Raveten comes from Raven v10, where the v stands for version. The words melted together, with the 'en' in raven being dropped all together.

Creation

The half moon shone bright and vibrant over the courtyard of the castle. The Obstarian flag hung limply from its pole. No wind was blowing, as if the weather was waiting for occupants of the castle to determine the fate of the world.

Three figures cast shadows as they hurried across the grounds. They were heading to the place they had been scurrying back and forth for ten months now. The pigeon loft.

When the entered, they quickly grabbed one of the ten common ravens that were now inhabiting the loft. At first, there had been twenty of them. But in the past five months, they had begun testing. A first, going had been slow. A raven a month. But now they were near the answer, the solution, the creation. And they were doing a raven a week.

The trio, bird in hand, hurried back across the yard. The senior of the trio felt an excitement racing through his veins. He felt It. He felt the precognitive thrill of success, the almost certain knowledge someone feels when they are about to test a breakthrough that this is it, and what is about to occur is mere formalities.

His name was Edmund Grahtis. He had first thought up this project when he had been in the army at 20, which was 40 years ago. There, he had witnessed the horrors of war- and gained the insight. And now, here he was, about to fulfill his dream.

Edmund's companions included Obstaria's top Sciremagus, Justus Riese, and Justus's assistant, Karl Wagner. Karl was the one carrying the raven.

The trio brought the raven through the castle to the laboratory. A cage hung from chains attached to the ceiling, with another chain attaching the bottom of the cage to the floor. Edmund open the cage's door, and Karl laid the raven onto the cage's floor. Justus grabbed the vial, which was filled with a dark liquid with shining specks scattered througout, and carried it carefully to the cage. Edmund sealed the cage shut and opened the raven's mouth a claw-like device from outside the cage. Justus poured the mixture down the animal's throat.

The three watched the raven with an expectant silence, with pens hovering above paper to record a reaction, any reaction.

A minute went by. And then another. Before long, ten minutes had passed. They all sighed, and Karl wrote down 'no reaction. Subject is still asleep.'

The trio sighed to themselves. Perhaps more distilled Vival Petal? And they started to file out of the laboratory to their beds. Edmund, with a heavy sigh, turned to give the raven one last look, before he too left.

The raven was standing on the cage's bar, staring directly at him.

Subject: Raven v10
Date: March 10, 71 PE
Subject has slightly heightened problem solving skills. On average, subject can access food rewards 17% faster. Beak has become sharper. Flight speed has also increased by an average of 11%.
So far, the subject has made no sounds. Flying, walking, eating (more on diet later), etc, every action is carried out in absolute silence. Only sounds made by the subject originate from another object or being effected by the subject. For example, flying is silent, but when it flies into an object, the object will make a slight scraping noise as it brushes against the ground. The only exception to this rule is when the subject caws.

Subject refuses to eat plant matter. Subject attempted to eat an insect, but spit the insect out. Eating of carrion has not been tested yet.

Sciremagus: Karl Wagner

Use

Edmund and his team had finished their work in time for war. A week after finishing testing their augmented Ravens, called Raven v10 because it used the tenth version of the mixture, Obstaria and Tauria made their alliance and entered the World War (for details: The History of Atheus).

It had been the second battle for Obstaria of the war. Their army, which was a reinforcement force for the main assault, had been ambushed and had retreated after heavy losses. The enemy had been forming up for pursuit on the battlefield.

Edmund had been granted the honor of being the first to unleash the Ravetens. He had been traveling with the the reinforcement group with the Ravetens to the main assault. He decided to unleash them a little earlier than planned.

The Ravetens flew out like a dark shadow of death. Though Edmund had only managed to create 15 of them, they did their duty all too well. Each headed straight for their food source. The only food source available to them, due to the magics worked on them by the mixture. The human corpses.

While the enemy was forming up on the battlefield, the Raveten landed on the carrion. They looked like ravens, so no one cared. That was their mistake.

Three pecks of the corpses was all it took.

The bodies exploded in a shower of blood and guts. Bone fragments acted like shrapnel. Brain matter and miscellaneous organs coated those still standing up. And when the soldiers looked at the area where the corpse used to be, all they saw was the bird. It scanned the nearby soldiers, and jumped into the air, landing on the next corpse. Peck. Peck. Peck. The stupider soldiers were the ones who died this time. The smart ones had all ready fled.

Meanwhile, the Obstarian army saw the explosions. They saw the enemy in disarray. They charged.

Obstaria quickly won the day.


Subject: Raven v10
Date: Date: March 17, 71 PE
Today we tested the subject on carrion, to determine whether intended blast occurs. It did.

The subject pecked the corpse three times. Our sciremagus determined that transfer of magic occurred during each peck. After the third peck, the corpse explodes roughly in a 30 foot radius. The subject was untouched by explosion.

Testing on force of explosion using dummies determined that victims within 10 feet of the corpse at time of explosion will either die or be incapacitated. Victims in the 10-30 foot range will be injured, incapacitated, or killed, with death being rare, incapacitation being uncommon, and injury common.

Placement of peck changes shape of explosion. If the corpse is pecked by the subject in the middle of the corpse, then the explosion will be circular. The further the peak goes to the fringes of the corpse, the more the shape of the explosion becomes elliptical.

The subject apparently uses the corpses as its sole food source.

Sciremagus: Karl Wagner

Discovery

The city walls exploded. Blood and gore flew and coated the the bone-perforated, newly-made corpses of the soldiers. The Merthian soldiers yelled as they attempted to run from the explosions- a feat made impossible because corpses were exploding everywhere on the walls.

The Ravetens were busy.

Obstarian and Taurian forces were besieging a Merthian city. They were in the middle of an attack, accompanied by the Raveten, on the city. Obstarian, Taurian, and Merthian archers were busy while their infantry were engaged in front of the walls. That is, at this point in the battle, the Merthian archers were the only ones busy. After all, the Obstarian and Taurian archers had the Raveten doing their work for them.

One of the Raveten pecking its way through corpses on the walls pecked a corpse once, twice, and thrice. The corpse spread its contents everywhere over the all ready blood soaked ramparts. The Raveten cocked its head at one of the soldiers that had just gotten corpse-bone all inside his organs and was now lying on the stones, dying. It leaped from its perch over to him, and cocked his head it the soldier. It cawed once, and pecked the still-living soldier. Again it pecked. A third time, it pecked. The soldier swatted at the bird, and showed no signs of exploding. The Raveten, from a new vantage point, examined the soldier carefully.

The bird sat there, waiting for the soldier to die. This phenomenon would bear further testing. After a couple of minutes, the Raveten flapped over the body. It examined the face, the arms, the body. The soldier was definitely dead. It pecked the soldier once, twice, and a third time. It, as expected, exploded- but there were no soldiers around to die from it.

The Raveten cawed, and scanned the area. It cawed again upon discovering what it had been looking for. An arm.

It flew over to the human arm, and pecked it once. It then grabbed the arm in its beak, and after some struggle, carried it aloft. The Raveten then carried the arm over to the battlefield at the foot of the walls. No Raveten were there- a much easier source of food was on the walls. The bird dropped the arm over the army, and then flew down to it. Keeping pace with the arm, the Raveten followed it. Once it got to a point just above the soldiers head, the Raveten swooped in and pecked it. The arm exploded, and felled several of the soldiers.

The Raveten cawed in delight. The explosion had not been as big as the others, but the returns had been bigger by exploding it here. It would have to do this again.

Subject: Raven v10
Date: March 24, 71 PE
Attempts at breeding the subjects has so far been unsuccessful. Courting between male and female subjects has not been witnessed. However, they may simply be in the wrong season for courtship. Further testing in each season may be required.
Artificial insemination of a female subject has been done, however, and an egg has been produced. The egg color is dark blue, with dark green mottling. The egg has not hatched yet.

This morning, three subjects were found dead in their cages. Each of the subjects is kept in a solitary cage, and each of the subjects has been fed adequately. The dead subject's feathers had also changed color to an off white. Further testing of how this event occurred must be done.

Sciremagus: Karl Wagner

Mistake

The room was clean. A group of Obstarian soldiers entered while looting the Merthian castle. Some sighed after the realization that the room was a laboratory. The rest shouted in glee. Expensive- nay, priceless- regents and materials may be lieing around inconspicuously. It might not be as glamorous as gold rings, but it might just add a higher degree of clinking in a person's money-pouch.

The group gazed around the lab, eyes evaluating such things as price and quantity as only a lightly-educated, non-magic trained soldier can. On the left of the room, a long counter supported several flasks and vials, as well as a sink and a large bucket of something that looked almost exactly like water, but just... off. Slightly. Perhaps it was the lack of any reflections, whatsoever. In front was another door. On the right of the room, several cages hung from the ceiling. Inside them were crows. They were cawing and rustling their feathers and, to the common soldier's naked eye, acting like crows should.

One of the soldiers laughed, and said 'Them damn Merts were tryin' ta copy our birds! Too stupid to get the Raveten's right, a'course. Didn't e'en get the right type o' bird!'

The door in front of them opened. Combat training kicked in, and the Obstarians drew their swords and entered a ready stance. An enemy sciremagus, in a white lab coat, appeared. He was pale, and his eyes were darting, but this was probably due to the sword in the sciremagus's back. The sciremagus started talking in broken Obstarian, pleading for help form the soldiers.

The person with the sword in the sciremagus's back then appeared. It was a Merthian sergeant. Quickly, the Merthian plunged the sword through the man's back, tugged it out, and yelled for back-up. The Obstarians attacked. The sergeant quickly fell to their blades, but a small squad of Merthian soldiers, their swords all ready bloody (no doubt from previous sciremagi), joined the melee.

No one noticed the breaking of the cages.

No on noticed the escape of the crows.

No one noticed the meeting between crow and Raveten.

No one noticed a male crow and female Raveten winging off into a nearby forest.

No one noticed the pair starting to build a nest together.

Subject: Raven v11 (offspring of Raven v10)
Date: April 1, 71 PE
The egg hatched. A lab assistant noticed slight cracks in the eggshell, and summoned the rest of the team.
The stages of the hatching proceeded as follows. The process of the birth is noted because of the fact that it differs from a normal avian birth.

First, a solitary crack appeared, perfectly straight, running from the middle of the base to the middle of the top. After a couple of minutes, another crack, likewise perfectly straight, but this time crossing the exact middle of the first crack exactly perpendicular, forming a 't' or an 'x.' Next, a bone-white tooth pierced the point where the two cracks crossed. The tooth then proceeded to widen the whole with a series of jabs and whacks until the head of the subject emerged.

The subject has pitch black fuzz. The eyes were bloodshot. And the subject lacked a shadow. But then the light seemed to flicker, and the subject regained- or almost replaced- its shadow.

The subject then proceeded to look to each side, and then widen the hole with its egg-tooth. After another hour of work, the subject pushed the eggshell apart into two halves and fully emerged.

The subject is currently being kept in a separate room from the other Raven v10s. It seems to be markedly different from the other Raven v10s, which is why the team decided to reclassify it as another version. Thus, Raven v11.

On a side note, four more Raven v10s were discovered dead in their cages. No one has any ideas on how this occurred.

Sciremagus: Karl Wagner

Spread

It was the year after the taking of the city. Kathia had sent an army to try and take it back, but Obstaria and Tauria had managed to scout out how the Kathians were coming, and successfully have their cavalry hit them in a standard pincer movement. The infantry forces had promptly moved in from the front, and enveloped the Kathians. The enemy army was defeated.

Obstaria and Tauria finished conquering the rest of Merthia over the rest of the summer, and had moved its forces to the Merthian/Kathian border before winter. The year after that- the current year- would allow the two armies to finish wading through te rest of the nations.

The woods surrounding the city were quiet. Almost too quiet. The normal birds hadn't returned yet, which was weird, seeing as it was mid spring. And the people hadn't seen any animals as they went along the path to the river.

The mayor of the city, a man named Venitionis had called for a hunt. He had a passion for the hunting of bears. It may have been the challenge, the danger, or perhaps the cruelty, but Venitionis went for the mother bears in the spring, who would be caring for their infants at the time. He would then proceed to raise the cubs himself.

'An ironic touch,' Venitionis would remark, 'having the killer of their mother raise the cubs himself.'

And so that morning Venitionis and his accompaniment mostly some nobles looking to gain favor, a smattering of bodyguards, the Kennelmaster, and some servants carrying a picnic lunch- were out in the woods that day, looking for a bear. They had all ready found and killed a deer, which was odd- usually they would find more smaller game, and more deer. Usually, they'd hear the birds chirping, and see tracks, and the usual forest noises. But this year, there was nothing.

Venitionis had all but dismissed this oddity when the dogs started barking and straining at their leashes.

'We got a bear!' cried the Kennelmaster. 'Go get 'im, boys!'

And the dogs rushing forward and the thundering their horses' hooves pushed all thoughts of weirdness out of Venitionis' mind.

The hunt was now truly on. Venitionis' blood was racing. He jumped off his horse in one smooth motion- his steed wouldn't be able to move fast in the dense forest. The dogs bayed as they followed the scent with Venitionis and some of the nobles pursued them.

And then there it was. The bear was a huge, majestic affair, its brown coat waving as it stood on its hind legs and roared, its pair of cubs watching from the background. The creature fell to earth like a meteor and charged at the intruders, at the aristocrats.

Sir Caudes was in front, seeking glory and promotion. But he made a foolish mistake. He took his spear and stabbed the head of the rampaging monster. The spear's tip cracked and burst, and Sir Caudes was left with but a stick. And the bear, with one sweep of its paw, sent Sir Caudes flying into a tree. A great crack was heard as his arms wrapped around the trunk unnaturally. The corpse fell forward, and lay still.

But Venitionis had no time to worry about Sir Caudes. He had a 400 pound monstrosity charging for him. Venitionis leaped to the side, rolled, and stabbed his spear at the bear's flank. The spear bit deep into the bear, but missed any vital organs. The weapon was wrenched out of his hands as the bear roared past.

Venitionis quickly grabbed Caudes' spear as the other nobles fought the bear. One noble got hit by a massive paw, and died. Another barely manged to dodge another swipe. Venitiones leaped forward, jumped onto the bear, and with a carnal roar, stabbed the spear deep into the bear's body. The beast bellowed in pain, sunk to the ground, and died.

Venitiones and the rest of the nobles gathered to honor and get their fallen, as well as the bear. As they gazed around the clearing, they saw a large amount of birds.

'There seems to be an awful lot of ravens,' commented Venitiones.

The Kennelmaster looked at the birds, and shrugged. 'Just damned carrion-eaters. Here for tha kill.'

The Kennelmaster knelt, and picked up a good stone, examined it for a moment, and then eyed the birds. He judged the distance, and threw.

The stone knocked a bird in mid-flight. It fell silently to the ground. It even made no thunk as it hit the ground.

Every single bird in the clearing turned towards the Kennelmaster.

'Their eyes...' murmured the Kennelmaster. 'They're so... black.'

And then as one, the group of Raveten flew towards the Kennelmaster.

Venitiones could not see what happened to the Kennelmaster. All he heard was a single sob and a twisting darkness etching out from the mass of birds covering the Kennelmaster. And then it exploded.

Broken splinters of bone cut through Venitiones like arrows through a pinata. Only instead of candy, there was blood. One of the birds hopped on his chest and cocked its head questioningly.

'Damn birds,' murmured Venitiones as his life seeped from the holes in his chest. The Raveten pecked Venitiones' chest once, and a barely visible tendril of black energy twisted and entered Venitiones' chest. He exploded in a shower of blood and brains.

With terrified screams, the nobles fled. Those that stayed in clumps were felled by falling limbs, dropped by the Raveten and pecked above their targets.

The path back to the city was proven much longer on foot than by horse.

The Ravetens fed well that day.


End Notes:

The Raveten soon spread throughout the eastern part of Atheus. It tends to live near human settlements, because human corpses provides it more nourishment than animal's. As such, small towns and villages that have a high Raveten population guard their dead and bury them. Certain small mercenary troops have gone into the business of exterminating the Ravetens and guarding funerals from them, and are developing (perhaps with the help of PCs) ways of either combating, catching, or removing them. It is easy to kill a single Raveten. Any weapon can kill them. The Ravetens are only truly dangerous when there is a lot of them, or when there are human corpses in the area.

The Ravetens typically form a flock. These flocks have their own territory, and will aggressively defend their land from other Ravetens. Flocks, as was shown in the attack of the hunt in the Spread category, will attack small groups of humans to gain nutrients. The flocks can and will use basic tactics in these attacks. These tactics can run from pretending to be normal ravens (because the Ravetens look exactly like normal ravens, except for the impossibly-black, unreflective eyes and the fact that nothing about them except their cawing makes a sound) to hiding in the shadows and then attacking en masse.

Plot Hooks:

Crap, I've got some of Earl all over my face: The small town of Grassroots has a large Raveten population, and what with all the fighting with the orc tribe hiding in the woods, they've got a large number of dead bodies. Grassroots would like the PCs to defend the funeral and then get rid of the Ravetens (and they'll be extra grateful if the PCs got rid of the orcs while they were at it, too).

A Necromancer in Need: The PCs are about to get into the terribly cliched fight with the villainous necromancer when the necromancer offers the PCs a deal- get him a Raveten, and he'll provide the PCs with a couple other Necromancer lairs, fake his own death, and move away. All for one little bird? The Necromancer will even throw in some time with his beautiful former-princess concubines to sweeten the deal.

The Emperor's New Pet: The king would like a pet Raveten. Yes, its weird, but you have to be an original thinker and stay with the current social trends. The current trend is pet birds, and the king wants something exotic. And what's more exotic than a bird that can explode corpses?

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