Naga are only legends to most of the world, creatures occasionally glimpsed by those who venture too deeply into the wild places, or in search of treasures forbidden to human hands. Appearing as part human and part serpent, they are intelligent but monstrous, fierce guardians of their homes and treasures.
All Naga are derived from the same source. The first Naga was Lamia, a creation of the Green Man and the Destroyer. As half of her base material was a magical vine, Lamia found that she could produce seeds of her own, but they would not grow in the earth. Instead, they needed to be planted in a living creature, to feed as she does. While the growing vines usually consume and kill the host, a few of them merged with the host instead, and created creatures very much like her - Lamia's first children, the Gorgons. The first three were Stheno, Medusa, and Euryale - creatures who had wandered into Lamia's territory, and she had developed a fondness for. These three would go on to create 'children' of their own, gradually taking the Naga from a few individuals to a species numbering in the hundreds - there have never been many.
Over the years, the Naga have spread across the world, starting at Sage's temples, though gradually other gods took them as guardians for their own temples and treasures, where they reside to this day. Because of this, Naga rarely appear in the history books, except in tales of heroes who attempted to plunder treasures of the gods.
Since most Naga originally came from various cultures, their communities began very diverse, combinations of people brought together after having been changed and taken from places across the world. As the ages passed, they have developed cultures of their own, though these are generally limited to their particular small groups, and where they make their home. Since they usually reside near some sort of temple, these groups of Naga tend to take on the cultures of the clergy of that host deity. Though they are rarely if ever actual members of the clergy, they support and defend the priesthoods.
Naga are not especially social creatures, but often form small family groups. Gorgons in particular tend to be isolated, generally living in groups of no more than three. Contrary to popular belief, they are not automatically hostile to strangers of other races, but they will fiercely defend their territory against intruders. Exactly what they are like varies by individual, depending on what they were like before being converted - but all of them take on similar feral traits upon their rebirth. It is also important to note that Naga are highly carnivorous and will happily consume humanoid creatures if they are able. Though they are intelligent and will often converse with smaller creatures, this does not at all preclude said creature becoming their prey, and may indeed be a game to the naga in question.
Groups of Naga in the older and more isolated places have developed cultures of their own, and tend to follow the ways of the Green Man, given their affinity for plant life - of course, their carnivorous nature is a conspicuous exception.
Lamia and her children possess the bodies of great serpents from the stomach down, with upper bodies similar to humans, though covered in scales. Their fingers are tipped in sharp claws, and while their faces generally appear nearly human, they shift easily between this shape and a monstrous head that matches their lower body. Naga appear at a distance to have long hair, though this hair is actually made up of thick, greenish-brown vines. The vines are prehensile, and in older Naga take on a shape that looks very much like a snake on their own when the Gorgon is angry or threatened - they are also capable of biting. The upper body of a Gorgon is slightly larger than a human, though not enough to notice from a distance. Their tails, however, can reach incredible lengths, with the oldest being more than fifty feet long. All of the known Gorgons are female.
The younger Naga are known just as that, and look similar to their Gorgon mothers, though there are male Naga as well. Naga are smaller and not so long as Gorgons, and lack the serpent-vine hair, though they possess the same general qualities. Naga of all ages have an affinity for plants and trees, and while resting, it is not uncommon for them to be gradually covered over by plant growth, which keeps them hidden. All Naga, as well as Gorgons, are able to shapeshift into a fully human form.
Average Naga will live for about two hundred years, though their lifespan depends on how many generations removed they are from Lamia. She and her earliest direct daughters, the Gorgons, are around two thousand and do not show signs of aging.
The Gorgons, like their mother, are not capable of reproduction in the normal sense. Like Lamia, they must instead find a suitable host, generally someone who might have been a meal before they made themselves interesting, and plant a seed inside them. This will usually kill them, feeding them to the vines, but a few, perhaps one in three, will grow into a Naga. The process of the seeds sprouting is excruciating, and the growing vines eventually envelop the creature in a sort of cocoon. Survivors emerge as Naga (or Gorgons, if it was Lamia's seed) about six months afterward.
The smaller, younger Naga do not have as many plantlike qualities as their parents - because of this, they have no seeds, but their ability to reproduce as humans has not been lost. Even so, their fertility rate is low - the Naga have never been numerous, and births even among the colonies of later-generation Naga are rare.
Since Naga can take human form, it is possible for them to mate with humans. Gorgons cannot reproduce this way, though their smaller children can - the success rate is similarly low to when Naga mate with Naga. The species of the resulting child is determined by the mother - though a human mother may give birth to a child with just a few reptilian features.
Aside from their shapeshifting, Naga possess little in the way of actual magic. They do however possess a sort of venom, derived from a plant enzyme unique to the vines that were used to create Lamia. This venom is a paralytic of sorts, and causes its victim's skin and muscle tissue to harden, even taking on a bark-like quality if enough is administered. Victims so paralyzed have their metabolism slow to near complete stasis, and can live this way for decades if they are not eaten or otherwise destroyed. Naga also possess an ability similar to some plants to produce animal pheromones, which they use to lure in and confuse their prey. Finally, given time, Naga will regenerate any nonlethal injury, including the regrowth of limbs - like the plants whose nature they share in part - though like plants this takes time, and major injuries will require days or weeks to heal.
Gorgons have the abilities of their lesser children, though each of them is more potent, and their hair can deliver the same venom. They heal somewhat faster, and their affinity for plants is greater, not unlike the nymphs - their control over plants however is limited to the vines that they tend. Gorgons often tend great gardens, which frequently include brambles of carnivorous vines large enough to snare and consume large mammals. Of course, these gardens also tend to include the paralyzed bodies of their victims, hardened by their venom...
While their scales offer them some protection, Naga are not supernaturally tough, and may be felled by mortal weapons. Like their serpentine and botanical ancestors, they are sluggish in the cold as well, and as such are much less dangerous in winter. For this reason, it is not uncommon for them to retreat to caves and other places they may keep warm in such seasons. Some, however, may choose to take human form and wander into a human village to wait out the cold. While they are not necessarily flammable, fire is dangerous to them - it desiccates their tissues and drastically slows their healing process. Injuries caused to a naga by fire heal no faster than injuries to humans, and it may take more than a year for limbs and major injuries to regenerate.