Often mistakenly used synonymously with "wild elf", the term "wood elf" only refers to elves of the Alphorian colonies on the Foringean continent. Historically it has been used of colonists that used to build their houses primarily from wood and tended to live close to or even surrounded by forests. Though the term has never been in official use in the empire, it does seem to be wholly elven in origin, only later adopted by humans.
Wood elves are mostly descended from lowborn elves that moved to the continent to gain more freedoms, even pardons from criminal charges, afforded to those that willingly became colonial pioneers. Some also share mixed heritage with elves that had been exiled from Alpharion during the Cold Aion, before the forming of the first colonies. Those few survivors and their descendants that were willing to reintegrate to the empire passed on valuable survival information to the newcomers, though for a large part they were written out from official history.
One reliable way of recognizing a wood elf is a tattoo on the right temple, a symbol of the rising sun. This was given to all who left or were forced into exile from the island of Alpharion so they could be identified if they attempted return. This became known pejoratively as the Colonist Brand. Many colonists altered their tattoo to make it look like a tree, which has been suggested as an alternate origin for the term "wood elf". Though never enforced or even officially recognized, this sun-tree has become a cherished symbol among colonial elves and is often given to colonial children at an early age.
Otherwise wood elves are very similar to their insular cousins, though due to a different lifestyle tend to be more tanned and muscular. They also more often have brown or red hair. Wood elf clothes can also be a giveaway. Colonial elves wear mostly wool, linen and leather rather than fine spider silks. For most humans wood elves appear incredibly advanced in most ways, but are seen as earthy and a bit backward by the elves of Alpharion.
All modern dark elves are descended from the people of Morantia, an Alphorian colony that rebelled against the oppressive laws and heavy taxation of the empire and declared independence. After a military intervention failed, the Kyrkos did something unexpected: a greater spell known as the Branding was cast, changing the hair color of almost every Morantian. It is suggested that this was intended to scare Morantia into rescinding its independence or to discourage any other colonies with similar plans. Morantians certainly did not falter, and no further harm came to them.
Due to the Branding, most dark elves have raven black hair, though other shades exist largely due to intermarriage with non-Morantians but also a minority of Morantians that escaped the Branding. Rarely dark elves are born with a slightly purple skin hue, though not as extreme as seen in ogres and some hobgoblins. This appears to be tied to the Branding rather than a novel mutation, though it only manifests rarely. Curiously albinistic dark elves always have a light purple skin despite lacking normal human pigmentation.
Otherwise dark elves are most similar to the wood elves, both physically and culturally. However they are proud of their independence from Alphoria and its strictures, and have repealed all areteicity laws and marriage and childbirth limitations. Despite the official statements of the Kyrkos, this has not lead to an increase of goblinistic traits among dark elves. As a result of this relaxed atmosphere most mixed marriages between elves and other human races on Gea take place in Morantia, and this intermixing has resulted in rare dark elf individuals with traits not seen in other elves, such as facial hair in men.
After the Branding dark elves began to see the traditional elvish tattoos as an extension of Alphorian tyranny, and the tradition has since lost much of its popularity. With the areteicity laws gone, the state no longer requires any types of markings to denote social status. A large portion of dark elves now has completely untattooed temples, which sets them clearly apart from other elves.
There is some debate on the exact origin of the wild elves, but what is agreed upon is that they are the descended from Alphorians exiled to Foringea during the Cold Aion. In the early Cold Aion this was almost a guaranteed death sentence, but as the climate began to warm, more and more exiled elves survived and gradually built their own society on the continent. These survivors became the first wild elves, but their ranks were later bolstered by colonists that fled into the wilds for various reasons. During the Colonial Era wild elves that refused to submit to the authority of the Alphorian Empire were driven further towards Goitia, and today they are the only elves to make permanent residence beyond the Goitian Wall.
Wild elves tend to be shorter in stature than Alphorian elves, as well as stockier and more muscular, though may still appear slight in comparison with humans. Their hair tends to be tinted red, though they are known to dye their hair which can obscure the natural color. Wild elves commonly have noticeably larger noses than other elves, and their skin is often freckled. Although these traits are often seen as signs of goblinism by high elves, there is no evidence that wild elves are any more goblinistic than the average Alphorian lowborn.
While the first ancestors of wild elves were marked with simple tattoos as exiles, their modern descendants they now sport far more tattoos than any other elvish subpopulation. These aren't limited to the temples and forehead either, but can be found on practically any body part. Many wild elven tattoo designs resemble those of the Goitian Tribes rather than those of Alphorians, but is is unclear which group has inspired which.