The life elves or elder elves (ellrialfar) are what is known in the Empire as wood nymphs or dryads.
Some stories say the dryads may be related to the shifters, since they can take on the shape of either a tree, an elf, or any combination thereof, including bark-like skin. Otherwise their skin is greenish in color, with hair that changes with the seasons, like leaves.
Dryads are immortal creatures of the forest, living mostly solitary lives (rather than forming communities) among the oldest trees. Living like plants, they harm no living creature, neither flora nor fauna. They can speak to all the spirits of nature and transform into a trees and sometimes animals.
By and large, dryads are shrouded in mystery. Many say they are probably the ancestors of the other elves, the first creations of the Vanir, although the life elves worship no particular god or goddess, instead befriending those who love nature. Artemis in particular, an Olympian goddess, is known for the train of nymphs and dryads who wait on her. Most peculiarly of all, all life elves or dryads appear to be female. Some speculate that they are in fact genderless, like trees, but merely take a feminine shape since it is gentler and a symbol of fertility. Others argue that they have seen male dryads, and they are merely rarer or more secretive. Either way, all dryads are extremely rarely seen, and nearly all creatures and cultures hold them in reverence, except for demons and the chaos races.