Research

From Shifti
Jump to: navigation, search
Author: Jonas
The Verdland Fields were abundant with life. Rich plains of lush grass covered rolling hills and teemed with abundant wildlife. There were rabbits and voles, mice and moles, even a wolf or two if you got near the forest border. There was also the centaur. Powerful, large, but somehow graceful, it was a common sight to see herds of these beings galloping across the plains. A far less common sight, however, was to see a long-haired woman chasing after them, breathless from trying to keep up.

“We should probably slow down, Lairs.” said one of the centaurs to his friend as they galloped. “It looks like Olivia’s going to pass out for real this time.”

Lairs turned to see the human-shaped figure in the distance behind them. “Hmm, you’re probably right, Nils.” He agreed, squinting to better make out their pursuer.

They slowed down and turned around, trotting back to meet Olivia. She was red-faced and huffing from having run so hard and her hair was matted with sweat. How she had managed to hold onto her clipboard when she was too tired to barely stand was anyone’s guess.

“You ok?” asked Nils with a grin as he looked down at the woman.

“I’m... *wheeze*...fine....” Olivia said, doubling over to try and catch her breath. “Don’t... *wheeze* worry *wheeze* about me...”

Lairs chuckled. “Yes, because cherry-red is such a natural colour for you humans. C’mon, we’ll take you back to the herd so you can rest.”

“No! Please... *wheeze* carry on!” Olivia protested, waving her hands. “First rule *wheeze* of anthropology *wheeze* is not to interfere *wheeze* with the subjects’ activities.”

Nils rolled his eyes. “Yea well OUR first rule is to not let people kill themselves from exhaustion.”

“Yup,” chimed in Lairs. “Call it one of our ‘cultural mores’.”

He leaned down to pick up the protesting Olivia and lifted her onto his back. After making sure she was securely saddled on his horse-like lower half, he nodded to Nils and they set off again at a gallop, returning to their herd’s settlement.

When Olivia woke up it was late at night. She was lying on a makeshift ‘bed’ of matted grass amidst a herd of sleeping centaurs.

“What the... how did I...?” She began, before being cut off.

“You were more exhausted than you thought.” explained someone from behind her. Olivia turned to see a centauress looking down at her, holding a bowl of water. “You fell asleep while Nils was carrying you.”

Olivia blinked. “I did? Oh, I’ll have to thank him then but—oh no! It’s very insulting to ride a centaur!”

“I think it’s safe to assume there’s an exception to that when the centaur in question places you on his back himself.”

“Oh, right.”

Olivia took the bowl of water and sipped from it. “Thank you, Flair.”

“No problem.” Flair replied with a smile. “Just keep your limits in mind.” She yawned. “Well, I’m off to sleep now. See you in the morning—oh, and that red stone in your jacket’s been beeping for the past three hours. G’night!”

It took several moments after Flair turned away and trotted off to her night spot for Olivia to register her last comment. Fishing her jacket out of the storage mound, she ruffled around it for the beeping stone. Holding it up to the moonlight, she squeezed it and spoke the trigger phrase to turn on the scry-stone. At once the familiar image of her mentor came into view.

“Ah!” The image said. “So good of you to finally respond, Olivia, I was starting to get worried. What kept you?”

“Just my work, Professor Aldsbran.”

“You passed out trying to keep up with those centaurs again, didn’t you?”

“Of course not! No! Not after the third ti—well, yes.” Olivia admitted.

Aldsbran sighed. “My dear, how do you expect to study the centaurs’ culture if you keep literally running yourself ragged?”

“How can I not?” Olivia countered. “In case you hadn’t noticed, they’re very fast! I can’t observe them if I’m not near them, and in order to do that I have to try and keep up with them!”

The image stroked its chin. “Hmm, true, true... you’ve got yourself quite the quandary then, don’t you? Any spells capable of boosting your speed that much have some rather nasty side-effects.”

“Well, I could always just follow them around on horseback.” said Olivia with a smirk. “But I think that would be a bit too disruptive.”

Aldsbran’s eyes lit up. “That’s not a bad idea.”

Olivia stared at the stone. “What? Of course it’s a bad idea! Centaurs hate horses!”

“No no, I don’t mean that! I mean you should do the next best thing. If you need to keep a centaur’s pace, why not do it with their own pace?”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

“Transmutation, Olivia! I’m talking about transmutation! If you want to be able to keep up with the centaurs then why not grow some hooves of your own? I can throw the spell together myself and send it through the scry-stone if you need me to.”

It was an interesting proposition. Transmuting herself into a centaur would definitely solve Olivia’s pacing issue, and it could even integrate her more into the herd. Plus it would give her some better insight into how they lived...

“Ok, Professor. That sounds like a good idea.”

“Marvellous!” beamed Aldsbran’s image. “I’ll have the spell ready by morning. Just contact me when you’re ready, and have a good night, Olivia!”

The scry-stone went blank. Olivia put it back into her pocket before lying back down on the soft ground. Wrapping her jacket around herself like a blanket, she went over in her head how to broach the subject with the centaurs in the morning.

“Well, that’s certainly a unique solution to your problem.” commented Nils once Olivia had finished explaining her plan.

“So it’s ok?” Olivia asked as she turned from Nils to Lairs and back again. “I’m not going to offend you or anything?”

The two let out braying laughs and stomped the ground with their hooves.

“Heavens no!” exclaimed Nils.

“If anything we’re flattered.” added Lairs. “There are just a few technicalities we’ll probably have to take care of with the rest of the herd. But those aren’t anything to worry about.”

Olivia nodded, “thanks” before taking the scry-stone out of her jacket. One trigger-phrase later she was speaking with her professor’s image.

“I take it they agreed, judging from that grin you’re wearing?” Aldsbran asked.

“Yup! Lairs even said it was flattering.”

“Well that’s good to know. Just clear some space around you and I’ll send the spell through.”

Olivia looked around. The rest of the herd were off in the distance by a large pond, well out of range. She backed a few feet away from Nils and Lairs before saying, “Ready!”

Nils and Lairs watched with interest and the scry-stone started to vibrate as Aldsbran began the spell. The tiny red gem emitted a low hum as white tendrils emerged and wrapped around Olivia’s legs. They formed the shape of hooves over her feet, and extended behind her into the shape of a horse’s lower body. They extended upwards, tracing the image of Olivia’s torso, arms, and head. The hum turned into a chime as a white glow washed over Olivia, consuming her and expanding to fill the outline. The glow subsided, revealing a centaur where a human once stood.

“Well that was an impressive display.” commented Nils.

Olivia blinked, temporarily disoriented from the shift in perspective when she increased in height. She turned around and marvelled at the strong, powerful frame of a horse that now made up her lower body.

“You’re not going to fall over or anything, are you?” Lairs asked warily.

“What?” Olivia’s attention snapped back to her two watchers. It was strange to be eye-level with them for once. “Oh, no, I won’t. Transmute spells make sure the subject can move naturally in their new form. Which is very convenient considering I probably would fall over otherwise...”

Nils snickered. “Fair enough. I’m going to go tell the rest of the herd about this to avoid and raised eyebrows when they see you.” He turned and galloped off towards the pond.

Olivia turned to Lairs. “By the way,” she asked, “what was that ‘technicality’ you two mentioned.”

“Oh, that. Nothing big, but since you’re a centaur now we can’t let you stay with the herd unless we formally induct you. I guess you could say it’s an upgrade from free-trial to membership status, to use human parlance.”

Olivia laughed. “Nice comparison. So, what does induction consist of?”

“Three things.” Lairs said, counting them off on his fingers. “The first is that you eat with us, which you already have. The second is that you laugh with us—again, something you have already done. The third is that you run with us.”

“Run...with...you?”

“Of course! That was the whole point behind this little plan of yours after all, wasn’t it?” Lairs grinned as he began to walk away. “Though if you’re still just as slow on four legs as you are on two...”

He set off at a run before finishing. Olivia looked down at her new hooves, then looked up at the figure of Lairs moving further and further away. Well, it was now or never, she told herself. Olivia took a single step, but it was all she needed. The moment her legs pressed into the soft-yet-distant ground, she was off.

The wind whipped at Olivia’s hair as she ran, her hooves pounding the ground in a swift gallop as she chased after Lairs. There was more to it, though, then just plain speed. As she chased after Lairs, Olivia felt an energy course through her that she had never felt before. It was the strength of the earth beneath her hooves supporting her, the grace of the air rushing past her—it was existing as someone connected to a force bigger than herself. She had reached Lairs without realizing it. As she turned to him he grinned wildly and reached out a hand. She took it, fingers closing around each other.

“Welcome to our life, Olivia.”