|Official Name||Highland Creaker|
|Common Nicknames||Cold Shrieker|
Highland Creakers are comical, tubby amphibians native to the Highland Territories occupied by the Dunbrae and Caeren. While ancient beliefs once assigned them a coveted position and led to their domestication, modern Creakers are seen as a food source and pest in the wild, and a somewhat useful, though occasionally temperamental pet by those that keep them. The animal is best known for their loud, creaking call, and for how they seek to hibernate when winter approaches.
Unlike other local animals such as the Gallovian Geep, the Highland Creaker has a well-documented history primarily due to its strange position in the Highland Territories. The species originated on Mannadh-Alba specifically, and in this ancient time, it was known as the “sounder of life.” It was believed by the ancient Caeren that in their local pagan faith, the animal tolled the time of the universe, reminding all of spiritual time kept by the gods and the souls that inhabited the world. It is also during this era that some were domesticated, likely as an effort to help communities keep time. This ancient belief was ultimately minimized somewhat around 50 BC when the animal was spread to other Highland territories, where they soon became more of a general pest. Their infestation of the Highlands, along with their loud noises, was an irritant the surrounding lands gradually got accustomed to, while the local ecology simply changed out one species of frog, a now lost, simple creature, for the larger Creaker. In 105 AC, outsiders encountered the creatures for the first time, and tales were soon spread of the large amphibians, as well as their startling noise-making quality. In the modern-day, the animal is largely seen as a natural part of life for the Dunbrae and the Caeren. The creatures in a domesticated capacity make lethargic but useful pets left alone by other animals, while those in the wild are hunted, often during autumn and the final months before their hibernation. The Highland Creaker has luckily spread no further than its current habitat, though some fear the escape of Creaker pets in the hands of Dunbrae and Caeren across the world may one day bring about a new, croak-filled landmass.
Highland Creakers sit between a foot to a foot and a third in length and width. They have a pair of large and tired-looking dark blue or green eyes located on top of their head with layers of skin around them giving the appearance of wrinkles, as well as a large, slightly upturned mouth. Their most impressive feature is located within the mouth, where a long, thin, bright pink sticky tongue capable of lancing out and snipping a nearby insect or an irritating individual with its foot-long reach. The rest of their bodies display the same pudgy structure of their face, with thick limbs that see minimal exercise. This is less extreme in wild specimens, who must hop from place to place more frequently than those domesticated. Creakers have skin colors ranging from earthy tones to dark greens that are dependent on the environment they are found in, though small distinctive lumps also coat the amphibian’s entire body, comparable by some to skin tags. What purpose they serve is unknown.
Within the population, female Creakers are much more elusive and less populous than their male counterpart at an estimated ratio of 3 to 1. Males are slightly larger than females on average, but also possess “bolder” colorations, be that a few lines of pale green on their underbelly, or a patterned splatter of dark brown over dark green.
Life Span and Development
The birth of Highland Creakers works much the same as other frogs or toads. During the mating season in the spring, male Highland Creakers will move to higher ground and emit their unique call, which sounds uncannily like the creaking of an old, rusty hinge. Females will emerge and approach the mate they wish, the pair then proceeding to a nearby water source like a pond or mountain spring. The female then lays some few hundred to as many as a thousand tiny, pale green gelatinous eggs, with the male fertilizing them afterward. The female will then leave, with the male left to watch over their spawn. Over the course of several weeks, tadpoles will emerge from the eggs and feed to grow in size. During these early weeks, males have been known to eat eggs, though many assume these to be unfertilized, perhaps even on purpose to give them an easy meal. However, males do tend to eat some tadpoles as well, ultimately cannibalizing their own offspring.
After three weeks, the growth cycle of the Creaker stalls, all remaining members of the brood trapped in the froglet stage for the next four to six weeks. This is the stage when they are most vulnerable, not yet able to make their distinct call, and their bodies not fully developed. As much as half of all broods are killed at this stage. Finally, the froglet stage ceases, and the babies enter their final stage, appearing like a Highland Creaker, albeit a small one. They will then follow after the father for several more weeks, gradually breaking off into their own small groups or solitary lives. The sole difference to this process in domesticated surroundings is that tenders will actively get a male and female together to produce offspring in a controlled water source, and then help care for the froglets so that they might mature safely, without the same extremely high mortality rates. Highland Creakers in the wild last about ten years, with domesticated variants lasting not much more at around fifteen years, though a few in more recent decades have been seen to be pushing twenty.
Highland Creakers are remarkably complex despite their slightly comical appearance, their “stupid smiles” belaying a creature capable of surviving much. They hunt for food with the use of their tongue, snapping up insects and sometimes small fish or mammals, in addition to the odd berry or edible plant, being a truly omnivorous species. They might move slow, but when spurred to action with the threat of danger are capable of rapid, desperate scrambles to cover, or out of the way. They also have the nasty habit of getting stepped on, be that by animals or people, and this can also enact a frenzy in them. Both states of response feature their signature creaking call, though at a panicked and even more annoying pitch, the action an effort to drive away the danger which threatens them. In domesticated surroundings, these mentalities are rather dulled. They still hunt but are largely relegated to dealing with insects or get hand-fed insects dug from the earth. They are also rare to panic but have the habit of, when annoyed or disrupted in a task, snapping their tongue out to hit what is irritating them, be that a keeper, another pet, or some physical object. The only mentality to truly unite both mentalities is the hibernation season. When autumn comes, with winter approaching, Highland Creakers enter a burst of action, digging themselves a resting place for the next three to five months, where they will then bury themselves and freeze, though still alive, while winter rolls over. Domesticated Creakers similarly should be kept busy with digging, but due to the fact that winter chills so rarely reach them, they will simply go to sleep for a few days, reawaken, and pop back out to resume their duties.
Territory and Groupings
Highland Creakers are not typically sociable or territorial, spending little time interacting with others of their species, save for the duration of the mating season and when the father raises its young. During heavy storms that lash the Highlands, the amphibians are known to venture down from their typical habitat down to human settlements where they may become a temporary nuisance, entering into a competition with domesticated Creakers, calling back and forth all night in some strange competition. Domesticated Creakers themselves largely live in the home of their owner, otherwise resting just outside of the house or living their lives in the gated garden of their owner’s home.
- The adhesive properties of the Creaker’s saliva can be utilized, but due to the amount of time it takes to scrape a desirable amount off of the tongue, it is rarely done.
- Tamed Highland Creakers sometimes sit in groups at the edge of a town in the Highland Territories, being called the local equivalent of the “Old Folks Home” due to the animal’s wrinkled bodies, and lack of movement.