The Gloam Striga Myth in Zheng-Kitar | World Anvil

The Gloam Striga

The legendary vessel that sails under the cursed flag of The King in Lethe, prowling the waters of the Planescape for prey

♪...The bird of death so white and aged,   Caught the eye of the King in Lethe;     'My rivers shall ever require a guide' said he,   'So sail at my side for eternity';     Never shall the bird know pain,   Nor death, nor wound, nor life again;     On Styx, Cocytus, Acheron,   On Lethe and Phlegethon;     Bane of life and final breath,   Beloved of the Lord of Death...♪
— "The Ballad of The White Bird", Author Unknown


The myth of The Gloam Striga begins many centuries before the modern day, in the Kingdom of Corudillo that once stood on the same land that the modern-day nation of Kassau now stands on itself after conquering it - more specifically, with a Shao-xard Captain by the name of Fernán Enrique Calzada, whose soul was by every account as black as pitch and twice as vile; Captain of the El Cuervo Blanco(The White Crow) that sailed from the Tolderan Sea.   Captain Fernán was by all accounts of the time a man who took to piracy the second he was old enough to steer a ship and chart a course - earning himself a privateer contract from the Corudillo Crown and putting the ship given to him in pursuit of that contract to excellent use, he earned a terrible reputation as a blackhearted brigand up and down the eastern coast of Zheng-Kitar raiding Seogharan merchant ships where he famously gave no quarter no matter the circumstance, even going so far as to take living prisoners long enough as to identify the ones who still held hope in an afterlife and nail them to his bow, so that they could die witnessing the end of all they cared for.   A twisted man who held no love, no faith, and no hope in his heart, it wasn't long before the myth of Captain Fernán - who rapidly earned himself the fearsome nickname of The Bird of Death - earned the ire of even the Corudillo Crown that had initially sponsored him, unable to satisfy his empty fury and lust for destruction on just the Seogharan ships as his privateer contracted stipulated; turning to all ships of all creeds, Captain Fernán became a pirate and went on to terrorize the entire Liuwang Ocean for decades as one of the most fearsome pirates of his time, whose cruelties only increased with every "No Quarter Execution" he carried out upon his defeated foes.   As the myth goes, however, Captain Fernán's twisted, empty heart quickly earned him the attention and ire of forces beyond mortal comprehension - first, he is purported to have earned the furious Ire of Drowning Damara herself after ruthlessly sinking several cargo vessels during seaborne ceremonies in which they were offering up tribute to her to secure their safe passage across her ocean, instead ruthlessly butchering such vessels and plundering the offerings for himself. Yet, even as he earned this Ire, The Bird of Death was not entirely devoid of purpose or respect - at some point during the middle to latter stages of his career as he began to draw the ire of powerful beings, he came to learn of The King in Lethe and began offering up each of his ruthless butcherings to his unholy name, eager to draw the attention of the one being in the cosmos the vile Captain Fernán was said to have respected and, many say, even loved and admired.   Yet, it was not until near the end of the Captain's career, when Drowning Damara came to wreak her furious vengeance upon El Cuervo Blanco and its aging Captain The Bird of Death that all of Captain Fernán's efforts to draw the attention of The King in Lethe bore fruit - his ship's sails turning white as ghosts as the waters beneath his ship roiled and churned and his ship was encased in the blackest Stygian Iron, Captain Fernán was saved from Drowning Damara's wrath by the very being he had been dedicating his countless butcherings to. Yet, in defiance of all expectations, the admiration, love, and respect the Captain felt for The King in Lethe was not seemingly one-sided - as the only soul in the entire cosmos that caught the eye of The King in Lethe, Captain Fernán's life passed into myth as the stories surrounding him become murky; no longer did his ship sail under the pirate flag, nor did it sail solely across the waters of the material world...instead, it vanished from the world for a time beneath the waves, where it was purported to have spent time docked at The Drowning Court(Planar Palace of Charon, seat of his power, as well as the "Sailors Purgatory" many sailors believe the Striga drags those souls and ships it captures to for an eternity of emptiness and suffering), before it began to prowl the notoriously deadly waters of the River Styx that no ship has ever been able to sail on before or since.   Many speculate wildly about what exactly about the twisted captain caught the eye of The King in Lethe - whether it was love, respect, or something else even more unknowable - but the truth will likely never be known, as the ship, now renamed The Gloam Striga and given the flag of The King in Lethe to fly from its gnarled mast, prowls the infernal waters of The River Styx and beyond under the command of its infernal captain, forever entwined with The King in Lethe.

Historical Basis

Though the myths surrounding him have likely grown into legend since his life and possible "death", Captain Fernán Enrique Calzada was very much real and alive - the records of his black-hearted piracy yet remain across many nations of the world even well into the modern day as proof enough of his existence, even if he now sails waters beyond the scope of mortal comprehension.


Most all who sail the seas of the material plane know of the legend of The Gloam Striga, as it is perhaps the most famous ship that sails the waters of the world - many sailors speak of it and know of it as the ship that comes to ferry the souls of pirates and twisted sailors who die at sea into the twisted, black-hearted afterlife that seeks to claim them; though just as many speak of it in even more fearful terms as a ship whose arrival heralds a fearful bargain to be made with its captain - to forestall one's own demise with service upon the Striga, or be dragged down to the Styx and the Drowning Court to suffer forever.

Variations & Mutation

As it has not existed for very long comparatively to other myths across Zheng-Kitar, few variations of the myth of The Gloam Striga exist - the few that do differ on account of its new purpose beneath the flag of The King in Lethe, and the reasons by which that damnable being, long lauded by all mortal beings as a dreadful god never to be invoked except in fear and tribute, would ever see any beauty or could even feel love at all in its nonexistent heart, much less feel or see either in a mortal soul and bless it to the extent that it did for Captain Fernán Enrique Calzada.   Some variations even go so far as to say that Captain Fernán and The King in Lethe are not only beloved in the most general sense, but in the deeper, romantic sense - that the two, seeing in each other something they have never seen anywhere else, found a fierce love and respect for one another such that it was this precise union that gave The King in Lethe the sole child it is known to possess - though these variations are often laughed at and regarded as nonsensical folly, as the mere idea of an undead herald of oblivion such as The King in Lethe finding or knowing any emotion but emptiness is ludicrous to most.

Cultural Reception

All who know of The Gloam Striga fear it as one of the most fearsome ships upon the seas - the mere sight of it is said to seal the fate of those who witness it to a death in a matter of months or years, and most all cultures and peoples that tell its tale speak of it as a cursed vessel of the sailor's grave; a damned guide to the Drowning Court where countless sailors are said to rest in eternal purgatory and torment for the crimes committed during their lifetimes.

In Literature

Most notably, the tavern song known as The Ballad of the White Bird is a song of varying length that sings of the life and history of The Gloam Striga and its damned Captain - though a handful of other short stories or biographical novellas also exist focusing around either the Striga itself or upon its Captain and his life before he entered the service of The King in Lethe.

In Art

The Striga is almost never depicted in art or visually by any who call themselves men of the sea - it is unfathomably bad luck, many think, to invoke the image of the ship known to all sailors as the herald of the sailor's purgatory and eternal torment.   However, as with many things, it is a somewhat popular subject of paintings in the Ustanan Concord and the Kingdom of Raoulin, as well as some other artistically inclined countries who view the superstition surrounding its image as nothing more than folly.
Date of First Recording
4355 ASK
Date of Setting
4221 ASK
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