'I am terribly sorry, madam!'
'It's all right.'
Her tone was scornful, but with better things to worry about, Edgar did not take it to heart. He uncovered his eyes. She was feeding the child like a mare, not a woman, so he felt no need for embarrassment. He stooped down a little, trying to determine the gender of the young one. As with foals, it was easy enough to tell.
'What a delightful little boy,' he said.
The mother smiled. 'Thank you.'
'Do you mind if I sit down here for a few minutes?'
'I am very tired.'
The centaur made no reply. She stood with arms folded and her back legs slightly apart, gazing out into the forest. Edgar was disappointed. The significance of the situation had not escaped him, and he hoped she would talk to him.
The first thing to do was find somewhere to sit. There was no handy log nearby, so he had to settle himself under a tree. The ground seemed a lot further away than it had as little as ten years ago. He felt the strain in his bones as he lowered himself down, and puffed and panted with the effort. The centaur swung her head round to look at him.
'Are you all right?' she asked.
'Yes, I'm fine. Just feeling my age.'
'Well, there's water not far in that direction if you need it.' She indicated with a tilt of her head, and then continued to ignore him.
Edgar wondered whether he ought to have exaggerated his discomfort. Maybe she would have offered to help him, or at least been willing to engage him in conversation to distract him from his pain. But it was too late for that now, so Edgar turned his attention to the little one. He had already made the mother smile with his compliment towards the child.
The young centaur seemed steady enough on his stick-like legs. He had to stretch his neck to feed, and his arms flailed uncertainly at his sides, unable to reach and rest upon any part of the mother.
'Excuse me, madam,' Edgar said. 'I hope you don't mind my asking. How old is your child?'
'I'm not sure precisely,' said the centaur. 'Not much more than a day.'
'Really?' The fascination in his voice was genuine. 'A human that age cannot even support his own head - not until he is some months old. A horse, on the other hand, gives birth to young considerably larger than your boy. How very fascinating.'
'Well,' said the centaur, 'he is neither a human nor a horse.'
Edgar's heart sank. He had heard that centaurs were highly strung, and now this one was clearly offended.
'I'm sorry. I didn't mean '
'Never mind, old man. Humans and centaurs have never really understood each other, I know.'
'Indeed,' said Edgar. 'As it happens, we humans don't take very kindly to being called "old man".'
'But you are one.'
She stared at him for a moment. Then she said, 'I'm sorry.'
'That's quite all right.'
Edgar knew already that the centaur was not going to ask him his business. He also knew it would be folly to ask her directly what he wanted to know, but perhaps he could bring up the subject of his predicament in a casual sort of way.
'I suppose I shouldn't stay,' he said. 'But I don't quite dare go back home, you see. I've come from Victory Keep.'
The centaur raised her eyebrows. 'Have you indeed? Let me guess. You're on some mission for the human king.'
'Indeed I am.'
'Are you a servant?'
'Not exactly. I'm the king's chief advisor.'
The centaur laughed. 'I'll never understand you humans. Kings servants advisors! Why bother living under a dictator if he can't even make his own decisions?'
'Now then,' said Edgar, 'you don't know our king, young lady.'
'Would you call a human "young lady"?'
'And it isn't an insult?'
'What? Oh,' said Edgar, 'you mean like "old man". Well, no. It doesn't make any sense, really, does it?'
The centaur smiled, and shook her head.
Encouraged by the smile, Edgar asked, 'What is your name, my dear?'
'Xorie,' she said. 'And yours?'
'Well, Edgar, if your king isn't as bad as all that, why are you afraid to go back to him?'
'I'm on a very important mission,' said Edgar. 'The king would be very nice about it, I'm sure, but even so I don't like to go back empty-handed. A child's life is at stake.'
'The daughter of a friend of the king's, barely even as old as your boy. Her mother died in childbirth, and the father died of grief.'
'Died of grief?' said Xorie. 'Can that happen?'
'Well, there may have been poison involved.'
'Selfish brute! What about his child?'
'Indeed,' said Edgar. He took a deep breath. Now was the time. 'The king has charged me with finding her a wet nurse. But they're just not that easy to find, you see, at short notice. Normally we'd have months of warning.'
'You could feed her on other animals' milk,' said Xorie. 'Cows, goats You humans do that, don't you? I'm sure it wouldn't harm her.'
'You are quite right,' said Edgar, 'but she is the king's ward now. He will insist upon her being fed by the, um the '
Xorie laughed. 'How funny. Our men have no difficulty in talking about such things. If you were after a human mother, why did you come all the way out here?'
'I'm not sure,' said Edgar. 'I didn't expect to find a wet nurse in the woods, of course, but having searched every town and village I am starting to feel rather desperate.'
'Well, I suppose it's occurred to you that I could do it.'
'Could you?' Edgar's eyes dropped to her breasts, covered by a pretty garment fashioned from leaves and flowers.
She folded her arms across her chest. 'Yes.'
Edgar looked away. 'I'm sorry. I just wasn't sure if, um '
'He has a choice.'
'I do find this more comfortable,' said Xorie. 'But a human child I could cradle in my arms, couldn't I? You say she's smaller than Fipp? And she can't even support her own head? How utterly pathetic human babies must be.'
'Fipp,' said Edgar. 'What a delightful name. The young girl's name is Katrina.'
'Don't say that to anyone at the castle, whatever you do. That is if you're coming.'
'Will it be quite all right?' Xorie asked. 'A centaur suckling a princess, I mean?'
'Oh, she isn't a princess. That is the king and queen would be most grateful to you, madam. And it is an agreeable arrangement to you, is it?'
'I suggested it.'
'Indeed, but I have heard that centaurs don't like working for humans.'
Xorie sighed, and said, 'What choice do I have?'
'Um I don't know.'
'Of course you don't. What about Fipp? I trust he will be treated well?'
Edgar glanced down at the child, who was still suckling. 'He will be made most welcome, madam, and you will both be quite comfortable. Shall I return to the castle and arrange transportation for him?'
'It's all right. He'll follow me on foot.'
'Are you sure?'
'He can stand, hold his head up and walk,' said Xorie, 'and I happen to know your Victory Keep isn't far from here. We'll go now, shall we? I think you have had enough, my darling.'
She reached behind her and pulled Fipp gently by the tail. He licked his lips, tottered round on shaky legs and shot his mother a resentful look.
'We're moving on now, Fipp,' she said. 'Edgar, do please lead the way.'
First of all, I must credit ~Batri for the original inspiration for this story, with this adorable picture: [link] Do stop by and give her some love and praise.
I am asking for critique on this piece, please. Now here's what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to ask about anything specific. I'm new to this kind of classic fantasy writing (if indeed that's what it is), so I don't really know what does and doesn't concern me, and anyway when I express concern about certain areas of writing I'm normally told it's fine, but I need to worry about something else. So, just general what do I need to do to make this better (or, indeed, any good at all)?
I'm also not going to walk you through the choices of names for my characters. I went through quite some processes, especially to come up with Xorie and Fipp, but it's probably not very interesting for the rest of you.
I don't know how often I'm going to add new chapters to this piece. At the moment I'm pretty certain I'll be writing at least one more, which isn't saying much, I know. And that's assuming it isn't hated by everyone. But yes, I do want to get these characters back to Victory Keep (possibly a terrible name, but it needs to be something like that - following some sound advice from `Memnalar I've decided to name it after its history and try and work it into the plot), and get some things happening there.
Okay, enough. Bye for now.
Edgar’s awkwardness was amusing to read. You can tell he’s trying to be gentlemanly about the whole thing, but is drawn into uncomfortable territory with having the job to do. I also like how he tries to be both polite, and stand up for himself with the things that she says that annoy him as a human.
Xorie sighed, and said, 'What choice do I have?'
Xorie’s reaction does seem a bit odd. Is she drawn to help the human child, or is she worried that there may be repercussions to not helping the king? I would imagine her mothering instincts would have her wanting to protect her own child at all costs. Nonetheless, I can see how you could easily address this in future chapters as you reveal more about her.
I’m not too familiar with centaurs outside of the version out of Greek mythology, but I’m very curious about where you plan to take this.
I liked the narrative and the speech was very realistic. This was a great pleasure to read. There were four bits in particular that I especially liked. The first one is because of its context, whereas the others are brilliant in their own right.
#1 ‘ “Of course you don’t.” ’
#2 ‘ “Why bother living under a dictator if he can't even make his own decisions?” '
#3 ' ”Well, there may have been poison involved.” ‘
#4 ‘his arms flailed uncertainly at his sides’
As to hwo this caught my eye, it was the Centaur to be honest. This is quite a unique story, a centaur speaking to a human about mothering her child, then offering to be the wet nurse to a human child is quite unlike anything else I've ever seen. I always love reading a good book that's not like something you see in every other fantasy novel. I'm also glad to get away from a bit of romance in books and read something like this.
Gratz on the daily deviation by the way, keep up the good work. What is your plan next in the story, will the human child gain anything special from having a centaur to be her wet nurse? Oh I just can't wait!
The drawing is beautiful, true, and I gave it 'fav' -but back here is where the action is and I find it wonderful that the action begins immediately.
You raise a number of interesting questions in an almost casual way. The questions are intriguing and don't put off readers at all: they draw them in. I look forward to reading a lot more about these characters, Victory Keep (which I don't find a 'boring' name in the least -it's merely out of the way) and more, more, more action and reaction. Thank you!
Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
I've think you've done fantastic with this. It's more focused on unique characterization than high fantasy is (like Tolkien or Lewis), which is great in my opininon, because I really don't enjoy reading high fantasy much for that reason (the characters always seem oddly like cardboard herioc cutouts, and not real people).
I'm not entirely a fan of the name Victory Keep, it doesn't really entice me into reading it, though the writing does. Still, I'm sure you have your reasons for it, and I'm interested to know its history. Also, I'm interested in seeing if my love story radar is still functioning. Am I correct in seeing something arising between Fipp and Katrina as they grow up together, or would it spoil anything to tell me (or perhaps I'm just totally off)?
Anyway, an intriguing beginning. Please keep writing it. You've already piqued my curiousity.
I'm glad you're hooked, and I hope I can keep up the standard! ~Batri's centaur drawings have a lot to answer for here. I may never have thought of this without the one linked above, and I still look at her centaurs gallery for inspiration.
If I was going to write a fantasy story - and I seem to be - I couldn't abandon my own style even if I tried. I really don't enjoy high fantasy either, so I am not going to emulate it. I'm glad it's working for you, and for others as well.
The name pretty much sucks, but I was getting bogged down trying to think of it, and that was stopping me from writing the actual story. Once I've cleverly and interestingly incorporated the castle's history into my writing, perhaps together my adoring fans and I can come up with something better.
Ooo, I see you have more of the story up. I'll have to read that today. God, it's so nice to have free time to read things on dA again . . .
Crit: Xorie sighed, and said, 'What choice do I have?' <-- with the context this line doesn't belong. She's not being forced, in fact, she offered, and it seemed happily. I vote just get rid of that big of dialogue and let it flow more naturally from there.
I'd love to see a second chapter, a set up like this is good for probably a little mini-novel of their adventure. :3 Maybe even a setup for a greater world, but the problem is with greater worlds is once we know everything about them it becomes ordinary, and ordinary is boring. As it stands now this is magical and riveting and that's how it should be.
Dunno why I didn't watch you before recently. I guess that makes me a lazy punk.
Anyway, I'm working on chapter 2, so hopefully I can sustain your interest.
I don't have any suggestions, though I've been wracking my brain to come up with something helpful (I'm more confident offering advice about short stories.). It's a good piece, and I enjoyed it. The dialogue moved things forward well, the characters came across as interesting---I dig that you made Xorie a centaur.
I did keep thinking after I finished reading that I would like to read the scene from Xorie's pov (or future scenes). I can imagine she noticed Edgar was itching to talk to her.
I really like how your story begins It's very interesting how you described the foal and the way he gets milk - mentioning things you already told me in our conversation And I'm always interested about how two creatures of different cultures meet, the difference between how they look at the same thing... I'm definitely waiting for the next chapter to see what happened next.
I'm wondering about Xorie's motivation... I mean she seems pretty proud (not that she has no right to be when in front of a weak silly creature human is to her) and yet she agreed to help the human so easily. I wonder why she did that - maybe just because of curiosity? Judging by the way she talked about the little girl: "pathetic creature with a silly name" one may think it was rude. But maybe in her language these words are not insulting? Or maybe it was meant to sound rude intentionally - just to hide that she really was moved when hearing about the poor orphaned baby? Or she just didn't feel anything special and was guided only by a thought: "why shouldn't I help if I have nothing better to do anyway"... Well, I assume she a positive character, although a little proud, I'd like to know what she really feels about the whole situation - I hope to know her better with the next chapter
You've done everything that should be done in the first chapter. You've established everything we need to know about the setting, the important characters, and you've given us a first glimpse at an interesting interracial dynamic.
You've also immediately made centaurs interesting (not to say they're dull normally) by showing us an intimate moment interrupted. There's nothing quite like awkwardness to reveal character quickly.
And you've done all of this with admirable economy of language and detail, something I always hold in high regard. You've introduced intrigue, a magical world, and depth of character in just a few words, and you've made it compelling in the style of storytelling that both children and adults can appreciate.
I think you've got a good thing, here. I'll pass the word.
The interracial dynamic is something I plan to develop. The initial inspiration came from ~Batri's picture, of course, but then some more ideas grew from films such as East is East and Bend It Like Beckham. I really enjoy stories about Asians growing up in the UK - it's the culture clash, which they always do so humorously and so well - so I thought writing about a centaur being raised among humans (oh, and horses) would be cool idea. We'll see!
Anyway, chapter 2 shouldn't be too long coming, and we'll see how it goes from there.