|Images of serpentfolk
Source: Bestiary 2, pg(s). 236ff.
Sekmins, the Aklo name of the people also known as serpentfolk,1 are an ancient warm-blooded ancestry of snake-headed reptilian humanoids who once controlled a vast empire in the time before the Age of Darkness. Their empire was defeated by the Azlanti, but sekmins evaded extermination by retreating into the Darklands,2 particularly its eponymous layer of Sekamina where they remain dominant.✝3
Many contemporary sekmins are bestial creatures prowling the underground ruins of their ancient cities and do not possess the cunning, intelligence, or magic of their ancestors; these are dubbed as aapoph (meaning chaos made flesh). However, a few true sekmins now known as zyss remain.24 These highly intelligent specimens lay plans for their people's return to arcane supremacy and the triumph of their rejuvenated civilization.5
Sekmins are a sinuous humanoid people with the heads and tails of snakes and wickedly taloned hands and feet. Their bodies are covered in fine, elastic, tough, and colourful serpentine scales. The average zyss sekmin stands between five and seven feet tall and weighs from 100 to 140 pounds, while aapoph sekmins are relatively muscular and hunched, standing four to six feet tall and weighing between 180 to 220 pounds. Aapoph sekmins often also have mutations, such as extra limbs, heads, tails,56 or fangs, or additional features such as horns or spined scales.7
All sekmins have lightweight but hardy bones, keen senses, immunity to poison, and are not sensitive to light unlike their hryngar8 neighbours. Their jaws are elastic to the point that most adult sekmins can instantly swallow a monkey.56
Sekmins can command their bodies to a great degree, speak languages which would seem unpronounceable by their mouth, and easily adopt complex accents.56 They are also innately skilled at disguising their true forms, and those who specialize and train in infiltration are often spies for the secretive organization called the Coils of Ydersius and attempt to subvert other societies. These Coil spies can hide among mammalian societies for years toward sekmin dominance.7
Sekmins are among the oldest of all sentient creatures native to Golarion. In the Age of Serpents before Earthfall, the sekmin empire of Sekamina spanned across continents, onto neighboring planetoids, and even into the Great Beyond.6 They are said to have ruled portions of the now-destroyed continent of Azlant, as well as most of northern Garund and parts of Avistan. Sekmins subjugated any "lesser" ancestry that they encountered, and sekmin ruins depict cave-dwelling humans used as cattle or beasts of burden. The number of societies and ancestries that these ancient sekmins exterminated for pure pleasure is unknown.9
Most monuments to their greatness have crumbled away in the past 10,000 years. Only their unusually smooth obelisks, built by their many slaves, still stand from northern Avistan to southern-most Sarusan. It is unknown how long Golarion was dominated by sekmins, but even the most conservative estimates suggest they ruled for millennia.6
The sekmin decline began with an ice age that decimated their population, forcing them to abandon many of their holdings while the human empire of Azlant rose in stature. As Azlanti power grew, the humans increasingly came into conflict with the fading sekmin empire, which often led to war.6 The First Linnorm, the mighty Fafnheir, claims to have allied with sekmins during these ancient wars.10
A war with the growing empire of Azlant finally destroyed the sekmin civilization, with the turning point being the decapitation of the serpent god Ydersius by the Azlanti hero Savith. Sekmins continued to resist the ascendant Azlanti afterward, but the war was clearly lost and they eventually abandoned their surface holdings to retreat to the Darklands.2611 The destruction of Azlant caused by Earthfall saved the remaining sekmins from complete elimination, and their leaders chose to enter a state of magical hibernation and await a day when they could retake their lost empire. A few such cells of sekmins seem only now to be beginning to awaken,12 with many more remaining in slumber.7
Most sekmin cities on the surface have crumbled away, either having been sacked by the Azlanti, destroyed by Earthfall, or taken by humans or monsters. Sekmins maintain most of the largest cities in Sekamina, whether openly or from the shadows,13 and some underground sekmin settlements retain elements of their magically enhanced architecture.5
Pathfinder Society disinformation
The Pathfinder Koriah Azmeren was among the few surface-dwelling people to explore the Darklands in recent history and survive. Beginning in 4691 AR, Azmeren engaged in several expeditions before submitting her findings to the Pathfinder Society in 4705 AR.14 The Society published her findings in 4707 AR as Pathfinder Chronicles Volume 44,15 in which she claimed a previously unknown ancestry of dark elves known as the drow dominated former sekmin holdings in Sekamina.16171819
In 4723 AR, Azmeren amended her findings to reveal that much of what she had written, and which the Pathfinder Society had published, had been a fabrication designed to mask her perception of the greater threat posed by the sekmins, whose empire there had not collapsed but instead flourished13 and remained Sekamina's dominant force.3
Habitat and ecology
Most zyss sekmins, who retained the intelligence and magical aptitude of their ancestors, reside near the old capital of Sverenagati and are reportedly number fewer than 1,000 in number.5 Aapoph sekmins who lack their magical abilities and facility with magic items, but who are also stronger, more venomous, and physically tougher, outnumber them.52
A few sekmin settlements remain on Golarion's surface, most of them in humid, remote jungles, islands, or caverns close to the surface.2 One such settlement is located on Andobar Island at the south-eastern tip of Vudra, whose residents have recently begun constructing ominous ziggurats across the island on the orders of an unknown being whom they worship.20 In Vudra, sekmin dwell beneath the near-impenetrable canopy of the Crying Jungle.21
Whether a sekmin child is born as zyss or aapoph is determined randomly, no matter the caste of the parents. Female sekmins carry their broods for almost a full decade and give birth to up to a dozen young at a time, but the zyss birth rate is low. At least one individual in a sekmin colony is responsible for sorting zyss and aapoph children by identifying the earliest signs of intelligence.2
Sekmins take 50 years to mature, rarely procreate more than twice in their life, and can live up to 500 years.622 They are primarily carnivorous, with four-fifths of their diet being meat supplemented by Darklands fruits. Each sekmin typically eats once per month, gorging on 80 to 100 pounds of food and digesting it for 24 to 48 hours; if food is plentiful, they can eat every four to five days. Sekmins can survive for four months without eating and usually procreate only after gorging themselves.6
During their war with the Azlanti, sekmins developed a technique in which a zyss enters a specifically prepared incubation tank to irreversibly take the form of a human, so they could infiltrate human society and further sekmin schemes. Despite their outward appearance, these "reborn" sekmins still have the internal organs of a sekmin and can breed only with other sekmins.23 The most fanatical sekmins of the Coils of Ydersius pursue the reincarnation of their souls into non-sekmin bodies, which would allow them perfect infiltration into other peoples' societies.2
Some Azlanti accounts speak of a higher sekmin caste, who were considered of superior intellect even by zyss standards and also gifted with terrible quickness, toughness, and magic capable of poisoning the earth. They were never depicted but heavily suggested in sekmin art. It is unknown whether they existed at all, were driven extinct when Ydersius was beheaded, or are simply dormant beneath the deepest sekmin cities.6
Sekmin culture is divided between the degenerate aapoph barbarians that make up the majority of the population, and the few zyss individuals who retain their intellects and powers.5
Classical sekmin culture was a magocracy that spanned nations who used their powers of domination and disguise to infiltrate and rule.5 Despite the apparent demise of their civilization, their language known as Aklo remains spoken in the Darklands by various groups,24 though they also and more commonly speak the predominant Darklands language of Sakvroth.25 Sekmins also commonly speak Necril and Azlanti.5
Due to their long lifespan and slow breeding rate, sekmins extensively use mind-controlled slaves to do dangerous work, such as fighting or mining, to ensure their numbers never drop too low.6
Zyss sekmins consider their telepathy the mark of their supremacy and view all non-telepathic creatures as slaves or food. They are solitary creatures who seek to amass as much knowledge and capability as possible. They feel no love or attachment toward other sekmins, including their mates and children; a mating pair meets only briefly before splitting. Their slaves and animals are viewed as mere tools or playthings.2
Eating is done alone, except at major holidays and events. Trespassing into the home of another sekmin is considered enough reason for execution.6
None of these rules applies to aapoph, except a dim awareness that non-telepathic creatures are food.6 Colonies with too many zyss become fractious, as factions form and betray each other in pursuit of conflicting goals.2
All sekmins bow before the beheaded serpentine god Ydersius as their creator, though their methods of venerating him are varied and sometimes contradictory, fraught with heresies and cults of personality.6
Sekmin cities are elaborate and sprawling, described by a Pathfinder as such:
|Conical buildings encircled snake-headed central chimneys, spiked ziggurats and arches twisted toward the ceiling, and every surface—street, wall, roof—was covered in swirling designs and serpentine pictograms.
The purpose of some buildings in confirmed sekmin ruins is still debated. The complex, roofed mazes are speculated to be the equivalent of restaurants where sekmins could hunt and eat prey on the run. The great lenses, 30 to 50 feet in diameter, are believed to be communication devices that have not been replicated by modern scholars. The sealed, obsidian circles of standing stones in supposedly abandoned places are hypothesised to be portals to distant places.6
Aapoph sekmins have greater strength and tougher scales than their forebears, although both retain the ability to deliver a poisonous bite. Zyss sekmins are almost always arcanists of some stripe, with most trained as wizards. They have a strong resistance to spells and other forms of magic, and possess natural spell-like abilities. As they grow in power, they gain the ability to create complex illusions and to dominate others.5
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- The singular and plural of serpentfolk are the same.
- “Monsters A-Z” in Bestiary 2, 236. Paizo Inc., 2020 .
- “Return to the Darklands” in Heavy is the Crown, 71. Paizo Inc., 2023 .
- In Pathfinder First Edition, aapoph are also known as degenerate serpentfolk, and zyss are also known as purecaste or advanced serpentfolk. These terms have not appeared after Pathfinder Second Edition Bestiary 2.
- “Bestiary” in Into the Darklands, 56–57. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Ecology of the Serpentfolk” in Souls for Smuggler's Shiv, 65–69. Paizo Inc., 2010 .
- “Monsters A-Z” in Bestiary 2, 238. Paizo Inc., 2020 .
- Paizo referred to hryngars as duergar until the publication of Highhelm and the Sky King's Tomb Pathfinder Adventure Path.
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 211. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Linnorm Kingdoms Bestiary” in Lands of the Linnorm Kings, 56. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Serpent's Skull Campaign Outline” in Souls for Smuggler's Shiv, 88. Paizo Inc., 2010 .
- “Sekamina” in Into the Darklands, 37. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Return to the Darklands” in Heavy is the Crown, 70. Paizo Inc., 2023 .
- “Return to the Darklands” in Heavy is the Crown, 68. Paizo Inc., 2023 .
- “Return to the Darklands” in Heavy is the Crown, 67. Paizo Inc., 2023 .
- “Magic of the Inner Sea” in Inner Sea Magic, 6. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Spellcasters of the Inner Sea” in Inner Sea Magic, 28. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Welcome to the Pathfinder Society” in Pathfinder Society Primer, 5. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Pathfinder Chronicles” in Pathfinder Society Primer, 27. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Vudra, the Impossible Kingdoms” in Sixty Feet Under, 73. Paizo Inc., 2020 .
- “Vudra, the Impossible Kingdoms” in Sixty Feet Under, 70. Paizo Inc., 2020 .
- “Serpentfolk” in Monster Codex, 199. Paizo Inc., 2014 .
- “Serpentfolk” in Monster Codex, 201. Paizo Inc., 2014 .
- “Exploring the Darklands” in Into the Darklands, 3. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Ancestries & Backgrounds” in Player Core, 89. Paizo Inc., 2023 .