“Oh, Alabaster Cutie, you’re the best friend a coming-of-age teen girl could ever hope for!.” The teen girl leaned down, stroking the horse’s neck with an inane smile on her face.
The arrow struck the girl right under the eye socket, hitting her with enough force to send her whole body flying into a nearby tree. The centaur who fired it breathed a sigh of relief, trotting over to Alabaster.
“You all right? I thought you were going to be stuck as the faithful companion of a teenager learning the harsh realities of life as a young adult. I came as fast as I could.”
Alabaster stood up on his hind hooves, holding its head in one hoof. “You idiot. This was going to be a story of my hardships. It was going to be about the cruelty that animals receive at the hands of thoughtless and hateful owners. This was going to be the one positive memory I held onto that would keep me going until I was ground up, my decrepit body used as streamers at a Count’s bachelor party.”
The centaur had to remind himself to blink. “Streamers?”
“Being sold to a glue factory is unbelievably out of style right now. Any story involving a horse ends that way, with the true, loving owners racing to the horse’s rescue just in time. Being pushed into a machine that was built just to render an entire horse into a single strip of streamers is gritty and modern. It lends that dark tone that really sells with the jaded youth of today.”
The centaur hung his head. “I’m…sorry. I couldn’t know. All of the stories in my village were of teenagers going through relatively small problems and obsessing over them as if they were the end of the world. So what if their father had lost all of his bones in the war and had to be hung from a flagpole in order to do his job as a bouncer at a topless accountant’s office? It didn’t matter much when Billy didn’t want to take the protagonist to the Spring Ball. I thought I could have saved you from the fate of other faithful animal companions.”
Alabaster rolled his eyes. “I can’t even believe this.” He pulled out a cell phone, dialling with his hooves. “Frank? Hey, it’s AB. Hey, yeah, listen. You know that sweet gig you got me? Well, some idiot centaur just shot my childhood friend. With what? Well why does that matter?”
The centaur moved back and forth on his hooves, watching the phone call continue. Alabaster turned his back on him, leaning in closer to the phone.
“Longbow. A freaking longbow. What is this, a Wyverntrident story? What? Well how am I supposed to know if it has a bonus to attack and damage? What? Murder?! No, no it isn’t all right! How many stories do you know about horses solving mysteries?”
The centaur started to back up. “Well, since you seem so busy, I’ll just…”
The horse pointed one hoof at him, pressing the receiver to his chest. “You stay put. This whole thing might have to be changed into a lighthearted tale of a mystery-solving horse and his fast-talking cockatrice sidekick. It’s your fault this turned from being an ageless tale of man and beast to some schlock fantasy short story that will be lucky if it even gets self-published on the internet. You just wait until I’m finished here!”
A yeti crept up from the bushes behind him, covered from head to toe in slick blood. The centaur nodded to him when he appeared. “What happened to you, John?”
“Saw some kid with a rusty ancestral sword, probably on some quest to save the world from ancient evil, or something like that. I tried to tell him that stuff was cliche, but he swore up and down that he was just going to throw it into Mount Gloom.”
“Mount Gloom? Really?”
“I know, eh? So I told him he just needed to put on some modern clothes and toss a few nudey scenes around to have it made, and he attacked me. Had to beat his head in with a rock. Man, if that ancient evil had just been a decent sized boulder, that kid wouldn’t have made it past the prologue. Anyway, you want to get out of here?”
The centaur watched the angry horse on his phone. “Yeah, I’m good.”
The longbow’s string sang again, the phone falling into the dust, Frank’s dulcet voice speaking to the empty air.