• 博客等级:
  • 博客积分:0
  • 博客访问:7,389
  • 关注人气:5
  • 获赠金笔:0支
  • 赠出金笔:0支
  • 荣誉徽章:
正文 字体大小:

A Spell for Chameleon - Chapter 2 - Centaur - Page 1

(2006-12-09 20:01:06)
分类: 我的文章

Chapter 2. Centaur
第二章 半人马

  Bink set off on foot, wearing a stuffed knapsack and bearing a good hunting knife and a home-cut staff.His mother had urged him to let them hire a guide for him, but Bink had had to refuse; the "guide" would really be a guard to keep him safe. How world he ever live that down? Yet the wilderness beyond the village had its hazards for the traveler unfamiliar with it; few people hiked it alone. He really would have been better off with a guide.

  He could have had transport on a winged steed, but that would have been expensive, and risky in its own fashion. Griffins were often surly creatures. He preferred to make his own way on the secure ground, if only to prove that he could, despite the fancied snickers of the village youths. Jama wasn't snickering much at the moment-he was laboring under the mortification spell the village Elders had put on him for his attack on Justin Tree-but there were other snickerers.

  At least Roland had understood. "One day you'll discover that the opinions of worthless people are worthless," he had murmured to Bink. "You have to do it your own way. I comprehend that, and wish you well-on your own."

  Bink had a map, and knew which path led to the castle of the Good Magician Humfrey. Rather, which path had led there; the truth was that Humfrey was a crotchety old man who preferred isolation in the wilderness. Periodically he moved his castle, or changed the approaches to it by magical means, so that one never could be sure of finding it. Regardless, Bink intended to track the Magician to his lair.

  The first leg of his journey was familiar. He had spent his whole life in the North Village and explored most of its surrounding bypaths. Hardly any dangerous flora or fauna remained in the immediate vicinity, and those that were potential threats were well known.

  He stopped to drink at a water hole near a huge needle cactus. As he approached, the plant quivered, making ready to fire on him. "Hold, friend," Bink said commandingly. "I am of the North Village." The cactus, restrained by the pacification formula, withheld its deadly barrage. The key word was "friend"; the thing certainly was not a friend, but it had to obey the geis laid on it. No genuine stranger would know this, so the cactus was an effective guard against intruders. Animals below a certain size it ignored. Since most creatures had to have water sooner or later, this was a convenient compromise. Some areas had been ravaged occasionally by wild griffins and other large beasts, but not the North Village. One experience with an irate needler more than sufficed as a lesson for the animal lucky enough to survive it.

  Another hour's swift march brought him to less-familiar territory, by definition less safe. What did the people of this area use to guard their water holes? Unicorns trained to impale strangers? Well, he would find out soon enough.

  The rolling hills and small lakes gave way to rougher terrain, and strange plants appeared. Some had tall antennas that swiveled to orient on him from a distance; others emitted subtly attractive crooning noises, but had branches bearing powerful pincers. Bink walked at a safe distance around them, taking no unnecessary risks. Once he thought he spied an animal about the size of a man, but it had eight spiderlike legs. He moved on rapidly and silently.

  He saw a number of birds, but these were of little concern. Since they could fly, they had little need for defensive magic against man, so he had no cause to be wary of them-unless he saw any big birds; those might consider him prey. Once he spied the monstrous form of a roc in the distance, and cowered down, letting it wing on without seeing him. So long as the birds were small, he actually preferred their company, for the insects and bugs were at times aggressive.

  In fact, a cloud of gnats formed around his head, casting a mass sweat spell that made him even more uncomfortable. Insects had an uncanny ability to discern those with no magic for defense. Maybe they merely used trial and error, getting away with whatever they could. Bink looked about for bug-repellent weeds, but found none. Weeds were never where one wanted them. His temper was getting short as the sweat streamed down his nose and into his eyes and mouth. Then two little sucker-saps swooped in, sucking up the gnats, and he had relief. Yes, he liked little birds!

  He made about ten miles in three hours, and was tiring. He was in good condition generally, but was not used to sustained marching with a heavy pack. Every so often he got a twinge from the ankle he had turned at Lookout Rock. Not a bad twinge, for it turned out to be a minor hurt; just enough to keep him cautious.

  He sat on a hillock, first making sure it contained no itch ants, though it did have a needle cactus. He approached this very cautiously, uncertain as to whether it had been tamed by the spell. "Friend," he said, and just to make sure he spilled a few drops of water from his canteen onto the soil for its roots to taste. Apparently it was all right; it did not let fly at him. Even wild things often responded to common courtesy and respect.

  He broke out the lunch lovingly packed by his mother. He had food for two days-enough to get him to the Magician's castle under ordinary circumstances. Not that things in Xanth were usually ordinary! He hoped to extend that by staying overnight with some friendly farmer. He would need food for the return trip, too, and in any event did not relish the notion of sleeping outdoors. Night brought out special magic, and it could be ugly. He did not want to find himself arguing cases with a ghoul or ogre, since the case would most likely be the proper disposition of his human bones: whether they should be consumed live, while the marrow was fresh and sweet, or crunched after being allowed to age for a week after death. Different predators had different tastes.

  He bit into the cressmato sandwich. Something crunched, startling him, but it was not a bone, just a flavorstem. Bianca certainly knew how to make a sandwich. Roland always teased her about that, claiming she had mastered the art under the tutelage of an old sandwitch. Yet it was unfunny to Bink, for it meant he was still dependent on her-until he finished what she had prepared and foraged for himself.

  A crumb dropped and vanished. Bink looked around and spied a chipmouse chewing busily. It had conjured the crumb ten feet, avoiding the risk of close approach. Bink smiled. "I wouldn't hurt you, chip."

  Then he heard something: the pounding of hooves. Some big animal was charging, or a mounted man approached. Either could mean trouble. Bink stuffed a chunk of wingcow cheese into his mouth, suffering a brief vision of the cow flying up to graze on the treetops after being relieved of her load of milk. He closed up his pack and shrugged his arms into the straps. He took his long staff in both hands. He might have to fight or run.

  The creature came into sight. It was a centaur, the body of a horse with the upper torso of a man. He was naked, in the manner of his kind, with muscular flanks, broad shoulders, and an ornery visage.

  Bink held his staff before him, ready for defense but not aggressively so. He had little confidence in his ability to outfight the massive creature, and no hope of outrunning him. But maybe the centaur was not unfriendly, despite appearances-or did not know that Bink had no magic.

  The centaur pulled up close. He held his bow ready, an arrow nocked. He looked formidable indeed. Bink had developed a lot of respect for centaurs in school. This was obviously no elder sage, however, but a youthful brute. "You are trespassing," the centaur said. "Move off this range."

  "Now wait," Bink said reasonably. "I'm a traveler, following the established path. It's a public right-of-way."

  "Move off," the centaur repeated, his bow swinging around menacingly.

  Bink was normally a good-natured fellow, but he had a certain ornery streak that manifested in times of stress. This journey was vitally important to him. This was a public path, and he had had his fill of deferring to magical menaces. The centaur was a magical creature, having no existence in the Mundane world beyond Xanth, by all accounts. Thus Bink's aggravation against magic was stirred up again, and he did something foolish.

  "Go soak your tail!" he snapped.

  The centaur blinked. Now he looked even huskier, his shoulders broader, his chest deeper, and his equine body even more dynamic than before. Obviously he was not accustomed to such language, at least not directed at him, and the experience startled him. In due course, however, he made the requisite mental and emotional adjustments, signaled by an awe-inspiring knotting of oversized muscles. A deep red, almost purple wash of color ascended from the hairy horse base up through the bare stomach and scarred chest, accelerating and brightening as it funneled into the narrower neck and finally dying the head and ugly face explosively. As that inexorable tide of red rage ignited his ears and penetrated to his brain, the centaur acted.


阅读 评论 收藏 转载 喜欢 打印举报/Report
  • 评论加载中,请稍候...




    新浪BLOG意见反馈留言板 电话:4000520066 提示音后按1键(按当地市话标准计费) 欢迎批评指正

    新浪简介 | About Sina | 广告服务 | 联系我们 | 招聘信息 | 网站律师 | SINA English | 会员注册 | 产品答疑

    新浪公司 版权所有