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Always attentive to inform our readers, the Almanac editors asked John Watson, retired adventurer and renowned elfologist, to shed some light over the apparently unexplainable civil war among shadow elves in the so-called Canolbarth forest (or at least what remains of the forest).

Tempers ran hot this winter in the Canolbarth forest. It seems that the mysterious shadow elves are not as united as a race as it looked in the first place.

Everything started late last year when the shadow elves somehow managed to raise the city of Aengmor (or Oenkmar according to the Dwarves) to the surface. Suddenly, when the bordering nations started worrying once again about their seemingly huge power, the shadow elves started quarrelling among themselves over some obscure religious question and finally they were at each other's throat.

The religious debate involved an old elvish custom dating from centuries ago and which apparently disappeared in modern elvish communities: wanderers.

Centuries ago, when the whole elvish race inhabited the southern hemisphere of Mystara, a disastrous cataclysm, commonly referred to as "The Great Rain of Fire" in elvish tales, struck the planet destroying the elven homeland (known as "Evergrun"). That was a dark era for the elves, because they had to rebuild their once shining civilisation from start, but resources were scarce and life difficult. It was then that the practice of wanderers was introduced among some particularly unlucky elvish clans. As you may know, elven lifespan is very long, but, as I said, food was scarce and life was harsh after the cataclysm, so some Clanmasters decided that the elves who reached 800 years of life should depart their clan and never retrace their steps.

Obviously today such a custom is no longer needed and no one but the shadow elves follows it anymore.

I've been frequently asked why, in my opinion, do the shadow elves still carry out this apparently evil practice. Well, we don't know very much about shadow elves and their religious beliefs, but we know that they usually live underground in an unfriendly environment with few (or no) resources, so they need a way to limit overpopulation and the custom of wanderers is certainly a good solution.

But let's get back to the point. Upon moving to the surface many shadow elves (mainly those in the City of Aengmor) felt that this old custom was not needed anymore, because of the larger areas and greater resources now available to them. Unfortunately it seems that this practice is deeply rooted into shadow elf religion and everyone knows how they're paranoid about following their traditions to the letter. Moreover most of the elves supporting the abolition of the wanderers custom were actually wanderers living in Aengmor together openly defying their customs, in short they were considered sacrilegious by the more conservative shadow elves.

Supporters of this change in old customs soon moved to Rafielton to spread their beliefs and the shadow elves split into two factions. Due to their violent and stubborn nature, the discussion soon turned into a civil war that involved the whole Canolbarth forest. Princess Tanadaleyo surprisingly sided with the supporters of the so-called "New Way of Rafiel;" it's not clear why she did this, fear of being killed by the "heretics" or ambition of ruling an independent nation are two possible explanations. Anyway her move forced her father, King Telemon, to send forth his best troops to quell the rebellion in Aengmor and Rafielton.

The once green forest was quickly turning bloody red, when the unexpected happened: a child managed to stop the civil war. Well, he's no standard child; he's Prince Erian, the youngest son of King Telemon. This child is really an outstanding elf, he was part of the group that managed to stop a war against Darokin just after the Great War, and now he stopped the civil war risking his own life (see the "Events" section for more about this).

Erian's gesture and the reaction of the other shadow elves at his presumed death show us that shadow elves aren't plain evil as some, especially the Alfheim Avengers, want to paint them. I would say that they're suspicious of other races, but somehow nave and easily controllable by powerful and trusted members of their way of life. Shadow Elves show a strong sense of duty for their nation and their religious traditions, so they see any attempt at introducing something new into their community as a threat and they react violently. The conquest of Alfheim and ensuing discovery of a whole world above ground has certainly shocked many shadow elves, producing a rift between the more conservative elves, among which we can surely count the mysterious shamans (religious guides rarely seen in Rafielton), and the increasing number of younger and more open-minded elves (Prince Erian is probably the brightest example of these). The lack of diplomatic skills turned this tension into a civil war, but their strong instinct of self-preservation (as a race) made them realise quite soon that it's pointless to kill your brethren for such a trivial issue.

If shadow elves really lived underground for so many centuries as they claim, then we should believe that they've never had some sort of serious discussion, otherwise they should long have either killed each other or developed diplomatic skills.

The last section of this article is probably the most interesting one for those learned in elvish lore, though it's also the less detailed one. According to a scroll written in ancient elvish that the editor gave me (giving no clues on how he got it), the question of wanderers has been settled diplomatically, probably for the first time in the shadow elves' history.

This is more or less what that scroll says: "On 10 Shaman of the year 2120, guided by our beloved patron Rafiel I, Radiant Shaman Porphyriel, state that starting from now there will be a change in the common interpretation of the precepts about wanderers that our guide Rafiel set in the stone for us to see and follow.

From now on elves reaching the venerable age of 800 years of life, will still have to undergo the ceremony that turns them into Wanderers, but they will no more be forbidden from retracing their steps or meeting other elves."

This is a certainly a big revolution in the shadow elves' traditions since their precepts seem really set in stone. The commitment of one such old elves to the place of chief representative of Rafielton in the peace talks with Alfheim exiles is certainly another promising step for a better and more peaceful future in and around the Canolbarth forest.

John Watson: born in Akesoli, he spent most of his youth adventuring in Darokin and surrounding areas. He later founded his small trading house and moved to Alfheim Town were he had a relationship with a female elf from Clan Chossum. When the Master invaded Darokin he packed his goods and moved again to Ierendi where he happened to know our publisher Joshuan Gallidox.