Beneath the crashing waves of wild coastlines lives the sea elf, aquatic cousin of the land-based elves in conduct and outlook.
Aquatic elves live for many centuries, and their eyes often show the effects of such great age. Otherwise, sea elves show little evidence of aging. They have gill slits on either side of their throats, and bluish skin. Their hair is usually stringy and white in colour. Males usually wear their hair short, but females allow their hair to reach as much as 100 centimetres in length. Unlike mermen, aquatic elves have legs and usually wear cloths woven from underwater plants and reeds. Their dress is quite intricate, most often of greens, blacks, and browns woven in subtle, swirling designs. Sea elves speak elvish, sahuagin, and an oddly accented common.
Sea elves are a peaceful culture. It is a rare sight to see an aquatic elf launch an attack, and rarer still for an entire band to prepare for war. Sea elves will leave their homes to go to battle only when the entire community is in danger, or against great enemies. When forced to war, they impress all opponents with their fierce bravery and skill.
If given their choice of battlefield, aquatic elves would prefer to fight in a bed of seaweed, or on the reefs, where their stealth skills can give them the chance to hide from their enemies. They can become as invisible in seaweed as their land-based cousins can in the forests. Sea elves enjoy the ability to move unhindered through seaweed, giving them tremendous advantages in maneuverability. While they lack the low-light vision of their land-based cousins, they can see clearly at amazing distances. An aquatic elf can count the troops of an enemy at distances of up to 2 kilometres.
Their preferred weapons are the trident and the spear. These are used for hunting as well as for combat. As a result, the trident and spear are wielded with great skill by sea elves. They will also use combat nets against their enemies, entangling their weapons or trapping them. Magical gestures are impossible in a net.
Sea elves befriend dolphins and employ them as companions and comrades-in-arms. The dolphins are companions, however, they are neither pets nor cannon fodder. When danger threatens, dolphins join the combat as willing allies.
Small communities of 200-400 normal inhabitants are the rule of aquatic elven lifestyle. These communities are often found in heavy weed beds in sheltered waters, though the sea elves may fashion homes in caverns in lagoon bottoms and coral reefs. Sea elf communities keep in touch with each other through an elaborate and inefficient custom of wandering herald/messengers who travel from one band to another, much like postal carriers transmitting oral messages. In each community, there is a leader with fighter training, with a personal guard of eight elf fighters. The leader and his guards often carry magical weapons.
Aquatic elves are an anti-social race. They avoid air-breathers as well as other races that dwell beneath the waves. Their cities are usually carved from the rock beneath beds of seaweeds, practically invisible to non-elves.
As independent as the freedom-loving elves are of each others' communities, they live in even greater isolation from the rest of the undersea races, whom they would rather not deal with. Although the aquatic elves see nothing wrong with the mermen and other good-aligned undersea races, the elves see no reason to involve themselves in the problems of such transitory peoples. It is part of the elven philosophy to let others go about their business with a minimum of interruption; aquatic elves would prefer it if others returned the favor.
Those aquatic elves who are willing to deal with non-elves are highly insulted if the non-elves express any lack of confidence in the sea elf's word. An aquatic elf who makes a promise will carry out his obligation unto death. Should he be killed before he can succeed, his entire band will work to see that the promise is fulfilled. On the other hands, aquatic elves do not accept promises from non-elves. The sea elves know that they are the only race with the honor to carry out the duties of its dead members. And, besides, only elves live long enough to guarantee that they will have the time to fulfill a vow.
Dolphins are one of the few creatures the sea elves genuinely like. There are always dolphins swimming about most aquatic elf bands, providing one of the few clues as to where the elven cities are located. Aquatic elves are also fond of land elves. It is uncertain how closely related the two races are, although matings between land elves and sea elves produce elves with the colouring of wood elves, but with white hair. As they have hidden gills slits that open up when they dive under the surface, these elves can breathe either air or water indefinitely. The attitude and abilities of these half-breeds depend upon whether they were reared in the forests or the rich kelp beds, with individuals inclined to follow the lifestyles of their mother.
Sea elves have an outlook on the world that comes from long lives among quiet natural beauty. Even with magical assistance to enable them to breathe air, aquatic elves are uncomfortable above the waves, and so very few have seen the forests that the land-based elves speak of with such enthusiasm. But there are few sea elves who would not like to take the impossible trip overland to see the wonders of a forest first-hand.
Sea elves hate sahuagin. This isn't much of a surprise, as almost every undersea race hates the sea-devils. But sea elves generate a passion for conflict with the sahuagin that surprises even themselves. Aquatic elves leave their sheltered bands in war parties if they have reason to suspect that sahuagin are dwelling nearby. Should a party of sea elves encounter sahuagin, the former nearly always attack if they outnumber their hatred foes. Aquatic elves also make it a point to kill any great sharks in their territory.
Each band of sea elves are self-sufficient, raising their kelp and hunting fish when necessary.
Sea elves scavenge. They are enchanted by the idea of magic, but they realize that land elves are more equipped to deal with it. They often trade rare or decorative items they have found to the land elves in exchange for metal weapons and tools, which they can't forge underwater.
Aquatic elves are valuable sources of information regarding the lands beneath the sea. Their scavenging parties have uncovered artifacts and tidbits of knowledge from a vast collection of underwater ruins and sunken ships. Sea elf traders remember the histories of other races back beyond the imaginings of the current generation. The trick is to get them to reveal their information.