The lionbird is a species of eagle which travels and hunts in prides. Prides take prey of all sizes from pigeons to bison, and also eat carrion. Each pride has a king, or alpha male, several subordinate males, and many females. Many young males leave the pride to travel in bachelor packs, and eventually join prides other than those of their birth. Their secretive breeding habits have led to the legend that they hatch their eggs in heaven. This legend is disproved by the occasional sighting of a lionbird in Fire Season, when they supposedly are all in heaven. Their plumage is tawny. Males have golden crests, and the king always has the largest crest in the pride. Kings live only a year, worn out by monopolizing the mating. Lionbirds have a group song, sometimes heard by humans, which is alien but rhythmic.
This is the theistic view:
The lionbird is one of the oldest children of Vrok. It was one of the favorites of Murharzarm and he often hunted with it. The lionbird pride emulates the divine order of Yelm, with a king, several subordinates, and males over females. The male's golden crest is a special blessing from Vrok, and sign of his favor. It is regicide to kill a king lionbird, ignoble to slay any male lionbird, and bad luck even to disturb a pride.
The sky gods use lionbirds as messengers to mortals, for they travel to the sky once a year, in Fire Season. Outlaw birds must remain behind on the earth. When the prides reach heaven, old kings retire there forever. One male in each pride finds the divine meal which makes him the new king. The females bear the new king's eggs and hatch them near the end of Fire Season. The eggs are gold in color, but not metallic. Fed on fire berries and the meat of heavenly animals, the young grow fast. At the end of Fire Season, the females push the young out of their nests, and the fledglings must learn to fly as they plummet toward the earth. The pride follows, calling out instructions to the young ones. Those who learn to fly join the pride. Those who do not, plunge into the sea. This represents the virtue of Justice.
The lionbirds sing, representing the virtue of Harmony. Their song often reveals messages from heaven to those with the wisdom to understand. To hear their song is a blessing, and bound to bring the same joy of the heart which the sun brings when he bursts through clouds.
Sheng Seleris was accompanied in much of his career by a pride of lionbirds who brought him messages from the sky gods. They sang to him each morning, and he interpreted their songs to his companions. Other solar heroes, mostly of the Golden and Silver Ages, had friendly lionbird prides.
Lionbird feathers are good for many Light, Fire, Harmony, Life, and Death magics. Crest feathers are best. Pentian kings need lionbird feathers for their head-dresses.
This is the game view:
Lionbirds are medium-sized eagles. Their keen sight and high intelligence would make them good familiars and allied spirits, but they grow lonely away from their pride and sometimes pine away and die. A lone bird lives no more than five years in captivity, less if caged or wing-clipped. Allying an entire pride is possible, if one gains the friendship of the king. However, the whole pride then flies away in late Sea Season. The king does not return, so neither does the pride (in most cases).
An adventurer can use Falconry (a/k/a Hawking) to train a lionbird. Training is easier if the trainer wears a yellow feather crest on his hat or helm. The lionbird song is instinctive, however, and training cannot change it. Using Falconry on a king lionbird carries a 50 percentile penalty.
The statistics below are for an average male, which is about .8 meters long, beak to talons, and has a 2 meter wingspan (about the size of a bald eagle). The king has a SIZ of 4 (1.1 meters long and 3 meter wingspan--the size of a California Condor). The king has a STR of 18 and INT of 5, and POW above 12. Average females are .7 meters long, with a 1.8 meter wingspan and STR 2D6+4, but are otherwise the same as average males. The smallest young observed are SIZ 2 (.6 meters long, 1.5 meter wingspan).
characteristics Average STR 2D6+5 12 Move flying 12, walking 1 CON 2D6+3 10 SIZ 3 3 Hit Points 7 INT 4 4 POW 3D6 10-11 DEX 3D6+18 28-29
Hit location Melee
Points R Leg 01-02 01 0/2 L Leg 03-04 02 0/2 Abdomen 05-07 03-06 1/3 Chest 08-09 07-11 1/3 R Wing 10-13 12-15 0/2 L Wing 14-17 16-19 0/2 Head 18-20 20 1/3
Weapon SR Attack % Damage Dive Special 45+10 2D6 Claw 7 60+10 1D6 Peck 10 45+10 1D3
Note: Lionbirds Dive to kill small prey or to wound larger prey. Lionbirds attack large foes (SIZ 4 and up) in a group, with some distracting the foe while others Dive and then claw and peck. The distraction subtracts 5% from the target's skills for each lionbird in the attacking group, up to 75%. Each lionbird that closes gets a Dive attack. If the prey does not effectively attack back, the lionbird stays near it and gets Claw and Peck attacks in the next round. If the prey tries to attack back, the Lionbird wheels away, climbs, and gets another Dive attack on the sixth round after the last Dive. Lionbirds never suffer a damage penalty for STR + SIZ when using natural weapons.
Skills: Dodge 80+19, Scan 100-6, Search 100-6.
Armor: 1 point feathers on abdomen, chest, and head.
Random note: The Mongols used Golden Eagles to hunt wolves, and the weight to strength ratio of raptors is much higher than represented in the RQ rules. Change the Hawk stats on page 24 of the RQ Creatures Book to STR 2D6+2 for hawks and STR 2D6+5 for eagles. The strength of raptors is concentrated in their talons and flight muscles, however, and a normal human could wrestle one pretty easily as long as he guarded against the beak and talons.