Originally posted on Oct 29th, 2018 06:17 PM
The conversation was fascinating.
How could it not be? Cynthia had never even seen a centaur up close before, much less spoken to one. Most of her small village's lore around the species amounted to vague warnings to never interact with them, treating them more like monsters than a race of people. Children were told stories about how centaurs might sneak into their bedrooms and snatch them up at night. Many were unclear on whether they could even talk. It was a danger that seemed so unreal that Cynthia had no qualms about walking alone up to a hot springs in the nearby mountain to bathe.
She had certainly never expected one to fall into step beside her and strike up a casual conversation.
The female centaur had explained that she was returning home from a hunt that had gone further afield than normal. It seemed that her path back home and Cynthia's path up to the springs in the mountain converged, at least for a while, and the centaur had decided to approach Cynthia and see if she would like some company. She explained that she had learned the common tongue in order to facilitate trade, and she was eager to practice.
And what intriguing company it was! The impromptu traveling companions chatted about their homes, which couldn't seem more different. The centaur's "village" was more of a traveling camp, for example, with large tent-buildings that could be packed up and moved in under a day. And apparently the females were in charge, rather than the males! Cynthia had heard about that kind of thing in some of the bigger cities, but could never imagine it in her little village.
The centaur seemed genuinely interested in hearing about Cynthia's village, too. Even though the centaur was enormous, towering over Cynthia, she slowed her gait enough to allow them to walk side by side, listening intently while Cynthia described their village's customs and yearly festivals.
Overall, the conversation was elucidating, friendly, and casual. The only thing that added a bit of tenseness to the exchange, in fact, was the centaur's belly.
Cynthia had to try very, very hard not to look at it. It bulged out from the sides of the centaur's horse body, swinging slightly with each trot. At first, Cynthia had thought she might be pregnant, but occasionally she would catch a glimpse of the outline of a hand or other body part press through the layers of horseflesh and fur. Cynthia could also make out muffled screams, barely audible, but clearly belonging to a young woman around Cynthia's age.
There was no doubt about it: a human was stewing in the female centaur's gut.
In truth, this just raised more questions: did the centaur really not think that would make this conversation awkward? Apparently not, because she hadn't mentioned it since they started talking, nor had she tried to hide it. Everything about her mannerisms pointed to this being a complete non-issue for her. She didn't see any reason why Cynthia would be disturbed by one of her own kind being digested so close by.
Was it someone Cynthia knew? One of the girls from the village, perhaps, who decided to follow her to join her at the mountain springs? Or just some random traveler, who had been unlucky enough to encounter the centaur first, while she was still hungry? If Cynthia had been the one to run into the centaur first, would she be the one struggling in her belly right now? Or was there some other rule involved -- the centaur currently had her bow holstered at her side. Was Cynthia safe because the centaur wasn't "hunting" right now?
And how was her prey even still alive in there? Had the centaur swallowed her whole? She must have. How had that worked? Cynthia would have thought a creature that was part horse would be a vegetarian, but evidently not; would the horse belly take longer to break down her prey? How long would the poor girl be in there?
Cynthia found herself itching to ask questions, but she didn't dare give them voice. What if she reminded the centaur that she might make a good dessert?
The centaur tilted her head to one side. "Is everything okay, Cynthia?" She asked, a light accent coloring her voice.
"F-fine," Cynthia stammered, feeling her cheeks flush. "Sorry, I got distracted. I think I was telling you about my village's midwinter festival?"
The centaur smiled, beckoning for her to go on.
Cynthia returned the smile and continued her explanation. Right now, there was nothing she could do for the girl in the centaur's belly. Better to just be careful with her questions and try to keep the conversation civil.
After all, it was a fascinating conversation.