"For one epoch and one day, the Wardens of the Wild reigned. Where animals and beasts disputed or doubted, the wardens quelled their infighting and fortified their hearts. Where the wild grew threatened by disaster or development, the wardens repelled intruders and restored the world with their vast power. Yet nothing of the wild lasts forever—such is not the way of nature.
"When their time drew close, the four wardens felt the call. And as they were the stewards of the natural world, so too did every animal in their care: those upon the land, those within the earth, those under the sea, and those above the sky. The wardens converged from their disparate realms upon a single location, tucked away in the furthest expanses of the wilds, along with every beast that could make the trip. The flocks and schools and herds all came together in a grand convergence known as the Migration—every animal, even those so rare they’re thought extinct.
"Can you imagine it, Charikleia?" The naturalist, now much older than a boy, put the stone tiles back in their velvet-lined box, the one his grandmother had left him. "Every animal on the planet, all in one place?" He gazed out over the deck of the Zoetrope. Below, the water was so clear you could see the eels and fish and rays darting through the coral as the ship neared the coast.
"Professor, you're getting off track again," Charikleia said with as much tact as she could muster, even as her eye caught a majestic lightning turtle through the waves. Instantly, her brush was in her hand, capturing the turtle’s likeness in her sketchbook for the expedition’s records.
"Ah, apologies, got away from myself for a moment." Baranthet smiled at his research assistant. Though he’d explained their mission as soon as funding was secured—long before he’d finished constructing the ship or assembling the crew—he wasn’t sure he’d ever properly told her the story that inspired it all, as he’d originally heard it each year in his youth: Grandmother's story, which he now told in her stead.
"When the Migration was complete and the animals were gathered, the Wardens of the Wild would select their successors. Some might rely on their judgment, while others might hold contests of strength or wit or heart, but in some manner, they would choose four new wardens to inherit the mantle.
"And so it was that the little elephant, the rattling snake, the angry fish, and the kind butterfly became the four new Wardens of the Wild, growing to great size as they were filled with the primal magic of their respective realms, over which they reigned for one epoch and one day. And when the Migration came yet again, as it must, they in turn selected their four successors before passing from the wilds.
"So it was again in the next epoch, and again, and again, the great wheel of life turning. And though many consider it a myth, some say that out there, somewhere in the last expanses of the world, the four Wardens of the Wild yet reign."
Baranthet’s wistful sigh was drowned out by the thrumming wings of the Zoetrope as the ship crossed the water’s edge and began soaring over sand dunes. "We’re going to find them, Charikleia."
"We have a similar myth back home, though it’s very obscure," Charikleia said, adding some notes to her sketch as she scratched the base of one of her horns. "Though it’s more common in Earthsong minotaur art to carve our stories in stone, rather than tell them in words. All the same, I remember seeing a petroglyph depicting four great beasts in the corners of Kortos, though the specific creatures differed."
"That makes sense, the wardens would have changed many times over the ages. Who knows what forms they—AAAAACK!!!!" Baranthet dropped his tea over the side of the railing as a small airskiff buzzed past overhead, much too close to the deck, a young centaur man at the helm.
"Professor! You should’ve seen the look on your face!"
"Telero, that’s my favorite teacup!"
Telero rolled his eyes and gave a half-hearted salute before he kicked a pedal with a hoof, sending the airskiff down toward the dunes (far more quickly than necessary) to retrieve said teacup. "Way’s clear up ahead—we should be able to get to the mountains by nightfall! It’s a little close to roc territory, though, so if you see a red dye marker, that’s too far!" His voice faded as the airskiff plummeted.
Baranthet shook his head. "That boy will be the death of me."
"He’s an excellent scout, though."
"Indeed." Baranthet turned to pick up his book. "Why don’t you get the rest of the crew together in the galley—we can make a plan for surveying the area when Telero’s back."
Charikleia closed her sketchbook and stowed her brush with her usual quietness, ducking inside carefully to avoid scratching the Zoetrope’s doorframe with her horns. Baranthet stayed on the deck a little longer, though. The naturalist took in the sights as he reached out a hand, feeling the warm wind rush through his claws. Below him, the land stretched out, far from Droon, far from Absalom, far from anywhere he knew, rolling outward until it blended into the horizon.
While he and the crew had already seen amazing beasts and breathtaking views on their journey, the Wardens of the Wild were yet to be found. But Baranthet had a good feeling. For though he wasn’t quite as adept at hearing the stars as his grandmother, he had a bit of her ear, and for the shortest of seconds, he thought that he heard it resound across the land, somehow clear over the Zoetrope’s wings—
The howl of the wild.
To read Grandmother’s story from the start, click here.
Howl of the Wild, Coming Spring 2024!
Paizo is proud to announce our newest project, Pathfinder Howl of the Wild! This latest creature-focused rulebook dives into the beasts and animals of the wilderness. Catalogue them all alongside an old naturalist and his eclectic crew as they sail their fantastic airship to Golarion’s furthest reaches, studying its lushest biomes in search of the elusive Wardens of the Wild.
This book provides deep dives and regional variants of classic beasts of legend, as well as a whole menagerie of never-before-seen wildlife to study, tame, cooperate with, or confront. In addition, you’ll find unique gear for dealing with beasts (as well as magical items drawing upon their power), archetypes, feats, and more that allow you to evoke the power of nature. Howl of the Wild also brings six new playable ancestries for you to create a character who’s a bit more on the wild side, including the two revealed in the story above: the swift centaur and the powerful minotaur! Each ancestry is represented in the ship’s crew. Meet the ship’s scout, Telero, and the expedition’s scribe, Charikleia:
Telero, the ship’s centaur scout, and Charikleia, the expedition’s minotaur scribe. Art by Gunship Revolution.
Lastly, though we don’t have an airship of our own (...yet), we do have an excellent crew, without whom this book wouldn’t be possible! The ferocity and wonder of the wild is brought to you by Kate Baker, Rigby Bendele, Chris Bissette, Jeremy Blum, Logan Bonner, Dan Cascone, James Case, Jessica Catalan, Brite Cheney, Rue Dickey, Caryn DiMarco, Matthew Fu, Leo Glass, Steven Hammond, Patrick Hurley, Michelle Y. Kim, Dustin Knight, Kendra Leigh Speedling, Christiana Lewis, Jessie "Aki" Lo, Luis Loza, Letterio Mammoliti, Jonathan "Ryomasa" Mendoza, Quinn Murphy, Dave Nelson, Mikhail Rekun, Kai Revius, Ember Rose, Simone D. Sallé, Shay Snow, Levi Steadman, Kyle Tam, Ruvaid Virk, and Andrew White.
If you’re eager to learn a bit more about these ancestries and a few of the monsters in the book, check out this exclusive sneak peek from Wargamer for more information! Otherwise, be sure to tune in to PaizoCon Online 2023, where we’ll talk about Howl of the Wild in our Primal Previews panel!
But that, explorers, is a story for another day,
Grandmother’s Story, Part 5: The Howl of the Wild
Friday, May 12th, 2023