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Birds of Faerûn
From the writings of Hazgeilon Bharaidii of Alaghôn.
Most Honored Reader; I am honored to here show me the collected results of my travels of the northern lands that you probably think of as barbaric. True it is a land of dangers, monster and petty anarchy seldom seen in the faire reaches of our land, but I hope to show you that there is also beauty beyond the Gulthmere forest. Not only in the wildlife which is the theme of this tome, but also in the land it self and in the people with their myths, beliefs and individual tastes. But mostly i hope to give you a piece of the pleasure it has been for me to write this book.
May Oghma and Milill of the Beautiful song bless this work and you dear reader.
In my travels of the north-lands I have to say to have met few birds as loved as this little waterbird. In the charming backwoods of the Dales one can see the hardiest of fighting men cry over the sight of this bird, something one rarely sees in these semi-barbarous lands. In my opinion it is a result of beneficial influence from the elves who until reasonably lived in these lands. Most of my knowledge of this bird i got from a peddler of crockery from Archendale when i rested out from the hardy travels trough the western lands in a Marsember inn called The Roaring Griffon.
This Blue-green relative of the Kingfisher is common along the entire length of the Ashaba river and its many sub-courses. The bird is slightly smaller than the common kingfisher and the green of their wings clearer. There is relatively little difference between the sexes except for a slight reddish tone on the head-feathers of some males. These are generally the most successful males.
The Ashaba fisher lives mainly in the the lower branches of the Rhododendron thickets along the banks and nests in holes and crevices in the older branches and trunks of trees near the river. The fare consists mainly of the small silvery jaseti-fish and water-insects found in the shallows.
The birds are territorial and are well adapted to surviving the winters of the Cormanthor woods. Usually the only time during a Ashabafishers lifetime it travels for any length is right after leaving its nest, as it searches out its own territory. The females usually outnumbers the males for parts of the season as there is a tendency for the latter to fall pray to predators both under their dances over the water surface, trying to impress the females, and in fishing deeper out in the water when feeding the chicks in the summer months. Because of this it is common for several females territories to over-link the males, but the yearling males usually challenges the old males each spring, so the dance of the birds continues as it has done for years unnumbered.
The rest of Faerun knows the diminutive bird mainly trough Storm Silverhands ode to the bird, called The Song of Mantilia. Here the bard of Shadowdale pays homage to the at times tragicomic sincerity of male would-be lovers. In its basest forms and in the hands of performers of little talent it becomes a ribald comedy, but a true bard, with a sense of the originals nuances, sees this work for what it is, one of the realms greatest homages to the loosing dreamer.
Most people rarely find themselves noticing or even thinking of the Ashabafisher, as the bird rarely flies out of the wooded riverbanks and is, as far as one knows, silent despite various poetic licenses taken by second rate bards when singing about the river in the romantic ballads so popular in Aszouns Cormyr.
Only the luckiest of river sailors get a short glimpse of the small body hurling spear-like towards the water-surface. And then just as quickly returning to its hiding among the shadows. River people in the Dales often say its a lucky sign for lovers to see the males dancing over the river in the courtship, which takes place in the second week of Tarsakh.
This is of most importance in Deepingdale, where any engagements and decision to share a life together is traditionally announced in the courtship-period of the birds. Most couples see it as a bad sign to not see the birds dance in this period, so it is common to travel to known nesting-places of Ashabafishers a couple of days before the announcement is made. The most desperate even travel north to the lands around the pool of Yeven where the greatest concentration of birds can be found.
So, if you ever end up traveling along the great river winding its way through the great elven woodlands, keep your eyes open for this small servant of Sune. At the least you will see a sight of beauty and grace; and maybe, if you are really lucky maybe the Goddess herself will smile down upon you.
The Azure Thrush
The next bird I want to tell you about is an old friend. We make take the Azure Thrush for granted when we ride through the meadows and vineyards around Alaghon, but remember that the most common sights may be the greatest sight of beauty if seen for the first time.
You may ask why I include this bird as we see it daily? Well, believe it or not, the Azure Thrush is not common throughout all of Turmish the Beautiful, and the people of the great cities does not see the bird as one should. This is the bird that the Tethen people of the north call the Bards teacher and that even in the northern city of Berdusk is treated with a reverence one seldom see for creatures of the wild, even with the Tethen peoples legendary love for birds this birds place is special. In our coastal cities the glaring sounds from the docks and the halls near the markets give the bird a distorted and ugly note in its voice and more than one ignorant city dweller has mocked the northern bard that sing his homage to the bird.
I must admit that although I have had many joyous hours listening to the birds song most of my information about the life of the Azure Thrush comes from Jhaelder Illbraen, a perfectly lovely young man I met in Berdusk. He had spent a couple of seasons as a caravan guard and had had many opportunities to study the bird, now making a living in the city of the northern bards he still daily listens to the birds singing from the poplar stands around the Twilight Hall, a center of sorts to the bards of these lands. Those who talk of the northerners barbaric habits and uncouth manners should maybe try to travel outside our fair nations borders once in a while; but i digress.
The Azure Thrush is a big bird, about the size of a small magpie. It is known throughout rural Faerun for its beautiful singing and the colour of its plumage which have been likened with The Sea of Fallen Stars on the clearest day. In the lands around the northern rivers of Chionthar and Winding Water the bird has since unknown times been known as a patron of bards, a belief that with time has spread to the children of old Jaamdath in their new northern homelands.
The bird is a beautiful sight, with a lovely voice and a rather bland taste; all of this makes the Azure Thrush common around human settlements as well as in the wild-lands. The exception is some areas of the lands where the Shoonites once held court; here a bastardized version of the Tethen peoples love for the bird has made it a popular pet among the wealthy to keep in their gardens.
The Azure Thrush is an insect-eater, which only increase its standing with farmers. There is little difference between the sexes, even if the male is slightly larger. The birds only stay together for the nesting-season and in the spring the song of the males trying to impress the females can be overpowering. The nests are usually found in dense bushes and hedges. They rarely nest in trees except for at times in evergreens up north. In most habits they bare a strong resemblance to other thrushes like the Blackbird.
In the winters it uses its strong beak to dig for insects under the leaves in areas south of Neverwinter. Even if it can not be called a migrating bird it generally travels south during the arctic winters. This accounts for the largest population density of the birds being in the lands south of the High Moors.
The Azure Thrush has its habitat in light forest and stands of trees anywhere where one can see the sun shining through the leaves. It is not found on the great plains of the south and the west and is rarely seen in mountainous terrain. The edges of the great forest of Cormanthor is known to hold a population of the birds, but their presence was a blessing even the elves had to live without in the center of the forest.
The Birds are known for their hour-long concerts from the treetops, often flowering fruit trees. It has been suggested that the Azure Thrush has a better developed sense of smell than most birds and that the aroma from the surrounding flowers somehow increase the birds instinct to sing. Others, more romantically inclined, say that the birds give thanks to Sune for their beauty in these trees.
What most people don't notice in our bustling cities is that each bird has a song that in small nuances sets it apart from other of its kind. Every birds song is unique and it also has a tendency to work its song around the sounds of its surroundings thereby constantly changing its tune. This is not a pure imitation of sound, it is more correct to say that it sings along with the world around it. This is often taken advantage of by bards of the north that use the bird as a acompanigment to their own playing or song. Mages are also known to use the birds beak and blood as components for their spell casting and writing.
Some northern rangers and bards with great knowledge of the wilds claim that they are able to make judgements about the creatures living in an area based on the song of the Azure Thrush, but this is doubted by Jhaelder as well as my self. Another story that I can more or less confirm is that harpys are known to hate this bird more than any other form of life and that a lack of Azure Thrush in a area can often be a sign of these foul creatures presence.
The next bird I am going to tell you about I really saw no reason to include, but my dear Jhaelder convinced me that even if it is one of the more humble of birds it deserved its place in this tome. He told me that even if most people hardly notice the small birds, there are lands where the farmers do not laugh over the birds pompous name and live in fear of the hordes from the skies.
Among the caravans and travelers of the northern plains the Grassdragon is a constant, if unseen companion that the guides and rangers use to predict weather changes. According to Jhaelder, this is of little use as the birds are hardly more sensitive to the changes of the air than other birds and one could just as well watch the flight of aerial insects-eaters. As I said, there is not so much to say about the Grassdragon, but what little I learned from Jhaelder follows below.
The Grassdragon is a small Tit-like bird found throughout the grasslands of western faerun. The birds plumage has a brown over-side and a white underside. At each side of its beak it has two feathery ”moustaches” that has given the bird the jokingly name of Moustache Tit along the caravan routs. The Grassdragons live in great migratory groups all over the long-grass plains east of the Swordcoast and in the lands of old Shoon in summer and the lands of great Shaar during the winter. The birds are usually silent, except for a low Piip,Piip that you can notice if you listen carefully. Jhaelder tells me that it is of little use trying to use the birds silence as a warning sign, as they only react to whats happening within a radius of about four meters.
In spite of their numbers the bird is rarely seen by the riders trough the grass seas and most people never guess that they are surrounded by hundreds of the curious birds. The reason for this is simple; to the birds the grass sea is a forest they rarely leave except when under direct attack. The exception is during the early spring and late fall when the birds migrate in great numbers.
As they travel trough Amn, Tethyr and Calimshan on their way it has become a tradition ( and necessity) to harvest and sow right before and right after the birds come through. It is interesting to note that the bird in these lands are seen as servants of Talos, which gives one an idea of the damage the birds can do to a field. Even the priests in these countries use the fear of the birds as a warning to the peasants, a fear the faithful of Chaunthea have not managed to remove.
The rest of the year the birds hide in the grass and jump from straw to straw more than they fly and even nest in boles made by weaving straws together with lighter grasses and feathers. If you walk on foot in to the tall-grasses you will see dozens of small, delicate ”huts” hanging between the straws. These are made by the male and female together and will contain two broods a year, three to four eggs. These nests are safe from most of the smaller predators and birds of pray, but contain a tasty morsel for plains foxes and wolfs traveling trough the grass. Large scale raiding of nests is often a sign of Kobolts or Goblins, who regard the eggs as a delicacy. If the nest is ruined in the first hatching the birds will not lay a second brood that year.
One myth I have heard, but found Jhaelder strangely unwilling to comment, is the story that somewhere in the Fields of the Dead there is a small fairy race that use the birds as steeds during the summer months and that and under ground during winter. I had read about these pixipeople in the journals of Hadhrioor Mabriahn, a linen-merchant that traveled the northern plains extensively about two generations ago, but found that the northerners either scoffed at the stories or went strangely silent.
The Bastet Hummingbird
One night I was strolling along the waterfront of Marsember trying to walk of the strain of a hard nights work (by the name of Inataia) when I suddenly heard a song of the most striking beauty coming from the window of a tall house on the nearest island. Without thinking I hurried over the bridge and knocked on the door. I was met by a little old lady that quite reluctantly told me that this was the house of the lady Dhamina, the Hummingbird mage of Deepingdale. Quite smitten by the song I asked without thinking if I could speak to the lady. The servant didn't seem to like the look of me, but she told me to wait a moment and when she returned, led me up the stairs to the lady's study.
The lady Dhamina was a middle aged brunette with a taste for bawdy jokes and ruby red Chondathan shawls, that would turn out to be one of my greatest sources for this tome. For the price of me resiting all the poems of the great master Jhamgair Dhariir that I had in my memory, she shared with me her extensive knowledge of the birds of Cormanthor. It is therefore my pleasure to dedicate this entry to the bird which had become her namesake.
The Bastet hummingbird got its human name from the first Chondathan settlers which had never seen a hummingbird along the northern coast of that now rotten country, but knew stories of them from the inland. They gave them the name half in joke because of the birds curiosity and fluttering search for the sweet nectars. Even today one can sit in the Dalelands with the birds fluttering mere inches from ones head as the birds with their great speed have few natural enemies except for giant spiders and nest-robbers. The lady Dhamina tell me that it is possible to get the birds to eat more or less from one's hand by holding a flower or a container of sugary fluid.
The Bastet Hummingbird is a tiny bird, not larger than the thumb of a grown man. It is the most beautiful member of its family I have seen in all my years and even put our native Turmish hummingbirds to shame. The birds feather, like other hummingbirds have a metallic glean and shine in the sun like the jeweled fingers of a Thayan merchant. Its backside is a dark green on both sexes, with the males breast being a glowing ruby-red and the females a combination of purple and blue. Its tail is almost as long as the bird itself and parted into two ”spears”, the rapier thin beak is the same length
Like other hummingbirds its nests in small round bowl like nests were the female tend for the hatchlings on her own. These are made of leaves and straws combined with spiderweb. Near the Spiderhaunt forest the birds make their nests entirely out of spiderweb. The male is not involved and disappears after a sort mating-season were the males try to impress as many females as possible. The courting itself finds place at the same spot generation after generation and the males gather in flocks that try to outsing each other from the branches. The Bastet Hummingbird is not a great singer and this mostly consists of chirping louder than every one else.
These courting grounds are popular hunting spots for sembian bird hunters and several of the dales have forbidden its inhabitants to tell foreigners of these places. Lady Dhamina also warns me that the elves does not take kindly to people disturbing the birds as they consider them holy to one of their goddesses.
The bird is a native of old Cormanthor and is found nowhere else in Faerun. The lady Dhamina tell me that it is mentioned even in the oldest elven song as a sibling of the forest orchids and when one has seen a flock of the hummingbirds buzzing around the flowers and bushes in the dales, one is inclined to agree. Even if there is over half a dozen species of hummingbird in Cormanthor this bird is unique in that it stays in the great forest even during the winter months, where as the other birds travel south across the sea to the lands of Vilhon and the heathen empires of the east.
This surprised me as I could not understand how the birds could survive even the relatively mild Coldmonths this far north. Lady Dhamina laughed and told me that the forest of Cormanthor holds more secret sand wonders than a human could learn in a lifetime. One of these is the snow-orchid of Miliiran, a magical flower that blooms on the trunks of the great trees during the Coldmonths and that carries a heart of nectar in its core that the elves since before Cormanthor have used for perfume-making. As the winters have few insects even on the hottest days the birds have this morsel more or less for them selves. She also told me that the elven magic that gives the forest its comfortable clime, in some places deep in the old elven lands, gathered in pockets of warmth were Silvanus and Chauntheas children lived in an endless summer, untroubled by the winters surrounding them. This had made it possible for some species that usually could not survive this far north to survive.
My dear lady Dhamina told me about this bird late at night and with the wind and rain banging against the colored glass windows of finest Gildenglade make. I still suspect that she had been waiting for just the right occasion to scare my beard of all my ancestors. Lady Dhamina was just telling me about the excellent contact that she has with the master Merrewill Guildenpeaks, who also supplies her with the the glasses and beakers that she supplies the southern Cormyr with, when she suddenly let out the most godawful scream I have ever heard. As I sat there on the floor in a pool of the finest Berduskian, she started to tell of the great carnivorous bird of Cormanthor. I must say the effect of her story on me was rather strong and I cant remember ever being as nervous as I was, walking home in the early morning hours. Unfortunately I can not retell her story or the mannerism of that usually so lovely woman as she was scaring the life out of both me and my ancestors.
Lady Dhamina admitted to me later that she had never actually seen this creature herself and everything she told me was secondhand knowledge from other people of the Dales.
This bird is rare in today's Dalelands, but in the inner darkness of Cormanthor one can still hear the scream that made the first Dalesmen fall to their knees in prayers to the gods for mercy. In old tales this ”Featherwolf” was the bane of many a dalesman and still today it is used to scare children from going to deep into the forest. Many of these stories are old as the Dales themselves, but despite the arrogant conclusions of Sembian sages, one can still find the bird in the inner Cormanthor and the borders of some of the Dales.
The Bloodbeak is related to the Axebeak and other flightless birds of pray found near the High Moors and in the Shaar, but stands a little smaller than most of these. But if you think this makes the bird less dangerous you are badly mistaken. The Bloodbeak stands around 6ft counting the long neck with powerful legs and a disproportionally large head. The beak is a dark shade of yellow and hooked like the beak of the Aarachocra. Some sages in Chondath have speculated that the Bloodbeak is a primitive relative of the Arachocra and maybe a forefather of sorts. To my knowledge no one has dared to ask the bird men about their opinion on the subject. The bird has a gray-black skin and brown feathers that makes it impossible to see until it moves when one travels in the half-gloom of the forest.
The bird is common in the more hilly and heavily overgrown areas of the forest where it hides in between dead-falls and ferns. It is not the fastest runner and a grown man can usually outrun them in open terrain over distance. Most of their pray consists of wild boars and other herbivores, but it knows no fear of two legged creatures, anything smaller then themselves will do.
In some cases lone birds has been known to jump down on pray from logs and rock outcroppings, but generally their method of hunting is rather simple. Wait in hiding until something passes by and then rush it screaming in hope of paralyzing the pray with fear. One usually find the bird in groups of four to ten and they will then at times employ wolfpack tactics against bigger and faster pray. In the nesting season the packs will generally split up into one or two pairs and retreat to the farthest reaches of the forest for about three months. It is when the birds return to their usual haunts with the half-grown hatchlings that they are at their most dangerous with the parents taking any possibility to try to teach their young to hunt.
Among the wild elves of the forest the bird has played a special role since the beginning of elven memory. In the world of the forest elves the bird is among the most feared of the forests inhabitants as more young hunters have fallen for their powerful beaks and claws than to almost any other carnivore or monster. On the other side several of the clans have the bird as their totem and in earlier time it was a right of passage of sorts for the young to hunt the Bloodbeak. Even today the old of the tribes say that it is the Bloodbeak that teaches them how to hunt and that the spirits of the birds follow them in war if the forest lands are threatened. I find it a little strange that the elves rank the bird with monsters such as the fang dragon while they scoff of creatures that I myself would find a much bigger threat. According to lady Dhamina this has as much to do with the elves ideas of the spiritworld as it has with the concrete danger the birds are in their daily lives.
Also among the faithful of Malar and some clans of goblinoids the Bloodbeak hold a high position in myths and world view. In some cases the spring rituals and courtships are made up to simulate the birds violent dances and mating acts. The more decadent festhalls of northern Sembia also supply a special Bloodbeak service, where one mock hunts a partner (or more)in a forested garden area. There are also rumors from Ordolin of an alternative version of this where one is polymorphed into the bird and kill the intended victim instead of enjoying them sexually, but I can not verify these stories.
The Chionthar hawk
Even sitting here among hundreds of scrolls and ornamented mahogany furniture I can still remember the joyous feeling in my heart the first time i saw the great fisher of the great river Chionthar. I was traveling with a caravan destines for the markets of Baldurs Gate and we had had some trouble with raiding hobgoblins that led the caravan master to decide that we should rest out for a few days along the slow-traveling waterway. His scouts, a couple of wild looking tethen from the interior near the Highmoors led us to a semi-permanent campground for the Riverfolk were we were sold some of the best brandy I have drunk in all my travels. I have not here the space to dwell further on the subject of the tethen of the river, as it is a subject worthy of a tome of its own.
As I was laying at the sloping hill over the river, relaxed and warmly enjoying the summer sun on my body, I suddenly heard a splash from the river and saw a shadow flying fast as a northern storm wind over my head. I jumped up and to the amusement of my companions, two drovers by the name of Imalljaher and Astarata, lost my balance and rolled ignobly into the thick Rush along the riverbank.
When I had finally crawled up the hill, giving the sun a nice view of the moon, I asked the two merry jokers what the shadow had been. They both got very serious and seemed reluctant to tell me, but finally Imalljaher told me that what I had seen was a Chionthar hawk. They told me that the bird held a special place in the beliefs of the people of these lands and agreed to tell me about the hawk and take me to a spot where I could observe them if I also promised to never hurt a member of the species if I ever saw one.
The Chionthar hawk (My observations lead me to believe that it is really a Harrier, but it is called a hawk so hawk it is.)is about the size of a Goshawk. It is a low-flying bird with a very light underside going to white at the lower part of the head and the tail-feathers. The over-side is a dark shade of brown. The species live in monogamous pairings that keep together until death. It is unusual for a bird to find itself a new partner later. The birds usually nests as close as possible to the riverbank, preferably in thick willow-stands or other thick vegetation. Of the the two eggs lain each year only one hatchling usually survives. As the name says, the Chiontharhawks main pray is the fish of the Chionthar, but waterbirds and swimming rodents will also be taken when the possibility arises.
The hawks are aggressive against intruders and utter a harsh Kii sound as a warning. Astarata told me that in old times this scream was imitated by the tethen warriors attacking the Shoon legions crossing the river. Imalljaher said he thought that the Calishites habit of enslaving the birds in their garden is a sort of symbolic revenge for losses to tethen tribesmen trough the ages. This fashion have now spread to the lordlings of the Border kingdoms, where an egg or hatchling can be sold for as much as a thousand dantars. You should be warned, a nest-robber will be killed directly by most rural tethen, especially around the big rivers of the western heartlands. Even among the people of the Dragoncoast you will get a negative reaction. The reason for this is the role the Chionthar hawk plays in tethen culture.
I know that some scribes of fair Alaghon and Chondath the Rotten, say that there is no such thing and I advise them to travel to the villages of the Western Heartlands and make that statement. I apologise if you find the information I am going to tell you barbaric or shocking.
Among traditional tethens the Chionthar hawk is said to be the protector of women and it is tradition for a girl to carry white feathers from the bird during her first bleeding. These feathers will be marked with blood that are used to see the future of the woman's children. The feathers are then put in individual small pouches that will be given to a child at its day of the second naming except for one that she keeps her self. The young boy will carry the feather with him for the rest of his live while the girl will burn the feather in meditation at the time of her own first bleeding. Astarata told me that they believe that a little part of the soul of the woman travels with the feather and protects the man as a medallion whilst it goes up in the daughters own soul.
It is said that if one looses the feather one looses contact with the soul and the soul of the ancestors. I would think that if you could capture a tethens feather you would have a pretty good blackmailing tool. This led me to think of the tales I had heard of the Swanmays of the Northlands; could these be a special order of tethen mystics. When I proposed this to Imalljaher and Astarata they both laughed; of course there were people that could take the shape of birds, the birds were of the same spirits as man so why should the shapes be different?
None of them would tell me more of the background or role of these Birdmaidens
I asked him if it was usual for these traditions to be practised today. They both laughed and Imalljaher showed me a small leather pouch sewn into the inside of his boot. I would be surprised he said, if I knew how many of the old traditions that can be found among tethens even in far of countries. He admitted that he himself had only traveled the lands between Baldurs gate and Iriabor, but he could not believe that the tethens of the south and Dragoncoast had completely left the old ways.
The Chirper is an other of those small and seemingly insignificant creatures that one pass daily and hardly give a thought. But it would surprise you how many stories there are tied to this bird throughout Faerun.
During my travels of the lands around Berdusk I often heard the locals bless the little bird for protecting them from the raiders of the Black Lord of the Moonsea and Bugbears from the deep. The Tethen peoples know the bird as the enemy of the Nightdancers children and say its a servant of Selune protecting one against the Shadow-lord (Mask) and the Death-rider (Bhaal).
A legend found among the Dalesmen of Cormanthor holds the bird to be the last part of Tyches individual being in Faerun as its warnings and song will in ones life amount to as much aggravation as blessing. And I must say that traveling trough the back country of southern Cormyr, trying to recuperate after the lady Dhaminas extensive study of the oral traditions of Turmish, I soon found the birds one of the most annoying creatures I have ever met. No matter where I rode one of the little demons flew up singing its heart out, and when five birds sings its own little melody at the same time it is more a case of ruckus than beauty.
This lark, common throughout most of Faerun has been the object of curses from hunters and raiders since the beginning of time and life's ascent from the primeval muck. The Chirper is a small brown bird with a greenish-yellow speckled chest the size of a woman's palm. It is known for its alertness and constant vigilance towards its surroundings. If a living( well, moving I should say) being larger than itself comes within fifty yards it will take to its wings and sing its heart out until it leaves its territory. As the chirpers generally nests near each other the leaving of one birds territory will generally only get an other bird going. The bird live in bushes and hedges, sometimes in stone-heaps and fences, where it lives of small insects and seeds. Its habits are much like those of our own Turmish Kalandra Lark and the Bahjadan bird of the Perloush. It can handle winters chill to a degree, but the areas from the Moonsea and north in the east and High Moor in the west will usually get to cold for the bird who will migrate towards the areas of the Dragoncoast and the Shining plains.
There has always been a good relationship between the Chirper and farmers that use the birds nesting around the farm as guards. Among the Hin of the lowlands in the shadows of the Sunset Mountains it is common practise to feed the birds trough the wintertime and in some cases the birds will stay through the winters in evergreens and stone-heaps located against the Hin barrows, where the extra warmth makes their lives in the cloak of the northern goddess a little easier. Attempts by city dwellers in Cormyr and Sembia to semi-domesticate the birds as both a diversion for its song and a practical warning system against burglars and assassins, have failed. It seems that its only the Hin that have a special hand with the birds, and the Hin I talked to in Berdusk told me that it is a special gift to the Hin of the Sunset Vale given to them by their goddess Yondalla.
My good lady Dhamina the Hummingbird mage told me when I asked her about the Chirper, that it is still commonly blessed by the people of the eastern Cormyr and is there looked upon as a symbol of vigilance. This goes back to a local tradition that king Rhiegard I was warned of an ambush by the Shoonite mages during his wars in the west. She could not say if the story had any ties to an historic incident, but said she had found examples of other scribes talking of the tradition in the times of the Winter Spinx of Westgate.
Of course, if one were to ask any group that depends on stealth or silence, on will get a totally different opinion of the bird which have destroyed the day for more hunters than any other creature in our blessed world.
I remember once as a young student under the honorable Bhadaian Nobrathan walking through the corridors of white and pink marble with the leaf decorated open archways and windows. I remember looking out over the great gardens that at the time were the talk among the upper classes of the city and the irritation of the rest of the city's elitist academic circle.
One day I heard the a cry as of a frightened child and ran through the beds of giant lilies and Gulthmeran woman-orchids (I use the polite term for the readers sake) to try to help. I came suddenly to a stop as I stood on a small opening of the walled forest; there before me was the largest bird I had ever seen. Even sitting on the ground it stood almost as tall as me, but what caught my eyes were those feathers. I had never seen anything as radiant even in the Master's gardens with green colour almost sparkling in the sun. This was my first sight of the Emerald Eagle.
I must admit that even after all these years the one thing I was hoping most for traveling north was to see these great birds in their natural environment. It took me close to a year before I got a small glimpse of a pack hunting elk whilst I was staying with the Hin of the Sunset vale. There is no words in any language spoken around the Sea of Fallen Stars that can express my feeling that day.
Unfortunately I found that most people of the Northlands have a far less glamorous picture of the bird, as it is a threat to livestock and travelers alike.
This bird of prey is one of the largest avians of Faerun, with the exception of the so called ”giant birds”. It is a dark emerald coloured eagle with a silvery shine to its back in the sunshine. It has a wingspan of about four yards and is quite slim and light of built for an eagle, more like a giant buzzard. The head is typical for an eagle with a powerful beak and large yellow eyes. The birds are monogamous and the nests can be found at the highest mountain tops of the Sunset mountains and western Storm horns. Some small groups have been seen in the mountainous areas surrounding the High Moor, but I cant say for sure if this is a sign that this beautiful bird is spreading its territory or disappearing from the northern lands. They usually come back to the same nests each year and the whole flock of birds usually nests pretty close to each other. There is usually a reaction from one of the pair if even a flock mate gets to close to the nest.
One of the greatest differences between the Emerald eagle and other great birds of prey is that they actually hunt in groups and therefore attack far larger prey than is usual for birds. Each pack of eagles usually consists of between four and eight eagles (more as the hatchlings are learning to hunt) that scout individually over their collected territory.
When a large prey is discovered the spotter will circle like a Shaaran vulture to attract the other birds. The birds will then start harrying the pray to wear it out and employ dive attacks to bleed it into exhaustion. The desperate prey will be forced to run the gauntlet as the birds attack it from both flanks and tear its back to pieces with claws and beak. Generally they remind one more of canine hunters than birds. Using these method the eagles has been seen hunting pray as large as auroch and bison even if they usually go for slightly smaller pray. Some flocks have been known to drive their prey toward cliff-sides and falls where the panicked animal is forced into a fall that will kill or mangle it to make the birds Job easier. These groups often hunts the largest prey.
The birds are not found near dragons or perytons as both these creatures are competitors. Especially the perytons will attack the birds with a hatred they usually save for humans.
The strange coloring of the bird as well as its habits has led some people to believe that the eagle is the result of an experiment from the cursed empire of Netheril that once spread its glory and terror over the northern lands that we now know as Anauroch.
These theories I have discussed with the honorable sage Dezalun of Procampor, with whom I had a chance meeting with in Berdusk and who is one of our times most knowledgeable persons on magical creatures, aside from Dadhailaia of Arrabar, Thileion Simarera and the sage of Shadowdale. He told me that he does not believe that there is any magical origin for the eagle. Instead he believes that it is a guest in Faerun from an other world. One hint of this is that it has no role in tethen folklore and all my attempts to get my friends among these people to tell me of their view of the bird went unheeded.
When one thinks of a bird able to crack the armor of the crustaceans and shells one would suspect a large bird with a heavy beak. Not so with the Eprastar, the thin legged and long beaked sandpiper of the wetlands east of Cormyr. Whilst traveling to the city of Ireabor in the late spring I got the habit of always ordering a roasted Eprastar at every inn along my travel route.
It took a while before I started actually wondering about what the bird looked like in real life. I don't know about you dear reader, but I have a little trouble thinking of my meal as a living creatures. One night in the town of Priapurl I finally asked the serving maid at the excellent in the Boars head if she knew of any way for me to see a live bird. She looked me a little strangely, but asked me to wait for half an hour. When she came back she was carrying a shivering bird in her hands. I looked into the pearly black eyes of the bird so stiff with fear that I felt I was looking at the jewels of a noble woman at a spring ball.
I payed the inn the price of the meal to get the bird alive and let it loose outside of town while the town guards were shaking their heads and a wemik in the service of the local Mindugulph mercenaries calling me names I will not repeat here. I have not eaten a single Eprastar since.
The Eprastar is a medium sized long legged sandpiper with a plumage that glows as gold on the back and the clearest mountain snow on the chest. The back is speckled with brown-black stars whilst the chest is clear. These beautiful feathers are used by some Tethen men as a talisman when courting, but for some reason this is only in the eastern lands where the traditions are weakest. My bed-mates in my travels along the great Chionthar river, Imalljaher and Astarata, told me that it may have something with an old misunderstanding about the chondathans love for the golden metal, whereas the Tethen always praised the Silver of Selune. I don't give this story much credence, but it is the nearest thing to an explanation I have found.
The bird is most commonly found along the edges of the marshlands directly west of Cormyr, the Tun and Farsea’ they are more rarely found along creeks and near ponds and mires south to the Shining Plains. These latter often spend their winters along the Dragon coast. The Eprastar feed mainly on small crustaceans and shells in the pools and creeks, but will expand to insects during the summer. This is not without risque, as the fishermen of the coast regard the bird as a delicacy.
One usually finds the birds eggs in shallow, dry, depression located in the tall-grass not far from water. As with most birds nesting on the ground the eggs hatch in a very short time and the chicks leave the nest almost immediately. The parents will continue to feed them for about three weeks before they can manage to find food on their own. The marshes of the Tunlands are known to be the habitat of the Dhugin, a small crayfish that is very common in the shallows and which supply the birds with an easy source of food.
The birds have a very long and intricate courtship where the males go through long and meticiously slow dances that are said to be the inspiration for the dance of Iljahiev-dhan that can be found among the Silver elves and that I have been told, is the latest rage among the upper classes of the city of Waterdeep far to the north. My lady Dhamina told me that this dance is not found among the elves of old Elven Court and I would therefore be inclined to agree with the idea that the elves of the old western kingdoms once took inspiration for their court dances from these graceful birds. Even today it is common for priests of Lliira to travel to the Tunlands to study the birds movements and dance and the clergy of The Dancing Maiden will in the lands surrounding the Dragon coast say a prayer for the birds at the fifth day of Mirtul.
The Eprastar is also well known for its call of Tiuu-tju-hu-hu, a signal easily copied by a human whistling and a signal often used by the Tunlanders when spotting intruders to their lands. In a panicked state the bird generally fly away with a stream of clear and loud whistles
The goblins of the Faersea marshes use the birds as a guide to where to find the crayfish and I have heard some stories that seem to show an amount of respect for the bird that show them where food can be found. Some leader have forbidden the raiding of the birds nests and that they are said to also believe to have thought them how to pierce the humans heavy armour with arrows by aiming at the joints as the birds do with shells and the crayfish. Rangers I spoke with in Berdusk scoffed at these notions though and said that for each goblin that give any praise to the bird there are ten that are trying to kill it and that the Farsea goblins are the greatest nest-thieves of the marshes.
The dragon crow
While talking to a couple of the softer-handed workers of the docs of Baldurs Gate I suddenly saw a man sitting at the waterfront stuffing his pipe. He was a man about my own age with straw coloured hair and a Amnitic cotton blouse open in the front. But what really caught my eye was the mans face.
I have seen victims of back alley beatings with every bone in their face broken and I have seen the bodies of thieves hanging from city walls with their faces skinned of. For all their gruesomeness these sights still did not revolt me such or stir the kind of pity I felt at that moment. The man started fiddling with the pipe to get it lighted and I caught myself staring in morbid fascination at the patchwork of sores and scars that covered the mans face. It was as if the Grand Whip of The maiden of Pain had worked on his face for hours with her finest instruments carefully finding the strokes and gropes that would do the most damage without undoing the previous wounds. I was marveled at how the skin was able to even hold the face together.
One of my conversation partners, a young Hin by the name of Bandarin Bucklebender nudged me carefully and whispered that if I valued my life at all I would stop staring at the sailor before he noticed me. I quickly withdrew my eyes and walked over to the narrow stone steps leading up into the city itself. I drew forth a bottle of the finest Dawnwood Sherry and asked Bandarin and his partner Wabranina of the Red Scarf if they knew what had happened with the sailor. They looked at each other and finally Bandarin told me that the man had drifted to shore hurt after a shipwreck three days south of Waaterdeep; at the beach he had been found by the Dragon crows. I gave them a blank look and Wabranina asked me if I had never heard of the Crows. When I shook my head she started telling me of one of the most frightening birds I have heard of in my travels of the Northlands. I will retell the story shortly from memory without grandeur or poetic form, as I am no teller of tales or writer of stories.
Once thousand of years ago there was a dragon in the lands south of the High Moors that learned to take human shape and lived as humans and other two-footers live. The dragons name was Orogoth and with time its eggs hatched and these dragons also took the shape of humans. In time the dragons became numerous and they ruled a mighty empire that stretched from the Moors ’till the Chionthar. No one dared oppose the great dragons that were men. But finally one day after many years, one problem Orogoth had not foreseen shook the dragons world.
In the years that had passed many of the dragons children had themselves given birth to more children and some of these had been borne in human form. These children were not like their parents, with emotions and reactions the dragons could not understand. The younger dragons did not know what they should do with the children so they went to old Orogoth and asked their father what to do.
The great old dragon pondered the question and then called the human dragon-children to its great hall. The children saw the great dragon and pulled back in terror. Orogoth was disgusted with the children, but decided to try to tell the children the truth. But these children reacted like human children, not dragons and cried in fear. Old Orogoth screamed in rage and cried that the children had forgotten their own nature and that he would therefore give them a new one. They would have a form even more small and craven than now and he turned them all in to crows with feathers the colour he called their hearts. But Orogoths curse was even greater then he himself knew, for the children's dragons blood gave them a vicious nature and a hate for all other forms of life.
Now I myself think this story is disgusting and I hate to think that these fearsome creatures are the descendants of innocent children. I also talked to several sages and historians of Alaghon and they told me that the story of the dragon Orogoth is a fabrication based on half-truths and misunderstandings.
I tried to get other people to tell me of the Dragon crows, but the information was sparse and mostly from sailors that seemed superstitiously afraid of talking of the bird. They all agreed that the bird looks like a large crow with feathers a dirty yellow and that the birds live along the Sword Coast between Waterdeep and far of Candlekeep. They come in groups of ten to a hundred and probably nest in the seaside cliffs where few can threaten them. The sailors also claim that the birds are more intelligent then any other birds along the coast and that they in vicious joy will attack and torment any creature they can. Even if they are not hungry or threatened they savour the feeling of inflicting pain on others and the sensation of killing. Sometimes whey cruelly let the victim live.
I can not say for sure what the truth about this bird is, as I have never seen it with my own eyes and I have therefore pondered the question of whether I should include it in this tome or not. In the end I came to the decision that the thought of the bird scares me enough that I want to warn any travelers of the coast of the possible danger.
The King Pheasant
If you have seen some of the old murals made by the emperors of Shoon during their later days you will often see a slave following the flying chariot of the wizard emperor, leading a group of chained birds the size of pigs. This was to symbolize the emperors domination over the Tethen tribes of the lands between Calimshan and the Twin rivers.
Today the bird is a common sight among the gardens of the wealthy between Calimshan and the Vilhon Reach, as the bird is sedate and breeds happily in captivity. There has however been several incidents of traders from the northern, more traditional Tethen lands and the highlands bordering the nations of Tethyr and Amn, kidnapping the birds and setting them free.
I myself find these actions a little extreme as the birds them self are generally happy in their new environments and I have doubts about their ability to manage on their own in the wilds. I once talked to my Tethen companions Imalljaher and Astarata about this and for a second I thought Astarata would use that curved dagger on me in a far more effectual way than the teasing of last night. Both of them were enraged at my, in their eyes, belittling of their sorrow at seeing this majestic bird enslaved. I had to use all my abilities of persuasion to explain to them that I had not understood their feelings about the bird. A quick word of warning, even my lovely Jhaelder Illbraen of Berdusk shook his head when I told him of this incident.
The Kings Pheasant is a large bird, about double the size of most other species of Pheasant. The male has a shining black plumage with blue-green glowing eyes on the wings and the same colouring on the long tailfeathers. The bright red wattles of the birds swell and becomes blood-red during the mating season. The female is much less conspicuous with a brown and black coat that makes it easy to hide during the nesting season. The only markings of note on the female is a reddish stripe over the eyes and tailfeathers of the same colouring as the males, if somewhat shorter.
The Kings Pheasant lives a quiet life in the undergrowth of the light forests and the shrubs of the grasslands. The exception is during the mating season where the males give their all in a performance of posing and dancing near unequaled among the birds of these lands. The males will dance and prance chortling out their challenges to males and their lust to females. Now, dear reader, a word of warning. This bird is of a rather single mind when it is in heat; it will attack all creatures smaller than a horse that intrudes on its courting ground and the beating one might take from the wings, beak and claws of the bird is not a thing to take lightly.
Out of mating season the bird is rarely seen except near sundown, when it comes out into more open landscape, but even then the bird is careful and will take flight at any signs of a threat. A good archer will usually have little problems in hitting the bird though as it is a rather large target even at a distance. Even today the bird is pretty common along the caravan routs north of the Cloud Peaks, as the bird has a reputation for being inedible and even poisonous.
This is not completely trough as the meat is excellent if well roasted or cooked; but if one were to eat the bird raw or semi-raw the result would be days of stomach-cramps and diarrhea locally called Prince Iriiaes revenge. This has kept the bird from ever becoming popular on the cooking spits of travelers. If the birds are bothered at all it is usually by egg-hunters that sell the birds to the lands of the east. If raised from the egg the bird will become as tame as any dog and this has as I already mentioned, made the bird a popular pet in some lands.
Among the Tethen the bird holds a higher position. It is said that the bird is the symbol of the rightful ruler and his host and that the bird will only bless those fit to rule. The chief or clan leader will usually bear feathers from the bird on his helmet and he can give his most honored men the right to bear feathers from the bird on them self. even among the rulers of the city states on the borders of the Tethen lands and among the people of Amn and Calimshan the feathers are considered a precious gift and a suitable decoration for the regalia's of the rulers. The famous Cavaliers of the civilized Tethen lands of the north wear the feathers from their helmets as a homage to the old traditions.
If common man were to find a feather of the bird on the ground he will keep it as a lucky charm, even if it is forbidden to wear it openly except when given by a chief or other ruler. Most people will not keep the feather for long though, as it is considered the greatest gift one can give to a Tethen and it is always wise to have the good will of the ruler. The feathers are never traded, only freely given. Anything else would be an insult, almost as bad as plucking the feathers from the body of the bird itself, which is never done. This goes whether the bird is alive or dead. It is seen as a act dedicated to the Dancer of the Darkest Nights to pluck the feather from the bird. There are several legends that tell that the birds are children of Shar that teared themselves loose from their harsh mistress. They can therefore give the blessings freely, but their bodies are still of the Dark Ladys heart and therefore cursed. I have not had the possibilities to find out how the priestesses of the Night goddess view the bird.
There has been a tendency, especially among Calimshites, to joke about the Pheasant and the Tethen reverence for the bird. Many of these jokes compare nature of the birds rather unfavorably with the Tethens own. Those telling these jokes have often ended up with a rather red smile from ear to ear in a back alley soon afterwards.
In the Dragon coast lands there has been written several plays about monarchs and rulers that decide to try for their moment of glory , only to go down in bloody catastrophes. The most famous of these are Amvardraxes of Cimbars satires , By the Laws of Women, The King Pheasant, and On the Words of Men, which tells of the rulers Queen Regent Lharida, king Myntharan, and The Reaver king Gostaraj of Westgate.
Worth mentioning is also The Feathers of Harpys, detailing the last days of Shoon, written by Amanduc Aspenrod and Who’s next? The story of Azoun of Cormyr learning a lesson from Vandergahast, by an anonymous writer.
All of these stories play heavily on the thematic symbol of the Kings Pheasant and the would be conquerors fall. Well, the Azoun play is more about Azoun being changed into a bird to be thought a lesson, except that he becomes turned into a female bird by mistake. I will not go further into this, except to mention that the reward for the name of the writer has rissen to two thousand lions.
The Pearl Curlew is an other of these inconspicuous birds that some humans have given a role of the greatest importance in their lives. Along the whole western coast people will see the bird as a sign when it comes to matters of the heart and more than one priest has based his service on the role of the bird.
Most of these ideas I have met seems to go back to the, to me, unseemly Tethen version of the creation of the universe and the place of the twin Goddesses. Their leniency toward the Dark sister is something I did not suspect, but when I talk to priests of Selune they inform me that the evil goddess has always been strongest among the people of the west. Interestingly enough this is the core area of the Moon goddess also.
In most ways the bird reminds me of the Eprastar I already have told you about when it comes to habits and in this can be likened with most of the other pipers and snipes of the coastal lands. I include the bird in this tome mainly to shed some light on its religious role so that any traveler in the lands of the North will be warned about its many roles among the people of these lands.
Pearl Curlew are a small waders mostly found along the length of the Sword coast, mainly along the sand covered seashore, but it can be met far inland along the rivers and creeks. The Curlew has a long beak, long legs and is a Snipe-like bird about the size of a Woodcock; it lives of sand crawlers, sea snails and other small creatures living on the sandy shores where the birds hunt during the ebb of the sea. The birds coating is darker brown than most other snipes and sandpipers and it has a droplet-pattern of tiny silvery spots over the whole body. They live in small groups that consists of several pairs of birds shearing the same territory and migrating habits but else having little to do with each other. New pairs are formed each spring. The Curlew nests on the grown in high grass with the female hatching the eggs and the male tending for the chicks when they are old enough to leave the nest.
The birds do not spend the winter north of the river Chionthar and most of the birds can in wintertime be found in the area between the river and Tethyr. The birds are mainly active between early dusk and late dawn, when one can hear the birds cry, a sorrowful Hyii-Hyii sound for great distances along the sea cliffs. The cry of the Pearl Curlew has become a common metaphor in the romantic poetry of the Sword coast lands, especially within what is known as the Amnian tradition in our lands.
When one hears these songs and odes of the western lands it is strange to think that the Amnians, universally viewed as gold-mad pouch-pincher's, has created a tradition of some of the most beautiful poetry in the human tradition. Here the best of the Calishites homage and fluency in form come together with the Tethen heartfeltness and the complexity of meaning known from the elven masters of old Ashavar. In these traditions the Pearl Curlew is the symbol of the cyclic feelings of love and the comforter of the heartbroken and the lovesick. An other expression of this can be seen in the region around Memnon where lovers will give each other a small amulet, made of the metal most fitting their station, bearing the likeness of the bird.
In the Tethen traditions the bird is seen as a messenger of Selune in the world of men, the Pearl Curlew is also seen as the only creature that can soften Shaars hard heart by making her herself forgets the slights of eternity with its cries. As the bird cries for the two sisters and, in both a cosmic and worldly sense, lovers they are both for one instant reminded of the birth of all existence and their earlier role as the caresses of Chaunthea the bountiful. At that moment the bird is able to bring the Dark Dancer the prayers of the sorrowful and desperate, for peace with their memories and a rest from pain.
The bird as a symbol of the stars and of comfort has spread far out of the lands of the Tethen with the church of Selune, but these have a tendency to downplay the birds role as a voice between the two goddesses as this fits badly with the more dogmatic modern image and role of their goddess than with the Tethens ancient Lurua. Today one can find domesticated Pearl Curlews in most temples of Selune near coastal lands or other food sources for the birds. Minor temples and wandering priests in more conservative Tethen areas such as the lands near the Highmoor and the highlands bordering Amn and Tethyr, have learned to not preach about the birds role as a servant of Selune and enemy of Shar, as the reactions to this have been more or less catastrophic. The bird has no role within the church of Shar, but a remainder of the birds role can be seen in a general ban against the harming of the birds by servants of Shar. It is said that among the Tethen mystics serving the Lady of the Black Veil in the wilder areas the bird still holds a high position.
On a side note; I have heard that in the great northern city of Waterdeep the birds role is reversed and the Pearl Curlew is seen as a harbinger of doom and a waring of broken hearts and sorrow. This can be a bastardisation of the birds role between the Twin Goddesses.
I have always been a great lover of rivers and their environments. Among my fondest memories of the early years of my life is the travels the honorable master Bhadaian Nobrathan took me on a trip to the Ombroul by the feet of the Perloush. We were going to study the Barnatnoil water lilies, the ones used for creating the pigment of the Trumal cloth so popular in the eastern land, but my eyes were only for the birds that flew up from the reedy banks as we made our way towards the string of pools and small lakes were the lilies can be found.
The sight I remember the best is of the bird that did not fly. Coming to the edge of the lake master Barnatnoil was seeking I saw into the eyes of a small gray Heron standing among the lilies, its curiosity overcoming its natural fear for humans traveling the wetlands. The birds yellow eyes looked into my heart, at least it felt that way at my tender age, and I felt a sudden compulsion to weep.
Now, master Bhadaian was a lovely man and I will love him til the day my heart is judged by the gods, but a sentimentalist he was not. The bird therefore flew up with a harsh scream at the sound of his hand clapping and whistling. The moment was over.
What was not lost was my love of the striders of the wetlands, especially the herons and their relatives and I look forward to present you with one of the most popular birds in the northern lands of the tethens, the Kezir Bittern.
The bird also known as Leiras daughter is a creature surprisingly seldom seen when one thinks of the role it plays in the local tales of the region of the Sister rivers. The tales of the birds courage in protecting the weak from the slitherers in the dark and the children of Seth the charmer of the Crimson scale, are many among both the rural people and the minstrels of the regions city's.
The Kezir Bittern has its name from an old myth of a now almost forgotten kingdom of the Northlands , the kingdom of the stag, Aumathar. In the tales of the seven changelings and the Ruby vessel of the Goddess the bird is named the Elven star bird, or Quessir Amaieldoin, today shortened into Kezir. The tale is today mostly forgotten, but the birds name has stuck.
The Kezir Bittern is a small bluish grey heron-like bird with white markings, that live in the lands between the so- called High Moors and the Green Fields north of Amn the merchants state. It is most commonly found around the two great rivers of the region, the Chionthar and the Winding water, but can be found near any water holding small fish and with a heavy vegetation near the waterline. The birds are social and form groups that stay together for most of the year with the exception of the mating season. These consists of between one and four pairs that hunt in a common territory that decides the size of the group. During the hatching season the bird will keep more to their single partner and see little of the rest of the group until the young can manage to go with their parents. The pairs usually stay together for years but each Tarsakh sees intense battle between the yearlings that have not yet found a partner. The birds who loose a mate will try to find a new one as quickly as possible.
The kezir Bittern is a shy bird that is seldom seen except by people with the exception of the river people of the Chionthar and local fishermen. One can count oneself lucky to get a quick glance of the bird as a blue-gray shadow in the morning mist hanging over the water as it is mainly active at dusk and dawn. As the birds meat is tough and bitter in taste so few people see any reason to hunt the bird. For most people of these lands the bird is a ghost in stories told of the river nixies and a creature from the romances. They know its out there, but have never seen it.
As already mentioned the bird is said to be an enemy of the scaly creatures of the northern lands and this has given the bird a special place in the hearts of the people of these lands. Among the tethens and the descendants of half a dozen other peoples of these lands there is a fear of snakes and lizards generally only encountered in the steamy jungles of the Chultan peninsula. I must admit that I saw quite a few snakes in my travels with the caravans across the Fields of the Dead and the tales told of the evils of the cold blooded creatures are many, but I still find it a mystery that these relatively harmless creatures should hold such a hand of terror over the people.
The Kezir Bittern is a great snake hunter, and if the wetlands holds a group of the birds you can be sure that there are no snakes near by. The birds long and powerful beak is perfect for grabbing the snakes and then breaking their back with a throw of the long neck; the bird has been known to stab larger snakes with its beak. Both water and grass dwelling reptiles will be taken, though I doubt that the large constrictors rumoured to habitat the Forest of Wyrms have anything to fear from the birds. In many tales the birds go out of their way to hunt snakes, but I myself hold these to be mainly myths, but there is a possibility that this is some sort of instinct to protect the eggs and hatchlings from the creatures.
I grew up in a village called Orambuln a mere days travel by cart from the wild lands of the Aphrunn mountains. The area has always been known as the premier growing areas of the grapes used for the Coulamn wine that we all use at the Endless Revel of life and I started working with my brothers and sisters in the vineyards at an early age. We were always excited when we in late Eleint saw the first parakeets coming in from the north and flying over our fields. This would go on for days as flock after flock of birds flew over our heads. It was first later that my father told me I should be glad that we were grape farmers and not, like the farmers further north and near the coast, fruit farmers, as the birds were the bane of all orchards in the land. As my dear Dhamina told me one night as we were having a pause our explorations the theories of Shemeltra the Snakewoman, the Raindrop parakeet will never land in anything lower than a full tree. She herself had seen the birds often when traveling in bird form over the lands of Cormanthor and told me that they were a harmless, if somewhat stupid kind of bird that was one of the best examples of group thinking singlemindedness she had seen outside of the Purple Dragons.
Most people south of our beautiful homeland would be surprised to hear that the great northern forests of Cormanthor would hold a species of parakeet as we tend to think of these birds as warm loving creatures of the Chondalwoods and the steamy jungles of Chult. But one must remember that the forests of Cormanthor are slightly warmer than their geographical placing would indicate. Whether this is a natural magic of the forest, blessed by Jandath the Bountiful or a result of the elven magics I can not say.
The parakeet is a small yellow green bird that inhabit the forests of Cormanthor during the warmer parts of the year and travel south to the Chondalwoods by way of Turmish the beautiful in winter. Its head is marked with a bright red forehead on the male and more orange coloured markings on the female. The birds live in great flocks containing hundreds of birds that live in the highest branches of the Shadowtops and eat the fruits from the trees below. It is a rare thing for the Raindrop parakeet to travel down to the ground except during their migrations and the people of the dales usually see them only as small leaf-coloured flecks in the upper branches and hear the sounds of their cackling high above. This has made it somewhat of a test of marksmanship among young of the dales to see if they can hit the bird far up in the branches. Even if they do not, as in our country, have rules set up by the druids, most parents make it quite clear that the bird must be eaten if shot. This does not go among the parakeet-hating fruit orchard owners.
The parakeets live in pairs during the nesting season, but this does not break up the flocks that build primitive nests in the giant trees as near large fruit quantities as possible. The hatching period is, according to my dear lady Dhamina, very short and the flocks will start moving as soon as the hatchlings are able to take wings. The hatchlings are fed fruit mashed by their parents beaks until their beaks are strong enough to manage it themselves. This short nesting is the only real stop in the birds constant nomadic movements, following the same routs year after year, generation after generation. These routs lets the birds follow the ripening of the various sorts of fruits and in some cases berries as they come into season. Then, when the leaves of the woodlands start to change from the life giving greens of Jandath to the fiery reds of Talos the Destroyer, the birds will start their long flight to the evergreen forests of the south. During the months of Marpenoth and Uktar the birds can be seen flying over the Dragonmere and the reaches of Vilhon.
I include the bird here mostly because of the conflict is has had a tendency to spread among farmers and druids, the bird itself is rather unassuming and its habitat makes it little part of most ground dwellers life's with the exception of orchard owners. The bird is among the most hated creatures in the whole of Faerun among the fruit farmers of all the lands reached by their beaks. This little bird has therefore led to some of the bitterest conflicts between druids and farmers in recent years. This is not only the case among the Vilhon farmers that have a history of bad feelings with the druidic cults of the Emerald isles, even in the Dalelands the druids are hard pressed to keep the farmers from sending sling bullets after the birds at first sight. As the production of fruit wine in the northern Sembia and eastern dales increase so does the hatred for the bird.
In recent years the hardest conflict has been between the temple of Chaunthea in Harrowdale and its cherry orchard farmers. The priests of Chaunthea have a certain amount of sympathy for the farmers, but this have led to a new estrangement between the priests and the druids of the wild woods. My lady Dhamina tell me that its been mostly words until now, but if the situation is worsened it could lead to violence. The more aggressive and cynical druids of Sylvanus has hinted that they find the spread of humanity in the old elven woods quite aggravating and I fear for the safety of these lands if they decide to try to restore the balance. Lady Dhamina says she finds this highly unlikely but I, as one who has seen the work of the Emerald Enclave, am not completely assured.
It would be a grand irony in the history of fate if a row over this little bird should lead to large scale conflict in the dales.
This fascinating woodland bird is known for its beautiful song and has since the days of Myth Drannor and the last blooming of the fields of Asram been known as a sign of Tymoras blessing to all minstrels of elven or chondathan ancestry. To the more traditional tethen bards the bird is also the symbol of all the intelligent races destruction of the true art of nature's beauty. The Redking's position is mainly caused by the fact that the colour-sparkling bird is an imitator of sound.
Even if the Redking can be found throughout Faerun anywhere where there are trees, I had never seen the bird myself before traveling north. For reasons unknown the bird has never been a common one, lady Dhamina told me that even the elves of old wrote of the bird as a rare sight and most people I have talked of in tethen lands can not remember seeing the bird more than once or twice. The exception to this is Berdusk; my friend Jhaelder Illbraen laughed when I talked of the bird and took me riding to the glen of Abraima, two hours from the city walls. I was there met by a homely blond woman of the sweetest voice called Jhaelmira Illmaervar.
After Jhaelder talked to her a bit she nodded an signaled me to follow her into the shadows of the Blueleafs. There in the center of the sylvan setting; surrounding a field of Silvertear blossoms, woolfsclocks and purple snake lilies, where trees filled with Redkings all singing a song that instantly brought the tears of lost love to my eyes. In sheer extacy I proclaimed my amazement to my companions and were rewarded by the disharmonious cackle of my own words returned to me by a hundred beaks. After Jhaelder had led my laughingly out of the glen he told me that the area had since the time shortly after the Harpstar wars been a area specially blessed by the druids of Silvanus as a sanctuary for the Redking.
Where the name of the bird actually comes from is unknown, but it seems to be universal among all languages I have heard and the theory that it is a joke aimed at Lathander the Morninglord and heir to the Sun-god of Netheril is in my opinion therefore wrong. Among the Tethens it is held that the Redking was among the first creatures put in the physical world when it was created by Silvanus after his birth from the love of the Goddesses. All creatures he created afterwards where therefore presented with the birds name by Silvanus. For the same reason the bird is unable to imitate the trees and the rocks as these were created before and not part of the life of the bird always looking forward.
Even in the sanctity of Mistledale the sight of the Redking is a rare one, although the bird is not exactly what one might call inconspicuous. Its plumage is emerald green with black and red markings and a golden chest and the bird itself about the size of a Thrush. But if the sight of the bird is a rare one, the sound of the birds own song is a once in a lifetime experience. Redkings live alone most of the year and only form pairs in early Mirtul and go separate ways as soon as the hatchlings leave the nests. The half-grown redkings will then be fed by their mother alone until able to manage on their own. They are territorial, but are aggressive and will only fight intruders if food is scarce.
The birds live of a variety of insects found on the ground and in the crevices of tree-trunks. They are not nimble enough to catch flying insects but have in times of need and in winter been seen eating of cadavers. Their beaks bear a resemblance to the crows but it is slimmer, enabling them to both get it in to small crevices and to tear the layered bark of the northern conifers.
The Redking will compulsively imitate any sound it hears around it, except for natural woodland sounds like a branch snapping or a buck passing through the underbrush. Any bird, voice or instrument will be imitated although the bird has of course its limitations and, to take an example, its green dragon scream is downright ridiculous. This has led to it being killed on sight by many species, such as goblinoids and snakepeople that wish to stay hidden and see the birds habit of imitation as a danger. Harpys, to large to effectively catch the bird most of the time will leave an area inhabited by Redkings if they cant get a member of an other species to kill the birds.
The only species that seems safe from the birds imitations are the treants and Ghaleb Dhurs, one of them to slow of voice for the bird to notice and the other to like a natural rock-slide. For this reason it is quite common for the treants to let the birds nest in their crowns as this lets them have the birds as alarms of creatures approaching without the birds being able to give them away.
Because of its nature the bird will only sing its own song when there is no other sound near by and the Redking is bored. It will then sing the song that by Jaladha Tshamryl, Minstrel of Battledale and Kaelendra Mintiperlove was called the most beautiful tune in the realms of Silvanus.
The bird has in recent years been put to a more sinister use as spies and in some cases, ambitious minstrels will use the bird in their works. Combined with silence spells the birds can be used to imitate specific words or sounds, or can be made to listen in on conversations. It will then repeat the last ten to fifteen words it heard. Beware though, not only for the reason that most Dalesmen or bards will wring the neck of anyone they find holding the bird captive, but also simply because the bird will repeat anything it hears indiscriminately.
If you have traveled the western lands that once stood under the banners of the Shoon emperors, you will sooner or later meet some noble or merchants dressed in their best Tulmon silk and black Semphar velvet. With them they will have a veritable army of servants, dogs and ladies suitable to his taste. For the rich, comfort and the joys of the social game must not suffer, even in the wild-lands. There will also be hunting birds handled by suitably trained servants.
The tradition of trained hunting birds among the nobles of the south and the west is a long one and in most lands one can find trained falcons and hawks among the wealthy. The art of eagle-hunting is more rare these days, in all lands I have traveled the only place I have found it practised still today is among the calimshite upper class of the west. The training of the eagle is expensive, difficult and will even in the best cases give a somewhat more unpredictable creature than the smaller hunting birds.
Ruby Beaked Eagles are now, as I said, mostly seen as domesticated slaves for the heirs of the emperors; a sad fate for one of the most stately birds of the north-lands that in elder times must have been a common sight for the travelers of the plains.
The most common eagle used by the calimshites these days is the Ruby Beaked Eagle of the northern river-lands and hills. This great bird has a three yard wingspan and feathers the colour of sunburned plains grass; its breast is lighter than its back and the beak, contrary to what the name leads one to believe, is jet black. Pairs stay together for life and will each year lay one to three eggs although it is rare for more than one hatchling to survive. Its died consists of large rodents and small hoofed animals. There has been no mention of the bird attacking sentient prey to my knowledge; even when its eggs are threatened the eagle will usually fly off instead of putting itself in danger trying to protect its eggs. It is said that the bird in earlier times was common in all the lands surrounding the Fields of the Dead, but today it is a rare sight to see the bird at all north of the great river Chionthar, much less seeing it flying freely overhead.
The only place one can hope to see the eagle in the wild today is in the areas near the Giant Run mountains where the birds still nests in numbers. The region's giants have kept most people away from these hills but even here the egg hunters have the latest generations reduced the birds numbers greatly. Still, I see some hope for the bird as drovers I talked to told me that lately many of the egg hunters have disappeared in the inner reaches of the wood-clad hill-lands.
Don't think me heard-hearted, I am myself a hunter and can see the need for all creatures to find their way of survival in the harsh lands of the north and the west, but most egg-hunters I have met are more gold-gleaming robbers than needy in my opinion. With this beautiful bird in danger of disappearing from our lands I will rout for whom ever hunts the hunters.
As to who the birds protectors are, the opinions are as numerous as rumours of king Azoun of Cormyrs offspring. Some say it is the giants protecting their old allies, maybe some of the legendary cloud giants of old that have returned, others say it is a group of druids sent from the lands of the Emerald Enclave to protect the birds, and in time, to punish the calimshites for their crimes against the wild lands of Silvanus. This last theory is popular among most tethens I might add. Others are more sceptical to these theories of organised help for the birds and figure that trolls or goblins have just gotten smarter or, at the worst, that some creature like a deepspawn might have crawled out of the underdark to make the highlands their hunting grounds.
In all fairness to the egg-hunters, they must not be given all the blame for the demise of the Ruby Beaked Eagles, a great deal of this honor also goes to the children of ancient Shanathar.
In ancient times, it is told, the lowlands between the Sea of Fallen Stars and elven lands of the Sword Coast were the hunting grounds of innumerable giants that at the time lived in the mountains, hills and even the skies of the area. These giants had dwelled here since the time of the Dragons and viewed the land and all creatures in them as theirs. These claims did not, of course, sit well with the bearded ones of the dark under-reaches and the dwarves fought many a hard battle against the giants in the ages where man was in these lands still among the beasts to be reckoned.
I will not here go into the old legends of wars between people today almost forgotten as rulers of the innlands, that is the work of other sages with these subjects as their special love. The reason I mention this is the fate of the eagles in this conflict. You see dear reader, the Ruby Beaked Eagle had since the beginning of time been the messenger of choice for the giants of the clouds and the mountain giants of the inner peaks. The dwarves on their side therefore took special care to shoot down any Ruby Beaked Eagle they saw flying over the lands of Shanathar. This went on for generations and even today the surface dwarves of the west see the birds as a sign of ill omen.
By the end of the giant wars there were hardly a nest of Ruby Beaked Eagles left south of the Chonthar river, where they had once been the topmost bird of prey. And then the Shoonites came.
During my days of traveling with the caravans of the Riverlands I often observed the Tethens small rituals to ward of the detection of The Night Goddess when we traveled trough dangerous areas. The tension between them and the Cormytic traders and drivers where also increasing as these felt the Tethen superstition, as they called it, was slowing down the caravan. This tension grew the further west we got and my companions, the drovers Imalljaher and Astarata became increasingly irritable. Finally I had enough and cornered Imalljaher and asked him why everyone was so on their heels.
Imalljaher simply told me that each night the Darksingers had been gathering around the caravan; it was probably due to the flies on the bulls, but it could also be an omen. According to the scout Shillarchii the birds were protecting us from marauders of the grassland, but as Imalljaher told me, the scout was a believer of the Dark Moons cult and his judging were therefore doubted by the others. According to Astarata the bird was a holy bird for the cultist and a sign from the Twin-Goddess so the signs could spell both good and bad for the caravan.
I had wondered about the birds singing in the darkest hours of the night as I found that somewhat unusual, but my attempts to ask a Berduskan wheel-maker by the name of Holdrin resulted in him spitting at the ground and just staring threateningly at me. I had let the matter rest since that as I had a feeling of threading on dangerous grounds with the northerners. Imalljaher nodded at this and told me that most chondathans killed the Darksinger at first sight, as they saw the bird as a spy for the dark goddess. I asked him if he felt the same and he told me that it was not so simple, the Tethens were uneasy around the birds, as were the elves, but on does not simply kill everything one fears. He left, promising to tell me more of the bird in the morning, but warned me about listening to closely to the birds song. The Darksinger gave comfort from old sorrows, but those that listened to long would get lost in the song and meet the next day in disappear.
The Darksinger is a member of the thrush family as far as I can see, but it is a bit smaller than any other member of the family I have met upon in my travels, abut the size of a pipit. The feathers of both the male and the female are a wonderful bluish black without markings. The beak is a clear light yellow. As the size of both sexes are the same it is almost impossible to tell the two apart.
Darksingers are territorial with both the male and the female marking its territory with a constant song during the night hours, with each bird having a different tune for each season. They are usually found in areas of lightly wooded growth relatively near water with the nests in the inner branches of willows, laspars and other low trees. They will usually hide in the trees during most of the daylight hours and are rarely seen at all by most people as the feathers hide them during the night and the branches and leaves during the day. The birds territories will overlap, but conflicts over territory are usually settled with song, fighting between the birds is rare as long as there is enough food. As the birds eat all seeds and insects they can find lack of food is a rare happening.
From what I have heard the Darksinger is also easily tamed if rared from young, but this is rarely done except by a few rangers that use the intelligent birds superior sight in the dark to keep guard at night. They are also used as guards by some mystics of Shar in the wild who also use the birds wing feather as a form of holy symbol when working magic, with the feather being consumed by the magic in the process. Expect scowls from most people if you show up in human lands with a Darksinger at your shoulder.
It seems the bird can be found in all temperate lands on the west side of the Dragon Reach, but east of Priapurl the bird is usually only found in the wild lands as most people of chondathan heritage will kill the bird at sight. It is most common in the old tethen heartlands of the Riverlands between the High Moors and the Greenfields. Here the melancolic sound of the bird in the night have been the inspiration for bards since the days of Netherill.
Among traditional Tethens it is said that the bird thought the earliest singers of the humans to channel their sorrow into the song and that the last bits of the love of the Moongoddes and Shar the Dreamer, led it to give the evil of the goddess a form of blessing for humans if taken lightly. Because of this even the worshipers of Selune look upon the bird more with pity than with hate; I have even heard stories that claim that the bird is the descendant of one of the first human lovers of Selune that was misled and cursed by the Dark Dreamer. For them the song is a mark of its sorrow.
Even among the Tethens with less of a romantic nature the bird plays an important role. They know that listening to the birds song can make a person lose their soul, but they also know that the song will make the Deathriders (their name for Bhaal) servants forget their lust for dark deeds. I think they exaggerate the power of the birds, but if the Bhaalites themselves are of Tethen desent they are maybe given to following the same superstition themselves so it might work in a sense.
Interestingly, upon returning to Alaghon I learned that the bird can also be found in the western parts of our own beautiful country, but under the name of Baljuir-Thrush. The bird is simply seen as a variant of the Blackbird and is not given any special place in the beliefs of the people of that region. What I did learn is that wizards value the birds feathers as an alternative component for spells and magics that involve the dark.
The Shoon-bird or Corpse-crow
You don't learn to love the soothing breeze of the Sea of Fallen Star before you have been out in a desert storm and you don't learn to love your home before you have been away. Sitting here at my veranda looking out over the bay and enjoying my Dragontongue and Ramrath delivered today from far of Tashluta I think back at the journeys I have taken to study the many aspects of the life of the northerners. Even though I have set this day aside to chase the sun and meditate over the aspects and faces of the Gods throughout the lands I have seen, my mind wanders back to the feathered travelers of the skies. After so many pages of musings over the avians it is becoming a habit hard lain to rest.
I can not keep from wondering about what bird I heard of in my travels that had the worst reputation. With so many superstitions, myths and stories, which bird is the clearest victim of the fantasy of the peoples from beyond our borders? The Bloodbeak is feared and the Dragon crow a creature of nightmare, but this is built upon logic and experience. The same can not be said of the stories told of the Corpse crow, that bird seems to be one of the the sacrifices given by the Mother of All, this one to the Lady of Misfortune.
In my study I have a large book written by the mage Muldrubin Greenspell detailing the future society of the Vilhon lands under the rule of the wizards cabal The Windlass. It is closely modelled after the ideas of the later day Shoonites to the west and plans for the mind-cleansing of all members of the future government of their empire. Symbolically enough the wizard has had the front piece of the tome engraved with a stylised picture of a yellow crow.
It may be a trick of evil fate that he used the symbol of the Shoon-bird on his minds lifework. Had he only known that the name of the bird is a derogatory one given by the Tethen peoples to this symbol of bad luck in the lands of the southern Sword Coast. The future empire builders fell long before realising their dreams for a eastern version of the empire; one can claim coincidence, but I am not completely convinced. .
The Shoon-bird is a carrion eating relative of the Black Crow that can be found from the northern lands of the Green Fields down into the northern Calimshan. It builds its nests in mountainous terrain, especially in the Small Teeth region of northern Amn though they can be found in all the smaller mountain-chains bordering the ancient lands of their namesakes. As I understand it the bird will follow armies when traveling as food will be plenty along the way, both with the victims of battle and the thousands of mishaps, illnesses and mysteries that happen along the road. For the Tethen peoples of the lands north of the Small Teeth the bird therefore became a sign of the Shoon legions approaching. They also found the bird a fitting companion to the bloody emperors of the south, hence the name.
The Shoon-Crow is about the sign of the common black crows, but with feathers coloured a sandy yellow; as I have seen, the bird seems to share habits with most other crows I have seen throughout my travels. They live in pairs that last throughout life and return to the same nests year after year; only the female lays on the eggs with the male feeding both her and the hatchlings. Although they are territorial during the nesting season they can gather in large flocks throughout the rest of the year. The birds will be seen flying singly scouting for carrion to eat and gather when food is found, it is extremely rare that they will attack living pray.
As most crows these birds are rather intelligent as birds go, but I have also heard stories that give the birds a far more sinister aura. Alone or in small groups the birds are more or less as common crows, but the difference can be seen when the great flocks gather during times of plagues and war.
It is said that the Mother of Plagues took the birds to her heart when she arrived in these lands and gave the birds two gifts. Other stories say it was the ancient evil of Moander that was responsible, but in both versions the gifts are the same. The first one was a spittle that made the meat touched start to rot and made it poisonous for others, so that the birds could have their meals for them selves. The other gift was a malevolent intelligence when the birds gather in large flocks.
When groups of more than fifty of the birds gather they are said to hatch plots worthy of the ancient emperors of the south. Among the crimes the birds are being blamed for are inciting the Shoonites to invade the north, bringing various diseases to the south. There is also a story that the birds were expelled from the land of Minsorran and in revenge went north and convinced the dragon Icehauptanarthanyx to attack and destroy the land of the priests. On a smaller scale it is said that the bird was responsible for tempting general Amnur of ancient Amn to go alone to meet the daughter of Mailir the Pretender-Nazir of Murran. No one ever saw the legendary general and prince again.
I myself find these stories doubtful, but there seems to be some sort of red thread going through the lands west of the Shining Plains, blaming the bird for all the woe that befalls Man. It may be a possibility that some elder evil or demon takes the form of a crow to tempt humans to evil and with this giving the birds an evil reputation. The idea that the birds collect their minds into some evil power that can lead one into damnation seems rather far fetched to me personally.
During my stay in the beautiful city of Berdusk I spread the word that I would be very interested in meeting any one with experience from traveling in the grasslands known as the Pelleor-prairie, an inland area west of the great dessert Anauroch and south of the High Moors. One reason for this is my sister Duidraia’s husband Matroito, who is an avid collector of rare plants. He had given me a long list of plants that he had heard could be found in those areas, such as the Emerald Bell-flower, the Amanda cranberry (named by an ancient jeweler after the wife he lost and said to give a certain edge to late-year white-wines), Dahrenils ( a type of violet with a light taste used for seasoning among the Hin of the Sunset Vale) and the Bison Gourd ( the oil from this plant helps keep insects away if rubbed into the skin). The other reason was a bird I had found mentioned in an old scroll written by a master of archers in the service of king Azoun I of Cormyr, during the war between the Shoonites and Cormyr, named the Shadow-Vulture.
It took me some time, but after about a week in Berdusk Jhaelder Illbraen introduced me to a rather unwashed character by the name of Walzouil that traded with both the small human settlements of the inland and with the goblins living along the borders of the great desert. What little he knew of the bird he shared with me.
The Shadow-Vulture is a rather small vulture with a wingspan of no more than about 1.80 meters. Is is a slender bird with iron-gray feathers, except at the wingtips and tail feathers where the gray goes over to an ink-black colour. In my opinion the birds name comes from the colouring of its feathers although the legends among the Tethens claim that the bird is a denizen of the Shadow world and a messenger between the gods of light and the gods of darkness. This they claim, is proven by the fact that the bird is completely silent except at times when the gods themselves have words to mortals. Even Tethens I have talked to hold this to be a myth today, although Walzouil claims there are still those that revere the bird in the areas of the eastern High Moor. He allso told me that there are still those among the Death Riders servants that will wear the feathers of the vulture in their helmets and head coverings as talismans.
Unlike most vultures I have seen the Shadow-Vulture has a feather covered head making it a bit more appealing to the eyes, but from what I am told it still has a faint odour of carrion hanging over it. As the rest of the bird the beak is gray, the same are their feet and talons.
Shadow- vultures live in groups and form single year pairings that hatch one to two eggs each year in the cliff sides and ledges of The Hill of Lost Souls and near the Battle of Bones. Both parents bring meat to the hatchlings, usually only one survives, but there are exceptions in years of plentiful food. As far as I know this is the only area where the bird can be found today, even if old legends speak of the bird in most of the central Swordcoast lands down to the Green Fields. Jhaelder had heard a story that said that the carnage of the Battle of Bones had tempted all the vultures of the lands to gather in the area, but I find this somewhat doubtful. Diseases and competition from other predators are far more believable reasons for the bird to have disappeared from the western areas.
Today the silent birds as they were called, are no more than a symbol in poetry that has little meaning for most people and the reason the Cormites had their hopes of victory lightened when the vultures flew screaming over the Shoonite camp is mostly forgotten.
As far as I have heard the Shadow-Vulture is a pure carrion eater that is both too lightly built and slow to be an effective hunter of large prey. Thankfully the region has plenty of animal life, especially large shaggy cattle that are the pray of most large carnivores. It can take some smaller pray if it is hurt. They will then kill the pray the same way they brake larger bones, by dropping them from the sky down on rocks. As with other vultures the stories that they attack people by dropping stones on them is an idiotic misunderstanding of this.
The success of the bird as a scavenger can in my opinion be judged by the reverence the local goblins have for the bird. According to Walzouil, the shamans of Maglubiyet call themselves Drhagdah-Ghiur or ”Brothers of the Meatstealers” and are rumoured to be able to assume the shape of Shadow Vultures. Common goblins will always let a Shadow-Vulture eat of their pray in fear of it being a shaman in disguise that can make their lives very difficult if they don't share. It may be that this help from the goblins, an uncommon happening indeed, is what has kept the bird alive in this particular area.
The bird's only natural enemy are humans hunting for its feathers and blood for use in magic. Among the shadowmages of the Riverlands it is claimed that all writings of Shadowmagic should be done with a feather from the bird to make it as potent as possible and the blood of a vulture is a central component in the Shadow-walk spell. Walzouil warns me though, that any bird hunters should be careful, as the goblins don't take lightly to any one hurting the birds.
Strangely enough there are also legends about the Shadow-Vulture among the Aarakocra, where it is said that the bird is a distant relative that turned away from the learning's of the gods and then sunk down into the world of beasts again. I give the story credulence for no other reason than why would the bird people invent a familiarity with the vultures?
When I was called up from my table at The Dusty Hoof by two armoured watchmen I suspected the worst, had I by chance been unlucky enough to disclose some well-kept secret of the city in my writings, offended some leading officials pride at one time? Or was it simply that the sweet Chansrin Aluar actually still remembered me? I still bore the teethmarks and a memory of her smile.
Sweating slightly I was lead through the streets steaming with herders, wild men from the high moors and cattle buyers from the Dragon Coast. In addition to the cattle themselves of course. Scornubel at the height of the trading season is not for those of a sensitive nose I can tell you. After spending the route trough the streets looking for a way to ”get lost in the crowd” I was politely led up the broad steps of Scornubel hall.
It was with a slight quiver of the hand I squeezed the humidity from my beard in the steaming baths of the Lady Rhessajan Ambermantle, lord of the city. She laughed one of the sweetest laughs I have heard during my travels and I need not tell you dear reader, that I with the utmost pleasure accepted the proposition to join the legendary composer of the ballad The Magnolias Tear in the water.
I was slightly disappointed when I learned that her reason for inviting me was her curiosity over my writings about the birds of many lands. With a smile, a glass of Fighting Cock Wine and the promise of more to come she started to tell me about the Skycrier of the Reaching Woods.
The Skycrier is a large jay, a relative of the crows, but bear little resemblance to many of its kin, like the Shoon bird, both in manner and role in the stories of these lands. It is large, rather heavy bird, almost a meter in wingspan and with a plumage that shine as the jewel-clad breasts of a Calishite dancer among the forest giants. Blue, red and white feathers shimmer with the stray rays of sun that find their way through the leaves and in the mating season the feathers take on a metallic glean that increases the colours to the almost unbearable. This has made the bird the butt of many a joke among the traditional elves of Evereska from what I have heard, who claim that the bird could be used as a symbol of garish and tasteless human aesthetics. The plumage is colourful for these lands and some old texts claim that the birds are originally from the forests of the southern lands and fled the demonic magic of Calim. I myself doubt these stories. No matter what the truth is, the bird can today be found in any wooden area between the Storm Horns and The Fields of The Dead, but are only found in significant numbers within the Reaching Woods.
This view among the elves has most certainly not been helped by the ability that has given the bird its name, its characteristic cry. This ear shattering sound, created by a special tube located in the bird’s throat has sent even the bravest running in terror from the forest. According to Lady Rhessajan these cries has served to increase the ominous rumours about the Reaching Forrest. These cries are especially common during the mating season (the birds usually form lifelong bonds, but will go through the mating rituals each spring in spite of this) and it is said that they can drive the satyrs and even some humans into a mindless rut. This is not the case with the more plain feathered relative, the Bushcrier, that can be found in relatively open areas between Waterdeep and the Chionthar. Both birds prefer, strangely enough, to dwell in areas of relative quiet and are not found near the permanent dwellings of creatures making to much sound. Even a human farmer would be enough to drive the bird to another territory.
The Skycrier feeds on a combination of insects, nuts and seeds and builds their nests in the tall trees of the Reaching Woods, especially the older oaks. The Bushcrier is less particular and will nest in any tree or bush over tree meters tall and offering some degree of shelter. They nest near each other, but not in flocks, although the Bushcrier is known to rise in communal defence.
Both the heart of the Skycrier and the Bushcrier is said to be an alternative component in magics designed to invoke fear.
On a side-note I should also mention a rather sinister mage by the name of Beldegar Vrthalan, known to collect both monsters and rare magical items, has made a pretty sum the last ten years selling Skycrier eggs to merchants to use as guardian creatures. The eggs he gets from a dozen birds he managed to capture himself. It is said that he has even learned to modify the cry of the birds to incite different emotions.
For some strange reason the Harpers are said to have recently given him the secrets of making bronze figurines of the birds, with the same cry to sell instead of live birds. Most likely these figurines would not cry out an alarm if certain Harpers were to approach the place of their guarding.
Obsidian-wing and Cloak-fisher
I must admit that I am a horrible fisher. Ever since I was a youth in the service of master Bhadaian Nobrathan and as a boy in Orambuln I have always marvelled at how others, even old Druimal, drunk on Coulamn as always, managed to pull up carps, perch and trouts by the dozen. Myself? Well, usually I got the pleasure of supplying the others with bait after a hard days work. As in many other lands, both in the Vilhon and beyond a youths prowess in fishing is as important as it becomes when building up a reputation, needless to say I quickly found that the rout of the words and scrolls to be much more to my taste. Later of course I also found the sweet hands and kisses of my fellow beings to be to my liking, but that is a different story.
As you might guess, these years gave me a slight distaste for fishing, and fish for that matter. Even in settlements such as Marsember, known for their fabulous fish dishes, I have tried to search out a meal made of Chauntheas gifts and something that at least had lungs. Now, what does all this have to do with birds you ask, esteemed reader? Well, I hope the high lord Deneir will forgive me if I make the story a short one.
Traveling towards Berdusk I rested a few nights in the camp of a group of riverpeople at the banks of the Chionthar and was privileged in sharing many of moments among these usually withdrawn people. One one occasion I was asked to join in the morning fishing up river from the camp. I growled inside, but smiled courteously and went along. Coming to the fishing site I found myself intrigued at the method of fishing used by the riverpeople; the men starting wading through the shallow water splashing the water with a light willow-stick. The women had by then sat themselves by the riverbank with a light blanket or cloak draped over their form making a large shaded area over the water. In their hands they held light nets. I was curious as to what they were doing, but soon saw the women starting to throw their nets down in the shade before them drawing forth a number of Albrathers.
Back in the camp I learned that this method was not often used today except when fishing Albrather and was practised today mostly out of traditional, almost religious reasons. I asked how this tradition came to be and the smiling riverpeople told me the story of the Goldfish. Later I asked both the lady Dhamina and Jhaelder Illbraen about this bird and this is what I learned of the Cloak fisher and its relative the Obsidian-wing..
The Obsidian-wings, small herons about the size of a common rooster, wanders between the shadowy growth along the numerous waterways and ponds in the lands between the Moonsea and the Dragon Coast. The bird of the riverpeoples is much like it and can be found in the river-lands between Amn and the High Moors. This bird, known as Cloak-fisher is slightly smaller and more of a brown colour than its relative The lands near the great rivers where the Cloak-fisher lives in areas less dominated by heavy growth and the birds can at times be found in open areas. In habits it is much as its relative, except that its hunting is more centered around the areas of dusk and dawn. As most of the people in these lands don’t care for the taste of the meat, the bird is seldom hunted except by goblins, Quezlarn and the large pikes of the Winding Water.
The birds are mostly solitary outside of the nesting season and are not monogamous, although it is common for the same birds to mate times due to bordering territories. These territories are relatively small, and despite the birds defending their territories, direct fighting is uncommon. Two to three eggs yearly is common.
Both bird-species are known for their special method of hunting, which consists of the bird moving into a relatively open shallow, carefully through the water before stamping their feet quickly to scare up small fish and amphibians and then spreading the wings before them to form a ”shadowcloak” that attracts the fish, believing the shadow to be a place of hiding. This is what has given birth to the fishing method of the riverfolks. I have also been told by both the lady Dhamina and Jhaelder Illbraen that among many of the older families of Iriabor it is said that the hunt of these birds are the inspiration for the Tethen shadowdancers. They both mentioned the same source of this story, one Rakrune. I have not had a chance to examine this rumour any further and can not say if it is a common assumption or just a local faerie-tale. What I can say, is that the beautiful dance of the veils can at times bring forth the image of this elegant bird moving through the waters, especially when danced in the lands of the Chionthar.
Obsidian-wings can today mostly be found in the deep forests of Cormanthor and in the wetlands around the Dragon coast. The western birds will migrate to the Chondalwoods during the winter, but the higher temperature of the Cormanthor makes it habitable throughout the year. The few birds left within the Moonsea area will go into the forests during the cold months. It is said that the nature of the Cormanthor has made some of the Obsidian-wings far more intelligent than common birds, but I can’t say if this is true or not. In most stories these magical birds are found by springs near Sprite dwellings or in the areas of Misteldale.
The Obsidian-wing is exterminated in Sembian and the southern parts of Cormyr due to it being considered a delicacy during the time of Salambers regency over a hundred years ago. In my opinion the fish taste is a little to dominant, but each to his own; the bird is still being served in inns found within the northern parts of Cormyr, but the demand has lessened dramatically through the years. Many rural folks in Cormyr do in fact see it as a tragedy and a sign of ill omen that the bird is disappearing from their land as the bird was at one time the personal symbol of king Rhiegard I. A degree of superstition is tied to this depiction of the bird, wings folded in silhouette, to the degree that many of the border raiders of the north use it as their banner and at least three claimants to the throne has fought under the mark of the Obsidian-wing. This use of the bird by rebels is of course not popular among the Purple Dragons and northern nobles.
You can still hear minstrels and bards use the image of the Elahiarn in their verses, both when reciting old works from the days of Netheril and when spinning new tales; to most listeners of our age this is only a word of beauty, but of little meaning beyond that. Some beauties in this world does not deserve to be forgotten, I therefore choose to tell you the story of the Silver Eagle.
In the days of old Netheril there were woods and rich orchards, and there were seas and rivers in the lands of the great desert. In these waters there were innumerable fish that were the prey of the giant eagles of Netheril. The Elahiarn was a bird of pray that it is said was large enough to pick a quezarn out of the water and that could scare wyverns from their nests. The birds nested in monogamous pairs on rock outcroppings and broad cliffshelves near large bodies of water. Its food were mostly giant trouts and sturgeons of the inland seas and rivers. Their number was never large.
Many people of the age saw the bird as a sacred messenger of Selune and believed that the Elahiarn was able to travel to the Tears of Selune themselves. One remembered fragment that tells of the regard the bird was held in, is the memory of the now ruined port of Miirsar, in the kingdom of Asram, which continued to bear the sign of the bird on its banners and sails until the desert sands overtook its harbours and docks.
The birds were therefore mostly left in peace except by the dwarves of Delzoun who bordered the lands of Netheril. It is said that the dwarves themselves had a port city by a inland sea, the legendary Ascore, but I find this story unbelievable. As far as I know, no group of dwarves has ever sought the sea. Their distaste for the birds probably had little with them seeing the bird as a contender for fish and more with them fearing it going after their livestock.
It is actually unclear whether this giant bird still exists in our world or not. Within ruins of old magical Netheril and the fragmented survivor realms that grew up after the fall of the sky-cities, one can often find this bird depicted, both as a servant of Selune and on its own. It is also still mentioned in many of the fragments of poetry and songs from the period and the old elven chronicles often mention the bird in the days of Myth Drannor.
But with the growth of the great northern desert of Anauroch, the Elahiarn disappears from the minds and words of both men and elves. As far as I know, no one in the lands of the Dales, Cormyr or the lands south of the Highmoors has seen the bird for generations. It is unclear though if it still can be found within secluded areas such as the Nether mountains or the hidden lands of Evereska in the north. Several elves and minstrels of Berdusk I questioned on the subject of the eagle were very secretive and unwilling to tell me much either way. I personally have my doubt of the birds existence today, as a fishing bird of this size would need a rather large body of water to hunt in, and that disappeared from the old lands of Netheril a long time ago. The stories of the giant silver eagles disappeared with the water and the life of these lands. As a silver-shimmering eagle with a wingspan of over five metres would not exactly or unnoticed by most people. I myself believe that this beauty of the gods is today lost for our eyes.
As I have previously mentioned, there are numerous birds seen around us in our daily life that we hardly ever think about. Some birds are very shy, some are too small or bland. Others are rare or just so common that no one thinks of them. For me in my travels, the names of these are by now more numerous than I want to think about, mostly out of fear of the need to write another volume of this work.
In spite of our unobserving daily existence there are times when one of these, much as the farmers and drovers that daily pass before our eyes, rise from the ranks of the unknown and becomes part of the world legends and our minds. It is difficult for me to say why it is this particular bird and not another species so much like it. One example of such a bird is the Tethyr-warbler, a creature known from numerous stories, but that passes unnoticed before the eyes of most people outside of the troubled kingdom that bears their name. I will not here give much place to the bird itself as it is as most other warblers, a small insect-eater with a great voice; I will rather try to tell you of the different traditions tied to the birds in Tethyr.
The Tethyr-warbler is a small, unseemly bird that lives in the lands between Calimshan and the areas near the Winding Water. The birds living north of the river Ith will usually migrate south to the lands east of Calimshan and around the Lake of Steam. As most warblers it is more often heard than seen and when seen and little thought over. Its feathers are a greenish brown, with a lemon-yellow breast. The birds back has a speckled appearance with darker feathers. Tethyr-Warblers are very territorial and the song of the bird will be used both to mark its territory and to attract a mate. The voice is strong, clear and the song varies from bird to bird. With the exception of within Amn, where the tongue of the bird is seen both as a delicacy and as an important ingredient in some magics concerning sound, the bird is mostly left in peace by most creatures with the obvious exceptions such as of birds of pray.
When the fall comes the Tethyr-warbler is the last bird that leaves Tethyr and when the spring comes the warbler is among the first birds seen returning. This has made the bird an important part of the farmers cult of Chaunthea, where the bird is seen as the messenger of the Goddess bringing the season’s last farewell and the news of spring. This is more of a farmer’s tradition than a part of the organized faith, but most rural priests will include the popular bird in their prayers and rituals.
This role as a messenger from the gods is a central thread when one looks at the stories told of the bird. This is clearest in the two most common tales, one of them ancient as the land itself and the other a tale from the time of my childhood. Both stories tell of the birds role as a bearer of warning of the gods.
One is the tale of the half-elven girl Varytha of the Ithal, from the years she lived in the great woods of her mother’s people. Wandering the great woods of old she once spoke to the small bird singing from a branch, and the bird, taking pity on her, learned her the language of all Silvanus’ children. Varytha used this ability to befriend the animals and birds of the land learning more wisdom and love than any human of the time. The creatures of the woods payed her back for her heart and kindness the day the goblin hordes came down from the mountains. The warning traveled from creature to creature until it reached Varytha. Which animals and birds that was involved can vary, but the last word is always put in the beak of the warbler. The girl ran with the words to both the elves and humans and saved them from the goblin army.
The other tale is a far newer one and takes place in the years just prior to the Dark Days of Tethyr. In the mountains the renegade mages of the south formed their dreamland of Mulsparkh and the paladin prince of Tethyr Rythan went at the front to negotiate, or fight if needed. The riders of Tethyr gathered before the massed army of the mages. All creatures except for the prince and his men could see the carpet of spells wrought by the mages, and hid in fright. All but one; the prince of the warblers could not let the humans go to their death and flew over the head of the prince desperately trying to warn him. Some say that a tear ran down Rythans chin, others say that even the warblers clear voice was now dead to the nobles of Tethyr. Which ever version you hear, the ending is the same, Prince Rythan rides to his death. The Prince of the Warbles, despairing flew to its death with him as they charged the Mulspharkan lines.
As I said, there are many stories told of the Warblers, and not only among the humans of Tethyr. If you go to the Purple Hills on the coast and talk to the Hin of that highland you will find that this little bird plays as large a part in their culture as in that of their taller neighbours.
The Hin of The Purple hills are not only known for making the best wine in the land of Tethyr, but are also known for their highly developed skills as whistlers. So great have they perfected this simple art, it is said, that they are able to make their tones magical. And who do you think taught them these mysteries but the Warbler? From an early age most young Hin entertain themselves with whistling contests trying to imitate as many species of birds as possible. As their songs are among the clearest and most varied the numerous species of warble are popular in these contests. What is little known, and that I was lucky enough to learn from a drunken Hin one night in one of Iriabors lesser known festhalls, is that most of these young Hin have a slight hope of being one of those lucky enough to be blessed by the gods.
At one time one of the gods, which one varies from telling to telling, heard a young Hin named Undrobolt Cloversole whistling along the riverbank and, impressed, the God sendt the Tethyr Warble down to test the limits of the Hins abilities. Undrobolt and the warble whistled merrily to each other for hours, until suddenly the young Hin found, much to his surprise, that he was able to understand the birds speech. Joyously he struck up a conversation with the bird. The god of the tale, impressed with Undrobolts skill as well as his connection with the bird decided to bless him with magical gifts of an even greater nature than those making him able to communicate with the Warbler. Thus the first Hin Whistler was born.
To this day it is said that the mysterious abilities of a Whistler is born out of an ability to imitate, and with time, communicate with the Tethyr warbler. Not knowing the truth of the legend or not, most young Hin (and most older in a lingering hope) will whistle away, trying to become one of the chosen few.
If there is one creature I hate, it is trolls. If it is one creature everyone I have met hates, it is trolls. I have a feeling that even druids are uncertain whether the creature belongs among those that should be blessed as creatures of Silvanus’ realm or if they are some monstrosity of The Stalkers creation.
I am not a fighter in any sense of the word; true, I have drawn blade to defend the name of some young woman or man on more than one occasion. True, I have covered the Tethen outriders during caravan travel and even once battled a Leucrotta that attacked me during a highly necessary wandering into the brush during a nighttime camping. In spite of this I can never understand how any man or woman can gather the courage and bladder control to stand in front of one of the monstrosities that the people of the frozen lands call the Everlasting ones.
I have since my childhood dreaded meeting one of these green skinned butchers, even if trolls are almost unheard of in the eastern Orsraun mountains, and it was therefore with a prayer and a tight grip on my beard I saw our men ride out against the three hulking creatures running slavering and without fear against our wagons and pack animals. This was traveling along the Chionthar, a trip that I from the beginning new would be the most dangerous I had made to date. I can still wake up covered in sweat, even in a bed filled with the best silken pillows of Semphar and scented with the essences of lusty love and Chondalwood osmanthus, with a clear memory of the sight. They did not stop, even when spitted on horse lances and chopped with the curved swords of the riders. Even the dismembered limbs tore up the bellies of horses that fell screaming into the pools of their own guts. Standing before the burning pile of parts afterwards I could almost smell the confidence of the creatures spirits turning into an intelligible hate that perverted the air around us.
After hearing this story you can imagine my surprise when, lying in the blankets at night, Imalljaher and Astarata told me that there was one creature that seemed to love the trolls more than other creature. I had held that story in little belief, but assumed that some disgusting beings might live near enough to these creatures to give birth to such tales. Imagine my surprise when my lovers told me that the creature in question was a bird known for its beauty as well as the horror the sight of one spread among travelers.
The trollseye is a rather large flycatcher about the size of a hawfinch living in the rocky moors and lighter forests of the lands north of the Winding Water and the mountains east of Amn and Tethyr. It can often be found nesting near the caves of trolls and ogres, balancing their nests in the small trees and bushes (mainly conifers) growing out of crevasses or in fissures of the rock. These will usually be located over the cave entrance as the trolls have an annoying habit of seeing the eggs as a delicious snack. Groups of four to ten birds will usually nest in the same areas and the food is usually plentiful around the notoriously dirty ogres and trolls, with insects aplenty. The braver birds are even known to go into the caves themselves to find food. A few birds will travel with hill giants for a time, but they will not nest near the dwellings of these creatures. The reactions to the birds vary with the trolls usually killing a bird when they can catch it and the ogres at times letting them feed on their very bodies. It is unknown why, but the birds don’t go near the lairs of goblins, even if these are not known to be any cleaner than the ogre caves and troll-holes. I have a suspicion that this is mostly a long history of lessons given by the goblins slings.
The Trollseye is a beautiful bird, mostly black and white feathered, but with a deep purple area from the chest up to the underside of the beak on the male. The black upper backside of the bird has a white pattern making the back seem like glistening shells. The dwarven word for it is Noror Barparlyn, which, I have been told, means ”the beautiful armoured enemy”. The tail is striped black and white. Whereas the warning cry is a sharp Phii-Phii, the song is a short rather pretty melody that ironically enough is rarely heard by others than trolls and ogres.
The sight of the Trollseye during the warm months is a sure sign of trouble in the eyes of most travelers of the lands near the highlands and the mountains and a circling group of Trolleyes can cause panic in smaller groups. Trollservants will move after the large creatures catching both insects ”native” to the monsters and those scared up by the passing of the trolls and ogres. Even some herd animals have learned to fear the cry of the birds and can start a mindless stampede, so drovers unused to the lands near the birds habitat should be warned.
For the ogres and trolls the birds have a further use, as they will instinctively cause quite a ruckus if any large creature unknown to them is passing near their nests. Their ill-smelling hosts can therefore count on having eager guard posts while sleeping during the warm months. During the cold months of Aurils breath the birds are less dependable though, as they mainly find their food in the rotten wood and under the bark where insects hibernate. They will stay near though, so a troll-hole in the woods will usually be warned if intruders are in the area. The loyalty between the bird and these creature is as strong as to any flock-members, something that is rumoured to have made it nearly impossible for even the druids and rangers of the northern lands to influence the birds or make them betray their beloved trolls and ogres.
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