Elves are a race of magical creatues. Their entire species possess the ability to utilize magic, unlike the general masses of humanity, who have but a few members capable of doing so. Although heavily reduced in numbers over the millenia, they still remain, generally, in the territories to the north of Imperial Control. They are, in fact, a sub-species of humanity, having evolved into their present state over thousands - if not millions - of years.
General Characteristics Edit
Elves are highly similar to humans. Notable external differences include things like their ears, which are pointed, and the generally more lithe, trim build of their bodies. They also have longer lfiespans than Humans, 205 years on average, although this is due to their capability to wield magic rather than genetic differences. This magical ability is by far the greatest difference between the elves and general humankind. Once upon a time, elves were merely humans. And like all humans, they had the curious property of being non-magical creatures who could none the less percieve, absorb and - in rare cases - even channel magic (a state otherwise found in nature only with plants, all of which absorb and store magic over their lifetimes). But while most human societies, notably the Imperials, developed by relying largely on technology and ingenuity, elven society was very isolated and centered on mysticism and magic. The proliferation of magical power altered very small, key parts of their DNA over time, until they became magical creatures themselves - producing ethereal energies as a natural biproduct of their existence, in the same manner as creatures such as dragons or some species of tree.
The majority of the remaining Elven civilization is located far to the North of the Empire, beyond it's Northern Mountain area. This is of course, a highly harsh region, but it is one of the few sanctuaries of their species.
One startling difference between the Elves and the Humans is the dramatic human/female population ratio changes. Elven Society is around 3/4s Female, with only a fourth or so male. This is due to the harsh environment they live in, war, and other social factors. They also have low birth rates, prohibiting large population growth, despite their extended lifespan.
The Elven Nations used to control much of what is now Imperial Territory. These were composed of a variety of loosely linked city states, trading regions, and other small power areas. Although equipped with magic, their forces would be defeated by the human societies later united into Empire, as well as various Human Diseases. The Empire itself only had a few direct military confrontations with the so-called old Elven kingdom, which was by that time in severe decline and already deprived of most all of its territories. Eventually, the Elven Civilization would be forced to the north. Very few elves remain in the Empire, and those that do have had their memories wiped of the Homeland, living in secret. Most Imperial ciitzens think elves - and indeed, magic generally - to be a myth.