My heart tells me this is the best and greatest feeling I have ever had. But my mind knows the difference between wanting what you can’t have and wanting what you shouldn’t want. And I shouldn’t want you.
Cassandra Clare, City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)
if you’ve been sleeping on this fic, please don’t, it’s incredible good and real and heartwretching and cathartic, and the ending is great, so now is a good time to check it out because shit’s going down
Mostly based on canon and observation, some actually canon and sometimes just plain making it up for fun. I have another one for dwarves coming, and may do one for qunari.
*I hope I’m using that term right.
Elves are androgynous and display minimum sexual dimorphism; the only visible differences between an elf with a uterus and an elf without is breasts and slightly wider hips.
Though elves have thinner body hair than other races some elves have thicker hair than others and sport very faint, light growths of fuzz along their jaw, chin and above their lips - what passes for beards amongst elves.
Ears are mobile, unless they put effort into avoiding it their ears will be almost constantly twitching, either as part of their emotional body language or due to reacting to sound. Their size, shape and mobility lends elves better hearing than most races (save Vashoth and Qunari who have similar ears). They’re also more tactile (sensitive to touch).
Hair and eye colours unseen in humans are known to occur in elves, such as eyes in golds, greens and blues in incredibly bright or pale tones, as well as shades of purple and violet. Assuming Ghilan'nain did not have albinism or dye her hair, white or platinum blonde hair can also occur naturally (as in before the pigment starts fading from age).
They also canonically have an extra layer behind the retina which gives them tapetum lucidum, or “eye-shine”, which catches light and shines it back through the lens. At night this will allow them night vision. As a result of evolving to see in the dark, the size of their eyes is much larger in order to catch the maximum amount of light, there are barely any whites to an elf’s eyes, with the iris and pupil taking up most of the eye. It’s also likely they have excellent day vision as well. Their pupils contracting and expand rather like a cats.
As a side note to the above, elves are likely not diurnal by nature (diurnal species having no use for night-vision). Although active during the day, they are likely just as active at dusk, dawn and sometimes night (preferably when there is a full moon or similar light source). City elves in general, having adjusted to human norms likely keep diurnal time patterns by habit (although elven rogues no doubt take advantage of their nature). Dalish camps however are more likely to see full activity on a near 24-hour basis, some clan members sleeping through the day, others through the night.
Leg muscles are also more highly developed than in other races, their thighs tend to be thicker and even a mildly malnourished city elf with no martial training could probably cause a decent amount of damage with a kick.
The soles of their feet are much coarser and thicker-skinned than other races, and more prone to thick callouses, making the skin harder to cut or damage. This is likely why elves do not always bother with shoes (though there are still conditions where shoes should be worn).
There is a notable physical difference between Dalish and city elves (or those few city elves who did not grow up in abject poverty). Due to malnourishment, city elves are typically smaller than humans, and lacking body fat (and often muscle mass) tend to have the short incredibly skinny “lithe, willowy” frames humans have come to associate elves with. Dalish elves on the other hand (while still prone to slimmer frames on average) get a large amount of daily exercise and train in combat and archery from a young age, as such you would be hard pressed to find a Dalish without at least some degree of notable muscle. Being archers, it would in fact be incredibly strange to find a Dalish without very defined back muscles. Being less prone to suffering malnutrition (short of accidents) they also tend to be taller and stand as tall as many humans, with an average height of 5'5".
A side effect of their innate magical nature - their dormant immortality and dreamer abilities - is that elves both have incredible memories compared to other races, usually forgetting only their earliest memories. A rare few even possessing true eidetic memories allowing them to recall their entire lives in clarity.
They have a tendency to enter a state of lucid dreaming far more often than other races their dreams usually being vivid and clear and easily recalled upon waking (even those who are not mages).
Also due to their inherent connection to magic, all elves will typically display at least some degree sensitivity to arcane energy, even those who do not develop magical abilities themselves (albeit to varying degrees). Many will notice when something “feels off”, which is usually subconsciously noticing a shift in the veil or a nearby spirit, or picking up on some residual magical energy left from a spell or enchantment. Elven mages also tend to do better in the spirit school than their non-elven peers.