Entrance into the mysterious Enchanted Forest—located high in the northern mountains between the Chateau in the Mists and the Bardic Kingdom—is strictly forbidden, except by the reigning monarchs of Calabiyau’s four Kingdoms… and for good reason.
Since the beginning of time, once a year on New Years’ Day, Calabiyau Proper’s reigning monarch has visited this strange land. Today, it is Queen Kandide’s turn. She, as are all of Calabiyau’s queens and kings, is greeted by a majestic white lion named Netapa.
In the language of the ancients, “ne” means one, and “tapa” means “to protect”—one who protects. Netapa is more than five hundred years old, and likely to live another five hundred years. He, as with his ancestors before, is the guardian of all things in the Enchanted Forest.
Netapa and Kandide will spend the entire day visiting the mysterious animals who live there, ensuring that those who are aging have plenty of food, shelter, and warmth until Spring can bring forth a new burst of life. All of the magical creatures are endangered and are protected by the four Kingdoms—which is about the only thing the monarchs agree upon.
Among the rarest of the animals are: a small of band of Centacors—golden striped dear-like creatures whose horns can swivel in every direction, and, when threatened, emit blinding bursts of pure white light; Albino Fire Birds, whose flaming wings shimmer with a purple-blue radiance; a family of rare flying Snow Turtles, whose shells split to reveal leathery wings; Wooly Crocottas, an elusive amber and black-colored dog-like creature who the Banshees used in battle before they created Garglans; Spotted Owlcats, white and black owls with the winged body similar to a long-haired lynx; and so many other more “normal” looking animals including deer, elk, foxes, bears, raccoons, skunks, llamas, eagles, and wolves.
When the sun sets, Kandide and Netapa will be joined by all of the creatures for a vast feast of winter berries, Veltaca—special high-protein plant-based cakes made just for the animals by Kandide’s chefs, and Zaca nectar from the cup-shaped flowers that contain a warm highly nutritious golden liquid similar in flavor to cinnamon-spiced apple cider. The animals thrive on it, and no matter how much they drink, the flower-cups continue to refill themselves.
As the large orange moon rises high above the treetops, the forest animals, full from their feasting, thank Kandide for her protection and then slowly wander off to sleep. Netapa and the two lead Centacors escort Kandide to edge of the forest, bidding her good-bye for another year.
In the spring, Selena of the Chateau will visit. In the summer, it will be the Banshee Queen Cyndara. And in the fall, High Priestess Viviana of the Bardic Temple will join the creatures for a harvest feast. But for now, no one else will be permitted to enter.
Transporting home takes Kandide nearly eight hours. Throughout the entire journey, her mind is a swirl of amazement for the beauty and harmony she has experienced. If only the rest of Calabiyau could learn to get along like they do, she thinks, all would be well in the world.
In any case, it will be another good year for these remarkable creatures, she asserts. Snuggling into bed, Kandide watches the snow gently fall outside her bedroom window.
Her purple blue eyes flutter shut, as she drifts off to sleep, more certain than ever that, while solving Calabiyau’s troubles won’t be easy, it can… and will happen.