Centauriad 1 - Daughter of the Centaurs

Centauriad 1 - Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo

Book: Centauriad 1 - Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Klimo
Traveling just far enough behind not to be tasting the dust of the wagon wheels, Malora rides Lightning, abreast of Orion, with the herd at their heels. Glancing back at them, Malora can tell from the way they carry themselves, with heads low and tails lank, that they are exhausted from yesterday’s ordeal. It’s just as well that the centaurs and wagons ahead of them are moving at a tortoise’s pace.
    But Malora feels far from exhausted. She feels a tingling sense of anticipation. She has made up her mind that she is going to a new place where she will meet more centaurs, ideally all of them just like Orion. Malora thinks that her life, razed to the ground by her mother’s death, is perhaps starting to build itself back up again. She is hopeful in a way she hasn’t been since the morning the men rode out on their last hunt.
    Orion lifts the cloth to his nose again and sniffs.
    Curious, Malora asks, “What does that smell like?”
    He hands the cloth up to her. She places it beneath her nose, as she has seen the centaurs do, and inhales deeply from it.

C HAPTER 9
The Otherian
    A picture enters Malora’s mind and comes into such sharp and sudden focus that it almost hurts. She sees a room with a vaulted ceiling sparkling with golden tiles, an orange sun flaming at its center. Beneath the sun, there is a big bed draped with a decorative canopy of dark blue. The canopy is sprinkled with golden stars forming pictures that shift and change as a gentle breeze blows in through an arched window at the foot of the bed and ripples the fabric.
    Looking through the window, she sees the most beautiful garden. The flowers are bigger and brighter than any that blossom on the plains. Small, colorful birds flit about in fruit trees whose crowns are perfectly spherical and dotted with ripe fruits. Malora hears the sound of running water. She looks back into the room and sees her father’s black-and-white rope hanging in a coil on the wall by the bed.
    Malora shivers with pleasure and a strange feeling of relief as she lowers the cloth and holds it to her breast.
    “Are you quite all right?” Orion asks her.
    With an effort, Malora blinks and shakes her head. As she hands the scented cloth back to him, the picture fades from her mind like a dream upon wakening. “What
is
that?”
    “This? Let’s see: sweet almond oil, Rosa damascena, hectorite …” He itemizes on his fingers. “Clover leaf extract, Althaea officinalis root, citronellal, benzoate resin as a fixative, but it carries its own scent—burnt honey, I’d say. Raspberry seed oil, and, let me see, what else … oh, yes! Kalanchoe extract! I call it Homeward Bound. Do you like it?”
    Malora nods dumbly. Then, because Orion is looking at her so eagerly and because she feels she has to say
something
, she says, “Homeward Bound smells good.”
    It
does
smell good, she thinks, but it is a good deal more than a pleasant scent. Nevertheless, Malora keeps her thoughts to herself.
    “I would very much like to mix you a scent of your own,” Orion says earnestly.
    Experiencing the scent has unsettled Malora. “I don’t think so,” she says, raising her hand. “Thank you very much, but I need to keep my head clear … to smell predators.”
    Orion lowers the cloth from his nose and looks worried. “Oh?” he says. Hastily, he tucks the cloth away in his wrap and shakes his head with vigor, imitating her. She wonders if, even with a cleared head, he would know the smell of lion if he were sitting on top of one.
    “Why didn’t you have a scented cloth with you last night?” Malora asks.
    He frowns. “I never use them at night. I find the scents of the night—particularly out here in the bush—are ravishingenough as they are. The very early morning is fragrant as well, before the sun bakes the essence from the plants and the trees,” he says. “It has something to do with the way the earth cools after the sun sets, and then in the morning, before it rises high.

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