“I watched as the stricken elves turned on each other, their ebony skin merging with the shadows, and their white eyes glowing with barely restrained hatred.”
– Corilanthas the White
With the end of the War of Souls, both of the elven homelands of Qualinesti and Silvanesti were lost to the elven peoples. Most elves moved on to form a colony known as Khurinost on the outskirts of Khuri-Khan, eventually to settle in the Valley of the Blue Sands, Inath-Wakenti. Yet there were other groups who were not able to make the journey. One such group settled in the town of Pashin.
With the coming of the Dark Knights to Pashin, the elves were forced underground. A discovery by an elven Kirath named Naelathan Shadowdark proved to be both the salvation and ultimately the curse of the elven refugees.
Naelathan discovered an abandoned temple in the sewers beneath Pashin and persuaded his people that the only way for them to survive was to use it as temporary home. Unbeknownst to the elves who called the temple home, it once belonged to the god Morgion. Morgion was both annoyed and amused that the elves had intruded on his property. To show his thanks, he decided to corrupt the elves. He infected them with a plague the likes of which had never been seen.
Shortly after taking up residence in the temple, the elves began to display symptoms of a disease that baffled the clerics and mystics of the elves, one that did not respond to any form of treatment. This plague resulted in physical and mental changes to the elves. It began with a slight aversion to sunlight and was characterized by black blotches on the skin that swiftly spread over the victim’s body. As the disease progressed it caused the elves to become crueler and more warlike. Most elves began to display great bouts of rage, snapping at the slightest provocation. The sunblight, as the disease was called, eventually progressed until the entire body was blackened. Eventually the elves of Pashin lost the ability to tolerate sunlight at all, and their hair had turned a ghostly shade of white.
Now the Darkwatch Elves, as the Dark Knights call them, have grown into their own society in the depths of the earth beneath Pashin. With dark gods and foul magic at their disposal, it is only a matter of time before their ambitions become known.
Most of the Darkwatch Elves are of Silvanesti descent, though there are a few Qualinesti and Kagonesti among their number. Though they should physically resemble their respective peoples, they have started to share some common traits as well.
The sunblight causes the skin of the Darkwatch Elves to develop dark, ebony splotches. These splotches spread over time, eventually covering the entirety of the elf’s body. Their hair loses pigmentation, turning silvery white. Their eyes change color as well, often to blood-red or a sickening yellow, though in rare cases, some of the Morinesti develop purple, lavender, or green eyes.
As the changes develop, the Morinesti develop a greater aversion to sunlight. At first, the elves cover themselves with cloaks to ward off the burning sun. As time goes on, they become light-blinded, unable to function normally in sunlight.
While Morinesti fashions are mostly Silvanesti in nature, their clothing tends to be darker colors, such as black, ash grey, dark red, or brown. Those from House Cleric tend to wear sickly yellow colors. Their clothing, once elegant, is not tattered and worn, carrying with it a dank, musty smell. All elves have a connection to the living, so it comes as no surprise that they would adopt the underground life of Morinost, such as lichens, into their clothing as well.
The transformation brought on by the sunblight has eliminated most of their redeeming qualities of the Darkwatch Elves. They have become hateful, spiteful, and wrathful. Their lives have been turned upside down, and to a race unused to such changes, it has driven them to madness. From madness comes paranoia as the elves turn upon the surface world – and each other.
The Morinesti have lost their moral compass where the sanctity of life is concerned. Where life was once treasured, now the Darkwatch Elves seek to bend it to their own will. People are valued only for how they can benefit the Morinesti, and then they are tossed aside. Mushrooms have been tainted to secrete a deadly poison, which roughly translates into common as “nightingale.”
The Morinesti have developed traits representative of the gods they worship. Their souls are in a state of moral decay, leading to perversions of the body and mind. Truth and lies are interwoven so that one is indiscernible from the other. Any slight against a Morinesti will cause the elf to retaliate with deadly force (if one can be so lucky), or through more devilish means if the Darkwatch Elf gains more pleasure from it. They are relentless in all they do.
In the wake of the corruption of the elves of Pashin, the Houses of the Silvanesti have been compacted into four Houses. The houses that once served as a stratified caste system became even more so. The elves battled each other for dominance, more strongly aligning themselves with their Houses. The elves of House Cardinal emerged victorious mostly due to the divine sponsorship of Morgion. The members of House Cardinal became the new royalty with all the Morinesti bowing to Anoronelen Darkstar, Nightmaster of Morgion and First Speaker of the Night.
House Cardinal: Since there are no members of House Royal, House Cardinal became the new royalty. Prior to the Cataclysm, House Cleric enjoyed power and privilege second only to House Royal. Following the corruption of the elves of Pashin, the newly-rechristened House Cardinal has become the most powerful house in the new kingdom of the Morinesti, and it is from House Cardinal that the Speaker of the Night is chosen by Morgion.
Though House Conqueror is the military power of the Morinesti, the Speaker of the Night uses her own divine agents for special missions. These plague knights of Morgion, known as the Rathkind, are said to physically resemble the vermin who serve them. This is difficult to confirm, as they wear clothing that covers their features.
House Conqueror: House Conqueror finds itself in a tenuous position, to say the least. While they have military authority, they are forced to clear their actions through House Cardinal. Membership in House Conqueror is now given to those with no propensity for divine or arcane magic, but whose members are experts in arms. They make up the bulk of the Morinesti military forces.
The ultimate authority in military matters comes from the Speaker of the Night and her Council of Lords. The actual head of House Conqueror is Naelathan Shadowdark [LE male Morinesti ranger 6/wrathful avenger of Sargonnas 5], who is secretly a Bloody Condor of Kinthalas (Sargonnas). Shadowdark and his entourage of bodyguards, all of whom are members of the Bloody Condors, seek to dethrone the Speaker of the Night and place House Conqueror as the ruling body. However, House Cardinal not only has numbers on its side, but also belief. Turning the Morinesti away from Morgion and introducing the worship of Kinthalas instead will prove difficult.
House Arcana: Upon learning of the Darkwatch Elves, Nuitari saw an opportunity. Now, former White Robe wizards were being influenced by Nuitari to study forbidden arcane arts. Soon, the former White Robes became Black Robes, tested in secret and known to only a few Black Robes on the Wizards’ Conclave. The former remnants of House Mystic became House Arcana, and the third most powerful house in Morinesti was formed.
House Arcana believes that those who have the talent for arcane magic are inherently superior to their mundane kinsmen. Morinesti elves who display an affinity for arcane magic are taken from their previous house and adopted into House Arcana. In recent years, this has included young children.
House Arcana has come to realize that the Morinesti have a greater affinity towards Wild Sorcery than other elves. Strangely, few Morinesti sorcerers are known. It is rumored that House Arcana abducts these sorcerers and drains them of their arcane power for sinister purposes. The bodies of the sorcerers are never found, leading to further speculation.
House Thrall: The members of House Thrall are the bottom-feeders of Morinesti society. Slaves, every one, they have no voice in Morinesti society. They make no decisions. They live only to serve, and even though only at the whims of their betters. Many have lost the will to live, yet social mores prohibit them from taking their own lives. It is a degradation of the elven soul. Those who show any hint of rebellion find themselves on the receiving end of a Morinesti lash. Yet some members of House Thrall are among the most ruthless members of the Morinesti, figuring, rightly, they have nothing to lose. These members of House Thrall are few and far between, often suffering from a lack of organization. Yet sometimes, an individual will escape the lash and try to find their way to freedom.
Darkwatch Elves follow the same naming conventions as the Qualinesti and the Silvanesti, though with a darker twist on the names. Most Darkwatch elves have adopted new names to reflect their new reality. Though beautiful in sound, Morinesti names convey tones of sadness, darkness, and corruption.
The Morinesti are devoted to the Black Wind (Morgion). It was the Black Wind who answered the call of the Speaker of the Night when all other gods, including Mishakal, failed to do so. It was the Black Wind who bestowed the gift of the Morinesti’s transformation upon them, taking great glee in the corruption of the Morinesti elves. The former children of Paladine have fallen from the sun and stars, falling into the darkness of night. The Speaker of the Night also serves as Morgion’s Nightmaster amongst the Morinesti. House Cardinal was organized to ensure that Morgion’s will be done.
Kinthalas (Sargonnas) is seeking to make his presence known within House Conqueror. Already, a sect of the Bloody Condors has infiltrated their ranks. As House Conqueror seeks vengeance against the other houses and against the surface elves, Kinthalas will gain in power.
Nuitari has quickly come to dominate the ranks of House Arcana. Though the corruption of the Morinesti was due to Morgion, evil wizards venerate the Black Moon first and foremost. Nuitari has taken great joy in having the ranks of the Black Robes filled by former White Robes. Nuitari is seeking to build an underground wizard’s tower where the Test of High Sorcery may be conducted in secret, even from most of the Conclave.
Hiddukel has recently taken notice of the Morinesti. As former elves of light, their corruption comes across as a great falsehood. Hiddukel seeks to take the corruption that is already there and twist it further. In recent years, the paranoia of the Morinesti has increased; intrigue and deception are on the rise, and the houses plot against one another. Hiddukel seeks to find those who would serve him as clerics, but the Black Wind’s influence of House Cardinal makes it difficult to gain a foothold. Perhaps House Thrall may have more likely candidates.
Oddly enough, a cult dedicated to the demonic Jiathuli has also emerged. The Handmaiden of Takhisis finds kindred spirits within the hearts of the Darkwatch Elves. Though Jiathuli has no clerics, she still maintains a great influence over those who venerate her. Jiathuli seeks her worshippers from House Thrall.
Darkwatch elves speak Elven. They have not had time to develop a distinctive dialect.
Darkwatch Elves are secretive. They come out only at night, and as such few know they exist. They value people only in so far as they are useful, once their use is at and end typically so is the person’s life.
One such group that knows of the existence of the Darkwatch Elves is the Dark Knights that control Pashin. They have discovered the existence of the evil elf enclave beneath their city, naming them after the hour of Darkwatch. The Dark Knights see these evil elves as competition for dominance of the city, and are taking steps to either eradicate them or bring them under their control.
The elves having once shut out the outside world, now seek to dominate it. For the moment though they work to build their numbers. The Morinesti continue to be carriers of sunblight and are capable of passing the contagion on any elves they physically contact. With each new infection, more Morinesti are added to the ranks. The Speaker of the Night has decreed that all elves found in the city are to be corrupted.
Normally, Morinesti elves are not open to the life of an adventurer. With the adverse effects of the sunblight, traveling can prove difficult, save for traveling at night. Some Morinesti elves travel to spread the sunblight to other elves, and are seeking to find a way to Inath-Wakenti that will not result in their deaths. There are no known cases of a Morinesti elf who has tried to live life away from Morinost.
Those few Morinesti elves who adventure will find themselves working in secret. With a notable outward appearance, they must forever hide in the shadows of Ansalon. Such an elf is always fighting against paranoia and madness, trying to maintain sanity in an insane world.
Some Morinesti seek a cure for the sunblight. Such a character may find himself traveling to any number of places across Ansalon, from the Citadel of Light to the Elian Wilds. Those who have given up on a cure may seek some other sort of aid. An emissary was recently sent to Inath-Wakenti to see if the Morinesti could live in the tunnels underneath the valley. She has not been heard from since.
Morinesti characters typically are clerics, wizards, and fighters, as the structure of the Morinost houses dictates these paths. With their inner politics and backbiting demeanor, it is no wonder that many are nobles and rogues as well. Few Morinesti take levels of nature-based classes, or of ambient magic classes.
Barbarian: The path of a barbarian comes naturally to the Morinesti. Fueled by anger, wrath, and vengeance, the Morinesti elves easily tap into their inner rage.
Bard, Mystic, Sorcerer: Like their Silvanesti cousins, the Morinesti show little talent towards ambient magic. Their arrogance and madness work against them; their Charisma penalty directly affects their abilities as bard or sorcerer. Likewise, few Morinesti have enough faith in themselves to make good mystics. Morinesti bards, mystics, and sorcerers are oddities.
Cleric: Many Morinesti are clerics of Morgion, the Black Wind. As the father of this new subrace, he holds a great influence over all the clerics of House Cardinal. Only a small handful of clerics worship other deities, and never openly for fear of their lives.
Druid: A few rare Morinesti still share a connection to nature. Those who do seek to either corrupt nature or become nature’s masters.
Fighter: Fighters are common in Morinesti society, serving in the ranks of House Conqueror. They are the backbone of Morinesti’s armed defense.
Mariner: As a race of subterranean elves, there are no known Morinesti mariners.
Master: Morinesti masters are rare, as the Morinesti have little use for entertainment or commerce. Most masters are craftsmen, with a few rare sages amongst their number.
Monk: The Morinesti typically do not have the patience or clarity of mind to become a monk. Only a rare individual would be able to master the discipline that being a monk requires.
Noble: With the dangers of Morinost politics, many of the Darkwatch Elves take levels of noble. Only a noble can hope to successfully navigate political entanglements, negotiations, and pitfalls.
Paladin: There are no known Morinesti paladins. With the corruption of the Morinesti elf bodies and minds, none of the Darkwatch Elves have the moral compass to become a paladin. Only a rare individual who had found spiritual redemption could become a paladin.
Ranger: Morinesti rangers are fairly common within House Conqueror, serving as scouts. They have developed their own unique two-weapon fighting style.
Rogue: Rogues are everywhere in Morinesti society. From the nobility to those in House Thrall, a rogue is around every corner. Using the shadows to their advantage, they quickly eliminate their opponents without them being the wiser. Some rogues work for the great Houses, others work for the highest bidder. Many rogues eventually take levels of the assassin prestige class.
Wizard: Wizards in Morinost are part of House Arcana. These masters of the magical arts revere Nuitari. While these wizards are Black Robes, their testing is done in secret, away from the Conclave. Only a few Black Robe allies on the Wizards’ Conclave know about House Arcana. Though they cannot physically see the black moon underground, they can still feel its ebb and flow. Wizard tests often involve going to the surface, where they can gaze upon the moon Nuitari with their own eyes.
Morinesti Racial Traits
Morinesti have all the elven racial traits listed in Chapter 2 of the Player’s Handbook except as follows:
· Ability Adjustments:+2 Con, -2 Cha. Life in the sewers has toughened these elves, but has not done much for their social graces.
· Elvensight: Morinesti elves have low-light vision and can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. They retain the ability to distinguish color and detail under the circumstances. Elvensight also includes darkvision up to 120 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight.
. Dark Temper: The Morinesti have a hard time controlling the bitterness and the rage that has taken hold of their hearts. A Morinesti that takes damage in combat flies into a berserk rage on its next turn, attacking madly until either it or its opponent is dead. It gains +4 to Strength, +4 to Constitution, and -2 to Armor Class. It is tough for them to end their rage willing. In order to end their rage the Morinesti must succeed at a DC 15 Will save. Success means the Morinesti calms down and loses the bonuses gained from the rage and immediately becoming fatigued.
· Automatic Languages: Common, Elven, Undercommon. Bonus Languages: Abyssal, Aquan, Draconic, Handtalk, Gnome, Goblin. This trait replaces the high elf’s automatic and bonus languages.
· Sunblight: All Darkwatch Elves are carriers of sunblight. They can pass this contagion on to other elves by making physical contact. Contact: DC 18; Incubation 3d4 weeks; Damage 1d3 Con*. Note if an individual suffers two or more points of Constitution drain, they must make another Fortitude save or else be permanently infected with light blindness. Once an individual has fully succumbed to advanced sunblight, they cannot be restored to their natural state. Nothing short of a Wish spell or Miracle is capable of reversing advanced sunblight.
· Light Blindness: Abrupt exposure to bright light (such as sunlight or a daylight spell) blinds Darkwatch Elves for 1 round. On subsequent rounds, they are dazzled as long as they remain in the affected area.
· Favored Class: Wizard (male) or cleric (female). This trait replaces the high elf’s favored class.
So……. Drow with less flavor
I like to think of them as a way to incorporate drow into Dragonlance that is a lot more subtle and a nice tie-in to Key of Destiny.