The Darkness Within
Rise of Civilization
For the first half millennium or so after the Battle, all races were reduced to seeking members of own kind and eking out an existence as tribal entities, if able to survive at all. Slowly, the sentient races began to relearn what their forefathers had once known, and began to learn about a new power that had been released: magics.
The Elves assume that they were the first to create a civilization in this new world, and they are not entirely inaccurate. Their longevity allowed them to re-learn knowledge that had been lost and to pass it down to several generations following them without the generational learning curve experienced by some. Ergo, they were able to create large cities and establish a modicum on law and order while the shorter lived races were still struggling to adapt to the new world. And from these city/states, they elected leaders to meet at the Nahar to discuss their course of action.
The Council at Nahar lasted many months, as the Elven leaders bickered over how their society would prosper the most. No counselor wanted to give up power to another city/state, but all wanted the power of the Elves to grow. So it came that Aelan Oussearaheal, the wisest and among the eldest of the Elves, suggested that all Elves be united under one banner; and unite the city/state kingdoms as an empire. It was agreed that all Elven settlements lay aside their autonomy and declare Aelan Oussearaheal as high king, thus giving the entire nation a common unity and goal.
Therefore, after the Council at Nahar, the Elves were able to pool their resources and began to colonize areas of the world inhabited by other races. Most of the Elves saw this as an opportunity for outreach to these ‘backwards’ races and educate them about their barbarous ways. It was viewed among some as the ‘Burden of the Elves’ to enlighten all sentient races and bring them to law and order under in the image of the Elven empire. With the Gnomes, Halflings, and other weaker races, this outreach (and subsequent protection) was well received. With the Orcs, Goblins and many Humans, it was seen as an insult: How dare these weak creatures insinuate that their way of life is more perfect than another?
As more and more races were assimilated into the fold, the responsibility of keeping the peace with these less-than-cooperative races fell on a select few guardian-Elves of exceptional martial prowess, magical ability, and (some say) ruthlessness. Having repeated close contact with these savage races, this group of guardian-Elves saw and knew that if the empire continued to spread, its forces would prove disastrously thin, and there would eventually be a great uprising from those that wished to retain their savage nature and/or autonomy. So that long-term peace and order might be maintained, these guardian-Elves suggested that it would be better to make a preemptive strike against the savage tribes and make true slaves of them in order to quell any thoughts of insurrection.
However, their warnings were ignored by the hierarchy, because the ‘Elven Burden’ was viewed as a divine mandate to enlighten and inspire all races to the glories of civilization: The gods would not allow the empire to fail. As the empire grew more and more territories were annexed, and more and more tribes were ‘civilized’. The select few guardian-Elves tried their best to keep the peace as they could. Their generals, however, knew that it was only a matter of time before the impressed races would realize that their forces were greater and all would be lost. As such, they privately began to seek the blessings of Lolth, even as these guardians of the empire openly praised the name of Ares. Indeed, it was at that time that these divine entities began a liaison, and they celebrated these Elven peacekeepers as their children.
So it came to pass on the night before many of these savage races took arms against their Elven overlords, Lolth and Ares appeared before their chosen and told them to flee underground. As a sign of divine blessing upon these few elves, their countenance would be as dark as the night, for a judgement would pass over the rest of the proud Elves.
Then, after a half-millennium of expansion, the Elven Empire was washed in blood as the strongest among them colonized the Underdark and the oppressed tribes reclaimed the land that was their birthright. For a half century, the Elves fought as best they could to retain their power, but were eventually driven back to their homelands in the South and West. However, the seed of civilization had indeed been sown, and it gave rise to more powerful kingdoms of the ‘lesser’ races after the fall of the elves.
This new race of Elves, however, discovered that theirs was not the only civilization to inhabit the Underdark. Short, stocky men delved deep into the mountains and had grown powerful unbeknown to even the most wise Elves. And so these new Elves, the Drow, had to prove to Lolth and Ares that they deserved their blessings, and began a campaign to claim the Underdark for the Dark Queen…