In ancient Danarkin, the Senmurv was known as the semi-divine king of the birds, enemy of snakes, protector of justice and a paragon of faithfulness. It was larger than any bird and had the head of a dog, legs of a lion with rest of the body from a bird of prey with the tail of a rooster or a peacock. Its feathers were copper-colored but its tail and wings shimmered like the rainbow. Unlike other birds it was a mammal that suckled its young and was so ancient it had seen the end of the world preceding this one.
In Alphoria this legendary creature was known as Lykornis (wolf-bird) or Kynokephalornis (dog-headed bird). The only source available to Alphorians was an ancient manuscript that claimed the king of the Hibarites had sent a pair of Senmurvs to the king of Danarkim as a gift. With no way to leave the isles during the Cold Aion, Alphorian naturalists had to settle for speculation about the creature. A popular idea was that the wolf-bird was actually some kind of unusually large landfowl, perhaps an Eibarian pheasant species.
This idea had to go when the first explorers returned from Eibaria with stories about predatory man-sized flightless birds with canine ears, toothed beakless jaws and wicked claws in both their feet and wings. And what's more, they brough the skin of the beast with them, complete with the toes of the feet and what looked like clawed fingers in the wings still attached. While it was immediately clear the beast wasn't even part mammal, the ears being mere tufts of feathers like those of eagle owls, it was unlike any bird known to Alphorians.
The Senmurv turned out to be of an ancient flightless lineage that had diverged before birds had developed true flight. Earthbound they had grown larger, and though now extinct on the northern continents, in Eibaria they developed into apex predators, second only to the dreaded Achaierai. After the discovery of other similar birds in South Eibaria Alphorians named this line of archaic birds Nychopterians, for the predatorial claws in the freely mobile finger-like digits in their wings.
The discovery of the Nychopterians also overturned an old idea that birds had descended from gryphomorphs such as the gryphon or the owlbear. Despite having beaks, they had no true feathers, were all quadrapedal and lacked hollow bones or a complex air sac system. The Senmurv, despite lacking any clear adaptations for powered flight, had all of these.
While flightless, Senmurvs do have rather well developed wings that they use to aid balancing and making rapid turns while running, as well as to provide a boost when climbing trees, cliffs or steep slopes. It's even thought that daepite lacking the asymmetric shape of wing feathers in flighted birds, they still help the Senmurv to soften falls and lengthen jumps, which seems to be true for subadults at least. The wing feathers also help to protect eggs and hatchlings from the sun, though Senmurvs prefer to nest in caves or dens whenever available. Whether the long tail feathers that turn iridescent in mature males have any use beyond display is unknown.
Senmurvs form pair bonds that can last for life and hunt together unless one parent has to protect the nest. A Senmurv mother usually lays 2-6 eggs and shares the task of brooding them with the male. The young leave the nest immediately after hatching but take 3-4 years to reach maturity, and will often remain with their parents to help feed the next generation and take part in hunts. Senmurv hunting strategy usually relies on one or more individuals flushing out prey towards another that lies in wait ready to strike. The caught prey is shared among the hunters unless food is especially scarce and there are hatchlings to feed.
Despite their fearsome reputation among native Eibarians Senmurvs tend to avoid humans and usually only lone and sick or injured individuals turn man-eaters. Usually they hunt native animals smaller or the same size as themselves, though thanks to co-operative hunting strategies can sometimes take on much larger prey. In North Eibaria a large portion of the Senmurv's diet is made of snakes, lizards, small false dragons and mammals. They will also scavenge given the opportunity. the southern species is more willing to tackle larger prey, though they steer clear from fully grown Behemoths or Catoblepases.
During ancient times the Southern Senmurv, which is recognizable for its featherless legs, lighter copper-cloured plumage and iridescent covert feathers, was commonly found in North Eibaria. Hunting, especially by Hibarites, lead to a population collapse and the southern species died off in the North entirely in the aftermath of the War of Ruin. All the Senmurvs found in North Eibaria today are descended from Northern Senmurvs, a smaller species that was previously confined to the Golaka Highlands.
I started writing this description of the Senmurv to go with the illustration, only to realize it had grown way too long. I then rewrote it twice, first for the image and a second time into this more detailed text. I even trimmed this one down before uploading, and had to leave out details that didn't seem to fit anywhere, like a comparison between body temperatures in gryphomorphs and nychopterians. It seems like every time I try to write anything Magestone-related, it suffers from terminal detail bloat.
What's a false dragon?
False dragons are animals I haven't got to describing yet (but I do intend to!) They are non-draconian mesosuchians related to behemoths and the bulette. Most false dragons look quite a bit like dragons, but are actually herbivorous or omnivorous.
Dromaeosaurs!! I love it!
Thanks. It's probably not inaccurate to call them dromaeosaurs, though the Senmurv could be a giant troodontid, too. I even considered them having had flighted ancestors like Balaur, but ended figuring they'd have evolved from something that was just slightly less birdlike than Archaeopteryx.
Cool! Are there many more non-avian dinosaurs in Magestone?
There are a bunch. Gryphomorphs are all marginocephalians, the catoblepas is a sauropod, the cockatrice is a scansoriopterygid, there are some yet undescribed ones like the bonesnapper and the abrian, both theropods. There are also a couple of creatures in the planning stages that may or may not make it to Magestone.