"Iron eaters worship no gods. They simply worship the rock. They are in many ways the children of it. They view the stone as master and teacher and friend. They revere it in a way that we will never fully understand. The resonance that allows them to tunnel through rock... they call that the Stone Chant. They simply sing to the stone and it allows them to pass. Beautiful, isn't it?"
- Jaskar, Arkalian Wizard and expert on the Iron Eater
The iron eater is a terrible beast to behold. The creature has four legs and four arms equally spaced around a barrel shaped body. The creature stands about 2.5 meters tall and the arms can reach out about 2 meters from the central body. The body has a central mouth at the center of the four arms, but otherwise has no discernable head or shoulders. It also has no visible eyes, ears or any other sensory organs. An iron eater has a thick shell like carapace which has dozens of smooth round, glossy black orbs embedded in it. Ironeaters are exceptionally dense and heavy. A typical specimen weighs two metric tons.
Iron eaters are extremely dangerous creatures. The black ovals embedded in the creature's rock hard hide allow the creature to sense, create and manipulate magnetic fields. Although completely blind and deaf, an iron eater can fight opponents by sensing the iron in their blood and any metallic weapons or armor they may carry. It "perceives" its entire surroundings in all directions simultaneously, thus it has no "front" or "rear". An iron eater is aggressive and will typically rush opponents and pummel them with its massive rock hard tentacles.
However, it's most effective form of attack uses the metallic orbs. With the orbs, the creature is able to generate immensely powerful magnetic fields... enough to slow swords, crush suits of armor and deflect iron tipped arrows. With a focused magnetic pulse, it can propel armored figures backwards up to thirty feet. It is able to generate magnetic fields so intense that lightning and other electrical attacks will be warped and deflected. There are stories involving the iron eater where in the heavily armored miner dies and the leather clad digger manages to escapes.
The creature has enough fine control of its magnetic fields that it can magnetically pick up metallic objects and hurl them with great force and accuracy. Daggers, hammers, horse shoes, nails, hunks of iron ore and so forth became deadly projectiles.
Iron eaters are very rare. They are found in mountainous regions, rocky hills, caves and shallow subterranean regions. Iron eaters tend to stick to regions that are rich in metals and mineral deposits. Therefore, they often pose problems for mining communities, dwarven strongholds and the like. Iron eaters are always solitary.
The iron eater consumes metals and minerals. It has no interest in consuming the flesh of prey or grazing on vegetation. It cares only for metals. The iron eater can digest almost any metal or mineral but the "digestion" process is less efficient with metals and minerals that are composed of many different elements bound together. The iron eater greatly prefers pure and untainted elements which are alchemically uncombined. The iron eater favors pure metals instead of alloys. Copper, silver, gold, mithril and adamantite are among its favorites. An iron eater is able to survive on iron if it must and iron is certainly plentiful. The iron eater also consumes precious stones, but only as a supplement to its metallic diet.
An iron eater burrows through stone as a mole burrows through dirt. This remarkable feat is achieved through several unique adaptations. When burrowing, the iron eater emits a series of shock waves (both sonic and magnetic). These shock waves are strong enough to shatter hard rock. The rubble is ripped apart and cleared by the creature’s steel hard claws which shove it into the gaping maw.
This method of locomotion causes a deep rhythmic pounding which can be heard at some distance. Miners know that if they hear a deep, thunderous pounding in the dark underworld, an iron eater may very well be passing nearby.
The barrel shaped body of an iron eater is actually a conduit. Through muscle contractions, most of the stone is channeled through the body and expelled out the back. Only the most digestible metals and minerals are consumed. The rest is simply displaced as a trail of rubble in the beast's wake.
The magnetic orbs of the iron eater can generate powerful electromagnetic fields, but they are also sensitive to such energies. The creature is able to sense diffraction and reflection of the magnetic fields when they encounter iron and other ferrous metals and minerals in the rock. The creature can also sense the reflection of its sonic vibrations. This combined magnetic and sonic sensitivity is a form of echolocation, similar to the way bats navigate with sound.
The iron eater can accurately locate the surface, caverns, mineral deposits, changes in stone type and other burrowing creatures. Iron eaters can also detect movement on a stone surface above them, even the soft tread of a footfall.
The internal conduit through which rubble passes acts as the stomach. It contains a highly corrosive, electrically charged acid which is very efficient at dissolving metals and gems. Flesh and vegetation can also be consumed, but the creature derives no benefit from it and most organic matter is simply expelled out the back without being digested. However, anyone passing through the digestive track of the creature would suffer terrible acidic burns, even if exposed for only a few minutes. That is, assuming, they survived the tooth filled maw in the first place.
An iron eater's body is like a tunneling engine and requires a great deal of fuel to sustain itself. Perhaps a hundredth of the matter that enters the mouth is actually consumed. The rest is expelled out the back. The only thing an iron eater leaves behind is a tunnel full of rubble.
The iron eater is not a creature of flesh and bone and blood. It is a living creature composed of mineral and metal, crystal and stone. Only the interior walls of the conduit are soft and fibrous. The muscles of an iron eater, for instance, are fibrous like a mammal. But an iron eater's muscles are denser and have a great deal of iron in the fibers. This is because iron eater muscles are magnetic in nature rather than chemically activated.
The iron eater’s exoskeleton is composed of a greyish, opaque crystalline shell which resembles rock. Although not organic or cellular, this exterior plating is able to heal wounds. Damaged or missing crystals are regrown. This crystalline shell is harder and stronger than most types of rock.
Because of the hard crystalline exoskeleton, iron eaters are highly resistant to fire, heat, cold and acid. The creature can deflect lightning and electrical attacks. And, as indicated above, attacking them with metal weapons is virtually impossible. Melee weapons made of wood or horn or other such materials would work. The creature is also susceptible to sonic attacks. Mind affecting magic and vision based attacks are worthless against them.
An Arkalian wizard named Jaskar did an extensive study of the iron eater. Everything known about them comes from his treatise on the species.
Once during its life, each iron eater spontaneously generates and expels several large stone spheres from its body. These spheres are the eggs of the iron eater, of course. They are dark grey and quite dense. They might easily be mistaken for mineral growths or some other natural phenomenon.
Iron eater eggs are exceedingly rare. Each egg is deposited in a small air pocket which is usually packed with gems and coins and other mineral rich substance. The parent roams the area searching for food and guarding the safety of the eggs. On occasion, creatures stumble upon an iron eater egg cache believing they have found a hidden treasure trove. Few live to tell of it. Within days after being deposited, a young iron eater emerges from each egg - a miniature replica of its parent. The young iron eater consumes all food in the cache and then tracks the parent iron eater down by following the tunneling noises. Young iron eaters stay with the parent for eight to twelve months until achieving some semblance of maturity and then leave the parent.
This website was last updated October 5, 2021. Copyright 1990-2021 David M. Roomes.