Southern Mendev is dominated by the Estrovian Forest. Long a source of timber and game, the forest acquired a fell reputation during the First Crusade. A great huntsman from Andoran named Herne Vilhaur was mortally injured while hunting a sacred white stag in the druid groves of the Estrovian Forest and was abandoned by his companions, who named him a deserter and a turncoat to cover their own absence. The druids of the forest, their people being steadily dispossessed by the influx of well-armed foreigners, found in Herne the tool of their vengeance. They hanged him from an ancient oak in the northern reaches of the forest and laid upon him the “curse of the winterthorn,” transforming him into a staghorned avenger. Warped by the druids’ magic and his own undying hatred for them and for his faithless companions, Herne made his creators his first victims and soon forgot all but his own name, his burning malice, and the urge to hunt. In the years that followed, Herne’s predations gave native Mendevians and southern interlopers alike a new name for fear in the chill winter night, passing down his awful curse to create a race of stag-crowned dark hunters with their own “winterthorns,” who live astride winter wolves or great snowy owls. At his passing, these “hernes,” who bore his name, buried him at the foot of the very oak where he had his unholy rebirth. This ground is sacred to the hernes, and while their progenitor’s barrow is said to be rich in funerary treasures, travelers in the Estrovian Forest venture near Herne’s Oak only at grave peril.
Sources: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting