Sad as it may be, to many in our time the word "elf" is a synonym for pauper, bandit or layabout. "She-elf" is used by many to denote a prostitute or woman of loose morals. The adjective "elven", in turn, describes damaged, needlessly complicated or useless goods. Statistics, for their part, show that one in three elves living in Redania has spent time in prison, and a full one half of them have been fined at least once. The average lifespan of elves, though still thrice that of humans, grows shorter each year.
Given the above it is easy to forget that elves - or Aen Seidhe, as they fashion themselves - were once a proud race that ruled the lands stretching from the banks of the Great Sea in the west to the Blue Mountains in the east, and from the Dragon Mountains in the North to the Mahakam range in the south. The ruins of their cities scattered throughout the known world bear witness to their former might (cp. "Monumenta Elforum" by Istredd of Aedd Gynvael).
Many of the most outstanding mages, artists and poets of recorded history have been of this race. And we have elves to thank for dozens of ingenuous items we rely on each day, from screw pumps to cosmetics. Those elves who dwell amongst men have largely forgotten their history and culture - the sole sliver of elven identity left in them being a burning hatred for humans, whom they refer to as dh'oine. The elves of Dol Blathanna, that puppet vassal of Nilfgaard, and of the wild highlands of the Blue Mountains have retained much of the old knowledge and culture, though they, too, are condemned to perish. This death sentence was handed to them by biology - for men, though short-lived, are several times more fertile than elves. Thus, while the Aen Seidhe's numbers continue to dwindle, ours grow at an alarming and ever-increasing rate.
Some elves believe that the tide of events can be turned, that they can put a stop to human expansion and, ultimately, to their oppression by men. They look to their mythical cousins for salvation - to the Aen Elle, the Alder Folk. The Aen Elle are said to dwell in another world or possibly another plane to which they traveled during the mythic Age of Migration, and from which they at times journey to visit our world. Legend claims a gate between the worlds could be opened, allowing the Aen Elle to ride to their downtrodden brethren's rescue. These are, however, mere fables, naïve fairy tales this race condemned to extinction uses to provide itself small comfort in these, their last, sad moments.