This story is one of many which took place in the legendary superfortress FlareChannel, pictured here:
As a prelude to my favorite story of FlareChannel, I’ll fill you in with the history of Giant Eagles in this fortress. Ever since I noticed the elves brought, occasionally, Giant Eagles with them, it had been a goal to purchase a breeding pair to populate FlareChannel with. After decades of trying to do so, I eventually got a male and female pair within their respective lifetimes, and the first natural-born clutch of baby eaglets was hatched.
Ever since, they have gracefully adorned the halls of my fortress. They tend to hang around the meeting area, but occasionally one can still see them flying elsewhere.
Occasionally they would back up military dwarves in taking down a nearby enemy.
Or even venturing out into the sky to spread their wings a bit, and perhaps scan the landscape for any suspicious enemies approaching.
One eagle even decided to stand guard over the glass dome above the throne room. Why, we will never know. He could have easily flown away, and yet he did not. He stayed steadfast until his dying day, years later. Some say he was standing guard over the weak, watching constantly for those who would prey on lone dwarves. Some say he chose to perch up there, knowing that upon mid-day, when the diplomat would meet to discuss trade agreements, his giant shadow would projected onto the throne room floor. Nothing helps convince a lone human to heed your subtle warnings than what appears to be a 100-foot eagle waiting above.
I played no part in the events that play out below, except for toggling Catten as a recruit once. This story is recorded as the best interpretation of events that will, likely, remain a mystery forever. Most of what happens I can’t even begin to guess as to how it could have. It seems impossible unless there is secret coding going on for Dwarf Fortress, or features I don’t know about. Regardless, I was as surprised as anyone else at the series of events that follow.
The Fable of Catten and the Eagle
Our story begins 100 years after the first hatchlings wandered the halls of Flarechannel. In the past, giant eagles have been creatures of their own, almost never befriended by dwarves and only then when a rare dwarf who can sympathize with the beasts is born. They are a species of creature who, in the wild, feast upon the sweet alcohol-infused flesh of dwarves for fun. This is their legacy, and every dwarf is well aware of it.
However, Catten and the Eagle are unique. Catten is a dwarf who prides himself in his skills, and due to this has developed three legendary skills in Masonry, Weaving, and Clothing, not to mention a good number of additional skills across the board.
Perhaps he had even earned his smugness, having created an artifact in his youth
He was a prime woodsman in the forest clearing which led to war with the Elves. Truly he is a dwarf of pride. When it came to the local Giant Eagles, Catten had absolutely no opinion on the beasts. It is well known that dwarves must enjoy a creature to be motivated enough to tame it as their own, but Catten couldn’t care less about the masses of feathers, claws, and beaks which flew among the halls and towers.
But sometimes fate doesn’t ask us for our preferences or wishes, and it was such in the case of Catten. Recently born in Flarechannel was one unspectacular Giant Eagle. She was a little larger and hardier than most hatchlings as one always is, but nothing any dwarves were surprised by. Yet already destiny had woven a fate which bound this eagle with threads stronger than steel. As soon as she grew past childhood, this eagle should have waited for a suitable master to come along (which happened so very rarely). She did not. She went out and found one. Catten. This had never happened before in the FlareChannel’s history. Catten may not have cared one bit about her, but that didn’t stop her from picking him as the dwarf she would stand guard over against all dangers. And thus began the story of unrequited love between dwarf and eagle.
At first, it was merely one of the many mysteries of the fortress. Other dwarves would stop and stare and Catten hurriedly passed between jobs. Collect spider silk, weave thread, make clothes, gather rock, construct blocks, make mechanisms, gather plants, plant seeds, finish a few odd jobs. Catten was no stranger to the busy day, and had no time to entertain a foolish eagle that mistook him for her master. What did he care? Dwarves work, and drink, and kill things if possible. Dwarves don’t sit around entertaining delusional creatures, especially not those who have been known to slaughter dwarves by the dozen. A less determined eagle would have long since left Catten to his duties, but not this one. The eagle knew that one day, Catten would find himself in trouble. She would have to be there to protect him. His disinterest was not such a crime that it justified leaving him to the horror which lay in his future.
And like this, a decade passes.
The year is 505. Catten, now an old man, still rushes from task to task with the persistence of a dwarf half his age. He now finds himself clad in the finest silk of his own making. Even after all these years, he occasionally turns to pick up a piece of silk or rock and catches the outline of an eagle faithfully waiting nearby. Catten is by no means an unpleasant dwarf to be around, but nonetheless even he scoffs at the foolhardy behavior of his eagle follower. Assuredly there are more important things to be doing than following an old man who can take care of himself! A dark raincloud loomed on the horizon and Catten retreated back into his workshops, to once again shut out the world in the endless stream of garments he produced now.
The next day, disaster strikes.
For the first time in countless years, death incarnate approaches FlareChannel. Alarms sound, and the military scrambles into action. From the south, smoke rises and a scout gives the report nervously. A dragon has once again taken its eyes to Flarechannel. This time, it is Tusnung Heatedgilds the Spark of Warmth. Luckily, all dwarves are safely inside the walls not even a dragon can pass, and the military assembles on the main bridge, some who have not seen such a beast stand fearful. In the eyes of others one can see the gleaming of latent blood lust in their veins. You can smell it in the air.
As the final few warriors catch up to the group, a single order sends them down the spiral tower to intercept the dragon, which is finishing up slaughtering a lone human pikeman who straggled to long after the caravan left. But the dragon doesn’t head to the fortress proper. He heads East. The military still pursues, perplexed at the change of focus of the beast. When they realize the dragon’s target, shivers run up their spines. It has been decades since a dwarf has been lost to an enemy. Catten Shoraster is the lone dwarf who ignored common sense and remained outside. Stubbornness does come with old age, but this was insane! Only Catten would be so lost in his work that he would miss the alarm bells. The military would have no way to catch up with the dragon in time.
By now Catten had realized what followed him to the silken-laden hills. The screams of the human as he was ripped limb from limb made sure to that. As unemotional as he is when he works, Catten pulls out his axe and prepares to die as any dwarf would choose – fighting rather than running, even if it means death.
But Catten is not alone in his choice. The eagle has also accepted her fate.
Its likely she had accepted it 12 years before when she chose Catten to protect. Destiny had ensured she would be in the right place and the right time. Diving between the dragon and Catten, the eagle attacks with a ferocity that echos through the legends of all dwarven lore. Spending years around the dwarves and seeing many battles had taught the eagle a thing or two. Like the champions of FlareChannel, the eagle dived fearlessly, directly into the dragon, knocking them both to the ground in a stunned daze. Now that the dragon had lost its footing and fallen down a ramp, the eagle knew it had to act quick. Driven by determination that any dwarf would respect, it rose before the dragon could and attacked it on the one place they were in equal footing – the eyes. In a second the eagle had ripped both eyes from the dragon’s face. Rare is the sound of a dragon screaming in agony heard and all dwarves shuddered at the piercing wail. Still the eagle attacked, destroying piece after piece of the dragon’s head until eventually it was able to reach the brain through the now mutilated face, which was promptly mangled.
A wounded, blind, insane dragon is still a beast to be feared, and Catten finally realized – that eagle was the closest thing to a family he ever had. If he left it to die, then what would he have left? Pride? Masterful silk clothes? He had never met a wife, and he was too old now. His bloodline would die with him. Perhaps this was why Catten drove himself out of the real world and into has work. The rare happiness Catten felt was when he got a chance to help another. He had always valued the dwarven spirit in them. But now, he was seeing the dwarven spirit in a mere eagle. No, not a mere eagle. His friend.
Catten rushed in, wielding his trusty axe that had felt the sturdy skin of countless trees. No stranger to the swing, Catten and the Eagle slowly took down the dragon, working together to keep each other safe from any injury. By the time the military had finally caught up, it was already over.
Catten and the eagle both died a few years later, peacefully in dwarven terms. They were buried together, and immortalized in the very spirit of FlareChannel. From that day fourth, eagles were no convenient guests, or bothersome birds that were looked down upon as inferior. No, from that day fourth they were guardians and embodiment of the spirit of FlareChannel.
And what of Catten and the Eagle in their final years? They still went everywhere together, and Catten looked back at her with a smile of comfort instead of disgust. But much of these details are lost in history. What is known, however, is that during the finishing of the Temple to Armok, Catten’s clothes were mysteriously found on the roof, where no path could have possibly led. Additional constructions had to be built just to retrieve them. Some say it was magic, or the joke of some dwarven child. Still, others say that every now and then, on a rare night when others were asleep, Catten would climb aboard his old friend, strip naked, and fly around the towers, admiring the view that no other dwarf was ever privileged to see – laughing as he had only as a child, without a care in the world.
Written by QuantumSawdust
You can see many more pictures and stories from Flarechannel here.