No trace of kindness exists in the world of the alfar, a race whose minds were shattered and then erratically rebuilt by a cruel and insane deity. To the alfar, pleasure is derived from the suffering of others, and the only impulse that can override their urge to torture and destroy, is a marrow-seated need to please their god-king.
Like poison darts, alfar night raiders strike deep into the lands of the foreigner. Appearing out of nowhere, they cut bloody swathes of death and destruction, before vanishing just as tracelessly as they came. To their victims, it seems like the night itself shapes the alfar, then dissolves them again when their butcher's work is done.
In combat, alfar are hate-fuelled killing machines, whose unshakable bravery and great skill makes them feared opponents. Their character has a strong streak of individualism, however, and unless orders are perceived as the will of Melek, alfar warriors are reluctant to follow any grand plan or strategy. As soon as battle is joined, each alfar tends to fall back on his own murderous instincts, or to fight alongside a small, tightly-knit group of raiding comrades.
The alfar homeland lies in the southern part of Agon's main continent, with the human realm of Mercia to its east and the mirdain Forest Republic to the west. To the southwest, across the Ruby Sea, lies the desert continent of Rubaiyat and the mist-covered, pirate-controlled Silkveil Islands. To the north, the Pall of Synochus spreads across Agon's heartland, threatening to devour everything around it, including the northern regions of Nagast.
Much of Nagast consists of cragged badlands where outsized mushrooms and black-leafed trees grow among broken rocks and spire-like mountains. The spell-irradiated soil of Nagast has a purple cast to it, and very little that is edible grows in it.
The alfar dislike sunlight, and many of their cities are built at least partially underground. In some cases, the residential parts of towns are subterranean, while businesses and administrative structures stand aboveground. Many important structures, such as mushroom farms and manthe-web weaving mills are by necessity built in the underground sections of alfar towns.
Enemies: The Severii
Scattered throughout Nagast lie the fortified cities of the Severii, a militant race who ruled the region long before the ascent of the alfar. The Severii worshipped a skeletal dragon god called Cyriacus, who lured them into accepting his gift of undeath so that they could worship him forever. Though millennia have passed, and though the alfar have killed each of them a hundred times over, the Severii still rise every night to walk the cities which they inhabited in life. At regular intervals, Cyriacus manifests on Agon to lead his undead worshippers on rampages which even the alfar fear.
Enemies: The Naedhra
During his initial breeding of the alfar, Melek experimented with many different genetic configurations. Some of these breeds were more physically exotic than the end result, while others were driven utterly insane by Melek's mind-tinkering. Tribes of mutant alfar - called Naedhra - still thrive in Nagast's most distant cavern systems.
Enemies: The slave army
As play starts, Nagast is in the middle of a large-scale slave rebellion led by an escaped mirdain called Cerulean. Thousands of slaves have fled from their owners to join Cerulean's army, which has already defeated two hastily assembled alfar task forces. Some say Cerulean is making for Mercia and freedom, others say he plans to march on Aphelion itself.
The alfar capital lies along the shores of a large, maelstrom-wracked underground lake called the Throat, which is fed by a waterfall cascading down from the ceiling and by two swift rivers which flow in from neighboring caverns. No water can be seen to escape from the wildly churning lake, which is assumed to be connected to some unexplored lake system deep within the heart of Agon. Though many have been thrown into the Throat over the years, none have ever returned to report on what it feeds into.
Melek himself dwells in the Towers of Silence, which hang dramatically over the waters of the Throat. Made from hollowed-out stalactites which encircle a hole through which a waterfall plummets, the Towers are only connected to the town below by a single, heavily guarded teleportation portal.
Aphelion lies in a damp and verdant cavern system, the walls and ceilings of which are covered by mosses and fungi. A forest of giant mushrooms dominates one of the caverns to which Aphelion is connected by river-carved tunnels, while another is home to a manthe spider-web weavery where clothes and light armor is made.
Culture and religion
The will of Melek is the only law in Nagast, and though his edicts may seem contradictory and strange, all alfar do their utmost to follow them, often without any explanation whatsoever. Even though he is quite insane, Melek is a brilliant strategist, who immerses himself in ambitious long-term plans for the alfar race and for Agon in general. In fact, his work on these schemes tend to engross him completely for long periods of time, leaving the alfar to their own administrative devices. Since many alfar refuse to recognize any other authority than Melek, alfar society tends to be strife-torn and fractured during Melek's retreats.
Melek has no use for the inept, the slothful or the merely competent, and Nagast society revolves around a constant process of god-controlled selection, in which the strong and resourceful thrive, while the weak or stupid are weeded out and killed. Melek's program of eugenics is the chief responsibility of the Horned Circle priesthood, who are intimately familiar with his criteria for selection.
Movers and Shakers
Like everybody else, Melek was surprised by the sudden appearance of the Shining Spear comet, which is currently making its way across Agon's night sky, dripping golden meteorite-sparks which - with unerring accuracy - strike Nithrôn ruins below. Melek has retreated to his laboratories where he is researching this strange development, and as a result, Nagast is entering one of the retreat-periods in which various factions struggle for control in the god-king's absence.
The Unseen Radiance is a group of Deathless Mages who have served Melek since the dawn of alfar history. Though quite loyal, their necromantic pursuits and obsessions sometimes leads them down strange paths which lie beyond the ambitions of the god-king. In periods of Melek's Retreat, they sometimes work quite openly on furthering their own depraved agendas.
The Horned Circleare Melek's priesthood, and the closest thing Nagast comes to having a permanent administration. In the interest of creating a stronger race, the Horned Circle have the power to sentence failed individuals to death, and - perhaps needless to say - they sometimes abuse this power quite grievously during periods of Retreat.
Named for one of Melek's most prized possessions, the Night Scepter is an order of knights dedicated to the annihilation of Melek's enemies inside Nagast, such as monsters, naedhra mutants, and the slave army which currently threatens to plunge the nation into anarchy.
The Salient Shadow is an elite unit of the alfar army which is dedicated to launching the most daring and devastating raids possible into enemy lands. Sometimes the Salient Shadow will recruit outside groups and clans to aid them in their most audacious missions.
What makes the alfar special?
All alfar magic emanates from Melek. Due to the god-king's unpredictable nature, this power fluctuates somewhat, and every time an alfar casts a spell the results vary slightly. Alfar are born with a certain aptitude for the magical arts and tend to excel in them.
The alfar ride shulgan drakes, which are - in essence - small, wingless dragons. Small stumps on the flanks indicate that shulgans were able to fly not all that many generations ago, before they adapted to an underground existence. Drake claws are exceptionally large and viciously curved, as if adapted for digging. The eyes of drakes, which are bulbous and milky white with no visible pupils, give off a soft eldritch glow in darkness. In combat, drakes breathe fire on opponents, while swinging out with their tail against opponents at their the rear. Drake tails have an sharp, obsidian-like ridges which make them very effective as slashing weapons.
Only alfar mastersmiths may craft Ilshards, which are halberds made from a shiny and smooth metal which resembles the exoskeleton of a Black Widow spider. The Ilshard's long handle, which is modelled on the leg of the same spider, is subtly segmented and hooks slightly inward at its blade end. The hooked handle ends in a wicked point which resembles a poison stinger. The Ilshard's owner will frequently treat this point with debilitating poison before entering battle.
The alfar feel a deep-seated hatred for all other intelligent forms of life, and it is difficult for them to enter even the most temporary of alliances with members of other races. Though not restricted from forming clans with members of other races, such endeavours are made unlikely by the loathing which alfar feel for non-alfar individuals.
How the alfar see the world:
"Melek will suck the sun out of the universe and pluck the stars from the firmament. The pitch-black night of his creation will last for ever, and it will be a hell on Agon for all but the alfar."
- Srinah dun Anshar, Unseen Radiance archmage
"The night like a veil around our silently moving shapes… The lights from a plump, dozing village just ahead… The smell of freshly spilled blood and burning thatch…There is nothing else in life that can compare with the joy of a successfully staged raid.
- Elthar Ghostshroud, Salient Shadow raider
"Mahirim dogs, orkish swamp rats, human dung eaters, dwarven maggots who gnaw at the roots of
mountains... in the end it makes little difference - they are all soft, and their lands are ripe for plunder."
- Shulhek bel Meaghra, alfar soldier
"Melek's will is the whole of the law, and the whispers from him are the only commands I follow. So-called priests who try to tell me what to do will die for their insolence."
- Taesih Deepforest, Night Scepter operative
"We alfar are an embattled race, alone in a world full of loathsome enemies. If we face this hateful world as individuals we will surely fail, but nothing can stop us if we stand together ."
- Neadak Haernshadow, Horned Circle priest
"We will round the mirdain up like sheep, hang them from the walls of our caverns, and torture them for ever. They are an utterly despicable race who are not even worthy of death."
- Alguhm Iceglow, alfar clan leader
How others see the alfar
"Though it saddens me to say so, Melek's corruption runs so deep in the alfar that they are beyond redemption. A world cleansed of alfar would be a much safer place for everybody else."
- Eirith Windsinger, mirdain diplomat
"Evil to the core, both the alfar and their deranged god will wither away into nothingness when the divine Truth is revealed to them, via sharp Mercian steel."
- Anthony Bealburn, human White Order paladin
"The alfar may be small-statured, but they are elusive and their weapons have a nasty sting. In fact, an adult alfar is one of the most challenging prey-creatures a hunter can face."
- Yndan the Able, mahirim elder
"When I catch those nasty little batlings that stole our food, they will get the thrashing of a lifetime!"
- Dultanak Fireshield, orkish warrior