When I first discovered this wondrous land, I could scarcely believe everything before me. The spiraling and floating mountains that reached so high that that the rings of clouds were still below them. The great waterfalls that sprayed down from the ancient rivers that flowed through forests with trees wise and full of knowledge. The oceans with their golden beaches and cool, lapping waves that never roared or stormed.
And the life within. Such unique, and wonderful creatures that walked through this fantastic world. It took years for me to gaze upon them all. Who knows? I may have had more to see.
I can't see them anymore, though. The land is now barren and cold, so empty and sad that even the Icy Ridge that lines the northern forests would offer more warmth. Everything has vanished, all the wonder gone, all the vibrant, amazing things this world once had to offer, disappeared. I still wonder where they went.I doubt I will ever know. All I do know is that I have my books, my stories, and the memories that are already beginning to fade away as I grow aged and alone in an old man's mind that still believes a long-last Fantasy may return. I don't think I'll live to see them come back. But I leave these stories to whomever finds them, so that they can know that they did exist.
BEASTS OF THE OLD LETTERS
When dawn shines through the trees of the Softneedle Forest, you can find the Aliphox humming through the giant lilies for a morning meal. A beautiful two-headed bird, slightly larger than a full grown man, with downy rainbow feathers that quiver ever so slightly as they run through the warm morning breeze. The Aliphox has four wings that are more akin to an insect's than a bird's, but they blend seamlessly with the back of the creature. They are jeweled and delicate, and they catch the early rays in such a way that they glint and shimmer.
The Aliphox's heads each support a single large crest which changes color from one bird to the next. Their eyes are round and a deep purple, their beaks gold and slender. And their cries – the cry of an Aliphox is sublime, a smooth, crisp, and echoing warble. The heads take turns as they call out, one rising, one falling, one rising, one falling.
Aliphox eggs are pure white until the chick comes close to hatching, during which they will turn vibrant shades of pink, green, blue, and gold. The chick is no larger than a hand, and like any other infant bird, naked and blind for weeks. The first coat of down is white as well, but as it grows older, colors will show through layer upon layer until a full array of hues coats the bird.
I had a great privilege of seeing an Aliphox nest myself after many years of exploring the Softneedle Forest; before, I had to rely on the records and drawings from the dragons. They are built on the ground, nearly as wide as a dinner table, interlaced with the branches of the thorny ivy to keep predators away from the chicks. The interior is matted with tufts from the down berry bushes; indeed, the berries themselves are brought back to feed the young too. Of course, I could only marvel a few precious minutes before the parents returned, and proceeded to fiercely chase me away for a good quarter of a mile before they turned back to their eggs. Nonetheless, I felt a great deal of happiness knowing I had witnessed such a rare sight with my own eyes.
An enigmatic, and dare I say frightening, creature the Bumpkle is. The dragons themselves say they do not know how or when the Bumpkles arrived in the Blackrock Forests to the North, but they have lurked within those rugged trees for centuries now.
I dared not travel into the Blackrock Forests alone. That place crawls with animals of the night, and is a place of mystery and fear. The good wizard Gaaren, and the dragon Darw'enth accompanied me all the way, and I am forever grateful for their willingness and courage.
As the Blackrock Forest loomed nearer, I began to remember tales of Bumpkle encounters. Some poor, brave soul who went exploring alone, when the Ashen Trail was not yet made. What dreadful and terrifying experiences they must have been.
Half a mile into the trees and the sunlight was already almost completely blocked out. We relied on the soft glow of the carpet moss and ringed mushrooms. The mosquitoes were vicious to the wizard and I. Another fifteen minutes of walking, and we saw our first Bumpkle.
Or, to put it more accurately, Bumpkles. Five of them, all hunched over as they crooned over a carcass. From the dim glow of plant life I could see the muzzle of what may have been a Waddlegrunt. All of us halted, afraid to disturb the creatures.
Easily thirty, even forty feet tall. A single, clawed, birdlike foot and leg that rose all the way without any other limb or torso until it connected with the head, a giant, rounded thing covered in thick, matted down. Their two enormous eyes that shon