JOURNAL ENTRIES & NOTES
As overjoyed as I am about making this discovery, I am not entirely proud about how I came upon it. Shortly after packing up camp from my latest expedition I realized how much I had depleted my courage reserves. Though the saplings were quite harmless and in many ways endearing, being so close to the Black Forest for an extended period of time had deeply rattled me. All I wanted was to return home as fast as possible. And so, on the last leg of my journey along the Yenith Peaks, I decided not to camp for the evening. I don't recommend anyone doing this. It was unwise, and only dumb luck saved me from a bad outcome.
The trail was dark. Nyx and Lyssa, our two moons, were in the shadow phase of their cycle. I didn't see the paw prints, nor did I hear anything that would have caused me alarm. So when I rounded the bend of the narrow path and into a small clearing I was not at all prepared for what I saw.
Five starry bears were standing upright on their hind legs, towering like stone statues with their noses up in the air as they stared up at the sky. Luckily, I overrode my instinct to freeze, and managed to scramble up the closest tree. At any moment I was expecting to have five bears attempting to topple the tree, eager for a midnight snack, but nothing happened. They didn't even acknowledge my sudden intrusion into their space. As if in a trance, they slowly followed each other in a roughly circular shape, looking up towards the brilliantly starry sky, not once going back down on all fours as they shuffled around.
Though they seemed completely distracted, I couldn't shake the feeling that I needed to hurry up and leave before they snapped out of their mysterious trance. Starry bears are one of the largest species of bears in the Obsidian Grove, with male shoulder height typically hitting around 4' / 1.22 meters. And they can easily reach 9.5' / 2.9 meters when standing up straight. As well as being a sizable predator, starry bears are known to be quite aggressive, especially the males. Luckily, they typically stay in the mountains and away from human habitations, but a harsh or long winter will occasionally drive them inland in search of their first springtime meal.
This group before me included three males and two females. Both sexes were covered in grey fur that ranged from very light to very dark hues with distinctive small white speckles that gave them their "starry" look along their backs and sides. Some starry bears also have larger patches of white that occur on their feet, legs, face, or backside. Females, however, consistently have a large white patch on their stomachs. This paired with their smaller stature makes them easier to pick out from males.
Unwilling to push my luck further, I quietly and carefully slipped out from behind the tree and backed out of their space. When I finally returned to headquarters, I spoke to my colleagues about the encounter. They were equally bewildered by the strange behaviour of the starry bears, but Wynna put forth an interesting theory. She believes it may have something to do with the fact the moons were in their shadow phase. I am not particularly thrilled at the idea of risking my life to test her hypothesis, but we wouldn't be in this line of work if we weren't willing to risk a bit of danger in the name of miraculous discoveries!
P.S. I am editing this entry a couple months later. This "moon trance" only occurs on the evening of the shadowed moons. I was curious to see if there would be any effects when both moons were full, but all I got for my efforts was a very clear image of a starry bear chasing me before I was forced to climb up a tree. Thankfully, starry bear claws are straight and have evolved for digging, not climbing. Now that we are aware of this mysterious behaviour, it will be interesting to see if other creatures are also affected by moon phases.
Note: Starry bears are mentioned in the short story "Father".