Set in the same magical land as Encounters: CowGirl, and Encounters: The Unicorn, Rhona is a female centaur temporarily expelled from her herd and forced to serve a year under human domination for misbehavior. A misfit already for being built more like a draft horse than her petite dam, this is only the latest humiliation she has suffered along the way. When a local farmer finds himself "chosen" to be the instrument of her punishment it initially sounds like a heck of a good deal. Strong labor is always in short supply on a farm and here's a year's worth of it for free. But Rhona is young and willful, and her chastisement may not be exactly the favor you expected. Or it might turn out to be something else entirely! Another sexy fairytale from the far side of the Enchanted Forest.
The female centaur was absolutely magnificent! So much so that I almost missed seeing the three male centaurs with her. It wasn't that they weren't as big and present as she was, but rather that I hardly noticed them after my first glance at her. My attention was on trying to get a better glimpse.
Although hardly an everyday event, or even an every fortnight event, centaurs are hardly unknown here. While they live in the forest apart from humans, they do come to trade in our local village, especially on Market Day.
That's the reason I'm here as well. The primary occupation of more than half of all of us is farming. We refer to it as The First Oldest Occupation. And most farms are owned and run by one man, or one family. Market Day every fortnight is where we all get together to trade what we have for what we need.
Usually we only see a single pair of male centaurs at any time. They travel in pairs for mutual protection, knowing their minority status among us. And despite their strength and intelligence, they always seem uneasy around the workhorses we use as our primary source of labor. Their females are protected by the herd, and far less commonly seen. While those females do occasionally shop for combs, perfumed soaps, and occasional other personal items, along with necessary blacksmith work, they most typically slip in and out of the village on quiet days.
The males showed their impressive physical physique, both human and equine. Because centaurs eschew clothing as a human affectation, with the exception that they've been know to wear fur jackets in the snow, it was easy to admire their impressive bodies. And the centauress displayed her equally impressive female attributes, which are far more visible.
I couldn't get a good look at her myself through the crowd of gawkers. This group had created quite a stir by arriving in the numbers they had-and outside of the spring and fall seasons where they are more commonly seen. Although they all towered above the tallest man in the village, who's not that much taller than I am, it was still hard to see much through the crowd.
I did notice that most of the village woman quickly averted their eyes from the female, and pulled any young children away, although a few stared at her with undisguised envy. The men were more direct in wanting to look, unless they were with their wives, in which case they also had to avert their eyes even if they didn't wish to.
I had no such problem, not having a wife-or even girlfriend. I just couldn't see well from here despite my height.
The centaurs simply ignored the stares. Their slow trot through the street towards the central market square was dictated by how quickly the crowds parted ahead of them. Their heavy hooves on the cobblestones clearly announced their arrival, and people did hurry to get out of the way.
The one thing I could see from my vantage were their expressions. The males were proud, to the point of haughty. They considered themselves superiors here, not lesser beings. They looked neither left, nor right, not acknowledging the crowds at all.
The female, following the leader and protected on both flanks by escorting secondary males, simply looked sullen.
* * * *
Since most stalls weren't setup yet for today's trading, the procession of centaurs was quickly followed by the curious. Those hungering for entertainment and spectacle.
When the hoofed ones arrived in the village square, the people following quickly spread out around them. None pressed in too close, leaving a generous open space around the group, perhaps aware of the awesome weapons their hooves made. Because of the Town Truce, they didn't carry their usual bows, which would have only made them more fearsome. Meanwhile the crowds quickly filled in every available nook and cranny. This arrangement seemed to suit the centaurs, who now waited patiently as the stragglers gathered.
When everyone had arrived, one of the junior males stepped forward into the clear area. By now I'd managed to worm my way to the second row and had a much better view. The males still didn't attract my interest, but I finally got a good look at the female.
My first impression was correct. She was gorgeous! As large in body as the males, with her head easily a half-yard above my own. Her face was strong, young, and striking. The flowing mane of her hair fell in dark curls down her back. It matched her straight tail in color, and nearly in length. Her equine-style ears were far less conspicuous through that hair than that of her male companions. Her eyes flashed her independence, and defiance at being herded in this manner. It seemed that the other males hemmed her in to force her compliance with their wishes.
And her naked chest I could see, even from here, sported a pair of full breasts each easily twice the size of the best-endowed woman in the village. Her proudly perched nipples were easily the size of the last joint of my thumb.
Of course this made perfect sense. Her young would need a lot of nourishment to grow to her size, which I estimated at nine hundredweights easily, if not a bit more. I wasn't close enough to see more, as I would soon learn, except that she surveyed the crowd rebelliously with those flashing eyes.
I finally noticed the junior male who'd stepped forward. He unrolled a scroll and commenced addressing the crowd from it. However, with all the murmuring and side comments going on around me, I couldn't understand a word despite his booming voice. I had to ask an old woman next to me with sharper ears than mine afterwards to tell me what he'd said.
"That centauress," she told me, using the feminine form, "is being severely punished."
My face showed my astonishment, which the old lady easily read. She continued, "She has broken a major law of her herd and is considered 'unrepentant'. As such, she is sentenced to serve a human owner for one full year as penance if she ever hopes to rejoin her herd."
"But why would she agree to that?" I questioned quickly, my astonishment finally finding its voice.
"Because if she doesn't, the only other punishment is banishment. And that's death to a herd animal, since no other herd will accept one banished in this manner."
"But what did she do?" I quickly asked.
"They didn't say, and probably never will. Centaurs are private creatures overall, and keep their business much to themselves. One might guess, since their laws are few compared to humans who seem to need a law for everything, but would still be unlikely to know for certain. For now, the first one to properly 'claim' her will receive her services in return for providing for her care."
Overall that didn't sound like a bad deal. She was large, and clearly strong. And far more intelligent than some draft horse. She could be an excellent worker for any farm.
Apparently this idea was not mine alone. There was already a substantial line forming of those wishing to pursue their claim for her. Given its length already, I could see that my chances were slim that she'd remain available by the time I could get through it.
Rather than waste my time, I turned the other way. As I did so, I immediately felt the old woman's surprisingly strong grip on my arm.
"Aren't you going to go make your case?" she challenged me as loudly as she probably could manage.
"What's the point? One of them will have her long before I'd have a chance."
"You don't know that," she pressed.
"And neither do you," I replied a bit more harshly than necessary, reaching down to remove her hand at the same time.
She removed it herself first.
"Thank you, Kind Lady," I said with proper formality for the favor she had granted me of explaining the situation. Then I set off to do my own business in the village.
* * * *
A couple hours later I was finished. I'd traded what I'll deliver to town in a couple of days for the few necessities I needed. My word is my reputation is my bond, all of which are known to be good. This way I don't have to haul my farm's produce with me every time I need to deal for something. I was turning to head out and back to my farm when I heard a familiar voice at my side.
"You still haven't presented your petition," said the wispy voice.
"And tell me why I should bother," came my annoyed rejoinder.
"The prize remains yet unclaimed," came her much softer reply.
So what, I thought. If no one else can have her, why should I think I can? But my words were slightly different.
"I don't even know what to do?" I told the woman. "How this works? What happens next?"
"It's easy," came her reply in a tone of seeming ageless wisdom. "Easy enough even for you. She's been pierced and bridled with elven silver. While it binds her, it doesn't uncaringly enslave her. The elves are ethical, and would not let her be put in a bad situation through their efforts. Her 'punishment' will be such to benefit both her, and her keeper."
That made no sense to me at all. What was this woman talking about?
"Go to her. Take her reins. You'll know if you're the one for her."
I was hardly convinced, and my body language showed it.
"Go!" I was commanded, followed by a surprisingly sharp shove in the direction of the market square.