Dwarf Fortress
Download Features Screenshots Development Forums Bug Tracker
Threetoe's Stories DF Talk Contact Links Champions Other Games
Threetoe's Stories, and Analysis

The Beast

By Threetoe

The forest was cold and wet. Scant light filtered through the high branches from the overcast sky. Caltron searched his pockets for the tools that would help him survive. He cursed the settlers who deserted him. It was true that he had claimed to be the best tracker in the land. It was also true that after a day in the forest, the wagon train had become hopelessly lost.

That night the settlers conspired to get the young tracker drunk. When he woke the next morning the wagons were gone. His pockets were empty. At least they had left him his boots. They lay discarded next to a gnarled tree stump. They had no doubt tried them on and found them too small, Caltron being slight of build with narrow feet.

Pine needles and mud splashed onto his boots as the tracker trudged on. His skills may not have been what he imagined them, but he could follow the deep trenches of wagon wheels. Perhaps he could rescue his stolen belongings when the settlers camped for the night. He could see his breath puffing from his burning lungs in the chill air. He followed the tracks as they veered away from denser clusters of trees. The tracks turned to follow a quick flowing stream, until it became shallow enough to cross. There Caltron rested, cupping his hands to take in a gulp of the freezing water. Shivering, he stood and followed the tracks onward.

Caltron chuckled to himself. In the mud below, the tracks of the wagon were crossed by a fresher set. They were going in circles. Just up the trail, Caltron could hear someone cursing. Satisfied with himself, he turned and walked back through the woods. Smiling, Caltron crossed his arms over his chest, leaned against a tree and slid down into the dirt. Time passed. Small animals scurried in the branches above his head. In the distance he heard the bright melody of a song bird. The clouds broke, showering light onto the forest floor. Caltron looked around at bright ferns, and the rotten logs blooming with colorful fungus. For a moment his troubled mind was at peace. He drifted into a dream.

He awoke at once. The forest was silent as a tomb. Through the ferns he saw a pair of large menacing eyes. A beast emerged from the underbrush. It closed in on Caltron, saliva dripping from its fangs. The tracker shot to his feet, waving his arms and screaming at the top of his lungs. Brightly striped hair flared up on the beast's back. It stopped in its tracks. Caltron backed away through the trees. When he could no longer see the monster, he broke into a run.

The lost tracker tried desperately to keep his panic in check. His wits were the only thing that could save him from the beast. He ran, tracing the path of the wagon, backward. Following this path he would be clear of the forest. But even at a run, this journey would take days. His boots sank into the mud, making every step an effort of will.

When he reached the stream, he paused to drink. Lifting his head, he saw the eyes once again. Caltron's hand darted into the water and plucked up a round stone. He hurled it at the eyes. They blinked once and disappeared.

Hunger burned in the beast's guts. It licked its paw and brushed the sore spot on its nose where the rock struck it. The beast was too old to chase the deer of the forest, and fish were becoming scarce. Its mouth watered as it contemplated this new prey. The deer were fast, but this thing was slow. The beast was startled when it had made itself large. But then it found that the thing was merely running on two legs like a silly bird. It would be an easy kill, and the largest meal in a month. Pain shot through the beast's nose. It was still dangerous. Care must be taken with this one.

The beast circled Caltron as he prepared to camp for the night. The tracker knew it was there, and remained ever vigilant, careful not to turn his back to the bushes. As the light faded, the beast began pacing more quickly. Soon the man would become tired and it could strike. A strange smell filled the air. A small fire flared up in the tracker's camp. The beast reared back on its hind legs.

Fire. Fire had driven the beast from its home in the old forest. The fire had claimed its mate and young ones. The beast had walked for many days to find a new forest. For all the beast knew, it was the last one of its kind.

The beast stayed away from the camp for a few hours, but hunger brought it back. The fire had not grown to consume the forest. Though the fire was still there, the smell of human flesh was irresistible. The beast crept toward the camp. The tracker's back was turned. The beast charged toward Caltron, but its aging body betrayed it. It was too slow. The tracker turned, hurling a burning branch at the beast's face. Aware of the man's tricks, the monster dodged out of the way. Fear pulsed through the beast's body, fire was everywhere, but its hunger was maddening. The tracker lifted a sharpened spear and thrust it at the beast. The beast lashed at the weapon with its deadly claws and was cut. It howled and backed into the forest.

The beast circled the camp as the weather worsened. Caltron was cold and miserable. Early the next morning the beast watched as Caltron walked toward his hiding place. The tracker stopped and knelt, holding his spear over his head. The man spoke to the uncomprehending creature. He then left the camp, the beast following just out of view.

They passed over the stream and came to the place where the wagon tracks crossed. Here Caltron stopped once more and turned to address the monster. He pointed his spear up the trail and spoke to the beast. The beast did not understand, but it had seen this many times. Prey driven to exhaustion often lost their wits. Then the beast caught the scent. There were more of them. The beast left the tracker and crept toward the source of the smell.

A wagon had broken down, not far from the stream. Unable to mend the wheel, the settlers had begun to drink. The meanest of them, a great fat bearded man, cursed Caltron. He should have killed him. He threw his bottle and it shattered against a tree. His wife comforted the frightened children. A low growl came from the bushes. The fat man growled back, laughing, and drew his knife. The woman reached out to him, pleading, as he staggered toward the trees. With a flash of orange and black fur, he was gone.

Caltron spoke to the bushes once more, thanking the beast for sparing him, and walked out of the forest.


    • can see saliva dripping from fangs of hungry creatures, also venom where applicable
    • different creatures can have different specific vocalization patterns, the player could identify the creature based on these sounds alone given enough knowledge, these vocalizations can have different emotional reactions based on the listener's entities or listening creature
    • scaring semi-intelligent animals by appearing large and making noises
    • different creatures can react in various ways to being injured, and they might have some kind of behavior associated to inspecting and caring for their own wounds, might be similar to self-grooming
    • decline of abilities with age for many creatures
    • a creature might become cautious if they've been wounded before
    • parents should be able to comfort their children
    • growling animals and people
    • people should try to stop other people from doing something stupid
    • different sized clothing for people within one size range, in finer gradations than narrow/stout, might just add some discomfort (like shoes)
    • sunlight can go through tree leaves and be cut down somewhat, depending on foliage
    • in places with trees, there should be dead stumps in places, especially after logging, and there can be other tree and vegetation debris like pine needles or logs, and fungus/lichen/vines growing on living or dead trees
    • shoes should get dirty if they walk through dirty places
    • wagons should leave tracks in certain ground types, even long after they have passed
    • seeing your breath and others breath from far away when it is cold
    • lung pain issues from breathing in the cold
    • shivering
    • equipment like wagons cannot go through very dense forests
    • natural fords for rivers on the world map
    • speed of natural water flows can vary
    • can sink partially or completely into unstable surfaces, can make movement difficult
    • if people have a problem that they can't resolve, they might turn to coping mechanisms such as intoxicants
    • if running adds to directional focus, need option to back away
    • some hunting creatures should be more likely to pursue other creatures that run away from them
    • a creature could stalk an opponent prior to an ambush, waiting for a better moment
    • certain people, places or things associated to a creature's history could evoke emotional responses, such as fear from a trigger associated to a traumatic event
    • a creature can give up on a difficult prey item or target to go for something else if available
    • abusing trust to get somebody to intake too much of a intoxicant in order to take advantage