For thousands of years, Ancients had been bringing animals to their world. And in those thousands years, the animals had spread across the world making their own civilizations: cities and towns and sprawling metropolises that often mirrored the ones they had seen humans build on Earth.
Mayan-like empires rose in jungles, populated by jaguars and snakes and armadillos. European style villages sprang up across farmlands and forests with raccoons and rabbits and foxes all living happily together. A great city of canals rose at the mouth of a river, a university was built on the top of one of the highest mountains, and Old West style frontier towns were built on floating skylands.
As Withering’s threat rose, the Dizzywood citizens did all they could to stop him, but it was not enough. Withering’s destruction was felt across the entire land and the leaders of these towns and cities and kingdoms finally decided something had to be done. Word went out that a Grand Council would be convening in the massive halls of Skypoint University. Animals came in wagons and airships, burrowing under the ground, and flying on wings to reach the hall.
“The news is grim,” the University High Chancellor said to the massive crowd that had gathered. “Our forests are being destroyed. The rivers are being polluted. Many of our towns are in danger of being overrun by monsters or robots. No one has seen an Ancient in a long, long time.”
A rabbit stood up and took off his fedora. It was Montana Jack, Dizzywood’s most famous explorer. “I’m afraid it’s worse than that,” he said. “I just came from the Onakasi ruins in Tanglevine Jungle. Withering has secretly been mining under the ruins, ransacking the temples for magical artifacts and sucking elixir out of the rock. Thankfully, a protector spirit named Yagu drove them off. But it confirms rumors that I’ve been hearing for a while now. Withering’s got secret operations going on all over Dizzywood. On the most remote mountains, across the widest deserts, even under our oceans.”
“It’s that flying headquarters of his!” the Chancellor said. “We never know where he or his henchmen are going to appear next.”
Montana Jack continued, “Explorers and Pathfinders will need to explore every kingdom, city, and lost civilization in Dizzywood if we’re to uncover all of Withering’s plots and conspiracies. We’re going to need a legion of brave adventurers. Many more than we have right now.”
A large hawk spread her wings and said, “Speaking on behalf of the wizards, we must also search Dizzywood high and low to find as many magical artifacts as we can. Over the millennia many powerful objects were crafted by civilizations that have since fallen and become lost to us. If the Emperor were to recover even a few of these items, we would be quite…doomed.”
“What are we going to do?!” a fox cried, sending a note of panic through the Council.
“A wall,” a stork suggested barely containing his terror, “let’s build a wall!”
“No, we must hide underground,” a mole named Bartleby said. “Withering will go away if we just hide.”
“No wall will stop him and hiding won’t make our problems go away,” a voice in the back of the room said. Everyone turned to see it was a wise old mouse named Dinsdale. The room parted and Dinsdale scurried slowly to the front. Swingtail the monkey reached down and put Dinsdale on her shoulder, so everyone could see him.
“We must stand up to Withering,” Dinsdale said calmly. “We must do everything we can to stop him.”
“But how?” a chorus of voices cried.
“I think I know how,” someone near the front said. This time it was Presto the raccoon. Presto was very young, but the other animals knew him to be trustworthy and smart.
“When I was just a cub, still living in the old world, I was following the delicious smell of fish one day, when I fell into a pit. The fish had been put there as a trap. I tried to climb out, but the dirt was loose and I just slipped back down each time. I ate the fish and drank all the water I could find, but after a day or two I grew weak and thought I was done for. That’s when some children found me. Human children. They immediately saw that I was in trouble. They could have easily just left me there. Instead, while one boy threw carrots down for me to eat, the others found a long log. They rolled the log until one end had fallen into the pit. With the carrots in me, I regained enough strength to climb out and scurry off to safety. Those human children saved my life.”
“Are you saying we should build a pit?” a slightly dim-witted crocodile said.
“What he’s saying,” Dinsdale said, “is that we need to ask human children to help us. We need to find kids who are noble and brave and smart who will help us defeat the so-called Emperor.”
“But surely human adults would be better than children?” a cantankerous vulture known as Griffin McKettle said.
“Adult humans are too dull brained and close minded,” Dinsdale said. “Only children have the open minds, the trustworthiness, the courage, the curiosity, and most of all, the imagination to learn our magic, to become fellow citizens, to explore the far corners of Dizzywood rooting out Withering’s operations, and ultimately to help us defeat him.”
“And just how are we supposed to bring these children here?” a doubtful duck said. “We all know Withering is the only one with a portal device. How are we goingt o get our own?”
“That’s easy,” a bear said standing up.
“We steal it!”
The story continues in Part 5 – Spy Bear’s Mission.