pretentious cosmic picture


 After the geography test, their centaur-teacher turned to natural history. He assigned the older students something to read, while he quizzed the younger ones.


 "Yes, Master Mayaron?"

 "Which are the civilized races of the world?"

The young boy started to count off on his fingers, when a thought occurred to him.  "We're not counting the Kaanho, right?"

  "The Powers who control the fate of the world? Correct. Races that mortal races have some regular contact with. We will also exclude the jinn, who basically serve the Kaanho, for much the same reason. No regular contact."

 "Okay, the giants who live to the North. They were the first civilized race on land, and enslaved humans for centuries. That's one."


 "Human beings, like me and Lyre."

 "Again correct. That's two."

 "The elves, and they don't have that much contact with humans. They and their sub-races, the dwarves and such, stay on Elvish Isle. But the Wizards' Guild has its headquarters and training academy there, and every wizard is basically imitating the Elvish arts. Badly. Like a man swimming in imitation of a sea serpent or some other sea creature. Magick is natural for them. They were like the jinn, originally, servants of the Kaanho, but won their freedom from the Kaanho."

 "Again correct. Bonus question. What are the names of the Elvenking and Elvenqueen?"


 "Jequeror is the Elvenking. Thorifay is the Elvenqueen. That's all right, you're doing well, Chiuria. Continue."  "Uhhhmmmm. The dragons...again, they don't have much contact with humans. They live in their undersea city ruled by Lilung, their Emperor. We usually only meet the occasional criminal, a refugee exiled from their kingdom. But when they do arise, they have devastating consequences. It was their rising from the sea to avenge the death of Liling's son which ended the Cathurian Empire...and gave rise to Dahnmaya."

 "Very good! Are there any others?"

 "The merpeople?"

 "We're not sure how civilized they are. So we usually class them among the semi-savage races...the ones you can sometimes talk to, but don't build and don't have much use for society as we understand the terms. Which leads me to the next question...what are the semi-savage races?"

 "Merpeople," Chiuria grinned.

 "Maybe. We're not sure. But that's where we put them. And?"

 "Satyrs, sometimes called fauns."


 "Dryads or nymphs. The tree and stream spirits."


 "Wampyrs. Bloodsucking nightdwellers, but you can sometimes talk to them."


 "Ummm. Oh! Ghouls! They work often in concert with wampyrs..."


 "Um. Um um um. Harpies?"

 "Marginally. Any others?"


 "Let me give you a hint. There's one really close to you."

 Chiuria looked at his teacher, and then laughed. "What a dummy I am! Centaurs!"

 "Correct! But if I'm only the member of a semi-savage race, why am I your teacher?"


 "It's a trick question, Chiuria. During most of a centaur's life, we are as lawless as the satyrs, and much more violent. If you had met me, say, fifteen years ago, you would have seen a much different Mayaron...with little respect for others, who would have trampled over you for a minor matter. When centaurs reach an old age...much as, human females go through menopause...they go through a change. Their hormones stop raging through their body, their intelligence either rises or reasserts itself, their head clears, a phenomonal memory kicks in. We become very wise, as men measure wisdom, who were very wild, and men measure wildness, before. But few centaurs, due to that wildness, live to be that old. Maybe two centaurs out of a hundred live to be old enough for the wisdom-stage to kick in.

 "So it's fair to list us among the semi-savage races. There will never be enough centaurs who are un-wild enough to form a society in human terms."

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Copyright © 1997 Al Schroeder