Dark elves were elves, known as Ssri-tel-quessir in the elven tongue, and were the ancestors of the drow. The two terms were oftentimes used interchangeably, even by elves (Tel-quessir) themselves.
Dark elves had dark brown skin, as opposed to the ebony skin that drow presently have. They also may have had black hair instead of white and no darkvision. Dark elves were also not tainted with Wendonai's blood.
Roughly twenty-seven millennia before the raising of the Standing Stone, the Fey creator race opened gates to the Feywild in an effort to undermine the ruling dragon empires. Through these portals, the first elves immigrated to Toril. These primitive green elves worshiped the Faerie gods (not the Seldarine, which were unknown at this time). Although most green elves were content to remain in small scattered tribes, one group known as the Ilythiiri, negotiated a truce with dragonkind and began carving out a small kingdom in the south. The great Ilythiir capital at Atorrnash would remain a shining beacon of elf culture for millennia.
Wendonai was a balor lord who, in −11,500 DR was tasked by Lolth to seduce the Sethomiir clan, rulers of the Ilythiiri into her worship and grant them evil magics. He succeeded and was probably the greatest (but by no means the only) influence on the fall of the dark elves.
In −10,500 DR, during the Crown Wars, the High Mages of Aryvandaar cast a fell high magic ritual that completely destroyed the dark elven nation of Miyeritar in an event called the Dark Disaster, changing that realm into a large swampy expanse known as the High Moor.
During the Crown Wars, the Ilythiiri made several unsuccessful attempts to conquer Faerûn (although they conquered Southern Faerûn up to Shantel Othreier), and at the time of the Fourth Crown War, they turned to Lloth and the other outcast Seldarine in the Demonweb Pits who gave them powerful magic and fiendish allies as a reward for allegiance. After many malicious acts and abuses of elven magic, Corellon Larethian banished the "Dhaerow" (traitors) whom Lolth used to be responsible for (and most of whom still secretly worshiped her) to the Underdark. It was at this time that all dark elves were physically transformed into drow, their skin becoming much darker.
In 1374 DR, Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun brought together many powerful mages in order to restore the denizens of the lost city of Miyeritaar's High Mages and cleanse part of the High Moor. In order to make the magic permanent, he and the Grand Mage Ualair the Silent sacrificed their lives to restore Rhymanthiin, the Hidden City of Hope.
Later, Q'arlynd Melarn managed (through a High Magic spell, which saw the intervention of Eilistraee, although the goddess would withdraw during the course of the ritual) to transform hundreds among the drow followers of the Dark Maiden back to their ancestral physiology as dark elves. The ritual was meant to affect all of the Dark Dancer's faithful, but of Eilistraee's few thousands of followers (which she had as a lesser power), only the above-mentioned number were changed by the spell.[note 1] Drizzt was not among those "redeemed dark elves" because only followers of the Dark Dancer were affected by the High Magic spell. As of the 1490s DR, post Second Sundering, the returned goddess Eilistraee was still drow, and so were most of her followers.
- Considering Eilistraee's ideals of acceptance, that—in over 10,000 years—Eilistraee never once acted or suggested the idea of such a change; and that her main goal was always to help the drow rediscover the kind of life that they had lost, and to establish them as rightful, non-evil citizens of the surface world, it could be that the goddess herself was opposed to the forceful transformation of her people. This would be further supported by her belief that the drow needed to find their own path in life, and her gentle and never direct approach in helping them in such endeavour (Demihuman Deities p. 12 and 14). It could explain why the spell—which saw her intervention—only affected a minority of her people, for forcing a physical change isn't in line with her modus operandil.[speculation]
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- Lisa Smedman (June 2008). Ascendancy of the Last. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 978-0-7869-4864-2.
- Eric L. Boyd, Erik Mona (May 2002). Faiths and Pantheons. Edited by Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, et al. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0-7869-2759-3.
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- Lady Penitent novel series
Aquatic Elves: Aquatic elf • Marel
Dark Elves: Dark elf • Drow
Sylvan Elves: Wild elf • Wood elf
Miscellaneous: Avariel • Dusk elf • Lythari • Poscadar elf • Snow elf
Planetouched: Celadrin • Draegloth • Eladrin • Fey'ri • Shadar-kai
Humanblood: Crinti • Half-elf • Half-drow • Half-sea elf
Dragonblood: Drow-dragon (shadow) • Drow-dragon (deep) • Zekyl • Zar'ithra
Miscellaneous: Drider • Maraloi