The three top ranking monster races who came from the Shadow World – ignoring the dragons, who returned to that mysterious realm of existence – are devil-beasts, aegis and sphinx. All are strong in magic, much more so than other monsters such as deemi and wraiths. They are also physically powerful – large in size and naturally well built – and all are capable of flight. The other main feature that sets them as the top rank is intelligence. This varies more than the other traits, but there is no question that even the most belligerent devil-beast is also a cunning and knowledgeable foe.
At the same time, these traits differ among the three races. Sphinx are known for their wisdom. Capable of learning and storing vast amounts of information, also of using it wisely. For this reason, many suspect, they are seen as neutral, neither warring or allying with humanity, yet often making bargains with groups or individuals when it benefits them. In essence, they are rational creatures, but still with ambitions, fears and wants.
Aegis are said to be the strongest in magic. They are also the most skilled. Warriors all, they train their arts, whether it be with the swords of flame they carry or their own innate power. They can summon magic and use it with a quickness that can appear to be instantaneous to the unlearned, but never hurried. Aegis are often seen as distant, even cold, due to their intense nature, focused on defeating their enemies and protecting the human race along with their world.
Devil-beasts are the sworn enemies of aegis, and the feeling is very mutual. These seek to conquer, even their own kind. In physique they are the strongest. While aegis may be the tallest, it is only just, and devil-beasts are wider, sturdier and just plain stronger. Their love to finish a defeated enemy by hand, or under hoof, is well known. Cruel, ruthless and malevolent, their name was easily given by humanity.
Their appearance helped here too. So much so people wonder if their existence was formed from the human perception of demons and devils, or if the perception is from these beings dwelling in the Shadow World. Either way, covered in red fur, adorned with black horns, leathery wings and hooves, there was never a doubt that they lived to bring pain and death to others. Aegis are little different in that regard. Black feathery wings and red eyes are enough to make humans cower from those who would save them. In the main they look humanoid, if clearly physically superior, and their blue hair and silver skin completes the unearthly look. Sphinx, well, look as a sphinx should. The bodies of lions are strong and eagle wings enable them to fly as well as any other creature. Their human heads retain some feline features, not least prominent canines, and even the females have manes, although theirs tend to be longer and flatter.
The legends of the arrival of the monsters into our world have been passed down through the two centuries hence. How elaborate they are is unknown. Some would even dispute certain tales altogether. But the lessons they pass on are often proven by the behaviour of the three races in the present. The devil-beasts seeking to conquer this fresh, brilliant world they found themselves in has never been disputed. They, themselves, boast of it. They had created armies of lesser monsters through force and persuasion, and fought those who stood in their way. This involved each other as much as anything else. What role the sphinx took is uncertain. Some warred, some chose to talk to humanity, and some kept out of the way completely. Judging by their tendency to think things out before acting, it is highly likely they chose to do as little as possible until they understood this world. By then, lines had been drawn and reputations made.
When it comes to the aegis, their story is controversial and disputed. It is claimed they attacked the human race, along with the other monsters. But the aegis themselves say this is a lie. They do acknowledge that they were far from tactful back then. When they fought, they did a lot of damage to the world, and what they disliked about humanity they were openly critical of. Aegis are beings of order, nurture, dedication, responsibility. They act as guardians because they are such by nature. But they are guardians due to their superiority, and this leads them to judgemental attitudes. Also arrogance. Some stories tell of aegis turning their backs on nations because they despised the greed and apathy in those societies. There is even a quietly spoken tale of aegis destroying a city in a biblical-type act of condemnation. The comparisons with angels is easily made. Aegis defend humanity because they want to, no one could force them, but they also see themselves as protectors of a higher good. The weak should be protected, and sometimes dictated to. The natives of this world must be respected, but were often wrong. Truth, courage, honour, loyalty – aegis believe there is an eternal law of doing what is right that everyone must obey. Humans, of course, often dispute this. Aegis are not open to debates.
Of course, many think that the aegis hated the devil-beasts so much they just took the opposite cause.
The battles between the aegis and the devil-beasts were supposedly clashes that awed even veteran warriors. They fought each other around the world, as they continue to do now. The Raging was the name given to this era. Conflict was everywhere, between all manner of beings. Aegis fought machines. Devil-beasts fought mutant armies. Humans developed magical powers, and many unleashed them without restraint. The cost was brutal. For the aegis, perhaps most of all. In a number of places they stood between the annihilation of humans and hordes seeking to make it so. Rarely did they fight alongside others. Not that they had much choice. While devil-beasts led armies of monsters, only two other kinds sided with humanity. Even after the Raging, as the fights continued and aegis carried out their chosen duty to defend what they felt was good and true, they found themselves in a desperate struggle to survive as much as a crusade. Devil-beasts, too, are far fewer and will gladly kill one another – for gain or just out of sheer vindictiveness. But they will always set aside differences to hunt and kill an aegis.
Sphinx did not escape their share of casualties either. While it wasn’t common to see a sphinx pushing for a kingdom, they were still targets, and at other times they put their wisdom to use, advising more power hungry individuals. All such beings fell in time, though. All empires perished, all kingdoms were crushed, all power bases left in ruins. Old rulers were toppled to make way for new and then again for another generation. No one was safe. No one is ever safe.
So, while these three races remain at the top of the food chain for the most part, and encountering even one of them is a daunting thing, they aren’t as many or as strident as they once were. Those who live now were born in this world, it is all they have known. They have no real knowledge of what the Shadow World was even like. Perhaps the hunger that drove the beings from that realm hasn’t infected them. However, they have the desires and drives so many in this world share. They seek survival, and sometimes that means keeping out of harm’s way, and sometimes that means taking it head on and beating it down. By and large, the three races remain as they were from the beginning. Devil-beasts are usually enemies of humanity, aegis the defenders, and sphinx the neutral bystanders who think and talk their way through events. Yet there are those who differ. New ways, new ideas continue to alter the customs of those who walk this world. A devil-beast could be reasoned with. An aegis might shy away from a fight. A sphinx might seek one.
Just never underestimate them.