The “dire beast,” also known as the possessed animal, hellspawn animal, Devil’s beast, and all other manner of unsavory terms, is almost certainly the most common form of monster I’ve had the misfortune of observing. This doesn’t make them easy to catalog, however. This is because “going dire” (as the young hunters have begun describing the process) can happen to any animal, so there are more different types of dire beasts than I’m capable of counting.
At its most basic, a dire beast is a normal animal (or, rarely, a plant) that has been warped by dark energies we don’t understand into a twisted and dangerous mirror of itself. We still don’t know the precise cause of this transformation; observation implies some sort of invisible possessing spirit, but obviously that’s unconfirmed. There is also the possibility that it’s “merely” caused by a physical disease or parasite, albeit one with an odd form of transmission that we haven’t been able to track.
But no matter the exact cause, the effects are quite clear. At some point (the exact time varies between species; dire wolves, for example, only transform under the light of the full moon), the subject is wracked by horrific convulsions. Then, over the course of minutes or hours (again, depending on the species), the natural creature is twisted and transformed into a nightmarish new shape. While the precise nature of this new creature varies, and often differs greatly from the original animal, they’re without exception extremely aggressive to humanity and other natural animals, and oftentimes to other monsters as well.
Most dire beasts breed true, and in many places we’re seeing them displace natural animals from their habitats. The farmers of Grandsbriar have—to my understandable consternation—succeeded in finding ways to somewhat domesticate some of the less aggressive species, such as the dire fox, which actually produces a rather sweet milk. Compare to the dire cattle, which only resembles the original animal in that it still has four legs.
There is one small bright spot, however. For some reason, dire beasts don’t transform around areas of significant human habitation. I can only speculate on the cause of this reprieve, but the salient point is that no animal has ever undergone a dire transformation within two miles of the town wall, and even that’s rare. Five miles is the general range in which the danger becomes most present. I suspect more densely populated areas, such as cities, would have wider safe zones, but this is mostly conjecture.