Disclaimer: This represents an adaptation from the original source, for use in the /tg/ Unified Setting.
This humanoid stands a head taller than a human. Its head ends in a pointed, angular snout, and its limbs are tightly sprung with dense muscle, ending in large, clawed hands and taloned feet. A thick but tapering tail trails behind. It seems a mix of wolf, shark, raptor and bird of prey, all made to walk like a man.
From antiquity, the huge and barren Vilous region has been home to the Sergal. In the south dwelled the lanky and hardy subspecies of the Sailzane desert. These creatures, tan and omnivorous, eked out their existence amidst broad terrain and broad temperature extremes. In the north, the windy steppe and frigid deserts of Tatola were haunted by their larger, long-haired cousins. These creatures, grey-furred grinning carnivores of claws and sinew, one part wolf, one part shark, one part bird of prey, are all the word 'sergal' means to most outsiders.
Sergal numbers were kept in check despite the huge swathes of terrain available to them. In this harsh environment, what had once been solitary hunters forged a culture of discipline and order. Working together, a tribe could take down dangerous apex predators and huge armor-plated herbivores that had once been nearly invincible to predators. With a secured supply of food, clothing, and tools made from the fallen monsters, sergals learned more sophisticated crafts, and bred larger hunting packs. Empty ritual, by trial and error, evolved into a culture of shamans, healing the sick and wounded to aid the whole. Large, organized clans emerged in the north, as the desert sergals of Sailzane bred herds of horses for milk and meat, dullettes for both their meat and their plates, which form the bulk of sergal clothing and armor.
Both regions of Vilous were poor, lacking in easily accessible metals or plentiful vegetation blessing the more civilized corners of the world. Even as sergal culture progressed in size and sophistication, they were limited by what was available. Craggy desert trees made for poor weapons, but they burned well enough. Lacking other avenues to advance along, sergals grew adept at firing pottery and ceramics. While not as good as metal, these provided the sergals with a starting point. Ceramic tools, weapons, and armor developed and flourished. To this day, sergal kilns produce materials for tasks impossible for the craftsmen of other countries.
The near-simultaneous discovery of iron in south-eastern Tatola and coal in Northern Sailzane would revolutionize sergal metallurgy and upset the stability of sergal culture. With new metal-working capabilities, the Sergals were able to forge much more effective weapons. Earlier spears, merely sharp sticks with fire-hardened tips, were replaced with cruel metal halberds. The habitual raids against other sergal clans and travelers became much more lethal.
At this time there was born a Sergal name Rain Silves. She had yellow eyes, considered a bad omen among sergals, and as a result was rejected by her peers and clan. At an early age, her own mother attempted to kill her, leaving her with scars on her neck she'd bear for the rest of her life. She survived, however, for she was physically extremely impressive. She was a head over her brethren, reaching a full-grown height over seven feet tall. Her movements were quick and strong. When she came of age, none in her clan could stand before her sword or spear. As was tradition, this strength in arms qualified her to lead her clan, and she did so. Fear forged her people into a tool to her will.
She made war against all around her, animal cunning, force of personality, and sheer strength of sword-arm bending clan after clan beneath her. In less than a decade, the bulk of Tatola's population, those who survived, knelt to her, and she turned her sights to other races.
The West Fofin Slaughter
Prior to the reign of Rain Silves, the Sidhe had small fortified settlements in eastern Tatola, bordering the Bay of Rain, then called the Fofin Gulf. The lands held by the elves were directly adjacent to those in which Rain had grown up, and she considered these holdings a potential threat to the sovereignty of her fledgling nation.
Rain secretly mustered her army out of eyesight of the fortified elven towns. Then, she split her army, sending forces to each of the villages. Some soldiers marched as many as 30 miles in that single night, and all arrived before the break of dawn. The sidhe, who had never expected the sergals to attack them, awoke to find their palisades vaulted, their guards slain and their homes burning.
Rain then sent some clans, her own included, to Londerfell in captured ships, where they held significant portions of land in the western part of that continent, but were ultimately unable to hold any major population centers. Nevertheless, Rain would see only minor skirmishes with the sidhe after this, and Vanawil was no longer a threat to her empire. The objective was achieved.
Subjugation of the Sailzane
After ensuring that no outside forces would jeopardize her empire, Rain expanded her earlier goal of unification to include the southern sergals. The sergals of Sailzane desert had never been as large as their grey cousins, but were more adapted to the warmer climate there. Under Rain, it would not be enough. No longer mere war-bands skirmishing for territory, Rain's army drove south, logistics making up for their inferior adaptation. The southern sergals were no easy prey. They fought back where and when they could, and disappeared into the desert when outmatched. The conflict lasted for years, sapping the will of the north. The population of the budding empire were loath to continue the costly war, and both desertions and rebellions reached their highest point during the period of Rain's rule. However, the majority of the force continued to fight, for fear of their superiors, and they pushed further and further into Sailzane, killing any military force who opposed them and taking the civilians as slaves.
The war, it has been said, never truly ended. To this day, bands of tan sergals roam free in the trackless wastes. Nevertheless, less than ten years after Rain began her war, the vast majority of Sailzane's natives were in chains.
Peace of Rain
The conquest had bled all Vilous white. Small incursions were made into Jiar-Jia, Vekshimar Uresh, and Mensala, but very little military progress was made in those theaters, as the infrastructure necessary had mostly been destroyed. Not even the feared general could coax more conquest from her empire. And so, reluctantly, she allowed it to turn its efforts to rebuilding.
These domestic tasks were almost entirely handled by subordinates, however, as during this time, General Rain Silves turned her attention to the life-magic of the shamans. She failed, disinterested with their life rituals, but her spirit was strong with the blood she'd spilled and drank. She used the knowledge she had gained from the shamans to develop her own magery. She learned to twist her own body, in small ways at first, but with growing talent.
Hope, by both the southern sergals and the empire's neighbors, that the crude autocracy would collapse, proved empty. Rain refused to die, cutting down assassins with glee, and resisting their most exotic poisons. With time, rumors spread of these unfortunates dying not to the blade of the increasingly mad general, but a monster with a thousand horrible shapes, sharing only her slitted yellow eyes.
And then, one night, Rain vanished. Her reign lasted thirty years, and colors every part of sergal society to this day. Before her time, yellow eyes were considered bad luck for a sergal, or worse. After, such creatures were treated with a nervous respect, for fear that it might be the general in disguise. In her absence, Vilous has remained united under one banner, perhaps out of simple fear that the the monster empress would return should it fall.
While most of Sergal Culture is oriented towards the military, this is not always the case.
Silvorum remains the capital of the Empire, built by Rain's decree and the labor of tens of thousands. It sits sheltered from the wind in a steep-walled valley, near rich and deep mining deposits. Vilous sports few truly large cities, and so Silvorum is a hub of trade and workshop industry for the whole empire. Silvorum is by far the most beautiful city of the empire, coated entirely in mosaics and built using only the finest of materials. This was Rain's city, and she wanted it to be as glorious as her reign. In the center of the city lies a circular courtyard surrounding the great clan houses, a monument in the shape of an obelisk to the many sergal victories in warfare in the very center. A kind of hobby among the working class is the mosaic: Pottery is cheap, as is grout. In Silvorum this art has reached a pinnacle of form, and artists can gain a kind of anonymous fame. No one is allowed to interfere with a citizen creating a mosaic, no matter the contents. Whether or not the mosaic is immediately covered by another is something else entirely. This ancient practice, while less prestigious before the creation of Silvorum, was popular enough to even deflect Rain's attempts to regulate it.
Sergal buildings are composed are large blocks made of cheap clay. Most towns have low, squarish dwellings, but they are decorated by thin spires and mosaic designs. The arched front doors are often accentuated by a small spire above them, calling attention to the entrance.
The most common professions are Herders, Butchers, Potters, Tanners, and Weapon- and Armor-smiths. Notably, there is little patience for the preparation of food; Sergals have fairly underdeveloped taste buds and the highest culinary achievement is salting or pickling meat.
Most northern sergals lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle, driving herds across their sparse but enormous lands, raiding, trading with outsiders with the permanent towns and cities of the empire. Here, meat and other goods are exchanged for metal tools, weapons, armor, and crafted wares. Sergals remain talented workers of crystal, ceramics, glass, and pottery. Their metal-working is adequate, but beneath that of more legendary forges outside the empire. These facts, combined with the near limitless Sergal demand for weapons, keeps trade flowing. Perhaps out of sheer necessity, Sergals often show surprising hospitality and civility to outsiders in times of peace.
In the south, the Sailzane desert remains a conquest. Free southern sergals exist, but their tribes are few and far between, always in danger of being set upon and enslaved by Silvorum's armies. Life for the slaves and serfs isn't much worse, raising meat and crafting goods for their masters, as their ancestors did for themselves. The brutal policies of General Rain have given way to an unkind but survivable system. Northern masters dwell mostly in fortified towns and cities, sending out punitive war-bands to punish any southern sergals who fail to obey. These are also home to the mines and workshops of the region, with southern sergals figuratively, or sometimes literally, chained to their work, processing rations and goods for the army, or goods to be traded. Much of the empire's wealth comes from this serfdom.
Mercenaries are another form of income. Independent bands of sergal soldiers venture forth to fight for whoever has gold for it, and the empire's army sends out trained units with the same intent. These warriors gain valuable experience and pay for themselves, along with providing the empire with a portion of currency, and knowledge of foreign techniques and tactics. More than once has a neighboring state faced a sergal invasion, to find their foe trained and equipped to counter their particular art of war. Thankfully, this works both ways. The empire's army has proven formidable, but not unbeatable.
The Military is the ruling faction in the sergal empire, and is lead by the Council of Generals, which makes the official decisions and chooses the Acting-Governor-General. The Acting-Governor-General makes speeches, lives extravagantly, and does little else. Few actually want this position; It's too exposed, dramatic, and has little real power. Another, more superstitious reason is that no one really wants to be sitting in Rain's chair if she gets back. Thus, the job tends to attract a certain kind of corrupt dandy that survived their service more on luck and bribery than skill. The Council gives marching orders to the army.
The Expert's Corps is appointed from the Sages at the Academy by the Council of Generals. They deal with trade rates and foreign relations, and draft the policy decisions which are voted on by the full governing body of the Academy. In the event of a dispute between clan leaders, who form the more localized government, the Expert's Corps arbitrates. If the dictates of the Expert's Corps are ignored, they may file a request for military support from the Council of Generals. In practice, these requests are seldom filed and never ignored.
The Expert's Corps is based in the Academy at Silvorum. Within the Corps, knowledge is the primary currency. Sages teach luminaries in exchange for pay or favors, and luminaries learn what they can so that they may become sages.
Luminaries are sent to keep records for the main offices of the army and also to unofficially spy. Sages, usually remain in the Academy, but can be assigned to specific officers for specific reasons; for example, a mission into hostile territory would include an expert on the local customs, and possibly more depending on the goals of the mission. Sages theoretically have the power to overrule their assigned officer, but rarely do so, as the army is in charge of their supplies, and, after all, the Sages are outsiders.
The Governing body of Academy consists of any Sages that are present on the premises at the time, all of which are summoned for important votes. Seniority is respected, but not absolute. Many political maneuverings happen in the halls of the academy daily, which occasions derision from most of the populace and military.
Citizens are entitled to Low Justice, while Sages and officers are entitled to High Justice.
Most sergals believe in only one thing: war. Matters of faith are commonly beyond them, as their cultural mindset is generally too self-oriented to entertain the various notions of divinity or an afterlife. There is a form of ancestor worship common throughout the empire, which is as close to religious as most get.
There is a mandatory period of five-year service in late adolescence. Those that excel are given the option to test into officer positions. Then a period of five years is granted for either officer training, other pursuits, or the ever-popular version of the gnollish walkabout. Every citizen has had to go through Basic Training at the very least, ensuring a formidable militia should the need arise.
The greatest symbol of the sergal way of war is the armored spearman. Wearing distinctive, angular halfplate shaped from the plates of dullettes, sergal soldiers are famed for their combination of speed, endurance, and iron discipline. Sergals have no cavalry. The Tatolian horse is raised for its meat and milk, but is unsuitable for riding even by humans, much less the sergals. Dullettes are used as beasts of burden, but they are too rare and too slow to form any real cavalry. This military deficiency is partly compensated by the speed of their infantry, and their preference to fight from ambush. The heart of the empire is mostly the cold Tatolan highlands of the northern sergals, but their borders have expanded into mountains, hills, rivers, forests, and especially the desert to the south, which they've had ample time to grow very familiar with.
The traditional sergal salute is to place one hand over the left eye. This likely stems from a gesture of vulnerability, removing binocular and peripheral vision from the lower-ranked soldier.