The Strigae evolved in their timelines in the dense tropical jungles of southeast Asia, approximately 20 million years ago. They evolved from social predator birds, hunting various smaller mammals and reptiles during the dawn and twilight. In their timeline they had to deal with invading mammalian predators evolved from monkeys, and responded by an arms race of cunning.
The Strigae learned to set traps, at first merely arranging boughs and removing plants to make it possible to trap an animal with no easy escape. Later they began to use branches as tools to hit animals, bend back branches to strike an animal off a limb and eventually elaborate traps of wines and sharp rocks. Beyond this, they came to construct nets, containers and clubs, eventually venturing outside their home forests and discovering the world.
Strigae appear owlish, hence their name (from the latin Strix, owl). They are approximately 1.6 meters long and have a wingspan of 3 meters. They weigh around 50 kg.
They have deep orange eyes, set within a facial disc of feathers (which is often dyed among modern Strigae). They see extremely well even in very low light, and can perceive ultraviolet light. They have 120 degrees of vision, with 70 degrees of binocular vision. Just like owls their eyes are attached to the skull through sclerotic rings, and they must turn their heads in order to focus on something else.
Their hearing is not quite as good as in owls, but fairly acute. Strigae can navigate reasonably well by listening to reflected sounds, although they lack any real sonar capabilities.
Strigae manipulate objects with either their powerful talons, pincer-like quills on their wings or their beaks. The talons are their most powerful grip, and usually used for carrying loads. The quills extend from the alula and can be manipulated with great precision but not much force; they are usually used together with the beak and tongue. The tongue can be extended surprisingly far, and is able to do very fine manipulation.
Strigae are not as strong and bulky as humans, and this limited their engineering seriously in the beginning. Early on they began to pursue various laborsaving devices, inventing pulleys, rope transports, winches, rafts and boats even before fire. The main incentive was to reduce the amount of heavy lifting and transportation. They domesticated large animals to provide muscle, and established complex power transmission systems.
Strigae are rather slow flyers, although they have excellent control over their flight. They also tend to get tired too fast to fly long distances (modern Strigae often employ microtechnological feather extensions or artificial wings to support their flight). Unlike humans would, they do not make much out of their flying ability – it is just another way of getting around.
Strigae have a fairly short maximal natural lifespan, approximately 80 years (and with a shorter life expectancy). Invariably, when the biotechnology becomes available they extend it as far as possible. Their metabolism is fairly high, but they do not thrive in too cold climate and they dislike heavy clothing.
They are still very much predators, although they enjoy certain plants and spices. Most variety in their cooking comes from different meats – everything from lizards and fish to elephant meat. Serving varies from sushi-like confections of very fresh raw meat to various cooked forms.
See also http://www.owlpages.com/physiology/ for more details of owl-bird physiology.
"...Strigae within the coolant behemoths tend to exhibit a radically different behaviour from those involved in transport and shipping along the outer layers. One can only speculate as to the mental effect of a constant interaction with these immense mechanisms..."
Strigae intelligence is unlike human intelligence. It is not primarily operational (see – do) but rather planning (envision – do). Their brains are relatively smaller than human brains, and in a fast situation they tend to rely on well-trained skills and instincts, which makes them possible to outwit by a cool human. But if they get a chance to think through the situation and plan, they can come up with elaborate plans that they can then implement with great speed. They seem to have a natural ability to understand and handle long causal chains, and their working memory is very extensive.
Strigae languages often seem excessively complex to humans, since they naturally rely on a powerful working memory. The sounds are hooting modulated by the tongue into a complex warbling, sometimes interspersed with sharp snaps of the beak. Typical sentences contain many clauses arranged in a rigid hierarchical order, with the core clause first, then the secondary clauses (usually two), then the tertiary and so on. Often intonations, assonances, repetitions and regularities are used to create hidden links between different clauses in a secondary structure that forms the “secret sentence” that carries a dual emotional meaning.
They have an innate sense of three-dimensional thinking, and can easily deduce how objects might look from other angles or perspectives. This also includes the effect of velocity; whenever physics has been discovered the laws of combining motion (including relativity) have usually been quickly discovered. Strigae art has never been very fond of traditional perspectives, instead aiming at Picasso-like composites of all sides of every object.
Strigae take great pleasure in making and manipulating things; it is very common for Strigae to absent-mindedly engrave intricate patterns on wood or plastic while attending to other things. Nearly anything designed by them involves complex engravings, adornments and hidden features. They often base their designs on the tactile feeling they will produce rather than visual appearance, and take a special delight in first watching them and thinking of how handling the tool, device or object will feel, and then the pleasure of actually doing it. Quite often Strigae craftsmen try to play visual tricks, making objects look pleasantly different from how they actually feel.
Strigae do not tell stories, but tend towards facts and poetry instead. Much great Strigae art is elegant retellings of history, science and law in new and unexpected forms, often heavy with idiom, intertextual references and complex rhythms and patternings. The encounter with human storytelling has fascinated the Strigae, and they find human stories both absorbing and somewhat unsettling, a form of art not to everyone’s taste but popular among some subcultures (who often make Strigae re-tellings of basic human stories, since their utter lack of refinement often impedes understanding).
Strigae are notably atheistic. They do not easily comprehend the idea of personal gods, spirits or other supernatural agents that are popular among humans. On the other hand they tend to imagine various complex networks of meaning and mechanism in the universe, not unlike human ideas of synchronicity, providence or destiny – impersonal, logical forces that simply are. Many Strigae philosophies and religions are based on theories of how these underpinnings work, and how they can be best be exploited. In many Strigae societies magic held the place of religion, and even modern Strigae tend to believe things that humans regard as slightly superstitious.
Strigae form lifelong pairings that rear a series of twin children. While humans are serially monogamous, with marriages that tend to last only as long as necessary to rear the children, Strigae once bonded hardly ever leave each other. Their fierce loyalty-love makes most human relations appear tepid, although Strigae often channel their loyalty-love in culturally accepted ways that may not be obvious to outsiders.
The basic social unit beyond the family is smaller than the corresponding group among humans, a team/extended family of 6 to 10 individuals that usually lives and works closely together. Over time teams tend to become extremely skilled in predicting the behavior of other team members, sometimes nearly giving the impression of a group mind (in some cases, technological means such as wearable computers and neural links make this the literal truth).
Strigae not linked into pairs are outsiders. If a Strigae is widowed, the emotional impact is extreme. It is not uncommon for the surviving party to die soon or commit suicide, and if it survives the grief will be intense and long lasting. Grief and sorrow are far more intense emotions among Strigae than humans. An entire grief culture exists to deal with loss and fear of loss, ranging from traditions of counseling and rituals to medication and grief rehabilitation industries.
Adult singletons have traditionally been regarded as losers, eccentrics or unworthy. In many Strigae societies they have been used as a general labor pool, servants, warriors or assistants attached to pairs and teams as a kind of “substitute children”. Widowed Strigae do remarry, although this is far rarer than among humans. When this happen they re-enter mainstream society. In more liberal or changed Strigae societies the singleton-paired dichotomy is weakened, but it persists in symbolic form in nearly all Strigae culture. Everything good is paired and linked, everything bad is alone and isolated.
Strigae empathy has a shorter reach than human empathy. While humans feel strong empathy with not just family members and people of their tribe but also “extended families” such as their nation or humanity as a whole, Strigae tend to care more strictly about their families and teams – everybody else is treated with enlightened self-interest. There is a certain communal feeling between Strigae, but it is not based on any inherent empathy but rather on the experience of being similar, being part of a greater whole and striving at a shared aim.
Death is greatly feared among Strigae, with an intensity that often exceeds human worries. This has produced a notably peaceful prehistory – relatively few Strigae were willing to risk their lives in battle. The exception was the singletons, which often became feared and pitied warriors that enforced the will of a “team of teams” on others. To a human Strigae often appear somewhat machiavellian and cowardly since they practically never do anything risking their own hides, but at the same time are perfectly willing to set complex plans into motion to attack others outside their range of empathy.
Among Strigae privacy and one’s home are regarded as sacrosanct – entering another’s sanctuary is equivalent to direct physical contact. Most marriage ceremonies are based on entering a new shared nest, and burglary is harshly punished (often nearly as strictly as direct violence).
Strigae are highly social, although in a less emotional way than humans. Strigae teams often socialize with other teams, and the traditional tribal organization of “teams of teams” recurs in larger societies. Such societies were traditionally held together by intermarriage, trade and judicious use of threats of violence from the rulers. Which means were used depended strongly on culture, and often determined much of the organization and philosophy.
The last Strigae arrived several centuries ago. Although there have been some discussions about trying to recreate their evolution, most Ex Strigae view the prospect as unnecessary. Instead it is far more interesting to meddle in the timeline of other species, or turn back from it to internal Ex matters.
The most powerful Strigae group, dominating the upper reaches of the world tree. The Shii are an advanced society employing mental and social enhancement using nanotechnology and AI, producing a subtle plutocracy/direct democracy through software mediation. They inhabit the Shii-Howo complex approximately 1300 kilometers above Namaqua, near the bays. It is a vast low-gravity labyrinth of artificial forests, hanging cities and vast aerial chambers.
Subservient Strigae culture, one of the last to arrive to Ex. Technologically advanced and with a (to other Strigae) strange culture involving several symbiotic artificial species fulfilling various emotional and religious functions. After a long period of mutual conflicts and intrigues it finally allied with the Shii, but still retains its identity. Like the Shii it mainly exists in the Shii-Howo complex.
Their artificial species, “gens Howo”, are extremely variable in both appearance and function. Many are avian like their creators, but some are reptilian or even mammalian. The dexterous and quick winged lizards Shorro-t have in the past been sold as slave/robot labor to humans, although this practice is heavily criticized both by humans and other Strigae (who consider it bad taste – using an artificial species as a religious slave is one thing, but selling it to aliens as a commodity another!). The Shorro-t themselves do not have any opinion, since their mentality is entirely based on having a master to serve.
Strigae culture in a smaller habitat 400 kilometers above Namaqua. Apparently they decided to isolate themselves from mainstream Strigae society and live on their own several centuries ago. Recently they have re-emerged, seeking contact with other species and trying to gain political advantage. The Hjaltami are easily recognizable due to their bright plumage (a result of genetic engineering) and unique mannerisms. Their society is firmly run by a hierarchy of “vestal bachelors” that oversee most activities through a well-developed network of professional inquisitors/auditors.
Fraction among the strigae, allied with the Shoukakegawa. They inhabit Dao, a cliff island in Guntatoukai housing a Trilo arcology. They were originally a deposed fraction of the Shii that had escaped down to the higher gravity regions. When the humans arrived they began to trade with them, quietly gathering allies and informants to help them regain their lost status. The arrival of Shoukakegawa was a veritable godsend: they set to manipulate the arrivals in order to build a powerbase. That the Aescul Strigae had to get involved to counteract their local influence suited their plans perfectly. The unification conflict seemed like a rash gamble and the Ekichou kept out of it, which proved a wise move. Today they are one of the major backers of many Shoukakegawan plans in Namaqua, quietly gearing up for using their contacts to make a bid for power in Shii-Howo.
Group of strigae running the shuttles up to the bays. They also have crafts running through the great gulf and to Nodus Antipodus. The Aescul are actually a corporation run by the trilos, hiring teams of Strigae. They find humans and Trilos useful customers, although the changes in human politics makes their work somewhat complicated.