[I feel like I need some paper to keep track of my personal bestiary experiences. But when it comes to centaurs, Frank Frazetta would be very disappointed.]
Nelda patiently accepted instruction about how to get the nut out of a sweetcone. Which is to say she picked one up, got her finger jabbed by the nettle-like spines, and was now being told how to take the cone apart from the flat bottom end. She turned to see Honeybeard chewing on the spiky cone like the stinging spines were potato stix.
[It's a goat thing, I guess. At least my throbbing fingers might distract me from my empty stomach.] Nelda sat sullenly with her throbbing fingertips in her mouth.
After the impromptu culinary lesson, the centauress introduced herself as BellMare Marta Marridottor. "Do you know what a BellMare is, dear?"
"I can't say that I do."
"Let me put it this way. If every member of the heard was in one place, ad I was in another, they would be the ones who were lost. \ I am always exactly where I am meant to be."
[How very Gandalf of you.] "Riiiiight."
"And you are thinking, what good would that do me as I would still be all on my own?"
"Yes, I was thinking that."
"And that is why I have the bell." From under her shawl the old centauress pulled a large brass bell with a wooden handle, and a tongue that was wrapped in felted cloth that was tied with a ribbon. "When I ring this bell, it can be heard for miles even in a thunderstorm. And the whole herd will gather to me."
BugleHead whispered, "Because the herd heard."
"Do you have to do that very often?" Nelda asked, mainly to be polite.
"Most often we just lose a youngling or two an they can use the sound to find their way home. It is mainly, as the Gryphon says, a token of office."
Dignity be damned, Nelda started to discretely ease of her shoes. But when she did the BellMare was clearly distracted by the sight of her feet. [Just how freaky do they look to these people? I bet the blisters aren't helping any.]
The BellMare tucked the bell carefully away again. "I say this…" she said, leaning forward companionably. "Just to illustrate that I have a certain level of responsibility for what happens to my people because I brought them to this vicinity. Which is to say, near the mountains at laying time. There is normally no great risk foraging here during the during the time of lay but before the hatching when the mothers start to hunt. But Echidna… she is here all year round and her excursions from her cave are infrequent but also unpredictable."
Several other female centaurs had gathered around the BellMare in a loose semicircle. They watched on with neutral expressions, the occasional twitching of their tail their only movement.
"So, you want to know what we were doing up in the mountains. I was just telling you guard there. I was discussing the where-abouts of a unicorn horn with Echidna. It seems that she has such a treasure in her possession." Nelda tried to sound enthusiatuc.
In unison the centauresses brows furrowed into matching frowns.
All but the BellMare who continued to look as placid as a Madonna. "Is that so?"
BugleHead broke in. "Oh yes, the big snake creature said Nelda could have the unicorn horn for some flying leaf."
Now the BellMare looked somewhat amazed, but more pleased than concerned. "Is it you goal to return life to the unicorn? We would be very interested in the return of our brethren the unicorns? Or even just one of their number."
"You're part unicorn? I thought you were more part horse?"
"Did she just call use whores?" exclaimed an appaloosa centauress with her hair in pigtails. Many heavy hooves shifted on the ground in a menacing manner. In the background a persistent centaur was still smacking a sack with a stick.
"No, no." Nelda raised her hands. "A horse is a creature like a unicorn but with no horn on its head."
The BellMare waved for her followers to settle. "I have never herd of such a thing. But the world is large. And, in any case, the tales passed down by all our kind assure us that our people's descent is from the unicorn."
"Ah, well. You would know."
The BellMare's equanimity was slipping a good deal now; her smile now more irritated than agreeable. "And where is this flying leaf found, exactly?"
"Oh, that's found near our village," BugleHead piped up again. "It's all around on the mountain."
"Interesting." The BellMare. "I may have been over-hasty in sending world to the Gryphon. He is not the only one with an interest in you."
[Altogether too many creatures have an interest in me of one sort or another.]
The BellMare deigned to explain: "I believe the Gryphon has taken an interest in a prophecy that speaks of a creature such as you. I am not sure why he places such weight on it. It is a mermaid prophecy and those people are very prone to florid religiosity."
[Mermaids. Great.] "A prophecy? What does it say?"
"I have no notion. Centaurs have no truck with prophecy. We make our own fate. But the Gryphon is a friends of the centaurs so we are inclined to oblige him."
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