A species of blood-sucking xenos, the strigoi (Strigoi pijavica xenos) inhabit the second world of the Hetvilag system, near the galactic core. They have a parasitic relationship with the semi-sapient paraszt, which they lord over from their massive castles. Many strigoi are obsessed with biological experimentation and the idea of eternal life through scientific advancement and as a result have strange, yet advanced bioscience technology.
Hetvilag II is a tidally locked planet and each side has a wildly differing biosphere. Great storms entered the night side as seas boiled on the daytime side, bringing constant thunder and lightning with them. The strigoi and the paraszt both evolved on the night side; the greatest strigoi technological achievement is when they planted a banner on the “solar pole.” While strigoi and paraszt can survive in a room-temperature environment, they have a violent reaction to starlight and their skin will burn and blister in its presence. This has led to humans switching to EMSEL weapons when facing off against the strigoi.
The strigoi evolved from sap-sucking aliens that attached themselves to the great gourd trees of Hetvilag II’s forests. Using their leathery wings, the strigoi and their ancestors glided between the trees in search for new places to roost. Because sessile and mobile life on Hetvilag II have closer evolutionary roots than comparable Terran life, the same sap that flowed through the gourd trees also flowed through the veins of the hunters living on the forest floor. The strigoi’s ancestors were the first to make the leap to parasitize mobile life, in their case the paraszt. The paraszt are a species of hairy, eight-legged omnivores that hunted in packs. Semi-sapient, the paraszt were highly successful and the dominant predators in the forests of Hetvilag II. The proto-strigoi took over the paraszt when paraszts shake gourd trees in an attempt to get the fruit above. Instead of getting fruit, the unfortunate xenos were gifted with a parasite. Eventually, the proto-strigoi evolved to take over the nervous system of the infected paraszt and, by accident, granted them the gift of sapience. These sapient paraszts urged the uninfected to shake gourd trees filled with strigoi’s family, spreading the intelligence gene quickly.
Strigoi infection granted not only intelligence, but longer life to the paraszt as intelligence allowed them to feed and groom themselves to prevent the spread of disease. However, the infection eventually disables the paraszt’s regular digestive systems, forcing the infected to feed on the sap of the uninfected. Eventually, as the paraszt body is no longer capable of sustaining the strigoi, the parasite is forced to find a new host. These intelligent strigoi realized that it would be easier to survive and grow their families if the normally-nomadic paraszts were domesticated in farms. This breakthrough led to the strigoi’s agricultural revolution and the beginning of a true culture.
For hundreds of thousands of years, the strigoi exploited the paraszt, but the paraszt too were learning and becoming more intelligent. Infected paraszts eventually lost their distinctive fur and the strigoi attached to their bodies are an obvious sight. Some two thousand years before Hetvilag II’s discovery by mankind, the paraszt learned to assault their infected masters. In response, the strigoi took a more detached approach to managing their livestock. They built massive castles atop hills and other easily defensible areas and built villages the paraszt below. The strigoi would organize the paraszt communities and protect them from outside invasion, at the price of the strigoi occasionally descending from their castles to feed. Fortunate paraszt families are blessed with healthy and strong children, as they can be given to their strigoi masters in exchange for favors.
The Hetvilag was discovered by the Communist Sixth Fleet, composed of the remaining Hungarian and Romanian navies, after the Collapse. Knowing that there was little hope for them in human-occupied space, they decided to settle and terraform Hetvilag III. Lacking proper biospheres, the initial settlements were founded at the cost of many of their spacecraft. The survivors People’s Republic of Hetvilag were assaulted by the first extraplanetary forces in strigoi history. Horrified, they attempted to exterminate the species, but as Hetvilag III is uranium-poor and the Hetvilagians lacked sufficient nuclear weapons, they always failed. The Hetvilagians were utterly unable to stop the first strigoi faster-than-light jump, but they have stayed committed in their mission to exterminate the aliens. During the 2750s, a Conseil battlefleet rediscovered the Hetvilag system and offered to aid the native humans in their war at the price of joining the Galactic War.
Strigoi society is far more reckless than humanity’s, as each individual strigoi can afford to waste their bodies away so long as they can acquire a new one. Drug abuse and dangerous behavior unacceptable in even the most liberal human societies are the norm on Hetvilag II. However, some strigoi were tired of constantly switching bodies and sought to improve the ones they grew up with as children. This focus on bioscience led to many early advances in the field, as scientists were never in want of paraszt test subjects. It was eventually discovered that electrical impulses and certain chemical cocktails can revitalize necrotic flesh. This led to the massive proliferation of “life packs.” Cryogenics was also a way to preserve bodies; most castles have dungeons filled with refrigerated caskets for different bodies and parts. Biological advances also led to cosmetic improvements, as powerful strigoi counts can order the best limbs hacked from their subjects and attached to their own bodies, mixing and matching so they would have the best of every paraszt’s traits. This obsession with biological modification has extended to other species, including aliens such as humans, gusano and cerafi.
Strigoi technology is primitive compared to mankind’s, focusing on “corpse constructs,” strange chemistry and electricity. Unlike humans, the strigoi use native life as the building blocks for new technology, only using metals and other non-living materials sparingly. For example, strigoi self-propelled guns are placed on carts grafted to large draft animals: while the gun’s construction is metal and reinforced bone, the animals are still living and have to be fed. The strigoi have also developed artificial neural parasites: electronically-controlled variants of the strigoi species itself. These parasites are used to control creatures the strigoi either cannot or do not want to infect, such as draft animals or cannon fodder. Strigoi biologists are working on a variant that can infect alien sapients.
The strigoi almost never fight in wars themselves, using waves and waves of paraszt conscripts instead. Ranged warfare is something uncommon in strigoi armies, as they do not want to arm their slaves with the latest electroemsels. Instead, conscripts are armed with super-dense, monomolecular blades meant to cut apart enemy infantry. Large supersoldiers, composed of a single mad strigoi and several paraszt bodies grafted together, form the elite core of many strigoi militaries. The strigoi also implement flying infantry: based on the strigoi body structure but composed of many different creatures, these are normally armed with close-range electroemsel weapons and can fly short distances to the middle of the fight. Others act as close air support, dropping bombs from the skies. An interesting presence in strigoi armies are the so-called “corpse carts:” slow-moving vehicles that sniff out and collect corpses on the battlefield to be recycled.