As we pass through the doorway, I have to stand almost underneath the centauress for both of us to be able to go through at the same time. Still, it's definitely a good deal wider and taller than your average human-sized one. I wonder if it wouldn't have just been easier to put in double doors.
I shield my eyes against the sudden change in brightness with my free hand as we step out and onto what feels like wood under my hooves. Oh god that hurts. The lanterns in the house weren't exactly weak, but I should really have expected this.
I'm left blinking away the tears and sunspots from my vision while I wait for my eyes to adjust. Finally, they clear enough for me to take my first look at an alien world. It was… it was… huh.
Kind of disappointing, really.
I was staring out into a decent sized, grassy clearing with patches of colourful flowers dotted around it: almost entirely surrounded by trees. What appeared to be a wide trail, almost a crude road really, ran a distance before disappearing out of view.
I mean don't get me wrong, it was a really beautiful place, but I had been expecting something more… fantastical. Towering trees that seemed to reach the clouds, floating mountains, a thriving village of more centaurs. This was just… ordinary- and wow I'm really sounding like an ungrateful little shit right now. Time to move on, I think.
Feeling a tug on my hand from the centauress, I step off the wooden verandah and onto the grass- and wow that is soft. How is grass that soft? That is… mmm. I began rubbing one of my hooves against the grass. It felt amazing. Did horses have this kind of sensation in their hooves? I have no clue, I never really learnt more than the basics about them.
Anyway, back to the amazingness that is this grass!
Laughter beside me snaps me out of the trance that the grass had drawn me into, and I glance over to see the centauress watching and laughing. What is she laughing about?
Oh, I'm stroking grass and grinning like a fool. When did I even start doing that? As a matter of fact, when did she let go of my hand? Wow, I was really into that grass.
I felt my face flush with heat, but I kept grinning. She sounded more amused at what I was doing than laughing at me and I probably did look pretty silly.
She steps further out into the clearing and waves for me to follow, her laughter replaced by a smile. "It feels nice, does it not? Your mother did the exact same thing when she was your age, do not worry."
Taking a deep breath, the centauress holds it for a second before slowly releasing it; a sigh slipping free at the end. She looks over at me and I can see that glimmer of excitement in her eyes. "That reminds me of something else from when I was your age. Try closing your eyes, little one. It is something you will like I promise."
I do as she says, staring at the light filtering through my eyelids and wait. "Now, just listen and breathe. Take in everything around you. You will see what I mean."
I let myself relax, focusing on my breath and what I can hear around me. I take in a deep breath and-
I can… smell so much, is… I can smell the scents of flowers on the breeze; each one separate and distinct as they swirl around me. I can smell the soil and the trees. Animal scents from somewhere in the trees and somehow I know that they're no threat to me. And that same scent from yesterday, the one that seemed to wrap me in a warm blanket of comfort and safety. The one that had been in the back of my mind ever since I woke up. It was there, and as I took another breath and focused on it the back of my mind seemed to whisper; Mother. A flood of affection and happiness rushed through me.
Ok, that wasn't me. That must be centaur instincts rearing their head again. Though, I suppose she really is my mum. Now that my old life is…
Time to focus on other things, I think…
Alright, so now I know I have an insanely good sense of smell, time to check out my hearing.
And yep, wow. This is insane. I swear I can hear everything. Birds calling out to each other in the distance. Wind blowing through the trees and grass. Movement out among the trees. Sounds like small animals. I can even hear the gentle breathing of my m- of the centauress nearby and the grass under her hooves as she shifts slightly. My ears seem to turn and shift as I focus from sound to sound.
This was such a rush. It was insane. I loved it! It was like having super powers! Stuff being human, this was fantastic!
One of my random giddy rushes was building up inside me from all the excitement. A nervous thumping in my chest that was spreading out and getting stronger. My body wanted to move, to run and jump and yell.
You know what, I think I deserved a little fun. I open my eyes and look over at the centauress still silently watching me, let out a loud yell and sprint towards her. I didn't think, I just ran. Reaching her, I began to run a circle around her; throwing my body around and kicking my legs out instinctively.
I was grinning and laughing. It was always a rush when I got like this. The centauress soon joined in; running after me and laughing along. "I am happy to see you enjoyed it as much as I thought you would. There was quite a lot to see, was there not?"
I nod as she pulls me towards her, hugging me gently against her stomach. "And when you are bigger, I will show you much more. The places I found when I was younger. I will share them all with you my wonderful, beautiful Nilas."
I hesitate for a moment before I hug her softly in return. I begin to feel awkward as the hug draws on, but eventually she pulls back. I catch a glimpse of something on her face. Worry? Disappointment? It's gone before I can be sure; replaced with a smile.
She claps her hands in front of her and nods. "Ok. Sadly, your mother has to things she has to do now so I can not run around with you. But." She points at me. "You can help me if you like. How does that sound?"
Well, this might be interesting. I wonder what it could be? I could think of a few things, daily chores and such, but it could be someone completely alien; like important worship to their nature god or something. I nod and she leads me around the side of the house towards the back.
Around this side of the house, I catch sight of a few things of interest. A wooden shed sits somewhere midway between the house and the tree line with a wooden cart next to it. An axe with an unusually long handle, a wooden stump and a pile of firewood sits against one of its walls. The main point of interest, though, is the large garden filled with countless different plants and vegetables. Even ones I was sure didn't exist on Earth. And sure enough, we're headed right towards it.
Time seemed to fly by as the centauress tended to her garden, and true to her word she had me helping whenever I viably could. She spoke as she worked, teaching me about the different plants she was growing. She told me about Predator's Bane. A plant she cultivated in places around the edge of the clearing that warded off predators with its scent but didn't affect herbivorous creatures. And a red herb called Blood Gilly that was used in weaker, common healing salves and potions. Healing potions were a thing here! It was starting to look more and more like my theory was correct.
It turned out she was a very skilled apothecary, potion maker and alchemist. Or as she put it, 'I will have forgotten more about it by the time I am old than those high and mighty city 'apothecarys' will learn their entire lives.' I could sense a story there. She sold what she made at the village nearby, and was their primary source of such things; hence the giant garden.
I was faced with an overwhelming amount of information. How best look after them, what they were used for, every little bit of information about them she shared with me. I could tell just from watching her as she worked that she truly enjoyed every part of it.
I swore at times that as she tended to a plant, gently checking it over, that her hands would glow green for a moment. Magic, maybe? I was starting to get annoyed at my inability to speak and ask questions. Hopefully my vocal chords would start working very soon so I could actually ask these things.
Several hours of exhausting labour later, mostly for her, the sun had steadily risen higher and the temperature with it. I was panting and swallowing to try and wet my mouth. I was thirsty as hell, and I think the centauress felt the same. I watch as she rises back up, wiping sweat from her brow and leaving dirt in its place. We were both very sweaty and dirty.
She looks at me sweating and panting and frowns slightly. "I think it would be best for us to finish for today, yes?"
I just nod tiredly.
Entering the back of the house, the centauress returns momentarily with what looks like an over-sized wooden mug and makes her way towards a close wooden barrel and lifts the lid. Dipping the cup in, she pulls it out full of water. Oh. Oh yes, please.
She hands it to me and I gulp it down quickly, spilling it down my front at the same time. Once it's empty she fills it and hands it back to me. We repeat this once more before I'm sated and she begins getting several drinks of her own.
Finishing, she looks at me, at herself and then to the water barrel. "Hmm… It iss probably time to get some fresh water, and we are both fairly dirty. I think a trip to the river would be best."
Huh? What does she mean trip to the riv-
This was not happening.
I rapidly shake my head at her and she squeezes my cheeks to stop it. "None of that. You need a good clean, I will not have you spreading dirt all over the blankets tonight."
All I can do is stare in horror, curse whatever cosmic beings were watching and hope that it'll be over quickly and painlessly.