Abducted by the Centaur Tribe

BOOK: Abducted by the Centaur Tribe
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Abducted by the Centaur Tribe

by Vivian
Leigh

Copyright 2013 Vivian
Leigh

All rights
reserved.

***

The skies were cloudless when I heard the thunder. A distant
pillar of dust rose from the fields to the west, and a knot like a
clenched fist rose in my throat. The centaurs were coming three
weeks early.

The first green shoots of spring covered the fields near the
village, and most of the menfolk were out working. Most of the
women, too. I worked with my younger sister, Elisa, and my mother
in the village, scraping out a meager existence weaving baskets
from the reeds that grew on the banks of Lake Voulismeni.

Mother heard the sound, too, and came onto the roof where I was
supposed to laying out reeds for drying. “Gods above, they're
coming for the sacrifice.”

Already a trumpet was blowing from the top of the guard tower on
the inland side of village.

“Get inside,” she said. “You and Elisa stay
hidden.”

“But Mother, I want to see them,” I said. And I did.
The gods were distant, stories whispered about in the night.
Centaurs, though, they were more than myths. Every few years they
came to the village and demanded an unmarried woman as ransom. We'd
tried fighting in the past, and it never went well. Better one girl
be sacrificed than a dozen of our strongest men. Everyone saw the
sense in that. Except, perhaps, the sacrifice.

“I want to see them, too,” Elisa said, poking her
head up the stairwell.

Mother and I turned in unison and said, “NO!”

Elisa scurried back inside, head hanging. She was barely a
woman, and had no business seeing bare-chested, naked creatures,
even if their bodies were half horse. Not that I really had much
business, either.

When Elisa was gone, Mother touched my arm. “Keep her in
the house. I'll see if Niko wants to have dinner with us if I see
him at the gathering.”

Judging by her knowing smile, my eyes had probably lit up. Niko.
We'd practically grown up together, and I had known for years that
we would someday be married. I was just waiting on him to come to
the same conclusion.

“I'll try,” I told her. “But you know how she
is.”

“You'll do more than try, dear. I couldn't bear losing
anyone else to those beasts.” Her expression hardened, then
she followed Elisa down the stairs and into the shop we called
home.

I gave her a couple minutes while I watched the dust cloud get
closer. The villagers in the fields were streaming toward town at a
determined jog.

Mother stood just inside the door, a wide brimmed hat perched on
her head. The one I had woven her last winter, I noticed.
“Remember what I said, girls. Stay in the shop.” She
let herself out and latched the door behind her.

Elisa sat on her bench, a half-formed basket in her lap.
“We're going to go see them, right?”

I knew we shouldn’t. Mother had told us to stay, and Elisa
didn’t need any nightmares to keep her awake in the night.
But Niko might be there. And mother would never know we’d
disobeyed if we stayed away from the amphitheater.

“I don’t know.”

“Please, Chloe? I’ve never seen them, and the girls
say they’re so handsome.”

I ground my teeth, but I wanted to see them, too.
“Okay,” I said at last. We'd take proper precautions,
and I really did want to see them, too. The last time they'd come
I'd stayed in the shop hidden away, too afraid to have gone to see
them even if Mother would have let me. Not that she would. Not
after what had happened to Father.

It took around half an hour before we heard the distant clop of
hooves on cobblestones. They passed toward the village
amphitheater, and I motioned toward Elisa. “Let's
go.”

We didn't bother creeping out. I adjusted a hat over my head and
strolled out the door as if I had an errand. Elisa followed on my
heels, similarly attired. Our sandals scuffed on the cobblestone
walkway that ran through the center of the village toward the
harbor. A few other people in white robes walked the same
direction. Before we reached the amphitheater, I took Elisa down a
short alley.

We clambered up a section of fish traps, baskets mother or I had
made years before, most likely, and on top of a roof. From there we
could see probably two hundred of our fellow villagers. Other
villagers lined the buildings around the amphitheater, watching the
meeting, too. It looked like everyone that could walk was there.
And in the middle of it all, a dozen or so of the centaurs.

They. Were. Breathtaking.

The horse bodies rose to the height of a man's shoulders. Even
the tallest men in the village only came up to their bronzed
chests. And such chests. The Spartan warriors that had stopped in
our village for provisions had not been half so muscular.

“They're disgusting,” Elisa whispered. “Just
look at that hair.”

I wasn't sure if she meant the brown coat of hair that covered
their hindquarters, or the black shock of hair on their heads.
“Yeah,” I said, not really agreeing with her, but not
really wanting an argument.

“We have come for an offering,” one of the centaurs
boomed.

A gray haired village elder cringed away. “We have one for
you, oh lord.” He beckoned toward a crowd of robed elders,
and two of them led forward a girl with dark skin and braided
hair.

A Persian slave, I thought. She was facing away from me, so it
was hard to tell just how attractive she might be.

“No,” the biggest of the centaurs said. “This
woman is not from this village. We will have one of your
daughters.

“But we have this maiden for you, my lord. She is a
princess, taken fairly in war.”

“You try to cheat me, Agriphore? I think not.” The
other centaurs stamped their feet. Swords seemed to appear in their
hands. The leader stepped forward, looming high above the
elder.

The elder turned toward the crowd, his gestures jerky.
“People of Kolaos, what would you have me do.” His
voice cracked as he spoke.

“Fight them!”

“Give a sacrifice!”

“Offer yourself!”

“Since you have tried to cheat us, we will choose,”
the centaur said. “Gather all your maidens.” His herd
spread out around him, then half of them thundered up the aisles of
the amphitheater. One came right toward the building where Elisa
and I crouched.

He saw us, pointed. “There!”

My heart stopped. I grabbed Elisa's arm and jerked her down
below the parapet, unsure what else to do. Her eyes were wide open,
and though her mouth moved, no sounds emerged.

“Stay quiet,” I hissed. Our only hope was that he
forgot us while they gathered the other maidens.

That hope was soon dashed. A man's head appeared over the edge
of the building. “You there. Get down to the stage.” He
pointed at us with a bronze blade the length of my arm. In his fist
it looked like a dagger.

“I... Uh...” My stomach was clenched tighter than a
three-weave mat.

“Move it, girls.” He jabbed at us.

Elisa squeaked, but rose to her knees. She shook as she crawled
toward the edge. As soon as she was within reach, the centaur
scooped her up and carried her out of sight behind the ledge. I
couldn't just let her go, so I threw myself after her. I was
practically in the air, leaping for the for the ground, when the
centaur caught me, too.

I screamed.

He smelled like horse, and had arms thicker than any warrior's.
I was hefted like a babe, and deposited in the alley. A swat on my
rump followed, but a finger pointing toward the amphitheater and a
grunt of instruction were all the encouragement I needed. I grabbed
Elisa's arm and rushed toward the steps.

Other girls were being similarly herded toward the stage. I
searched the crowd, looking for my mother, but couldn't spot her
amongst the hundreds of people. Most of the women were in tears,
and more than a few of the men. Yet none of them rose to defend us.
They let their children be dragged out to be chosen.

My people had tried to fight the centaurs once. More than once,
to be fair. The most recent time was when I was only a child and
Elisa not much more than an infant. A hundred of the men had tried
to ambush a dozen centaurs. Twenty men had died, and twice as many
were wounded. The centaurs had taken a dozen women instead of their
customary one.

My father numbered among the dead.

I reached the growing crowd of women, and pulled Elisa close.
She whimpered against my arm, her whole body shaking. I
didn’t feel much braver, but I knew she needed my strength,
so I tried to set the best example I could.

The biggest of the centaurs marched across the stage, inspecting
each of the girls in turn. He paused before me. Something about the
thoughts of my father made me bold, and I met his eye without
thinking. “Too bold,” he murmured, then passed onto
Elisa. There he stopped again.

“This one,” he said, pointing to my sister.

Her eyes rolled up in her head and she fainted on the spot. A
gasp went up from the crowed. I gawked at Elisa, at the centaur.
Distantly, I heard screaming. Mother.

“Take me.” I stepped forward, blocking him from
Elisa. “She's a child. Not yet a woman.” I thrust out
my chest. “Take me.”

A second cry echoed above the gasps. This one was deeper.
Niko.

The centaur eyed my straining breasts. “You have spirit.
Very well.” He grabbed my arm and dragged me forward.
“This one shall be your sacrifice.” He showed me to the
village. “Do not try to buy us off again with foreign
slaves.”

I was pushed toward a pair of centaurs, and they bound my arms
to my sides. None of my people came to help. Niko tried, but his
father and older brother restrained him. I couldn't hear his cries
over the roaring my ears, and before I had time to fully process
what was happening, I was thrown over horseback and we were riding
out of the village. Out of the only life I'd ever known.

***

We rode for two days without rest, stopping only to eat and
drink. The centaurs didn't sleep, and what sleep I managed was from
the back of one or another of the beasts. They moved me from
creature to creature like a messenger with a dozen race horses. We
must have crossed the entire island by the time we finally stopped
and it left me utterly exhausted and more sore than if I'd spent a
whole day cutting reeds.

I didn't know what lay in store for me, and the times I had
asked I had only received a blank stare in response. I dreamed of
Niko at night, praying that he'd gather a hundred men with spears
and bows and they'd hunt down my abductors to save me. Even though
I knew they wouldn't, it was the only thing that kept me from
breaking down sobbing.

The centaur village was a clearing in the middle of a vast
forest. A dozen long huts made from the boles of great trees were
arranged in a circle around a large fire pit. More of the creatures
were there and they watched the herd enter. A few of the beasts
with my herd split off toward the huts.

My steed took me to one of the huts, and shoved me through a
doorway. I landed on my knees in the middle of what looked like a
hut, but was actually a large corral, much like my people used for
horses. The log door slammed shut behind me.

I rose, brushed as much dirt as I could from my stained robe,
and inspected my prison. The walls rose twice as high as my head. A
thatched roof covered one end of the enclosure, a narrow bed tucked
into the shade darkened corner. I made my way over and sat. The
creatures had barely spoken to me on our journey, and I had no idea
what was in store. Right then, all I knew was, I was exhausted.

I collapsed onto the bed, my chest heaving as I fought back
tears. I wouldn't cry. I couldn't cry. I had to stay strong for
Niko. I don't know how long I lay there before I fell asleep, but
eventually darkness took me even though it was still the middle of
the day.

***

A gentle shake work me from my slumber. “Girl, wake up. I
have food for you.”

I blinked my eyes open and rose to a sitting position. My body
ached at every movement, but my stomach ached even more. The
centaur wasn't one I recognized, but the sky was dark and I
couldn't see him clearly. He looked like he might be younger than
the ones that had taken me.

What I did recognize, though, was food. And wine. I tore into
the bread and fish with my bare hands, only stopping after a few
bites. “Thank you,” I said around a mouthful of fish. I
washed it down with a gulp of strong wine.

“What is your name?” he asked. “Dagon didn't
tell me.”

I finally developed enough sense to be wary. This creature was
one of my abductors, even if he hadn't been part of the actual
group that had taken me. “Who's Dagon?”

“Our leader. He chose you. If you don't tell us your name,
we'll have to pick one for you.”

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