Saturday, 3rd September, 2005, 04:23 AM #1
The Ecology of the Elven Cat (unpublished AD&D 2E version)
At the request and encouragement of a new poster named Zardoz, I dug into my files for another old "Ecology" article I could convert into bite-sized chunks for the Story Hour forum. I decided on "The Ecology of the Elven Cat," in part because it's a somewhat obscure creature that to the best of my knowledge hasn't appeared in 3.0/3.5 form in any Wizards of the Coast books (although I recall having seen at least one d20 version of an elven cat out there).
This one is a standalone story, not tied into any of my other Ecologies (although I did end up reusing a couple of the names from this one elsewhere, later on).
Last edited by Richards; Sunday, 4th September, 2005 at 05:29 PM.
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"Oh, you naughty cat!"
Shaellin pricked up his ears at the scolding and looked over the rim of the pot of fish stew, licking his whiskers with his pink tongue. Eight-year-old Carilysha stomped up to the campfire, one hand on her hip and the other shaking a finger at the elven cat. "You know better than that," scolded the young elf. "Now scat! You heard me, shoo!"
Shaellin scampered away from the cooking pot, slowing to a regal bearing once out of range of the young elf. He turned and fixed her a disdainful look (as only cats can do), before stating "Good cat," and marching proudly into the forest.
Carilysha just frowned at the elven cat, watching him disappear into the shadows of the ancient trees, then turned her attention back to the cook pot.
1. Elven cats are able to speak a crude form of their keepers' language, usually in short, two- or three-word sentences. Most elven cats speak a pidginized version of the elven language, but some live in the company of brownies, gnomes, or other forest creatures and have learned a smattering of that language instead.
In addition, elven cats have a language of their own, which they speak fluently amongst themselves. It consists mainly of cat-like purrs, yowls, hisses, and meows, and uses body language (particularly the positioning of the tail and the erecting of the fur) to add emphasis to the spoken word. Occasionally, an elven or similar word will be added if there is no equivalent in the elven cat language.
Last edited by Richards; Saturday, 3rd September, 2005 at 04:35 AM.
The three young orcs crept through the forest. Each wore only a short breech-cloth and carried but a single spear and a crude hand axe. They were three days into their coming-of-age ritual, which would determine their standings in the tribe forevermore. Every orc of the Bloody Fang tribe underwent the same ritual upon approaching adulthood: sent deep into the forest with minimal clothing and weapons, they must live off the land for a full week before returning to the tribe. If they could manage that, they would be accepted as full adults upon their return.
If, however, they could each bring back the head of an elf they had slain during the week, they'd return as honored adults and be accorded the respect due to a true warrior.
Skunge had big plans for his life. There was no way he was going to return to the tribe without an elf head in his bloodied hands. He had seen how those returning empty-handed were treated - that wouldn't happen to him! Plus, he had Brokko the Brutal and Grool the Cruel with him. While technically they were each expected to go their separate ways during the coming-of-age ritual, Skunge had already figured out it'd be easier for them to ambush a lone elf on three different occasions than it would be for each to overpower an elf on his own. Actually, if it came to that, if they found only one elf Skunge would be happy - just so he was awarded the kill.
Thoughts of mayhem flashed pleasantly through Skunge's head as he led the others through the forest.
Last edited by Richards; Saturday, 3rd September, 2005 at 04:36 AM.
Shaellin slunk through the underbrush, his coloration blending him into his surroundings. He smelled a squirrel up ahead and, still hungry after his aborted attempt at the wood elves' pot of fish stew, was ready for a good meal. Creeping quietly through the forest undergrowth, he approached his prey with unnatural stealth.
The squirrel sat contentedly munching on a nut, oblivious to the elven cat's sleek and silent approach. Shaellin slunk forward, low to the ground, closing the gap on his prey.
A sudden twig snap broke the silence of the moment. The squirrel, as easily panicked as all members of its race, dropped the nut and sprinted up the nearest tree. Shaellin momentarily considered chasing it, but curiosity got the better of him and he decided to check out what caused the twig to snap instead. Slinking off into the direction from which the noise came, Shaellin prepared himself for combat with whatever threat to his territory the broken twig might forebode.
Seeing the twig-breaking culprit, Shaellin let out a quiet snort, sheathed his claws and ran over to allow the wood elf to pet him. "Sloppy," commented the cat, rubbing up against the elf's leg.
"And good morning to you as well," remarked Gandlebain wryly, setting down the bundle of sticks he had gathered and bending over to stroke the cat's fur. Shaellin purred in contentment, arching his back to align the parts he wanted scratched with the elf's hand.
"Well, enough of that," said Gandlebain finally, straightening back up and gathering his bundle of sticks. "I've got work to do. Can't spend all day with the likes of you."
Disappointed that the petting session was over and Gandlebain was moving off, Shaellin tried drawing him into a conversation, hoping that maybe he'd pick up where he left off on the cat-stroking. "Some elf!" he cajoled. "Noisy, noisy."
Gandlebain kept walking, but called back over his shoulder, "That bad, huh?"
"Heard miles away. Monsters come running."
"Well, then it's a good thing I've got you here to protect me, isn't it?" called Gandlebain, and disappeared out of sight towards the elf encampment.
Shaellin just huffed and went deeper into the woods to patrol his territory.
2. Most elven cats have gray-brown fur with darker stripes along their backs and legs in a tiger-like pattern. In fact, one term for the elven cat is "taegrisha," meaning "little tiger" in an ancient elven dialect.
As a result of their coloration, elven cats are able to successfully hide in wilderness areas 90% of the time. This ability is equivalent to a rogue's ability to hide in shadows.
3. Elven cats are virtually undetectable when they move, passing without trace at all times. They can move silently 99.9% of the time, causing a -5 penalty to the surprise rolls of even the sharpest-eared elves. Elven cats, in turn, are unnaturally aware of their surroundings at all times, being surprised only on a 1 under most conditions.
4. Elven cats are excellent climbers, able to leap 20' with ease. Their retractable claws, 5 on each forepaw and 4 on each rear paw, give them a firm purchase in even the hardest bark.
5. Territorial creatures, elven cats stake out a large area and consider it their own private property. They usually ally themselves with a small band of elves or other forest-dwelling beings, and their territory is therefore naturally centered on the habitations of their keepers. An elven cat spends a good portion of each day patrolling its self-proclaimed property, ensuring that no dangerous creatures wander in that might pose a threat to the elven cat or the band that it has adopted as its own.
6. Elven cats are protective about their keepers and fight to protect them. This dates back from many millennia ago, when the first elven cat came into existence.
A venerable elven priest, knowing he was soon to die, prayed to his deity that he be able to watch over his tribe after death, to help keep them from harm. His prayer was granted, and upon his death his spirit entered one of the wild cats that the tribe kept as pets. Because of his affinity to magic, the priest found that even as a cat he had some magical abilities, and used them to protect his tribe. Over time, his intellect slowly became that of the wild cat whose body he inhabited, and as a cat he found a mate and sired a litter of kittens. These kittens also had magical powers, able to use ESP at will, enlarge and trip once per day, and reduce and a variation of the tree spell twice per day. In addition, they had an overall 20% magic resistance. As the centuries passed, the magical cats bred in greater numbers, becoming the elven cats we know today.
Last edited by Richards; Saturday, 3rd September, 2005 at 04:37 AM.
After a full morning's wandering over his designated area, Shaellin had found nothing more dangerous than a rabbit, which he promptly chased down, and, through the power invested in him as Defender of the Noble Protectorate of Shaellin the Elven Cat Extraordinaire, immediately found guilty of criminal trespass. The sentence was harsh, but just: the death penalty, thereafter to serve as the aforementioned Defender's lunch.
Licking himself clean after his meal, Shaellin came to a sad realization: although he had enjoyed both the chase and the rabbit itself, he still had a hankering for fish. Leave it to Carilysha to shoo him away from the stew pot! She obviously didn't understand that one simply doesn't shoo away a Noble Defender such as himself, nor did she apparently realize that a few bites of fish stew was a small price to pay for the cat's extraordinary services. Elves! You'd think they'd pass on some of their wisdom to their children, like elven cats did!
The taste of fish was taunting him now. He could sneak back to the elf encampment, maybe grab a few more surreptitious bites - but no, he was above that! He'd take a cool dip in the stream and get his own blasted fish, that'd show that little elf maid! And maybe after getting a fish, a really big fish, he'd take it back to the camp and let Carilysha see just how big a fish he had, and she'd ask if she could have it, and he'd say no, and eat it there in front of her. Ha! That'd show her!
Suitably impressed with his plan, Shaellin headed for the stream.
7. Elven cats, although magical in nature and possessing extraordinary powers, nonetheless have many traits similar to those of the standard house cat. They are fastidious, licking themselves clean after every meal, and therefore also prone to hairballs. They like to be hugged and pet, but only sometimes. They like to think they are in charge, and look down on all non-felines as inferior beings. On the other hand, they can be close companions, well-loved pets, and even occasionally serve as wizards' familiars (but only to elven wizards, and then usually only if the find familiar spell is cast by an elven wizard of high enough level to suitably impress the elven cat - he wouldn't serve just anybody, after all!).
8. While normally solitary in nature, every other spring adult elven cats seek out a mate. The normal gestation period is just slightly over two months, during which time the male remains with the female, ensuring her safety. Once the kittens are born (a normal litter consists of 3 or 4), the male stays around long enough for them to open their eyes and take their first steps. At that point (about 10 days after birth) the male returns to his own territory.
Raising the kittens is left up to the mother. She nurses them for the first two months, but after that they are taught to hunt on their own. She also instructs the kittens on the use of their magical abilities and how to speak both the elven cat language and any other she may know.
At two years, the kittens are considered full adults and go off to find their own territories. An elven cat can live to be 50 years old, perhaps as a result of the magical nature that brought about their race.
9. Unlike most cats their size, elven cats suffer from the heat and enjoy immersing themselves in water - another trait that they share with the tiger.
Last edited by Richards; Saturday, 3rd September, 2005 at 04:38 AM.
Skunge stood knee-deep in the stream, motionless as a statue, spear poised and ready. Brokko and Grool had already given up, lacking the patience for spear-fishing, and were splashing around trying to chase one down with their hands. Disgusted, Skunge had sent them downstream so that their pathetic flounderings wouldn't disrupt his own efforts. He knew that his patience would bear fruit long before their feeble attempts. But that, he mused, was why he was the brains of their threesome.
So intent were the three orcs upon their fishing that they failed to notice the approach of Shaellin. The elven cat slid up to the far side of the stream on his belly, his ears having alerted him to the orcs' presence long before they were within sight. He recognized the harsh guttural sounds of their words, and while he didn't understand the orcish language, he didn't need to - he could learn all he needed to know by skimming their thoughts directly.
Shaellin was intrigued by what he read in the orcs' minds. The two downstream were typical of the orcish race: violent, stupid, and brutish; no surprises there. The lone one, however, was an intense individual, completely focused on the task at hand - very unusual in an orc, from the elven cat's experience. He would bear further investigation.
As an elven cat, Shaellin's first impulse was to rush back to the elven encampment and warn the tribe of hostile enemies. There were only three of them, though, and so far seemed intent only upon catching fish. The wood elves' camp was several miles away, and wasn't in any danger - yet. He'd follow these three, make sure that they didn't find the camp. Three orcs he could handle, but if one of them were to report the elves' whereabouts to their own nasty tribe...well, Shaellin would just make sure that that didn't happen.
A quick movement caught his eye. The silent orc raised his spear from the water, revealing a fat trout flopping on the end of it. Greedily, the other two rushed back upstream to join the first orc in ripping the fish to bloody pieces with their disgusting tusks. Shaellin entered their minds again, to see what he could learn.
"There should be some elf villages along here somewhere," Skunge told his two underlings. "We'll head upstream, and maybe we'll get lucky, grab an elf head or two."
"Yeah," agreed Grool. "Get lucky. I might wanna 'make some half-elves' while we're at it."
Brokko scratched his head and screwed up his face, an obvious sign that he was attempting to think. "Would them be half-elves or half-orcs?" he wondered aloud.
"Whatever," replied Skunge. "Me, all I care about is a severed elf head. But how could even think about mating with an elf, Grool?"
Grool chuckled, an evil-sounding snort. "Don't count as mating if I kill her after!" Brokko grunted his agreement.
"Come on," said Skunge, leading them upstream. Brokko and Grool grabbed their weapons and followed him. Shaellin, his eyes narrowed in hatred and disgust, slunk back off to the cover of the trees, all thoughts of fish now gone in the face of this threat to his people. If the orcs followed their plan, they'd come across the camp of Shaellin's wood elves. That, he would not permit.
10. Elven cats have a limited form of ESP, similar to the 2nd-level wizard spell of the same name. The ability is usable at will, and allows the cat to read the surface thoughts of any single creature within 45 yards. The elven cat can switch "targets" at will, so long as each new target is within range. Elven cats use their ESP to determine intent and gauge the power of potential enemies. Ever practical, elven cats flee from powerful enemies, heading straight for their masters to warn them.
Last edited by Richards; Saturday, 3rd September, 2005 at 04:39 AM.
Shaellin approached a stout tree growing near the stream. He had run swiftly and silently through the forest's edge, paralleling the swift water, and knew the orcs were only minutes behind him. Still, there would be plenty of time.
Touching a fallen branch near the tree's trunk, Shaellin silently activated a trip spell. Then he scampered up the trunk, positioned himself to best advantage, and took on the appearance of a tree limb hanging out over the stream.
He didn't have long to wait. The orcs trudged up the stream bank until reaching the tree in which Shaellin had disguised himself. As the lead orc stepped over the fallen branch it caught his foot and sent him tumbling to the ground. The second orc followed almost immediately, landing atop the first in a confusion of tangled limbs and shouted curses.
The third orc stopped and stared where he was, immediately below the false tree limb that was Shaellin. The elven cat dropped the illusion at the same time he himself dropped from the tree.
Eighteen unsheathed claws buried themselves deep into orc flesh. As Shaellin raked his hind claws down the orc's naked back, he reached across the orc's head with his forelegs and scratched two bloody furrows across the brute's eyes.
The attack lasted only a second or two. In the time it took the orc to register the pain, Shaellin had dropped from the creature's back and resumed his impersonation of a branch, lying on the ground a few feet away. The other two orcs hadn't even seen the brief assault: one second they were falling to the ground; the next, their comrade was shrieking in pain and clawing at the place where his eyes used to be.
Skunge jumped up and glanced in all directions, spear at the ready. Grool just stood there stupidly, looking at Brokko with a dumb look on his face. "What the hells happened?" he wondered aloud.
Skunge didn't like it, not one bit. He had no idea what had just occurred, but he was the leader of this little troop and wasn't about to admit to ignorance. "Elf trap," he explained. "Stinkin' elf magic." He continued looking all around, hoping to spot some elven wizard in the woods to validate his theory and give him a target on which to vent his anger.
Brokko's shrieks subsided. He had dropped to his knees, hands to his wounded eyes. Blood still spilled down his face, and it was obvious that he'd never see again. "So whaddawe do 'bout Brokko?" Grool wanted to know.
Brokko apparently knew the answer to that question. He blindly raised his hands out in front of him, and whimpered "No," in a small voice, but it was too late. Skunge plunged his spear through Brokko's chest. It protruded out his back about six inches before being pulled back out. Brokko's lifeless corpse fell face-first onto the dirt. "Get his axe," commanded Skunge. Grool stooped to obey as Skunge grabbed up Brokko's dropped spear.
"Now we only got two elves to find for the ritual," said Skunge. Grool just chuckled. Such was the way of the orcs.
Shaellin waited until they were both out of sight before reverting back to cat form and scampering off into the forest. One down, two to go, he thought to himself.
11. Trip is one of the innate spell-like abilities elven cats can employ once each day. While the spell requires no verbal components (being activated at mental will by the cat), the cat must still touch the material component in order to imbue it with magic. As the equivalent of a 9th-level spellcaster, an elven cat's trip spell lasts 90 minutes.
12. The elven cat's ability to assume tree limb form is a variant of the 3rd-level priest spell, tree. Elven cats can become tree limbs twice per day. If they are in a tree at the time, they become a limb of that type of tree. Optionally, they can become a tree limb while on the ground. In this case, since they're not in contact with a tree, they assume the form of a tree limb of the type of tree physically closest to the cat. While in tree limb form, the elven cat can use all of its senses normally (including its powers of ESP).
An elven cat can remain as a tree limb for up to two and a half hours before he reverts to his feline form. Of course, he can return to cat form at any time before that, at will. The transformation is instantaneous, allowing the cat to change shape and perform its normal action in a single round.
13. An elven cat attacks with both fore claws, doing 1-2 hp damage with each, and with its teeth, which do 1-3 hp damage. If both fore claw attacks are successful, the cat may also rake with its rear claws for 1-3 hp damage each. The damage is doubled if the elven cat is enlarged.
Last edited by Richards; Saturday, 3rd September, 2005 at 04:40 AM.
"Mommy?" called the voice from the forest. "Where are you?"
The two orcs froze in place. Neither one spoke the elven tongue, but they recognized it when they heard it, and this was it - and better yet, it sounded like a little girl elf. Easy pickings!
"Mommy?" Shaellin called again from his tree branch perch, doing his best impersonation of little Carilysha. He pricked his ears in the direction of the orcs. Once he heard their approach, he smiled to himself and activated his innate ability to reduce. Immediately, his body shrunk down to about squirrel-size. Shaellin called upon his power again, and shrunk even smaller, attaining the size of a small beetle. Twisting around on the branch, Shaellin crawled to the edge and peered down.
The first orc was just passing underneath. Shaellin waited, timing it just perfectly, and launched himself into the air just as the second orc passed under the branch. He landed in the creature's greasy hair, too small for the orc to notice.
Shaellin's tree-climbing abilities came in handy as he made his way down the orc's long ponytail. Halfway down the creature's back he ran out of ponytail and had to jump the rest of the way. Before launching himself this second time he had to take a moment and screw up his resolve. This wouldn't be pleasant, he realized, but it would be well worth it. He only wished there was some way he could watch from afar the results of his next actions.
With a silent prayer, Shaellin dropped from the orc's ponytail and onto the edge of its breech-cloth. Then, taking a deep breath, he climbed his way in.
14. Elven cats can cast their own version of the reduce spell upon themselves twice per day. Like their other innate abilities, this requires no material, somatic, or verbal components but is rather activated at will. The first reduction shrinks the elven cat from 1' tall to 3" tall. If left to run its course, this size reduction lasts 45 minutes. The elven cat can cancel the reduction at any point before that, reverting to its original size; this is merely a cancellation of a spell effect, and doesn't count as the elven cat's once-a-day ability to enlarge itself.
However, if the elven cat so desires, it can activate its second reduce spell immediately after its first one. This brings the creature from 3" tall all the way to three-tenths of an inch in height. Unless deactivated beforehand, this effect lasts 44 minutes (the first minute is spent shrinking to 3", followed by 44 minutes of being 3/10" tall, after which the elven cat reverts to 3" in height for one round before being restored to its full size).
Damage done while reduced is proportional to the cat's size. At 3", the elven cat is at 25% of its normal height, so all damage is calculated as normal and the total is then multiplied by 25% (round up if necessary). At 3/10", the elven cat is only at 2½% of its normal height, and the creature is too small to inflict so much as a single hit point of damage. The size is excellent for spying on others, however.
Last edited by Richards; Saturday, 3rd September, 2005 at 04:41 AM.
"Where'd that elf girl go?" grumbled Skunge. He had tasted the thrill of an easy kill, and didn't want it to slip from his grasp.
"Urp," answered Grool.
Skunge whirled on his partner, then stared in amazement. Grool yelped a little louder, then started wiggling his hips to and fro in some bizarre dance step. "Yipe!" he shrieked, and "Yow!" He dropped his spear and slapped at his own rear end, spanking himself as if trying to smother a fire.
"What are you doing?" asked Skunge.
Grool just screamed louder. His eyes grew as big as saucers, and he stopped hitting his rump and started slapping the front of his breech-cloth.
"Shut up! You'll scare her off!"
It was then that he noticed the blood seeping through Grool's breech-cloth. Grool gave a high-pitched shriek that sent shivers through Skunge's spine, but Skunge was unable to move, transfixed by the trickles of blood that were running down his partner's thighs. He unconsciously covered his own breech-cloth with his hands, as if by doing so he could ward off whatever invisible phantom was attacking Grool.
Finally, in desperation, Grool ripped the breech-cloth from his waist. A bloody hunk of flesh fell to the ground as he did so, and that was all it took for Grool: he passed out cold upon the forest floor.
Still unable to believe his eyes, Skunge stared at the bloody mass near his partner's unconscious form, and jumped back when it moved. No, moved wasn't the right word - it grew.
Shaellin had mentally switched off his reduction and followed it immediately with an enlarge spell. He jumped to normal size in a heartbeat, then continued growing until he had doubled in size.
"What--?" is all Skunge got out before the elven cat pounced.
One swipe and Skunge's spear went flying off into the underbrush. Another swipe knocked the axe from his hand. Weaponless faster than he would have believed, Skunge grabbed at the cat's throat, but his fingers couldn't get a purchase on the blood-soaked fur. Shaellin's jaws clamped on the orc's neck, and in less time than it takes to tell the tale the leader of the Bloody Fang warrior-wannabes was dead at the cat's feet.
Shaellin padded silently back over to Grool's unconscious form, and placed his front claws over the orc's eyes. Naked, blind, and weaponless, the orc gave Shaellin many minutes of play before he died.
15. When an elven cat enlarges itself, it doubles in size, Hit Dice, and damage. This means the creature stands 2' tall, has 6+12 HD, and does 2-4 hp damage with each fore claw and 2-6 hp damage with its bite attack and each rear claw when it rakes. Elven cats can remain at this larger size for 45 minutes at a time, and can enlarge only once per day. As with their reduce spell, it can be negated at will at any time.
When the elven cat returns to its normal size, any damage taken while enlarged is halved (round down if necessary). That is, if an 18-hp elven cat enlarges to a 36-hp elven cat and takes 21 hp damage, once it returns to normal size it will have 8 hp (18 - [21 ÷ 2] is rounded down to 18 - 10, or 8).
16. While not inherently cruel (they have a neutral alignment), elven cats are true cats at heart and often play with their food after catching it but before killing it. In the case of the elven cat, which is of a much greater intelligence than an ordinary domestic house cat, such play times are often reserved for the defeated enemy of their adopted woodlands tribe.
Last edited by Richards; Saturday, 3rd September, 2005 at 04:42 AM.
"There you are," said Carilysha as she spotted Shaellin strolling regally into camp. "I thought for sure you'd be pouting all day in the woods. C'mere, you." Shaellin approached the young elf and allowed himself to be hugged and pet, but still kept his nose in the air as if above such things, himself.
"I'll bet I know what you want," Carilysha said, and pulled out a small dish of fish stew. She set it down on the ground in front of Shaellin, who sniffed in disdain and looked away.
He glanced at the bowl from the corner of his eye. It sure smelled good! But no, he wasn't going to give in! He looked away again, head held high.
He lasted almost a full minute, before letting out a long sigh and bending down to the bowl. "You silly cat!" Carilysha giggled.
"Good cat," Shaellin corrected, then returned to his meal.
Last edited by Richards; Saturday, 3rd September, 2005 at 04:42 AM.
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