The Elven Empire was the first realm on Elanith to be formed by the mortal races. Founded 50,000 years before the modern era, it lasted for almost 30,000 years. At its height, the elves ruled all of the known world from the original Seven Cities: Ta'Illistim, Ta'Faendryl, Ta'Vaalor, Ta'Ashrim, Ta'Loenthra, Ta'Ardenai, and Ta'Nalfein.
100,000 years before present day, the rule of dragonkind ended with the Ur-Daemon War, and the mortal races, nurtured by the Arkati, began to develop their own civilizations. The elves originally lived in the deep forests in northeastern Elanith. A long-lived people with an adeptness for magic, they saw themselves as the natural inheritors of Elanthia.
Seven noble houses rose to lead the elves, each building their own city. The first city was established at Ta'Illistim in the eastern foothills of the Dragonspine Mountains, 49,107 years before the modern era (the first year of the elven calendar). Six other cities were built over the next two thousand years: a short time by elven reckoning. Smaller elven houses followed them to live in the cities, each swearing fealty to one of the seven. Of the great houses, the Faendryl were acknowledged as first among equals and the others looked to them for leadership.
Some elves remained in the forests and refused to join the Empire, and would become known as the Sylvankind. Others departed into the distant lands in the south, where they would become the Dhe'nar.
For nearly 30,000 years, the elves held dominion over Elanith. They declared themselves to be protectors of the lesser races, though in reality the other races were permitted very little. Humans and others eked out a meager existence in the barren lands where they were allowed to live, and served as slaves in the cities. Those who dwelled along the coast were preyed on by the Ashrim sea elves.
Dwarves in this time carved out their own empire deep underground, out of sight and attention of the elves.
Frustrated with the ways of the noble houses, the sylvans simply disappeared one day from the great elven forest, leaving no indication of where they had gone.
The Undead War
19,864 years before the modern era, a new power appeared in the Southron Wastes. There, Despana had been searching for Ur-Daemon relics and had found the Book of Tormtor. Using it, Despana was able to create undead, which until then was a magic unknown to the elves. From the fortress of Maelshyve, Despana gathered an army of undead and races that had been oppressed by the elves, including orcs, trolls, minotaurs, and many humans, and pointed them at the heart of the elven nations. Thus began the Undead War.
Modern elven accounts blame politics and infighting among the noble houses for the heavy losses suffered early in the war, including the complete destruction of a Vaalorian legion at the Battle of ShadowGuard. Contemporary journals show that the elven soldiers had only shortly before ShadowGuard discovered how to bless weapons to have an effect against undead, and were entirely unaware of the dark magics that turned the living into undead thralls.
After the loss at ShadowGuard, the houses finally united to fight the undead horde. Each of the other races also sent their warriors to aid the alliance–including the humans, who were the only race to fight on both sides of the war. Even so, the war was fought to a stalemate with no victory in sight. Finally, Patriarch Unsenis Ignaas Faendryl put forth a plan to destroy Maelshyve and the source of the undead, claiming to have found a new form of magic that would turn the battle.
At the Battle of Maelshyve, as it became clear that the elven army and their allies could not push through to the fortress against the banshees, the Faendryl revealed their magic: summoning flights of lesser demons against the horde. Many of the summoners lost control of the demons, who tore through allies and enemies alike. Nevertheless, part of the plan worked: the undead fell back into Maelshyve, and the elven sorcerers cast a final spell, imploding the keep. Despana and her undead were utterly destroyed.
After the Undead War, the House of Faendryl was banished from the Elven Empire for their use of demonic summoning: an act that had torn open the veil and, in the opinions of the other great houses, endangered all the world. The houses stopped cooperating as they were and withdrew into themselves. Ta'Faendryl was abandoned, and a New Ta'Faendryl was built near Rhoska-Tor, the area where Despana's capital, Maelshyve, had stood.
As the houses turned their attention inward, the empire's grip over the rest of Elanith started to loosen. Elven chroniclers called the next ten thousand years the "Age of Chaos", for without elven guidance the rest of the world surely turn to anarchy.
In year 157 of the modern era, about 5,000 years ago, an attempt was made to reconcile the elven houses. The Faendryl princess Chesylcha was to wed a prince of House Ashrim. She never made it to the wedding, however, and there are many different stories of how she died. Whatever the truth might have been, the Faendryl decided that the other elves were responsible and declared war on the Ashrim. The Siege of Ta'Ashrim ended with the complete annihilation of the Ashrim home islands, using the same magics that had defeated Despana on a much greater scale. Ta'Ashrim was reduced to smoking rocks in the sea.
The Faendryl would never again be a part of the Elven Empire or the modern Elven Nations due to this event, and neither would the Ashrim due to their complete destruction.