The Wishing Map concept art developed for the original Disney animated series.
After falling for what seemed like days, and then slipping off a precipice higher than any on earth, Zack Dore had finally pulled himself to safety. Then, spotting an immense stone bowl filled with branches and twigs, he’d crawled into it and slept like a stone. But sometime during the early morning hours his bed of sticks had grown softer and warmer. Something thick and furry was now pressing against his body. He nuzzled into it. It felt like an animal. He’d always wanted a pet he could sleep with, a cuddly cat, or a snuggly puppy, or…
His eyes yanked open. In the morning light he could just make out the face of a huge dead rat, its bulging eyes staring vacantly into his. He jerked, brushing his cheek against the rodent’s warm, saliva-dripping snout.
It wasn’t a rat, it was a greb, a human-sized scavenger that lived high in the Northern Mountains of the Kingdom of Gerd, leaping from ridge to ridge on oversized ostrich-like legs. It was covered with scraggly black fur, except for its face and legs, which were white and pimply. It had jagged, nasty-looking teeth and an even nastier smell, and would almost certainly have killed him if it hadn’t already been dead itself.
“Aggghhhh!” Zack’s response was primal and spontaneous. He’d have thrown up if he’d had the chance. He didn’t, because at that instant a huge rumbling voice complained:
“Hrrrmmmhhh! Not dead? Great Uol!—forgive me, Lord—thought I’d properly killed them all!”
Before Zack could move a muscle, an immense foot with claws the size of tree limbs reached into the straw and squeezed the greb. Its head rolled forward and its eyes popped out into Zack’s lap. He suppressed a scream, then dumped the oozing orbs and began scrambling through the straw, until one of the huge claws came down with a heavy FOOMP in front of him.
Zack froze. He peered up through the straw at a bird the size of a two-storey house. It looked something like an eagle, but was twenty times larger. Its head was as big as Zack’s bedroom, its curved amber beak the size of his bed; its unique v-shaped wings could have covered the Dore’s front yard. Its feathers were wheat-colored, but tufted a dusky pewter at the tips, and its neck and chin feathers had all gone gray; it was clearly not a young…whatever-it-was.
What it was was a Sheya, one of the great noble birds that watch over Ismara from on high. The Sheyar are the oldest living beings, apart from the High Faeries themselves, and this was the oldest of the Sheyar. His name was Aviar, and he’d turned 1,097 just last week. But that wasn’t what Zack was thinking about. He was thinking…
Am I his next course?
Thoughts: Has your life ever been in a stranger’s hands, or as it were, talons?
To read the next episode, click here.