Most of the tales of Gloriana involve heroes from the mortal kingdoms coming into contact with the mystical beings of the land. Humans may not be the most populous, but they are the most visible. The most powerful and renowned kingdom is of course Gloriana itself, ruled by a wise king, protected by brave knights, and ever vigilant against the wiles of the fairy lands.
There are other realms and nations of course—fantastic sultanates beyond the sea and somber empires, rich with silk and wrapped in traditions. Closer to home, smaller kingdoms surround Gloriana’s lands. These include the Marchen Woods, where our story begins.
Humans in Gloriana itself are familiar with the existence of other species. Elven travelers and sages are not unheard of in the city, though they do draw a great deal of excitement and wonder when they arrive. Beyond the city, superstition, fear and awe surround most interactions between humans and other beings.
The Marchen Woods once belonged to the wood elves, but they were driven out three generations ago by a band of knights. Mortals say the war was caused when elves trapped and imprisoned the crown prince of Gloriana who was traveling those woods, and the knights went forth in search of justice. The elves harbor a bitter grudge, for their version of the story is that the knights burned their century-old groves and slaughtered their villages out of greed. The details are lost but the bitter feud lingers.
Children of the elements themselves, dwarves are the secret denizens of the corners of the earth. They come in several ancient clans, each tied to a primal ancestor, and the various types of dwarves are drastically different from each other.
Every tribe is further divided into two branches—the immortal and mortal. Dwarves directly made of their corresponding element are beings of wild power and mystery. Their mortal brethren usually form societies in the Mortal Realms
The Grafa dwell in in mountains atop the clouds, mining ice, snow and jewels, and spinning the rare skysteel into works of beauty. Their skin is cold blue and their beards are ice and spun snow.
Descendants of the Grafa are known colloquially as Snow or Wind Dwarves. Many of them inhabit Taranat. Snow dwarves are reclusive and wealthy, whereas Wind Dwarves tend to be wanderers and musicians.
With skin like hot coals and beards of fire, the Rjúfa work furiously in the forges at the heart of the world, keeping them from cooling. Rjúfa are often conflated incorrectly with demons. While they are ghastly visages of fire and muscle, the Rjúfa care only for their sworn duties, their craftsmanship, and beauty.
Descendants of the Rjúfa are called Ember or Desert Dwarves. Desert Dwarves can be found in tribes across the world, living as nomads. Ember Dwarves form mystical, ritualistic and xenophobic societies, worshiping and investigating the mysteries of the world.
Stone and metal that walk and dwell in the deep, with gems for eyes. These are the keepers of the roots of the world, protectors of the ancient vaults of memory and gateways into the Underworld. The mansions of the Nidavell are vast and beautiful beyond compare.
Descendants of the Nidavell are called Mountain or Hill Dwarves. Mountain dwarves have proud kingdoms in the mountains between Taranat and Gloriana. Hill Dwarves form enclaves across the world, and are renowned craftsmen and mercenaries.
Mighty kings of reefs and tides, the Gelmir have muscles of rippling blue, beards of seaweed, and wear armor and crowns of coral. Their vaults are filled with terrible storms and waves. Legends say that a kingdom sank beneath the sea when a thief tried to steal the treasures of the Gelmir.
Descendants of the Gelmir are Sea and River Dwarves. Sea Dwarves are explorers and and traders, whereas River Dwarves are traveling merchants and storytellers.
Elves are not simply citizens or other inhabitants of the land. They are reclusive and shrouded in wonder. Most humble human peasants don’t know the difference between the various tribes and nations of Elvendom, nor the complex nature of their exact relationship with the otherwordly Aos Si.
D&D Stats: High Elves
The so-called Dawn Elves travel from time to time to human cities. They wear garments of fantastic color and texture, woven from nigh-impossible fabrics—the silk of the lunar moth, the wisps of gossamer trees. Alfar are skilled with magic and create objects of beauty. When they travel to Gloriana, it is most often to consult with the high magus Rúnda, share wisdom with mortal sages, or bring a gift of wondrous beauty in exchange for something odd (water from a particular stream, a lock of hair from a child born on mid summer’s day, etc).
In secret, the Alfar often take mortal lovers during these visits. Their trysts are passionate and fleeting. The long lives of the Alfar mean that the same guest may appear several generations apart.
The hidden cities of the Alfar are said to be wonders of magic and architectural genius. They love light and gemstones, adorning their buildings with prisms and stones that focus and scatter light a thousand ways, into insubstantial sculptures. Their dwelling places are always concealed by powerful magic and may lie between the human lands and the dwelling of Sidhe.
D&D Stats: Wood Elves
Unlike the elegant and clandestine Alfar, the Dusk Elves almost never treat with mortals. They dwell in hidden glades, living in the trees, hunting and living off the land. The cities of the Huldra are as wondrous and sophisticated as those of the Dawn Elves, but their genius is incorporated into the living landscape. Huldra culture and traditions are as old as their siblings.
Whereas the Alfar can be relied upon to reveal the mysteries of magic to humans, the Huldra guard the secrets of nature with reverent fervor. Animals and trees are their allies, their eyes and ears, their messengers and warriors. The poetry and dances of the Huldra turn the air itself against mortal interlopers. Their bows and spears kill silently from unseen perches.
War between Huldra and humans has left a legacy of blood and resentment between the two. The Marchen Woods once belonged to them, and they have not forgotten.
D&D Stats: Dark Elves
Little more than a legend to those who dwell on the surface, the Deep Elves emerge from below only at night. Nobody understands what they do or why. They are shunned by both Alfar and Huldra—perhaps even feared—but not hated. When they come, they steal odd trinkets, abduct children, leave mysterious symbols, and change plants and crops to a strange purple hue.
The wisest and most learned of human sages suspect that the Alfar and Huldra hold their deep kin in fearful reverence, as emissaries or keepers of some awful and sacred charge.
Recently, a transcription of the Mordavian Tablets were discovered that shed some additional light on the Dokkalfar. As the Alfar represent Dawn, humans Noon and Huldra Dusk, the Dokkalfar represent Night. Taras the Golden emerged from the Underworld in their land, indicating that they may be guardians of the physical entrances to the Underworld. They also know secret paths between the worlds—the “Scintillating Path” and the “Road of Seven Veils,” which lead to the Fifth Kingdom and the Rainbow Road respectively. The Dokkalfar “Deep Watchers” are responsible for guardian the borders between the Mortal World and the Underworld, to make sure nothing gets out.
The Dokkalfar are led by a figure known as The Sage, to whom secret knowledge is entrusted. The Sage is a prophetic figure who studies all the lore of the Dokkalfar and directs their bizarre actions on the surface, ordering them to capture specific mortals and bring them below, leave signs and symbols for mortals, and otherwise take mysterious action.
Few beings are so close to their origin as the Dragonborn of Elam. Hatched by the dragon masters of that empire, the Dragonborn are the holy acolytes, zealous honor guards and loyal armies of Elam. Most Dragonborn cleave tightly to the noble house that birthed them, and their culture and habits vary widely according to what house they belong to.
It is possible but rare for a dragonborn to leave the service of their house and wander the world. Such travelers will have some traits in common with their place of origin, but may change drastically as time goes on.
Dragonborn are nigh underheard of in the Marchen woods and would likely cause panic or wonder if they appeared. The various houses of Dragonborn are detailed in the article about Elam
Denizens of the open skies, long ago the Aarakocra roamed the clouds of the Sky Kingdom in great flocks. Vindur, Thunder King, launched a campaign of conquest that bound them all to his will. After that he mostly lost interest, but the balance of power is still made clear whenever necessary. They still fly across the skies but must now obey any Knights of Terranimbus in their path. Little remains of their glorious civilization, but the flocks are still friendly to groundlings who find their way to the clouds.