1. Some winter wolves sport a silvery pelt, although this is something of a rarity.
2. Once every 10 rounds, a winter wolf can expel a stream of frost from its lungs, causing 6d4 hp damage to all within 10 feet. Those that save vs. breath weapon take only half damage. Being intelligent, winter wolves in packs often take turns using their breath weapons to ensure there's a frost attack every round, or, if the threat is great enough, several of them will "gang up" with their breath weapons, targeting their most powerful enemy.
3. Unfortunately, the spell polymorph other does not grant the special abilities, such as breath weapons, of the new form adopted.
4. Cold-based attacks do no damage to winter wolves, due to their innate resistance to cold. Fire, on the other hand, will cause an additional point per die of damage, and winter wolves remain leery of open flames for this reason.
5. The winter wolf, like all wolves, is mostly carnivorous, with teeth that are positioned in such a way that food is pushed back into the animal's mouth as it chews. However, the shape of some of its teeth, primarily the flat-crowned molars, testify to the creature's ability to eat other types of food as well. While winter wolves prefer to hunt down small animals such as rabbits, lemmings, and mice, they will eat carrion if needs be, or even berries and fruit if other food is unavailable.
In the winter, when food becomes scarce, they become much more aggressive, forming large packs in order to hunt down larger prey, like caribou or moose. After a successful hunt, they can consume up to a quarter of their own body weight in food, and then can go without food for days at a time.
6. The average size of a full-grown winter wolf is from 7' to 12' long, but exceptional individuals have known to be even bigger. The largest reported winter wolf reached a full 16' from nose to rump.
7. Winter wolves have their own language, consisting primarily of barks, growls, and yips. In addition, they are able to speak the much more primitive wolven language of the worgs. Occasionally, in areas where the two wolf species overlap, worgs may be found as part of a winter wolf pack. In such cases, the worgs always occupy a much lower rank in the social hierarchy, and the winter wolves will often use the worgs as disposable "cannon fodder" when attacking large groups of powerful creatures (like adventurers).
Due to their lack of a stylized language, normal wolves and dire wolves are disdained by the winter wolves, who are by far the more intelligent. It is extremely uncommon to find either type associated with a winter wolf family or pack.
8. Wolves have a definite social structure. They live in a family group, led by the "alpha male." The alpha male is the leader of the group and his mate, the alpha female, is the only member of the group that will mate and bear young, although others in the pack will assist in raising the cubs.
Among the males, there is a hierarchy which defines each wolf's place in the family. The structure of the hierarchy is determined by one-on-one battles between the various males, with the winner being dominant over the submissive male. The fights are very seldom lethal, for once a wolf begins to see that victory is hopeless, he assumes a posture of submission, one very similar to that of a cub begging for food from its parents. This indicates that the wolf accepts its role as being lower in status than its opponent. Once a hierarchy is established, there is usually no further fighting between the wolves, who now know and accept their station in the pack. Those highest on the social ladder get first pick of food, have more of a say in decisions affecting the group, and so on.
By backing off when the leader approached, the narrator assumed a submissive posture and gave up any claims he had to the dead arctic owlbear. The winter wolves, by not allowing him to feed on "their" meal, are in effect each placing him below themselves in their family hierarchy without a formal battle.
9. Winter wolves have extensive hunting territories, often reaching well over 100 miles. With their large and powerful bodies, it is a simple matter for them to cover a distance of up to 50 miles in a single night.
10. This is the normal method for keeping a new mother fed, until the newborn cubs are old enough to accompany the rest of the pack. Upon occasional, however, the cubs are left in the care of other she-wolves from the pack, allowing the mother to join in the hunt.
11. The cubs of a winter wolf litter are born in late spring/early summer after a two-month gestation period. There are usually 4-6 cubs per litter, although on rare occasions the number can be as little as three or as high as nine. The cubs don't open their eyes for the first two weeks, and are suckled for about two months. At the end of the first month, their diet is supplemented with half-digested flesh that the mother disgorges. At six weeks, the mother accompanies them on their first hunt. By six months, they are able to hunt on their own, and at this time they abandon the pack and go off to start their own families. The wolves are fully grown at two years of age.
If, somehow, a winter wolf cub is separated from its mother while still young (before it opens its eyes for the first time), it can be tamed and raised, much like a dog. Once tamed, the winter wolf will treat its master much like it would the alpha male of its pack. Eventually, though, once it reaches full size and is at the peak of its powers, it will attack and try to become master of its own fate. Those wishing for a faithful winter wolf companion are advised to stock up on the appropriate charm spells and never leave their backs unguarded.
12. In good condition, a winter wolf pelt can be sold for as much as 5,000 gold pieces. In addition, their teeth and claws are often sought by northern barbarians for wear as jewelry and ornamentation. Many of the tribes even use them as talismans, believing them to transfer the bravery and winter survival abilities of the winter wolf to the wearer.
Richards said:"South," I reply to the band of wolves, to my family. "South for a day or two, until we reach the mountains, and a human village called Bordertown. A small settlement, with enough people to make the excursion well worth our while, but not enough to cause us any real threat."
"Humans," says Longclaw, licking his chops, and glancing over at the cubs' helmet play-toy. "We haven't had a good human in a long while."
"Well, all of that's going to change," I reply, a feral grin spreading over my muzzle. I'm thinking of that uppity maid at the inn, imagining the look on her face when we burst into town.
Perfect predator, indeed.
Richards said:Glad you liked it, Graywolf-ELM. Do you think your screen name had anything to do with it?
Richards said:Graywolf-ELM: If you go to the first post in this thread, at the bottom of that post is a series of links to the "Ecology" articles I've posted to this messageboard. (You'll need to have "view signatures" enabled to do so.)