Birds of the King’s Forest: The Dwarfbeard Finch

Knowing something of the more mundane creatures and fauna to be found in places like the King’s Forest, in Cormyr, is good for Dungeon Masters running campaigns where the Player Characters are low level.

Likewise for generating encounters that help to break the tedium of rest, quest, fight, rest.

Let’s start with one of the more colorful–and covetous–birds to be found in Cormyr’s largest woodland

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1. Dwarfbeard Finches are so named for the thick, colorful feathers that adorn the face and breast of male finches.

2. Dwarfbeard males are of one solid color, usually black or deep blue. Females tend to colors ranging from rock-grey to dun-brown. From beak to tail, a typical male finch is about as long as a handkeg is tall. Females are about half again as large as males.

3. The “beards” of male finches appear during mating season. Males inflate their cheeks and breast, causing the feathers over their faces to extend outward like mustachios and curl downward into the feathers of their breast, the later flowing downward past the finch’s clawed toes. Beard feathers change color during mating season: vibrant reds, wholesome browns, straw-colored blonds and loamy blacks. A rare few are the color of snow.

4. Dwarfbeards have not been sighted anywhere else in Cormyr since the forested lands north of Suzail were cleared away and separated into what would one day become the King’s Forest.

5. Males build nests on sturdy branches, over the point where another strong branch grows out from the first. The nests are round and one side is built up into a sort of half-dome roof over the nest.

6. A female finch will land on one of the two branches that run out from the junction that the nest is built on. The male finch will come out from the nest and scamper, elaborately preen, dance and wiggle up and down the other branch, doing his best to coax the female towards the nest.

7. This process almost always fails if the male hasn’t placed a shiny object in the heart of the nest. If the object is suitable, the female will enter the nest, and then the male must sing for as long as it takes for the female to settle in. If she does then the birds will mate, and become a mated pair for life.

8. During the nesting season, male Dwarfbeards are notorious for landing in groups on forest travelers wearing items of clothing and jewelry that shine or flash in the sunlight. Likewise on anyone carrying gleaming magic items or richly adorned armor and weapons (a longsword with a ruby set in its pommel, for example, or armor burnished to a bright sheen). The birds will peck and poke with their long beaks, seeking to dislodge an item and to carry it off before another finch gets it. More than once this has given away the position of an adventurer ignorant of forest lore.

9. Forest goblins and hunters will sometimes lay out glimmering objects in the center of box traps, in the hopes of catching a small meal. These same individuals will climb trees and raid Dwarfbeard nests in the hopes of finding a bauble that can be sold for coin, despite the risk of falling to their deaths or of losing an eye or finger to the sharp beaks of males finches.

10. The lore of Dwarfbeards becomes unreliable as one travels further from the forest. In Suzail, innumerable tales have been printed in chapbooks that claim Dwarfbeards have a knack for finding lost treasures. In Arabel, it’s common to claim that a small lost item that can’t be found was stolen by a Dwarfbeard (Dwarfbeards are pure forest dwellers, mind, and the few that have been trained as pets or coerced by magic into stealing never stay long with their masters). In villages throughout Cormyr, children are told that male Dwarfbeards continue to embroider their nests with jewels, necklaces, rings and coins. Likewise that the easiest way to send an adventurer up a tree is to tell them a mated pair of Dwarfbeards lives in it.

11. One tale told throughout Cormyr claims a stubborn finch made off with the sapphire-adorned crown of an early king of Cormyr (though just who the King was varies from one telling to the next), and that the crown was used as a frame to build a nest around while the largest sapphire was plucked from its setting by the finch and placed in the center of its nest to attract a mate.

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