From the heart of Shara rises an elegant, majestic city of light. Surrounded by stark extremes of environment, Allemantheia’s tall spires, dramatic water sculptures, and soaring streets seem less like a homeland and more like a monument to independent thought.
This is the city of the elves, center of their culture and racial identity. Built soon after their arrival on Shara, it reflects much of the people it represents. Because of the aloof, mysterious, and unknowable architecture, visitors to the city have been known to stop and stare at some feature for hours, only to realize that the statue they’ve been studying is actually a doorway.
There is a logic to the city’s construction—elven logic, carefully crafted and refined over hundreds of years. Foot traffic flows like mighty rivers across deep canyons of stone, bridging the great lake at its base and connecting all things of importance to visitors. But this is but the surface of Allemantheia’s wonders. Behind the high walls is the true home of the elves, hidden away from the sight of those not fortunate enough to be born to that race. Whatever mysteries drive them to such secrecy we can only guess at; even with no elves in sight, the city is uniquely theirs.
The elves, or “High Elves” as their current philosophy names them, have a history both ancient and at the same time not much older than the city they inhabit. When the gods made war on one another, the elves took no sides—their own divine patron, Karas, had been absent for many generations. Their allies the giants and the poporis were involved enough for both races, and as the conflict escalated, life on Arun was nearly laid to waste.
The giants’ empire in ruins and their former slaves the amani locked in a death struggle with the newly created orcans and kobolds—these are reasons enough for anyone to leave a warzone, but not the elves. They had kept their forest safe and independent for thousands of years. It took something far more devastating to make them migrate—the total destruction of their way of life.
When the god Sikander pursued his nephew Nerezza across their lands, the tremendous energies used in their fight killed thousands of elves. Even this was survivable, but the battle also damaged the elves’ greatest treasure, the Flower of Life. This ultimate expression of elven magic and the symbol of their devotion to the god Karas began leeching the land around their home, turning the Elven Forest into a lifeless waste.
To contain the runaway energies of the damaged artifact, many sorcerers gave their lives to create a device capable of safely harnessing its power. But the environment-damaging aspect of the Flower was not something they could fix or control, and the debate over how best to proceed created a greater rift in the already politically charged culture of the elves. One faction (led by the Archmage Cerion) maintained that to give up the Flower of Life (now referred to as “the Core”) would be giving up their cultural and spiritual identity. The opposing view was that the Flower’s energies should be safely returned to the world over time, ending the danger it posed to all life and willingly sacrificing much of the elves’ magical might. There was one issue both groups agreed on: the gods were responsible for their problem, and no god could make it right. As their last unified action, the elves renounced the gods entirely, choosing to make their own way through life based on the strength of their convictions, instead of faith in cruel and capricious “higher” beings.
Thus were the High Elves born, and when the armed conflicts surrounding the disposition of the Core grew too dangerous to bear, they moved the seat of their culture from Arun to Shara, founding their great city of Allemantheia in a region full of the resources necessary to rebuild what they had lost.
Little is known about the Mysterium, other than that it is based in Allemantheia and was instrumental in turning back the argon tide. Ostensibly a union of magical disciplines from across Tera, its secretive and often incomprehensible motives brand it a perfect organization for the elves who champion it.
The spiritual successor to the Holy Empire’s Council of Magic, members of the Mysterium can be found in any place of “ancient” power, in every major city of the federation, walking alongside dusty desert roads, and wherever they are least expected. They seek to understand, not control, though they are the first to act when one of their “own” uses magic for some nefarious purpose.
A common saying among elves is “we remember.” Allemantheia is a self-contained city-state, not just politically, but functionally. Hidden within its tall walls and towers is the true home of the elves, one glimpsed only by trusted friends and associates. Never again will the elven people be threatened by outside forces. Inside their meticulously carved chambers they live industrious and private lives, illuminated by hidden conduits channeling and enhancing the light of Balder’s eyes above.
Visitors to the city enjoy large spaces devoted to their needs, but are not granted easy access to the lower levels. Under the wide paths walked by other races are areas reserved for elves to wander and appreciate the beauty their ancestors created out of a sandy wasteland. Indeed, it’s surprising that there are any spaces at all for non-elves to enjoy—the city was closed to outsiders for generations, only opening recently to refugees of the argon encroachments to the north. Most adult elven residents either marched north to fight the invasion, or know someone who did and never came back. Amongst the hidden wonders of the city is an area where each elf that lost his life to bring about the dream of “unification” with other races is remembered in quiet contemplation.
Three towering gates offer access to the city’s broad avenues from the blistering desert outside the walls, and on a fourth “corner” the Mysterium maintains two areas for pegasus travelers from across the continents. Based on only the friendly smiles and open arms, one might never guess that not so very long ago, non-elven visitors could expect a very different—and much more violent—reception.