The wild hunt is an awe-inspiring and enigmatic group of fey who stalk and pursue their chosen prey between worlds.
Those few who have caught glimpses of these elusive beings and lived to tell the tale speak of clouds of green mist filled with spectral hounds, archers who fire bolts of magic with inhuman accuracy, and the sound of a melodious horn echoing for miles across the landscape.
Although some believe the wild hunt is nothing more than a mere legend, or perhaps groups of vengeful spirits that hunt the living, the riders of the wild hunt are real, and are powerful fey indeed. Countless members of these fey compose the wild hunt—the term “wild hunt” refers to the race as a whole as well as to individual groups of these fey who gather to pursue their quarry.
All fey of the wild hunt ultimately serve a legendary leader they refer to only as the Horned King. The Horned King’s nature is unknown, but its ability to command such powerful followers suggests that it is a fey lord with the power of a demigod—or perhaps even that of a true deity.
When the Horned King calls, several wild hunts join into a legion and ride together against legendary opponents.
Because of their occasional role as the agents of a reclusive fey divinity, the members of the wild hunt are sometimes classified among powerful entities known collectively as the Tane. In support of this theory, wild hunt fey share the Tane’s ability to instantly acclimate themselves to a new plane. However, the relationship between wild hunts and the Tane is more complex, as the Tane can sometimes become targets of a wild hunt, and on other occasions, wild hunt masters strike bargains to gain the temporary assistance of one of the Tane.
The Horned King’s call is rare, however, and wild hunts are normally left to direct themselves. Each wild hunt follows a wild hunt monarch, who travels effortlessly between the realm of the fey and the Material Plane in search of new quarry. While most missions come from rumors gathered by the wild hunt monarch, they occasionally consider proposals from those rare few brave and knowledgeable enough to seek them out. They accept tasks only from worthy sources, and the payments they demand for their services vary significantly, though they have no interest in material wealth. Wild hunt monarchs take grave offense at unfavorable deals. Those who attempt to cheat a wild hunt monarch or involve one in trivial matters often become the enraged fey’s next target.
Members of the wild hunt usually hail from the fey’s primal homeland, but they frequently venture to the Material Plane to pursue their quarry. Reasons for individual wild hunts vary, ranging from tests or demonstrations of skill to missions of vengeance and even drives to improve a wild hunt’s own numbers.
When they hunt for the thrill of the chase, they choose difficult quarry or intentionally place convoluted restrictions upon themselves to increase the challenge of the task. They try to avoid killing their targets, at least at first, but if their quarry refuses to understand that the purpose of the exercise is a battle of wits and responds with particularly lethal tactics, they reply in kind. After all, if a mortal is too foolish to recognize a friendly competition, it is his own ignorance that is to blame for his death, rather than the actions of a wild hunt.
At other times, a wild hunt fights to kill its prey. In this role, its members act as assassins. If they expect that their prey has means to revive itself, they may transport the remains to another plane before turning the corpse into dust. Should their foes return to life anyway, the wild hunt fey’s reaction is unpredictable, ranging from amused detachment to furious bloodlust. Foes that the wild hunt chases for a second time face a far more ignoble fate than death. For example, some wild hunt monarchs keep a small menagerie of animals made from their most irritating prey. Others simply disappear without a trace, seemingly beyond the reach of resurrection magic.
The rarest reason a wild hunt rides is to seek new hunters for its ranks. Although most members of the wild hunt originate from the realm of the fey, a scant few trace their origins back to the fateful day when they failed to escape a wild hunt’s interest. A wild hunt’s reasons for seeking out any particular mortal are shrouded in mystery, though wild hunts seldom pursue mortals who lack significant strength or power. After a lengthy pursuit, a wild hunt’s monarch ritually slays the quarry, which reincarnates the following morning as a new member of the hunt. When mortals join the wild hunt, memories from their previous lives fade away, though they sometimes retain a measure of personality. If the wild hunt master finds the mortal’s talents or skills particularly impressive, he may choose to preserve these abilities, transforming the mortal into a unique member of the hunt. These specialized hunters retain most of their memories as well. While they occasionally spend time with their old friends and family, the call of the hunt master’s horn is far stronger than any loyalty they felt in their previous lives, making the maintenance of old relationships a fraught endeavor.
Traditionally, the fey of the wild hunt consist of five distinct races. While these five types of fey can be encountered alone or in small groups, they are at their most dangerous when banded together into a true wild hunt. This gathering of fey consists of a specific number and combination: one wild hunt monarch, one wild hunt scout, three wild hunt archers, three wild hunt horses, and four wild hunt hounds. As a whole, this dangerous group constitutes a CR 21 encounter, and thus could make an excellent capstone encounter for a campaign.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 6 © 2017, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Robert Brookes, Benjamin Bruck, John Compton, Paris Crenshaw, Adam Daigle, Crystal Frasier, James Jacobs, Thurston Hillman, Tim Hitchcock, Brandon Hodge, Jason Keeley, Isabelle Lee, Jason Nelson, Tim Nightengale, F. Wesley Schneider, David Schwartz, Mark Seifter, Todd Stewart, Josh Vogt, and Linda Zayas-Palmer.