Elven House - The Blackhelms
House Blackhelm is a long standing high elven House renowned for its adamantine mines, commonly called the Blackmines. Legend has it that when the ancestors of this House first discovered the Blackmines they found the infamous Blackhelm with in and named their House after it.
The Blackhelms typically have light ginger hair, golden yellow eyes, and tanned skin with gold undertones. Blackhelms with drow ancestry often have white hair, purple eyes, and gray skin ranging in hue from pale gray to almost black.
Two interlocking pickaxes with the Blackhelm in the foreground.
The Blackhelm is a powerful magical item that bestows whoever wears it with unbridled mind controlling abilities. Through will alone its wearer can exert direct control over about ten people, although the range for this ability is limited to being in same room. House Blacklhelms’ Matrons only wore the helm on occasion due to the extremely taxing nature of using it. Wearers can easily be overwhelmed if the helm is worn for extended periods of time.
The Blackhelm can also delve the memories of others. Through out its history this function was primarily used to gather vital information. However, digging through another person’s memories is difficult. For one, the older the memory the more difficult the memory is to find. Furthermore, its wearer is often bombarded by random memory fragments. These slivers of memories—the majority of them brief images or a few spoken words— make very little sense and are extremely disorienting to an untrained wearer. Occasionally memory fragments are picked up by its wearer even when not actively looking into another person’s mind. The Blackhelm can also passively or actively listen in on the thoughts of people nearby.
Those who’ve had their memories delved say they feel it as its happening and describe it as unpleasant but not painful. This is not the case for those unfortunate enough to have fallen under the Blackhelm’s control, which is said to be especially painful if you resist it. This prized object was a family heirloom passed down from Matron to Matron until it was stolen by dark elves thousands of years ago
A Stolen Heirloom & Tainted Bloodline
As the story now goes, a small band of twenty drow men, one woman, and ten children appeared upon the doorstep of the House begging for a place to stay. They claimed they were a resistance group of Aitha and their allies that had fled the drow House of Neverlight in the hopes of a better life on the surface. The drow had been turned away from every other surface city they had been to. The Matron took pity on the starving and frightened drow. Using the Blackhelm, the Matron knew for certain what they were telling was the truth. She reluctantly allowed them into her House, and gave each of them a place to stay. Over time the high elves of the House grew to accept the dark elves as their own, going so far as to legally declare them members of House Blackhelm. Some Blackhelms even fell in love and had families with them.
Their trust in the drow would be their undoing. On a night nearly fifty years later one of the drow stole the Blackhelm. That same night the House was besieged by an army of dark elves, triggering a war that claimed many lives. They soon learned it was House Neverlight that stole the Blackhelm and instigated the war.
To save face the Matron exiled the remaining drow who vehemently proclaimed they were completely unaware of the sole traitor amongst them. Rumors spread that the Matron could not bare to execute the drow she had grown to love, especially not the father of her children. The day the drow were forced into exile was a dark day in Blackhelm’s history, one they do not ever wish to repeat again. Many families, including the Matron’s, were torn apart.
A couple generations following the helm being stolen the Blackhelms realized their anger was grossly misplaced. The Neverlights were truly the ones to blame, not the drow they considered members of their own House. Their new Matron, the granddaughter of the Matron who had let in the drow, officially ended their exile. The Blackhelms passionately searched for them, wanting to welcome those drow back home. Unfortunately they never found them. Whatever became of those dark elves once they left House Blackhelm was lost to history. The Blackhelms believe they either died out or had been killed.
A House Disgraced
Since the theft of the Blackhelm and the contamination of their bloodline the House has been in a steady state of decline. Their ownership of the vast adamantine Blackmines is the only reason House Blackhelm has held onto what little power and prestige it has left. Members of House Blackhelm—but especially their Matron and her family—are regularly mistreated and looked down upon by the four other high elven Houses.
Out of the four their closest high elven neighbor, House Brightwood, tends to treat them the worst. Their close proximity to each other occasionally lead to the Brightwoods unintentionally being dragged into House Blackhelm’s conflicts with House Neverlight. They want nothing to do with Blackhelm’s problems and try to be as least involved with them as possible.
In past years House Starglass also avoided anything to do with them, but since the Sacred War their Matron has tried getting on Blackhelm’s good side. The Blackhelm’s knowledge on the drow is the most extensive of all surface-dwelling elven Houses, and the Starglasses want a share of that knowledge in the hopes it might help them free their people from House Thornfang.
The Frostfalls find the Blackhelms to be weak of heart. They believe this weakness is what ultimately left them vulnerable to attack and why their Blackhelm was so easily stolen. Unlike the other two previous Houses they don’t really care that the Blackhelm’s bloodline is tainted, but think the Blackhelms must fix their internal weakness if they ever want their beloved Blackhelm back.
The Silverseas have by far been the most cordial of the other high elves. As long as the Blackhelms keep up their adamantine trade, the Silverseas could care less about their past history.
All the wood elf Houses are mostly indifferent to what’s happened to House Blackhelm, including their bloodline. Even so, the wood elves enjoy cracking a joke or two about it. These jokes are almost never meant to be cruel. They’re the type to want to make light of such a situation. Though meant with good intention, the jokes can come across as hurtful to some Blackhelms. The only wood elf House with occasional strained relations with the Blackhelms are the Twinbrooks. Like the Brightwoods, they too have been dragged into a few wars over the years. Each time this soured their relations with the Twinbrooks, but unlike the Brightwoods their bitterness never lasts for too long. The Blackhelms reliably keep the rivers free of pollution, and for the Twinbrooks that is enough to keep them happy.
Two Houses at War
Over the centuries many members of House Blackhelm tried reclaiming the Blackhelm from House Neverlight. These attempts only triggered more wars with the dark elves and further death and dishonor upon an already failing House. So far three major conflicts have arisen between the Blackhelms and the Neverlights.
War One: A War of Betrayal
The first war with House Neverlight was the direct aftermath of the Blackhelm being stolen. The Blackhelms were successful in preventing an all out take over of their House and the Blackmines, but failed to get the Blackhelm back.
War Two: A Failed Crusade
The second war was a crusade on House Blackhelm’s part to get their Blackhelm back six hundred and fifty years after it had been stolen. The first war had cost House Blackhelm too many lives and resources to start another war any sooner. This war was considered a major failure for the Blackhelms.
Towards the end of the war about six hundred and fifty Blackhelm, Brightwood and Twinbrook soldiers were captured. One of those captured was the Matron’s brother and great grandson of the Matron who had welcomed the escaped Aitha into Blackhelm. The Neverlights publicly executed him by beheading instead of enslaving him like the rest of the captured.
War Three: A Small Success
The third and most recent war was seven hundred and fifty years ago. Both Houses blame the other for starting it. In reality it was partially instigated by both. House Blackhelm was getting suspicious reports from nearby surface towns. The surviving townsfolk described a handful of invisible intruders attacking them and stealing food, weapons and armor. The Blackhelms instantly suspected this was the work of the Neverlights, a House well known for its unique kind of invisibility spell. House Blackhelm took the attacks as an act of aggression against them and declared war on the Neverlights. House Neverlight did not deny they had raided those towns, but claimed it was not an act of war. This war was the only one of the three not focused on reclaiming the Blackhelm. Even so, that thought was on everybody’s mind, and the Blackhelms still made a valiant effort to get it back.
About three hundred and fifty Cala’di, Taurel’di and Morcala slaves were freed during this war. This event is considered the biggest success out of all the wars for the Blackhelms. The freed Morcala were considered descendants of Blackhelm and were welcomed into House Blackhelm alongside the Blackhelm Cala’di. A couple dozen Aitha were apart of this freed group as well. Surprisingly the Blackhelms allowed them to stay in their House despite what happened after their last run in with a group of Aitha. Many of these Aitha were apart of Cala’di families and the Blackhelms felt it would be too cruel to separate the Aitha from their families.
Memories Preserved in Metal
For reasons that remain unknown, all of the adamantine harvested from the Blackmines have a weird quality with memories. Any item made from it—including weapons and armor— will sometimes unintentionally have memories implanted in them. Although the memory implantation process happens randomly it seems memories from emotionally charged situations are more likely to be implanted. Furthermore the longer one person wears or uses the object the greater likelihood that some of their memories will get preserved. This is unlike the Remembrance Rings, which undergo a magical ritual to intentionally put specific memories of someone into them. Once implanted, the memory fragments briefly flood a person’s mind each time they first touch the item.
Remembrance Rings are adamantine rings commonly exchanged as gifts between members of House Blackhelm. Through a special ritual performed by Blackhelm blacksmiths a small handful of memories from the person desiring have the ring made are purposefully copied and transferred into it. This ritual does not destroy or harm the person’s original memories. Often times small snippets of other memories unintentionally end up in the rings as well. The blacksmiths can remove these memory fragments if the person does not want them in the ring.
The rings are typically given as gifts to spouses, children, or other close family members. It is custom to pass down Remembrance Rings from one generation to the next. Many families own rings dating back thousands of years. Through these rings the memories of their ancestors endure long after they have died. This custom extends to the Matron as well. Each past Matron has made a Remembrance Ring so future Matrons can learn from both her mistakes and triumphs.
Light will shine from neither torch nor candle, then will the Elves the Blackhelm handle. – Anonymous
Whispers of a prophecy proclaiming the reclamation of the Blackhelm emerged about a decade after it was stolen. This prophecy is one steeped in mystery, with its exact origins remaining unknown. Almost every member of House Blackhelm knows the prophecy and can recite it by heart. The Blackhelms believe that the key to taking the helm back from the Neverlights lie buried in the words of the prophecy.
Most but certainly not all of Neverlight’s population is aware of the prophecy as well. Those who do say the prophecy has already passed, and that it actually pertained to them taking it from the Blackhelms. Others discredit the prophecy all together. Whether or not the prophecy holds a modicum of truth remains to be seen.
Dark Mines, Warm Hearts
The Blackhelms have a somewhat notorious reputation for having big hearts and a strange willingness to trust others of stereotypically “evil” races. But since the loss of the Blackhelm, quite a few Blackhelms have tried downplaying this quality. Some in Blackhelm have taken to heart what the other Houses have been warning them over the centuries: their kindness is not their greatest strength, but rather their greatest weakness.
Most—but certainly not all—of the Blackhelms have a surprisingly nuanced view of the drow. Of course House Blackhelm despises House Neverlight for taking their prized helm; for the wars and countless lives lost because of them; for the enslavement of hundreds of their people and the people of Twinbrook and Brightwood. But even with all of this they do not paint all drow with the same brush. They know for certain not all drow are evil. Even after all that has happened with the Neverlights they are still willing to give some drow a chance, particularly if they come from oppressed groups like the Aitha.
This kindness extends to their own people as well. For one, very few Blackhelm citizens, if any, are unemployed. If someone needs a job, everyone in Blackhelm knows there are always jobs to be had in the Blackmines. The Blackhelms are known through out Undam for treating their miners very well. This is because the Blackhelms put the safety of their workers above making a profit. The miners are given livable wages, and thanks to weekly meetings that prioritize safely, accidents and deaths in the Blackmines are extremely rare. A sudden cave-in around a decade ago totally shocked the Blackhelms. Fortunately all ten of the miners involved survived that harrowing ordeal, although a couple of them can no longer work in the mines due to the severity of their injuries.
After the loss of the helm the Blackehelms are all too aware that with with out the Blackmines running at optimal levels their House would fall to ruin. Keeping the miners happy, healthy, and safe ensures the Blackmines and House Blackhelm itself continues to thrive. Most of their miners are elves, mountain dwarves, and humans, with a small number of gnomes and halflings.