Elves are often considered one of the oldest of the sentient species. For eons they lived in tribal systems with many clans never interacting, causing a huge amount of subspecies to occur. This all changed when the royal elves conquered most of the livable land in Älvenheim. After this event, most of the subspecies either went extinct or got absorbed into the new slave elf race.
Royal elves were once a normal subspecies of elf, like all the others. Long ago they got into a war with their neighbours the War elves. The War elves attacked in the belief that they were far superior to the Royal elves, but this proved a miscalculation. The hero queen Leanol used smart tactics and great amounts of propaganda to motivate the royal elves which helped them win the war. The propaganda was aimed at the Royal elves being the best kind of elves and the one deserving of victory. This propaganda was used by the successors of the hero queen as justification in conquering the rest of Älvenheim and subjugating the other elf races. In the modern era, the royal elves rule over most of their continent, the only exceptions being the unmapped lands and Tall Elf Island. Royal elves are famed for their pale skin and hair colors and striking red-purple range eyes.
Slave elves are not just one subspecies but the collective name for all the subjugated races in service of the royal elves. While (forced) interbreeding has caused many hybrids and regional uniformity in their looks, there are still many slave elves who are clear descendants of a certain subspecies. The biggest contributors to the slave elven race are the desert elves, blue elves, mountain elves, sea elves, tree elves, ash elves and light elves.
The ancient elves are the purest descendants of the first lines of elves. They are seen as the link between all the elf subspecies. While very rare in the current age, they are not unheard off. The ancient elves left Älvenheim when the royal elves started their rise to power. They did not fare as well outside of their birth continent, and most pockets have since died out. The last remaining populations of note are on the Emerald Island and Labyra. Ancient Elves are extremely long-lived, even by elf-standards. They can vary greatly in eye, hair and skin colour, but the most common trait that sets them apart from the newer elf species is that they have eight toes and eight fingers instead of the usual ten of the newer species (not counting sea elves as their toes have been replaced by a webbed fin-like foot).
Wild elves are a nomadic subspecies of elves. Where most elven species never thrived outside of Älvenheim, the wild elves were able to make it work. Wild elves made a pact with humans where they would always support humanity in fights against outside forces and that they would provide mages and archers for the armies of the crowned heads that let them stay on their land. This has resulted in the current eras seeing a lot of Wild elven tribes living in human lands, and most human armies having at least one Wild elven division. Wild elves have dark skin colours ranging from black to dark blue, green and brown. Their eyes are usually a shade of yellow, while their hair is as dark as their skin.
While most elves are very short compared to humans, all of them averaging below 150 centimetres, Tall elves are the big exception. Tall elves average above the 2 metres tall. Tall elves live on an island off the northern coast of Älvenheim, and are the last unconquered subspecies still living on the continent. Royal elves have tried many times to invade, but their ships never seem to reach the island. Tall elves are known for having pink skin and green hair. Their eyes are incredibly varied though, and can range anywhere from blue to orange, from red to green and so on. Tall elves have a special relationship with the gnomes.
Frost elves are the most recent species to be conquered by the royal elves. As such they remain fairly intact even while integrated into the slave elves. There are rumors that there are still pockets of frost elves living in small tribes, rebelling against their new overlords. There are also rumors of frost elves fleeing to Tall Elf Island and setting up a community there. These rumors are of course wrong because the royal elven government officially says so. Most recently it is said that one royal elven rebel has installed a new Frozen Lord. Frost elves are light skinned with icy blue or snow white hair and eyes with irises almost indistinguishable from their eye whites.
War elves were the first subspecies to be conquered by the royal elves and have since disappeared. There are two explanations, either they were all killed by the royal elves, or they were such an early addition to the slave elves that their species has been to hybridized to be recognizable anymore. War elves were known for being very aggressive, physically stronger than most other elves and having extra sharp teeth. Their skin was described as bright red while their hair was black or blue. Their eyes were described as being the color of fire and plague. All this considering, many think humans would have regarded them as demons if they had ever met them. It is rumored that some war elven legions fled after the war and moved into the unmapped lands, but of course this can’t be proven.