- "Nothing is ever an accident."
- —From the Grimoire of Agrios
The Stirges, also known as the Stirges Chapter or Space Owls, are a Space Marine Chapter of some infamy throughout the greater Imperium. Known for their mystic traditions derived from the culture of their homeworld, Polyphante, the Stirges' beliefs revolve around divining the Emperor's will through the interpretation of signs of His will within the physical universe. Unfortunately these beliefs are what make the Stirges both capricious foes and unreliable allies, for so often have they abandoned and circumvented others in pursuit of one of their so-called "omens". Thus this Astartes Chapter has become synonymous with misfortune, oftentimes on a near-catastrophic scale.
- "This is why the Imperium can't have nice things."
- —Inquisitor Hylaspur, Ordo Astartes
The ancient traditions of Polyphante dictate that the Asterai (God-Emperor), blessed be He, embodies all things. He is the stone, the sky, the wind and the stars, and even the great avian beasts that haunt the Night World's crags and canyons. By that logic any particularly auspicious event or unforeseen occurrence, whether it be subtle or blatantly overt, must undoubtedly be a sign of His will. The Stirges have lived and died by this philosophy ever since their first Chapter Master, Agrios, first set foot on Polyphante.
One of the few Astartes Chapters that openly believes the Emperor to be divine, the Stirges are every watchful for signs of His will, referring to these seemingly random incidents as the Omens. As was written within the Grimoire of Agrios, an Omen may appear to anyone, but only the Introspectors, the venerated Chaplain-Librarians of the Stirges, are ordained to interpret such events. When it comes to these matters Captains and even the Chapter Master himself are beholden to their commands, for none among their ranks would dare dispute their judgement when it comes to the Omens. From there the Stirges course of action is entirely dictated by the connotations of this latest of divine signs, whether they be traversing the void or in the midst of combat and regardless of the intentions of others, for to ignore an Omen in tantamount to the highest of heresies.
Similar ritualistic beliefs are also prevalent throughout the Stirges cultural identity, though most are ill-understood at best. This is perhaps what truly galls so many other Imperials the Chapter encounters, as such traditions are hard enough to understand, but rather than explain how their belief system functions the Stirges tend to treat those "ignorant of their ways" with cryptic remarks and blatant condescension. Some even downright refuse to speak of what they refer to as the Higher Mysteries, for how could someone not of Polyphante understand? Inevitably, this outlook has led to many a strained relationship with other Imperial Adepta.
The gene-seed of the Stirges is relatively stable in terms of purity, allowing the implanted Marine full use of his biological hardware, but none are entirely sure which Primarch it was derived from. Several theories based on stringent testing of the Chapter's gene-tithes have been made, the most prevalent being that the Stirges are in fact successors of the equally enigmatic Raven Guard. This theory is mainly based off of the two Chapters similar melanin deficiencies, as all Stirges have abnormally pale skin. However, this remains a hypothesis mainly due to the fact that the Stirges gene-seed in no way effects the eye coloration implanted Marines and the matter of skin coloration could very well be a side effect of their Polyphantite heritage, as their sunless homeworld receives very little sunlight. Thus the genetic origins of the Stirges, much like many things about them, remains a mystery.
Livery and Appearance
The typical color scheme of the Stryxes is predominately a deep purple, with the exception of the arms, shoulder trim, and backpack, which are all painted black. The Imperialis on the chestplate is bronze, as clave-heraldry markings and the Chapter symbol displayed on the right and left shoulders respectively are also bronze. Squad type and number is identified via a bronze-colored squad symbol with a black-colored gothic numeral stenciled over it, displayed on the right kneeplate. The Stirges have also been known to mark their armor with lines of Polyphantan cuneiform and various tribal fetishes, bundles of feathers and totems of rune-carved bone being in abundance
Ranks are identified via color. Stirges Sergeants bear a bronze stripe on their helmets, while veterans have entirely bronze helmets, and veteran sergeants have bronze helmets with a black stripe or laurels. When indicating specialist ranks, their helms and black-colored parts of the armor instead bear the coloration their position typically bears. Thus Apothecaries bear white, and Techmarines bear rust red. Only the Introspectors seem exempt from this system of heraldry, their only distinctive markings of rank being their sable vestments and traditional bone-masks.
Polyphante is a Feral World located within the near-lifeless Pseudolus System. This inherent lifelessness is due to it the system's star collapsing upon itself millennia ago, becoming a massive singularity. Polyphante survived the loss of it's sun only because of the planets distance from it, the irregular gravitation fluctuations of the singularity destabilizing the planet's orbit and causing near-instantaneous climate change. In the present era, Polyphante's insatiability is what keeps it alive, the planet's molten mantle constantly shifting erupting just enough to provide the warmth necessary to support life. Even still, most of Polyphante it's bitterly cold and barren, it's erratic tectonic activity transforming it's landscape into an endless maze of craggy mountains, snow-covered peaks, and deep volcanic fissures.
The flora and fauna than does survive on Polyphante is tough, hardy, and entirely nocturnal. Avian life-forms are particularly abundant, making up the the upper predatory rung of the planet's ecosystem. Most infamous of all is the dreaded Kikiyaon, a quadrupedal bird of prey the size of an Astartes and the undisputed alpha predator of Polyphante.
The Stirges exclusively recruit from the ranks of the native tribesmen of Polyphante, a resilient example of humanity that has persisted for generations despite the inhospitable nature of their homeworld. Due to the constant threat of earthquakes, avalanches, and volcanic eruptions, the Polyphantites persist within nomadic tribes that rarely settle in one place longer than it takes to rest and gather new resources. The direction in which they immigrate depends entirely upon the whims of their tribal shamans, the appointed soothsayers of the Asterai’s will. Whether they live or die in pursuit of one of their oracle's vague auguries is of little consequence to the Polyphantites, for if they are fated to perish then they shall perish.
Every several years the tribes congregate underneath the shadow of the Great Caldera, a volcanic mountain chain and one of Polyphante's few natural landmarks, in which the auguries are once again consulted and a selection of youths taken from each tribe to be sent to face the Asterai's judgement. From their they must climb the Caldera and survive it's lava flows, rockfalls, and the savage creatures that dwell within the crags if they are to reach the top and face their destinies. Precious few survive, but those who do reach the summit are greeted to the sight of Stirge Thunderhawks descending from on high.
- "You want an omen? I'll give you an Emperor-be-damned omen!"
- —St. Athaliah the Flame before sending a pillar of fire into the stratosphere triggering a massive electrical storm that put out the grid for half the planet Iagos.
- "Kind of overdid that..."
- —St. Athaliah the Flame after the storm described above.
- "I know the Fearless Bird tells of an aerial assault, but the Shaking, no listen, the Shaking Grass says we are going to be attacked. OF COURSE I KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT, LOOK UP IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME! SEE?"
- —Inquisitor Jacob Flux arguing with a chapter Introspector about the divination of Omens, shortly before a Tyranid airborne assault
- Stirges is one of the plural forms of the Greek word Strix. This word has two connotations, the first being a genus of the owl family Strigidae, and the second being a mythological flesh-eating bird monster.