As I mentioned in an earlier post, elves are fiercely political creatures. Every action means something, even the actions meant to mean nothing at all.
Elves are associated with each other, always connected through various lines. These connections are rarely geographical, which would confuse humans, if they ever interacted with the elves.
There is one geographical consideration in reference to elves which must be considered, and that is the elven society on the forgotten continent, which is entirely separate from the rest elven society, and will be treated separately.
As seems reasonable, given that the society's drive is to associate, Elven society is dominated by a sort of super-association, created out of five associations with similar interests. Great wars were fought when this first great association was formed, and even now it holds power tentatively.
The age of open welfare in elven society seems to be passed, or at least dormant. Much like the contemporary Cold War, most threats of force are merely threats. The great association is held in check by two smaller associations with great influence, through their wisdom and their military strength.
It's difficult to describe an association using any other word. While family lines often provide for the beginnings of associations, elven society, kinship, and loyalty are fluid enough that these lines blur fairly quickly.
These associations are mostly political entities, but not in the sense of political parties, or ideological groups. When you agree with someone, it tends to make them easier to get along with, but it's very possible to associate with someone for mutual benefit, even if you don't agree with them.
One can generally expect to be tolerated by any member of one's own association, anywhere. This might have different meanings depending on who you're with or where you are. Sometimes your associates might feed you, and give you a place to stay. Sometimes they might agree merely not to have you killed.
Elves do not marry in the same sense as humans. Sometimes two elves decide to associate more closely and completely, but this is not expected to last forever.
A Sense of Responsibility
Elves do not view loyalty in quite the same way as humans do. Where humans are expected to remain loyal, even through difficult times, elven loyalties are expected to shift. Take as an example a powerful elven lord. His personal stature is, at this time, large, and he holds the loyalty of a great number of elves.
Slowly, though, he begins to weaken, and his stature begins to fade. As his stature fades, elves who are distantly loyal to him might switch their loyalties, then slowly more elves will do so, until he is left with only his closest companions.
This is a difficult concept to explain to humans, and as a human myself, I don't entirely understand it either. How one goes from being an outsider in one association to a trusted friend in another is particularly tricky for me. I'll have to think further about it.
Personal stature is, I should add, not quite the right term. There isn't really a human equivalent, but it's something of a mix of stature and responsibility. The greater one is, the greater one's responsibilities (thanks Uncle Ben), and when one's stature shrinks, one is not as able to be responsible for others.
I hope that made sense to somebody.
This is an important part of elven culture, as odd as it might sound. There is a guild of assassins in elven society, and they are open for legitimate business. Being elven, they all belong to associations, and most serve as bodyguards for the leaders of their associations. Every association that exists now has at least one, and from time to time, they might be expected to carry out an assassination on a rival or enemy.
There are, however, a few requirements. First, the intent to send an assassin must be registered with the guild. If the guild feels that the assassination would cause too much destabilization, it may be forbidden. Few elves in the upper echelons of elven society are assassinated.
Assassination is somewhat of a "proportional response." For example, if your stature is greatly diminished by a rival, you might register and have your rival's cousin assassinated. While it does not prevent your loss of stature, and it does not revenge you directly, your rival will undoubtedly notice and perhaps think twice about kicking you further.
It's difficult for humans to understand some of these concepts, which is understandable. I will strive to make them more understandable as I write more about the strange elves.