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Winter wolf

From PathfinderWiki
Winter wolf
A winter wolf.
(Creature)
Type Magical beast
(cold)
CR 5
Environment Cold forests and plains
Alignment
Images of winter wolves

Source: Bestiary, pg(s). 280

Winter wolves, sometimes termed white wolves, are much larger and more powerful variants of worgs with white fur. Despite their animalistic appearance, they are as intelligent as humans and have intensely cold breath.[1]

Appearance

Winter wolves appear like enormous white furred wolves, half-way in size between the smaller worg and the larger dire wolf. A fully grown winter wolf stands four-and-a-half feet tall at the shoulder and is eight feet long with a bushy tail adding three feet to their length. They weigh 450 pounds and have a leaner build than the larger dire wolf, along with the lack of fog from their breath; this is how veteran hunters tell true winter wolves from white-furred dire wolves.

A winter wolf's fur is the purest white and serves as an effective armour due to its thickness (despite not needing to keep them warm). However, it is also surprisingly light.[2] Their pelts can be formed into a rimepelt, which provides its wearer protection from the cold as well as letting them transform into a winter wolf.[3] Winter wolves are also marked by having ice-blue eyes and a shorter, more flexible muzzle that allows them to speak human languages while still having a savage bite.[2]

Ecology

A witch faces down a winter wolf.

Winter wolves are born in litters of three to five pups, which are effectively helpless until they are about 18 months old. They do not fully mature until three years of age, then hit their physical prime at ten years. Winter wolves begin a gradual physical decline from 25 years old; in theory they could live until 50, but most die violent deaths long before this. Winter wolves have no need of heat, and in fact dislike living in any temperature above freezing. If forced into any truly warm areas, a winter wolf soon expires.[2] Winter wolves are also vulnerable to fire, and hate any who try to use it against them. Entire packs will immediately turn on an opponent who dares use flame against them.

An adult winter wolf requires an average of 20 pounds of food a day. They are picky eaters, preferring to eat frozen flesh, while preferring the internal organs to be fresh and still warm. They often freeze their victims' limbs with their icy breath before devouring their entrails, and their food is often still alive as they eat it. Winter wolves prefer sentient prey to hunting mere animals, claiming their fear and suffering makes them more satisfying. When attacking groups, they normally try to separate a young or feeble person to be devoured in front of their companions.[4]

Habitat

Winter wolf packs naturally tend to inhabit lightless caves, sometimes enlarging them via burrowing with their tough claws. Winter wolves will often use any captured slaves to excavate their lairs before devouring them.[5] Amongst the winter wolves of the Fog Peaks, it is common practice to drag away the enormous children of the hated frost giants and ice trolls that once kept their ancestors as mere pets.[6] When allied with humanoids, improved lairs is normally one of the conditions of alliance; they prefer cosy, den-like rooms with easy, unrestricted access to the wilderness beyond.

A winter wolf in humanoid form barters with a merchant in Whitethrone's Howlings district.

In the frozen kingdom of Irrisen, this is taken to extremes with an entire district of Whitethrone, called the Howlings, and much of the Verge town of Redtooth devoted to accommodation for allied winter wolves. Within each location, the Witch Queen Baba Yaga has woven powerful enchantments that allow a winter wolf to assume human form, always appearing with ice-blue eyes, and white or silver hair.[5] Winter wolves even plague the more temperate Darkmoon Vale around the Arthfell Forest, allying with the region's worgs and lycanthropic druids[6] with whom, like most natural-born werewolves, they feel a deep spiritual kinship.[7] To hide their stark white fur amongst the dappled Arthfell, they resort to covering themselves in mud.[6]

Society

Winter wolves live in packs of normally around a dozen which are led by a single dominant wolf of either sex. To become the dominant wolf, a challenger has to overcome a designated 'champion' before immediately facing the current dominant pack leader. These duels are vicious but rarely to the death (winter wolves in general reserve such violence for other species).[4] Within the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, winter wolves have to organise into larger, more militant packs since their hides are highly valued as adornments.[6] On the Broken Bay island of Aegos, winter wolf packs incorporate wolves and even worgs,[8] despite generally considering them stupid and weak. New packs usually form when a mated pair set out with their juvenile cubs, their previous pack will normally let the new pack depart in peace but will drive them from their hunting grounds should they linger.[7]

Winter wolves will ally with a variety of creatures, often to overcome the limits imposed by their lack of hands. As long as they are treated with respect, such alliances will hold, though their relations with warm-blooded creatures is strained due to their constant longing to tear into their flesh. Frost giants are common allies and winter wolves tend to take a more subservient role when around them, though any giant who mistreats them is likely to meet a grisly end. Winter wolves often ally with brutish hill giants posing as allies of the dumb creatures whilst in truth manipulating them, effectively serving as the 'power behind the throne' in such tribes. Trolls, particularly ice trolls, commonly keep captured winter wolves as guard animals, brutally beating them into submission and relying on their powerful regeneration to save them from retaliation.[7]

Mythology

According to the oral legends of the winter wolves, they are descended from a line of northern worgs touched by the potent magic of the frost giant deity Thremyr. These creation tales insist that Thremyr roamed the frozen wastes of the north during the earliest years of the Age of Darkness awakened and enraged by the world-shattering Earthfall, shedding fragments of his hide and flesh as he roamed. Here, the various oral histories vary: some winter wolves claimed they feasted on the god's flesh directly; others that they devoured the frost giants and ice trolls that formed from this divine detritus. One version even has the god directly sweeping aside a pack of worgs that stood in his way. Whatever the truth, this encounter with the divine left a permanent mark, scouring all warmth from their flesh and spawning the winter wolves.[2]

All winter wolves also know the tale of the coming of Baba Yaga: she appeared before one of the great packs of the north with eyes as red as burning coals and a coat of purest white. Challenging the pack leader, she tore the pack's champion to shreds before forcing the pack leader to submit. Instead of taking control of the pack, she offered instead a pact: in exchange for their help in the upcoming Winter War, the winter wolves would be honoured in the nation she would found beyond all others apart from Baba Yaga's own flesh and blood. When Irrisen was won, carved from the eastern remnants of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, Baba Yaga was as good as her word.[5]

References