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

Monster Quest

By Threetoe

Deep in the jungle, the men sat in a small circle atop a great stone pyramid. Their campfire illuminated the great stone statue of Colostomax, on whose altar they rested. The old man sat still, eyes forward, dressed in hides hung with the teeth of a hundred vicious predators. Scars covered the muscular arms that ended in thick hands resting on the knees of his folded legs. At last he turned his head slowly to face the silent men one by one. His long grey beard shook as he spoke.

He was known as Whitewolf, and these men were his pack. They were an elite group of monster hunters and their prowess was known throughout the land. Tonight their mission would be a difficult one. Whitewolf told them of how the evil wizard Hiverak had made a deal with evil forces from below and had summoned scores of fiends to do his bidding.

"The monsters he keeps are called Noctrols," Whitewolf told the hunters. "Beasts summoned from the very heart of the Underworld. They walk on their knuckles like great apes, long leathery wings running from wrist to ankle like night squirrels. They have long fangs, shaped to suck out human blood which, when digested, becomes an acid powerful enough to burn away flesh. They are evil. We must kill them and wipe all trace of them from this world."

The aged hunter looked around the circle. There was Jackal, spike-haired head bouncing up and down, hungry for the kill as always. Beside him sat Hound, the best tracker in the land, scratching his wide nose. Sitting directly opposite Whitewolf was a thin-boned young man. He sat erect, with a slight smile on his face, exuding an air of false wisdom. He styled himself Death Coyote and was yet to face a foe worthy of his imagined skill.

Whitewolf passed around the circle, handing three silver arrows to each hunter. They were blessed by the spirit of Colostomax, he told them. One would be sufficient to bring low any creature of darkness. If they had to use more than three in their quest, he warned, they had already failed. Stealth was the ally of the monster hunter, and the strike must be silent and deadly. Death Coyote nodded his head, eyes narrowed, the corners of his mouth slightly upturned.

The hunters made their way into the jungle. They walked silently in a single file line, the leading hunter just in sight of the next. They crisscrossed through the brush, Hound leading them in search of the evil wizard Hiverak and his monsters. Many villages had been attacked on the outskirts of the jungle, their inhabitants drained of blood. The monsters lair must be near. Night descended on the jungle.

An owl hooted from the path ahead. Whitewolf raised his hand and the hunters stopped, readying their bows. A shape made its way toward them, bounding over root and branch. It was Hound.

"I have found noctrol sign," said the tracker.

The two hunters made their way through the brush. There they found a pile of dung releasing a cloud of thick green vapor. The underbrush beneath the pile was melted away. The hunters held their hands over their noses and mouths. Whitewolf summoned the men forward.

"We are close," he said. "You must spread out and engage any noctrols you find. This will cause a diversion, while the first one to find the lair can enter and slay the wizard. Go now!"

Death Coyote smiled and turn to enter the jungle. Whitewolf caught him by the arm.

"You are coming with me."

The young hunter's face turned bright red, but he relented and followed the old man. For another day they traveled. Just after sunset, Death Coyote pointed at something ahead of them. Whitewolf slapped down the young hunter's arm and pulled him to the ground. The old man peered up from behind a fallen log. His eyes were not what they used to be.

He heard it first. Branches snapped and lichen crunched under heavy feet. It came closer, and he saw the moonlight reflected in its snake-like eyes. A noctrol. Whitewolf reached out to grab Death Coyote as the inexperienced hunter leaped up, bow in hand. He released the arrow and it fell, far from the mark. The beast turned its head toward the log and its long pointed ears went flat as it charged. Thinking quickly, Whitewolf screamed and ran to the side. The noctrol turned to chase him, its knuckles digging into earth as it lopped at high speed.

Death Coyote shot the monster through the ribs. It crashed to the ground and slid into the grimy jungle floor. The young man held his bow high and shouted. His joy was cut short when he saw Whitewolf approaching. The old man stared into his eyes as he stepped to him.

"How many arrows do you have left?" asked Whitewolf.

"... One," said Death Coyote, choking on his words.

"Then you have one chance left to kill Hiverak and restore peace to the jungle," said the old hunter.

Shame burned in the young man's chest as he followed Whitewolf through the brush. The old man held up his hand and the two men prepared their bows. Before them was Hiverak's cave, a rocky hole in the center of the jungle. Whitewolf looked at his apprentice.

"It is not often that we are given a second chance," said Whitewolf.

He handed the young man two of his arrows.

"Now, with these three arrows, you will kill Hiverak," said Whitewolf, "or you will not return."

Whitewolf watched as Death Coyote made his way into the cave.

The stars turned, invisible above the canopy of the jungle. The old man could wait no longer. He snatched up his weapons and headed toward the cave entrance.

The cavern was enormous. Stalagmites and stalactites jutted into empty space like so many pointed teeth. The pit was sparsely illuminated by torchlight from the opposite wall, barely visible in the distance. Whitewolf could hear them crawling on the ceiling, at least a dozen noctrols. He stepped carefully. The slightest noise would alert the hanging beasts.

It was then when Whitewolf saw him, pale and shaking, huddled next to a stalagmite. His weapons lay before him, the arrows scattered before him. He looked up at the old man, tears in his eyes. In a series of frantic hand gestures the young man spoke to his mentor in the silent language of the hunters.

"I am no longer Death Coyote," he said, his hands barely able to form the sign of his name.

Whitewolf felt the weight of the weapon in his hand. It was his last arrow, but that was all he needed. He stepped over the broken man and crept deeper into the cavern. He inched around the lakes of steaming acid that dotted the cavern floor. Above him, the noctrols patrolled, batting their wings and screeching in their animal tongue.

Ahead he could see the light of the torch. It passed back and forth along the far wall, casting shadows of the noctrols that crowded around it. A trail of blood and acidic filth dropped from above and landed next Whitewolf's foot. He looked up to see a beast feeding on a small jungle rodent. He grimaced as a drop of green liquid ate into his ankle. Bearing the pain, he pressed on. He took his place behind a stone column and waited for the wizard to come to him.

The old hunter notched his arrow as the wizard stepped ahead of his monstrous bodyguards. Now was not a time for prayer. The great god Colostomax had blessed his weapons that they might send his enemies to the Underworld, but he must rely on his thirty years of killing to guide his hand. The wizard came closer. Whitewolf could almost smell his breath. A noctrol passed in front of the wizard. The hunter wiped his brow. Another missed chance, and he might be discovered.

Hiverak held the torch high as he paced back and forth, reading from a black scroll. He was surrounded by vicious creatures of the night, but this was not enough. His aim was to open a portal to the Underworld itself. He felt a great welling of pride as he recited the magic words from the scroll. Of all the wizards, he must truly be the most evil.

The arrow smashed through the wizard's ribcage with a loud crack. Hiverak's legs buckled and he slowly turned and sank to the floor, blood bubbling from his mouth. The noctrols launched into the air, screaming their rage. Whitewolf slid back into the cave, slithering from stalagmite to stalagmite. The noctrols flew in a great circle, emitting sharp pinging sounds. The echoes that returned drew a map of the cave in their dark minds. The hunter broke into a run, leaping over rock and pond.

Great globs of filthy matter fell from the air. As they hit the floor, they burst, sending acid spraying everywhere. Whitewolf leapt behind a pile of rocks and covered his head with his arms. The pings were getting closer. Bombs exploded to his left and right. There was no escape.

A mournful howl sounded from the mouth of the cave. The old hunter's weary heart quickened. It was the call of a coyote. The noctrols broke off the search and flew toward the cry. Whitewolf stumbled after them. Ahead he heard the bloodcurdling cries of dying beasts.

He emerged onto a pile of dead noctrols. There was Jackal, grinning as he held up the severed head of a noctrol. Hound was there as well, and sitting on his shoulders was Death Coyote. Jackal took up his flask.

"Here's to the Wolf Pack!" he said.

"No," said Whitewolf. "We drink to Death Coyote."

Death Coyote jumped down from Hound's shoulders and addressed his teacher.

"My name is just Coyote now," he said.

Whitewolf smiled and grabbed Coyote's hand in his. There was much celebration.


Just as there are migrants in the works and bandits in the shorter term plans, there can be mercenary groups with different reputations. In a fantasy world with various beasts, the notion of monster hunting might be reasonable, depending on what there is to hunt.

A recruit in need of escort can be followed around, receiving training, advice, admonishment and protection. A recruit can be sent on a hardcore proving trial by themselves. This might happen to you in adventure mode. People already do it to their poor migrant 'hunters' in dwarf mode.

The notion of keeping your nerves together when you are performing actions (like picking a lock while under threat of discovery or sniping somebody as in the story) might make things more interesting for non-players, but it would require some care in adventure mode for the player. The opportunity numbers for attacks mentioned in dev might be relevant to having snipers wait to take shots.

A few other things -- making animal/wilderness noises to communicate with other people, jumping out and calling attention to yourself to divert an attacker's attention.

I think health effects from age are mentioned somewhere on dev, but vision loss is a particular example that comes up here.

Having physical characteristics that match personality can be important in stories, and this might come up to some extent to add flavor.

Of course, the "night soil" question arises in this story. Here, the night soil is caustic because of a particular diet (and the power of evil).

The evil wizard in this story was proud of his status in his own mind as the 'most evil wizard'. This also ties in to various other superlative competitions among world figures, such as the 'most beautiful' etc. The game would need to be able to quantify these things (perhaps with a very fine measure) and keep track of who was 'winning' in some way. These could be reflected by the talk in towns and also in scholarly works where applicable.

As long as it isn't too common, having your less experienced companions yell "Hey look!" and draw attention to themselves might be amusing. They might also overcompensate for weaknesses by modifying their speech and behavior, and they'll eventually have to come to grips with their limitations.

There is a temple and a blessing by a random god in this story. There are various possible models for this sort of thing. There's certainly no need to go the more standard routes here. Real-life religions seem as good a model as any, and those are quite different from what you see in many RPGs, where the system is more a less a healing/ally-amplifying spin on a typical wizard.

Gateways to wherever and summoned creatures from wherever are common in fantasy settings and often are a driving element behind plots.