Many ages ago, magic was real. The immortal Elves were its wielders, shaping the world and creating vast empires that spanned the farthest reaches of the planet, from the clouds above to the oceans' depths. In the time of the Elves, Humans were a mere footnote, content to shelter in undesirable corners of the land where the great and inscrutible whims of the Elves did not reach them.
But even as Human populations and civilizations grew, the Elves saw them as no threat. They aided local Humans or destroyed them as they desired, viewing them as beings trivial importance--unnecessary even as pawns in the Elves' vast game to shape the world.
Humans were content to build their cities in the shadow of the Elves' great civilizations, laying each brick by hand and creating simple machines to do what they could not. They lived in awe of the brilliant cities of the Elves, formed by will and magic alone and eternally without equal.
But soon, the Elven cities went silent.
And then, they began to collapse.
The Mythic Age had come to an end. Magic simply stopped, like a tap that had been turned off. No one knows what caused it, nor what the Elves experienced in that time. No Elf left their cities for many Human generations, even as the buildings crumbled. Humans who approached the Elven cities in that time simply disappeared.
No Elven records exist from the Mythic Age, and little can be determined about the cities' construction from their shattered, buried ruins. The only primary sources from the Mythic Age still in existence are rare inscribed accounts by early Humans who witnessed the events from afar.
The years immediately following the collapse of Elven civilization are called the Years of Silence. In that time of Elven absence, Humans warily explored their surroundings and began to expand their primitive cities in ways they never had before. The first true Human cultures began to form. Some lamented the sudden lost of their nearly godlike patrons, while others rejoiced at the fall of the incredible powers that had nearly destroyed them. But regardless of their opinion of the Elves' silence, Humans began to flourish in the sudden power vacuum.
Many Human generations later, when the first Elves began to emerge from their fallen cities, they found the world greatly changed from the world of those before them. None of the Elves who had lived in the Mythic Age remained--Elven immortality had ended.
Several Human accounts exist of early encounters with Elves after the Years of Silence. The Elves in these accounts all share several features: they are depicted as confused, weak, and almost childlike in their lack of understanding of the world. Some Humans killed them, but many took them in--some out of generosity; others out of a hope that, when the Elves rose to power again, they would remember who aided them.
But the Elves never rose to power again in the way they had in the Mythic Age. Millennia passed, and as Human civilization grew, the Elves became a part of it. They could not regain, nor even truly recall what they had lost, but though they had lost their magical essence, they had not lost their strength of will. Though there has always been some tension between the two races, Humans and Elves have formed their own civilizations together since the Modern Age began. The joining of Elves' proclivity for art and research and Humans' innate resilience and ingenuity forged the great civilizations of the past as well as the ones existing today.
--Frieda Schwarzbach, Our Lost History