Without a doubt, the most stable and advanced nation of the Mithril Sea is made up of the peoples that dwell in and around the Kurfu River valley. The Naftu Empire is a theocracy, and is led by the Pharaoh, a god-king who is served by a massive administrative organization provided by the priests of the sun god Sul. They owe their prodigious success to a pantheon and a culture that is completely obsessed with order, technology, construction, and efficiency—an attitude that has allowed them to harness the fertile silt of the river and provide food to their considerable population of trained laborers.
For practical purposes, the Naftu Empire is the earthly extension of Sul’s Council of the Sun God, and as such the preservation of the empire and its people are of paramount religious importance. When it comes to the equitable and just treatment of its own people, the Empire is extremely progressive. Even the lowest classes of society can expect a level of care, dignity, and leisure that is unprescedented in this primitive world. This kindness does not, however, extend to those outside the border, and this nation has a reputation for arrogance and cruelty among the people that fall outside its borders.
In the aftermath of the Great Sundering, the Human ancestors of the Naftu Empire were driven to the banks of the Kurfu River by the dessication of their once verdant homelands. Here, they learned to harness the seasonal floods of the river to grow crops, and build primitive cities. For centuries, the cities grew into states and fought each other for land, empires and alliances rose and fell, and conflict plagued the land. Finally, four centuries ago, the Scorpion King Kamas united the Kurfu River valley and the Dwarves of the Ringing Lakes in a single empire. An extremely intelligent and long-lived Mul, he established the modern agricultural infrastructure and tax system of the empire, expanded the Priesthood of Sul, and built the Numsulta. In death, Kamas ascended to godhood, and became the first Pharaoh of the new, united Naftu Empire.
The Naftu believe that their greatest weapon againt the forces of chaos and barbarism are an ordered and structured society. This belief has served them well, as their highly developed agricultural infrastructure, construction projects, and equitable tax system have made them the undisputed pinacle of human civilization. The temples and priests of the empire are instrumental in preserving this order not only by maintaining the administrative empire, but also fostering a sense of the divine superiority of this lifestyle and rewards in the afterlife to all those that serve Council of the Sun God. They accomplish this, by all practical respects, through bribery—by maintaining a reasonable fair justice system and generous grain and beer handouts, the buy the cooperation and support of the people.
Perhaps the most visible and famous characteristic of the Naftu empire is its obsession with architecture and building. Much of this is due to their proximity to the homelands of the dwarves, who have long been an influence on the culture. Naftu temples are among the most magnificent in the region, and many of the Naftu cities extend as far below ground as they do above. Their construction projects are without peer, as they pursue this love of building with a distinctly human enthusiasm and grandeur that outpaces even the Dwarves’ extensive halls. The Naftu obsession with law and order is probably also a direct result of this relationship, albeit a harsher human interpretation of the Dwarven ordered society.
Slavery and Undeath
Unfortunately for the rest of the world, the Naftu sense of superiority can justify significant cruelty to those outside their empire. Most believe that being a slave to the empire, either in life or death, offers a rare chance at redemption for those who’s savage and lawless ways would otherwise lead to the downfall of man. Those that are captured in battle are forced to serve as laborers, while those that die or are executed are forced to return as Sand Zombies. Those that adopt the Naftu ways may be rewarded with freedom or admittance to one of the powerful Mamluk houses, which is little consolation after a life of grueling servitude.
The Naftu relationship with undeath goes beyond their legion of zombie slaves, as the Naftu carry a painful curse. The goddess Ankeneth, the most widely-worshiped goddess in the Mithril Sea, holds the Naftu to a standard well above the rest of her worshipers. The reason for this curse has been lost to antiquity, but the effects are clear as day: those who’s bodies are not carefully prepared and buried will rise again as undead. As a result, the Naftu have extensive and elaborate infrastructure for mummifying and burying all of Naftu’s dead, and temples dedicate significant resources to reclaiming the bodies of the lost.