Elves, while generally slighter and a little less tall than Men, are similar in appearance and have adopted many customs in common with their mortal brethren. But aside from more varied hair-color, slightly pointed ears and differences of language and culture, Elves retain one enormous difference with Men, Halflings and Dwarves. Among all the Children of Hope, only the Elves are unaging.
Except for rare and powerful diseases, no natural cause can bring about the end of an Elf’s life. Accidents and violence harm them as easily as any mortal, but the passage of years, on its own, has very little effect. Elves stop aging outwardly at some point in the natural cycle, but there appears to be no pattern to this across family, occupation, or location. Age-moments occurring in childhood or venerability are quite rare, and most Elves cease aging at some point between the years of puberty and middle age among Men. An Elf can feel this exact moment when it arrives, and it is considered a time of great meaning worth pondering. From that instant onward, the slow slide of ages has begun.
Most Elves guard their true age quite closely, and it is considered rude to pry. Other Elves can often discern minor signs and quirks of behavior giving clues to the range of years, but most mortal Children of Hope assume that every Elf they meet is over one hundred years old.
In fact, many Elves cannot well withstand the notion of living forever, and most seek release in a death that proves their life had meaning. This second Moment- the instant in which an Elf achieves his or her purpose- is the goal and fulfillment of a life well-lived, and not merely the end of it. For noble warriors, this could be a brave death in battle; for a crafter, the day the last of her children is settled in married life. Elves treat with horror the notion that one might miss this Moment through inattention, cowardice or even poor fortune. Once this Moment of destiny is achieved, Elven tradition maintains that the life properly lived simply ends; the Elf withdraws to a private place and several days later his or her closest friends and relatives recover the body for interment. In some cases, a ritual suicide is acceptable, but considered by most Elves to be hasty and a sign of poor faith. However, suicide in a doomed, noble cause is seen as partial redemption for a missed Moment.
The age of the oldest Elves in the Lands is not easily determined. In the northern Elven kingdom of Mendel, less contact with the outside world and greater secrecy around the Moments of aging and destiny have led to longer life-spans. It is very likely that fifty Elves in every thousand are more than one hundred years old there, and some are surely more than three hundred. In the southern empire of Argens, where individual achievement is revered and contact with other nations more frequent, this proportion was most likely lower even before the rebellion of Yula. The losses of that war, especially among the noble classes, probably reduced the number of centenarians to less than ten per thousand. Yet the usurper Yula did free a number of Viridian’s prisoners, and it’s well known that many of them were held for centuries. Most have disappeared from public view.