Aerenal Life and Society
Aerenal is an ancient nation. It watched the goblin empires
of Khorvaire rise and fall, saw the arrival of humans and the
common races, and observed the formation of the Kingdom
of Galifar. The elves respect their elders and are devoted to
their ancestors. Over the course of thousands of years, elf
families have developed distinctive customs, including manners
of dress, speech, art, and the use of magic.
Despite the cultural differences that have developed over the millennia, a number of common factors tie the Aereni families together. Most families are extremely insular. They have a strong belief in the importance of preserving their ancestral blood, and generally marry within their own lines; they appear to have few of the negative genetic markers that cause problems for human families that maintain a closed breeding pool. Humans often see the Aereni as cold and distant, but the truth is that most elves are uncomfortable around strangers, especially non-elves. They can predict the behavior of other families and read the emotions of their own kin with ease. But the unpredictable behavior of the shorter-lived races is disconcerting, and until an elf comes to know and trust an outsider, he usually shields his emotions behind an inscrutable facade.
Another trait shared by the Aereni is their attitude toward death. For the elves, death is not something to be feared; instead, it is embraced and ultimately welcomed. Each family expresses this attitude in a different way. Some wear intricate death masks. Others tattoo their faces with skulls or similar patterns. Members of the line of Jhaelian mimic the appearance of the undying while they are still alive, using magical and alchemical substances to induce rigor and apparent decomposition of the flesh. While all these customs are striking, there are many families that internalize their respect of the dead and do not demonstrate it in a physical form.
As for the deathless themselves, they are concentrated in the great cities of the nation’s interior. A family estate may have an honor guard of undying soldiers and an undying councilor advising the living elders of the line, but the majority of the undying gather in the City of the Dead. Regardless of family, all Aereni respect the undying as heroes of their race and always treat them with respect and deference. Many humans who hear about this assume that Aerenal is a land of vampires and zombies, when in fact nothing could be farther from the truth. An undying soldier or councilor is an undead creature, but it is charged with positive energy and sustained by the devotion of its descendants. Vampires, liches, and their ilk are abhorrent creatures that destroy life to preserve their own existence, and they are seen as a perversion of the undying. The creation of mindless undead, such as zombies and skeletons, is seen as an unforgivable insult to the body and soul of the deceased.
A final element that permeates all levels of the culture of Aerenal is immense racial pride, a superiority complex that extends thousands of years into the past. The elves of Aerenal are among the most accomplished wizards of Eberron. Their ancestors walk among them, and the greatest of the undying have almost godlike power. Their nation has driven off the dragons of Argonnessen not once, but multiple times. The elves are not blatantly arrogant. Instead, they are completely self-assured, possessing an unshakable faith in their peoples’ place in the world.