How Not to Date a Centaur
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Copyright ©2013 Stephanie Burke
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"Good Lord, I'm gonna die!"
The wind stole her words and her breath as Kiara gripped the steering line and the toggle, desperately trying to control her descent.
This was what she got for buying into some bargain basement parachuting course. Her instructor had bailed on her at the first sign of high wind trouble, leaving her on her lonesome to navigate her way down the side of an Angkor mountain. Hell if she knew which one, she'd been blown so far off course. The last thing she remembered was watching the yellow and blue parachute of her instructor just before he cut the fucking line that tethered her to him.
And now, instead of enjoying the view of the lush green jungle being swallowed by the amazing temples that dotted the terrain, she was in free fall, struggling not to pass out, vomit, and well... die.
"Lord, save me, and I swear I will never --"
What the hell did she have to bargain with, anyway? She didn't smoke, didn't drink to excess, never had indiscriminate sex... the most wild thing she had ever done was take this trip and go on the fucking parachute jump her friends had recommended.
"I won't lie, Lord," she muttered, holding in a scream as her body began to twirl like a top as her stabilizer line snapped. "I don't have much to bargain with here, but I swear I will try to be a better perso -- oh, fuck!'
The side of a mountain was heading for her face at an alarming rate.
Closing her eyes, not brave enough to face her own untimely death, she began to scream her way into the afterlife. Only... only she didn't die. Instead she felt her ears pop, her body compress, and white light flash behind her eyes. But there was no painful slamming into the top of a mountain, there was no gut-wrenching pain, there was nothing but a sudden lurch and the worst wedgie she had ever experienced.
"Son of a bitch!" she roared as she came to an abrupt stop, nearly biting her tongue in half as the jolt shook her whole body.
Kiara Stone was a lot of things, but today made her a believer in a higher power and assured her there was some truth to the old adage "God looks out for drunkards and fools." She was not drunk, so that would make her --
"What the hell," she panted, her heart nearly in her throat along with her stomach as she peeled her eyes open, unashamed of the tears that rolled down her cheeks.
An odd sound captured her attention. She looked down and groaned. There were people down there. She was safe.
She looked up and noted she was hung from a strange tree about thirty feet in the air. She looked down and realized the sound she heard were shouts of agony and war cries.
Had she stumbled into some kind of reenactment? It had to be, because she was looking down at a group of men riding their horses so well they almost seemed to be one body. Maybe it was a movie, she reckoned. And as much as she would hate to ruin their shot, she wanted out of this tree.
She looked around and saw one man below her. "Hey!" she shouted as loud as she could, but the riders seemed to be making too much noise for him to hear her. "Up here, buddy!" She didn't even know if he spoke English -- very few did here outside of tourist areas -- but she had to try.
Wielding a spear, he seemed to be creeping up behind another warrior who looked to be pulling on a young man trapped under his horse.
She knew that if she couldn't get his attention, Lord only knew how long she would be trapped in this tree. She began to twist and jerk in the tree, praying he would look up -- that something would happen.
What happened wasn't what she expected. The branch that prevented her from slamming into the ground began to creak and whine. She looked up just as it gave a loud crack.
"Fuck!" she wailed as once again she was plummeting to the earth.
Hard impact broke her fall, and she realized she had landed on top of the spear guy. They both tumbled to the ground in a mass of hair, horse, and parachute.
"I'm sorry," she babbled in the sudden dark.
A rending sound cut through the parachute and brought back the light. She blinked as she looked up and saw a man with white-blond hair and the most curious green contacts staring down at her.
"Hi?" she offered.
"Goddess," he breathed, a look of awe crossing his face. "You have broken the back of my enemy."
A shout beside her made her jump as the sound of racing hoofbeats filled the air.
"Xaylu." Blondie turned to call to the man who approached. From her spot beneath the horse and the suddenly still man, all she could make out was black hair. "She has slain the warmonger and murderer Xexis. This war is ended."
There was a loud blast of some kind of horn and a lot of the noise disappeared. The sudden silence was as disturbing as the fact that the man she landed on was not moving.
"Slain?" she asked, but her words were drowned out as a righteous cheer filled the air.
"Retreat, you fools!" Blondie bellowed, his voice projecting well. "Your leader is slain. His mad desires perish with him. Continue to attack, and we will have no choice but to slay you all!"
There was some murmuring, some shouts of disbelief, and Blondie began to speak again. "He fell sneaking up behind me in dishonorable combat. A goddess has fallen from the sky to prove our might and ensure our victory."
Blondie bent over, and suddenly she was hefted from beneath the fallen horse guy and triumphantly thrust up into the air like a war prize. Her "hey!" was drowned out as several men retreated and others cheered.
And it was right about then that she realized that she wasn't being held up by a man on horseback as she'd supposed. She found herself speechless as she stared out on a sea of men who were their horses.
"Centaurs," she breathed, as Blondie spun around, his compact horse body moving gracefully as the black haired Centaur next to him, the one he'd called Xaylu, blew the horn again.
"Victory!" he was screaming. His back tail and mane flying around his brown body, he danced about on black-stockinged feet.
She looked down into the green eyes of the Centaur that held her aloft and realized he had a compact black body, his tail and stockings were a metallic white gold, and he was looking worshipfully up at her.
"Goddess, I thank thee," he intoned and Kiara found herself nodding, though she had to fight the numbness that held her body in its grasp to do so.
Centaurs. She was surrounded by centaurs. She had fallen on a Centaur.
"You're -- you're welcome?" she stammered, and again a roar of victory filled the air. For the first time in her life, Kiara wished she was the type to faint because she could not believe what she was seeing. Centaurs. She had landed in a bunch of fucking centaurs.
She wanted her money back.