Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Psychedelic and Poisonous Terrors of the Jungle


This post is technically an addition to the pseudo-Caribbean setting of The Lawful Neutral, where the Old world meets the New one.

Because I am gracious, even if you are a thin blooded gaunt and a worm-spined egg stealer and therefore will not explore this setting’s other posts, everything in this one should still be clear enough to use. If you are however of fair heart, look here for the setting’s idea, here for the background generator, here for a guide to Hoodoo.

Here’s a quick thematic summary, for the egg stealers.

In the Old World, there’s no wilderness left. No real wilderness. The King of Woods, the King of Beasts, the whole lot all have nature on schedule, playing neatly to the pan-flute tunes of the monarchs that preside over it. The boars and eagles and fish and bugs may as well be dancers in masks, all choregraphed to the neatly designed dance of how nature ought to behave- for it is only proper. Nature will never be a problem in the Old World, it’s just a scenery. A décor.

In the New World, there are the gods, or perhaps it is more appropriate to call them spirits, or loa, or kami, or something along those lines. Their relation to the land is much less one-directional. Are they the spiritual expression of a nature both physically and metaphysically untamed? Is the wilderness the material vessel of the capriciousness of the spirits? This question remains unanswered, for a large part because it is of little importance to the native population. They are much more concerned with surviving yet another plague of giant wasps whose venom turns your bones and teeth into sugar crystal. Hence, their approach to the matter of theology is very different from that of the Old World. Here, the best people can hope for is to placate the gods, to please them and to coax from them the safety of one’s people and the blessing of the jungle’s bounty. Priests, spirit doctors, mambos and houngans are first and foremost skilled in dialectic between worlds to maintain a relationship with the spirits where the wasps only come if someone deserved it.

That's the idea. Now I can talk about what I want to talk about. The unknown. The terror. The wilderness. THE JUNGLE.

art by Henri Rousseau, 1907
The landscapes, fauna and flora of the New World's continent are fucking bizarre. The jungle is a mishmash of landscapes that squeeze out the minds of dandy Old World explorers into their own eyes like extra sour death lemons. Not only is the nature completely different from anything native to the continent the settlers came from, even the laws of physics have little say over this place.

Here are some places you could find in the jungle:

Shadow forests where there are no animals, but only the shadows of them. The canopy is your best protection against the tiger and snake shadows that are eager to rip you to pieces once you enter the light. The shadow figures you make with your hands become actual animals here. Be careful when making a fire, because where there is light, the predators can exist. If they kill your shadow you're bound to the forest. You have no shadow anymore and can't leave. There's a ritual fire you can make that if you light it in front of you, you'll regain a shadow- but it also works backwards, making real tigers to fit any shadow that enters its light.

Dream-cities, places where old explorers or natives have died, and the plant(?) called Li Ki Bati has taken seed in their brain to form parts of life-sized buildings using their memory by eating their dying soul. Because of this it rains a lot in dream-cities. The buildings are usually not complete and different pieces of architecture interlock to become a ruin that never was anything more than a ruin. Inside the buildings it is incredibly cold, and there grow many flowers that are typically of the colours Cosimand, Vanta-white, or just orange, and they grow fruit that attracts Li Ki Manje, who eats humans and looks like a giant-moth-komodo-dragon-man.

Blood Swamps are filled with insects and flies that eat carrion, and most of the bigger animals that live there are animated skins cut open at the stomach. They fly like kites. The swamp itself is filled with the innards of these creatures, the water is reddened with blood and stray organs and such float in it. They are all connected, like a web of water plants or a mangrove of entrails. Lots of colourful flowers bloom from them and there are human skins that ferry through the swamps with boats made of all the bones of the native animals. Beware the dense muscle dredges: they're like quicksand except, well, undulating muscle. On brain islands, there grows a herb with broad purple leaves that induces a spirit trance when chewed.

Art by Arthur Gurin
Tower mangroves have only a sparse amount of trees, but they all go infinitely high up. That's not a superlative. They keep going. When they're sawed through, they don't fall down but hover in place, and faceless grey apes come up from the water to repair the cut with the mangrove's mud. When it dries and falls off the cut is healed. A mangrove ape's hand makes crops bear plentiful fruit when it is buried in a field, but they come up in gangs, have the terrific strength you would expect of an ape, and their saliva is paralytic. Some of the trees are hollow and filled with water. Fish swim up and down them.

Siga Yo de Grans Bwa are thick hollow pillars the size of skyscrapers, made of dried mud and solidified basalt, and underneath them is an active volcano. Inside, where it is very hot and filled with smoke and ash, live petro spirits who can cause forest fires, and giant termites who drink rum that they brew to appease the spirits so they don't possess them. If you breathe in the ash a spirit can possess you and make you act rash and hot-headed and possibly commit arson. At the base of the pillars everything is petrified by the heat and constant ash clouds, but the Pompeii-ified animals can become possessed by the local petro.


Flat forests are like if you had found yourself in a giant pop-up book. Everything is flat. The trees, the plants, the rocks are all flat, and they seem to turn so that you are always facing their front if you look at them (they appear to do this for everyone at the same time). If you have a head in both worlds (are a sorcerer or a Vodou/Hoodoo priest), or you possess the eyeballs of one, you can avoid this trickery by walking backwards. On the backs of the flat scenery lizards with dragonfly wings sunbathe, and on some the back is a horrific face that will insult you and put a curse on you if you look at it and will try to eat you if you come close.

Starry Lakes are lakes that are mostly shrouded in the canopy of trees with broad thick palm-like leaves that grow out of the water. Where the water is in the shadow it looks like a starry night sky, and you can only paddle through it if your boat has a live bird on it, else it will fall downwards into the upside down sky. There are islands in these that are made of a red rock which is hot like coals to the touch. On them live white crocodiles that turn into constellations when they dive into the lake. Touching the sky-water affects you with radiation (constitution damage) and frostbite.

In dinner gardens there are birds called Koulè San Fen, which have psychedelically colourful patterns on their feathers and eat only the fruit of an pomegranate-like tree and the meat of dead monkeys. What kills the monkeys is unknown, but they always appear boiled or grilled expertly, served with fruit and sauce and a glass of port wine on a set table. If there suddenly appears a seasoned monkey in the garden, leave it to the Koulè San Fen. If you sleep here, there is a chance you wake up cooked and being eaten by pretty birds. The boiled monkeys are called Makak Dine Yo. If you eat one, you will become a cannibal and your children will have the faces of monkeys. The Koulè San Fen will also be royally pissed.

Art by Henri Rousseau, 1910
That should give you an idea. Also, a lot of things in the jungle are poisonous. Flowers or plants, the bite/sting/claw/spikes/eyes/touch/sound of an animal, the water of a lake, the water of the rain, the sunlight, the shadow, the air, all kinds of things could be a terrible venom to outsiders.

Here are some things those venoms might do to you:

Turn your bones and teeth into sugar
Make you delirious and give you a fever
Make you vomit fire
Add vertebrae to your spine until you rip in two
Make you very drunk
Turn your eyes inside out (blindness)
Give you gangrene
Turn your flesh into papery layers like a wasp’s nest
Give you haemorrhage so bad your bloods runs out of every pore
Skin you over the course of a week
Eat away your memories
Make your face less and less pronounced until it is gone
Make a baboon burst from your chest cavity
Turn your nails and fingers into beetles (they grow back and do it again)
Lurch you into another dimension
Slowly cleave your spirit from your body
Make you sweat petrol
Make your teeth grow stuck together
Make you possessed by spirits
Turn your skin hard like an oyster shell

Every poison has a cure, however, the cure tends to be some obscure plant that grows in a dangerous place, or something like aged hippo manure. Spirits could cure a poison for you as well, if you can please them enough.

Friday, June 14, 2019

...But the Blade was Poisoned! D20 Duel Twists


I’m making this small post because I remembered a book I read as a child. It was a Dutch book, so even if I could recall the title it would be of little use to most of you. It had two princes in it: Iridian, the good prince, and Viridian, the evil prince. I remember that at one point, they met, and curiously enough, they were both dressed in shiny white armour, and telling which was which was difficult for both the protagonist and the reader. At the end of the first book, they proceeded to have a duel. For the crown, assumedly, though my memory is hazy on their motivations. Suffice it to say that since they were the good and evil prince, it had to come of it eventually. (Assumedly) Iridian kills (assumedly) Viridian during the fight, but not before suffering a wound himself. And after the fight, Iridian falls gravely ill- it should come as no surprise, that Viridian had poisoned his sword, if anything to spite his brother.

From The Princess Bride (1987)
This was my first encounter with the classic intrigue that tends to arise from duels with a less than honourable opponent. “The sword was poisoned!” is one of the many tricks a villain can pull in such a situation, showcasing how deplorable they are by using underhanded and cowardly tricks like poison or witchcraft. I also happen to love this kind of thing. It’s very operatic, very Shakespearian.

It’s a good way to get players to dislike a villain- nobody likes a cheater.

So here’s 20 nasty tricks to turn the tide in duels. Mind, I’ve written it in such a way that most of them are applicable to any kind of duel. Swordfight in harness, Victorian pistol duel, and so on.


1
The villain’s weapon is poisoned with a rare and difficult to detect venom, the cure to which is equally hard to find.
11
The villain uses dark magic or poison to make the hero hallucinate their worst fears during the fight!
2
The villain has a secret crossbow assassin positioned in a nearby hiding spot to shoot the hero if the villain’s defeat is imminent!
12
The duel is meant to stall the hero and draw everyone’s attention while the villain’s forces carry out their much more important plan!
3
The hero’s weapon has been sabotaged! In the middle of the fight, it will suddenly fail to function properly leaving them exposed!
13
As above, but it’s a double bluff! The villain will tell the hero of the above mid-fight, hoping they will hastily forfeit to go stop this ongoing plan, while the villain’s goal is to have the hero forfeit the duel! Whether the other plan is real or not is of little importance.
4
The villain has kidnapped someone dear to the hero and reveals this to them at the start of the duel! If the hero doesn’t lose, their loved one will be killed!
14
The hero’s blade is secretly poisoned, and it will react spectacularly when the villain is hit, making it clear the hero has ‘cheated’! The villain or his accomplices of course carry an antidote in advance.
5
The villain arrives in obscuring armour or clothing- because they aren’t the villain at all, but a much more competent fighter in disguise!
15
The villain expertly fakes their death, and strikes at the hero when they’ve lowered their guard!
6
The hero’s armour or clothes have been laced with poison! They’re progressively weakened as the fight draws on!
16
The villain uses smoke or kicked up sand to blind the hero or at least impair their vision while the judge is distracted, in order to deal a vicious blow!
7
The villain has poisoned a nearby loved one of the hero, and hands the hero the antidote at the start of or during the fight- to save them, the hero will have to leave the ring and forfeit the match!
17
The villain fully intends to be killed during this duel- it’s part of their greater plan to put the hero in the position they need them in! The villain could be revived later through dark magic, or could have already masterminded the variables that will bring their plan to fruition, despite them giving their own life!
8
The villain has organised for innocent spectators of the duel to be killed by assassins if the hero doesn’t forfeit!
18
The villain has a cheat-y hidden blade they’ll use to wound the hero when they don’t expect it!
9
The villain is in fact either a doppelganger or a well disguised accomplice, and they are meant to die in this duel so the villain can go about their plan under the guise of being dead!
19
The villain has won the love or sympathy of one of the hero’s accomplices in secret, and they will try to intervene in the duel! This could all be a manipulation by the villain to catch the hero off guard, but it could also be genuine!
10
The villain makes up a lie (or tells a truth) that puts the hero in a bad light, causing the crowd to take their side and demand the hero forfeits the match!
20
The villain wants to die in this duel, but there’s no plan, no scheme. They’re here to finally let go of their life- and perhaps they’re glad it’s by the hero’s hand.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Fairies of the Oneirean

Before there was the earth, before there was reality and before the concept of reality was even a twitch in the sleeping face of Azatho- er, metaphysics, before there were elements and molecules and matter and tissue, there was dream.

It was dream, which was the prelude for existence, which may seem paradoxical but that's simply how things go. The bones of physics were still embryonic cartilage fibers floating towards each other. Chemistry was a protoplasmic blubber that had maybe decided on an element or two. Time was a diffuse and undifferentiated mass of stem-hours. However, no matter how protean, it could do that one thing that remains to us when we die, and thus is privy to us before we are born as well. In that sleep, these Dreams may come. No premonitions, but rather irrational, romantic and rather absurd musings on soon-to-be existence. Imagine that you read excerpts from history books and fables alike to a child, whilst you fed it paintings by Spanish surrealists and played The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult through Pink Floyd's Ummagumma album in reverse. While it's true that you have probably ruined a perfectly edible child, if you were to make highly skillful paintings of whatever the child says when you ask it to recount those histories you've told it, you'd have a good impression of the Oneirean, the Dream Before Time.

As may be expected, in this curious time there were dream-humans as well. Those were elves, who got a lot less interesting once they had the Red Queen to answer to. However, there were also dream-more-than-humans. Whether they were kings, (demi)gods, wizards, wasn't very clear because those are the same kind of thing. Powerful creatures. Fantastical, eccentric and larger-than-life things.

Fairies.

Art by Akiya Kageichi

Faries are still around, now, after the world was born, along with other relicts of the Oneirean, and while they're not strictly speaking the most powerful beings to exist in the higher and lower spheres, they are certainly the oldest, and they are the ones that make the least sense. That's a sort of power, since it could be argued that the fewer rules apply to you, the more powerful you are. They don't tend to cater to the world's logic, in the same away that the memories of a bizarre dream may confuse the mind when it is awake. They don't have clear goals or wants most of the time either, and when they do the logic behind them is nihil. It's obvious that fairies see something else than the world as it is when they look around. This leads some to think that they are pre- or omniscient, and other to think they are absolutely fucking insane. In truth they are a little of both.

Their appearance is surreal. They'll always have a humanoid face, but more often than not it is a painted one or otherwise merely for display purposes. Anything they touch vibrates to produce a tinkling song. The more emotive, romantic and mysterious the airs, the more coherently they'll form. They borrow shapes. Fabrics, auroras, ocean waves, but also less abstract things like shoes, hands, clothing. Whatever they are, they always have an acute sense of aesthetics. They are known to mimic this in each other too, and they are known to never take the forms of humans that they have not taken as payment. But they can look very, very human. Looks are, as always, deceiving.

Art by Remedios Varo
A fairie will never address you by your actual name. It will not address you by any name that makes or will make sense either. When remarking something about you it will never describe qualities you actually have. It will sometimes ignore you entirely at random intervals, but sometimes to will pay attention to you so closely the feeling of its eyes lingers on you for days. It may speak to someone you cannot see. It will not recognise any status, it will not be impressed by any display of power.

It will however, listen to drama. Theatrics and high emotion seem to be the only language that can bridge the gap between everything mortal and everything fairie. In fact, such things catch the attention of fairies whether the participants seek it or not. Troubadours and travelling players are often accompanied by fairies, and they have learned to somewhat coexist with them by mostly ignoring them and never, ever asking them for anything.


Art by Remedios Varo
Fairies will never respond to bargains, or strike deals, or negotiate. If you ask for something or state a demand to them, they will start acting a scene or a play with you, one that isn't written down or in any way communicated with you. Or they'll mimic you, but things will change in their mimicry. Or they'll monologue about something you don't see the relevance of. In the process of this they may give you something you want, something you find strange, or something awfully outlandish. They'll do something. At some point, the fairie's gift will make a change. For better or worse. 

What they want will only ever become clear in the very instance that you are able to give it to them, and before that happens they'll simply show up in your vicinity, your dreams, or not at all. There is one human gesture that they understand, they they seem to have divined from centuries of existing tangentially to the history of man: the open, imploring hand. "Gimmie." Fairies never ask for material riches, they seem to have a knack for demanding things that have emotional value. Your memory. Your love. Your sadness. Your hope. Your despair. Your daughter or your son, be they only just born, eight, or eightteen. Your childhood friend. Your one true love. Your awful ex. They might want the traumatic scar on your heart, or the one thing that keeps you going, the fear you ran from all your life, or the thing you worked all your life to achieve. When they ask, they'll overthrow your life. They'll change you. They'll make you or they'll break you when you see that open hand.

The things they'll take, they'll take to the few remaining fragments of the Dream, scattered throughout spacetime. They have their own rituals to do, to reminisce of the old times, trapped in an ever deepening sad nostaligia. They'll hold tea parties with humans - many of them children - that were given up to them, or have them fight wars against each other, or do whatever else they used to do in the Dream.

The people given to them will never die. Even when they return.

Art by Leonora Carrington


Monday, March 18, 2019

The Coition of the Mayfly Elves, and their Red Form

In my previous post I have talked about the idea of elves who die and are reborn every week, giving birth to themselves asexually again and again through parthenogenesis, passing on their knowledge and memory to live on in their sequence of daughters, creating a immortal individual consisting living through a string of thousands of bodies.

I mentioned that by giving birth to multiple selves the elves used to be legion, living in incredibly great numbers in a fairy time, when the world was still a romantically imagined semiphysical realm, a pre-birth amniotic dream of the earth-to-be. However, this reign lasted not, once from dream was born soil and fiber and flesh and above all, a new law which held the earth in its hands. And the new law was a flesh-ripping, bubbling, grinning crocodilian protist law. It had the mercy of a pound of worm eggs in your lungs and it was as considerate as fucking dinosaurs trampling an ant colony. It was the law of the arms race between parasite and host, and between predator and prey. It was the Red Queen, who puts cysts in your flesh and worms in your eyes and smashes your eggs and rips off your meat and nibbles your bones if you don't do all the running you can do. And it took sex to survive her.

Don't confuse elves with Fairies by the way. When the Red Queen came to the elves they had to bow. When she came to the Fairies they giggled, laughed and told her to go home or else, and she did.

Art by Stephanie Sonhj

So, Elves were faced with a crisis in the new, physical world, marooned from their previous existence where they didn't need to worry about things like genetic diversity. They were dying, and fast. Pale white corpses, like dead clone armies, littered the earth in ghastly mounds. Disease and parasites were killing them by the hundred-thousands. So the elves had no choice but to bow to the Red Queen and her insidious gift of sex. However, they were stubborn and vain, and accepted only the least possible perversion of their clonal beauty. A final trick, for when the need is at its most and the Red Queen is claiming her due, to escape their outdated immunity. A sexual generation, a sudden and powerful mixing of the existing genomes, empowered with mutagenic and DNA-twisting magic, the products of which throw off all insidious viral and parasitic invaders for a long time. 

Elves only ever revert to giving birth to a sexual generation when they really, really need to, since they find it debased and below them, and they still bear a terrible grudge towards the Red Queen for forcing them to pollute themselves with carnality. Not to mention that the Red Form elves are terrible and have no respect for anything. Bah! 

In addition to this, given that elves transmit their memories to their next self through gene-tied magic, the new elven individuals that result from a sexual union are indeed that. New. They have only jumbled and intermixed memories, confusing mysteries to figure out. Other than that they must learn everything anew. White Form elves always try to leave immense bodies of written records and instructions before they give birth to the Red Form, but need to make sure that accessing them is beyond both the reach and attention span of said gaudy, puckish Red Forms, safe for the new White Forms that come after. So, their treasures of knowledge are always locked away in vaults behind both locks and riddles. The new generation always has their hands full overcoming the barriers that guard their heritage.

Art by 우진 오
So, what are Red Form elves actually like? Well, they're red, kind of. They're pale like White Form elves but they exude the colour red onto everything around them. They don't seem silvery white like their progenitors because the red shade they spread colours their own white a gaudy, oversaturated scarlet. Everything around them becomes more vivid, more pronounced, more sensuous. The clothes they wear , if any, do not conceal, but rather accentuate their forms. And these forms are something between adonis, animal and abstract. The point of this sexual generation is to optimise the gene pool for resistances and so on, but since that is both complex genetics and complex magic, it would appear that the Red Form elf exhausts pretty much all imaginable visual elements in order to somewhat accurately map its terribly complicated genome on itself. Each of their bizarre appearances is a mishmash terror to us, a detailed gene chart to them.

The complexity of their beauty ideals, their bodily symbols of potency, their romantic rituals, no one understands, but the elves know the game they play intimately, and care only for that and little else. Everything around them is a mere vehicle of foreplay, a tool or stage to woo and court. This makes the Red Forms of puckish whim, irrational to anyone not following the social puzzle playing out between them. Oh, and they come in male as well as female. They're very clearly sexually dimorphic, absurdly so, and the way they act only makes it worse.

Combat and murder are trivial: the courting hypercube eliminates undesirable traits mercilessly and has thousands of taboos punishable by death. Probably. We hope. Otherwise it'd be really senseless. And they make a play of it too. A Midsummer Night's Dream (or, if you are less abashed by mentioning sex out loud than the average wizard, elf natural selection death orgy) is a baroque collage of an open air opera, gladiator fight, obscure porno, ritual disemboweling and rococo ballet, acted out by the residents of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, through a bright red lens, after half a bottle of absynthe. Abhor it as they may, the elves harbor the Red Queen's vulgar and garish skeleton in their reserved lily white closet.

Detail of the Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch
So, after a week of, ahem, Midsummer Night's Dream, the Red Forms die. But, not before giving birth to a new era of White Form elves, who have fully renewed their virgin white glow, are immune to everything going around for a good few years (after which the cycle of steady decline, denial and refusal up until an unsustainable crisis, and eventual acceptance of sex, starts again). However, the Red Elves always leave a mess, as you might expect, so the birth of a new elf is in a way as bloody (a lot bloodier in terms of sheer volume spilled all over the place) as a human's. Small elven enclaves have the awful tendency to turn into Red Forms somewhere where they won't have to deal with the cleanup, like some forest glade where an unsuspecting fellow may witness the whole thing and either go insane or write a play about it.

This is the point in their lives at which elves are most likely to interact with humans, because they are both immune to everything (for now), have the expected curiosity of newborn individuals, and also can use all the help they can get figuring out access to the wisdom of their White Form ancestors. It comes as no surprise that this is also the point where it is most common for elven wisdom to get stolen. In addition, it is very common for elves of this fresh age to travel, and see the world before having to inevitably return to their protected enclaves.

This is how, despite all this craziness, you can make the race playable if you want. Your player is then either a young elf whose immunity is still intact and is traveling the world, but who suffers from the issue of her parents' jumbled memory relicts buzzing around in her brain, or some older elf who is exiled, mad, or both, abandoning her secret gardens for a taste of the wide world- which will probably kill her. This latter option would not suffer from memory jumbles, but have an immense disadvantage to save against disease. A trade-off, a jumbled and distracted mind versus a crippling weakness against sickness and parasites.

Art by 우진 오

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Parthenogenesis of the Mayfly Elves, and their White Form

Are elves like the enduring trees? Timeless, seeing history through aloof and distant eyes, the water of time flowing around their feet as they stand still in the river of causality? Are they imperishable? They might be. They very well could be, if you want. But not here. This light on elves is different, and it is not as seamlessly timeless.

The conception that sex is the undisputed, ever-present form of reproducing in nature, is wrong.  Sex is very costly, in terms of evolution. Many, many organisms reproduce, at least in part, asexually. They clone themselves. A child is no intermixture between two lines of mingling genes, but a genetic carbon copy of its mother. Hence why said child is normally a daughter, so she can do the same, and the genome is carried on, with no alterations but the rare spontaneous mutation. Cladocera, aphids, algae, slime molds, and plants, to name a few, all have asexual and sexual forms, which in some alternate each generation, and in some remain asexual to proliferate a population and then turn to a sexual cycle when there is need for genetic variety. Such asexual reproduction, where all individuals are female and give birth to only females, is called parthenogenesis. Virgin birth.

Elves are not an enduring tree, but they are in fact a chain of aphids. 

Art by Jana Heidersdorf
They live but for a week or so, which is why I called them mayflies in the title. And just before an elf dies, she (for it is always she) has a child, which grows in mere hours to her spitting image. It is people's impression that elves do not grow old, and they don't, but not in a timeless way. They are simply birthed from themselves, again and again, preferably in the privacy of their hidden bedchambers. 

Most humans never see this, they do not know of it, so they simply assume that elves are forever young, for single elven 'individuals' bridge many human generations without seemingly aging a year, because they turn adult the day they are born, and so present always the same visage to the outside world. An elf individual is rather a genome, than she is a physical creature, because the wisdom of elves crystallises on their double-helices by arcane spell, and a daughter has all the accumulated lives of her mother and her mother and her mother and so on in her head. This makes elven children, for the few hours that they exist, very unnerving, because they grow visibly through their young years into the exact likeness of their only just dead mother, and they speak with the same wisdom of centuries. Since they need a great amount of energy to grow so quickly once they are born, their mother/previous self always dies at birth, passing on the energy of her body and turning to chalky pale carbonised ash.

Art by Alan Lee

This form of the elf, this part of her life cycle which she takes in almost all of her generations, is her White form. It is called this both because these elves are silvery white in both hair and skin, and because of the colour's association with virginity and purity, something these elves find pride in when comparing themselves to the frothing, crawling, carnal lesser races. There is an evolutionary reason for this reserved isolationism too, which I'll speak of later. However, this aloof ivory tower has a hidden scarlet room. More soon on the Red form. The sexual one.

Among elves it is taboo to have more than one child. This because a careful equilibrium is maintained in their society as to not create an imbalance of power by numbers. This is not easy, for an asexual lifecycle usually excels at proliferation, creating myriad progeny. But the elves, with their feyish minds, do not hold back on violence when the balance is upset. If an elf splits herself into multiple daughters, she will soon find all but one of them murdered tenderly. The exception for this is when they are provoked into war. Then they briefly become as legion as they were thousands of years ago, when mankind was still to awake and the elven world was its psychedelic dream. Before they lost their dominion to the law of the Red Queen. 

Art by Yizheng Ke

A trait of asexual species in general is that they have a hard keeping up in the arms race between parasites (or disease, which is a very small parasite) and their hosts, which is one of the great advantages of sex: a constantly reshuffling genome, to which a virus has to adapt again and again and again with considerable effort, and which is pretty good at adaptation itself. When you reproduce clonally, this is different. Your genome doesn't reshuffle, so any virus to which you are susceptible, your daughters will be susceptible, and their daughters will be susceptible, while this virus has all the time in the world to finetune its methods of exploiting you as its bearer.

Therefore, elves are very, very afraid of getting sick. This is a second reason for the one-child rule. They must prevent their populations from being so homogenous that they'll be completely decimated by a stray illness, since their body's adaptation to disease is always outdated. If an elf gets sick, the older they are as a clonal line of the same individual, the more likely it is to absolutely cripple them, because the older they are the more outdated their defence is. 

This is why elf matriarchs, age-old despite their appearance, are unimaginable germaphobes, and this is reflected in elf society. Elven communities are isolated and hard to reach, protected by many misdirecting and abjuring wards of magic, against disease and anything that may carry it. Elves who leave the safe borders of their enclave can never return, they become exiles. Disease and parasitic infection is the great weakness of the elf.

If an elven community is truly struck by plague, or when their defenses against disease have become so woefully outdated that the force of cleanliness needed to maintain their safety becomes unbearable, then the elven race has another trick up their sleeve, but they prefer to avoid it for as long as they can, partly because they think it's icky, partly because it completely reworks the existence of the individuals involved. I am talking about the second cycle of the elven reproduction, namely sex, and the Red Form. Or rather I will be, in the second post about these elves.

Art by 우진 오