Wardens

Hunters, Inventors, and Survivalists.

A warrior looks up at his upcoming death and screams in defiance. He dies in the flames of glory, does he not?
Sometimes, however, he may find he has been blessed, for our warrior sees a weakness. It is a feeling that few experience. Every time one exploits this window of opportunity, the fires that forge a warden ignite, for in that precious moment the predator becomes the prey.

 
Some thrive on the edge of civilization. They may walk through the crowded cities and lurk in dark alleys, studying the man whose head is worth a small fortune, dead or alive.
They may wander the forests, setting traps for the unsuspecting monstrosity that roams along the same path, and others still may live in small towns, cultivating gardens that grow an assortment of botanical wonders useful for both healing, and killing. The term warden is broad and defines rangers in all their many forms.

Wardens deviate from the standard fantasy trope of a ranger. There are some who certainly seek to connect with nature, protect civilization, and prefer isolation. They may have a keen eye for detail, and a sharp mind to match. Their finesse is unmatched and a warden is able to handle most weapons and armor. However, the only true requirement of a ranger is their overwhelming wanderlust.

The first wardens were humans. While yes rangers existed among the alfen and the dwarves, it wasn't a way of life. It was not an occupation, nor did it have the culture it does now.
In Ozlith, an island that would be an empire and the birthplace of humanity, the first wardens traveled the mainland. As Ozlith planned its expansion, they forged an order of rangers that would explore the new world. The name they gave them stood firm throughout history, to the point where their ancestors still bear the name: qui invenit vias. The Pathfinders.


The Pathfinders


The Pathfinders of yore were very different compared to The Estoyan Pathfinders. The Ozlithian Pathfinders were in their prime, while their descendants live in a state of decay, much like the rest of the world. The Pathfinders laid the foundation for all wardens to come. They studied and conducted experiments with the natural world. They built roads from colony to colony, connecting the Ozlithian people, and developed many tricks and tools of their trade. The Pathfinders of Estoya have lost the teachings of their ancestors, but other organizations still hold to it, passing the teachings to any who would listen.


 

The Three Constellations

Stars have always been a major aspect of navigation and wardens are no different. Their teachings center around three star constellations, each one representing a fundamental element of what it means to be a ranger. These three skills often determine life or death for a warden in the wild. Each constellation features a hero, and each hero represents their associated skill. These myths are not centered around fact, and no one claims otherwise, rather they were created to embody elements of the perfect ranger.


The Huntress:

The Huntress is the pinnacle of skill. She uses her weapons with grace and trains her body as well as her mind. A warden must know that knowledge is your greatest tool against the things they hunt. To tame the world is her mission and all rangers look to her during the hunt. Stories of The Huntress are specifically designed to teach pupils the ways of the warden. They teach patience as one must study prey that is unfamiliar to them, they teach finesse, as one cannot hope to succeed for long without the skill to use one's tools, and they teach mindfulness, as one must focus and remain aware to notice the subtle hints in their environment that allow them to track their quarry.

The Survivor:

The Survivor is a woodsman, capable of raising a home in less than a day, no matter what environment he finds himself in. He is the last one standing at the end of the world, and the only one capable of living further. When all hope is lost in an unforgiving land, all wardens turn to him. Stories of The Survivor are designed to teach ingenuity and adaptability. They teach that mother nature changes for no man, so a ranger changes instead. They teach of nature's blessings, as all one needs is before their eyes. They also teach that one should never be wasteful of the fruits of their labor, as nature's bounty can easily be taken away. Necessity is the mother of all invention, so they say, and survival is the father.
   

The alchemist:

The alchemist represents curiosity, and the desperate need to learn. He knows what berries are healthy and the ones that lead to your death. The alchemist is a strange thing to see among rangers, but then again, few mages can produce the quality of a rangers potion.
The stories of the alchemist are often designed to teach cautious curiosity. They teach how to test foreign substances and how to infer what qualities they contain. Rather than focus on survival and the hunt, the alchemist focuses on progress and evolution. So more than anything, these stories teach a constant expectation of perfection and a drive for maximum efficiency.

Half In, Half Out

The wardens have always lived in two worlds. One is in society, where they rest their heads before and after a hard days work. The other world is in the wild. Wardens are drawn to the great unknown. Each may have their own reasons but each answers the call just the same. Some are mesmerized by ocean waves while others are drawn to the emerald canopy of the forests. They may have families, friends, and other obligations, but they will always return... always.
 

Breaking Nature

One of the most important things to remember is that while rangers usually have a respect for nature, their true desire is to tame it. Wardens like to maintain ecosystems. New predators that may disrupt an area a ranger frequently hunts in will likely become a target for that ranger. In Estoya this almost always ends up being Weir Beasts. The original Pathfinders drove most disruptive predators from the region and wardens have been maintaining it ever since. This also includes other people. Vigorous hunting that endangers an ecosystem will paint a target on your back, most rangers will be more than happy to take a chance at it.


The Pathfinder Codex

Wardens are often drawn to one another, forming orders across the world. This is due, in part, to their need to share and spread their knowledge and experience to others. The Pathfinder Codex is less a text and more of an umbrella term referring to countless scrolls kept by most rangers.
These scrolls often contain recipes, blueprints, and detailed information about regions or the flora and fauna found within them.

The Pathfinders began the tradition, leaving behind the scrolls they wrote when they answered the call of The Pathfinder's Labyrinth. Finding them all is a goal of many wardens, as is adding to their vast array of knowledge.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. There is no adage more befitting of our order that this. My coat was taken from the pelt of a Weirfox, their skin is quite dense. My blade was forged from the sharpened beak of a harpy. The barbs on my cleats were taken from an aquatic monstrosity in a woodland river. I discovered that one and have yet to name it. Each is a trophy of what failed to kill me, and I dare say they made me stronger.
— Reagan of The Wild Hunt



by thedurrrrian

What Makes A Ranger

While fantasy boasts many examples of a ranger to the point where the term doesn't need to be defined, it's important to focus on the elements that stray from the standard cliche. Wardens are more than hermits who prefer the wild to civilization. In fact, some never leave the city. Bounty hunters find beasts a plenty among the people of the world, and more traditional monsters appear all the time in shady alleyways and underground sewers. Some travel from town to town as freelance rangers with no order, offering their services in dealing with local pests. The inspiration for the wardens stems well beyond Tolkien. One example would be the witchers from the titular book series and video games. They may as well be rangers, though they are never referred to as such. The hunters from monster hunter world are a prime example, and another major inspiration for the wardens. Of course, the player wishing to play as a warden is well within their rights to stick to the classic portrayal as these rangers do exist.
     

Hedge-craft

Rangers have been adapting to their environment since the Pathfinders formed. The vast assortment of tools at their disposal are unique and each tool has a purpose. These tools are created from the remains of creatures hunted. Hedge crafted equipment includes weapons, armor, gadgets, and various liquid concoctions such as potions, poisons, salves, etc.   This is a warden's bread and butter. Some of these tools are just as effective than anything a blacksmith could forge. Often times when out in the wild, the convenience of a blacksmith or even a whetstone are rare luxuries, even still, one is only as good as their tools, and rangers have gone to great lengths to craft a tool for every task. Hedge-craft arms have been developed and enhanced over many generations, stemming back to the earliest pathfinders who left Ozlith.
 

Armory

Wardens find that nature can produce weapons with cruel efficiency and armor with better protection than any blacksmith could. They use this to their advantage, creating weapons and armor that, while they appear to be crude, are designed to aid them on the hunt. Skin, bone, tooth, and claw, nothing is wasted by the rangers.
 
by Dark souls 2 artbook
   

Warden Concoctions

Many things can be used to create the liquid remedies and toxic coatings the wardens employ. Potions of all kinds can be made with a little bit of knowledge. An herb here, and a common weed there can make the difference between life and death. It is not uncommon for the wardens to keep personal gardens where the most essential botanical ingredients are cultivated and harvested. They may also have a space dedicated to rare fruits of the hunt. A venom sac from a particularly vicious Fadurix, suspended in a jar filled with preservative liquid is one example. The venom can be extracted and used to coat the blade or arrow.  

tools, traps, and Gadgets

No warden would be alive if it were not for their ingenuity. On top of being able to thrive in any environment, from creating luxuries like beds, houses, and the like with what is around them, They have developed many contraptions from the bodies of their fallen foes. Tension based grappling guns, spring loaded spike cleats, and a fine black powder that explodes upon exposure to high friction or impact are all examples. They also have knowledge of traps to lure and catch their prey, along with tricks of their trade to make their jobs easier.
   

Road Gospel

That symbol, we all know the one, haphazardly drawn on the side of a castle wall? That means something, but few know what. It is a common sight both in cities and in the wild. Symbols appear and are drawn in seemingly random places. Rangers refer to this crude shorthand as Road Gospel.
Should a warden need to move from an area quickly, or for whatever reason, are unable or ill equipped to write out important details they have discovered, there course of action is to use a carefully selected set of inconspicuous symbols to convey their discoveries, often by defacing or vandalizing an easily seen surface with dense chalk, such as the largest tree in the area or a wall. These symbols usually describe dangers or lack thereof in the environment, and its usually customary for a passing ranger to erase them, should they take care of the issue, record it, or find that that the information is no longer true.
   

Services Rendered

Wardens make a sound living from their services. They explore unknown regions to fill the map as best as they cab. They hunt disruptive predators and monstrous beasts that threaten both society and the ecosystem alike. They do their jobs well and with honor, but never without a price. Most consider it reasonable but many have attempted to negotiate only to be abandoned to whatever horrors they were wanting to avoid.
Wardens have always been famous for escorting travelers across dangerous terrain. Some even travel to more distant nations, and escort migrants into the unknown reaches of the world in search of a better life.


Cover image: by Okmer

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