Cauthooj

These large, flightless birds are deceptively agile, considering their long bodies and awkward, hopping gait. Solitary predators, they use their hypnotic warbling song to drive prey into a wild frenzy, manipulating them into attacking one another so that the cauthooj can then feast on the remains.

Known to some scholars as the puppet master bird, and to others as the shrill shrike, cauthoojs are widely reviled by most intelligent humanoids, in part because the birds seem to prefer humanoids to other prey. Cauthooj sightings typically lead to the creation of hunting parties to track the creature down before it can kill again, with would-be hunters typically stuffing their ears full of wax in an effort to avoid being affected by its cry. Those who have survived the creature’s song report that the experience is uniquely unnerving, and almost all accounts agree that there is no other sound as terrible.

While one might assume the cauthooj is a dumb animal, these creatures are in fact quite a bit smarter than they look. Cauthoojs stalk the perimeter of remote settlements in hopes of finding a lone traveler they can feast upon. These patient creatures will wait in ambush as long as they must to sate their hunger. They can even understand a few rudimentary words in Sylvan, although they are incapable of clearly speaking themselves.

This doesn’t stop the cauthooj from attempting to mimic the sounds it hears, but when it does so, its eerie primal nature enhances the attempt, leading to the bird’s signature ability to manipulate minds and encourage conflict, a trait the cauthooj is just barely smart enough to understand—and enjoy.