Information sourced from 'Wrigley's Bestiary: Carrion Crows', a codified book correlating various notes of students from Dr Wrigley's lectures at the University of Divination (Medical College)
By Libra's Sword it was revolting. I can still smell it now. I've smelt plenty of battlefields before, see? I was stationed out in Shamutanti before the Empire invaded. But nothing was ever like this. I'm lying in the mud, caked in it over night, waiting for the men to return in the morning and bring me to a medic. Standard military procedures, I had learned. But there were these feathered dog things, scurrying over the bodies and gorging themselves on them. Guts flying everywhere as my fallen friends and foes were being ripped apart. I still don't know how I got out of that mess, I remember a beak right above me and screaming as it pierced down my eye socket. Wait. I don't remember anything else. What happened? I was saved, right? What happened to me?
Under Emperor Sarrus IV von Apollyon (r. 3E 355 - 396), the war-machine at the heart of the Empire of Midland attempted to storm through Libra's Pass in the Jewels mountain range to bring the Kingdom of Analand into imperial influence while the Alsander Dynasty butted heads with Yosha over the Shamutanti Hills. As such, great fighting took place throughout Libra's Pass on both sides, with one bloody battle near the end of the war which would end as a stalemate being the Battle of the Black Hills. In the aftermath of the battle, the following morning the Analander men returned to the battlefield to honour the dead and bury their men to which they encountered the first recorded sightings of Carrion Crows.
A surge in Carrion Crow sightings then occurred in a period of time now referred to as the Crisis of the Dragon Age, which involve the events which directly led to the fall of the Midlandian Empire and the subsequent warlord period. As the first wave of a new plague, the Weeping Pox, spread like wildfire through the highly interconnected Empire after arriving via the Ruby Road, thus followed a migration of Carrion Crows into the urban centres of population to feast on the highest recording of mass death on the Mortal Realm to date. Since the spread of Weeping Pox, the species of Carrion Crow have not left the common knowledge of any mortal inhabiting the Mortal Realm.
The Carrion Crow resembles a bloated hooded crow the size of an average dog. The physique of the crow is somewhat hunched over, with small claws protruding from a mid-joint in the wings which explorers of the southern hemisphere of the Mortal Realm have equated to resemble a Pterosaur. This allows the Carrion Crow to effectively crawl over the ground and hang on to sheer surfaces in a similar motion to bats. The Carrion Crow is an ashy grey bird with black head, throat, wings, tail, and thigh feathers, as well as a black bill, eyes, and feet.
The species is clear to have originated from mutation triggered by high magical energies, thought to be necromantic in origin due to the creature's dietary habits. The main evidence of magical influence and corruption comes from the species naturally having three eyes like a Celestial creature born in Chaos or Magus Realm. According to Dr Wrigley, it is clear that to take an entity born in the Harmony of Grey  and attempt to mould this harmony to ones own liking causes a combustion of Chaos where the equilibrium is upset and Light and Dark within the entity begins to compete against one another. It is therefore unknown whether Carrion Crows have fully functioning Souls and Minds, which the Citadel of Scholars have further theorised may be the reason the species cannot seem to be tamed.
The Carrion Crow is infamous for its incredibly heightened sense of smell in relation to death. One can faintly detect the smell of fresh blood from a quarter mile away, while a corpse from a mile away. While the Crow will still have to locate the corpse, the more death and rotting that occurs in a select area the easier an individual Crow can pinpoint that location.
The Carrion Crow is most dangerous during mating and nesting season, which occurs at different times depending on the climate of the region. In warmer parts of the Mortal Realm, eggs are laid at the end of Spring in the month of Gearran and mating rituals occur throughout the earlier Spring months. In colder regions, nesting occurs later from around mid-Litha to mid-Samhradh with mating rituals occurring in early Summer (month of Bealtain).
For a mating ritual, the male builds a nest to impress a potential mate, which is composed of corpses. If there is no abundance of corpses, especially in an area where multiple males vie for mates, they will actively hunt and attack anything they fare a chance against to bolster the nest. As part of the ritual, the female assesses if the nest is adequate for her needs to stay in and have a supply of food while taking care of eggs and chicks while being protected.
Growth Rate & Stages
When Carrion Crows first exploded in numbers becoming vermin in the aftermath of the Grey Pox plagues, their size was rarely recorded being bigger than an average Pit Bull Terrier. However, in the Dark Time in the early Fourth Era, older Crows benefited from the surge in necromantic energies and grew even larger. These have hence become known as Ancient Carrion Crows, which all Crows develop into if the right combination of age and feasting is met, which usually occurs in urban environments.
Ancient Carrion Crows are known to grow to the sizes of stallions and can grow to an age where the unstable magical energy within them starts to alter the areas they lair in, such as causing light to dim and shadows to extend within 6 miles of their lair and cause intermitted echoing caws to cry out within this area. An Ancient Carrion Crow will lair and settle in a place where they find steady streams of cadavers to devour, and are especially difficult to remove when they develop. They enjoy being comfortable, which includes warm areas. If their lair becomes too cold, they will take flight and leave to the next nearest site of constant mass death.
An elderly Ancient Carrion Crow which knows is somewhat close to death will form an unkindness around them, attracting younger Carrion Crows to its lair and influencing them to collect carrion for them. The more Crows which arrive, the larger of a community develops between them, the bonds of which survive after the Ancient Carrion Crow dies from any circumstance.
It appears in research that due to the magically influenced changes inside the creature, its diet consists only of carrion scavenged from wherever it can. In urban settlements of the Holy See Territories, the Holy See or local body collectors will feed a laired Ancient Carrion Crow or settled unkindness so that they remain in an abandoned district and come any closer to living citizens or pose any real danger during mating and nesting season.
Carrion Crows are extremely weak creatures individually (apart from Ancient Carrion Crows), and so for protection and intimidation they will group together in flocks referred to as an unkindness. They operate a variant of the phenomenon found in standard corvids known as "Crow Law" within these societies and are highly aggressive and territorial against any living thing outside of their unkindness, even another Carrion Crow.
An unkindness of Carrion Crows is naturally attracted to deserted battlefields and places where great death has occurred recently. They are better suited to warmer climates, with wilder unkindnesses migrating to the equator for Winter, while those settled in more northerly cities will stay in the urban environment over the season to raise their young. They are known as major pests in the depths of highly urban areas which have been wracked with plague.
In terms of geographic spread, Carrion Crows have been sighted almost anywhere on the Mortal Realm where they can thrive, which is more often than not where civilisation is strongest as other wild animals still existing in the wilderness will easily hunt down and eradicate an unkindness.
Prompts Advent Calendar #16 WorldEmber Article #18
Uses of Carrion Crows
Due to their nature to be to devour open corpses, many Carrion Crows themselves are known to spread more diseases which will sometimes lead to be the most devastating part of a plague outbreak. A community may survive the plague but a wave of deformed giant crows fly in to devour their yet-to-be buried loved ones and bringing new infections to a recovering immune system.
While extremely intelligent like any corvid, this translates into understanding and choosing the path of least resistance to their next meal which some cultures in the Mortal Realm have taken advantage of. The warlord period brought about many ingenious advances in the field of battle tactics within the chaos, some of which was written down and survived for long enough to be codified in the Citadel of Scholars.
A theocratic warlord operating in the Shirelands at the heart of Midland known as Primate Agantyr reportedly assaulted their rival religious settlement by refusing to allow Priests of Sindla bury their dead and instead catapulted them over the walls of the town. Primate Agantyr understood that due to Clerics being present near such a temple there would be no impact on the populace in terms of diseases. However, it was the month of Imbolg, the first month of Spring and therefore as he had noted in previous observances, when Carrion Crows sought out more carrion and were more violent.
Within the week, the town was overrun with a growing unkindness as males attempted to build their nests and females gathered to assess the potential mates all throughout Spring. When Winter came along and the unkindness migrated south, Primate Agantyr and their warhost simply waltzed in to the completely clean and empty ghost town to pilfer the riches and urinate on the rival temple.
The Kenku Theory
One theory outwith 'Wrigley's Bestiary: Carrion Crows' persists that it was not mere common crows which were mutated into these necromantic beasts by chance, but the malicious and dedicated experimentation on the cursed Kenku species. Various factors are attributed to this, with the most compelling being in relation to the case of the only Kenku student to be admitted to the University of Necromancy.
After their study progressed into higher levels of the necromantic arts, the kenku student appeared to start having regular seizures and convulsions where afterwards they would begin to show signs of early onset dementia. After a month of seizures growing in severity, the student did not show outside of their dorm. When a professor went to look for him, they found the student having turned rabid and now feature not two but three eyes on their head, resembling a Carrion Crow.
However, there is no factual proof provided of this having ever transpired and reached the Holy See Territories as mere rumour and a folk tale. It is, however, still spoken in hushed words between students of the university in question, to which no kenku has ever been seen as a student since the folk tale began.
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