Great Elementals are the most powerful elemental entities existing outside of the Prime Elemental Planes. They are thought to have originated in the Age of Darkness, possibly from the cataclysmic energies of the Ur-Daemon War or the backlash following it, similar to the primordials such as Althedeus. The Great Elementals are sentient, self-aware beings, with some measure of higher intelligence to them. When witnessed by the living they are often named, which they find bemusing, as they call themselves by their own names in incomprehensible languages. Lesser elementals react as they react and obey their will.
The Great Elementals wield a tremendous amount of power over their element in their local region. It is unusual for them to be able to wander from such a domain without being greatly diminished in power, much like the old sphere of emanation concept for local gods of spirit. In part this is because elementals draw their power from interplanar mergers in specific locations of intense elemental energy.
However, it is thought that because they are so ancient, they become intrinsically attuned to their surroundings. This gives them tremendous power in their domain. But these conditions will change or vanish over the millennia, and so surviving Great Elementals are a rarity. It is theorized that some local gods may have originated as Great Elementals who were forced to attune themselves to other spheres of power when they were slowly separated from the source of their elemental power. The most well-known example of this is Ghezresh, who would have been a Great Fire Elemental at the bottom of the ocean.
The following are known categories of Great Elementals. Most composite elementals have not been witnessed on this scale of power.
Great Fire Elementals
Great Fire Elementals are haughty, wantonly destructive and cruel to those not of flames. Avregol of Teras Isle has been known to harness the power of the volcano to try to scourge clean the island with fire elementals. He resembles either a towering pillar of flame or a form akin to the fire mages. Very little is known of Cingh, who was said by the Ashrim royal mage Malaphor to have a flaming spire named Cinghin'fer to the far west. Thaw was attempted to be summoned near Icemule Trace. Ghezresh and Kyr'orvrad were possibly Great Elementals forced to realign after separation from volcanism.
Great Earth Elementals
Great Earth Elementals manifest as entire mountains of rock. It is difficult to disturb them, but they are impossible to stop if angered. Ghatha is in the form of a towering mountain in the southern DragonSpine, sometimes known as "The Earthen Father." There was a village there who believed he watched over and protected them. One day his face appeared in the mountain, and the village was laid waste with an avalanche of rocks. No one knows if he was angry or if it was an accident caused by him laughing. He has thought to have looked sad afterwards, and has not since manifested in his elemental form.
Great Water Elementals
Great Water Elementals are very neutral toward the living. They drift along the ocean currents and rarely enter streams and rivers. The most well known of these is Nelemar, who is generally benevolent to the living, unlike what dwells in the Ruined Temple. Nelemar defers to Charl whenever there is a relevant matter of overlap in interests. He wanders the ocean of western Elanith but seems to be principally concerned with the Teras Isle region, having concentrated there to monitor the fire Great Elemental Avregol. There was an Elemental War between them that drastically reduced the activity of Avregol.
Great Air Elementals
Great Air Elementals are very kind and serene, but can manifest huge violent storms if angered. They are mostly not concerned with things not of their realm, and tend to take on graceful and beautiful feminine appearances with endlessly flowing hair. Celiel is known as "The Watcher" to those who revere her as they would an Arkati, and seems to reside over the DragonSpine Mountains.
Great Lightning Elementals
There is only one known Great Elemental of Lightning, and it is the only Great Elemental that is an elemental composite known to history. It is possible others may have existed in the Age of Darkness, either having not survived or being very good at remaining hidden. There was only one ancient Elven legend of Veiki taken from a Vaalor patrol, who reported wind elementals merging into his spinning column of blue light, and vanished when he split into lightning bolts. There was also a veil iron maul in the Great Auction of 5116 with a loresong depicting Veiki and lightning elementals merging into him.
The Great Elementals are regarded as local gods or spirits by "some primitive bands of civilization", according to Elven scholars, and it would not be possible to wield spiritual or especially clerical magic through worship of elementals. There may be anomalous cases of a Great Elemental having somehow realigned the focus of its power to life forces and consequently becoming more literally a local god. Ghezresh is the most well-known example of this theory with its followers on Caligos Isle, and something similar may be true for the seemingly demonic Kyr'orvrad and its cultists on Bone Island.
These were both cases involving ill-fated Ashrim refugees from the Sea Elf War. Devout adherents such as Tritons or what may be elemental fey, such as fire mages and wind witches, are often overlooked as violent and bestial. There are nevertheless a variety of known subcultures of Elanith who revere the elements directly rather than spirits or the Arkati. The following are examples of this religious orientation:
- Araime Sun Clan: Giantkin clan. Many worship the sun; some the elements of fire, water, or earth; and others the moons and stars.
- Bloodline Angstholm: Angstholm gnomes blame the Arkati for a catastrophic flood, many now worshipping the elements directly.
- Tehir: Tehir human shamans to a minor extent may include the elements among the names used in their rituals.
In the War of Shadows members of the Arcane Eyes cabal were attempting to summon a Great Fire Elemental called Thaw. There were worshippers of Thaw involved who were ultimately destroyed. Nelemar most famously has a ruined temple on Teras Isle filled with Triton servants and similar undead. Teras Isle itself has been rumored to have been fashioned by Avregol, which would have to be ancient as the island has an imprisoned Ur-Daemon. The worshippers of the Great Air Elemental Celiel are scattered villages along the base of the DragonSpine Mountains. Indirectly the Aelotoi madman Alusius can be considered a worshipper of the elements. He tricked the Hall of Mages and Elemancers into anchoring the Elemental Confluence to this world so he could become one with it in a failed attempt at ascension.
Behind the Scenes
In the intermediate period between the I.C.E. Age and the modern gods documentation, things that happened in the game were often not well-recorded. Cingh was later incorporated into the elementals documentation as a Great Elemental. It is unclear if the water spirit Aquayl and the ice spirit Iquaine were non-canonical or should have been made into Great Elementals. The elementals documentation released in the early 2000s established the existence of elemental planes, and the hierarchy of elementals as extraplanar entities who are not demons, similar to D&D and later Rolemaster books.