The elven population is a study in racial divergence. Both originated in the Dawn Times on the Astral plane, but migrated to Prime in the aftermath of the Dawn War. High elves maintained links to the Aether-filled Astral, leading to near-immortality and strong magical capabilities. The Wood elves gave allegiance to Prime herself, bonding with the natural elements. Changeable and wild, they gave up their long lives and innate magic for strong ties to nature and wisdom. Still able to interbreed, the two had diverged significantly by the pre-Cataclysm era.
The Cataclysm War accelerated the divergence of these people. Now, the two civilized elven populations barely consider each other as members of the same race. Wood elves consider the High elves a dead end, dying people who are stuck in the past. High elves consider Wood elves barbarous and uncivilized. Both are right. Their languages have diverged to the point that they are mutually unintelligible although they are still written in the same script.
High Elves (Gwerin)
High elves are tall, slender, and graceful. Their hair, skin, and eyes take on tones that are unnatural in most other species--gold or ivory skin, metallic silver, gold, or red hair, and eyes that glitter in jewel tones. They are long-lived, reaching 120 years old on average with the eldest living to about 200 years. Their un-ageing nature died with the Cataclysm, as did the strongest links to the Astral. They want those links back, desperately.
Two groups have developed, divided by how they have chosen to reclaim the past glories of their race. These factions are the Gardeners and the Arcanists' Union. The Gardeners have decided that intentional genetic modification through eugenic breeding programs is their race's best bet. They seek magics and power to breed in traits into the elven lines that will lead toward a new glorious future. Marriages are calculated and decreed by the leadership without regard for emotional compatibility. The Gardeners are more inward looking, disdaining outside influences as disruptive.
The Arcanists' Union is the smaller group, believing that a study of the magic of the past is the way forward. They are less concerned with racial purity and more with magical might. Their leaders are always powerful mages--those who reject the arcane are shunned. They tend to have very little concern for collateral damage.
High elven society (of whichever faction) is hierarchical, aristocratic, and patriarchal. Those of high blood (either genetically or magically) wield tremendous privilege and power over those of lower status. 8 Houses Major form the core of the aristocracy--5 are Gardener-allied and 3 are Arcanist. Each House Major has a stable of Houses Minor as vassals. Houses tend not be be large in size--10-20 full members on average. Women are considered somewhat lesser, but their status depends more on social class than on gender. For more on High Elven society, see Social Ordering of the Council Lands.
With regard to other races, High elves tolerate Humans (especially the tiefling and aasimar groups), pity Halflings, and disdain dwarves. Their worst feelings are toward the Wood elves. Dragonborn are neutral (but considered somewhat lesser like all other races). Hobgoblins and Serpent-kin are actively disdained; the more snobbish high elves won't associate with them or talk to them unless absolutely necessary.
Religiously, High elves venerate ancestors as well as Yogg-Magus, Tor Elan, and Aerielara (mostly). Roel-Kor has a strong following, especially among the higher classes.
Sexual propriety is a weak among the High elves. Since both male and female High elves are in conscious control of their fertility, unauthorized children are rare although marital fidelity is not a major virtue. This sexual licentiousness is a major source of inter-racial tension, especially with the dwarves.
High elves are named according to the pattern <Given> sur <House>.
Common male given names include: Alwyn, Afon, Arthfael, Berwyn, Brynmor, Cadfael, Derwyn, Emris, Gerallt, Glyndwr, Idris, and Mabyn.
Common female given names include: Aelwyd, Adara, Arwydd, Blodwen, Bronwyn, Caethes, Cerwen, Enid, Gwen, Olwyn, Rhedyn, Rhian, and Saeth.
The Houses Major are: Seren (G), Golau (G), Hawal (G), Iledrith (A), Arlwyd (G), Tywyll (G), Riain (A), and Tuathail (A).
Wood Elves (Puun Ihmisia)
Wood elves tend to be slightly shorter than humanity (standing 5'2" -- 5'10"), lithe and dexterous. Their hair and skin tones tend toward earth tones--browns, greens, and grays. Their hair often is mottled as if by the shadow of leaves. They live a little longer than humans, averaging 100 years.
Socially, most Council Lands wood elves have almost become feral. They live in tribes, wandering through the woods and wastes at the northern and eastern edges of the Council Lands. Inter-tribal squabbles are not uncommon, but the Green Lady and her court have so far prevented any serious warfare. Wood elf society is egalitarian and free--members of the tribes are free to act as long as it doesn't endanger the tribe as a whole. Tribes are led by a council formed by the chief shaman (usually female) and the warleader (usually male). Tribes choose members to act as part of the Green Lady's court--the role of Green Lady (nominal ruler of the whole race) goes to a wise woman chosen from the tribes. No tribe ever is chosen twice in a row. Power-and-status seeking behaviors are rare.
Sexually, wood elves practice exogamy--males are sent to other tribes at maturity to prevent inbreeding. Within a tribe, all children are notionally the children of the Warleader and monogamy is considered strange. Non-hetero-sexual life patterns are also not uncommon, but exclusive homosexuality is very rare.
Religiously, wood elves practice ancestor worship and venerate the spirits of the land. They tend to appease Lae-loara and Melara, but cannot be said to truly worship them or any of the gods.
Wood elf tribes vary in their acceptance of outsiders. The tribes closest to the core Council Lands are the most open and "civilized," settling in fixed locations and building villages and towns. These tend to get along with most races just fine. The far tribes (especially the nomadic Dust Elves) are much more xenophobic. Tales of sophophagy (eating of other sapient life), blood rituals, and worship of the Outcasts are common. Wood elves get along well with most races--they are wary of half-orcs and dislike high elves.
Byssian wood elves are more civilized and settled than those from near the Council Lands. They are most prevalent in the northern side of the country in the foothills of the Nocthian Mountains. They propitiate elemental forces and local spirits, engaging in shamanistic practices at small shrines throughout the region. They are well-integrated into the local political system, electing judges just like the human folk. See Byssia's Children for more details.
Council Lands wood elf names follow the pattern <Given> il <Clan>. Given names are androgynous.
Common given names include: Ahti, Ilmarinen, Louhi, Mielikki, Pekko, Taipo, Ukko, and Vellamo.
The notable clans in the Council Lands are Myrsky, Metsaa, Yaarvi, Pilvi, Kirjava, and Lehti.
Byssian wood elves use the same names as Byssian humans.