“They fly by night and attack nurseless children, and defile their bodies, snatched from their cradles. They are said to rend the flesh of sucklings with their beaks, and their throats are full of the blood which they have drunk.”
From the child-slaughtering owls of Greek mythology to the oversized mosquitos that Gygax called ‘stirges’, a winged horror that swoops out of the darkness to drain the life from its victims is a well-known trope. Up in ‘aerie, we decided to put our own spin on the creature to give GMs another menace to challenge their heroes.
The strix is a strange cave-dwelling menace that has recently been seen in the nighted skies off the Karnor range west of the Arastavar. Some six feet at the shoulder with a wingspan of over fifteen they resemble massive featherless hummingbirds with blue-black iridescent skin. Their long curved beaks taper to a wicked point and can pierce most common armor. They hunt by dropping from the sky and latching onto prey with their powerful claws, impaling prey and draining them of blood. Their size makes flight a taxing effort and a hunting strix will easily consume its body weight in blood on a hunt.
Striges prefer mammals’ blood, and will only consume insects and lizards out of need. They abhor the blood of sentient saurians.
Thankfully for us, the wild strix spends most of its time lurking in caves in the high peaks, feeding on smaller prey and using much less energy. They have adapted to see in in near complete blackness, and suffer -2 on all rolls in lighted conditions. Bright flashes can panic a strix (ITL, p.133), and considering its minimal intelligence that is quite likely.
One less positive development is that the fierce bandit leader Calum ‘Hack’ Hakett has come across a roost while hiding from an elfin patrol and managed to harness and control a small number of these creatures as mounts. Frontier folk now spread tales of nightmares dropping from the night sky, raiding settlements, and leaving entire flocks drained of blood.
Hack leads her crew against isolated villages or traveling groups, striking fear into defenders with her half-dozen “Strigeliers” targeting the strongest while her men on the ground loot and destroy. They have mastered the use of spiked weights tethered by a long cord to strike at targets while they strafe by, and either grasping enemies and heaving them off the ground or swooping down on them to have the beasts feed. The strix is greedy and only half-trained and once attached to a victim it will not let go until it is drained. It is a 5/IQ test for the rider to pull a feeding strix off a body. Flying a strix requires an IQ10 variant of Horsemanship with a prerequisite of ST10, as it is more intimidation and control than coaxing.
The tethered mace strikes at -2DX from the air, has a minimum ST of 11, and does 2d damage. On a critical failure of 17 the weapon gets lodged or tangled and the wielder must make a 3/DX test to free it, 4/DX on an 18. Otherwise they lose the weapon. The weapon’s range is 6 hexes, with a -1DX range penalty for each hex past the third.
Their antics have attracted the attention of the elfin Nightriders, and gryphons can occasionally be seen hunting among the Karnor peaks. So far she has avoided direct conflict with them, but as her attacks become more brazen it is more likely. Their cave lair, with as many as 24 bandits, 8 striges, and a large roost of lesser striges has remained undiscovered.
Calum ‘Hack’ Hakett
ST14 / DX14(13) / IQ13 / MA10 / AD4 or 3 Toughness, cloth and shield (on back) / D2d tethered mace or 3d crossbow
Talents: Crossbow, Tethered Mace, Thrown Weapons, Animal Handler, Toughness II, Expert Horsemanship (Strix), Tactics
Hack was born in these high places, and has always found a way to scratch a living out of them. And when she stumbled on a roost of particularly large striges she realized she could do that and more. Now she has dozens looking to her for safety and success. She is a small, wiry woman whose sun-browned face is spattered with freckles and her unruly hair is tied back by leather thongs. Her size belies her strength, and when she speaks there is a quiet confidence that makes people take heed. She is a raider by necessity and takes no pleasure in taking from others and destroying livelihoods. It is the only life she knows and has never had the comfort to question her ways.
ST11 / DX12(11) / IQ10 / MA10 / AD3 or 2 Toughness, cloth and shield (on back) / D2d tethered mace or 2d-1 shortsword
Talents: Sword, Tethered Mace, Thrown Weapons, Horsemanship (Strix), Recognize Value, Toughness,
Chosen by Hack for their size and dexterity (strix are lightweight fliers), they must master the tethered mace before taking up the winged saddle. More than half of this elite corps are female, and one is a halfling. They are revered among the raiders, enjoying the greater share of spoils and preferred living space near the roost. Some of her lieutenants are less pragmatic than their leader and enjoy the terror and cruelty they inflict. They wish to expand their raids and bring even more loot back to their mountainous redoubt.
New Creature: Strix
ST20 / DX12 / IQ5 / MA10 ground, 20 air / AD1 / D2d pierce and 1d blood drain
A six-foot featherless bird with fleshy wings spreading nearly 15 feet and a wickedly curved pointed beak. The strix is a cave-dweller that occasionally forays at night to drop on unsuspecting creatures and drain their blood. When a matrix attacks, it graphs its prey with powerful claws and latches on. Once it damages the victim, it will continue to drain 1d each round until it falls. Removing a strix requires winning a contested ST check against the creature based on the figure’s current ST. Additional figures aiding (3/ST) will give +4ST for this check.
ST4 / DX12 / IQ4 / MA2 ground, 20 air / AD0 / D1d-1 pierce and 1 blood drain
More common and nearly as dangerous, the goose-sized lesser strix is a menace facing any underground explorer. They lurk along the ceilings of dark caves and drop in numbers swarming any warm-blooded victim nearby. Up to three striges can attack a single-hex figure at once. If a strix strike does damage (after armor) it will latch on and drain one hit each round. It takes a 3/ST test to remove a strix, with -4ST to remove one from yourself. Up to 20 striges can be encountered together in one roost.