Nephilim are commonly a bit shorter than humans. They are lithe and weigh far less than the average human, which gives them their speed and their nimbleness. As a feline race, they are covered with fur and have heads shaped like a cat's. A nephil's ability to see in the dark is renowned, and their sharp vision alone makes them skilled scouts and archers.
Nephilim have an average lifespan of close to 40 years and rarely live more than half a century. Some shamans have been said to live even longer than humans, which may be due to their familiarity with alchemy and medicine.
Habitat and society
Nephilim are at home on the surface, mainly in forested regions but also taking shelter in smaller caves. This makes them very adaptable to life in Exile.
Nephilim from the caves have met up with large settlements in southeastern Valorim, where they hope to live undisturbed. Other Nephilim have integrated into human society, where they are most often found as fletchers, and sometimes as sailors.
They are fierce warriors and have a strong tribal structure. However, clans often engage in raids on each other, stopping just short of outright warfare. Two tribes will not live together unless the situation necessitates it. Nephilim clans live in isolation, which keeps them from achieving the great societies that humans have formed (with the exception of the Ratbane Clan). They were once common on the surface world, until the Empire began a campaign of extermination and deportation against them. Now, with the recent reconciliation between the two nations, Nephilim have begun to return to the surface in force.
Nephilim are extremely nimble, and they excel at archery, lockpicking, and disarming traps, which makes them excellent adventurers. While not particularly adept at magic, every tribe does have its own shamans, who advise the chief. It is interesting to note that there have been no Nephil archmagi worthy of mention, despite there being many shamans.
Known Nephilim clans
- Glowfang Clan is a band of nephilim living near Mertis and are known to have more shamans and other magically skilled individuals than most other clans. There are some occasions during which the Clan has engaged in trading with outsiders of their own clan, namely with the Empire War Heroes. (The Clan has been in quasi-friendly terms with Kingdom of Avernum ever since the Empire-Avernum War.)
- Far-Fletch Clan is a clan of nephilim living west of Mertis, towards the Honeycomb. This Clan, as the name suggests, is especially renowned for their incredible skill with bows, sporting legendary marksmanship. Far-Fletch has been known to teach their skills to some outsiders who they have deemed to be trustworthy. (The Clan has been in quasi-friendly terms with Kingdom of Avernum ever since the Empire-Avernum War.)
- Fang Clan is a clan of nephilim who are known to cling to the "old ways" and traditions, and largely maintain hostile relations towards the other clans as well as humans. There are many accounts of Fang Clan nephilim inhabiting various locations. It is unclear whether these numerous reports are of a same Clan that nomadically searches a new location for settlements or if it is a splinter of a larger band of Fang Clan. (The Clan is in hostile terms with Kingdom of Avernum.)
- Ratbane Clan is a legendary clan due to its' large size during the earlier years, prior to the founding of Valorim's continent by the Empire. It is the only clan that has been confirmed to have been once a large society - a rare trait among the nephilim due to their tribal nature. The Ratbane Clan was nearly wiped out when the Empire found them. A small portion of the Clan managed to flee and still exists to this day. (The Clan's relations to the Empire are presumably hostile, however they have been known to have dealings with the Surface Explorers.)
Nephilim are natural hunters and carnivores, who hunt mainly rodents, but other wild animals as well, such as giant lizards or bats. While the nephilim are a warlike race, they rarely hunt large or ferocious creatures, using their prowess in battle almost exclusively for defense or in tribal conflicts. There are also occasions when a nephilim tribe has taken upon itself to raise crops (both mushrooms and wheat), most likely to compensate for the lack of wild game in the tribe's vicinity. Empire War Heroes reported that during a daring raid to a nepharim fort in the northeastern corner of Eastern Gallery they found long and thick rows of mushrooms inside the fort.
Contrary to a certain human hypothesis, the Nephilim did not adopt clothing only upon their integration into human culture. Evidence of this is the nearly universal custom of clothing seen among the hostile tribes of Nephilim in Exile, who are only fleetingly familiar with human culture, and have never adopted their ways.
On formal occasions, the Nephilim cover their fur with cloaks sewn from a rough cloth spun from flax. Such clothing is not common and likely a luxury item. In everyday life, leather jerkins or tunics are customary for adults as well as adolescents.
The longbow has long been the cultural weapon of choice of the Nephilim like the gigantic two-tined spear is for the Slithzerikai. When ranged combat, their preferred style, is not practical, the more advanced tribes use melee weapons forged of iron or even steel, and the more primitive clans resort to weapons made of stone and bronze.
Possibly one of the most tragical results of the long campaign of extinction that the Empire waged on the Nephilim race is the loss of their native tongue. Today, next to none of the Nephilim living among humans still speak the ancestral language of their people, and many of the tribes in Exile - even those who have no dealings with humans - use the human tongue or a very removed dialect thereof. This creole that is also termed Nephilian on occasion has only passing resemblance to the original Mmh'rrur, and owes nearly as much to human speech.
Mmh'rrur itself is still known to the wise and learned among the Nephilim (and even a few human scholars), but it is hardly spoken outside of ceremonial or academic use nowadays.
The nephilim originated to the surface, living in strict tribal culture. The nephilim inhabited presumably all three continents -- Aizo, Pralgad and Valorim -- before the Empire's Extermination of Non-Humans was directed against them, owing to Emperor Ironclad V. After a violent and bloody war between the humans and nephilim, the former turned victorious, driving the feline tribes ahead of them to wildlands and remote areas where the Empire had no interest or resources to expand.
Finally, upon Emperor Hawthorne II's ascension to power, the Empire started to banish the nephilim to the underground through the use of portals. While the Empire kept banishing mainly humans to the Exile known today as Kingdom of Avernum, it is theorized that the Empire banished the nephilim through a different portal. The fabled nephil portal's location is, to this day, unknown.
Most nephilim in the caves are of the friendly variety, due to the similar plight of the Avernites. The few remaining hostile nephilim have been scattered, although there are occasionally reports of a brash chieftain bringing them together. On the surface, there are more hostile nephilim, who cling to the idea of their own empire, like that of the Ratbane Clan, and harass and attack citizens of the Empire wherever they can find them.