The Empirical Corvis Mercenaries
Unknown to almost everyone, the elves have not always called Ios their home. Perhaps four millennia ago, the elves came into the region as a ragtag assortment of refugees. They fled some great disaster to the east, and hid in the land of Ios alongside their living gods. The dwarves made peaceful contact with their new neighbors but found them cold and unfriendly even in those days, refusing all offers of aid or support. Since those first days a veil of secrecy has always clouded the civilization of the elves, and only escorted and carefully watched outsiders are allowed within its borders. The dwarves claim they used to have more contact with the elves in days of old, and that things have become particularly difficult in the last few centuries.
The elven nation of Ios has a long history seclusion from the kingdoms of man, for centuries those who crossed its borders without invitation would not return. This nation is decidedly xenophobic, although in decades past it conducted periodic trade and maintained some limited communication with its neighbors. Its ambassadors were always close-lipped and secretive even in the best of times, but several decades ago Ios sealed its borders entirely. Outsiders know little of Ios with any certainty, except that its people have their own culture and a religion entirely distinct from the rest of the Iron Kingdoms, including unique arcane techniques and their own blend of magic and technology called arcanika. To most, elves are an exotic and dangerous enigma.
There are also rumors of a desperation among the elves, and violent radicals who have banded together to strike out against the other people of the region. Elven exiles have been implicated in a number of recent crimes, increasing the wariness that humans have always felt for their secretive neighbors.