Elves in Paksenarrion’s world are one of the Elder Races: they believe they are part of the First Song of the Singer, the Eldest of the Elder. The Earthfolk (dwarves and gnomes) disagree, but don’t bother to argue. In their own tongue, they are the Sinyi, the Sung. Most are tall (the average elf is taller than the average human, though there’s overlap.) From the human perspective, there are multiple contradictions: elves loathe war and claim that their innate love of harmony makes conflict more painful to them–and yet they can be touchy, easy to offend, and even quarrelsome. Elven grudges last millenia…a fact that comes into play in the second book of this series in particular. In the immediate area of the first and part of the second book, the ranking elf is Flessinathlin, the Lady of the Ladysforest, referred to as the Lady. Kieri, King of Lyonya, is her grandson through her daughter.
The most important of the elvish powers, to elves themselves, is the taig sense–the ability to sense and communicate with the “consciousness” of all living things. This is believed to result from their being part of the First Song, in which they still participate, and they can “sing the taig awake”. Next in importance, and related, is the ability to heal the taig, and its components.
Paksenarrion, some of you recall, joined up with Macenion, who told her he was a half-elf (he wasn’t, though he had a touch of elven blood and knew how to present it.) Part-elves may or may not look elvish, and have varying amounts of elvish power. This leads to many interesting situations…including in the current series.
Kieri Phelan, now king, is half-elven: his father is part Old Human and part magelord. His mother was the Lady’s daughter, giving him royal blood on that side. His elven powers, almost destroyed by abusive kidnappers, have now returned and he is learning to use them. But his taig sense is that of a half-elf…and to fix the ability in his children, he should marry a part-elf or full elf. He is not able to get past the sheer age of the few elven women his grandmother-elf introduces–he realizes that no matter how long he lives, he will always be as a child to the full elves in Lyonya.
How do elves feel about part-elves? It depends on their parentage on both sides. Elves are attractive to most humans, and some elves are strongly attracted to young, pretty humans. They feel that young humans have a freshness that, by its very brevity, is more beautiful. And some elves happily mate with human after human (usually only one at a time) producing (over the centuries) many, many part-elf children.
This is a source of controversy. Elven parents produce few children, at long intervals, and spend much effort on each child’s rearing. Unattached elves who start playing with humans, taking them up as they reach early adulthood, starting families with them, and then leaving them when they get wrinkly or otherwise unattractive, are seen as self-indulgent, irresponsible, and even dangerous to other elves who may someday face human resentment.
Part-elves themselves regard their heritage variously. Some yearn to be full-elves–try to enlarge whatever elven powers they have, ape elven styles of dress, learn the language, hang out with elves whenever they get the chance. This is easier to do with greater amounts of elven blood; a few with minimal amounts of human in them are even accepted by most elves as “real” elves. Others try to emphasize their human heritage, make themselves fit in as “real” humans. This is easy to do for those with little elven blood and sometimes the elven influence is forgotten in a family, only to crop out later when someone marries a part-elf down the line and the baby turns out to have taig-sense. Many half-elves find a place on the border between elf and human, of value to both peoples for their knowledge of both.
What kind of part-elf might Kieri find in Lyonya to consider marrying? There’s a lot he doesn’t know about elves and part-elves and the history of elf-human relations, when he’s crowned king of a realm with a dual monarchy.