The Imperial language term Näkitar is their name for a race of sentient semi-humanoids hailing from a distant land to the Southeast. This name is a corruption of the phrase from their own language by which they refer to themselves, 'Na'al-ar kit'rar' - meaning 'People of the Book'. The Nälkitar hail from a mass of islands in a location, compared to the Empire, approximating the position of Indonesia relative to Europe in terms of our own world --- indeed, their homeland (Siph'ar-a'al Jith'at or "Land of Broken Glass") resembles this island nation vaguely in its geography, as well. The Näkitar are the only other sentient race to have achieved any significant level of technological advancement (at least by the Empire's standards), and have even invented gunpowder - although they are not nearly so adapt with it as their Imperial counterparts.
The Näkitar are, obviously by the construction of their language, a parallel of European encounters with Muslim societies following the advent of Islam - specifically, in this case, with the Ottoman Turks, although their homeland is (as mentioned) similar to Indonesia, another Muslim country.
Physical Appearance, Biology & So ForthEdit
The Näkitar are humanoid in the sense of having two arms and two legs, hands, feet, standing up right, etc. But they are not humans, and are not related to us - not even in the Elven sense of being genetically divergent... although perhaps they and humans have a common ancestor, due to the basic similaritiies. Being the denizens of hot tropical islands, they have dark shimmering skin, similar to that of humans hailing from Africa in our world. They are also physically larger and more robust than any human - being not only taller than the Imperials (who, at an average of 6'0" or 183 cm, are the tallest human ethnic group), but physically bigger (stouter, stronger) even than the Helvetans. The average Näkitar male of 'fighting' age (i.e. comparable to a human between the ages of 18 and 30-40) stands well over 200 cm tall, usually more than 7 feet, and weighs twice as much as an Imperial man of the same age / physical condition. The Näkitar almost always have grey or white hair and eyes of a similar color, making them appear blind - although they can, in fact, see better than a human. They have no incisors, as meat in their homeland is rather rare; they are omnivores, but have a primarily herbivorous diet. Meat - mostly seafood - is consumed sparingly and only with considerable difference, the taking of a life being considered an act of religious significance by their culture.
The Näkitar are regarded by those Imperials who have encountered them as heathenous, simplistic barbarians but ferocious warriors. This Imperial perception is one driven by their own biology: the Näkitar experience sensory input (with the exception of smell, as their olfactory senses are not well developed) to a greater degree than humans and many stimuli - especially anger or rage - trigger greater chemical responses in their brains. In other words, in combat, once 'worked up', they essentially go into a killing rage, although they maintain conscious control of their actions. To the well-disciplined, stoic and regimented Imperials, they seem like crazed barbarians.
Näkitar are not genetically compatible with humans - they cannot, in other words, sire children together, although their reproductive mechanism is essentially the same. It is unknown how long they live, although Imperial scientists / scholars estimate their lifespan to be shorter than humans due to their large size, rapid heartbeats and generally high-energy lifestyle (not to mention, perhaps, their diet). Näkitar taken into captivity by the Imperials and fed significant quantities of red meat quickly became ill, although it did not adversely affect them physically or harm them permanently in any perceivable way, even in the long term - they simply were not used to it. They also, apparently, have very little tolerance for alcohol, although they have developed it for the purposes of sanitation - it seemingly never occurred to them to drink it. Contact with humans has introduced the concept into their society, but it remains culturally taboo to do so.
It should be noted that the Näkitar are not simply "oversized", pale-eyed and white-haired humans. They have a number of notable biological and physical differences including a lack of external ears and small ridges or horns on their foreheads / forward scalp, although these are obscured by their hair. These boney protrusions grow throughout their lives and become more prominent. They also have no fingernails or toe nails, no pinkies or small toes (i.e. four digits per limb), small - what would be considered 'underdeveloped', by human standards - noses and hair which is of a decidedly different chemical composition... which is in fact not hair at all, but whiskers, capable of receiving sensory information. Due to this feature, they have a natural ability to precisely 'sense' wind speed and direction, making them naturally gifted sailors (among other things). This was perhaps an evolutionary response to their island homeland to enable them to pre-empt the arrival of tropical storms and hurricanes. Their blood is also lighter and thinner, almost pink - reflecting a lack of iron in their herbivorous-oriented diet - and their skin is covered in a layer of hair or small fine fur that protects them against the harsh sun of their islands.
Näkitar females are of slighter build than males, but generally slightly taller. They have, rather unusually, four mammary glands and two complete sets of ovaries... Näkitar are almost always born as twins, or quadruplets. To be an odd-numbered child (1, 3 or 5) is considered very rare and a sign of distinctiveness within their culture.
Facing the EmpireEdit
Contact with the Empire first occurred around the Imperial Calendar Year of 1500 - in fact, slightly before - or nearly 4000 years prior to the current date (about 3700). This took the form of a Näkitar expeditionary fleet that washed ashore in what is now the Imperial Realm of Hytheria (corrisponding, geographically, to Spain in our own world). This beached several dozen Näkitar ships and thousands of soldiers in Imperial territory. At the time, the aliens were considerably more advanced than the humans (even having gunpowder) and, apparently, had encountered humans - although not the Empire specifically - before. The exchange did not end peacefully and they were slaughtered. A second, much larger, force arrived, seeking their lost bretheren, but was driven off by a considerable massed force of the Imperial Navy, which had been expecting their arrival and was fresh from its conflicts with the maritime city-states. This would, ironically, mark the final major engagement of the Imperial Navy prior to contact with the Helvetans and fear of further contact provided reason for the Empire to maintain a large waterborne military force long after it had ceased to be of any immediate use.
Some 3000 years later, as the Empire - now with firearms, steamships and cannons - explored the continent of Sötherrath (meaning "South-land" in the Imperial Language) in ernest, they encountered a well-established Näkitar colony in the western portion of the landmass (corrisponding roughly to Ginea-Bissau, with Sötherrath itself being analogous to Africa). This colony was apparently but one of the most far-flung way-stations in a massive network of trade centers stretching across much of what the Empire regarded as the 'Known World' and beyond it. No Imperial expedition had ever reached as far as the Näkitar homeland. The Imperial Marines who made contact were utterly puzzled by the event, as information concerning the previous contact from several thousand years before had been quite thoroughly repressed (the Imperials, being pedantic record keepers, would not have lost the information). The Näkitar, for their part, had either not recorded the incident, lacked sufficient information to identify the Imperials as the same people they had met (and fought previously)... or that particular group was simply unaware of the prior incident. In any case, contact was peaceful. A high-ranking Imperial Magister, records and information on the previous contact in-hand, was sent under direct authority of the Empress to meet with the leader of the Näkitar settlement. She determined that the aliens had not advanced at all (or very little) technologically since that time and limited trade relations began. The huge steel-hulled, steam-powered Imperial warships, however, could not make use of Näkitar docks - these being designed for vessels which, although quite large for the constraints of their technology, were powered primarily by oars.
Conflict between Näkitar warriors in the colony and local groups of Sith'ri (a race with whom the Empire possessed long-standing and amicable trade relations) escalated to the point of provoking an armed Imperial response when the Sith'ri Conclave (the grand meeting of their tribal chieftesses) threatened to cut off supplies of ivory and other such exotic goods to the markets of the Imperial mainland. To placate the feline-like Sithri, who were essentially an Imperial Protectorate, the Imperial Arch-Chancellor diverted (without the express knowledge of the Empress) an Imperial Legion en route to one of the Overseas Territories for garrison duty to the Näkitar settlement to besiege it, before moving on to their original destination.
A garrison force of one independent Infantry Brigade and a Detatchment of Pioneers was subsequently sent as a permanent occupying force. However, about a year later, a massive force of hundreds of Näkitar warships descended on the area - taking the waystation of Färrkron (meaning 'Green Cape' in the Imperial language and corrisponding to the Cape Verde islands in Africa, a former Portuguese Colony), which served as a vital coaling harbor for Imperial trade vessels en route to their western Overseas Territories. The conquered colony was also retaken, the Imperial garrison slaughtered despite a valiant defense, and the nearby Imperial fort - placed to help the Sith'ri defend themselves against the Urgan, their primary natural enemies - which marked the southern extent of direct Impeiral enfluence on the continent was besieged. The Imperial Navy's "West Channel Station", comprising 32 ships, responsible for holding the outlet of the Inland Sea where it dumps into the wider ocean (i.e. the geographic equivalent of the entrance to the Mediterranean, between Spain and Africa), was dispatched along with a flotilla of transport ships carrying three Legions.
The Näkitar armada was destroyed for the loss of 2 Imperial torpedo boats, which were taken by boarders and subsequently sunk by the guns of the Battleship SMS Crown Prince Bartholf, the Station's flagship. Losses for the subsequent counter-assault to drive the Näkitar out of the area were much higher, earning the aliens a reputation among veterans of the conflict for their tenacity and fighting prowess.
Since this time period, in recent years, peace has been established and a Näkitar embassy set up in the Markian City (the Imperial capital). The Näkitar now form a small, but growing, part of the Empire's exceedingly profitable trade network. However, contact is made entirely through outposts and colonies - the Imperial Navy remains ignorant of the location of the Näkitar homeland except in general terms, having not yet circumnavigated Sötherrath.