Making a Monster: The Striges
Sorry for broadcast delay folks, its been the traditional cavalcade of family weddings and sickness. In recompense, here’s some design notes regarding the last little arc of our Flying Circus game.
Though Flying Circus obviously draws very heavily from historical sources when it comes to how its planes operate, the setting has been from the beginning plugged as, I suppose, a kind of diesel-punk laced high fantasy. Now we were operating in an odd place here, as a lot of the setting info is not yet published and we had adopted a slightly alternative setting anyway. Not wanting to jump straight to dragons, I decided to bring in an alternative airborne creature.
Naturally, the solution came in the form of a strange multilingual pun.
Now, our setting Maralto draws heavily on Italian imagery, and the Italian word for witch is strega. We can trace the route of this word back to the Latin strix, for screech owl, and its distant cousin strige does in fact parse as “a bird of ill omen”, which could be seen as equivalent to the bad reputation that crows and ravens have in English speaking countries. So naturally this gets thoughts of psychopomp birds stirring around in my brain.
The Striges then, within our setting, are a kind of revenant. When a strong-willed witch or sorcerer dies and that death cuts short the great work of their lives, the screech owls of the ghost world may offer them a choice. Rather than carrying them on into the great unknown beyond death, the owl may bring their spirit back into the world, repairing the body in their own image and fueling it with a hunger for blood, vengeance and the shadowy magic of the netherworld.
With this flickering magic surging through their skeletal frames and between their grey feathers, the Striges are given a near immortal chance at vengeance or, more rarely, closure. Their shadow wings carry them as fast as a fighter plane, and the long claws on their fingers can tear horrific gouges in steel plate and flesh alike. Perhaps most alarmingly, these avian horrors seem beyond the reach of death; though they can most certainly be wounded and broken in the manner of mortal things, the shadows will knit them back together in time. There are rumours that only burial with full funerary rites in consecrated ground will spell a true end to these creatures, but given the rarity of priests willing to cooperate with such actions this remains speculation.
So there you have it. Our terrifying owl-channelling sky witches were based on an old Italian play on words and some bits of James O’Barr’s The Crow, with perhaps a smattering of the Strix from Vampire the Requiem. But ain’t it funny how inspiration works that way…?
Good hunting to y’all.