"I'm sorry, Mayaron, but there's a travelling fair in town...and they claim to have a dog...and a horse."
Mayaron snorted in disgust. "Sure they do. Come with me, class. We'll see this."
Lyre, startled, said, "You're taking us to a fair?"
"Are you complaining?" said their centaur-teacher sarcasticly.
"Oh, no, but..."
"Great! What's the catch?"
"No catch. I just don't like to see people treated as gullible idiots. And I would be remiss as a teacher if I let you students be equally taken in."
After about an hour's walk, where Mayaron pointed out herbs and interesting trees along the way, they reached the field where the fair was set up. Mayaron carried a pouch, and he opened it as he came to the gate. The barker asked. "Ah! A wise centaur and--students, perhaps?" "Yes indeed," came Mayaron's deep voice. He started to bring out coins. "I thought it would be--educational--to see your 'dog' and your 'horse'...for the little ones."
"Well, step this way, sir and students..." They were led inside a tent, and he gestured to an attendant within the tent, and a large canine creature was brought out. He wore a broad collar just below the neck that covered him chest until the legs started. "Behold--the dog!! Fabled in story as the most faithful of animals, of man's truest friend, a thing of story and legend...but here, live, before you!"
It looks a lot like a cerebus, Lyre thought, save only one-headed...which looks as freakish on a cerebus as a headless man would look. He sure didn't look like the friendly helper of man of the legends. If he didn't look so doped up, he thought it would be growling at us all.
"Now, for your further amazement, I bring you the horse--faithful conveyer of man in legend and story, tireless carrier of humanity."
What came out was even more of a disappointment. Instead of the mighty charger of legend, what came out looked like a normal unicorn, somewhat gentle and effiminate looking and white...only hornless. That was the freakish part, like--again--a man without a head. There was a harness on the beast, but Lyre couldn't imagine a large man riding on this, although he could imagine a lady or a child riding on one. The harness was around his muzzle, his forehead, and the reins came down...
Then Mayaron leaped onto the stage. The barker called, "Here, here! What is this?"
Without a word, just looking at the barker in contempt, he unfastened the collar from the "dog", and the harness from the "horse". Underneath the collar of the "dog" were two bandaged stumps. Underneath the harness that went across the forehead, there was another smaller stump. These were obviously mutilated animals, multilated to mimic their legendary counterparts.
"Dog? Horse? Is being cruel to animals your way of making money? The cerebus is obviously doped up...a cerebus is usually too savage to be near humans like this without attacking...but sawing off a unicorn's horn? And no wonder the cerebus was doped up...considering that you sawed off two of its three heads!"
"You'll pay for that, centaur! That's my livelihood!"
Mayaron got very close to the barker. "A poor way to make a living...taking in the gullible with report of fabulous animals...and instead, mutilating other animals to get the same effect. You are beneath contempt...and if you keep on complaining, you'll be beneath my hooves!"
The barker looked at the centaur, bulkier and bigger than the unicorn, and then jumped offstage and started running. The students started laughing, and the attendant started to slink off, too, taking the mutilated animals with them.
"Let that be a lesson to you, class. Fantasy is fine. I like stories of fabulous animals and amazing happenings as much as the next person. But don't confuse fantasy with reality. Keep your feet firmly planted in the ground, and don't get carried away with the fantastic. Only a child sticks with such make-believe."
So said the centaur, leading them past woods where tiny fays and pixies mindlessly danced, in the shadow of mountains where giants lived.
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