Dev Journal: Introducing High Elves and the Elven court (story part II)

In the previous part of our story dev journal Halfling hero Ham Binger interviews Age of Wonders III writer Ray Bingham about some of the things that have happened since Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. In this journal we continue and talk more about what happened with Merlin and Queen Julia.

[Ham:] So let’s talk a bit about the setting for this story then… I think most fans are wondering if Julia and Merlin get together and make baby wizard elves?

Halfling hero Ham Binger.


[Ray:] The story starts with Julia’s children, but they’re not Merlin’s. They never marry and they didn’t get their “Happily Ever After”. In fact, as you know, Merlin has become an outcast and a pariah.

[Ham:] Of course I knew all this, living on the Blessed Continent as I do. Imagine my surprise to see the trailers and see that Merlin’s back and with his head attached to his body, especially after Julia ordered his public execution.

[Ray:] She did.

[Ham:] Wouldn’t he be dead, then?

[Ray:] You’d think that, but Merlin and Julia are both clever and love doesn’t just die, but sometimes it takes a backseat to saving the world.

Merlin was executed in Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. Or was he?

[Ham:] So I assume there’s a reason behind all this. Things you refuse to divulge, so could you skip that—let’s talk instead about the change the Elves have undergone. Tell the players about the Mending.

[Ray:] Right. Well first, in order to understand it, Julia fell in love with a remarkably clever and caring Dark Elf King named Saridas.

[Ham:] Which might come as a shock to some players, especially if they played through the first games.

[Ray:] Yes, the Dark Elves and Wood Elves were mortal enemies. Meandor, Julia’s brother, sought to kill Julia. He formed the Cult of Storms and led the Dark Elves, but when the Shadow Demons appeared and started consuming the world, Julia and Meandor became close allies. Once the Shadow Demons were driven away, Meandor led the assault against any of the last remaining traces of the Shadows into the Shadow Realm.

[Ham:] So Meandor set up Julia with one of his buddies?

[Ray:] King Saridas was a trusted friend of Meandor, but not a Wizard. Therefore when Merlin sealed all the wizards behind the last Shadow Gate, he remained and became the King of the Dark Elves in Meandor’s absence.

[Ham:] Which made me wonder how he managed to keep Julia in this world. She was a wizard too.

[Ray:] In order to seal off this world from the Shadow World, Merlin had to destroy the Wizard’s Circle in Evermore. In that moment, all wizards in this world lost their powers. It was quite tragic, and an affront to the elves and archons; the reason Merlin became so hated.

[Ham:] Fickle people. They hated the wizards when they ruled, and they the hated losing them.

[Ray:] With no wizards in the world, every realm withered. Think about it this way. When you control the weather to make your domains more productive, the population depends on it. The whole world had become dependent on this power. So when it was gone, the consequences were terrible. Whole populations starved. Fruitful lands turned back to deserts.

[Ham:] Yeah that was a rough time. I remember I ate a couple meals a day during that decade. Tough times, indeed.

[Ray:] Saridas had been smitten with Julia for a long time before she lost her powers.

[Ham:] Who wasn’t?

[Ray:] It was a dark time for Julia. She had lost more than power. She was so alone. So it was Saridas, who never left her side. He gave her something to learn. He showed her that there were ways to embrace magic without being a full-fledged Wizard. He rekindled her love of the natural world, which would lead to the type of power she would embrace.

[Ham:] I remember. That’s when Julia started to dream and smile again.

[Ray:] It’s quite the story. In the quiet moments they spent together, Julia expressed her greatest desire to Saridas, and Saridas found a way to make it come a reality. He searched the world for the magic necessary to bring about the Ceremony known as the Mending—his search nearly killed him—and yet all that is backstory.

Mending ceremony of the wood- and high elves.

[Ham:] He explored places I was more than happy to avoid.

[Ray:] When he was certain, he presented Julia with her wish: A ceremony that would unite the Dark Elves and the Wood Elves into a single race once again. For the spell to work, the two would have to give themselves wholly one to another.

[Ham:] So they married and lived happily ever after… right?

[Ray:] Using magic they gathered the Dark Elves and Wood Elves, and by the power of their magical union had a transformative effect upon all the elves, calming the hatred, healing old wounds. That’s how the High Elves were formed.

[Ham:] Restored to what they were before the arrival of Humanity, before the great Schism that drove them apart. So I take it now that they’re better they’ve forgiven the humans and this whole Elven Court is their own way of fostering life in peace.

[Ray:] That was Julia’s dream. Sadly, the Elves didn’t forgive once they were healed. Like all fresh new powers in the world, they are intent on ruling. Many in the Elven Court believe that they should rule in the same way that the ancient king Inioch ruled.

[Ham:] Him again? So wait. Are you saying the conflict in this game is between humans and the Elven Court all over again?

[Ray:] I’m a fan of the symmetry. We’ve come full circle, this time the humans have established a “way of life” and the Elves are new.

[Ham:] Symmetry? You realize only writers care about that stuff… Sigh. Fine. So the Elves are aggressively taking the country back, and so next let’s talk about the Commonwealth.

The World since Shadow Magic: The Commonwealth

[Ray:] Right. So the Commonwealth was formed when many of the wizards and heroes were either eliminated or passed into the Shadow Realm to hunt the evils that lurked therein. You remember from Shadow Magic, that the Syron were the slave race of the Shadow Demons and their world was one of many that had been consumed by these demons. Well, the prospect of discovering whole worlds was a huge draw to many of the most powerful wizards. To eliminate war, the Wizards entrusted the ruling of Athla back to the people. When it was founded, it was a nation founded upon principles of law, freedom, and opportunities to all who would abandon the sword for the sake of prosperity. All races shared power equally in the beginning.

[Ham:] Ah. The idyllic days of the Commonwealth were wonderful. And they lasted about as long as a dream.

[Ray:] The Commonwealth brought great benefits to the people that joined. Originally, the innovations and shared technology benefited the people, and few territories didn’t willingly join. Knowledge was shared between all who sought it, and great libraries were established. Of course, as is the case with most empires, this lasted about as long as the Empire continued to grow. Once shortages appeared, however, and the prosperous started losing their affluence, things changed.

[Ham:] Let me guess, the Halflings rose in power and destroyed life’s balance?

[Ray:] Actually it was the Humans.

[Ham:] Surprise, surprise.

[Ray:] Short-lived, they reasoned that they needed to look out for themselves above all others. Of course there are other races that are short-lived, but I doubt they ever fully thought they needed justification. The Human noblemen used a hundred different schemes, but the end result was that as the Empire expanded, more Human noblemen were appointed than any others. Some races were relegated to roles in society—like Goblins are garbage collectors. While other races became despised– like the Draconians that are despised because they believe they are dragonkin. Other races simply disappeared altogether, under mysterious circumstances—like the Tigrans who just abandoned all their cities leaving little trace behind. In their absence, the Humans continued to favor humanity above all the other races, and soon the Commonwealth became a mostly human endeavor.
And that’s why the Elves are in conflict with the Commonwealth. They see their world being overrun, they remember the ancient age when they ruled, and they cannot abide the injustices.

[Ham:] And the Halflings? I assume that in AoWIII the Halflings are a force to be reckoned with.

[Ray:] You do realize you’re not a typical Halfling, right? Most Halflings really don’t go to war.

[Ham:] We just need a really good cause, like um… a massive feast, or warriors made out of cookie dough. Then we’d fight…Okay fine, as long as I get a little private time with Queen Julia, and my Halflings aren’t massacred needlessly for a plot-point, I suppose I’ll be content.

[Ray:] Um… yeah, about that…

[Ham:] I DO get a little private time with the immortal Queen Julia, right?

[Ray:] Well. Not really?

Queen Julia, Saridas and their daughter

[Ray:] Well, first… You should know the Halflings are my very favorite.

[Ham:] The Halflings do have a major role, right?

[Ray:] More like NO role.

[Ham:] No role? Wait? How will players know of all the heroically silly things we Halflings do if they aren’t in a starring role?

[Ray:] At least I vetoed the idea of having the Halflings massacred. But yeah, there’s currently no playable Halfling race anymore. I’ve been reassured this won’t be a permanent solution… but um… no, as much as I would love to, I really can’t make the story about the Halflings.

[Ham:] … You are dead to me …

[Ray:] At this point in history, your people were well assimilated into the Commonwealth and Elven Court, and you really have no beef with anybody, so you didn’t go to war like some of the other races. See? Isn’t that nice? You’re not a racist race! SO be grateful.

[Ham:] Where’s my Mace of Holy Smiting?

[Ray:] Hey now, remember, Halflings are peace-loving.

The new campaign and story descriptions

[Ham:] So who’s going to be the hero? Sounds like the world’s full of troubles, but what about the heroes?

[Ray:] Well Julia had two children. A son and a daughter. The son is a great Prince, who is everything you’d think a son of Julia might be, while the daughter is clever and tired of the political games of the Court. You can probably guess which one ends up taking the starring role in the Campaign. These two siblings start the initial campaign for the Elven Court side of things. On the other side, you play an idyllic young officer from the Commonwealth. He grew up believing in the way the Commonwealth should be, rather than seeing how it really is. The two sides come into conflict and there are points where the player gets to decide how to solve that conflict. There’s a whole host of great supporting characters as well.

[Ham:] None of whom are Halflings.

[Ray:] No worries, Ham. You’re still featured in the game—or at least your writings are.

Sun and the moon represented in the High Elves crest

[Ham:] My writings? You mean all those books I wrote while exploring the world?

[Ray:] Right. It’s actually quite cool. Instead of how we’ve done it in the past, the Heroes and Units in AoWIII don’t have typical descriptions. Instead, I searched through the libraries on Athla. For the Unicorn, for example, I found a song written by that master Bard, Willa Loveday. I found a snippet of writing from a Wyvern breeder, Katie Handler, who wrote about her Wyvern that forms its description. And who can forget your expedition to the deserts of Kesh written in the book “Where’s Symba?”, in which we discover that the Tigrans left behind empty ruins and only the Beholders remained behind.

[Ham:] So you copied an assortment of ancient tomes instead of writing it from scratch? Wow. Life’s rough for you as a writer. Where’s my royalty check?

[Ray:] Just think, a whole world of people gets to read of your adventures. They’re great fun. Just one more way that AoWIII is one massive story. And I think that’s pretty cool.

[Ham:] I guess that’s cool. Most of my writing was intended as a last will and testament to my posterity, in case they ever find my body, hopefully they’ll know how I meet my final doom. I’m quite surprised it hasn’t happened yet.

[Ray:] About that…

[Ham:] So I think we’ve covered more than enough topics. This interview is way long. I guess I’ll conclude the interview by asking if there’s anything else you want to add?

[Ray:] Well just that like most things in AoWIII we’re under development. Things change, but as you can tell, we’re doing our best to provide a very immersive storyline to go along with all the fun new tactics and strategies that players will be required to master. There’s still a lot I haven’t even mentioned here. And there are a lot of questions still to be answered—even after AoWIII is up… questions for more sequels. We’re in great shape to keep the story going for another Age of Wonders!

High Elven units

High Elven units

[Ham:] Well I’d better head back through the transdimensional warpgate disguised as a garbage can in your world. (Those of you at home, do be careful when you step into a garbage can, it may transport you to a different world.)

[Ray:] Before you go, I have one question for you…

[Ham:] Sure, what?

[Ray:] Well, you first appeared in AoW, the original game. Many hundred years after the current game and the typical lifespan of a Halfling is about the same as a human, so how is it that you’re still alive?

[Ham:] The world of Athla is a mysterious place, full of all sorts of mysteries.

[Ray:] That’s no answer.

[Ham:] You can’t handle the truth.

[Ray:] C’mon, just tell me the secret to your longevity. Please?

[Ham:] Ponder the meaning of… Mmm, Bacon.

[Ray:] Where’d that piece of bacon come from!? Come back! Wait! That’s no answer!

[Ham:] Gotta run. It’s been real. Just remember this the next time you decide it’s a good idea to ignore the Halflings.

[Sound of transdimensional portal opening in a garbage can …]

[Ray:] Bye?

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Home Forums Dev Journal: What happened after Shadow Magic (story part II)

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    In the previous part of our story dev journal Halfling hero Ham Binger interviews Age of Wonders III writer Ray Bingham about some of the things that have happened since Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. In this journal we continue and talk more about what happened with Merlin and Queen Julia.

    [See the full post at: Dev Journal: What happened after Shadow Magic (story part II)]


    I’m so happy right now! 😀 Happty about the way you described the Mending, the new unit descriptions, and happy that a lot of halfling fans out there are probably happy as well!

    Well done! 🙂


    Excellent! Funny and informative.

    So how did magic make its way back considering there is a sorcerer class and such? Or is that also a part of the (elemental?) nature magic that Saridas found?

    Also, which campaign side/outcome will be the canon one assuming that’s even decided? AoW1 had several endings but Keeper victory was the one that carried on in the storyline.

    Oh and the new unit descriptions sound very interesting as well. 🙂



    These new units are so similar. I prefer something unique like dryads rather than just the same units with different weapons.


    Red Key

    Thank you Ray and Ham! A pleasure as always. 🙂



    Pretty cool.

    i got one question tho.
    Does that mean the High Elves are *one* transformed race now? Or if they are just culturaly transformed and still look like the two races?

    This may be just me beeing cynical but it looks like we essentialy replaced the dark elves with more regular elves.

    Still well and amusingly written.


    Brother JO


    I always hoped for little merlin and julias :P:P

    But still, good story. 🙂


    Lennart Sas

    Hi! just to clear a couple of things up:
    -High Elves = one new magical race. They resemble the original elven race from before the arrival of humans that split the elves in two.
    -It doesn’t mean ALL Wood Elves and Dark Elves were part of the mending. They might return.
    -Not all High Elf units might be depicted in the units image.
    -Note a lot of fantastical monsters that aren’t really part of a humanoid race can be gotten through classes / specializations / dwellings.


    Red Key

    Thanks Lennart! Can you clarify – will any tier 3 or 4 units be determined by race? or do we have to rely on classes/specializations/dwellings for tier 3 and 4?

    Also if there was a Mending why does Julia’s son look so Dark Elf? (I am assuming the art below is of Julia and her children)

    Julia & Children


    I guess Julia’s son is the warmonger while the daughter is the more compromising one so the son needs to look “evil”. I guess he’s “lil’ Meandor”. :p

    I like how Julia likes in that image (more mature I suppose) though it’s a little odd how her daughter seems older. In fact, Julia looks like the’s the youngest one in that image. :p


    Brother JO

    I like how Julia likes in that image (more mature I suppose) though it’s a little odd how her daughter seems older. In fact, Julia looks like the’s the youngest one in that image. :p

    I thought that julia(you know queens wear crown :P) was left one and right one was Saridas.And behind them was their daugher 😛



    none of my garbage cans has a gate, I just checked… 🙁


    Piko LV

    This is just great. Just great this is.



    I agree with Brother JO’s guess.

    They didn’t say what race the young officer was! We could have a orcs or dwalves perspective!
    So my understanding is…
    *The halfings are integrated into both factions
    *The Tigrans have left the region for some secret reason
    *Archons and Syrons have moved on hunting down evil stuff, and the ones left are danmed undead
    *The frostlings city has been destroyed or overtaken im not sure on the details
    *Lizardmen annihilated
    *Azracs annihilated
    *shadow daemons? all the left overs with the hive mind dead, or have they gone back to their natural state leaving an opening for an insect race 😉

    Have i missed anything?


    Story sounds promising so far, what with pockets of Wood and Dark elves around the new Eldar from the youth of the world fighting the fantasy USA.

    But there was, I hate to say, very little information about the status of the True Dragons. How many were destroyed by the Shadow Demons/Commonwealth? were new kinds bred by the engineer class, or did forgotten ones emerge after greedy and deep delving? (there must have been some, judging from the awesome fire Giant).

    Instead of the redoubtable Ham, could you interview a Dragon of some sort, or could Ham’s longevity, appetite, and unusually warlike nature be due to him being a dragon in halfling form? I don’t want to have to wait until the next Desolation of Samug trailer for my Dragon fix.



    I don’t remember any of this stuff about Merlin sealing gates and becoming a pariah. Was this covered in any of the games or is it just backstory for AoW3 that’s being revealed to build up hype?



    The latter – now we know what Merlin meant in the trailer about destroying the Wizard’s Circle.

    The rough timeline seems to be:

    End of Shadow Magic: the All-Devourer is defeated.

    Meandor and other wizards spearhead a counterattack into the Shadow Realm. Other wizards stay behind.

    In order to protect the world from any resurgence of the Shadow Demons, and to stop future abuses of power by wizards, Merlin destroys the Wizard’s Circle, cutting off the sources of Wizard power (thus draining all the wizards that had stayed behind, including Julia) and sealing Athla off from the Shadow Realm.

    Julia goes into depression, while the world is devastated by the loss of wizard power.

    The Commonwealth is formed as an egalitarian central government. Saridas and Julia (and likely others) discover new forms of magical power.

    Humans begin taking over the Commonwealth, relegating other races – specifically including goblins and draconians – to second-class citizens. Saridas and Julia enter a magical union that unifies the elves loyal to them in turn, forming the Elven Court as the main power center independent of the Commonwealth.

    The Elven Court looks at what the Commonwealth has become, compares it unfavourably with how it was during the times of elven rule, and the Commonwealth and the Elven Court go head to head.

    Some of the things here might not be correlated here as presented – the Commonwealth may have been formed quite a bit earlier, for instance – but it does make for a broad-strokes overview of what’s happened.



    Actually i thought the picture wasnt her children, but she and her husband.

    Im not actually a fan of the merging elven races. Because they just look like regular elves anyway. I would have realy liked a mixture of elves and dark elves, aesthetically…


    I would have realy liked a mixture of elves and dark elves, aesthetically…

    Dark elves changed due to their hatred – they were still elves. Once that hatred subsided they would no doubt regress to their original state over time.


    Draxynnic: You got the backstory almost perfect… You get an “A+” 😉

    (Sequencewise, The Commonwealth was formed by the Wizards of Athla, actually, at about the time the first Wizards/Archons and Syrons went through the Shadowgates to see if they could take back the Shadow-demon’s devoured worlds.)


    vota dc

    Game seems more race based that I expected and less political/class based.



    What will be the twist in the story? highmen(archons) and undead again? or its just straightforward commonwealth aka humans vs high elves aka dark elves/wood elves?

    Maybe a legion of classical demons lords appear and cause havoc to the blessed continent and the forces of the heavens need to react to it.

    I like it when greater powers struggle in a mortal contested realm. 😀

    But maybe thats more expansion material and in the vanilla game they duke it out for themselves? I like it, how it was in ogre battle, when you freed a devil general to support your cause, you got a very bad ending thehehe!



    But almost perfect is getting something wrong! Nuuuu!

    More seriously, the date of the founding of the Commonwealth was the one thing I was unsure about – I got that it was founded by wizards, but wasn’t sure of whether it was founded while they still had their powers, or after they’d lost their powers but (presumably) still garnered enough respect to have the influence to set the Commonwealth up and keep it behaving as intended for a few centuries.

    In hindsight, it does make more sense for it to have been founded while the Wizards were still fully powered, and while the threat of extraplanar invasion was still fresh enough in the minds of the races that they’d accept unification over continuing old hatreds.

    On some speculation… the backstory of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth character in particular, is interesting – it presents a clear explanation of how the Commonwealth could go good (harkening back to its original core values) or evil (HUMAN SUPREMACISTS!!!) and thus helps to offset some of the idea that’s been building that the Commonwealth are the bad guys by default. It does make me wonder if we’re going to see some Commonwealth-on-Commonwealth battles on the good side of the Commonwealth campaign to clear out the corrupt elements – and how the Elven Court will react to that.

    (How the Elven Court could go either way is fairly obvious – essentially, do they go down the Keeper path or the Cult of Storms path?)

    Speaking of which, on the result of Elven unification – physically and mentally, I would expect the High Elves to be much closer to the Wood Elves. AoW1 and AoW2 lore essentially presented the Dark Elves as an anomaly created by immense tragedy – in reuniting the two sides, I would expect the result to be closer to ‘reset to default’ than being a midpoint between the two groups. (And that’s without considering relative population sizes – I always had the impression the WE population was higher than the DE population, but less focused on military goals)


    Few questions i have for Ray/Lenart/The team to confirm, fix or deny 😀

        Highmen/Archons come from another planet .. ?
        Most of the Archons leave through the shadow gate / go home .. ?
        Wizards circle is destroyed = death corrupted Archons .. ?
        Shadow World cut off = death corrupted Archons .. ?
        Highmen world is called .. ?
        Any new worlds coming in future dlc / or is any other featured in the current campaign .. ?
        By worlds, do you refer to different planets in the cosmos, different continents on Athla, different realms, different realms occupying the same space (is that the same thing?) or something else .. ?
        Will the shadow realm return in the future as a dlc showing what happened to the wizards who ventured into the shadow realm to reclaim those lands .. ?

    Speaking of which, on the result of Elven unification – physically and mentally, I would expect the High Elves to be much closer to the Wood Elves. AoW1 and AoW2 lore essentially presented the Dark Elves as an anomaly created by immense tragedy – in reuniting the two sides, I would expect the result to be closer to ‘reset to default’ than being a midpoint between the two groups. (And that’s without considering relative population sizes – I always had the impression the WE population was higher than the DE population, but less focused on military goals)

    Ah yes drax, thats what i meant to imply but it must not of come across very well
    The quote feature of the forum isnt working for me and i messed up the quote on my last post – top line was supposed to be a quote.

    I would have realy liked a mixture of elves and dark elves, aesthetically…

    Dark elves changed due to their hatred – they were still elves. Once that hatred subsided they would no doubt regress to their original state over time.



    yeah, actually thats my major concern.

    It looks like Wood Elves and Dark Elves joined together to become Wood Elves…


    yeah, actually thats my major concern.

    It looks like Wood Elves and Dark Elves joined together to become Wood Elves…

    but it just makes sense bud – no doubt their will be traces of dark elf (units i hope) in their somewhere but everything will look wood elfy (or high elfy i guess)

    just think that when the wood and dark elves get their own separate release then you get your d.elf fix 😀

    edit: the units we have seen so far dont even look wood elfy they look high elfy 😀 more lotr than the normal julia elves

    … gota stop saying elfy lol


    The whole point is that HEs don’t look like WEs which are logically assumed to be the “original” from which the DEs split off. HEs don’t have that foresty look.

    In any case much has happened since the split and the merging of the two elven sub-cultures likely isn’t a mere reversion to what the elves were before the schism. Nor does the mending mean that the new unit roster would simply be Executioners and Spider Queens pasted onto Druids and Rangers (these things are more class related now anyway). It’s not that kind of a literal merging.

    Ex-DEs have likely abandoned much of their dark ways and the elven race as a whole has probably changed much with regard to the new magic source (whatever it is). They’ve probably turned more towards empire building and harnessing the new powers as opposed to the earlier “nature stuff”.


    iHunterKiller: Some really great questions… which I don’t think I’m allowed to answer… some are unsettled, others we’ve argued about, and others we know, but don’t want to spoil everything… 😀


    This plot kind of reminds me of the old Magic Card game books/back story, where Urza Planeswalker seals off his world after a fierce battle with the phyrexians.

    Now with the steampunk faction, maybe we could see a science based invasion force. After all, an invasion of an otherworldly power has played a role in every AOW game so far. And there is the fact that a sealed off fantasy realm is like a Checkov gun: someone is going to unseal that barrier (i.e. the girdle of Melian, the Hidden kingdom of Gondolin, Valinor, Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever’s Land, the Elves and demons in Shanara, etc.). Or maybe the steampunk people could want to invade other worlds? who knows.

    Also, now that the Elves are Eldar, I’d like to think that there is an Elven lord like unit, at least for theocratic faction. Something of roughly runemaster power, but more focused on smiting evil, ranged magic, and numinous shining. I’d also like to see a truly entish tree man for the druid. I’m also curious as to how they are going to rework the Faerie Dragon, as it was already fairly weak towards ranged attackers (the undead dragon had lower hit points, but its life stealing more than made up for it).



    I guess I should ask: do some high elves (lore-wise, at this point) use death magic (which is what the Dark Elves did)? In regards mentality, can they be called one race essentially, or mostly a healing of the relations between the two with a new culture? So the Elves are healed/united; To what extent would a previously Dark Elf retain their past?

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