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 A final trick, for when the need is at its most and the Red Queen is claiming her due, to escape their outdated immunity.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


  1. Fun pair of posts. Considering one on various parasitized elves to add to encounter tables maybe?

    1. Ohoho, now that's an idea and a half. Maybe this series needs a third post after all...

  2. Very interesting. I like the idea of invading an elven stronghold at the wrong time and discovering them in their Red Forms.