"Do you have any potions for... Flying?" -Zapper
Haunted by an ancient crime that robbed them of their wings, the kenku wander the world as vagabonds and burglars who live at the edge of human society. Kenku suffer from a sinister reputation that is not wholly unearned, but they can prove to be valuable allies.
The kenku once served a mysterious, powerful entity on another plane of existence. Some believe they were minions of Taifun, Palace of Tempests, while others say that they were scouts and explorers for the Citadel of Ice and Steel. Whatever the truth, according to legend, the kenku betrayed their master. Unable to resist the lure of a beautiful sparkling treasure, the kenku plotted to steal the item and escape to the Mortal Realm.
Unfortunately for the kenku, their master discovered their plan before they could enact it. Enraged, the entity imposed three dreadful curses upon them. First, the kenku's beloved wings withered and fell away from their bodies, leaving them bound to the earth. Second, because their ingenuity and skill had turned toward scheming against their patron, the spark of creativity was torn from their souls. Finally, to ensure that the kenku could never divulge any secrets, their master took away their voices. Once the entity was satisfied that they had been sufficiently punished, the kenku were set loose on the Mortal Realm.
Since then, the kenku have wandered the world. They settle in places that accept them, usually bleak cities that have fallen on hard times and are overrun with crime.
Above all else, kenku wish to regain their ability to fly. Every kenku is born with a desire to take to the air, and those who learn spellcasting do so in hope of mastering spells that will allow them to fly. Rumors of magic items such as flying carpets, brooms capable of flight, and similar objects provoke a great desire for the kenku to acquire the items for themselves.
Despite their lack of wings, kenku love dwelling in towers and other tall structures. They seek out ruins that reach to the sky, though they lack the motivation and creativity to make repairs or fortify such places. Even so, their light weight and size allow them to dwell in rickety structures that would collapse beneath a human or an orc.
Some thieves' guilds use kenku as lookouts and messengers. The kenku dwell in the tallest buildings and towers the guild controls, allowing them to lurk in the highest levels and to keep watch on the city below.
As a result of their lack of creativity, kenku function comfortably as minions of a powerful master. Flock leaders enforce discipline and minimize conflicts, but they fail at effective planning or crafting long-term schemes.
Although unable to speak in their own voices, kenku can perfectly mimic any sound they hear, from a halfling's voice to the noise of rocks clattering down a hillside. However, kenku cannot create new sounds and can communicate only by using sounds they have heard. Most kenku use a combination of overheard phrases and sound effects to convey their ideas and thoughts.
By the same token, kenku have no ability to invent new ideas or create new things. Kenku can copy existing items with exceptional skill, allowing them to become excellent artisans and scribes. They can copy books, make replicas of objects, and otherwise thrive in situations where they can produce large numbers of identical items. Few kenku find this work satisfying, since their quest for the freedom of flight makes them ill-suited to settle into a routine.
Kenku gather in groups called flocks. A flock is led by the oldest and most experienced kenku with the widest store of knowledge to draw on, often called Master.
Although kenku can't create new things, they have a talent for learning and memorizing details. Thus, ambitious kenku can excel as superb spies and scouts. A kenku who learns of clever schemes and plans devised by other creatures can put them to use. The kenku lack the talent to improvise or alter a plan, but a wise Master sets multiple plans in motion at once, confident that underlings can follow orders to the letter.
For this reason, many kenku make an easy living serving as messengers, spies, and lookouts for thieves' guilds, bandits, and other criminal cartels. A network of kenku can relay a bird call or similar noise across the city, alerting their allies to the approach of a guard patrol or signaling a prime opportunity for a robbery.
Since kenku can precisely reproduce any sound, the messages they carry rarely suffer degradation or shifts in meaning. Human messengers might switch words or phrases and garble a message inadvertently, but the kenku produce perfect copies of whatever they hear.