Of the sentient species still living in this sector of the galaxy, the Morrigi are one of the most ancient, and have the longest recorded history of interstellar travel. Initially known only by the unique configuration of their aerodynamic avian shaped low orbital attack drones, the Morrigi were named “Crows” by the first Human spacers to witness their swooping attack pattern—a nickname that later proved curiously apt in many respects.
Morrigi is pronounced MOR-REE-GEE (with a hard G — as in Grunt), which roughly translates as “Travelers” in the proto-Creole known as the Trade Language. At this juncture it is impossible to say how long the Morrigi have been capable of traversing long interstellar distances, but biological and archaeological evidence unearthed on Za’xharis, Kao’Kona, Wiira and Mars suggest that the Morrigi have been “Travelers” for several millennia. Skeletal remains recovered on Wiira have revealed that some members of the Morrigi species have spent their entire developmental lives in space, from late infancy to adulthood, for at least six thousand years. Artifacts recovered from the sites excavated on Za’xharis and Mars suggest that the Morrigi were monitoring and visiting the home worlds of the Human and Hiver races for at least four thousand years before either species went through an Industrial Revolution. The dramatic site unearthed on Kao’Kona indicates that the Morrigi may have attempted to establish residence on the Tarka home world for nesting purposes in the past.
The modern Morrigi are not the pinnacle of technological and military achievement for their species. Ample evidence suggests that the current political and technological state of the species in fact represents a significant decline from a peak which occurred some ten to fifteen thousand years ago, when the Morrigi empire appears to have reached its maximal astroterritorial extent and its pinnacle of architectural and technological achievement. Ruins dating to this era are still found in some star systems which are not presently held by Morrigi colonists and seem to be seldom visited by Morrigi fleets.
Morrigi culture mandates that male and female offspring be divided into gender-segregated communities in early infancy. Male Morrigi spend their lives from infancy to senescence in space, living aboard nomadic starships which travel constantly from star to star. Female Morrigi are terrestrial creatures for the duration of their lives, raised in full gravity and adapted accordingly to planetary conditions.
The Suuligi WarEdit
For several thousand years, the relationship between Morrigi and other sentient species seems to have been largely peaceful, centered on limited cultural exchange and trade. In the past century, however, the Morrigi have suffered catastrophic losses in a war with an enemy they call “Suuligi”. Analysis of bone fragments recovered from the surface of Irridia V and the pilot of the vessel recovered on Wiira reveal an indisputable genetic similarity between the two. At this point it seems very clear that the outpost destroyed on Irridia must have been a small Morrigi colony, likely populated by female Morrigi pursuing scientific research. Similar attacks may have been launched by Species Y, the creators of the Zuul, on multiple Morrigi worlds. There is also evidence of combat and desecration of ancient Morrigi monuments which may have taken place at roughly the same time.
Modern Morrigi tribesman are tight-lipped on the subject of the enemy. Originally, “Screamers“ and “Suuligi“ are both mentioned in transmissions about the war, and SolForce translators may have assumed the two terms were used interchangeably. However, further intelligence has shown that “Screamers“ (in Morrigi “Kragodai“, literally “those who are made to scream“) are not identified with the tribal suffix that indicates a collective identity and are separate entities from both the “Suuligi“ and the “Zuligi“ (the Morrigi term for the Zuul) and are in fact three distinct references. Mounting evidence also suggests, that Species Y—known by the Zuul as “the Great Masters”, by the Morrigi as “Suuligi“, and by the Liir as “Suul’ka”—were a powerful military and technological force in this sector of the galaxy until a relatively short time ago. Finding the former homeworld and colonial outposts of this star-faring species, which appears to have disappeared practically overnight, is an urgent priority for all intelligence agencies. If Species Y was in fact destroyed by biological warfare, as their Liirian enemies claim, they have left behind an incalculable wealth of infrastructure, technology and scientific knowledge. The first species to find and back engineer the remnants of their civilization might gain a key advantage over competing species.
Morrigi display a mosaic of biological traits loosely associated with reptile, mammal and avian life forms. They appear to have evolved from an arboreal omnivore, and still consume a varied diet, but the emphasis on protein and fats suggests that the earliest ancestors may have been ambush predators. Physical traits are expressed differently by males and females of the species, but the sexual dimorphism observed may be only partially biological; a great deal of the divergence between sexes may be caused by cultural practices which significantly shape the bodies of male and female Morrigi in very different ways as they develop from infancy to adulthood.
The basic Morrigi torso is long and serpentine, with a length of approximately six meters from nose-tip to tail-tip in the largest female specimen found to date—males appear to be significantly smaller in all cases, reaching a maximum length of three meters. There are eight limbs along the length of the body. Two pairs of grasping limbs are found on the upper torso, each with opposable digits and a broad range of motion through shoulder and wrist. The third limb pair evolved into a pair of wings at some point during Morrigi evolution, likely when they were far less massive creatures; this wing pair extends to a wide span in the male and still allows him to achieve short bursts of atmospheric flight. The wings appear to be vestigial and useless for flight in the female, but may retain some emotive or display function in social settings.
In both male and female Morrigi, a pattern of reptilian scales covers the body. Scales have developed a feather-like consistency over the wing pair, and similar feather-scale plumage is observed on the head and tail; the latter scales are highly colorful in the male. A fourth limb pair above the tail marks the end of the organ cavity and is armed with a larger and more robust set of grasping claws. The prehensile tail extends for a considerable distance, sometimes nearly doubling the length of the body, and in the male of the species is sometimes arrayed with an impressive second fan of display plumage.
Internally, the Morrigi possess an unusual cardiovascular system, with four functioning hearts, four pairs of lungs and eight subtly hidden additional breathing orifices arranged along the length of the body. The organ cavity in both sexes is armored by a long pectoral girdle which anchors over seventy rib sets, and behaves very much like a second spine.
The natural Morrigi lifespan varies from 200-400 years. Both male and female Morrigi are highly intelligent and possess some psionic ability, although this ability is expressed very differently in the two sexes. Consult the article about their “Sexually Dimorphic Traits” for further information.
Given that the modern Morrigi may be the descendants of a more advanced Morrigi civilization, and that a great many technological secrets of their forebears appear to be lost to them, the technological complex they still possess is quite impressive. Central to this techno-culture is a highly advanced skill for building and programming pilotless drones, an uncanny control over gravimetric weapons, and a unique faster-than-light engine called the Void Cutter.
A Void Cutter engine, once engaged, will quickly accelerate its attendant craft to a speed just slightly in excess of the speed of light. In so doing, however, the engine appears to create a ripple of disturbance—a “bow wave” of space-time distortion which flows around the body of the ship. This bow wave has several principles which Morrigi shipwrights and pilots have learned to take advantage of over the centuries, the most salient of which is that other ships employing a similar engine can enter into the slipstream of the foremost vessel, conjoin their own “bow wave” to that of the leader, and achieve faster-than-light speed without wasting the majority of their energy to create the initial disruption. All ships following the lead vessel in a Morrigi flight pattern can devote the majority of their energy to forward thrust, rather than using it to crack the void.
The more Morrigi vessels are joined into a single flight, the faster the fleet as a whole will move, as the engines of all engines but one will be applied to thrust, while only the lead ship—the Void Cutter—will be devoting the majority of its energy to disrupting the fabric of space-time. Morrigi travel slowest alone, and fastest when in large numbers.
Little is known about the social behaviors of the pre-stellar Morrigi or the Morrigi of the so-called “Golden Age”. For the past several thousand years their society has been made up of many loosely affiliated and often highly competitive tribes, once largely independent of one another. Today, all surviving Morrigi tribes have formed a confederation for mutual defense, after recent losses in a war which took place some hundred years ago. Modern Morrigi look for leadership to a single Morrigi war-leader, the so-called “Morru Qu’aan”. War is an unusual undertaking for modern Morrigi. In general, it appears that they prefer to use other societies as trading partners rather than engage in military conflict.
Given that both male and female Morrigi are highly intelligent, highly competitive and often territorial, it may be inferred that wars were more frequent at some point during their history. Until the past century, however, “war” among their people was unknown and combat was a relatively bloodless ritual carried out at regular gathering festivals, when tribal groups would come together in certain regions of space. This changed with the arrival of a species which the Morrigi call “the Screamers”.
The heart and soul of traditional Morrigi culture has always been the complex relationship between males and females. Each of the two sexes has its own lifeway and a widely different realm of social concerns. Female Morrigi are traditionally land-bound, and have developed a terrestrial hierarchy based on ownership of bounded planetary property, industry, the use of capital, the control of physical resources and the building of urban environments. Male Morrigi are stellar nomads, and have developed a nomadic hierarchy based on control of vast regions of space, trade routes, and access to desirable areas resources—including the privilege of descent to court available females for rights of marriage and economic alliance.
This curious division of society has created a complex web of dependence and exchange between the two sexes. Beyond the need to come together for mating and propagation of genes, male and female Morrigi are dependent on one another to meet crucial economic and political needs. Morrigi females depend on their relationships with allied male fleet groups to fuel the economy with needed resources and trade goods, as well as to provide defense for their vulnerable worlds and assert power within the political system. Morrigi males depend on their relationships with female corporate fifes to build, arm, fuel, provision and repair the starships which are simultaneously their lives and their livelihoods, as well as provide them with a steady supply of new tribesmen.
Over millennia, the Morrigi have evolved elaborate courtship rituals which establish and maintain these social, political, economic and sexual relationships. On the broad social level, female groups strive to build and maintain the cities, colonies and shipyards which make them attractive to males, to achieve a steady flow of male traffic and alliance. Morrigi females often will build impressive structures to assert their prowess as artists, architects and scientists, presenting these impressive monuments as evidence of tribal power. By contrast, male groups will develop their fighting skills in order to give a good showing in inter-tribal competition (see “The Honing”). Trading and navigation skills are also developed to the maximal extent, and male Morrigi often compete both within the tribal group and more savagely with other tribal groups to seek the most beautiful and exotic item from the most far-flung world to offer females as evidence of their value as Traders.
The Morrigi lust for unusual objects is a strong motivating force within their society. Items from distant planets are sought, exchanged and avidly collected by both male and female Morrigi as fetishes of power. Temples which collect and display these objects are sacred, representing the ultimate expression of tribal identity and the union of male and female groups. A sufficiently rare and precious object can cement a rite of marriage between thousands of individuals, male and female, who belong to the corresponding tribes.
On the individual level, both males and females of the species are considered valuable mating partners if they evince high intelligence and psionic ability. The physical beauty of the male is highly prized, as is “charm” (the ability to project a powerful Glamour), speed and martial ability. Females are valued for strength and wealth, and many males find the most irresistible mates are those who “see through” them the most easily; this is a sign of high psionic resistance and is highly prized, possibly because such mates and the alliances they represent will be neither easily gained—nor easily lost.