Aiden Lance stood on the vintage porch of his family’s new house. This was the 11th  move in as many years. Mrs. Lance was a commander in the navy and Mr. Lance was a traveling salesman, so they didn’t stay in one place for long.  Changing schools was hard, but he had a routine. He tried not to attract too much attention. He sat in the back of the classroom and kept his yapper closed. He never got too close to anybody, he’d have to leave them at some point anyway.

Girls made life more difficult. They batted their eyes and giggled when he walked by. He was handsome, standing at 6’4” and had thick shoulders. His shirts were always a bit tight over his muscular chest. When he hit puberty, his jaw became straight and sharp, but his face had soft features. His skin was soft and he had big, brown, eyes. Perching above his eyes were a pair of brown eyebrows that had a bad habit of expressing his every emotion and thought.  Jocks hated him, they always thought he was trying to steal their girlfriends. But he was yet to find a girl that caught his fancy, they were all too boring to make conversation and couldn’t do a thing without their big, strong, men to tell them how. 

“Hey sport,” Mr. Lance called from the driveway. “How about you help your brother unload the trailer so we can have dinner?”

“Yes sir, I’ll be right over.” Aiden jumped over the banister and jogged over to the truck. A grin spread across his face and he rolled his eyes before hoisting the box that Newton was dragging, onto his shoulder.

Aiden and Newton, or just Newt, looked nothing alike.  Newt’s long red hair matched their mothers and had his father’s almost yellow eyes. His face was dotted with freckles. When he stood on his toes, he could look straight at Aiden’s chin. He had never lifted a weight in his life, but he was as quick as a rabbit and sharp as a tack.  

“I had that!” Newton was a very ambitus person, and often misjudged his capabilities, which had landed him in a few sticky situation.

“Of course you did,” Aiden handed him a little box with Mrs. Lance’s tea set in it. “I was just speeding up the process so we can eat!”

Aiden’s reflection looked back at him through the bathroom mirror as he brushed his teeth. The first night in a new place used to be a sleepless one, but now that he was older, he drifted right off. He knew he wouldn’t want to shower before school in the morning, so he turned the knob in the tub and a pitiful trickle came out of the shower head. This house needed some work.

“Aiden!” Newt shouted, “Come see this!” He left the shower to heat up and went down the hall to see what was the matter this time.

Newt was standing in front of his closet.

“Look in there!” He pointed at the closet, which had a faint green glow crawling out from under the door.

“Vrrrrr…Vrrrr…Vrrrrrr” A soft vibrating rumbled as Aiden reach for the knob. He pulled the door open to reveal a large hole in the floor that was full of neon green fog swirling in circles. The brothers leaned over the hole to get a better look. There seemed to be no end.

A tremor came out of nowhere, shaking the ground. A big stack of newly unpacked books fell of their perch on a shelf.

“Look out!” Aiden tried to grab his little brother, but it was too late. The Encyclopedia Britannica landed on Newt’s head and, with a shrill scream, he fell into the hole.

“Well that’s just awesome,” Aiden said sarcastically, before the bookshelf fell on his back and sent him falling in after Newt.

When Aiden woke up, he was in a big, grassy field. The sound of birds chirping echoed in his ears. He must have hit his head on the ground. Standing up, he looked around. The bookshelf, encyclopedia, and Newt, were nowhere to be seen. The grass was tall and green, no doubt home to some furry critters. Aiden had never seen so much open field before and he stood there, slowly turning in circles. In the distance, a castle poked up from a gully.

“Grrr” His stomach growled, how long had he been out? As much as he wanted to find Newt, he wasn’t looking for anything on an empty stomach, so he headed for the castle.

Newt rolled over and shrieked. He was face to face with a skull.  He leapt to his feet and shrieked a second time when he saw the rest of the skeleton. The torso was that of a man, but the lower half was a horse, or at least the remains of one. The skeleton lay on a hard stone floor. Three of the walls were made of the same, hard, cold, bland, stone. The fourth was made of iron bars, with an iron door that had been locked.  There was a damp smell, and something else… was it blood?

“Heeeey!!!” Newt shook the bars of the cell and called out, “Help!”

“Nobody can hear you, lad,” a gruff voice said from the shadows of a cell across from Newt’s. “Once the Queen has declared you an enemy of the centaurs, there’s no escaping.”

“Centaurs? Queen?” Newt had a sinking in the pit of his stomach, had he done something wrong? “Where am I, and where is my brother?”

“Well, seeing as how you are neither elf nor centaur, I’ll assume that you aren’t from around here. Sit down, you’re about to get a history lesson”

Newt looked at the dirty stone, “Standing is fine.”  

“Alright. As long as any of us can remember, the elves and centaurs have been at war. In Zaren, that’s what we call this land, if you weren’t a centaur, you were an enemy of the centaurs, and if you weren’t an elf, you were an enemy of the elves. Now that made life mighty hard for your folk, and eventually, they were all either driven out or killed. The queen of my people, Queen Allegra, is the most ruthless ruler the centaurs have ever seen. Now the elf king is a different story. King Desmond is a kind man, who hates war, but desperate times call for desperate measures. He and his men fight the centaur army day in and day out to defend his kingdom. As for you, the guards found you in a field on the edge of elf kingdom, and brought you in. They say you were by yourself. This brother you mentioned, if he is lucky, the elves will find him, and he might be able to persuade them not to kill him. You, on the other hand, are to be executed at high noon tomorrow.”

Newt’s stomach sank even more. “But what did I do?”

“I’m sorry son, you were just born the wrong race.” The man stood up and walked into the light of an overhead window. His coat was a dull grey, speckled with black. His once strong legs were thin and frail, and his hoofs were in desperate need of a trim.

“But what did you do to land in here?” Newt could tell that the centaur had once been a grand creature, but age had taken its toll.

“That’s where things get a little complicated.” He chuckled, “My nephew, Prince Ezra, heir apparent, is hopelessly in love with the elf princess, Isolda. The three of us were planning to overthrow my sister, the queen. I had snuck into the woods to meet with Isolda. We were going over the final plans. I was to deliver a letter to prince Ezra, with all the details. On my way back into the palace, I was apprehended, and arrested for suspicious behavior. Luckily, the plans are coded, so the queen can’t read them, but Ezra won’t be ready for the attack tonight, and Isolda and her small team won’t be able to get in. I’m afraid they will be struck down, and the elf king will want revenge for his daughter.”

“I think I may have an idea.” Newt grinned, “Where do the waste pipes let out?” 


           The castle was a beautiful sight up close, but Aiden was too hungry to think about that. As he approached the gates, he saw two guards with spears standing at attention. Unfortunately, they saw him too, and within seconds had tackled him to the ground.

“What happened to his ears, James?” the guard that had done the most tackling asked.

“Nothing, you dimwit,” James barked, “He’s a human!”

“I thought those went extinct years ago,” the first guard said.

“So did I. Let’s take him to the princess, she’ll know what to do with him!”

“Wait,” Aiden blurted out. “Let’s not take him to the princess. How about you take him to the kitchen?”

“To the dungeon you say?” said James.

“Never mind, the princess will do just fine.” Aiden tried to stand up but was shoved back down.

“Deal!” James said, and grabbed him under his arm, “But no escaping.” And they headed through the gates.

The throne room was a grand room with a tall ceiling and stained glass windows. Princess Isolda sat in a large throne in the center of the room, looking grand. Aiden felt a bit out of place in his plaid pajama pants and tank top, and the hole being a prisoner thing.

“Princess Isolda,” James bowed to the girl. “We found this human lurking outside, no doubt wanting to assassinate you!”

“I was not lurking!” Aiden protested, but a sharp kick from James sent him to his knees.

“A human you say?” Princess Isolda came and stood in front of him. She poked his ears and wiggled them back and forth. “He does seem to be a human. But, extinct or not, we should ask him what he wants before we jump to conclusions.”

“You are wise indeed, your highness. What do you have to say for yourself, human?”

Aiden explained everything from his hunger, to falling through the portal, to not knowing where Newt was. Princess Isolda listened and sat in deep contemplation for several minutes.

“I have an offer to make.” Isolda declared, “I happen to need something that you have, a hair from your human head. I could also use someone of your…” she eyed his muscles, “build for a mission. In return, I will help you find your brother, and I can get you home.”

Aiden yanked one of his hairs off of his scalp. “You have yourself a deal, Ma’am! But can I have something to eat before we leave?”

           Back at the centaur palace, Newt poked his filth covered head out of a pipe in the royal loo. Right, left, up a flight of stairs, and down the hall. Then three light raps on the big door. Everything was just how the old centaur had described it.

Prince Ezra opened the door to his bedchamber and Newt scuttled in.

“Who the blazes are you, and why do you smell?” He demanded.

“We don’t have much time,” Newt explained. “Your uncle has been apprehended, and he told me to give you a message. He said that Isolda will be waiting at the servant’s entrance in the west wing at sundown. He said that they decided to go with plan hedgehog, whatever that means.”

“I got to name the plans,” Prince Ezra beamed, “Thank you for the message, small elf. We must get down to the door, the sun has already began to disappear from the sky, and my love will be here soon!” Prince Ezra didn’t seem to have all of his marbles, but Newt liked his attitude.

“That’s great sir, but how am I supposed to get down their without being seen? I don’t really fit in with all the servants.”

“I’m glad you asked.” Ezra wheeled a rolling table to behind Newt and tied it to his back, so it followed him like a centaur’s barrel. Then he threw a long cape over it and clipped it around Newt’s neck. “There, nobody will give you a second thought!”

           “Once we get inside the palace,” Isolda told Aiden, as they neared the west entrance, “we’ll have to work quickly. Oden is our resident mage.” The young elf that had come with them nodded. “He is most of our plan. You and I will take care of the Queen’s guards, while Oden works his magic. He’ll use your kindly donated hair in his spell. The human hair should, theoretically, turn Allegra into a human. Then we’ll push her through a portal, also made by Oden, which will send her into a realm where no magic exists. She will live the rest of her days as something boring, like a traveling salesman.”

“A fate worse than death!” Oden added.

“Wow.” Was all Aiden could think of to say. He had made his share of harebrained schemes, but this took the cake.

Isolda knocked on a small servant’s door, which was hidden from the watchful eyes of the guards. A centaur in grand cloths flung it open and he and Isolda embraced.

“Ezra!” she kissed him, “You’ll never guess what I found trying to break into my kitchen!”  

“Hey!” Aiden said.

“Aiden?” A small head popped into the door frame. “What are you doing here?”

“Newt! I’m overthrowing the Queen!” Aiden went in to give his brother a hug but stopped. “Why do you smell?”

“That’s a long story.” Newt laughed. “But right now, we have to hurry before the guard comes this way.”

“Right!” Said Ezra. “Now everybody get under this table and follow me!” He held up Newts cape, and the three not-centaurs crawled under the table.

The crawl to the Queen’s chambers took forever, and Aiden’s long legs were getting a bit cramped. As he heard the door open, he started to get nervous.

“Hello Mother!” Ezra yelled at the top of his lungs. “Have we come at a bad time?”

That was the signal. Aiden rolled out and sprang to his feet. The next few things happened rather quickly. The two guards lunged at him, and he popped them with a few punches. Newt swung his table around and sent the big centaurs flailing across the room. Oden began to chant and a red fog started to envelop the queen. When it had cleared, her four horse legs had been replaced with two human ones.

“What have you done to me?” She shrieked. “You’ll pay for this you little whelp!”

She lunged at Oden, but he gracefully stepped out of the way. Isolda stuck out her foot and tripped the enraged woman. If the floor had still been where she landed, her face would have hit hard, but Oden had opened a portal. Her yells faded into the portal as she fell.

“Well that was easy!” Ezra, who hadn’t done a thing, proclaimed.

“Look out!” Isolda shouted. The centaur guards had gotten back on their hoofs and bulled into the brothers, pushing them through the portal.

“Boys!” the familiar voice of Mr. Lance called from the foot of the steps. “Your mother is on the phone. Come say goodnight.” Aiden and Newt lay on Newt’s bedroom floor. They looked at each other and laughed.

“Well that was something!” Said Newt, “Now help me get this table off so we can say goodnight to mom.”

“Crap!” Aiden groaned, “I left the shower running!”


April 25, 2020 03:55

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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