This post was inspired by a writing prompt in the Worldbuilders community, Worldbuilding Prompt #449 - Hibernation
I thought it gave me a good opportunity to start fleshing out my newest setting, the world of Confluence - I'll add a couple of links at the end with a little more info.
"Break down the door, constable. I'll add the cost of the repair to the back rent he owes. That little squirt will learn that he can't just skip out on his obligations."
Merida Fangwrangler's face said it all. She was annoyed. Very annoyed. The dwarf had stopped paying rent, hadn't been seen for weeks, and that last time she had seen him was when he tried to sweet-talk her daughter. Under her own roof, no less !
So Officer Weggins of the Sharrow's Hold Constabulary duly stepped back and delivered a mighty blow to the door with his size 19 ogre-pattern regulation issue boots. The door, cheaply made and certainly not designed to resist being kicked by a large ogre, duly fell apart to allow entry to the rented room.
Weggins ducked as he stepped into the chamber. He was several inches taller than the doorway. Looking around, he could see a small, well-kept room. Everything was tidily arranged, possibly obsessively so. The bed was made, and the trunk set up on a board at the end of it showed clearly that the occupant hadn't needed the full length available.
Calling back over his shoulder to Mrs Fangwrangler, Weggins said "Nothing seems to be amiss here, madam. All tidy, no signs of violence or a struggle. So whatever happened to him didn't happen in here."
Merida stormed into the room, looking around angrily. She opened and closed a few drawers and the door of the bedside cabinet, probably looking for some rent money.
Weggins knew what she was like. After giving her a minute or so to bustle around and blow off steam, he coughed to attract her attention.
"All I found was this book, madam, it looks like a journal of some kind."
She snatched it from his hand, flipped it open to a random page near the end, and started reading.
From the Journal of Knotall the Stout, Dwarven Ranger
Frozen Coast Expedition, Day 38
We have emerged at last from the trackless wastes of the Boris Pinewood. Fifteen days of wandering aimlessly and pointlessly through that sterile landscape, all of it in sub-zero temperatures. Now at last we can finish the last leg of our journey to the edge of the world, the Frozen Coast.
Frozen Coast Expedition, Day 42
We are near the coast. In the distance we can hear the land being created and destroyed as the planes of earth and air strive for dominance over each piece of terrain. It is a terrifying sound, and I hope we don't have to get too close to it before we find the creatures we seek.
Frozen Coast Expedition, Day 45
We are near the edge. The din of earth falling away into the Airy Void, and new rock being pushed up from below is deafening. The temperature is well below zero degrees and the wind is blowing a gale. But we can see cave entrances, and they are a few miles short of the active region, so it should be safe. with any luck, we will be able to find some bearphins inside and learn more about their hibernation cycle.
Even though we are still a little way from the edge, the land is not totally stable. Dammon fell into a crevasse today. It was covered in a thin layer of ice and hidden by snow, but when he fell in, it snapped shut and crushed him to death. I'll miss him.
Frozen Coast Expedition, Day 46
We've entered a cave. It is still bitterly cold, but at least it provides some respite from the freezing wind. Although we are some way from The Endless Water, it is clear that at some point that plane was successful in swamping this part of the Frozen Coast. The floor of the cave is many feet deep in frozen water, but when air became dominant again, it must have flash-frozen it so fast that the shapes of the waves were preserved.
Perhaps it is this combination of cold air and frozen water that explains why the bearphins hibernate. After all, there are no seasons on Confluence, so it can't be that they are like ordinary bears that hibernate in the winter when food sources are scarce. With no sun, they also won't be regulating hibernation by the changing length of the days.
Frozen Coast Expedition, Day 47
We have seen them - bearphins ! They are far bigger than we expected, when awake they would probably stand twelve feet tall at the shoulder. But right now they are hibernating. They look very peaceful, so we think they are actually gentle herbivores protected from predators mainly by their size.
We count three of them, two large and one smaller, probably a cub. Asleep, they look like great mounds of brown fur, with grey heads bearing dolphin-like beaks. They have strange clawed flippers on the ends of their short legs. We plan to approach them more closely later today to take sketches and study their sleep patterns.
Image created by AI in Wombo.art
Frozen Coast Expedition, Day 49
Okay, I was totally wrong, but I think I understand how they hibernate.
They are not gentle herbivores, they are terrible carnivorous predators. I think they are some kind of ambush predator. They hibernate when there is no food around, but somehow they must sense the body heat of prey when it gets close enough. I guess that'll be either other predators trying to sneak up on them, or curious and stupid humans. Then they wake up faster than we thought possible and attack.
Their flippers enable them to skate across the ice, with the claws both giving them control and acting as weapons when they reach their prey. In that case it was us, slipping and sliding across the ice as we tried to get away.
They slaughtered Mibrass, Hendrick and Forran. Luckily, Tariel and I were able to run faster than the other three, so were able to get away while the bearphins sat down to dinner with one explorer each to eat.
I don't like the cold, I don't like the wind, and I most especially don't like bearphins. I promise my next expedition will be somewhere far warmer.
Frozen Coast Expedition, Day 68
I have arrived back in Sharrow's Hold. After discussion with Tariel, we have decided that our next expedition will be to the World's End Mountains, where we hope to see neither ice nor bearphins.
This story is a prequel to one I wrote a little while back, Worldbuilding Prompt #400 - In The Foothills Of The World's End Mountains
Confluence itself is a very new setting, and one I hope has some unusual features. You can read more about how I went about creating it at Creating a New Setting - Confluence