Forest/ Jungle
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March 2, 2007, 6:44 pm

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Compall Fowle


The crests of Compall Fowle are reputed to have potent healing powers, but little else is known of the vicious birds.

Excerpts from the Journals of Norrihk Allsage, Senior Fellow of the Ducal College of Natural Magicks:
Feast Day of the Golden Phoenix, Hour of the Drawing Darkness: It was an incomparable pleasure to finally be able to study a live example of the odd tropical birds that had been hidden from us for so long. To have received a mated pair was a bounty that I would never have hoped for. At last we will be able to study the elusive creatures that are the subject of so many myths, the legendary healing birds of the northern peninsula…

…To look at, the fowle are not very impressive. They appear to have moulted during their long sea voyage and can be expected to recover soon, given proper care. Fairly large for a bird, they are similar in size to a peacock, if not so beautiful. Each is covered in thin, downy plumage, with longer feathers adorning each side of the fowle’s long tail. The plumage on the male is a distinctive black, with crimson accents on the tail and head, while the female is a mottled black and brown hue. The fowles’ heads each bear a cartilaginous crest above the eyes that tapers to form a sort of horn. This “horn” explains their legendary ability to reduce pain. In healing lore, many animals’ horns are believed to have healing virtues; these legends range from those of the mythical “Hantaalope” to the commonplace unicorn. If I am able to breed these birds, I will test whether the powdered horn is truly able to cure such dread maladies as the black flux, the southern ague and fae shotte, as the country healers claim it does.

Compall Fowle are flightless, with small, rudimentary wings with little strength. Each wing has three small claws at the “elbow”; I surmise that these claws are used for clinging to trees in the birds’ forested homeland. Their legs are quite long and powerful for such a small creature, and each have one toe with a sharp, elongated claw that sits above the others.  One of the mariners advised me that the little beasts are prodigious leapers, when healthy, and also warned that they can have vicious tempers, so I shall be cautious when working with the creatures. For the moment they seem to be placid, but they are apparently still quite weak from their voyage.

Eve of the Feast of St. Gollik, Hour of the Brightening: Although the creatures were not in very good health after their transport hidden in a barrel, they regained much of their strength after they settled into their new home. I cannot fault the merchant that finally managed to smuggle the creatures from “Kwan-Zhanalin” (if the man pronounced the barbarous name properly); the backward peoples of that distant peninsular land would certainly have killed him if they had discovered his theft of their sacred healing birds. Within the large coop I installed outside my home, the female has already laid a clutch of eggs and seems very protective of them, although she is otherwise a calm creature. The eggs are strange. Small, dark olive in colour, and leathery, they do not resemble those of other birds…

Feast of Summersend, Hour of Song’s Rising: I am amazed at how quickly my little flock has grown.  I was fortunate that the little beasts are such indiscriminate eaters; they’ve eaten almost anything that I’ve tried to feed them. After eight months, the chicks from the first clutch of eggs have themselves begun laying. I finally have enough birds that I can begin harvesting them for their horns and testing the horns’ true virtues…

Feast of Harvesting: It is with a broken heart that I close the journal of my friend and colleague, Norrihk. He had assumed that the Compall Fowle that he was raising were sufficiently tamed to his company that he could freely walk among them in the coop he had built in the shadow of his manse. Reviewing his notes it is clear that he misunderstood the very nature of the creatures he had raised. My review of the carcasses he had dissected revealed that they were primarily carnivorous, not scavengers as Norrick had believed. His remains in the pen, picked clean of tissue, are mute evidence of his error. Apparently, the birds left the borough after they had devoured my friend. I have dispatched a band of men with dogs to hunt the creatures down, but my only true hope is that the horrible fowle cannot survive the winter’s cold…

The Sacred Birds of the Kwan-Zhanalin Jungle
The vicious predators known as Compall Fowle were originally found only in an isolated jungle region, where they were hunted nearly to extinction by the local tribesmen seeking their horny crests.  The crests are greatly desired for their wondrous curative properties, and are sold to the people of many lands.  Compall Fowle are considered sacred to the tribes’ god of healing, and can only be slain after suitable ceremonies have been completed.  The coastal tribes that deal with outside traders know to keep their sources for the mysterious horns secret, so little is known of the tribes that actually harvest the horns.  Their homeland is a forbidding place, with massive creatures resembling dragons stalking its forests and toxic arachnids the size of horses, so few foreign explorers have entered the land and survived to share their adventures.

What leads many of those dealing with Compall Fowle to underestimate them is the way they suddenly change from normal, rather stupid, birds into ferocious predators.  In small groups, the birds are peaceful, torpid animals, but when they form a flock of about 36 or more adult birds, their temper changes dramatically for the worse.  They become fierce predators, with a tendency to ambush their prey by leaping down from above.  They instinctively rip into joints and other vulnerable areas, their sharp beaks clinging to their victim while their legs claw the victim’s flesh open.  Smaller groups of the birds can also “flip” into this behavior if they are overcrowded or upset, becoming much more aggressive.  Compall Fowle in their natural predatory state seem to be more alert and intelligent; they certainly are more likely to escape captivity when they are more alert.

The horn of the Compall Fowle is effective as a treatment for several diseases, but it’s not a panacea.  It does provide resistance to diseases such as the southern ague (malaria), and black flux (typhus).  Folk healers often claim that it cures many other diseases, especially when added to a soup with vegetables and meat; these claims are generally exaggerations, but the Fowle’s horn is a part of many otherwise effective healing recipes.  The horn can be trimmed short or even removed entirely without injuring the bird, but it is very sensitive, and will upset the creature greatly.  Fowls without their horns will often be attacked and killed by the rest of the flock; birds left alone will moult badly, but then will grow a new horn as the feathers fill back in over several months.

The jungle tribesmen do not eat the flesh of the Compall Fowle, but those trying it claim that it tastes like chicken, with an unpleasant rubbery texture.  It is best served roasted or fried and cut into small chunks.  Sailors will often refuse to eat the meat of these creatures, as folklore states that the southern tribesmen can identify those that have.  The legends claim that the tribal shamans can curse those who eat of the sacred birds, even if they are many leagues distant.  The curse allegedly causes cramps, fever, and vomiting so severe that healthy men have died from it.

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Comments ( 11 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted MoonHunter
September 21, 2006, 10:00
Nicely detailed creature. I like the fact that these creatures "flip". They have a number of dramatic hooks (the growing flocks, the dangerous homeland to explore, the quest for curatives made from it, and so on). A nice addition to a game world.
Voted Cheka Man
September 21, 2006, 12:26
Don't throw things at them.
Voted Murometz
September 21, 2006, 12:40
Only voted
Voted Scrasamax
September 21, 2006, 13:05
Not bad, but if feels like it was cut off halfway through. what are the curative power's of the bird's horn, can it be taken without killing the bird, and do the birds make for good eating?
September 21, 2006, 13:37
Update: I added more information about the horn's properties and how best to cook the little beasties. Thanks for the suggestions, guys!
Voted valadaar
September 21, 2006, 19:53
Only voted
Voted Shadoweagle
September 21, 2006, 22:16
"The curse allegedly causes cramps, fever, and vomiting so severe that healthy men have died from it."

Ah, sounds like a case of severe salmonella poisoning from poorly cooked fowl!
I like this submission - it's not often enough that we get simply a believable lifeform that isn't all-powerful or with some strange quirk.
This is easily something you could find on planet earth.
Voted CaptainPenguin
September 22, 2006, 1:56
Agreed. I have no suggestions to make.
Voted manfred
September 22, 2006, 14:45
And it tastes like chicken. Heh. :D

A solid lifeform post. If desired, there could be easily some more fantasy-ish properties added (using the horn in alchymistic potions, etc), but it is fine as it is. Good work.
October 5, 2006, 21:37
The journal entry is particularly juicy! The name of the creature is a classic!
Voted Ramhir
October 23, 2010, 12:38

As Manfred said, a good, useful sub.

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