The Nafod (næ.fɒd) were the creation of Entra, Goddess of Life. Their original form was similar to the Idayn with an elfin beauty and long, tapered ears on an otherwise human body. They were given the souls of Nymphs and the ability to shape-shift.
Among the Nymphs chosen were also Dryads and Nereids, which drove the first generations of Nafod to assemble themselves in three groups. Those with Nymph souls gravitated towards shape-shifting into animals to become the Ochae'nafod, while Dryad-souls took to trees and became Dra'nafod, and the Nereid-souls were drawn to the ocean to become Marfod.
With the exception of their ability to shape-shift, the original Nafod were quite similar to Idayn. Their shape-shifting began as an ability to take the form of another living thing, flora or fauna, or mimicking certain traits or aspects, such as manifesting a coat of fur or changing skin to bark, or shifting their ears to match an animal with better hearing to gain that ability. Nafod shape-shifting comes easily, but the more minute changes to the body required focus and practice.
The early generations of Nafod had a genetic mutability that made them quick to adapt and find their own niches over just a handful of generations--albeit long-lived generations. This led to Ochae'nafod locking their shape-shifting down to specific species and forming tribes and clans around that species. Dra'nafod did the same with species of tree. Marfod, however, gradually adapted to a fully aquatic lifestyle and their shape-shifting became only a means to camouflage their skin.
The entire purpose of shape-shifting was to allow Nafod to escape danger, either by becoming a part of the scenery or becoming an animal that could quickly escape or intimidate.
In general, the Nafod tend to be attractive by most standards with fine-boned, androgynous, or more feminized features. Dra'nafod in particular tend towards very feminine appearances, even in males. This is due to the fact that Nymph spirits are only female, and influenced their mortal forms thus.
The original Nafod were quite similiar to the Idayn with long, tapered ears on an otherwise idealized human form, but they were typically a few inches shorter, slightly more delicate, and less sexually dimorphic. They also had more variety in coloration, whereas the Idayn were all fair-skinned, light-eyed, and light-haired like Idraen.
All Nafod, like the Idayn, have a lifespan of approximately 1,000 years. Like the other long-lived elemental races, they mature at the same rate as humans until around the age of twenty-five, at which point apparent aging ceases until the individual reaches the final fifty or so years of their life. From that point on, aging continues until death. However, their natural magic can be used to intervene with the natural process of aging, but very few choose to do this.
As with many other elemental races, Nafod women have an intermittent fertility cycle where they are fertile for one year out of approximately every ten. Menarche begins in the early to mid teenage years and when aging continues late in life, menopause begins. All Nafod, even Ochae'nafod bonded to especially fecund species, rarely have more than one or two children throughout their lives.
Nafod are easily able to reproduce with other similar races, though their discreet nature makes such unions rare with humans and other races, though the Fayl'Idayn and Shaolaon claim no insignificant percentage of their heritage from Ochae' and Dra'nafod.
As with the other elemental races, the inherent magical ability for elementalism (and the possession of a melded soul) is matrilineal. Shape-shifting, however, is not and can be passed down from either parent. Children born of unions with a Nafod often inherit limited shape-shifting abilities, or may end up stuck in one form or another, or unable to control their limited shape-shifting.
Even between Nafod races and tribes there are irregularities with shape-shifting in their offspring. A cross between Ochae' and Dra'nafod leads to an individual with a throw-back to the free shape-shifting of the original Dra'nafod. This throw-back can also occur between Ochae'nafod of vastly different tribes (for example, a member of the Lupus (wolf) tribe and member of the Aquila (eagle) tribe).
Nafod cultures vary greatly, especially considering the Ochae'nafod. However, they all share some similarities, beyond their devotion to Entra. They all tend towards discretion, and their shape-shifting was a means to escape trouble. Very few Nafod live among humans on a large scale, and those that live alongside Idayn or other elemental races tend to keep to their own neighboring cloistered communities.
Gender and Relationships
As with many other elemental races, Nafod track inheritance from the mother. Dra'nafod are especially egalitarian with little concern for gender until childbearing is involved. Ochae'nafod are essentially egalitarian, but may take a lead from their bonded species for gender roles or romantic relationships. Marfod, meanwhile, have a very different relationship to gender.
Nafod do not worship Entra as humans do their gods, but they see themselves as servants of the Goddess of Life. Their presence in natural spaces is to protect those spaces, and while few of the Nafod are aggressively defensive, they protect those spaces through fae-like guile. They manage their forest spaces with application of life elementalism which can heal, grew, and kill. Invasive species can be wiped out, blights can be cured, and fecundity of threatened species can be increased under Nafod care.
Another aspect of Nafod spiritual practice, as with other elemental races, is communing with Nymph bound to their soul through meditative practices.
Life elementalism deals the energies present in living things, including mana and qi. This unique ability was not the talent of Nymphs, but a unique variation of elementalism that better expressed Entra's domain.