"Now I know what a pinata feels like," Nelda said.
She gripped her knees tightly around Jens pony-body, not sure what would happen if she tipped too far to the side. [Would we capsize like a boat? Where exactly is the center-of-gravity of a centaur?]
They drifted very slowly, and backward, across the wide ravine that Asbolus's home occupied.
Jen twisted to look back over her shoulder. "I think we are going to hit the trees on the other side?" she said hopefully. Her voice-squeaking terror was quickly melting away as It became clear that the stripeflower was doing its job.
"Well, grab anything you can if it comes into reach. And don't look down."
"It hardly matters if I look down," Jen said. "It's not like I'm going to fall. That doesn't even seem to be an option."
[Probably best not to mention the flying away into the never-never alternative. Not while she's just starting to cheer up a bit. But there are a few more imminent threats….]
"I mean," Nelda clarified. "Don't look down because BugleHead is down there somewhere with a live basilisk."
"Ah." Jen became thoughtful. "That might be one way to get down. If it's not far enough to get chipped and he hasn't lost the alicorn again." She started to paddle her horse legs slowly.
"Wait. What?" Nelda noticed the view starting to swing around.
"Keep doing that. I think we are actually moving in the direction you are walking, or whatever horse walking is called."
"It's generally called walking," Jen said smugly. The more technical names are for the various faster gaits.
"Well, let's stick with walking for now. Towards the trees."
"I just need to…."
There was no mistaking it now. They slowed and stopped drifting backward. Then Jen walk-swum them in a slow loop. The crossed over Asbolus's compound like she was swimming in the air.
BugleHead was right," Nelda mused. "He said that this was a thinky kind of flying not a flappy kind. So, the walking motion must get across—somehow--the intent about which way you want to go. Laterally anyway. I am not sure how we would do to pitch downwards."
Jen had perked up considerably and was humming the Lone Ranger theme as she aimed at what looked like some sort of extravagant conifer. "Ba-da dum, ba-da dum, ba-da dum dum dum. Oh, could you stop squeezing quite so hard with your knees? It's easy to tell you don't know how to ride."
"Well, Ma-mah neglected to get me lessons, and it's a long way down. So, would you mind if I held onto the back of this denim vest thing you have on?"
"Not at all."
They were starting to accelerate. Nelda grabbed onto the vest just behind the armholes. "Do we have a plan for…"
They ran right into the branches which looked almost fluffy from a distance but proved to be very scratchy and pokey. Nelda decided to just hold on tight to Jen, duck down, and hope for the best.
"Oopsie daisy." Jen scrambled and kicked.
The ended up floating in between two layers of branches, looking out into the valley.
"I wonder if I could become, like, a Pegasus. That would be cool." Jen twisted to look at Nelda. "Got any more ideas?"
"If you were riding a horse, how would you tell it to go down a hill?"
"I would just sort of…"
Nelda shrieked as Jen jumped out of the tree. But then they did start to drift gradually downwards in a graceful arc.
[Wow. She is so much better at this than I was.]
Jen swerved confidently towards Asbolus's walled garden, barely cleared the fence, and landed rather hard. Her knees buckled and Nelda few over her shoulder and tumbled across the ground before faceplanting between some prickly vines. Her upset head exploded in protest as being pickled, dehydrated, and then tumbled.
Nelda lay in the garden for a while. In her view law a number of vegetables that looked like small yellow-and-orange mottled pumpkins.
[Ugh. Much as I would like to give up the prophecy-princess life and reinvent myself as a peaceful root vegetable, I have a team to look after.]
Nelda sat up. "You okay, Jen?"
Jen was upright, at least. But twisting around to look at one of her rear hooves which was raised daintily off the ground. "I forgot that I have a lot more body weight forward of the whither than a horse," she said. "I think I've bruised my fetlock and pulled out quite a few tail hairs."
"That was a close one," Nelda said. "It's just as well you're not a stallion because you wouldn't be one any more. But hey, you're standing on the ground! Way to go with the mastering flying in about five minutes!"
[I'm a little bit embarrassed-slash-jealous.]
Jen bounced a few times, experimentally. "Still a bit of a walking-on-the-moon effect going on," she said. "But I think I have it under control!"
"Okay, now you're just showing off."
"I'm going to look for Asbolus," Jen said and cantered away.
"Watch out for…"
She was already gone.
Nelda sat in the vegetable garden for a while. It was looking a bit trampled, here and there.
Phyllis ambled over to join her after a while. "You could be helping SmithGuild now," she commented mildly.
This was true, of course. But getting a centaur out of a tree and teaching her how to fly is already quite a lot to achieve before breakfast. And it had sounded like SmithGuild had the satyr situation more-or-less under control.
"Well, he assigned the tasks," Nelda replied.
Looking up to the stone mountainside, she searched for the spot that now had one less tree on it. It was marked by a torn opened reddish stretch of clay. And right in the middle of it stood the sandy-colored Manticore. Looking right back at her.
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