Shrykes were large and intelligent birds, known for their cruelty.
During the Quint and Twig trilogies, shrykes were nomadic slavers, running the Great Shryke Slave Market in the Deepwoods. Later they took control of the Great Mire Road, establishing their capital at the Eastern Roost. For a number of years the shrykes were the dominant species on the Edge, as their control of the Great Mire Road allowed them to dominate the Edge's trading and commerce. Their fortunes changed at the Battle of Lufwood Mount, when the shryke army was smashed by the warriors of the Free Glades.
Shrykes were essentially large, bipedal birds. Females were slightly larger than Fourthlings, and often bulkier, with thick, bright plumage and viciously sharp, curved beaks and talons. Males, usually referred to as shryke-mates, were much smaller and scrawnier, with duller plumage.
Shrykes were immune to the insanity-inducing effects of the Twilight Woods. This was what initially allowed them to take control of the Mire Road. Vox Verlix, the road's original architect, realised he would need people to man the sections of the road which lay within the Twilight Woods. He charged the shrykes with this duty, and they accepted. Later they used their position to assume control of the road in its entirety.
Shryke fledglings had to be watched constantly to prevent them from devouring each other.
Shryke-mates were subservient to female shrykes, and were typically led around on leashes as slaves or pets. The Elite Shryke Sisterhood was a group of particularly vicious and powerful shryke sisters who acted as warriors. Presiding over a roost of shrykes was the Roost-Mother. The vibrancy of a shryke's plumage, sharpness of talons and beak, and physical size connoted her level of power.
Most of the more prominent shryke-sisters were ruthless, sadistic, and bloodthirsty. In battle, shrykes principally fought with talon and beak, though they also used crude weapons like flails, whips, and spears. On the battlefield it was common for shrykes to devour their enemies while still alive. Their culture approved of slavery, and as Varis Lodd put it, found it easy to believe in treachery, too. Shrykes were largely feared and distrusted by most inhabitants of the Edge. However, some shrykes were more civilized, even valiant and good.