brutal tenacity).
The Dark Elves, however, have managed to excel in a civilization built on deception, backstabbing, and socially arranged murder.
Whether this is some kind of bizarre trait of evolution where the weaker members of the race are culled, or a sign of the dark favor of their Evil god is a matter that many theologians, sociologists, and scholars have debated for centuries. The priests of Deus in the neighboring Empire of the Steel Rose have their own theory that the Dark Elves are nothing more than corrupted Elves, “demonic half breeds consorting with their dark devil goddess, and generally very naughty fellows.”
Most sane races fear an alliance with the Dark Elves for anything longer than a single campaign. They have a tendency to draw their allies into their convoluted webs of intrigue and deceit, which most find extremely distracting and annoying when trying to focus on world domination. This has lead some to speculate that Dark Elf strategies extend not only to the battlefield, but also the courts of other kingdoms and territories.
The Mal-Shadun Wastes
Across the Demon Spine Mountains, to the west of the Empire of the Steel Rose, lay the Mal-Shadun Wastes. The Wastes are a sad collection of scrublands and fens as twisted and bent as the hearts of the Dark Elves that live there. A variety of fell creatures roam the lands, ready to pounce and prey upon any unsuspecting soul they find. It may well be that the nature of the Wastes have had an influence upon the society of the Dark Elves, helping to corrupt it into what it is today.
Shad-Ezzrait is the capital of the Dark Elf territories. From this city fortress, the dark Queen Alzerathea rules with the patience and cunning of a predatory spider. The latest in a long lineage of rulers of questionable sanity, she sits upon her throne and plots agains enemies real and imagined, outside the borders of her kingdom and within. Her courts are a regular exercise in duplicity, lies, and deadly liaisons to such an extent that a kind of secret language of falsehood has developed there. Newcomers to the court either adapt quickly to this new lifestyle, or find themselves the object of a variety of life-or-death games of the nobility.
Shadis, the goddess of pain and suffering, is said to smile upon the Dark Elves. It may well be, for Shad-Ezzerait is not only a city, but a temple to the aspects of the dark goddess. In shady alleyways and ill-lit secret meeting rooms, fates are bought and sold and Dark Elves disappear without a trace to feed the perverse hungers of another.
It is with good reason the Knights guard the passes of the Demon Spine Mountains with such fervor. Let's face it, it's bad enough to live next to the Dark Elves, but nobody wants them creeping into the back yard.
Inquisitor Kraelear strode into the court of Shad-Ezzrait to the applause of his gathered Dark Elf peers and the shrieks of the Screaming Chorus. He walked proudly past the ranks of midnight-garbed Lords and Ladies of the Dark Queen's court, past their lying smiles and murderous eyes.
The pain masters of the Screaming Chorus pressed their charges, turning cranks, pumping bellows, and piercing the flesh of a hundred shackled prisoners of all races. Finally, they ceased their inflictions, and the poor wretches fell limp within the massive gallows-like structure of the Chorus.
Kraelear stood before the Queen, this whispersilk robes draped over darkmetal armor. The two talonblades crossed over his back gave him the appearance of a giant spider. The barbed helmet held in the crook of his arm resembled the stinger of a massive scorpion. His cold eyes regarded the Queen.
Alzerathea rose from her gilded onyx throne. Her features were a pale-white, tinged with the faintest purple, lips and eyes a contrasting black. Her white hair swept back in a tiara shaped in the spider-like symbol of Shadis, the goddess of unending pain and suffering.
Kraelear thought she might be beautiful…if she wasn't so dangerously deceitful. And there was the crux of the matter–he had been recalled from the front lines, in the midst of leading his troops to glory with over one hundred victories on the battlefield. The only reason for the summoning that he had received had been something about a ceremony of recognition for valor. He had never heard of such a thing in the middle of a campaign.
“Let us welcome back our beloved Inquisitor Kraelear,” Queen Alzerathea held her arms up. Again the false applause assaulted Kraelear's ears. He gritted his teeth.
“Kraelear,” the Queen continued. “You have fought for the Dark Elf Empire, risking your life time and again to bring us victory. Some say you are unbeatable on the field of war.”
“Thank you, my Queen,” he rasped.
“Do you know why I have summoned you here?”
“I was told it was a celebration.”
“Yes, I suppose that's what I said.” Alzerathea took her throne again, chewing at her knuckle. Kraelear suspected that she was trying not to laugh.
“You see, dear Kraelear, I lied…through my teeth, I'm afraid.”
She began to giggle and Kraelear thought that the Queen may have lost her mind with all the torture and debauchery she was so fond of.
“The only thing more dangerous than an unbeatable enemy is one of your own. You never can tell when they may get ideas of rebellion…revolution…you know.”
She was insane. Kraelear put his helmet on and drew his talon blades as the Lords and Ladies of the court dropped their regal guise to reveal their own armor and weapons.
“Kill him,” Alzerathea whispered with glee. They climbed down from their seats to surround him.
Kraelear sighed. It was going to be a long night.